->Survivor stories

Running a Half-Ironman as a Lung Cancer Survivor

The day before my lung biopsy, May 18, 2020, I ran 7 miles. As I was running, I couldn’t help but think there is no way I have lung cancer. Yet, when the results of my biopsy came back, that’s exactly what I was diagnosed with: stage I adenocarcinoma non-small cell lung cancer. 

It’s rare to be diagnosed as stage I; in fact, only about 18% of people are. That’s why I call it my “incidentally-noma,” a little joke as a retired nurse about my lung cancer being found completely by accident. 

Gratitude for Each Day

I was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma at the end of July 2019. As a female non-smoker, I was shocked. But I shouldn't have been. Unlike many people diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer who did not experience symptoms, I had respiratory issues for several years prior to my diagnosis, and chest pain led me to the ER in 2017 and 2018. The chest x-rays showed nothing unusual according to the reports, and in 2018 I was told it was probably a pulled muscle.

Cancer is just a word...

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.

A Marathon, Not a Sprint

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. 

A Lung Cancer Patient’s Experience with Palliative Care

Before I was diagnosed with lung cancer, I did not know anything about palliative care. If pushed, I might say it was similar to hospice care.  Now, I know the only similarity between hospice and palliative care is comfort: while hospice is focused on making you comfortable at the end of your life, palliative care is focused on making you comfortable as you live your life.

Celebrate Everything

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.