November is Lung Cancer Awareness Month, and to share some insight into what it’s like to live with this condition, we talked to member Clare (Riverdale). When she was diagnosed with non small-cell lung cancer, her husband was already living with prostate cancer. While supporting each other through chemotherapy and radiation, the couple has made an effort to eat healthy and keep up the active lifestyle they led before. Get to know Clare below, and see what she has to say about “the value of a loving mate” in her experience with lung cancer.
Tell us a little bit about yourself.
I am 73 years old, grew up on a farm in Alberta. My father smoked a pipe and used to joke about turning the air blue. No one else in the family got cancer. I smoked starting at age 20 while studying for exams, trying to stay awake, then continued as people who smoked got a coffee break and those who didn’t smoke really didn’t get a break. I continued to smoke less than a half a pack a day till age 28, then thanks to Nicorette gum stopped easily, as did my husband. We are very physically active. I rode my bike several miles to my job — weather- permitting — as we have great bike lanes and didn’t live too far from the center of the city. We continued to ride daily after retirement for exercise and belong to the European Waltz Time Society for bi-monthly dancing.
You were diagnosed with lung cancer after going to the emergency room for severe back pain—what went through your head when you received the news?
I was glad to hear that my pain was not a heart attack and that my cancer had been detected in an early stage.
In your profile, you mention that your husband is living with prostate cancer. How has it been supporting each other while managing your own health?
I was so sick during my husband’s treatment with radiation that I did not support him much but he seemed to sail through. The staff at radiation called him the entertainer and the coffee shop he attended daily called him by name and had his coffee ready as soon as he walked in the door. Only once did he have to delay because he had to have a bowel movement and a full bladder each day prior to treatment. He still has prostate pain and takes pain meds for that but his PSA says the treatments were successful and every 3 months the bladder checks say he doesn’t have bladder cancer. All I can say is that without him I would be willing to die now. But he says he can’t stand the thought of being alone, and I worry about him for that reason.
We noticed you regularly track your quality of life and symptoms on PatientsLikeMe. Have you seen benefits from tracking?
I find it difficult to put in new things like a change in dosage of a medication, or if I want to mention my right breast is getting larger and nipple is painful. I have used it a few times to remember when an event happened.
What’s one thing you’ve learned in your journey with lung cancer that you’d like others to know?
Something I learned in my lung cancer journey is the value of a loving mate. Going through this alone, I would stay in bed and in misery but because of my mate, I eat properly, I exercise and he gets things done when I couldn’t manage. Maybe I would but because I don’t have to, things are better. Yesterday I spent the night worrying about pain in my tongue and wondering if a jagged filling was causing the sore. He called the dentist and I was taken right in and reminded about one of the side effects of Giotrif is mouth sores and to rinse with salt water. Alone I would have continued to stew instead of starting right away on treatment. That is why an advocate is so necessary.
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