Richard

Diagnosed in 2004

Richard was diagnosed with lung cancer at the age of 44, in 2004. He's now an eleven-year survivor and lives in Stamford, Connecticut with his partner.

My advice is twofold. One: take it a day at a time. And two: know that lung cancer doesn't have to be a death sentence. It may not be curable yet but it's definitely treatable. Be optimistic about the opportunities ahead of you and the chance to live a nice long life.

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.

Richard's Journey With Cancer

  • Diagnosed with Stage I non-small cell lung cancer in 2004
  • Pneumonectomy in 2004
  • Multiple surgeries and radiation for tumors on brain and lung 2006 – 2014
  • Multiple targeted therapies 2007 - 2014

When I was diagnosed

I didn't know what to make of it. I wasn't angry, I wasn't scared.

It's really important for someone to have an advocate when they go through these situations because mentally I couldn't really do anything. It went in one ear, out the other. It came out of the blue.

If I was giving advice I'd say get on the phone, go online and check out Lung Cancer Alliance, check out United Against Lung Cancer - they're a great source for you.

I am now a Lung Cancer Alliance board member. I never imagined myself being an advocate for lung cancer. But I really do feel I need to be a voice. There need to be people who can speak out for lung cancer and give other people hope.

Most people think of lung cancer as a death sentence, so to hear someone saying they've survived eleven years, it makes them feel really good.

My recommendation

Be hopeful, take every day at a time. Don't believe everything you read on the internet. Find the doctors and hospitals you trust. Get educated about it to give yourself the best chance.

I see my life as a combination of biology, chemistry, timing and good luck!

Emotions

I'm a glass-half-full kind of person so I don't let it get me down. It's frustrating at times, and when it doesn't feel good.

But on the flip side, sometimes I turn it into a joke. But I have to be careful how far I push the jokes! I think it's important that we put some humor into cancer, because it makes everyone feel a little better about it.

I don't want people to worry about me or feel sorry for me. I have a really good life.

It's important in life to have some really close friends you can be yourself with. Especially when you're going through an illness like this.

Friends & Family

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.

Health & Fitness

I never liked exercising! If I had two healthy lungs today, I'm not sure how much exercising I'd do. I'd probably be playing tennis but going to the gym was probably my least favorite thing.

Now I have no choice, so I go to the gym seven days a week. I have to relearn breathing, so my diaphragm is really important to how I breathe. It really should be for everybody, but for me it's essential.

I have to think of everything, I can't take any chances.

Every time I'm in the gym I try to do a little more if I can, but there are days I just don't feel good so those days I just challenge myself to do the best I can.

Diet & Nutrition

I believe in everything in moderation. But I could still cut down on sugar. It's in my head, but there are times when I just can't pass on a packet of peanut M&M's!

It is important to eat right. It's better for my body to eat less sugar and it's better to eat more fruit and vegetables.

I eat well, I feel pretty good. Your body doesn't always want to eat as much food as your typical person, so rather than three big meals a day I'm much better off having four meals a day, or even a fifth - a snack - in the evening. When you have pulmonary issues, the more bloated your stomach is, the more it's going to press against your diaphragm.

A lot of times people call me and tell me to try this and that, it's going to cure you or make you better. My doctor's always said: "You can do anything you want, just ask me first".

Travel

I call my life now the new normal, because it is very different to how it was eleven years ago.

I have restricted pulmonary function thanks to my pneumonectomy, so I know that I have restrictions on what I can and can't do.

I still have a wonderful quality of life, but I know I can't carry two shopping bags, I can't go up two or three flights of stairs. So I have to be pragmatic. The same when I'm traveling. I'm not going to go to places with high altitudes because I know I won't be comfortable there. I just have to be careful and I have to ask a lot of questions if I'm going somewhere new.

I love to travel, and I push myself. It's a wonderful feeling when you get home and you feel like you've accomplished something you didn't think you could. I've been to Germany, Switzerland and Mexico and all over the United States. But I can't do the adventurous hiking I used to do. I want to have these experiences - but within reason. It's wonderful, mentally for me, to still have that kind of stimulation.

Work

I worked for 20 years in a family business. I was diagnosed while I was still working and it was apparent to me quite early on I couldn't still work there. The stress of owning a business and the pressure was too terrifying for me.

But I was only 45, so I wasn't ready to give up on my working career. I went to work for a non-profit, doing fundraising, and the great thing about that there was no travel.

I'm now retired, but I do volunteer - one or two days a week, but only for three or four hours a day. It really suits my physical make-up a lot better.

Finances

Years ago, the person that did health insurance for my company insisted that my brothers and I get disability insurance.

There was no reason to do it at that point. It was very expensive but I did it. I also have social security disability, which I'm eligible for because of my pulmonary function. So I'm able to live a comfortable life. I'll never get rich, I'll never be able to save money but I have enough to live a nice life.

It's a blessing. Disability insurance is something I'd say people should think about. I'm really fortunate that I took care of some of these things when I was healthy.

Richard's Perspective

When I was diagnosed, it would have been really scary to have known too much. I think being a bit naive was probably a good thing. Eventually I did reach out to patient advocacy organizations for support and advice. I feel like I got through it really well because of my doctors and my support team, my family and friends.

I always believe I've lived life to the fullest. It's probably been accentuated a little, notched up, dealing with a terminal illness. The biggest positive changes are these relationships. They're unbelievable.

I believe all the good and bad has to happen. I can't take anything back, there's no regrets. I'm very, very fortunate.

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