The night before I was diagnosed with lung cancer, my doctor called me at 7pm, asking me to come in the next day; it was an emergency. I wasn’t sure exactly what she was going to tell me, but I had had my lungs scanned earlier that day to check on a small spot, so I assumed the worst.
-> Diagnosed under 50
It started as a tickle in my throat. I noticed that every time I spoke, I had to keep clearing my throat. At first, it was okay because it was just happening every now and then. As time went on, however, it became more pronounced; I would have to clear my throat every few words or sentences.
When I was first diagnosed with lung cancer, I wasn’t given a stage. It made me feel hopeful, like I had a mild form of cancer and I could take some medication and be okay. Someone even asked me what stage my cancer was, and I told them I didn’t have a stage. I look back at the time and wonder how I thought it was even possible.
I was diagnosed with Stage IV adenocarcinoma NSCLC in July 2020. As if dealing with the coronavirus pandemic were not hard enough, I found out that my slight cough, phlegm, and shortness of breath was not COVID-19, not allergies, not walking pneumonia, not lymphoma, but lung cancer. My husband, James, was not allowed to accompany me to any of my oncologist or specialist visits, the ER, any chemotherapy or immunotherapy infusion, or any of my biopsies due to COVID-19 restrictions, but the things I struggled with most may not be unique to being diagnosed during a pandemic.
On July 1, 2020, at the age of 33 years old, I was diagnosed with stage IV Adenocarcinoma.
I had some mild symptoms before my diagnosis, but they could all be explained away. Beginning in December 2019, I had a light cough and experienced abnormal fatigue, but I have asthma and worked out a lot and I assumed it was all related.
It’s a strange feeling, becoming THE mom in the “I know a young mom with two kids who got lung cancer at 37 years old” type of stories. It’s an urban legend, but it’s also my life.
It's difficult to be diagnosed with lung cancer as young as I was. I feel like I’m in the prime of my life, yet I’m facing a serious disease. I have responsibilities, like my career and my children, that people who are diagnosed later in life might not have.
It took my doctors 9 months to diagnose me with lung cancer.
It started in August 2018. I was coughing, having trouble breathing, and rapidly losing weight. They tried everything: antibiotics, nebulizers, other medications, but I kept getting worse. I was coughing up blood and heard crackles in my lungs. I was coughing so much, I broke a rib.
When I first started chemotherapy to treat my lung cancer, my doctor insisted I would not lose my hair. She told me I might have other side effects, such as nausea, fatigue, and others typically associated with chemo, but those particular chemotherapy drugs would not cause hair loss.
I started my treatment in early August, and by the end of August, I was shedding hair like crazy all over the house. It was so bad, my husband bought buckets to put in each room to collect my hair in. In early September, I cut my hair short.
It’s shocking how many people with lung cancer go through the same struggles I did to get diagnosed. Whether you have symptoms or not, it can take a long time to arrive at a lung cancer diagnosis. I had symptoms for about 3-4 months, which my primary care physician tried treating with antibiotics with no improvement. Finally, I asked her if it was time to see a specialist.
Right before I had the seizure that led to the diagnosis of my lung cancer, I called 9-1-1. I’m a nurse, so I knew something was very wrong. Prior to the seizure, I had been feeling fatigued, having worsening migraines, and losing weight for months; I had been caregiving for a family member, however, so I had chalked it up to stress and exhaustion from the extra responsibilities. Little did I know, I had a large mass in my brain.