Yep. You read that correctly.
Doctor: “Carrie, you have non small cell adenocarcinoma” That diagnosis actually turned out to be a blessing.
Let’s start from the beginning…
My husband and I had the awesome fortune of getting tickets to Super Bowl XLV to watch our beloved Pittsburgh Steelers play the Greenbay Packers. We flew to New Orleans with our then 10 year old son and parents to visit my Uncle and visit the “Big Easy” since my son had never been there. Mini vacation if you will. Tim (the hubby) and I then drove to Dallas since it wasn’t that far. Easy, peasy, right? (FUNNY POST TO FOLLOW REGARDING THE TRIP. LET’S JUST SAY TEXAS GOT AN ICE STORM AND WE SLEPT IN THE RENTAL CAR IN A WAFFLE HOUSE PARKING LOT) Anyway, I was excited to visit Dallas since I am kind of obsessed with the JFK assassination and always wanted to visit the Texas Schoolbook Depository. Bucket list, check.
Long story short, we had an amazing time at the Super Bowl. Once in a lifetime experience. Even though our Steelers lost, we had the time of our lives. Super fun time.
On the way home, my hubby started feeling pretty sick. Bad cough, fever, the whole really bad cold thing. Once we got home, he felt so terrible that he ended up going to the doctor, which is huge because he NEVER goes to the doctor. Ended up having Pneumonia. In the mean time, I wasn’t feeling all that great myself. Started getting the hubby’s symptoms so I decided to visit the doctor myself to make sure that I didn’t have Pneumonia myself.
This was February 2011.
Here is where the blessings begin…
I am in the examining room doing the whole how are you feeling, take my temperature, breath deep thing and the doctor says “you probably don’t need an x-ray”. This will run its course. I kept coughing and expected to be sent on my way. Then as if divine intervention took over (which I am convinced were my deceased Grandmother’s as my guardian angels) the doctor decided to take an x-ray “just to be safe”. Okey dokey…then I was sent on my way. I never expected anything more.
A few days later…
I received a call from the doctor herself. She sounded a bit reserved and told me that the radiologist noticed something unusual on my x-ray and that I needed to go get a CT scan. OK. Whatever. I was not at all concerned. So I went to get the CT scan, and again had no worries and waited to hear back.
I got the call from the doctor saying that they still see something unusual and they would like for me to go get a PET scan. OK. Now it is getting more serious. I am still not scared though. OK. Off to Nuclear Medicine to get my PET scan. BTW, I can’t say enough about the lovely, amazing people who work in nuclear medicine. They are angels on earth as well. They are used to seeing the same patients over and over and are so reassuring and friendly that I can’t say enough good things about them.
I got the results from the PET scan pretty quickly. Definitely something on my lung that should not be there. I was told to come in to speak with a new doctor so I could be scheduled for a biopsy. The hubby and I did that together. Again, we were very calm. I’ve always been a “just do what you have to do to get it fixed” kind of gal. We got the biopsy scheduled and were thinking we would just wait for the procedure in a few weeks.
Then we get a call shortly after we left from scheduling the biopsy and were told that plans had changed. My surgeon, who I had not yet met but later came to adore, thought that it would be best to skip the biopsy and just do surgery. His argument was that there was definitely something on my lung that should not be there so why not just go get it? Sounded like a plan Doc, so we jumped right into doing surgery. Surgery was performed on April 4, 2011. Twenty three days before my 39th birthday.
Just to clarify, I had not yet been diagnosed with cancer. The diagnosis would not be made until my surgeon actually removed the “nodule” in my lung and biopsied it at the time of surgery. The doctor told my hubby that if it was benign, he would simply take a wedge of my lung and close me up. If it was indeed cancer, he would remove my upper left lobe (lung) along with a few nearby lymph nodes and then close me up. My husband didn’t tell anyone this. So…when the nurse came out to give an update and said “the doctor removed the lung” my husband and nobody else knew it was cancer. He thought it best to not tell my parents who were also there until later.
I remember waking up in ICU with my family there. I honestly don’t remember much except being told it was cancer & they are pretty certain that they got it all with surgery, and having a huge tube coming out of my side. Again, a huge shout out to the hospital staff, nurses and doctors who could not have been more wonderful!
After a longish recovery, I was back to normal. A visit to the oncologist and a few to my surgeon made me feel comfortable that I would not need further treatment such as chemo or radiation. What a huge blessing!
I now realize how blessed I am…
Here is why this 6 month ordeal turned out to be a huge blessing in my life.
First, how blessed was I to be “accidentally” diagnosed in the first place? I was a healthy, non-smoking, 38 year old woman. If not for my husband’s pneumonia (and my angels on my shoulders), I would have never gone to the doctor and gotten a chest x-ray. Did you know that lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer deaths in women, killing more women each year than breast cancer, uterine cancer, and ovarian cancer combined? And that 20 percent of women who develop lung cancer have never touched a cigarette? Lung cancer is unfortunately one of those cancers that usually aren’t discovered until a much later stage when treatment is much more invasive and survival rates drop. I was truly blessed to have mine caught when it was.
Second, I realized that I am blessed with a wonderful family. Being the busy owner of a construction company my husband took over all the household responsibilities without hesitation. Our 10 year old son didn’t miss a beat and life went on as usual. I always knew that I married a great guy but Tim exceeded all expectations with his strength and compassion during this time.
At the time, I too was the owner of a candle making business and retail shop and my family stepped right in and made sure that the business ran smoothly and I didn’t have to worry about a thing. Amazing, right?
Perhaps, the most important blessing that came from cancer is that I became a happier person. Truly. I had the whole “life is too short” epiphany and learned to be grateful for everyday. Seems very cliche, but it is so true. I no longer let inconsequential things bother me. I make it a point to always look at the bright side. My favorite saying is “if that is the worst thing that happens today, it has been a great day”. Events that I can’t control don’t worry me either. There are things that are out of our control so I just give it up to God. My life is so less stressful now.
I notice the little things in life too. I love to watch hummingbirds and butterflies while reading on my back porch. I love flowers. I love to hear babies laugh. I enjoy riding in the golf cart to watch the hubby and my son golf. It is all good!
I am going on 7 years cancer free now. Another blessing! I have passed all of my yearly scans and am in good health. Hopefully I am just one of those strange statistics and I can put cancer behind me.
What has cancer taught me?
I continue to be grateful for everyday. I had a dear friend of mine pass away from cancer in 2017 and I wonder why I was so lucky? I may never know. I just know that surviving lung cancer has taught me the greatest lesson of all, to be grateful and to thank God for the everyday blessings in life. We don’t know what tomorrow brings.
Have you been touched by cancer. How has it changed you? I would love to hear your stories.