Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Living with Lung Cancer through a Patients Eyes

Lately – late at night I awake – not startled by anything – just my mind going back to places that used to be safe and secure for me. Remembering how stress free my life had been (even though my job was very stressful) somehow I was able to turn it off when I got into bed and I would sleep like a baby. Those days are gone – forever.

I have a new life – it began on October 9th, 2007 when I received a call (which went into my voice mail) from my Primary Care Physician telling me that she “had left her afternoon open for me to come over and discuss the results of my CT scan” – which – by the way – I had to force them to approve. I was home by then – getting off the bus from a normal day at work. I knew – in that very second what the “discussion” would be. She was going to tell me I had Lung Cancer. Something I had known in my gut for a while – but had to really face in order to go and take that CT scan. I could have remained amongst the “worried well” – you know – people who know in their heart that something is wrong – or at least could be- and make a choice to ignore the nagging pull of their gut feeling. I tried that. It did not work. So I faced my worst fear – took the CT and had my worst nightmare realized in Technicolor. I was sitting on a bench across the street from my apartment building – a beautiful area in Bay Ridge Brooklyn – along the water with tree lined parks – a place where I have sat many times for hours alone, with a book, with my dog or a good friend But this day I was alone and I was sitting with my world spinning and crashing around me. My Dr. called me back - and I told her what I had – she said “yes” – she referred me to a Pulmonologist at NYU and the flood gates opened. So what do you do when you know you are sick – very sick – and could die? I called my sister – MY ROCK – and we cried together. She called my parents – I think- I don’t remember. I don’t really remember much of the first month once I was dx’d. Lots of tests, lots of blood work, lots of panic attacks and a lot of crying. I had more than my fair share of pity-party’s – but when the dust had settled somewhat, and I had a “plan” I went into auto-drive and did what I needed to do. When you have “things to do” you don’t have time to think – you just go thru the motions. I remember telling my sister that sometimes it felt like someone else was taking all these tests – sort of like an “outer-body” experience. But I knew It was me – of course I did. Lung Cancer – OMG – did I do this to myself? Who do I blame – who do I direct this massive anger I feel at? Myself? The tobacco company’s? God? No surely NOT GOD! Of that much I was clear. But the rest – well – it took a long time to come to terms with what I had done to myself – and to realize that I was not to blame.

Bad things happen to good people. So there I was – looking on-line – finding all the misinformation one could possibly find and having massive panic attacks – but I found a web site that saved my sanity – and helped me gain some sense of what I was dealing with – and most importantly that I WAS NOT ALONE! The Lung Cancer Alliance (LCA) web site was the first place to ground me – and I was – and remain – a loyal member of that community – but then one day – stumbling along the internet after I had completed my surgery and my chemo treatments (another long story of it’s own) I found the Liz Martocci Lung Cancer Foundation – a foundation that was fighting for Lung Cancer patients who could not pay their medical bills. The LMLCF is a place where we (LC patients) could turn to for help – and direction. While I am still fortunate to have my job and my health benefits – in a flash that could be gone – and with a “pre-existing condition” I could be in huge trouble. I know that if I ever needed help I have a place to go. Whew! But still the stigma of LC prevails – we need more – we need money for research and development of “markers” that can tell patients they are at risk for LC. We need people to discard the “stigma” that smokers inevitably have and help us help ourselves. Lung Cancer kills more people than all other cancers combined annually – 20% of which are never-or-non smokers. We need help. I need help to stay healthy. The more we educate the public the more we will be seen and no longer remain invisible and stigmatized into the shadows (or smoke). We all need to fight and be heard. I am just one person – but I am willing and ready to stand beside anyone who will fight with me.

Karen Peyser

15 Months Cancer Free and counting!

No comments: