These are the experiences, ideas and views of each individual person featured here. Your own situation may be different and these ideas may not work for you.
I made a conscious decision that I'm not going to let this drag me down, because it would just drag everybody else down with me and I really didn't want that to happen.
I had been closely following a local newscaster who had been suffering from brain cancer who had a blog, and once I was diagnosed, I told myself that was something I had to do.
I could see what his posts were doing for other people. You could read the comments people were posting at his blog, and you could see that it was helping him and helping others who were reading it.
That was one of the reasons why I decided to be very public with my journey. Now virtually everybody I know is well aware of my journey and what I'm going through. Especially with my blog, it keeps them up-to-date without them feeling uncomfortable about asking me all the time. It's just been a very positive thing for me to have gone that public that quickly.
The support I've received has been amazing and has had a huge effect on my positive outlook.
I've come to grips with the fact that it is what it is, and I'm going to have to deal with it. I look at it a day at a time, or in some cases, six weeks at a time in between tests.
I have made a real effort to become even closer to them. For example from my granddaughters for Christmas, what I asked for was to have one day alone with each of them and so we went out and shared a lot of activities. That's a day that I'm still treasuring now more than a year later, so I asked for the same thing this year and they're both looking forward to the time.
There are a lot of things that aren't good about cancer, but I'd say about 95% of it has been really positive for me, and family relationships and friend relationships are a really important part of that.
A lot of that comes from me reaching out to them and being a lot more honest about what's going on. I share what I'm afraid of, what is working well for me, what are my hopes, what's the next treatment coming up, I share some humor. And what I get in return from them is love. They extend themselves much more than I ever expected and I learned how much more they care about me than I realized.
A few days after I was first diagnosed, I said to my wife, "Let's promise each other that neither of us ever holds back anything, whether it's from a doctor or what we're worried about." Over the course of almost nine years that's been a hard promise to keep at times, because I've wanted to protect her and she's wanted to protect me. But every time I've done that it has worked out much better.
This is way too hard to do on your own. You really need to have the people you care about around you.
Having physical pain and not being able to get rid of it makes it harder to keep the mood up. But one of the things that helps is to share it with others. Just by writing my blog and sharing it with others, and throwing in a little humor, I start feeling better.
People have no idea how much difference they make by responding on the blog. Even three or four words from somebody can be what keeps me going that day.
My relationships have changed, especially with my children. They saw a crack in Mom that was unexpected. I'm more fragile now than I was before. I was always the tough one, the disciplinarian. I had no health issues at all. The diagnosis came out of the blue for all of us.
Our grandkids live a bit further away and we used to not see them as often, but now we won't miss out on anything. There was a birthday party for our granddaughter and because her brother came down with a fever everyone else decided to stay out of the "sick house." We showed up anyway. I wanted to be there for every birthday party she wants me to attend.
Nobody talks about the disease, and your friends don't really want to talk about it. It's kind of an interesting thing.
A lot of it is the stigma. There are people that I've met that would never tell someone that they had lung cancer because they feel so guilty that they got it, and that's wrong. Nobody deserves it. Lung cancer patients need support and tools to cope with what they're going through as much as anybody else does, and maybe more so.
You find an interesting thing when you have cancer. People either rally to support you when you least expect it or they avoid you like the plague because they don't know how to deal with it.
Conversely, neighbors who I barely knew would come in and water my plants or go to the grocery store for me. It touches you so much.
I realized that people do as much as they're capable of doing, so to bemoan the fact that somebody didn't come to visit or call you is wasted. Don't worry about it, focus on the people that did come to visit you.
I adore my family and friends, but this makes you appreciate them so much more. It also makes you look at other people who are maybe complaining about silly things and say, "Why are you complaining?"
I just keep putting one foot in front of the other. It's easy for me because I have my son, I have my daughter, I have my brother, son-in-law, I have two friends from college and my granddaughter (you get so much support from a little person). It's kind of embarrassing to say it, but I took them for granted before.
I'm a worrier by nature. I think that by coming through this, having confronted death, I should be able to say "Why worry?"
Worrying does not empty tomorrow of its troubles, it empties today of its strength.
So I try really hard not to be a worrier, but that's still a work in progress!
Every relationship changed, but for us, it was mostly in a good way.
My relationship with all of my friends and family strengthened, but different people deal with things in different ways. Some people were very happy to help from afar, and some people were right there on our doorstep asking what they could do to help. Both ways are incredibly helpful.
A lot of people say that, after a cancer diagnosis, you realize who your true friends are. We just realized that our true friends were even truer than we realized!
Going through cancer and having the support of our circle of friends and family has made us appreciate everyone more. Not that we didn't before, but the way everyone rallied around us and sent us their love and support just made us really, really appreciative.
For us it's been really valuable to be in the same boat as people like us. Trying to link up with some kind of a support group is important because it's nice to know other people are going up and down.
What I would advocate to people is "You are living with cancer, cancer is not driving your life." All of these things are helpful but you don't want to change who you are because you have a diagnosis of cancer.
There is a tendency when you hear that somebody has cancer, or you hear they have Stage IV cancer, that you prepare your goodbye speech. That's not where you want to go.
Like every other thing in life, how you present yourself is how people respond to you. It's very important for you to think if you want to be seen as the victim of cancer, or do you want to maintain the relationship you had with them? With more treatments, better treatments and more impactful treatments, it's important for people to realize they can go on with their lives. Share that you have a problem, but don't make it the center of things.
We have conversations I never dreamed we'd have. It can be pretty emotional. One of the dangers is pushing each other away because you don't want to be hurt. To recognize that and fight against that you really do need to stay connected, be a team and be there for each other.
Don't get too discouraged, no matter how far along it is.
I lean on friends and family. You feel so helpless. It's been very comforting for me to know that there will be downs, but there can also be ups.
It's like hanging onto a roller coaster.
"Life With Cancer" is run locally through our hospital. It's free. You can go to these exercises and support groups. There's a nurse navigator. We haven't used her yet but it's somebody we can call anytime, who will help us navigate this whole system and who also can answer questions.
Some friends came to see me. Other friends, who in some cases were dealing with cancer or a serious illness in their own family, apparently found it was too stressful for them to be around somebody who was really sick. Some people had difficulty understanding that if I don't look sick, I'm still having difficulties with things.
Sometimes when I was with groups of friends, they would have a look on their faces that conveyed, "Oh I'm so sorry." I got tired of seeing that after a while. I know their concern was genuine and they really cared about me, but sometimes I just wanted to have a normal life and not think about cancer.
My sons saw me differently. But now that I'm still here they're back to the way they were before.
Having family close by is very important.
My wife and I have probably gotten closer. I know that she's worried about me 24/7.
As far as friends go, I thought some people that were very close to me would step up and be there to help, which hasn't always happened.
What I found out instead is that sometimes people that you don't even know all of a sudden will become your new best friends.
My close family are pretty much the basic people around me and they've all stepped up or tried to help the best they can.
My being diagnosed has changed my relationship with everyone in my life.
I have friends that call me every day now. My diagnosis, and living with cancer, is harder for friends and family than it is on me. They have to just watch.
We're all a lot closer because of this. But we all live scan to scan.
I wouldn't trade my life for anyone else's. I know that sounds crazy but these relationships are so important to me that it brings my life to a different level.
We've always been very close, but I think this made us even closer. I think both my younger brothers were very scared, because I've always been the older sister and the rock. I felt helpless - not hopeless but helpless.
They didn't know what to do. But as they saw how I fought this they said, "You are my hero - this is cool, you are doing fine."
We check on each other more often. We talk. We never leave anything unsaid. We don't fight, we don't have drama anyway. Say what's on your mind, talk.
It made us closer. My husband has been unbelievable. He's been the most unbelievable caregiver, he really has. He stepped up to the plate but we've been together for 49 years.
So I'm not that surprised that he did it but it's hard having a wife with cancer. It was hard to tell my children but my daughter especially has done more research on things.
My friends, they're closer. I haven't held anything back.