November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month and I’ve been sharing a lot of information about Lung Cancer on Facebook…encouraging posts. I’m doing well right now because my 6th clinical trial is working, however, it hasn’t always been that way for me. This blog is going to highlight the rough times I encountered during my 15 year journey and how my children stepped up to care for me. I’ve had other wonderful caregivers…my parents, my cousins and especially my sister, Melanie who has been with me every step of the way. I’m focusing on my children for this blog.
I have three children…Matt, Katie and Zack and my diagnosis hit us all very hard. We all coped in different ways. I had always been the rock of our family and my children depended on me. In fact, they all followed me from Pennsylvania to Florida where they also put down roots which is such a blessing.
On this last day of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I want you to know that during these 15 years of living with this misunderstood disease, I’ve had two near death experiences. One was “failure to thrive” which happened because of aggressive, very toxic treatment. I’m not sure how long I was in the hospital, but I do know that my parents came and sat in my room all day. My dad would try to feed me, but I couldn’t eat. I also know that my daughter Katie came in every day smiling and opening my blinds in an effort to get me to perk up. All I could do was lie in bed. I remember whispering to my mother that “I want to die”. I had lost a ton of weight and was very sick. I finally got discharged because there wasn’t anything more that could be done. I was being sent home to die. That’s when my son Zack stepped in. He was living in North Carolina at the time, so my parents drove me there and Zack took over. He made me protein shakes and forced me to drink. He sat with me, holding the cup and making sure I kept taking sips of the shake. I gradually got stronger and was able to return home about 2 months later. I got strong enough to go back to work and all was well (except for the cancer stuff).
My second event happened at school when I collapsed during our Christmas performance by my choral students. I’ll never forget the date, Dec. 18, 2012, right before Christmas. The only thing I remember was being loaded into an ambulance. I ended up in the ICU on a ventilator and my family was told I might not make it through the night. Now Katie just had a baby, in fact, I was there right after Cameryn born, but she spent a lot of time with me…her husband would stay in the car with the baby and Katie would run to the car to feed the baby when necessary. Zack also spent a lot of time with me. In fact, he’s the one who noticed that bile was dripping into the bag hooked up to the chest tube and called the doctor’s attention to it. (This was before the surgery. Turns out I had a Gastropericardial fistula which is a “life-threatening abnormal communication between the stomach and pericardial sac which is very rare.). A very talented cardio-thoracic surgeon “fixed” me. I believe the surgery was on Christmas Eve. I have no idea how long I was in the hospital, but when I was discharged, Zack took me to where he was staying and took very good care of me again, which included administrating my meds via pic lines. Also, Katie came by daily to check on me and help me shower. Of course she brought the baby which helped me to perk up. Again, I returned to work. Since then I bought a house and live very close to Katie and Zack. Matt lives about an hour away. Katie calls me every day to make sure I’m ok and Zack can come and help when I need him unless he’s on shift. I’m sharing a few pictures to illustrate the ugly side of lung cancer and hope to send the message to never give up hope!