My friends didn't understand, which made it difficult to talk to them about any aspect of my cancer. This was the first time in my life that I felt completely helpless. Simple tasks such as sitting up in bed, walking from one room to the next and taking a deep breath were significantly difficult after surgery.
Even now, many days, it doesn't seem real, and I don't want to believe that I ever had lung cancer.
This disease has changed my whole perspective on life, which has forced me to refuse to take anything for granted. Since learning of my diagnosis, I have been horrified to find that there is little known about this cancer. However, the smoking stigma overwhelms society's view.
I was a smoker, but the type of lung cancer I had, Mucoepidermoid Carcinoma, is not associated with smoking. Instead, this type of cancer begins in the mucus lining the lungs and salivary glands.
(Photo of tumor - lower left and right below black hole)
Dr. Joel Cooper believed I had lung cancer for at least 5 years before discovered, and middle lobe of right lung had been collapsed for at least one year.
But this has not persuaded critics of this disease. I have been told that I deserved lung cancer because I smoked, and that I should "get over it" and stop talking about it.
But I refuse to stop talking.
This disease needs to be openly discussed, especially because of the stigma. Lung cancer survivors are made to feel personally to blame for a disease they did not ask for. It should not matter how you got the disease -- the objective must be to find a cure.
With the support of an organization called LUNGevity Foundation, I hope that one day we can all breathe free from lung cancer. The LUNGevity Foundation's mission statement focuses on improving lung cancer survival rates, ensuring a higher quality of life for patients and providing a community for those impacted by lung cancer.
I have found a family within this organization that has given me hope for my future and the future of lung cancer. We share the same vision -- a world without lung cancer.