Hi. My name is Marge. I’m 56 years old, and over five years ago, I was diagnosed with stage IV adenocarcinoma lung cancer. My family has a long cancer history starting back in 1978 with my aunt followed by my daddy, mother, brother, father and mother-in-law. Many friends have also battled lung cancer. They have all helped show me how being diagnosed with a horrible disease is not the end of the world, but another step in life. Many lived for several years after being diagnosed.
The next step was the oncologist, where a PET scan revealed the nasty cancer cells were also invading my lymph nodes. Another biopsy showed I was now stage IV. Learning the cancer was no longer curable made my heart stop. The oncologist said she could prolong life with treatments. At this point I realized I had two choices: I could sit back and wait to die, or I could fight and enjoy every second I have left.Being a caretaker and watching how valiantly they fought to live another day gives me courage to face my own cancer. My personal journey began in July 2011 when my yearly chest X-ray for my physical showed a spot. I felt better than I had in years, so I was shocked when the call came. I was scheduled for a CT the next day, and before I knew it, I was in the surgeon’s office discussing the removal of a lobe. In August of 2011, I had a wedge resection and woke up to find out I was stage III-B adenocarcinoma. Ok – scary but curable.
I chose to fight. After recovering from surgery, I began chemotherapy. I completed six combo chemo rounds (infused every three weeks), then moved on to maintenance chemo for another 20 rounds. I had 18 months of chemo total. After experiencing excessive fatigue, I decided to take a break to regain my strength; I am a strong believer in quality over quantity. My doctor approved this decision, since my scans had been stable for over a year.
I am now excited to have “No Evidence of Disease” (NED). It is a series of words I never thought I would hear. I’m very excited my chemo vacation has been extended indefinitely, especially after being cautioned that recurrence will happen. Holding my precious granddaughter for the first time, seeing my youngest (Amber) walk across the stage as an occupational therapist and later get married, going on a family cruise – it was worth every gut wrenching, sick minute of chemo and its after effects. (I am a true wimp when it comes to meds; we do not mix well at all.) My family and friends motivate me everyday to fight and to never give up.
The stigma of lung cancer hurts research funding because so many people seem to think we deserve our disease. I started smoking at 14 and quit several times over the years before having my last smoke in 2009. It is annoying that when you tell someone you have lung cancer their first words are, “Did you smoke?” Do you really think I deserve cancer because I might have done something that increased my risk of getting cancer? Should I die because I thought it was cool to smoke growing up then was addicted and unable to stop for years? Every cancer out there is horrible, and they all deserve equal funding and compassion. I can only hope people feel the urgency and compassion to support lung cancer.
I am still here. I’m maybe not as perky as I used to be, but I am working on it. My next wish is in a few more years I will hear the CURE word. I know it’s a long shot, but we have to dream.