Knowledge is Power: A Cancer Patient Navigates Her Diagnosis

The first few weeks following a cancer diagnosis can be the most challenging.

Knowledge is power.

This belief has driven how I respond to stressful situations throughout my life.

When I was pregnant with our first child I took every class I could find, read stacks of books, and watched many hours of birth videos (thanks to my midwife sister).

I focused. I studied. I prepared.

When I found out that our second pregnancy was twins, I read books and asked questions of every twin I knew. As the pregnancy progressed and took a complicated turn, we were told that the girls may be born severely premature and if they survived they would face a lifetime of challenges. In response, I started reading about raising children with special needs. I subscribed to blogs written by some amazing families with special children. I got ready for every possible scenario.

I focused. I studied. I prepared.

When I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, I dove into the research and tried to learn everything I could about this disease.

Actually, that's not quite true.

For the first few weeks I was in a fog of confusion, denial, shock. In those early days I felt completely frozen. It was as though there was an avalanche of emotion waiting to engulf me, and any wrong move could set it off. I couldn't even listen to music, because the feeling of the notes caused the ground around me to vibrate and I knew if it shook too hard the walls would collapse and I would be crushed under the weight of my reality.

For the first few weeks I actively avoided reading anything about lung cancer. I knew enough to understand how dire my situation was. I couldn't face seeing it in black and white.

I had to absorb the news in tiny droplets, taking in a little bit more every day. Drop by drop, I started to accept it. As the weeks went on, I started to face my diagnosis. My coping mechanism for tough situations had always been to seek out knowledge and turn to information for comfort.

I took a deep breath and started reading.

And what I read was scary. The stats were bleak, and they were staring back at me unblinking from the page.

I knew that I had non-small cell lung cancer.

I knew that I was only 37 years old.

I knew that I had three kids under the age of 5.

I knew that I may not be around to see them grow up.

I knew that it had spread from my left lung to my ribs, my spine, my hip, and my liver.

I knew that there was no cure.

I knew that I had a really rough road ahead of me.

I knew that I was ready to take the first step on that path.