Emily

NED (No evidence of disease) for two years

Emily was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell adenocarcinoma when she was 28 years old. Her treatment ended in 2013 and she has now been cancer-free for over two years. She loves being outdoors and traveling, and lives in Southern California with her husband and two dogs.

You are your own statistic - you can't live your life based on a medical journal. You need to fight this believing and knowing that you can be the one who survives.

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.

Emily's Journey With Cancer

  • Diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell adenocarcinoma in 2012
  • Chemo, extrapleural pneumonectomy (EPP) surgery in February 2013, and post-operative radiation
  • Now, two years NED (no evidence of disease)

We had a little time to process things after my diagnosis. I had two biopsies in the beginning, so that we would have enough tissue samples to send out for genetic testing.

So in the meantime we were able to come to terms with everything. By the time it was time to start chemo I was ready. I wanted the chemotherapy inside of me, I wanted to kill the cancer and attack it, and I felt mentally ready.

Fertility

In the time between diagnosis and starting treatment, we were able to do fertility treatment. I feel it's a very important thing that not a lot of women are told, especially with lung cancer, because the statistics are so low for survival.

But I think with the rise in young lung cancer patients, that's going to be changing and we need to be giving these women advice on preserving any fertility that they might have left. I was fortunate enough to have several people tell me I need to look into this, and I'm thankful we had the time to do it.

Meditation

From the beginning we started with a hypnotist which sounds really kooky. But I adapted that into something that works for me.

Now, every morning after I wake up I do a five-minute meditation, trying to tell my body to do what I want it to do. To kill the cancer cells, to identify them, to never let anything grow. I also spend a few minutes meditating on the family that I want to have and imagining our future children. To me that feels like I am doing something. I still think the mental aspect of that daily meditation, of believing that you can almost effect change in some way, is something that really helped me not only mentally, but physically as well.

Always make sure that you're getting enough information so you feel comfortable. Even if three doctors are telling you something different, at least you know that different options are available, and you can move forward with whatever option feels best to you. I think second and third and sixth opinions are incredibly important, and something that every patient should get.

Emotions

I think being faced with your own mortality at age 28 is kind of eye-opening and it makes you more receptive to all the little things around you that are good. I think that my emotions are a little bit more focused, and I focus more on what's important. I've always been a positive person, but after this I feel that I'm even more positive, because I want to soak up everything and enjoy the life that I've been given.

Friends & Family

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.

Health & Fitness

I have chosen to make walking my main exercise, and I also do Pilates now. This has been really helpful in terms of gaining back some muscle mass and mobility that I lost during the downtime after surgery and radiation.

For me, getting back to my fighting shape - or whatever you want to call it - and using exercise to do that, has been so important. I want to feel strong again, and I want my body to be as strong as possible. For me, having one lung has meant that I've had to take exercise slowly, and build up endurance little by little. But I've been amazed at how much I'm now able to do. The cardio has been so important to expand the one lung that I have left so that I'm able to do more things. It was hard at first, but it's gotten much easier.

I remember specifically the day that I was able to walk three miles. I recalled what I had been able to do the year before (which was to barely walk around the block), and was amazed at the progress. Mentally, it's just so important to look back and to give yourself a moment to remember where you were, and how far you've come.

Now, I exercise almost out of gratitude that I'm able to do so, and out of marvel at what my body can do with one lung.

Diet & Nutrition

As much as I can control, I try to control. I eat organically whenever possible at home, but when we go out and the meal is out of my control, I just enjoy myself.

Travel

I drink a special type of alkaline water, and whenever I travel I make sure I send water to where I'm going before I get there. This way I can maintain my routine and what I feel is doing good for my body while I travel. I travel with all of my vitamins and supplements and things that we've researched that we believe are helping.

In general, I've just become very aware that my immune system is building back up, so I need to be careful that I don't catch anything. You just have to be a little bit more careful. When I'm on flights, I bring sanitizer wipes to wipe down my seat, seatbelt, the tray table, etc. I also always travel with a scarf that I wrap around my nose during the flight.

Last year we went to Cancun and we didn't do any extra activities. I couldn't have handled anything.

So this year, when we went again, to see how far I've come was just incredible. I was able to climb a 10-story ruin, and this was a huge milestone for us. I think that was important throughout my journey, and especially since surgery, to look at where I was same time last year, and the same time two years ago.

It's all about little milestones. We try to celebrate every single one of them. Throughout my treatment we celebrated everything. I think that is so important on the mental aspect of what patients go through.

The biggest thing that I had to learn was to allow myself to realize that I couldn't do it all. My husband and I were adamant that my priority was taking care of myself. Sometimes laundry didn't get done, or chores and errands didn't happen – but if you realize that you can't do it all, and that your priority is your health, I think you're doing what is right for yourself.

Work

I used to work in finance, but I'm now the spokesperson for the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation and I do patient advocacy work for them as well.

During my diagnosis and treatment, there were several people who changed our world and gave us critical advice and crucial help. If I can do that for somebody, then I want to be that person for them. I didn't really feel the need to go back to my prior position, but I did feel the need from the day I was diagnosed to help people out in my same situation. That was something I was very, very adamant about from the beginning.

I'm very selfish about my time and making sure that I'm organizing and prioritizing so that my health is paramount. Once I was about a year off from surgery Bonnie J. Addario called and asked if I would be their spokesperson – I felt like I was finally getting to the point where I could give back and begin working again, and accepted the position.

When I counsel patients entering treatment and beginning their lung cancer journey, I encourage them to focus on themselves. Be selfish - this is the time to focus on yourself and your treatment; you have to give it the best chance of working. Once you're done with treatment and cancer free, then you can focus on helping others. You don't have to ignore other patients, but right now you need to spend all your energy on your own treatment and your own health.

Sleep is so important. I would always be in favor of a patient taking care of themselves and taking time off work if they can.

Emily's Perspective

Assemble a really good team around you - don't settle for care that is anything below excellent.

Based on my journey, contact the Bonnie J. Addario Lung Cancer Foundation. They will be able to give you personalized attention, and give you the answers that you need. They will connect you with doctors that maybe you wouldn't have had access to before because they know them and they're part of their network. They will give you hope, just like they did for me.

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