Discovering I had lung cancer was surreal but how I stumbled upon it was short of a miracle. It was three years ago, the summer of 2010. I’ve always been active and super healthy. I love the outdoors; I run, walk, bike and love the ocean. This particular day, I was on a walk with my daughter and our dog. I knew the path well. I’ve put in many miles on that same stretch for years. As we headed around the corner, my ankle somehow slipped off the curb.
How did that happen?
I thought I had twisted my ankle but it didn’t hurt nearly as badly as my ribs and bloodied knees.
How did I just do that?
I felt like I had been pushed from behind, hard, catapulting me off the curb.
My daughter ran home to get the car and urged me to call my doctor. After seeing me, he decided to take a precautionary X-ray to rule out a punctured lung and discovered I had broken two ribs. The primary care physician also saw something else.
“It appears there’s a little white mass in your lung, but not to worry. It could be a lot of things,” he said.
After a whirlwind of doctors, tests and biopsies, it was confirmed that I had non-small cell lung carcinoma, stage 2B, and within a week, I was scheduled for a lower left lobectomy, to be followed by chemotherapy. I was grateful, grateful that I tripped off the curb. But I didn’t really just trip off the curb. I believe in my heart it was my Mom that pushed me off the curb that day because she knew, and I didn’t. She passed away a couple of years ago, and I miss her every day. She’s my guardian angel. I think she had to do something that would cause me to visit the doctor because she knew I wouldn’t go, not for a little trip. Until that point, as far as I knew, I was fine, great, healthy and happy. That fall allowed me to begin to prepare for the next part of my journey with cancer.
I call that a miracle.
A year later, after clean scans, my husband and I prepared for a surf trip with three other families down in Mexico. It was a busy year. I had recovered from surgery and chemotherapy, went back to work full time and my oldest daughter graduated from college. I was exhausted, but I could rest once we got to our destination. About a week before the trip my family observed that I, “just didn’t seem like myself,” and they wanted me to check in with my doctor. He said he would run a few tests to make sure I was good to go. He was supposed to get back to me with the results in the morning before we left, but we had to get on the road. Serendipitously, a surf board on another car in the caravan came loose, so we all pulled over in Rosarito, when my phone rang, (the last place I knew that we would have service). It was my oncologist recommending that we turn around.
“We’ve found a fairly large tumor in your brain,” he said.
After another whirlwind of doctors, second opinions, and a trip to the hospital for brain swelling, I learned that the cancer had metastasized to my brain. I had four tumors, one large and three small, all in critical places. We could do surgery on the big one but the other three concerned my neurosurgeon. My radiation oncologist was brutally honest about my prognosis, but I wouldn’t allow myself to go there. They decided whole brain radiation would be the best treatment for now. After 16 days of radiation. I lost my hair semi-permanently, and I’m pretty sure I also lost a few good brain cells, but it beats the alternative. The treatment proved positive so no brain surgery for now; I felt a huge sense of relief. I was started on Tarceva, and I recovered again, and finished up the year back at work.
My last scans and brain MRI’s have been clear despite a pesky tumor that developed on my left seventh rib. We radiated it, but it grew, so I recently underwent stereo static therapy for five days, and I am finally starting to experience a bit of relief after six painful months.
Amazing side note:
My Dad has always been so supportive of me. When I shared I had cancer, I knew what he was thinking; “I just lost the love of my life, I can’t lose my daughter too.” When I told him about the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation he was excited and later donated to the foundation. Fast forward to the gala a couple of weeks ago. He saw the newsletter about the event and decided to buy four raffle tickets in my honor but didn’t tell me. He called out of the blue and told me to call the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. They want to know your story, “what, why?” I followed his plea and called Andrea. She told me about my Dad’s purchase and that my raffle ticket was chosen, and goes on to tell me about the very unique piece of jewelry I had just won. I was stunned, speechless. I still don’t know what to say, but again, a huge thank you to Bonnie and the Foundation, and a shout out to Geoffrey’s Diamonds & Goldsmith that donated such a beautiful piece to this amazing foundation.
Today, I feel blessed. I have an amazing husband, and daughters as well as family and friends who have gotten me through this incredible challenge. For the moment, I feel like I’m running ahead of the cancer. It has reminded me about the gratitude I feel, and how I’ve worked at letting go of what doesn’t matter.
Any of us can go at any time. For me, it’s all about the moments now.