As I write this I have tears of humility in my eyes and my heart is overflowing with gratitude.
Today is a joyous occasion for me.
One year ago today I received a miracle. And it was because of you.
I was cured 100% of lung cancer.
It happened through my amazing medical team and the miraculous part came about from the power of prayer. Sharing this story is my way to say thank you and perhaps, if you are battling something in your life: illness, addiction, heartache, you will feel inspired and hold onto hope for a miracle to cure your life, too.
After many months of x-rays, tests, and two bronchoscopies (a procedure that did a look-see down my windpipe to the outer region of my lung), stemming from a serious case of pneumonia that never fully resolved, and a negative biopsy of a tumor found at the entrance to the middle lobe of my right lung, I was diagnosed with adeno-squamous small cell lung cancer on September 20, 2012.
Suddenly I was in a medical whirlwind that those who have ever received a cancer diagnosis know all too well. Seemingly endless tests from CT scans, MRIs, bone scans, blood tests galore and more gave way to appointments with specialist after specialist all sharing their take on my challenge and some gingerly sharing horrible things like “5-year survival rates,” which for a never-smoker, non-asbestos-exposed, no-other-typical risk factor case in a young 42 year old female, were pretty good at about 80-85%. I did meet with this one jerky oncologist who, before examining me, and barely opening my file told me the others were either lying or idiots and I had only about a 60-65% chance of living to see my 47th birthday. He did so in front of my worried father, who carted me to every single one of those visits. You’ll be happy to know, I never saw that oncologist again in my life, and had I not been pre-occupied with cancer, would likely have written a strongly-worded letter to someone in charge. I wanted honesty and truth, but above all I wanted and deserved as a human being COMPASSION and EMPATHY.
I knew family and friends were praying for me. And I decided to set up a private Facebook group for those close to me so I could update my status from one appointment to the next. I chose social media because most of my family and friends were there regularly anyway and it was easy for me to “check in” at hospitals and so forth, add photos, and more.
After all those visits I quickly weighed my options, chose a surgeon, and scheduled my surgery for the day after what could have been the final speaking gig of my entire career. Then I had an odd sense of feeling relieved and at peace. I knew, somehow, that everything was going to be okay.
Next is when the miracle of YOU happened.
The night before surgery, nervous yet calm, I sent out a plea to my community of subscribers, my blog readers, and my social media friends and followers, numbering close to 30,000. Here’s what I wrote:
“If you’re the praying type, please send up a prayer for me and the surgeon (Dr. McAfee) that all goes smoothly, is easy, and painless. If you’re more of the visualizing type, please visualize the IV going in the first time easily and my body healthy and complete. And if you’re of the sending good energy type, I’ll take all the good vibes you can muster!”
That short request led to an avalanche of prayers and positive energy from friends and people around the world, in 22 countries, most of whom I had never met in my life. I was added to church prayer lists, lifted up in Facebook prayer warrior groups, and thought about in the private hearts of people around the world. I’m in tears now as I remember it and so grateful for every single one; I can never know how many people even paused for a moment, but I know it all led to my own miracle.
The next morning as I was prepped for surgery before dawn, I silently wept, afraid most of the terror of the IV going in. You see, I’m what they call a “hard stick” and have had occasions where more than a dozen nurses, doctors, and EMTs took over two hours just to run one IV with more than two dozen attempts – each a painful stick of a needle and then some digging inside trying to find access to a vein. Much to my shock and horror, I not only had to have one IV run that day, but because of the multiple medications and various procedures, I needed TWO – one in each arm. I had held it together pretty well over the past couple of weeks, not because I felt the need to hold it together, but because I really was simply working through the process of what needed to be done, but that news was enough to bring the tears forth. My husband was in the room and one of my best friends texted me comfort.
As I was wheeled into the surgical waiting area, away from my husband now, alone with strangers who would soon be cutting into my body, I tried to relax (as if) and focus on the various instructions, repeating my name and birthdate to at least seven people. The next thing I remember is waking up in the recovery area and my surgeon telling me what she had found.
Similar to most cancer surgeries, when the doctor removed my tumor and lymph nodes, each was examined while I was in the operating room to make sure nothing else needed to be removed and to once again verify the specific diagnosis. That’s when they found something curious – and miraculous.
What was only days before diagnosed from an actual tissue sample as “small cell adeno-squamous lung cancer,” suddenly became something different.
At this point in the story, you should know there are three categories of lung cancer: small cell with its variations, large cell with its variations, and something so rare it’s barely ever mentioned called muco-epidermoid. In fact, in a 20-year study at Harvard University Cancer Centers, exactly 12 cases of this muco-epidermoid lung cancer were diagnosed and treated. Of those 12, not one person died, the cancer never spread, and it never returned. So my diagnosis from a much more lethal small-cell type of lung cancer almost certainly requiring radiation and chemotherapy, to something that became a relatively easy “cut and paste” job requiring only occasional follow-up, was the miracle I received that day.
It’s all thanks to you, my community, my family, my friends and the power of prayer.
I could go on and on, but I’ll save that for my next book. 🙂 For now, as always, I like to provide a few take-away lessons for you, dear reader. So here’s what you can do when you find yourself in a life-challenging situation:
- Build Your Connections Before You Need Them: I’m not getting on my “public speaking rocks” soapbox, but I will tell you most of my connections, and eventually the prayers and support, all came because those people saw me speak either in person or virtually through the Internet. However you do it, build your network and nurture your relationships because someday you may need an army of people to reach out to.
- Kick the Negative Ninnies to the Curb: Stay away from people, even doctors or other specialists and experts who don’t support you or treat you how you want and deserve to be treated. Period.
- Surround Yourself with Loved Ones and Let Them Circle the Wagons: There is virtually nothing family and friends can do for you medically, if that is your challenge, so they often feel helpless. Allowing them to do for you in any way they physically can while you take care of yourself, rest, and recover is a gift so they feel useful and as if they are contributing to your wellness (because they are!) while at the same time giving you the time and space to heal that you desperately need.
With that, I’d like to end with a song that is uplifting that I love listening to. Mandissa thinks you’re an over-comer and I do too! And from the bottom of my LUNG I thank you gratefully for the miracle.