->Survivor stories

Balancing Motherhood and Cancer

Its 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. Its 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 Im in the prime of my life, yet Im facing a serious disease. I have responsibilities, like my career and my children, that people who are diagnosed later in life might not have. 

Never Say Never

Years ago, I got a tattoo on my foot that says “Never say never.” The “V’s” are ribbons: one ribbon is pink for breast cancer, for the many friends I supported who faced the disease, and the other is green for organ, tissue, & eye donation, which is my career. Today, I look at those words and ribbons and realize how little I knew about lung cancer at the time. I would never have thought I would ever say the words I have lung cancer.

Losing My Hair from Cancer Treatment

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.

The Importance of Community for Lung Cancer Survivors

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.

Coming to Terms with a Lung Cancer Diagnosis

Some people will say that you could die any day, and being diagnosed with a terminal disease like lung cancer doesn’t change that fact. However, people don’t get in their car thinking they are driving to the car accident that will kill them; you get in the car thinking you’re going somewhere.

And that’s how I was living my life until I was diagnosed with lung cancer. I was suddenly slapped upside my head with my own mortality. I always assumed I would be here to grow old with my husband and meet my grandkids. After I was diagnosed, I realized those things weren’t guarantees.

Your Best Advocate is You

I was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma right before the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020. Prior to my diagnosis, I slipped while walking the dog and thought I pulled a groin muscle. When it didn’t heal, I saw a doctor, who sent me to physical therapy. The PT made the pain worse, to the point that I was crying at the PT office. I told my doctor something was going on, but he wasn’t convinced. My insurance would not approve an MRI.

Diagnosed with Lung Cancer at 36

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.