Canadian Lung Association Blog

My Experience With Lung Cancer

TerryMy name is Terry and I was diagnosed with lung cancer in Jan 2014.

I am 62, and was in pretty good health. I had no breathing problems but because of some other problems my doctor ordered a CT scan of my chest. I can’t really describe the shock and disbelief that my husband and I felt on learning the results of the scan, and the follow up tests that confirmed the diagnosis.

Until the day I was diagnosed, I was working full time as a public health doctor, in charge of health protection. Suddenly I became a full-time patient, spending my days at the hospital undergoing chemotherapy and radiotherapy.

 

It is now only 5 months since my diagnosis –most of the time I can’t believe how much has happened in such a short time.

Despite the first round of therapy, the cancer spread to my liver and bone. But I am lucky enough to be one of a small percent of the patients with a certain genetic mutation in my cancer cells. There is a new drug that works very well in some patients with this mutation. This is a very new field of cancer genetics that I hardly understand, but it is has been a game changer in lung cancer. The drug I am on, called Crizotinib, has only been available for about 3 years, and some patients have stayed stable for several years on this drug. I only hope that I will be one of those patients.

Becoming a cancer patient has changed my life and taught me so much. First, I can’t get over how important the support of my friends and family has been.  Before I got sick, my focus was on my work; loved my job and worked at the expense of my relationships with friends and family.  When I got sick, I gradually got the courage to reach out to friends who I felt I had neglected over the past years. I can’t get over how they have all welcomed me back, and can’t seem to do enough for me, offering to drive me to appointments,  cook for me, listen to me when I am down, and just keep me company. My family – siblings, husband and children and my numerous cousins have also been amazing.

I also am very lucky that I am been followed at a hospital that specializes in cancer care and has developed a program in complementary therapies for lung cancer patients. So, in addition to medical and nursing care, I have access to acupuncture, nutrition, physiotherapy, support groups, meditation, mindfulness, psychology and even more. I have taken advantage of these services, and they have helped enormously. Partly, just to give me a group of professionals to talk to, partly to help me with issues of eating well, pain, control, getting back my strength, and especially dealing with psychological issues like going back to work, facing the future, and the inevitable family stress that this has caused.

It took a little persuasion to convince me to see the psychologist, but he has been enormously helpful.  He is very practical and has given me advice that has been useful in making the decisions I need to make and about work and friendships.  Probably the most important piece of wisdom is that there is a large team of health care providers working very hard to keep me as healthy as possible for as long as possible. My primary job is to do everything I can to help them in that task; that means getting rid of any other issues that use up my energy, such as work stress, pain, and even difficult relationships.  As my husband told me at the beginning of all this, it is now all about me, and I don’t have to feel guilty in making sure that I am surrounded by positive people and doing things that make me feel good. This has allowed me to open myself to complementary therapies like acupuncture, and accepting all the help that others are so willing to offer. And it allows me to say no thanks to offers that cause more stress than help.

I have also made much stronger connections with friends and work  colleagues who have had cancer as well as other patients I have met over the course of my treatment.  Being able to share our experiences, our reactions and our fears has been incredibly helpful to me.

Right now I am responding well to the new medication but dealing with some other problems  – a delayed lung reaction to the radiotherapy and problems with some of my blood levels – all of which will resolve over time. When I am feeling well, I am trying to decide how to organize my time – whether to return to work at least part-time and how to contribute to other cancer-related organizations.

Having cancer is hardly something I thought would ever happen to me. It has changed my life in ways I never could have understood and I wonder how my experience can be helpful for others. If this blog can be helpful to other patients or their caregivers please let me know.

[Continued in Part 2]




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10 comments on “My Experience With Lung Cancer
  1. Scott McDonald says:

    Hi Terry…… I saw Brian last week in Ottawa and he told me about your diagnosis and sent me your blog address today. Remember my good friend Garth? He was also diagnosed with lung cancer last October and he ‘s done really great….as you will too! I’m sending you big hugs telepathically right now and will be thinking of you and transmitting magical positive vibes your way until I see you next. My daughter Amy is getting married this weekend in Penticton so the whole McShow is moving up there for that! All the best! Scott

  2. Lucero says:

    Dear Terry, You have a lot of courage to reach out through this blog. I feel grateful for your generosity to share your experience. I feel honoured. We are here with and for you. Take care.

  3. Silvia Charcopa Garcia says:

    Hola Terry

    Disculpa si escribo es español pero a pesar de los años mi inglès sigue siendo malo, quizà te acuerdas de mi soy Silvia Charcopa yo trabajè en ACP Ecuador (oficina Quito)en realidad compartimos poco tiempo pero eso no me impide querer escribirte estas lìneas y decirte gracias por tu aporte en el control de la Tuberculosis en Ecuador.

    Ademàs quiero desde Esmeraldas – Ecuador enviarte un fuerte abrazo y sobre todo desearte que tengas fe en Dios èl te cuida y te cuidarà siempre.

    Que Dios te bendiga.

    Silvia

    [Translation: Forgive me for writing in Spanish but despite the years, my English is still poor. Perhaps you remember me, I’m Silvia Charcopa. I worked in ACP Ecuador (Quito office). We actually shared only a little time together but that does not stop me wanting to write these lines and thank you for your input in the control of tuberculosis in Ecuador.
    I also want to send you a big hug from Esmeraldas, Ecuador and over all, I hope that you would have faith that God is taking care of you and will always take care of you.
    God bless you.
    Ed. Note: ACP Ecuador was the name of the Canadian Lung Association project office for an international development program to improve TB Control in Ecuador.]

  4. Carla Ayala says:

    Querida Terry, esta tarde Brian me ha dado noticias suyas, no se si me recuerda soy Carla Ayala trabajé para ACP Ecuador cuando fue la implementación del DOTS Ecuador. A la distancia reciba todos mis buenos mensajes y energía positiva; Ud. siempre fue una persona muy fuerte y ahora con sus palabras en su blog se que no a decaido su ánimo.

    Muchas bendiciones y mucha fe.

    [Translation: Dear Terry, this afternoon Brian told me your news. I don’t know if you remember me. I’m Carla Ayala and I worked for ACP Ecuador when DOTS Ecuador was being implemented. From a distance, please receive all my good messages and positive energy. You have always been a very strong person and now from your words in this blog, I know that your soul is not weakened.]

  5. David Zavala says:

    Dear Terry, I worked in Ecuador as National Officer from September 2004 until the end of the project in ACP-Ecuador. I remember your insights and suggestions for better implementation of the DOTS strategy in this beautiful country.

    I want to say hello and appreciate your physical and spiritual strength. I wish you keep good health and you are fighting for the Public Health of your country and America. God bless you.

  6. Maria Susana Molina says:

    Dear Terry. Thank you for sharing your experience. Your strength is really inspiring! You are fighting a great fight and you are a winner already. I wish you the very best. Take care.

  7. Judyth Vaca says:

    Dear Terry.
    Your story is a life lesson for me and other people that we are on the road to find the sense of things that actually have value, and not only for those who have cancer.
    I take this opportunity to thank you once more for sharing with me and my country a bit of your wisdom as a public health expert .
    Among my favorite memories still keep wood sculpture which gave me, (the thinker), when you were in Ecuador.
    That our Lord God bless you.
    J

  8. anne fanning says:

    Hi Terry
    I love the spam test. Hope I got it right!

    I am so glad to happy to reconnect, and so sorry that it had to be the lung cancer diagnosis that made it happen.
    Your writing is so honest and from the heart it touches all our own fears, and inspires self -reflection.

    I think warmly of our work with STOP TB, and my brief times in Ecuador, where you made such an enormous contribution.

    My best wishes for good days and many years of them.

    Anne Fanning

  9. Deirdre Freiheit says:

    Hi Terry,

    What a wonderful thing you’re doing by reaching out to others and sharing your journey. As someone who has given so much to others, I’m not surprised that you’re on the receiving end of such support.

    My thoughts and prayers are with you for continued success in your recovery and a return to good health.

    All the best,
    Deirdre

  10. Jill says:

    Thank you for being so courageous and sharing your story. Your blogs shares some great information about lung cancer and shares some very true life lessons. Thank you!

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