By Lara Blair, RN
11 years ago, when I was 39 years old, after having spent six months caring for my husband, Bill, who had been diagnosed with malignant thymoma, I suddenly developed a dry hacking cough. In the preceding months, I had lost some weight, but had attributed it to the stress of supporting our family through the challenges of Bill’s cancer treatment. When the X-ray showed an area of concern, it was impossible to think that lightening would “strike twice,” but indeed I did have lung cancer. A 6.5cm tumor attached to the back of my chest wall and one lymph node showing reactivity on a PET scan. What followed next was almost a year of chemo, radiation, surgery and more chemo.
It was the hardest year of my life, but in many respects, it was also the best. Our family was surrounded and supported by many friends, family members, co-workers, our kids’ school teachers, fellow church go-ers and medical team members. The outpouring of kindness and generosity gave our family strength that we could never have had on our own. To be on the receiving end of so much love and kindness was awe inspiring and we are forever grateful.
Soon after returning to my job working as a nurse in Labor and Delivery, the thoracic oncology team at my hospital asked me to join them in their multidisciplinary clinic as a nurse navigator for lung cancer patients. It was a great gift and an enormous privilege to be able to share what I had learned with patients going through a lung cancer diagnosis and treatment. And knowing how rare my recovery was, it gave a purpose to my survival.
It was in my role as a Nurse Navigator, planning a “Shine A Light” event* at our hospital that I first encountered Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA). What an incredible organization! The support that LCA provides to patients, families, caregivers and medical teams is invaluable.
My advice to anyone experiencing a lung cancer diagnosis? Know that it is not a death sentence and that for every type of cancer at every stage there are people who LIVE! Why shouldn’t that be YOU? Be receptive to kindness and help when it is offered and reach out when you need support.
Shine a Light on Lung Cancer are educational events that take place in healthcare facilities across the country during November, Lung Cancer Awareness Month. They offer a platform to raise awareness, connect and educate the community on the latest lung cancer research and treatments. Click here to learn more about hosting a Shine a Light event at your local hospital or cancer center.
If you have questions about your diagnosis, treatment or anything lung cancer related, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 1-800-298-2436.