CURE Community Vlog: Making the Little Moments Count During Cancer
A three-year lung cancer survivor discusses the shock of her diagnosis, and the positivity that ensued in her everyday life.
BY Ashley Stringer
PUBLISHED April 24, 2020
In 2017, I began having shortness of breath. So, I went to see a pulmonologist and had several tests done. Ultimately, I was diagnosed with lung cancer at age 34, which was a complete shock.
It was determined that it was best to have surgery to remove the cancer. So, I had surgery in 2017 to remove half of my left lung. Then, in 2019, the cancer returned again in my left lung. So, I had radiation done to treat the cancer at that point.
I continue to have CT scans every three months to follow-up on some nodules that are in both lungs that are suspicious for cancer. We just watch those every three months to see if they’re growing or changing at all.
The journey overall has certainly been a lot of ups and downs. I’m just happy to be a three-year cancer survivor at this stage.
When I got the news, I was just completely shocked. Being a person who had never smoked, I didn’t even think that lung cancer was a possibility for me. So, it was very shocking. It was scary. At the time, my children were 3 and 7 years old, so very young. I was just really scared, wondering if I would be here to raise my children. Would I be here to see them graduate high school and go to college and get married? Most of those things that people don’t think about being a young mother. I had a lot of questions swirling in my mind about my future. A lot of the time I was thinking, “How long do I have to live?” I was constantly worrying about that. It has affected me in a lot of different ways, but it was very shocking and scary getting the news that you have cancer.
As far as long-term feelings and struggles that I’ve deal with: There’s been a lot. I would say, emotionally and mentally, the biggest struggle is just trying to cope with not knowing the future. Is the cancer going to come back? And if it does, again, how long do I have?
Also, since I get scans every three months, I worry a lot about what the next scan is going to show. I actually have to travel down to Houston, which is eight hours away from where I’m at. I also work full time and have two young kids, so I have a lot going on right? It’s hard emotionally. I have nightmares a lot of the time. Sometimes, I’ll just wake up from a dead sleep and the things that are on my mind are scary about the future being so uncertain. The reality that I might die very young, that’s a real possibility and that’s scary.
But physically, I do have some nerve damage from the surgery. That bothers me, but not anything tremendously. It’s there. It’s more of an annoyance. I also have shortness of breath when I’m exercising because you have reduced lung capacity. So, that’s something that I have to deal with for the rest of my life.
On a positive note, I’ve changed my diet quite a bit. I always had a healthy diet, but I have a lot of food restrictions. I’m just trying to prevent the cancer from re-occurring by eating very healthy. And, you know, that’s a challenge with very young children, too, trying to limit what’s coming into the house. But my diet has changed.
There have been a lot of positives, too, that came out of my journey as far as growing as an individual in my faith, in my personal relationships with friends, family and coworkers. I see the good in people who have been there for me through the whole journey, supporting me in any way that I’ve needed help. It’s been really encouraging to have people constantly praying for me and helping in any way they can. That’s been a huge blessing.
And then just cherishing the time I have. Until you’ve been put in a position that I’m in, we sometimes tend to take our lives and time that we have for granted. So, that’s something that, once I had the diagnosis, I really was trying to make sure that I make the most of my time, whatever time I have left. And I try to be intentional with the time I do have, spending time with my kids and my husband, and just really making the little moments count.