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November 08, 2022

Lung Cancer Awareness Month


November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.


Here's six important messages about lung cancer and cancer in general.

1) Lung cancer is the second most common cancer.

2) It’s the deadliest cancer according the American Cancer Society.

3) Although lung cancer is the deadliest AND second most common cancer, it’s the least funded, so please consider contributing to Lung Cancer Research Foundation this month and throughout the year. 💙

4) Not everyone who gets diagnosed with lung cancer was/is a smoker.

5) NO ONE deserves cancer.

6) Cancer FUCKING SUCKS!


THE DIAGNOSIS:

The fourth point is a common misconception that my mom and I HATE.

(Let me state again that no one deserves cancer, whether they smoke/d or not.)

Side Rant: Don’t even get me started on the "Tips From Former Smokers" commercials from the CDC that end with the statement, “You can quit.” Or the commercials from Tobacco Free Florida. Both of which depict ghastly outcomes of being a smoker, such includes lung cancer and chest tubes and oxygen tubing. Every time I see these commercials I want to scream.

When the tumor was first found in my mom's lung, every doctor we saw asked my mom, “How long were you a smoker?”

ASSUMING. 😠

Some even started with this false statement, “So, you were a smoker.”

Each time, and even now, we have to vehemently say, “No! She never smoked.”

When we first told her oncologist, and especially her pulmonologist (lung specialist), that she'd never smoked, I saw their surprise. And what angered me was that they pressed her, like “Really? Not even when you were a teen? What about years ago? Are you sure?” As if they were trying to catch her in a lie.

But I repeat: Not everyone who gets diagnosed with lung cancer was/is a smoker. So, right now, stop assuming anyone with lung cancer was/is a smoker. Doctors should know this, but doctors are imperfect and biased and like to stick with the facts they know to be true (most of the time).

They’d then ask if she was ever exposed to asbestos.

Answer: No.

Then finally they’d ask if she had been around a lot of secondhand smoke. My mom’s father was a heavy smoker. Upon hearing this, they’d say, “That must be it then.”

Here’s another reminder: If you’re a smoker, you’re not just putting yourself at risk. You’re putting everyone you smoke around at risk. One day, they may be diagnosed with lung cancer because of YOUR actions. If that’s not a HUGE reason to quit right there, then I don’t know what the fuck is.

Still…we’re not positive that’s where her cancer came from, although it is a possibility.

Another possibility is that her cancer stems from living on Air Force bases around the world.

My dad is an Air Force veteran. My family had been on Air Force bases in Okinawa, Japan; Michigan, and Florida (Patrick Air Force Base).

Years ago, I discovered that people who had lived on or near Patrick Air Force in Florida were being diagnosed with cancer at an increased rate because of the contamination problems at the base, but this is not an isolated occurrence. Military bases across the country and around the world have contaminated drinking water.

This is a problem that even the Pentagon has reported about (and has also attempted to cover up).

As reported by Military Times, “The water at or around at least 126 military installations contains potentially harmful levels of perfluorinated compounds, which have been linked to cancers and developmental delays for fetuses and infants.” [1]

25 Army bases, 50 Air Force bases, 49 Navy or Marine Corps bases, and two Defense Logistics Agency sites.

And…

“The Pentagon document identified 401 active installations in the United States with at least one area where there was a known or suspected release of cancer-causing compounds.” [2]

Two Air Force bases where my family had been stationed in Michigan and Florida were specifically named in this article by CivilianExposure.org for being some of the worst ones. And Okinawa is mentioned in a quote by an Army veteran who said the level of toxins on these bases would “shock the American people.”

None of her doctors asked if my mom could’ve been poisoned by the US military and federal government. 😖


***


Coincidentally, it was November 2021 when the tumor was discovered in her lung. We had no idea then that November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month.

We never thought this diagnosis was possible because my mom had never smoked a day in her life, and I never thought I'd have to be a caregiver in this capacity. Our lives are very different compared to last year. 



THE ROAD:

When she rang the chemo bell on Valentine's Day, we thought that that meant things would be getting better, but later that month she was in the hospital because doctors thought she might've had a small stroke. (She did not have a stroke, but that was the beginning of a long road to get diagnosed with situational A Fib, brought on by her treatments and illness).

She finished up radiation therapy in the beginning of March. She was in a lot of pain then because of her back. Her radiation oncologist assumed she might've fractured a rib from the force of a cough or while vomiting, so he refused to do an X-ray. Months later, an MRI revealed she'd completely blown (flattened) her T-12 vertebrae. 

In April, she was hospitalized TWICE, the first time during my birthday, with pneumonia and a pleural effusion (fluid around her lung). She was hospitalized again in May because neither problem had gone away.

My mom has been on oxygen since she was discharged from her second April hospitalization.

During her May hospitalization, which was 12 days long, she was sent to the ICU to get a chest tube because her lung had collapsed, there was a pocket of air from a complication when they tapped her lung to drain it, AND there was still a lot of fluid. And I'm talking over a liter of fluid. She was finally sent home with a tiny pleurx catheter in her side so all of that could be avoided in the future, and I was taught how to drain her lung, which doesn't sound as bad or gross as it may seem.

June - She started another round of stronger chemotherapy combined with immunotherapy.

July - After another hospitalization, I learned how to give her IV antibiotics at home.

August - She finally got a port for treatments, which immediately caused issues with blood clots, resulting in another hospitalization, during which time we both caught COVID.

September - We found out the tumor in her lung is significantly smaller, which is great news, but a small mass was detected at her L-5 in her spine, making her Stage 4. But we were told, because it’s so small, one week of low dose radiation will knock it out.

October - She was taken off the stronger chemo and put back on just immunotherapy since she’d shown great improvement.

November - After completing radiation mapping and an MRI, she should be doing the 5 days of radiation on her back by the end of the month.

That’s the road so far.


ART TO COPE:

During this journey I've created Instagram reels to document what it has been like. I like to consider these reels as art, because they are a work of art to me. The videos below are from TikTok because I was able to download them with the music.

NOTE: When you click the play button, the video will be small because it’s a reel, not a full-sized video. You can watch the full-sized reel by clicking the “Watch on Instagram” links below each short clip.


Last Day of Chemo Bell Ringing:

0:52 seconds

Watch on Instagram


What You See In The Hospital:

0:41 seconds

Watch on Instagram


What You See In The ER:

0:48 seconds

Watch on Instagram


What You See In The ICU:

0:57 seconds

Watch on Instagram


What You See In The Hospital Chapel:

0:55 seconds

Watch on Instagram


Hospital Tranquility Garden:

1:00 minute

Watch on Instagram


QUESTIONS: Will you donate any amount to Lung Cancer Research Foundation? Would you like to name and honor a loved one who had/has lung cancer in the comments? 





8 comments:

  1. Such an important post! Your mom has had a long year, but hopefully she's on the road to recovery now, and it's great that you're with her every step of the way.

    One of the most high profile people who died of lung cancer in the UK was Roy Castle, a TV personality who had spent much of his life playing jazz clubs around a lot of smoke, despite never smoking himself. This is such an important message.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Chrys, I'm so sorry about your mom's suffering. It's not easy to take care of someone who is ill, even when you love that person so I know it's a big job for you. I dread being hit by cancer or anything that might prevent me from taking care of myself because there is no one to care for me. I hate doctor's assumptions. The doctor who delivered my son kept trying to get me to admit I'd had a C section in the past because I have a large scar from exploratory surgery when I was young. One of my older sisters died from lung cancer a few months ago. She'd also had multiple heart attacks and strokes. She was a very heavy smoker, starting when she was 17. Smoking is highly addictive and not easy to quit. Nevertheless, no one deserves cancer.

    Love,
    Janie

    ReplyDelete
  3. So sorry to hear about your mom's road thus far, but it sounds like things are improving. That's great.

    ReplyDelete
  4. Hi Chrys - what a great post about lung cancer ... I do hope your mother continues on improving, and you too - take care and with thoughts ... all the best - Hilary

    ReplyDelete
  5. @Annalisa, secondhand smoke is so dangerous. I wish more people understood that.

    ReplyDelete
  6. @Janie, doctors assuming things is frustrating and even potentially dangerous. It never makes me feel good when they assume something about me or my mom.

    I am so sorry for your loss.

    ReplyDelete
  7. @Liz, thank you. She has improved a lot.

    ReplyDelete

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