What made a difference, believe me, I had my low days, is the connection. I had a lot of friends who reached out. I announced on Facebook, finally. I tend to be a private person. I don’t wear my heart on my sleeve, but I announced as part of November’s lung cancer awareness month that I had lung cancer Stage 4 and that’s how people have known. I got such great feedback. A lot of friends came out of the woodwork. I probably had people reaching out once a day. I found that connection with people, just the mere human bond that you get from reconnecting, made a huge difference in my day. The day that didn’t include any connection wasn’t nearly as easy to deal with. So I had decided, despite my introversion and my tendency to spend my time in my head, that human connection is one of the best things that life is all about, and I’m going to make sure that I keep it up.
We’ve never been, as a family, animal lovers. But we decided to get a small dog because I learned that they could provide therapy to you when you have them around you or you’re stroking them. So, I researched a breed that could help me do that. The dog, I must say, has been a tremendously positive thing because it does, in fact, bring calmness. It brings the stress levels down, plus I have an excuse to take the dog out for a walk and to get exercise.
I don’t ever want to be one of those people who let cancer consume what I have left of my life, and I don’t know if that’s really denial or not. I think it’s more compartmentalizing. I mean there are so many things that I can’t do because of how bad my aerobic capacity is with the scars around my lungs. It’s like I wish I could travel. I have the money to travel some more, but I can’t walk through an airport.
Since I first got diagnosed, I have always tried to stay very positive. I have always said it is what it is. Everybody has their own shit that they deal with. My problems are not any better or any worse than what somebody else might have. I try not to bother with things, and I am just living a more meaningful life. That has helped me with my emotional aspect, although I have found that the filter on my mouth has dissolved since learning I have this. I have a hard time with people who want to fret about things and make big deals about nothing.
I have a belief that it doesn’t make any sense to worry about things you can’t change. I do not sit and worry about the consequences of the disease. I’ve spent my time doing things. I prefer to do something rather than sit and worry. I have had to deal with a fair amount of uncertainty professionally as a startup company in uncharted territory, and there are only so many hours a day for focusing in on the areas where you can make a difference and be productive. Worrying about things you can’t change is a waste of time. That’s built into me. It’s not something that I necessarily grew out of the box.
I’m staying positive, and we’re doing a lot of research, and I have a lot of appointments. So I felt like I was getting back on my feet, I started to do better, and then I got cut down at the knees. It’s now . . . everything is up in the air, and it’s similar to the feeling of the initial diagnosis. But the difference is at least now I have so much more knowledge. I have so many more connections. I have so much more support. That’s what’s helping me cope at this point, but when I sit still and think about it, I cry.
I’m a private person. I am not advertising that I have cancer, and a lot of people don’t know I do and won’t unless there’s a need that comes up. I’m not hiding it, but there’s only a handful of coworkers that I’ve told. I’ve been told a lot of times, and I know you’ve heard this before too, that we don’t look sick, you know, no one would ever know we have it. I don’t dwell on the fact that I have cancer, and there are times when I forget it until someone, you know, sends me something or I have to go for an appointment or whatever. I don’t get up every day and say, “I can’t do this; I have cancer.”
I am doing the things that I put off and said, OK, one day, I’ll get to it! I am no longer put that stuff off. We take trips if we have time. Most are driving trips at the spur of the moment. Taking a weekend, getting in the car, and doing something like that, I would never have done that in the past. I would have had it planned out for a long time or put it off entirely. Now we are just not putting that stuff off anymore. We are doing stuff, getting out of the house, just living life, and doing the day-to-day stuff. Because one of the worst things was when I came home from the hospital, and for a good two months, I was in bed or on so many narcotics and still in pain. It took me a long time to wean off the drugs from the initial hospital visit and to feel better with the pain, but I couldn’t drive on the narcotics. I couldn’t run errands.