Every time I heard the words “lung cancer” a million thoughts ran through my head, and I heard the phrase repeatedly because I was actively seeking cancer stories.
It could have been my fate and that is what it represented. During my diagnosis the doctors at the hospital seriously considered lung cancer, but they hoped for germ cell (my actual diagnosis). Germ cell was much better than “lung cancer”; it was the favorable outcome because of its curability and prognosis.
“Germ cell” began to sound great. I was to hope for it and not for “lung cancer”.
When I hear “lung cancer” I imagine what could have been: years of management, palliative care, and a likely inevitable and eventual death from the disease. When I hear “lung cancer”, I think of a specific woman and her unfortunate diagnosis. She is kind and wise and shares her story on the internet, and when I hear the words “lung cancer” I immediately think of her.
I think of Stanford doctor Paul Kalanithi and his drearily titled yet profound New York Times piece How Long Have I Got Left.
I think of fate and my lungs, the fact that I haven’t smoked in years, and the chance that I still could have been diagnosed with lung cancer. The older, wiser woman never smoked. Neither did Paul Kalanithi. Yet they both have lung cancer.
When I hear the words “lung cancer” a million different thoughts run through my head, but they most all relate to death, unfairness, and what could have been. I hate lung cancer and what it makes me think of. All that could have been. I feel for those who suffer at its fate when they did absolutely nothing to merit such a disease.
I hate cancer, but I particularly hate lung cancer. The wise woman on the internet comforted me through my cancer crisis while hers continued. She wrote with such an endearing voice, with such closure, and comfort. I could feel her in my living room telling me that whatever the outcome, it was going to be alright. Her voice was more than the cliched positivity that I often heard–it was warm and understanding, even for the worst of outcomes (death). And even if she didn’t feel at ease with death, she seemed to know it.