Gone But Not Forgotten

by Diane SpryPatient, Lung CancerSeptember 27, 2020View more posts from Diane Spry

The thing about survivors’ guilt is that you do not truly understand if you have not been through it.

I was diagnosed at a young age with advanced stage lung cancer. I went into the emergency room with a pain in my chest and because it was chest pain I was almost immediately brought to the back. It was originally thought that I may have a blood clot, so they drew blood. It came back with a high D-dimer, so the next step was a chest CT scan. It was found that I had a blood lot that travelled to my right lung but also a mass in my left lung. I was admitted into the hospital and the testing began. I had blood drawn daily and a bronchoscopy was performed. It was not known at the time what kind of cancer but after 5 days in the hospital I was released with a cancer diagnosis. As a 30-year-old I was floored. I did what anyone would do and jumped online to find my people.

I started my lung cancer journey by connecting with a local survivor. We had known each other through mutual friends, and I knew that she was diagnosed almost exactly one year prior to me. She set me up with contact information to the best oncologist that I still see to this day. I also did some of my own research and I came across Lungevity Foundation. I was familiar with Lungevity’s platform as I had previously walked in a Breathe Deep 5k in my hometown. The website gave me information to a summit that was being held in Washington, DC and that if you were newly diagnosed and had never been to the summit you could have your travel expenses covered. I love to travel and had never been to Washington, DC so I applied and received the news that I was accepted.

I was not in the best of shape, but I made the trip and I made a few friends, some of them I would become Facebook friends with. I have been going to the summit now every year since I was diagnosed and every year, I add more and more people to my Facebook. I now have over 300 lung cancer contacts on my Facebook. Having this type of support is wonderful but with a disease like lung cancer it can also be heartbreaking.

We celebrate every good scan and mourn together what our lives should have been. It never gets easier when we lose a friend.

Over the last six years I have lost too many people to lung cancer, Molly, Kim, John, Carla, Andy, the list goes on and on. I cried tears for each and every one of them.

It sometimes makes going onto social media platforms hard. I found out about Kim’s passing when I returned home from a family cruise. We were waiting in a very long line to get back into the country and I happened to look at my Facebook. I remember the day I found out about John. We had just started a new year and it was a bit cold out that day. Carla lived in the Philippines, but I met her at the summit. She was the sweetest person. We connected on Facebook and would message frequently. We talked about current treatments and side effects but also future treatments.

I feel that I have some sort of survivor’s guilt because I am here 6 years post diagnosis. I work full time and basically live life as I did before I was diagnosed. I have had many wins during my treatment past and minimal bad news. I have witnessed too many bad scans and the inevitable hospice admissions. Seeing this has opened my eyes to just how fragile life can be.

Every day is a gift and I have learned to cope with my feelings. I am here to advocate for this disease and to help be a voice to get more research dollars. I will use my voice to speak with my senators and representatives. I will continue to be a shoulder to cry on to those newly diagnosed.

I will continue to scream my diagnosis from the rooftops if someone is willing to listen.


All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at https://www.elephantsandtea.com/contact/submissions/.

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