I couldn’t stop myself from typing the words into google, even though I knew I didn’t want the answer. What is the survival rate for stage 4 lung cancer? I didn’t want the answer, yet I had to know.
I was 29 years old, barely married a year, and hadn’t started having babies yet. And even though the answers google gave me were grim, I couldn’t imagine a life without my mom in it.
The 5-year survival rate for stage 4 lung cancer is one percent. (source) That was the statistic that haunted me, along with doctors who said thing like, “This treatment is only palliative.”
Yet, here she is.10 years after her diagnosis of Stage 4 Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer with Metastasis to the Brain, my mom is ALIVE.
I couldn’t even tell you what statistical group she joins today because there isn’t a website out there that gives statistics for the 10-year survival rate of people with her diagnosis. We can all surmise that it’s lower than 1%.
My mom’s cancer diagnosis changed me. Not only did it change me, it changed the trajectory of my life.
I became a student of health and nutrition. At first, it was to alleviate the feelings of helplessness that come with such a diagnosis. There had to be something I could do to help my mom.
Later, the insatiable need to continue learning about different facets of health was fueled by my own desire to avoid disease. The life I imagine for myself, especially as I get older, has no room for sickness.
I know my food and lifestyle choices aren’t 100% protective and even people who live the healthiest of lifestyles still get sick. Because there are anomalies is not a reason to discard the lifestyle that’s going to give me the best chance at being the happy, healthy mama I want to be.
My mom’s cancer diagnosis and survival have also taught me something else. They’ve taught me about the importance of living while we are alive. I am acutely aware of the fragility of life and experiencing those months where the survival of my mom were in question gave that to me.
Nobody is guaranteed tomorrow. Not you, and not the people you love. It may sound like a trite cliché to say live today like tomorrow will never come. But really, that’s what I strive to do. I’m overly sentimental and know that the time I have with my family and close friends is important. I cherish the relationships in my life that bring me joy. Even though I hate cancer, I can give it a nod for shaping my perspective on life.
Mom, today I celebrate YOU. Remember when I told you you’d survive to see my children? I knew you would! Congratulations on being a 10 year cancer survivor! Fight on, Maggie!