You never think it is going to be you. At least, I never thought it would be me.
I was born and raised in Virginia, where I work as a successful technology consultant, and husband to the woman of my dreams. We have 2 beautiful children and 3 grandchildren. In addition to family time, I find joy as an avid fitness enthusiast and a competitive powerlifter.
So, you can imagine my shock when my doctor told me, “Ron, you have unresectable, stage III non–small-cell lung cancer.”
This diagnosis turned my world upside down. Suddenly, I found myself on medical leave, away from work and from my comfortable routine. I found out that my breathlessness was no longer caused by powerlifting, but was rather from the malignant mass in my left lung. However, what has remained unchanged through it all is the constant support from my wife and my family.
And while my family keeps me fighting, connecting with fellow patients with cancer has been the silver lining of my diagnosis.
Feeling Less Alone
I found that those who are close to you will do everything they can to support you, but no one will understand what you are going through the way another person who is living with lung cancer does.
Early after my lung cancer diagnosis, I found myself constantly searching the Internet to gather as much information as I could about my diagnosis. Through my digging, I was connected with other people living with lung cancer—people who answered my questions, responded to my needs, and helped make me feel less alone.
Connecting with other people living with lung cancer gave me purpose, and helped me to find clarity in the legacy I want to leave, and the life I want to live. I knew that I wanted to pay it forward by supporting other people diagnosed with lung cancer, so I signed up to volunteer as a phone buddy, where I continue to chat one-on-one with other people who are living with lung cancer, and more important, make new friends each week.
As part of giving back to the cancer community that gave me so much, I came across an online program called “Notes of enCOURAGEment” (www.notesofencouragement.com)—a program that sends words of wisdom and encouragement to people living with lung cancer from other patients with cancer, including those who completed their treatment.
As the COVID-19 pandemic appears to be improving (although we don’t know what the future may be), and the general population becomes less isolated in many places, people like me who are living with active cancer are being left behind, still feeling vulnerable to the world around them.
If the pandemic has taught us anything, it is that being isolated is not easy, but it can feel less tough when we do it together.
If you or a loved one is living with lung cancer, I encourage you to sign up on the website (at www.notesofencouragement.com) to receive continuing support as you go through treatment, so that you could connect with other people like us, and find your silver lining, too.