The first stop on this trip was around 2am on July 26th when I went to the ER at the hospital. You’d think it was an easy decision to head to the ER when you can’t breathe and every breath feels like you’re being stabbed, but I didn’t want to go if it was “nothing” and Dale had to convince me it was serious. I had, after all, been sick for over a month and steroids and antibiotics weren’t making me any better. A CT scan had been done on July 22nd, but I didn’t have the results yet, so some crazy person inside of me thought that maybe I should wait and see what the doctor said about the results first. I’m sure Dale wanted to throw me over his shoulder and just get me to the ER, but after more and more stabbing pains, I realized he was right.
The ER was told about my CT scan so they got the results and let me know that I had a mass on my lung. Actually, getting the results was not that easy. The ER doctor, an arrogant ass with the bedside nammer of the aforementioned arrogant ass, told me I had lung cancer and then just shut up and stared at us. Silence…nothing but silence and crickets. Thankfully, the hospitalist came in soon after to admit me to the hospital and was not only the voice of reason, but was compassionate and kind – a good bedside manner. She wasn’t happy that the ER doc concluded it was lung cancer since the CT scan only said “mass”. The report didn’t have the word cancer anywhere in it and they could only tell what it was with a biopsy. Plus I never smoked – it could be a lot of other things.Between Monday and Tuesday, I met the pulmonary doctor assigned to me and an oncologist. The pulmonary doctor said that whenever they find a mass they have an oncologist assigned in case it is cancer, but it didn’t mean it was cancer. I never smoked. It could be anything. The oncologist visited me too, but I didn’t pay much attention to her – it wasn’t cancer. I never smoked.
On Tuesday, I had a bronchoscopy so they could do a biopsy of the mass and figure out just what it was growing on my right upper lobe.Wednesday – July 28th. The hospitalist came in and told me the results. It was cancer.
And I never smoked.
I went numb and then I cried and the words “my world crashed around me” were more real than I ever thought possible. My mom died of lung cancer in 2002...but she smoked. I never smoked. Why me? My oncologist was now just more than a nice lady who was never going to be my doctor. She was good for me. With everything going on, I knew she was THE oncologist for me and I looked forward to her visits every morning around 7am. She told me to be positive – a positive attitude would really help me. Positive attitude…I could do that.I was released from the hospital on July 30th, but this is what I remember of that week. I had lots of visitors and lots of flowers. I remember the people who visited, but that’s it. I put on a brave face, but I didn’t feel brave. I was anxious and worried and the Xanax and other happy drugs made everything hazy, but I liked that. I talked, but I don’t remember much of what I said. I know I made people laugh, so I guess I was funny. And at times I talked and talked…just words because I really don’t remember.
August came and went. I really don’t remember. There were visitors and they brought food and I liked visitors because I could pretend to be brave and not think about that thing on my lung. First I was numb and then I buried my head in the covers – literally and figuratively.September came and went – the month of the river of tears. “Boo hoo September.” I was afraid and I was sure that if I lived to see 2011 that I wouldn’t live much longer than that. However, by the end of the month I was tired of the tears and tired of being anxious and depressed. I asked my oncologist for an anti-depressant and got one and then – after tender prodding from a friend, my sisters and Dale – I asked my oncologist about a therapist or anyone I could talk to about this overwhelming sense of doom. I hated it. It wasn’t me. She told me they always recommended Cancer Family Care so I called and started going one on one [I wasn’t ready for any group sessions] and I also started Guided Imagery – something to help me relax and heal.
Both started in October – the month I started to help myself. And see the light at the end of the tunnel…and it wasn’t a train. And I took the cover off from over my head. And I started to breathe again…and smile a real smile.November was a month of discovery, but I was happier. There was still a cloud over me and it was shrinking, but there was still sadness about the future.
We usually put up our tree the weekend after Thanksgiving, but I didn’t want a tree. I didn’t want to celebrate Christmas. It could be my last Christmas. Bah humbug! But then it finally hit me. I loved Christmas and all of the craziness and hustle and bustle. I don’t know why, but it reminded me of my mom and her smile and whether she really liked Christmas or not, it always seemed to me that she loved it. And then it really hit me. What if it was my last Christmas? It could be anybody’s last Christmas and they just might not know it. None of us knows what the future holds – we only have today. If this was my last Christmas – and I really didn’t know – then I didn’t want anyone’s memory of me and this Christmas to be sad. I didn’t want anyone to remember me not celebrating Christmas and being Scrooge. I wanted to enjoy it and all of the things you do – shop and wrap and bake cookies and visit people and listen to Christmas songs and put up a tree. So…we put up a tree and I started to enjoy life again. And really smile…and laugh! It was a beautiful month and every day since then has been a beautiful day.
It doesn’t mean that I’m happy all the time. I still get sad or mad, but they don’t last as long. I don’t wallow in them. What did I learn and what am I still learning?I accept that I can’t change the past. Coulda, woulda, shoulda doesn’t help – it only drives you crazy.
I accept that I can’t control the future – no one can – cancer or no cancer.Today is the moment we live in and how we react to it and our attitude is the only thing we can control. So I enjoy now. I revel in the moments as they happen. It’s true – stop and smell and the flowers – and look at things with new eyes. Hang out with little kids – they know how to live in the moment and enjoy life.
I enjoy life and I laugh. I even laugh at my cancer because it makes my brain not work quite right all of the time and I say and do goofy things.
Live in the moments as they happen and enjoy it.Live for today.
“Live each day like it’s your last, ‘cause one day you gonna be right.” ~Ray Charles
While my journey isn’t over, I didn’t get here alone. So many people have helped me in so many ways and for that I am grateful. I couldn’t have done it without my family, my friends, my co-workers, my oncologist, the oncology nurses, my therapist, my guided imagery coach, my internet friends…all of these people helped me whether they know it or not. They have touched my life in ways I never thought possible and I hope in some way I’ve touched theirs too.
I can’t say it enough…thank you and bless you and my love to all.