Although you may always be a part of my body you are no longer allowed to be a part of my life. I was diagnosed at a younger than usual age with you. I was only 30 and was told I had lung cancer. My first thought was that it couldn’t possibly be because I was a never smoker and the only people that get that are old men was massive smoking histories. Like my Grandfather!
After this shocking diagnosis, you almost had me. I got very sick and my first treatment failed me. I was promised a pill would be the answer but no it failed. I quickly started chemotherapy and during my first inpatient treatment I hallucinated. It was not fun! But things turned around and chemo did the trick for a few months. At the time though I did not know that we were supposed to get more time out of this therapy, and you progressed. The horror!
I have a great team of doctors, nurses and clinicians behind me though. It was decided that we would send a part of the tumor out for a broad-spectrum genomics testing and sure enough there was a resistance found. Such great news! However, my options were limited at my local hospital. But there was a wonderful treatment being tested at a hospital in Boston, so I hopped on the first flight out and began the process to enter a clinical trial.
Things went well and I got some travelling in, a blessing among the ordinary. After 11 months however you got sneaky and started growing again. My team decided we could try to cut you out. It didn’t work, and I’m sure I sobbed. But again, I have a great team behind me, and we were on to the next treatment.
I would start a dual therapy of pills. One of those pills is specifically designed for thyroid cancer but targets the resistance mutation that you show, so my team thought this would be a great idea to try. (Can we say guinea pig?!) But as luck would have it, it worked! For two years, I was lucky enough to have my life albeit with some nasty side effects.
After the two years I stayed on one of those pills and thankfully dropped the one that gave me those nasty side effects. Onward to bigger and better treatments, a new clinical trial closer to home. We stayed in that clinical trial for another year but it gave me severe neuropathy. Bummer! I now walk a little different and I can’t always feel the things I touch. I am still grateful for the treatment and the time that it gave me. We dropped the clinical trial drug and I am currently fighting you with that same pill I started with over 3 years ago. I know that it will fail me eventually but am hopeful to live longer than the next available treatment. Fingers crossed it’s a pill!
As I stated in the beginning of this letter you are no longer welcome in my life. Yes, I am still monitored every three months but between those months I do not want to think about you or talk about you. You are only a bad acquaintance who has burned a bridge with me.
I am living my best life. My husband and I are buying a house of our own soon and I will start my first full time job since being diagnosed. It is not lost on me that I am lucky to be here, though. You have robbed me of so many friends in this short 5 years since I was diagnosed. There is a strong bond between us lung cancer survivors and these ladies and gents are some of the kindest most rowdy group of people you will ever meet!
In closing, I want to make sure you know that you may be a part of my story but you no longer will be a part of my future. I thank you for the clarity that you have given me and I can only hope to live each day as if I am living my best life. I try not to take people or experiences for granted and Anthony Rizzo said it best “there is nothing good about cancer” but you sure have taught me a lot about living life.
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://elephantsandtea.org/contact/submissions/.