Deena

Diagnosed in 2012

Deena, 64, is a devoted mother, grandmother and lung cancer advocate from the Eastern Shore of Maryland. She's married to her best friend, Roger, and strives for more funding for research into lung cancer.

People need to be proactive for themselves. To find out all they can about the disease, find out about what type of lung cancer they have, find out what they need to do to make themselves well, get as much education about the disease as they can.

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.

Deena's Journey With Cancer

  • Diagnosed with MPLC (Multiple Primary Lung Cancer) in 2012
  • First tumor: A1-Grade 1 NSCLC-Adenocarcinoma: KRAS mutated. Surgery and removed in 2012
  • Second tumor: A1-Grade 2 NSCLC-Adenocarcinoma: EGFR mutated. Surgery and removed in 2013
  • Currently CT Scan every six months, to follow several small nodules

It's extremely important to get the knowledge so you don't miss something in your treatment.

There should be a checklist of different things that you look at to say "Do you know this, do you know that about yourself."

Second opinions are always really good. It's very complex - any cancer is complex.

Bottom line, you have to be your own advocate. It's hard sometimes to gather all of the information available.

I never got any advice other than "Go, have a happy life and forget about it" - and that's really hard.

It's really hard to enjoy your life when at the back of your mind every time you get a headache or every time you cough you wonder if it's coming back.

Emotions

It's good to share the experience; it makes you feel good to do something.

When you're diagnosed with something as catastrophic as cancer, you have to put yourself first. You have to make sure you're listening to your body.

I'm more aware that life is precious and you have to enjoy every moment, particularly with the grandchildren. You never know what is down the road and we don't want to miss anything.

Don't take anything for granted!

Friends & Family

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.

Talking about lung cancer

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.

Health & Fitness

My New Year's resolution was to sign up for Yoga and Zumba. It's at a local community center.

I was worried that I might not be able to do it, but it's worth a try.

I don't really think about exercise more now though. When I'm walking on a regular basis I feel good. I should probably do research on how to do breathing exercises on how to increase my stamina.

Diet & Nutrition

I haven't changed my habits much. My husband and I both eat healthy foods. We know that that's important, so we just continued to do it.

Travel

Traveling is definitely one of my bucket list things to do. I want to get around, I want to see the Sistine Chapel.

The trip that we took to Florida recently was the first time since my last surgery that Roger and I had been away alone together. It was wonderful to accomplish that, to be there, to have the fun we had prior to cancer.

We took precautions. We started taking supplements to help boost our immune systems up.

We had a deposit due on the condo. I was getting my CT scan, and I wanted to make sure that if something prevented us from going that we wouldn't lose all the money. So I was conscious of "what if" something fell through.

We went with Southwest Airlines because we can change the flights without penalty. We will always try to do that because they won't charge you extra in such situations. If for whatever reason you can't take the flight, you can change it.

I would have researched medical facilities more, to find out the lay of the land. That didn't come to my mind, but the next time it will.

Work

I've worked throughout my adulthood in various professions, but now I'm retired. When I was first diagnosed, I was lucky to be able to work from home sometimes.

Finances

Absolutely, we worry more about money now. The hit we had financially with medical expenses has taken its toll. We don't live extravagantly. We live comfortably, but when you don't know what's down the road you think more about what you're spending.

On the other hand, because you don't know what's ahead you want to seize the moment. For example, on our vacation we spontaneously booked an extra charter so we could fish more.

Deena's Perspective

The first time I was diagnosed and it was almost like a dream. The second time I was back having surgery nine months later; it really hit.

I realized I had to find out about this disease, find out what was going on with my body, be on top of the doctors, double check, collect data and be proactive to make sure that it doesn't happen again.

That second diagnosis woke me up to the fact that I had to take control.

The most positive thing

Meeting other people that have lung cancer and working with them to change things so it can be better for people, especially our children, down the road.

Being productive has always made a day good for me, and being with people I love and care about.

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