Published on December 7, 2017
It has been 397 days since I was diagnosed with stage IV non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). That means I’ve had 397 days to hug and kiss my children, snuggle my Golden Retriever, hold hands with my husband, and tell my friends and family that I love them. Each of those 397 days has been a chance to demonstrate kindness to others, to be more present, and to appreciate the complex beauty of life.
Before my lung cancer diagnosis, there were days—many days, if I'm honest—when my kids drove me crazy and I found myself wishing away the days. I have triplets. And they are teenagers, which means they have a special knack for being able to find and destroy my very last nerve. At the end of an exhausting night I often found myself counting down the days until they would graduate high school, leaving behind an empty, quiet, and peaceful household. In the chaos of everyday life, which included the typical activities such as work, school, cooking and cleaning for a family of five, I wasn't always present and I definitely wasn't always patient. There were days on my drive home from work that I fantasized about shirking all of my domestic responsibilities, driving past my freeway exit and continuing on to a hotel in downtown Seattle, which is 275 miles away.
My perspective has changed. Now I know that every day is truly a gift that is not to be taken for granted. When I drive home from work and approach my freeway exit, I no longer consider running away. In fact, I feel happy as I anticipate going home to see my family at home, and I appreciate each day I have with them. My kids are still typical teenagers, and their behavior hasn't magically changed, but I know I am fortunate to have this time with them. Don't get me wrong: I don't feel like my diagnosis was a gift or a blessing. And it definitely wasn't the best thing that ever happened to me. In fact, it was the worst thing that has ever happened to me and my family. I would never choose to have this disease, but what I do choose is to live each day with hope, optimism and gratitude.
There are blessings all around us if we look for them, regardless of the battles we're facing. I am so thankful for the medication that has shrunk my tumors down to almost nothing. I've been on afatinib (Gilotrif) for just over a year now with great results and minimal, but ever-changing, side effects. The side effects du jour include sores in my nose and mouth and folliculitis which has left me with itchy, bumpy scabs on my scalp. Small price to pay for amazing results. I've adopted a mostly plant-based diet, I exercise every day, I meditate, and I feel great. I am so thankful for the love and support of my family and friends who help me feel "normal" through all of this. I am thankful for my dedicated, optimistic oncologist, as well as all the cancer researchers, the fundraisers, the patient advocates, and the clinical trial patients who have helped to advance today's treatments and march us closer to tomorrow's cure.
Mostly, I am thankful for being given another day, and I look forward to embracing many, many more tomorrows with great joy and appreciation; every day that each of us is given is truly a gift.
Anything is possible, and it all starts with hope!
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