Nancy MacMillan: During this course of the cancer, which has now reached over five years, probably the invisible support—in addition to my wonderful oncologist as well as some of her nurses and tech people—has been my family and my friends. I’m very social by nature, and I could not have asked for more responsive family and friends.
One of the things I realized I needed to do as well occurred when I saw opportunities for groups associated with cancer. For example, in North Carolina, we have the Lung Cancer Initiative, and Dan and I attended a couple of seminars to learn more about lung cancer. And there I was able to meet more survivors, because sometimes one thing that you don’t have an opportunity to do. You see people in the waiting room of your oncologist but you’re not quite sure if that’s the time to have a conversation or not about what you have.
I reached out also to a group at the YMCA that’s called Livestrong, and I’m still with that group. It’s an exercise group, and they have different levels. I’m on the Stay Strong now. But just knowing people who are going through the same thing you are, or have been, is a support system as well as education when you talk with some folks about what they’ve been through, particularly the radiation that I just experienced.
Another thing, here there is a retreat offered for cancer patients that I applied to called Wind River that’s up near a place called Tryon, North Carolina. And I went there for an extended weekend. They provided all kinds of opportunities to find out about things like healing touch and exercises like tai chi that can bring you peace while you’re going through the more traditional therapies.
Our children live close by, our adult children. And probably the most important thing for me has been my five grandchildren. Just to be with them gives me a great incentive to keep on with my journey, for sure. Dan had turned into my researcher, so he probably has a little more information on places where he was able to find the medical information.
Dan MacMillan: Well, I would just go online and google “small cell lung cancer treatments,” and there’s a host of websites. Every major cancer institution in the United States has a website, and it is also probably a marketing tool trying to get you to go there. But they do offer a lot of information, and that’s been helpful. There are a lot of medical journals and such; I can’t remember the names of all of them. But I would try to heavily research this issue of the mutation of non-small cell lung cancer into resistant mutations to the TKI [tyrosine kinase inhibitor] drugs, and then, of course, I became aware of the fact that sometimes one of those forms of resistance is that it mutates into small cell lung cancer. And that’s, of course, a more difficult thing to treat.
Nancy MacMillan: We also have two friends who have been through some similar treatments.
Dan MacMillan: Yes.
Nancy MacMillan: Treatments that I went through.
Dan MacMillan: Yes, well I knew one fellow here locally who had pretty much the same journey Nancy did but unfortunately for him, it did not last as long and he didn’t respond to the treatment as well as Nancy has. But he had the same thing where the non-small cell lung cancer mutated into small cell lung cancer. And unfortunately, he succumbed to the disease. I have another friend who had stage IV cancer, and we’ve talked. He’s a very good friend of mine, and he just talked to both of us and talks to Nancy and commiserates with her about it. He’s been through it all—radiation, chemotherapy—probably to a greater extent than Nancy has.
But family has been a great support. I have a cousin here locally, and he’s helped us out tremendously by bringing food. We have all kinds of friends. Nancy has a ton of friends, and they all want to help and they all want to bring food. And it’s been very, very gratifying, particularly some of the times when she was really down and out. And my sister, her sister. Our son is a doctor. Our daughter and her husband are here locally. All of that’s important. It hasn’t been that hard being a caregiver because she’s done so well so far, and she always bounces back. She’s very resilient, so we’re very thankful for that.
Transcript Edited for Clarity