From Quiet to Community: Opening Up About Her Lung Cancer

Nick Baker, Website Content Manager
Quote from Jessica, I want my message to be that cancer did not define me.

Something was off, and Jessica thought she knew why.  

At the beginning of 2022, she caught COVID and developed a cough. The cough lingered for months, and she figured it was a long-term side effect that would eventually go away. But eight months later, it was still there. The coughing was now followed by wheezing, and it seemed that something might really be wrong.  

Jessica visited her family physician who began ordering tests. First, she did an X-ray, and it was clear. Then a pulmonary function test—also clear. While Jessica's doctor agreed it could be COVID cough, she insisted they continue doing tests so she could tell Jessica the actual cause.  

Before her diagnosis, Jessica was only focused on the next test, whether it was an X-ray, pulmonary test, or CT scan. She didn’t spend time or energy worrying about what the test would show, just that taking the test was the next step. 

And thankfully for Jessica, her family physician was persistent and didn’t stop. After the CT scan, they finally had an answer. Not the answer she was expecting, but an answer.  

It was not a long-term side effect of COVID, she had a mass in her left lung. A specialist later confirmed the CT results, and the mass in Jessica's left lung, covering 70% of her airway, led to her cancer diagnosis at 48 years old. 

“I was shocked. I didn’t think of lung cancer, there was no way. I’m not a health-obsessed person, but I think I live a healthy lifestyle by exercising regularly and eating well. I have never smoked, so lung cancer? Really? My response to my family physician who called me with my CT scan results and said that the mass was deemed a carcinoid tumor was, ‘ok, I got this, what are the next steps, what do we need to do? Let’s do this!’” 

After the diagnosis, she kept a positive mindset and only looked to what needed to be done next. Which for Jessica, was a Net Pet scan, two bronchoscopies, and finally surgery to remove the mass. 

“Originally, I didn’t feel the need to publicize and share widely that I had lung cancer. I only told six people. But when surgery was scheduled I began opening up to more of my friends, and their support was overwhelming and it grew into something I never expected,” says Jessica. 

Large group of people wearing the same shirt, "Have some fun today" with their hands raised smiling for the photo.
Jessica (circled) with her friends at the Have Some Fun Today celebration.

The thing she didn’t expect was a night filled with friends coming together, all to celebrate her. At first, the people she opened up to started talking about a girl's weekend where they could have some fun prior to her surgery. But then in a week and a half, Jessica spread the word to her tribe, and it became an epic Girl’s Night Out. It even developed a theme, Have Some Fun Today

Some of the friends who came to the party didn’t even know Jessica had cancer prior to getting the invitation. Many changed plans, canceled concert tickets, got babysitters, and did whatever was needed because they were part of her tribe and cared about letting her know that no matter the reason, they were there to support her. 

The party showed Jessica just how much her friends love and care for her, and it’s why she now uses Facebook to give updates on her journey. She shared that surgery was a success and the entire mass in her lung was removed. She posted pictures of her time in the hospital and thanked everyone for the support and positive energy they gave her, sharing her motto Have Some Fun Today throughout! 

A Facebook post from Jessica sharing a recent update about her surgery success.

Keeping with her what’s next mindset, Jessica is solely focused on her follow-up scans in the coming months and years. She’s moving forward with the expectation everything is clear and that she is a lung cancer survivor.  

“I want my message to be that cancer did not define me. I know I am one of the lucky ones. I also know that you can’t always control everything but what you can control is your outlook and energy. I am focused on the positive—positive outlook and positive energy!” 

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