Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Sharice M. on September 27, 2008
I was Diagnosed with:
Pancoast Tumor
Date of Diagnosis:
September 3, 2008
Employment Status:
Employed, currently on short term disability
Type and Description of Treatments:
Originally I was being treated for a torn rotator cuff, that's what my symptoms pointed to. Then an x-ray was taken and they saw the shadow on my lung. Since then there have been CATscans, PETscans, MRI's, and two biopsy's taken. Thankfully one of the biopsy's of a lymph node came back negative for cancer. I was told by the doc that if it was positive my outlook was "grim". Needless to say, I'm thrilled at not being grim :) An MRI of my brain is scheduled for next week. The brain is one of the places a Pancoast tumor will spread to. I start chemo and radiation treatments October 6th, 2008. If the treatments are successful then surgery will be scheduled to remove the tumor and part of my lung.
How do you feel today?

How do I feel?
Emotionally; terrified, angry, sad... a little of everything. I am so angry at myself for smoking when the facts about lung cancer have been right in front of my face. I thought I'd be one of the lucky ones.

Physically; I hurt. The tumor is sitting against the nerves that run down my back and right arm. The pain meds help. It's not debilitating so I'm very lucky.

Mentally; dazed and confused... but that's normal for me.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Doctor's appointments! OMG, I can't believe how many doctors are involved in the process of treating this invader of my body.

Seriously, I'm trying to appreciate everything; the touch of my husband's hand on my back as we walk, the smell of rain, the sound of my grand-daughter's laughter. Everything has so much more meaning to it than it did before.

Employment-wise I've gone on short term disability. I'd just started my dream job when the diagnosis came in as cancer. Kinda shows you how my luck runs.

What is going well for you right now?

My husband. We've been married just short of 2 years, it's the second-time marriage for both of us and this time I definitely found my Mr. Right. He is strong, supportive, and he tells me we will beat this together.
I also have my 3 kids... 25, 26, and 28 years old, I guess they aren't kids anymore but they are handling this amazingly well so far.
To top it all off I have my friends, they've been coming out of the wood-work with cheerful emails, cards and flowers.
Combine the hubby, kids and friends and this is what is going right for me. I'd be lost without them.

What is not going well for you right now?

I'm having a hard time wrapping my head around all that is going on. I keep thinking that someone is playing a cruel joke on me or that I'm having a terrible nightmare and will wake up to find my life as it was BC (before cancer).

Also, not going well for me is that one of my doctors told me that 30% of Pancoast tumor patients live for 5 years after treatment... and that would be opptimistic in my circumstances. This seems impossible to me, I have that new hubby I mentioned earlier that I want to grow old with, I have 3 fantastic kids and 2 step-kids that I want to watch wonderful things happen to, I have 3 beautiful young grand-daughters and I want so much to see them grow up. 5 years? Maybe? It's not enough time.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

I'll get back to you on this one.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

My hubby. He's my rock. I can't imagine the burden he is carrying because of me and I hope he has someone to vent to, but as for me, I can tell him anything and everything. He lets me cry and then gives me the strength to move on and face all this. I think I mentioned earlier that I'm scared sh!tless over all this - he helps me face my fears and make them tolerable.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

I don't have any long term or life goals anymore. I see things as they are scheduled on the calendar; MRI, chemo, radiation, rinse and repeat. That's as far as I can go.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

I am on short term disability.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

I'm not working. I've never "not worked". I miss my co-workers but they are keeping in touch and letting me know they care.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

Since I won't share my hubby with ya'll (lol) there's nothing I can offer at this time. I'm still trying to figure it all out.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Well, treatments haven't started yet but I've been told the side effects of radiation and chemo. I never thought of myself as vain before but the knowledge that I will lose my hair has laid me low. It's so stupid how just thinking of it brings on the tears.

I try to joke about getting different colored wigs so all my hidden multiple personalities can come out, and I joke about saving money on razors, but you know what? Suddenly shaving my legs is a wonderful thing, suddenly the thought of having my eyebrows waxed is something to look forward to, suddenly I'm this vain person who doesn't want anyone to see me without hair.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

I have no idea.