The Power of Positivity

Lenny Weiland, lung cancer survivor
Lenny Weiland

There are two mantras I repeat to myself and others: “Don’t count the days, make the days count,” coined by Mohammad Ali, and “Cancer didn’t bring me to my knees; it brought me to my feet,” said by Michael Douglas. Another mantra I like is one of my own creation: “My mind and soul can heal my body.”

What I like about these quotes is their positivity. I’ve always believed a positive attitude could help fight my lung cancer.

My lung cancer diagnosis took me by surprise. I developed a cough with a wheeze. I have asthma, so it wasn’t that concerning, but my wife said I was using my inhaler too much and I should go see a doctor. They performed a battery of tests, including a chest x-ray, and concluded I had a “touch of pneumonia.” They sent me on my way with some antibiotics.

Five days later, I was feeling better. However, I received a call from the doctor at 8:30 in the morning, explaining they saw an opacity in my lung. I explained that I knew this – that was the pneumonia. They insisted I see my primary care physician.

I received more tests, including a biopsy of my lung, and was diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer with a metastases in my brain and femur. It was a punch to the stomach. Actually, it was a punch in the stomach, a slap in the face, and a kick in the butt – I felt completely beat up.

It took me awhile to come to terms with the diagnosis. The beginning is the hardest part for any of us. It’s very scary, particularly if you spend too much time with Dr. Google. I decided that knowing the statistics wasn’t going to help me, so instead I would focus on healing.

I told my oncologist I didn’t want to know my prognosis. It was useless information to me. I didn’t want an expiration date on my forehead because no one really knows how long I have except for God. I’m not a piece of meat at the shopping center and I refuse to listen to statistics.

I had a series of treatments to attack the cancer throughout my body. I had high dose radiation to the brain that zapped my pea-sized tumor. I had the tumor scraped out of my right femur and a long metal rod inserted to prevent the bone from breaking. I also had chemo-immunotherapy combination therapy.

Today, I’m doing well. In fact, as of September 2021, my most recent scans did not show evidence of any tumors – not in my brain, femur, bones, or even lungs! Based on this, my doctor says I am what is considered NED (no evidence of disease). I attribute it to immunotherapy. Not everyone can have immunotherapy, but for those of us who can, it can be a major breakthrough.

I do have some side effects, but I’ve learned to manage them with holistic measures like acupuncture and medical marijuana. The acupuncture really seems to diminish my worst symptoms - upset stomach, fatigue, and body itch. The marijuana – which I ingest via lozenges – helps increase my appetite, relieve stomach pains, and lessen anxiety.

Lenny Weiland wearing "Lenny vs Cancer: 1-0" t-shirtMy positivity has played a role in my healing. I realized I couldn’t control what was going on inside my body but I could control my mind, how I deal with what was happening, and how I perceive it. I’m guy at cancer center walking around in t-shirt that says: “Wanted for killing cancer: one million dollar reward” with a picture of me. Lung cancer is a devastating diagnosis, but it doesn’t mean you can’t smile. Part of healing is mindset.

Another part of healing for me is helping other people. I was helped immensely early on in my lung cancer by a mentor who walked me through the disease and prayed with me. Today, I mentor for both LUNGevity and Cancer Hope Network and am dedicated to speaking to people who are just diagnosed or have disease.

Recently, I recommended one of my mentees try acupuncture. A few months later, when I asked him how he was doing, he told me he went to acupuncture and it helped with his limp so much, he was able to throw away his cane. It was amazing to see my personal experience help someone else. It made it all worth it.

These days, I enjoy my hobbies, like art and music, and, weather permitting, gardening. If people with cancer can get outside and do something, even for a couple of hours a day, it can be so valuable to forget about your cancer and issues. When I’m in the garden, it’s just me and Mother Nature. It’s important to do what makes you happy, despite the cancer.

I don’t know what tomorrow will bring. None of us do. But if I wake up and feel good, I enjoy the day and live in the moment. I also put my faith in God. I believe there is somewhere better than this and that really takes the edge off for me.

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Lenny “Blue” Weiland is a retired graphic art supply sales rep. At the age of 62, he was diagnosed with stage IV Lung Cancer in Nov 2019. A few months after his diagnoses, he volunteered for Cancer Hope Network & LUNGevity, spreading the word of hope to other lung cancer survivors. He enjoys growing his vegetable garden, playing guitar and harmonica and hopes to start painting again. His true passion these days is sharing his journey with others and helping mentor others in need.

Married for 31 years , Lenny is grateful for his wife Elaine and three children that have helped him place one foot in front of the other and move on. 

 

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Lenny is my dear cousin who I love very much. He has inspired me so much even though I don’t have cancer. I’m so proud of him for his positive spirit . He is one of the most beautiful people in this world. May God continue to bless him.

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