As pink fades to white, the calendar turns from October to November. We celebrated and honored breast cancer survivors last month…pink ribbons were everywhere spreading awareness of the disease. But did you know that November is lung cancer awareness month and that white is the ribbon color for this cancer that is the number one cancer killer? Probably not…I didn’t. Until recently…
If you had told me a year ago that I would become knowledgable on this subject and even write a blog post (my first in over 10 months) about it, I would have said you didn’t know what you were talking about. As the saying goes, life can change in a split second AND mine did on February 20th. I was diagnosed with stage IV non small cell lung cancer. Of course, it took weeks (really over a month) to get the actual diagnosis. A cancer diagnosis takes time…you realize you may not have a lot of time left, so it’s hard to be patient while the tests, scans and biopsies are done. The final test showed that I had a genetic mutation (ALK+) that triggered the cancer to grow in me. This was actually a good thing! It changed my treatment to a targeted therapy (much easier on the body than chemo and more effective at stopping the spread of cancer). However, because it is stage IV (which means it had already spread…in my case, to my spine and brain), it is not curable. At least not now. I’m praying with every ounce of my being that a cure is found in my lifetime.
To do that, more research is needed. Unfortunately, lung cancer is extremely underfunded compared to the number of people who will die from it this year. As I said earlier, it is the number one cancer killer, killing more people than breast, prostate and colon cancer combined. Yet only 6% of government dollars goes to lung cancer research. Lung cancer has the stigma of smoking associated with it, and therefore not as much attention is given to it. I’d like to see that change! No one deserves cancer, even if you did smoke. However, more and more non-smokers are diagnosed with lung cancer each day. As I’ve learned, you only need lungs to get lung cancer.
I know my blog posts here have always been about party planning and decor (for the most part), and I really wasn’t sure if this was the right platform for this. I’ve shared my personal journey with health updates on a Caring Bridge site, but I wasn’t sure if sharing awareness about this disease was appropriate there. I don’t want to sound “preachy” and the purpose of that site is to keep friends and family informed on my progress and any changes to my health status.
To be honest, I miss writing blog posts and creating content for my blog, while inspiring others to plan a party or start a DIY project. However, living with cancer changes how you live your life. You are more purposeful with how you spend your time each day. Also, there’s that cancer fatigue which hits most afternoons and requires a nap so that I can be fully present for my family. Life is different, but yet somehow the same. I go to lunch with friends, I volunteer at my daughter’s school, I cook dinner…but cancer is very much a part of my life.
So is gratitude. Cancer causes you to appreciate so much, even the little things. I’m grateful to wake up each morning, make the beds, pack Claire’s lunch, do the laundry, run the errands…all the chores I used to think were so mindless and boring. I can do them! For that I am grateful. But more importantly, I continue to make memories with my family. I saw my daughter graduate from high school and move her into her freshman dorm, I attended a college family weekend sorority mixer with our oldest and I watched our youngest play her first season of junior high volleyball. Because it’s only cancer…it won’t keep me from living my life.
I find it interesting that November is a month we equate with being thankful and it’s also lung cancer awareness month. For me, the two now go hand in hand. I’m forever thankful for the life I have, even with a lung cancer diagnosis. Because it’s only cancer…