Stephanie

Diagnosed in 2012

Stephanie, 53, was diagnosed with lung cancer in February 2012. She lives in Darlington, South Carolina with her husband and dog and is an avid fisherwoman and golfer.

Stay positive at all cost. Be happy, positive, do things you want, laugh, sing. I think there's something to laughter and being happy. Even through pain and through bad news you just stay positive. It's kind of cliché, but I don't know a better way to say it: be positive.

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.

Stephanie's Journey With Cancer

  • Diagnosed with Stage I adenocarcinoma in 2012
  • Lobectomy in 2012
  • Cancer moved to Stage IIb
  • Four rounds of chemo
  • Cancer moved to Stage IV
  • Targeted therapy since December 2012

It's funny looking back now. I wasn't worried about the poison they were putting into me, I wasn't worried about what it was doing to my body, I was worried about my hair.

I had this long, flowing brown hair and I was thinking about my hair as if it defined me.

After the first chemo it started falling out, so I got my friend to shave it off. It empowered me in some way and I was like, "I've got a pretty cool round head." It didn't bother me a bit.

Then when it started coming back white and curly, I was like, "alright, this is different."

People say they love my hair. I'm like, "Oh, my oncologist did my hair." Or "hair by chemo" or whatever.

I'm not defined by my hair, I'm the same person. It's a new normal.

I used to get real nervous after the scans, oh my gosh.

Worrying doesn't change it, all it does is help break down your immune system and make you stressed. I don't worry anymore.

I want to know the answer as quickly as possible, I want to know everything's good, but I just stay positive and say it's going to be fine. If it's not, we'll deal with it.

Friends & Family

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.

Health & Fitness

I walk probably three miles a day at least. I wear a pedometer with an alarm and one day last week I logged 16,000 steps, that's pretty good, it's almost 7 miles.

I set myself challenges and I've challenged several people that I know. I'm very competitive and I like to be number one. I'll take that extra three miles if I know what it takes to beat them.

After my surgery, if I could walk from the den to the restroom that was an accomplishment some days. Now I could just go out tomorrow and start throwing a ball, I would be sore but I would be fine. Right after surgery I thought, "Will this ever end, this cough, this pain?" It just goes away slowly.

I think the best thing that ever happened was that people were staying with me everyday, and I was lying on the couch trying to get better. My husband had to go back to work, my brothers had to go back home, I was on my own.

I didn't want to be on my own so I enrolled my friends. I said can I come to your house Monday, your house Tuesday, yours Wednesday? I go to other people's houses and I had to move around and do for myself. That was the turning point, and then it just came naturally.

Diet & Nutrition

I used to be a McDonald's girl, get a little Happy Meal or I used to just grab a box of something and cook it.

Now I try to just do fresh. I even try to stay away from farm-raised fish, I try to get wild-caught.

I don't do red meat anymore. I haven't made the total change to organic - I'm not sure about that.

A lot of people say to not eat sugar. I haven't mastered that yet either. My doctor said that my cancer is not driven by sugar, so enjoy yourself. And that's what I do. I do try to avoid processed meat.

Hobbies & Leisure

When I was really sick and couldn't play golf, a friend of mine said, "Come to my house and just sit with me while I'm sewing."

She makes beautiful quilts and so she taught me how to quilt. I've learned to sew different things, so I give them as gifts.

We make a lot of stuff and donate to the hospital. I do little pillows and we've made chemo caps. It's neat to be able to give back as someone who has been there - and I know the needs. It keeps your mind occupied. We are just making things and giving back.

I've started drawing a little bit. I didn't even know I could draw and when I started, I did some oil paintings and I took a class... it's a support group through the hospital, an art therapy class.

I play bridge with all the 80 or 90-year-old women in the neighborhood. Every other Monday I play bridge with the ladies. It's pretty uplifting and they are hilarious.

Travel

If I take a three-hour trip to visit family I don't just jump in the car anymore, fill up with gas and go the whole way.

Now I find it fun to look along the route, find something you have never seen before and just walk around. The longer the trip, the more I stop.

Longer distance

The only thing I ever panic about is making sure I have my medication. That's the first thing I pack, and I always pack extra in case that something got lost.

I used to get really nervous about flying because of my immune system. Of course I'm going to always sit by the person that's hacking and coughing - it's just going to happen!

I try to wash my hands religiously, and if I have to I'll wear a mask on a plane, but I haven't had to so far.

If I was going to the Bahamas or leaving the country on a cruise or something, I would check out medical facilities.

I don't sweat the small stuff. I just don't worry about it unless necessary. It's carried on to every other aspect of my life. I used to be a worrier - I come from a long line of worriers. Now I just don't worry.

Work

I retired on disability. I was unable to keep up the pace of the job I had.

Just recently I felt well enough to work a little bit. I went and got my real estate license, trying to sell real estate. It's not a great market but I'm having a blast with the open houses. I guess you could say I'm self-employed.

I don't want to just sit around, I want to do a lot of things. When you are on disability you don't have the funds to do so. I couldn't get up and work every single day, at 8 AM to 5 PM, so some days I just don't feel good after treatment. With real estate, I've got my own schedule. I love it, that flexibility, I love working. I like being around people all the time, meeting new people.

You've got to do something flexible because you can't predict how you are going to feel from day to day.

I like the sense that I'm giving back. I'm not just sitting around, having idle brain time - that would probably not help my good attitude. I don't want to spend too much time on the internet or too much time to think.

Finances

File for disability immediately because it takes six or eight months. But as soon as you are approved, then they go back to the date you filed and make your payments retroactive.

There's a lot of financial aid for different things. The only thing I really took advantage of was a company called Cleaning for a Reason. If you are a woman in treatment, you call and they'll find a cleaning service. They offer four free cleanings for you while you are going through chemo.

It's a good pick-me-up and you don't have to worry about it, you have people coming in, they are all trained and very kind. They don't use any chemicals to clean your house, it's all natural-based... that was great!

Stephanie's Perspective

I don't read anything online that's over three months old. Any studies, any clinical trials. At first I limited myself to 10 minutes a day. Now I go to certain sites and read those religiously.

I just don't make that my whole world. My whole world is my husband, my family, my dog, golf. I'm not going to say what order that's in!

The first thing I do everyday is to go to Inspire.com and Whatnext.com.

WhatNext refers me to a lot of surveys and stuff that can help anybody. Maybe that's why I'm still here. I'll fill out anything and help anybody.

Inspire.com is a little bit more specific. You can give all your details and it lumps you into a support group online with everybody that has exactly what you've been through.

I get a lot of reward from just talking to people, even at chemo.

I just tell them some of my story, that is hope and you just love to see their faces light up.

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