Surviving Lung Cancer – guest posts

Where to start is the question I am faced with each Tuesday evening.  This is when I have to discover the week’s Guest Post, nestled among the over 600 cancer blogs on the blogroll.  The first decision I make is what cancer section to start looking in.  As I scrolled fown the list this week, I settled on lung cancer.  Not very many blogs here.  Lung cancers are an aggressive sort.  It took me months to amass the collection of just eight lung cancer blogs.  I just had to click on the first two on the list to hit paydirt.  Perhaps not so ironically I found two posts with similar themes – what it means to be surviving lung cancer.

I love this photo!

I love this photo!

~ The first selection is by Linnea Duff who writes very intelligently in life and breath: living with lung cancer .  If you visit her site be sure and read her “About” section.  In this post “Survivor vs Surviving” she dissects the two terms, deciding that she is not comfortable using the usual term “survivor”.  Here is her argument:

Survivor versus Surviving

The term “cancer survivor” has become part of our everyday lexicon.  Even within the cancer community, there is confusion as to what exactly it means. According to the National Coalition of Cancer Survivors, survival is… “from the point of diagnosis forward”.

When considering overall survival statistics for a particular cancer, there is a more specific reference point:  it is the percentage of people who will still be living after five years (excluding those who die from other causes).   Before I go any further, it is important to clarify that survival statistics should be viewed as estimates, and not actual predictors of an individual’s prognosis. Statistics describe a trend, or a likelihood of an event (in this case, death from cancer) in a large group of people.  They are based on actuarial tables that are by necessity at least five years old, and thus may not reflect recent treatment advances.

Statistics are in essence a fraction.  When you read that lung cancer has an overall survival statistic of 15%, it means that the number of people diagnosed with lung cancer over a period of five years (the denominator) has been divided by the number of deaths over that same five year period (the numerator).

Overall survival statistics are all inclusive as far as type (NSCLC and SCLC) and stage, and do not address other considerations such as disease or progression-free status.

Survival statistics that are broken down by cancer type and stage, are more useful for evaluating treatment options and for predicting prognosis. But, it is possible to focus too much on these statistics.  ”What stage?” is often the first thing we ask after we are given a cancer diagnosis.  In essence, we are asking whether or not we have reason to hope.

After my lobectomy, I was staged a IB.  I felt incredibly fortunate, but that sense of good fortune was tempered by the awareness that being staged a IB was very different from being staged a IA.  The difference between an A and a B was a significant survival advantage.  Statistically speaking, cure was possible, but certainly not probable.

I became all too aware of the emotional impact of staging when I went from stage IB to IV.  It was devastating.  My cancer was essentially the same cancer, but now, statistically speaking, the situation seemed hopeless.

The Merriam Webster definition of survivor is:  1.  to remain alive or in existence, to live on.  2.  to continue to function or prosper.

I certainly wasn’t prospering, and it was questionable how much longer I would function or even continue to exist.  And yet, I was indeed still hopeful and there was no question that I was still alive.  Did this make me a survivor?

Survivor seems to me to imply that the trauma has passed.  You’ve faced a great challenge, yet you have persevered.  There was no question that I was facing a great challenge, but I knew that it was highly unlikely that ultimately I would either persevere or prosper.

I don’t refer to myself as a lung cancer survivor.  I prefer to say that I am surviving lung cancer.  To me, this clears up misconceptions about both my status (terminal, rather than in remission or cured) as well as to the degree that I am still involved in this battle.  Each day is a fight for survival, every new breath is a victory.

from: life and breath: living with lung cancer

Believe~ My second selection comes from the second blog in the lung cancer section – LUNG CANCER LIFE:.  This Canadian blogger writes with unusual courage and conviction in the post “My Life Has a Mind”.

My Life Has a Mind

The aches and pains,the agony of not knowing what is coming next.
Cancer really sucks!
The diagnosis of Lung Cancer,Emphysema,Cirrhosis of the Liver,Heart attack,seizures,and diabetes,etc.etc.etc.has really gotten me down mentally as well as physically.
My life really does have a Mind.
My body gets up every morning,and Thank God,I am not attached to IV’s or any other supports.I am in my own home.My body is at rest right now
But….I have had so many tests lately,so many scares.
The MRI’S,CT scans,ultra sounds of the heart and abdomen,these tests yield results and it is the results that scare me.
I have terminal lung cancer.The word says it all,doesn’t it?
This was a positive journey as far as the physical ailments are concerned.I am still unable to be employed full time,and now can only do my passion and past career part time.
The tests showed that I have had a heart attack in the past.They say it was a silent heart attack.I guess it must have been,because
It is the mental distress any disease,fatal or not ,that takes its toll on so many.
I know that early diagnosis does save lives.I just sometimes wonder why I am bothering to go through all these tests.
other wise I am sure i would have known.The tests regarding my enlarged bile duct,turned out to be negative for Pancreatic Cancer.Thank God,again for that.

I know I have Lung Cancer,I know I am going to die soon.Why do I really need to know anything else.
It seems the only time I get out lately is to see a doctor.
I also know how very lucky we are in this country to have doctors to see.
Don’t get me wrong,I will always make the right choice,I hope.
I will however give a lot of thought to my last days.
I know that lung cancer is very painful in the end.I also know that I will have to have chemo in the near future.
I also know that at that point in time,I will have a lot of decisions on whether I even want to extend what will probably be a very painful existence.

When my time comes closer with each day that passes I hope to share with you some of my views on the different kinds of cancer treatments,and how and when we should consider them.

Though this post sounds so down,I still want you to remember





About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Surviving Lung Cancer – guest posts — 4 Comments

  1. I am only 4 months in remission from a rare form of Ovarian cancer but I still refer to myself as a survivor. To me it is more for my own mindset. I need to believe I am a survivor. I need to have hope. Otherwise I will live in fear of it’s returning…and living in fear is not really living, is it?

  2. Treatment options for lung cancer include :

    1. Chemotherapy is an anti cancer drugs are given to stop cancer cells from multiplying. This treatment is most effective for small cell carcinoma.

    2. Surgery to remove the affected part of the lung or an entire lung. This offers the best chance of cure if the cancer has not spread beyond the lungs.

    3. Radiotherapy use of x-rays to target and kill cancer cells. It may be used against some early stage lung cancers and to stop cancer in the lymph nodes from spreading further.

    4. Targeted therapy is use of small molecules, often in tablet form that may be used after chemotherapy.

    5. Clinical trials is a participation in a clinical trial that investigates the safety and effectiveness of novel drugs may be offered.

    Treatments For Cancer

  3. your journal reminds me of dad, diagnosed six years ago with lung cancer,he looks great and some days feels great,but terminal is the word, the mental head game is as bad as the illness, they gave him 6 months , the pills and patches of morphine are by far something a survivor wouldnt take,he is just surviving the new life with cancer as he can no longer work anywhere,he was diagnosed at 58 years old he will be 65 in april of 2011, we count our blessings each day that he is here with us, he still drives and still smokes, I guess no one can tell us how long we will be here on earth,he was operated on but they couldnt take his lung and after breaking all the ribs they sewed him back up, to handy the main artery of his heart they say,he went for the highest amount of chemo and radation u can give together.He is not sure what to do with himself as he does have tired spells,and he has good and bad days, he eats like a horse and our mother takes wonderful care of him, but for a man that worked all his life and was near retirement , this was definately not in his plans trying to survive the word terminal,may god bless you and your family as we feel so blessed [he raised 8 children and has 26 grandchildren] we love him dearly.

  4. I read some very strong words here. The mind is such an amazing thing. It gets you through the times that you should feel like you are at the bottom, it grabs you by the hand and pulls you up out of your black hole of cancer. Stay strong guys, dont give in to cancer, fight it ALL THE WAY!Lots of love to all of you. My mother in law as just diagnosed last month. She is a strong, healthy woman ready for the battle. And she has lots of people to watch her backside when shes down. Lovely reading your letters. XO

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