I love springtime. Living in Florida, there is not much of a “change in seasons” -- at least, nothing like when I lived in PA where spring meant the blooming of tulips. I could look outside my window or walk through my garden and see the changes taking place -- the grass was coming back to its rich green color and I loved the tiny blooms on our trees. Now, living in Florida, seasonal changes are vastly different.
However, I was still enjoying the beginnings of spring. April had arrived and I was busy working. By all indications, my health was good. I was long over my radiation treatments and was now working my full-time schedule. My routine was just that -- an everyday routine that went day by day and week by week. No real changes.
The year 2002 was a significant in many ways. My daughter, Adrienne, was graduating high school in late May. In August, I would celebrate my 50th birthday. So far, the year was off to a fantastic start. Adrienne was excelling in school. She received numerous honors throughout the year, culminating in several major achievements. Adrienne was awarded the prestigious Disney Dreamer & Doer award at Lake Howell High School. Not only was she invited to an exciting ceremony at Disney, but the two of us were given passes to a fun day at the Disney parks. (It also meant an excused day off from school.) To top things off, Adrienne also received a full-paid scholarship to Seminole Community College. (Her first choice and now officially Seminole State College.)
I was “high” on happiness. When I went off for what I supposed to be a routine chest X-ray, I had no reason to panic or be concerned. I felt terrific. The call I received a day later took my breath away. I was working my shift when handed a note and told I had an urgent call from my doctor. It was Dr. Shah’s office calling with my apparent test results. The nurse’s voice said it all -- I could tell things were wrong but had great difficulty understanding precisely what she was talking about. She kept saying something about my lungs. “There were tumors in my lungs.” I felt lightheaded and numb. I grabbed a nearby chair and continued to talk on the phone in the break room. I was slightly shaking at this point, feeling dizzy and not totally hearing all she had to say. It was like listening to a voice through a tunnel. I heard words -- but not complete sentences. I sat there for quite some time before hanging up (even after the call was over) and as I walked back to my office, I felt a wave of nausea.
My lungs? What in the world was she talking about? I never smoked a day in my life. Was she saying I had lung cancer? Impossible! I don’t remember hearing much else that day. Not able to function well after that call, I left early using FMLA. I was trying to hold back tears and was attempting to feel strong as well as invincible. In my head, I kept hearing the word “lungs” over and over again. I was a breast cancer survivor. What did my lungs have to do with this? I had a difficult time comprehending it all, and when I made a quick stop at the supermarket to pick up a few items, I noticed my hands were shaking. What in the world was happening to me?
I had to pick up Adrienne that afternoon from school. She was involved in theater and had a late day. I did not say anything to her right away. I was still “digesting” the thought of my lungs being involved somehow and I was still searching deep within for the words to say to my family and to myself. Nothing seemed logical. I felt so good -- no pain, no apparent sign of any problems. It made no sense at all.
I was scheduled for a CT scan (Go to: the next day. Trying to remain in control and forcing myself to find humor in all this, I asked the technician if I needed a specific type of cat. (CT scans are commonly referred to as CAT scans.) We laughed and then the test began. There were also many questions. Did I smoke? Did I drink? Take illegal drugs? Was I in any pain? Any coughing? No to all. The CT scan was followed shortly after with a bone scan, a PET scan (I asked if I needed to bring a dog or cat? And what kind?) and a MRI. The last remaining detail on the list ... to visit a surgeon. Dr. Shah referred me to a cardiothorasic surgeon. Just hearing this, made my heart skip several beats.
You are probably wondering how I handled this? Quite honestly, I was still unsure how my lungs were involved. I believe (from all my psychology classes) that I was in denial. I could not or would not believe there was a serious problem with my lungs. It was incomprehensible. I kept saying: “I don’t have lung cancer.” That’s all I could think.
I was in total denial of the situation all around me. For the first time in my cancer journey, I began to experience a tinge of "genuine fear."