As a member of the Busting Out dragon boat team for nine years, I made many breast cancer ‘thrivor’, friends. Most of our paddlers were living healthy ‘after cancer’ lives, but there was always the ongoing anxiety of recurrences, and too many of the women did have them.
Ten years after her original diagnosis and treatment, my very close friend, 50 year old Chris, had some symptoms, and was put through a battery of tests. Chris asked me to go with her for the follow up appointment with her Oncologist, to receive test results. With extreme gentleness and kindness, her oncologist explained some medical terms, but we both knew he meant that her breast cancer had metastasized and spread to several parts of her body. Chris wanted to be told the truth, and reluctantly the doctor said, “The rest of your life will be counted in years, not in decades,” and the three of us cried together. After living life to the fullest for two more years, Chris died at age 52, and I gave the eulogy at her funeral, celebrating her wonderful, young life through my tears.
With this and other unbearably sad experiences, I know about metastatic disease. So when I was diagnosed with ‘highly suspicious nodules’, my instant anxiety was that either my breast cancer, or my melanoma, had metastasized. Even after 29 and 18 years respectively, my surgeon said, “We are not ruling anything out.” I knew then, that there were four possible outcomes for my health.
Starting with the worst scenario first, like Chris, I could have cancer that has metastasized and spread to other parts of my body, and the rest of my life would be counted in years. Second, I could have metastatic disease that had spread only to my lungs for now, and was presently contained and treatable. Third, I could have a new primary lung cancer, not metastasized and not found anywhere else. Finally, the ‘suspicious nodules’ were in fact harmless chunks of left-over pneumonia, or tuberculosis.
During August, when I was roller-coastering through all the testing, I was trying to squelch my worst-case scenario fears, which crept into my mind in the dark of night. During the day, when I was busy with activities and surrounded with support, it was easy to find a positive, peaceful, stable attitude.
Finally, on August 29, I met with my GP and was given the test results: positive for a new primary lung cancer, negative for metastatic disease! Yea, I ONLY had lung cancer – a new primary! This was an enormous relief, and gratitude flooded in!
It does seem bizarre to be grateful to only have lung cancer. That is only the beginning of my gratitude list:
I’m grateful that I had pneumonia, an x-ray, and an alert GP, otherwise the lung cancer would not have been found until it was much further advanced.
I’m grateful that the disease is not metastatic from my breast cancer or melanoma.
I’m grateful that the doctors have decided not to remove a whole lung.
I’m grateful for the incredible staff of nurses, doctors, orderlies and administrators, who have been entirely professional, personable, kind, gentle, informative, caring, and efficient.
I’m grateful for the circle of friends and family who are cheering and supporting me with love, encouragement, and a positive environment.
I’m grateful that I have access to a world class medical facility of equipment and staff.
I’m grateful for the timely manner in which all this is proceeding.
Peggy has her own photoblog, the F-stops here, where she posts a photograph every day.