Death is Personal

Every time I read of someone in my extended cancer family dying, I take it personally. And it hurts whether I knew them or not. So many of them I met through the blogosphere or Facebook and have not met in person. But I still feel I know them, and we support each other in our fight for freedom. And each death reminds me of my own mortality.

I know that each person with lung cancer is different and will respond differently to different drugs. And I know what the statistics show. I try not to focus on statistics, but it’s hard not to. I instead try to focus on the survivors who have beat the odds – those who have survived 5,10 years or more – and those living with NED (No Evidence of Disease). Lung cancer isn’t curable; I know that. But I want to know why isn’t it? What is it about this disease that makes it so aggressive and so incurable?

I read scientific studies; I read clinical trial results hoping for the breakthrough treatment that will knock lung cancer on its ass. I also read stories of ‘cures’ if I will only buy whatever the supplement or diet du jour is. And I get angry at the people that are touting these ‘cures’ and giving false hope to people living with lung cancer and desperate for a cure when there isn’t one. I have to admit that every time I see a new ‘cure’, I do a search for any scientific studies on whatever ‘it’ is; most of the time there are none. But once in a while, there are promising studies, and then they don’t seem to go anywhere. And I wonder why. What happened that the research didn’t continue when the early results showed such promise. Did funding run out? Was there a catastrophe with the research itself?

There is no lack of conspiracy theories to explain why we have no cure today. Many of these theories claim there is a cure, but the Government, or the drug companies, or someone out there, has decided they want people to die, or they can’t make money from the ‘cure’, or so many other ridiculous reasons.

Lung cancer can become resistant to the chemotherapeutic agents used as first line treatment. And even to the second line treatment. The most encouraging research now seems to be targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Targeted therapy is for a specific mutation, and immunotherapy is a way to trick the body’s immune system into attacking the cancer cells, and only the cancer cells. This is different than chemo where all fast growing cells are attacked, which is why there are GI side effects, and loss of hair, etc. But even these aren’t cures, and lung cancer can develop immunity to the treatment.

So for now I will just keep going. I will have blood work and another CT scan on Tuesday and will meet with my oncologist on Wednesday. And then we’ll see where we go from here. In the meantime, I will continue living with an attitude of gratitude as much as possible.


20 thoughts on “Death is Personal

  1. Hi Ruth, I’m wishing the best luck to you. Have you read “Mind Over Medicine” by Lissa Rankin? It’s a good little book. I’m sure all the stuff is not new to you, but….it might offer some small new insight. I’m a nurse, also but have been retired almost a year now.

  2. I was a nurse for 20 years – I am so glad to be out of it! I’m sure you are, too. Too much stress! I will check out Lissa’s book – thanks for the suggestion.

  3. “No man is an island, no man stands alone
    Each man’s joy is joy to me,
    Each man’s grief is my own”

    I hope I’m not sounding glib by quoting this (based on John Donne’s poem). I’m profoundly affected by so many “preventable” deaths…deaths by cancer (why AREN’T there any cures yet!!!), deaths by suicide, deaths of children for any reason…any story anywhere makes me weep, even when it comes from the other side of the world.

    But I’m aware that they impact me from a relatively “safe distance”, because I’m healthy and not likely to die anytime soon, God willing. When you’ve been diagnosed with an incurable disease and the stats aren’t showing much progress, hearing about the deaths of others will, I imagine, have a “too close to home” impact. I can’t imagine how to live with that every day. I do marvel at your continuing compassion for others who gripe about little things (me included), and your continuing nurturing of your gratitude attitude and positivity. I give lip service to both of those things, but how strong would I still be if diagnosed with a terminal disease. To be honest, I hope I never have to find out.

    But I do know, and I hope this never ever puts pressure on you to be anything but you, whoever you are at any given time, that you inspire me more than words could ever articulate. I know that’s not your job, and not the mandate of your diagnosis of lung cancer, but watching you deal with this day in and day out with generosity of sharing, compassion for others and gratitude has and continues to change my life. Because none of us is an island, and because your joy is joy to me and your grief is my own.

  4. I remember that poem and I also know it was set to music as I sang it in choir. 🙂

    I think we are all stronger than we think we are. And I am just who I am. I hope that I can help others by sharing what I’m going through just as all those other bloggers have helped me get through this. I also rejoice and cry with my friends. 🙂

  5. I think of all us cancer patients as one big extended family, too, and each loss hurts. Thanks for writing this. Best of luck on Tuesday/Wednesday!

  6. I’ve been so healthy, so lucky and so mobile that I’ve had little personal dealings with the medical establishment — at least, as a patient. Now, at 67-going-on-68, my search for a physician who will accept me as a patient has been a bit of a saga. Most won’t take new patients over 65. That is, no Medicare patients.

    Which brings me to my point. As you go through this experience, I’m so glad to read of your wonderful team, and to know that you have that kind of support from them as well as from friends and family. It’s not much fun to know that I’m considered old and disposable by the system.

    I hope all goes well tomorrow and Wednesday. Positive results for you would make us all happy!

  7. I’m fortunate that my Oncologist’s office does take Medicare. And the ladies in their business office told me what kind of Medicare Supplement to get so everything would be covered and also which plan gave them the least grief in paying bills. Good luck with your search.

  8. I don’t believe the conspiracy theories either, Ruth. The people who are allegedly hiding the cure have families and friends, too, and are susceptible themselves to the disease. And as with most such theories, keeping the conspiracy a secret would be more difficult than finding the cure in the first place.

    Good luck with the oncologist today. I hope you’re feeling well.

Ruth passed away from cancer. Please remove from list

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