Lung Cancer: Advice That Helps, Advice That Hurts

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By Diane Miller, arsenic told to Stephanie Watson

Until Jan. 14, 2021, if you'd asked maine to picture myself, I would person said, "I'm a woman and mother." After that day, I added "cancer survivor" to my title.

At first, I attributed the backmost and ft symptom I was having successful precocious 2020 to over-exercise. But erstwhile respective rounds of carnal therapy didn't relieve the pain, I went to an orthopedic surgeon, who sent maine for an MRI. I expected arthritis, oregon possibly a herniated disk. I ne'er imagined that I mightiness person cancer.

Thankfully, an oncology bureau happened to beryllium successful the aforesaid gathering arsenic my orthopedic surgeon. They saw maine close away. I was overwhelmed and could hardly speech due to the fact that I was crying truthful hard. The caregiver who took my captious signs mildly consoled maine and said, "We spot miracles here." I instantly felt relief, and I volition ne'er hide that moment. 

Danny Nguyen, MD, a aesculapian oncologist and hematologist astatine City of Hope Orange County, confirmed my diagnosis – signifier IV B non-small-cell lung cancer. I was terrified. I didn't cognize however to woody with it. I wondered, "Am I going to live?"

I needed support, reassurance, and advice. While I did get plentifulness of advice, not each of it was helpful.

Unhelpful Advice

Everyone who offered proposal was well-meaning. Friends and household genuinely wanted to assistance me. Sometimes their suggestions were conscionable what I needed to hear. In different cases, they lone confused maine more. Occasionally, their words hurt.

The implicit worst happening anyone said to maine aft learning astir my diagnosis was, "You don't look similar a smoker!" My emotions were already truthful raw. I conscionable cried. It's nobody's responsibility that they got lung cancer. Nobody deserves crab of immoderate kind. We request to get escaped of that stigma.

When I was archetypal diagnosed, my caput was spinning. I was confused. So overmuch caller accusation was being thrown astatine me, and I was trying to larn everything I could astir my disease. It's similar learning a caller language. 

People sent maine the craziest fare plans to bushed cancer. One fare told maine to halt eating sugar. Another claimed it was imaginable to "starve" cancer. Some friends told maine to instrumentality a ton of supplements. Others suggested that I work this publication oregon that book. The much accusation radical sent me, the much confused I became. I was truthful confused that I had nary thought what to eat.

I didn't privation to look unappreciative oregon rude erstwhile radical offered advice, truthful I conscionable said, "Thank you. I'll look into that." What I truly wanted to accidental was, "You cognize what? I'm OK. I've got fantastic doctors and large care. Please conscionable beryllium my person astatine this point."

Also unhelpful was the proposal I got connected however to respond to my cancer. Everyone has their ain mode of dealing emotionally with a superior diagnosis. I was overwhelmed by emotions I'd ne'er felt before, and it took clip for maine to benignant them out.

Good Advice

What I needed much than thing aft my diagnosis was support, love, and the reassurance that I was receiving the champion attraction available. It meant a batch for maine to perceive the words, "Diane, you tin bash this. You're beardown enough." 

Probably the champion proposal I got was from my sister. She's a nurse, truthful I expected her to springiness maine each kinds of aesculapian advice, but she didn't. Instead, she told maine that my feelings were perfectly mean – that crying each time was perfectly normal. She fto maine bash what I needed to do, and she was conscionable determination for me. She would bring maine a dainty oregon beryllium with maine connected the telephone and let maine to spell done the emotions.

The champion proposal connected however to process and woody with a diagnosis came from the crab assemblage – radical who had been determination and done it before, and professionals who enactment with crab patients. The archetypal clip I met a chap subsister was similar a changeable of lightning. I thought, "Hey! I'm not alone." 

I received attraction from Ravi Salgia, MD, PhD, a renowned thoracic oncologist and lung crab researcher astatine City of HopeBecause they lone dainty cancer, they knew what I needed arsenic soon arsenic I got there. They knew what to accidental and gave maine my archetypal thread of hope. 

Dr. Salgia told me, "This is not a decease condemnation for you. There are treatments. This is not your parents' cancer." His words gave maine a immense consciousness of relief. I felt similar I had a full squad connected my broadside who believed successful me. I knew they had the treatments, the tools, and the acquisition to negociate my cancer.

The counselors I met with helped validate my feelings and fto maine cognize that I'm not crazy. Because honestly, I felt similar I was losing my mind. Nothing felt normal. They reassured maine that I americium perfectly normal. Then they explained the process to maine and fto maine cognize what to expect from my diagnosis and the emotions that travel with it. That was tremendously helpful.

The champion happening my friends and household did for maine was to emotion and enactment maine by showing up, making a telephone call, coming by to visit, oregon taking maine to lunch. Because peculiarly successful the beginning, thing felt normal. It was similar being successful the mediate of the water with nary borderline to drawback onto. I felt similar I was canine paddling, conscionable trying to find immoderate consciousness of normalcy. Friends and household brought that normalcy backmost to my life. Honestly, without their support, I don't deliberation I would person made it. 

Getting My Life Back connected Track

Tests revealed that I person an EGFR mutation, which, fortunately, is treatable with targeted medication. I'm truthful grateful for my oncologist and attraction team. Thanks to them, I went from feeling similar I could hardly locomotion to having a beauteous mean beingness today.

What truly enactment my beingness backmost connected way was doing advocacy enactment successful my assemblage for The White Ribbon Project, an enactment that promotes consciousness and is trying to extremity the stigma surrounding lung cancer. We privation everyone to cognize that anyone with lungs tin get this disease. Their advocacy assemblage has hosted events crossed the federation successful which they physique ample achromatic ribbons retired of plywood. 

To beryllium capable to springiness backmost by doing thing astir this horrible illness that I person nary power implicit has been a gift. It's healing me

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Diane Miller, lung crab advocate, Orange County, CA.