Picture of Peggy CummingGuest blogger, Peggy Cumming, is a wife, mother, grandmother of 6, sister, niece, cousin and friend, as well as a teacher – retired after 34 years in the classroom – and an athlete.

I enjoy a healthy, active life style and activities with my family and friends. In my fourteen years of retirement, I have climbed Kilimanjaro, hiked the Inca Trail and the West Coast Trail, cycled in many countries, and won medals at Provincial and National Masters’ swimming championships.

I have survived Breast Cancer, (age 41), a broken leg (age 49) and Melanoma (age 52).

On June 8, 2014, I celebrated my 70th birthday with a swim across Meech Lake in Gatineau Park, Quebec, with my daughter and friends. Five days later, June 13, I woke up with a sore throat and laryngitis. My third cancer story begins there.

The sore throat quickly turned to chest congestion, which would not clear up, even with a dose of prednisone. On June 22, at a big birthday celebration with 70 friends and family, I was unable to talk, and weak with the continued chest congestion and breathing difficulty. I was incredibly disappointed not to be able to fully participate in this wonderful event!

For many years I have received excellent health care from the Ottawa Hospital Family Medicine Clinic. I have had pneumonia twice before, and I’ve  had numerous chest congestions turn to bronchitis, so I was worried that this congestion had become serious. On June 23, I again went to see a doctor, but this time a different resident. She prescribed antibiotics and sent me for a chest x-ray. The next day, June 24, she phoned me to confirm that I had pneumonia and also to say that there were shadows on my x-ray that required ‘further investigation’. “Possibly scar tissue, possibly nothing, possibly Lung Cancer,” she said.

While I heard her words, in my mind I was dismissive, believing cancer to be impossible. After all, my breast cancer had been 29 years ago – too long for metastasized cancer, I thought – and I had never had even a puff of a cigarette in my life! Still, the possibility nagged at me, in the small part of my mind that was reserved for a possible recurrence of past cancer.

My GP called me into his office on July 7, to discuss the x-ray, schedule a CT scan, and diminish the possibility of the shadows actually being cancer. After all, he called me his “Poster Senior of Good Health”! While I really appreciated his positive attitude, it did nothing to reduce my anxiety.

I spent the next ten days, living my normal life externally, but living an internal nightmare. Every waking moment was filled with anxiety, stress and tension. Trying to fall asleep, while the tension in my body was pulsing and jumping, and the dark of night was welcoming my worst fears, was an exercise in futility.

On July 18, my Doctor reported that the CT scan revealed nodules that were ‘highly suspicious for primary lung malignancy’. He was visibly upset to give me this news. He talked about going forward with tests, and putting my name into the Cancer Awareness Centre. I could tell that he was trying to find a balance between managing his own stress, and trying to give me the confidence that I would receive the best care. He did an amazing job of a difficult job, and I am grateful for his sensitivity and support.

As I left his office to drive home, my worst fears swirled through my mind. Metastasized Breast Cancer? Spread beyond my lungs? Lung removal? Chemo? Cancel my anticipated fall trips overseas? Suddenly, on a soft, warm summer day, my future had become one big question mark.

Peggy has her own photoblog, the F-stops here, where she posts a photograph every day.