Thursday, July 3, 2014

"You've got lung cancer." Yeah, good one doc. good one.

Seriously?
You've got to be kidding me. ME? I have lung cancer? Excuse me doc, but I've never smoked, in fact I've done quite the opposite...I've run 8 marathons, eat fairly healthy, and don't even have the slightest cough. I can just picture my lungs snickering, "8 marathons? eh. Half ironman? not so much. Climbed Kilimanjaro? not working for us. We need a real challenge. We want to give lung cancer a go." Challenge not accepted! Yet here we go, don't have much of a choice here, so here comes the next challenge that I've oddly decided to share with all of you (the honest reason why I'm blogging this is because I really didn't like the other therapy options presented by the pros: journaling, no..too much like school, art or photos or music, no...I'm so not artsy, so blogging it is).

Ze phases
My reaction went a little like this:
Phase 0.5: slight denial
Phase 1: I hate healthy people. (don't worry this didn't last long, I love you all again).
Phase 2: I want to be someone else. Anyone else. I'll even taking the fate of that homeless man that hoots and howlers the weirdest things.
Phase 3: WHY, tears, few more tears. This is bullshit. I don't even like attention. And I understood the big picture early on in life: its the people and relationships you have that bring happiness, nothing else. I don't need cancer to show me this.
Phase 4: "Woe is me is so last year." It is what it is. Being negative and morbid is so exhausting and not fun. I don't know what made me switch from phase 3 to phase 4, it was literally somewhat of an overnight switch, but I'm sure glad it happened. Books on young adults with cancer helped way more than I expected. My favorite is Kris Carr's Crazy, Sexy Cancer, I recommend it if you're curious of what this roller coaster experience is like.
I did not expect to adapt this quickly psychologically, but I don't mean to paint a rosy picture. This is incredibly hard. But moping around would just create another win for cancer, and I'm a competitive bitch.

Logistics, bleh 
I know many family and friends are interested in the medical deets so here they come, in a shorter, sweeter version. I have adenocarcinoma (non small cell lung cancer) and most of the little tumors (technically called nodules because they are all under 3cm) are in my left lung with some small mets to my spine and pelvic and right eye. And here's the real kicker: I'm asymptomatic! Aka I have no symptoms whatsoever, except.....for a slight flashing in my right eye. That's right, a 2mm bump behind my right eye is what initiated the scans in the first place. So my right eye is my knight in shining armor. Without it, I suspect I would have gone another 2 years or so with no symptoms and no treatment. Scary. The eye lead to a PET/CT scan, which led to a needle biopsy of one of the lung nodules.
My thoracic surgeon, (Dr. Gharai, one of the most incredible people I have ever met), later removed the largest nodule I have (had), which was just under 2 cm, the size of a peanut. Although my tumors are quite small, they are widespread, (docs often describe them as beads), so chemotherapy is the chosen treatment. No one knows why this has happened, nor why there has been a large increase in young nonsmokers developing lung cancer, especially women. Genetics? Random? That damn Southern California smog? Who knows. But at the same time, a small part of me kind of understands. 77,000 young adults (18-39) are diagnosed with cancer in the U.S. every year. Why the hell would it not be me? It could easily be me. Who ever said I was invincible? You truly never know what is going to happen, which is scary, but is also why I understand the phrase "live day to day" a lot better now. A day (really even a moment) spent stressing is just more lost time.

Ze latest medical step
Right now we are waiting for the molecular results of the tumor we submitted to pathology. Now this part is impressive: targeted therapy. The future is here. If my cancer cells are positive for certain mutations there are drugs that can target the cancer cells and destroy them bastards. If my cancer cells are negative for all the mutations, my tumor will be submitted for PDL1 testing. If positive I will do immunotherapy. supercharges your antibodies to attack the cancer cells. If negative for PDL1, I will do a chemo cocktail of carboplastin, avastin, and taxol? I already forgot the names, but here comes the disappointment for my audience... I will not lose my hair. I know we were all curious what I looked like bald, hell, even I was a little curious, but some chemo drugs don't affect your hair. I've got an army of doctors: 2 oncologists, palliative doc, radiologist, eye retina specialist, therapist, and sassy nurses. But more importantly if you have ever met my family you know how close and strong we are. Not gonna lie, if I were an outsider I would almost be disgusted by how much love, camaraderie, laughter, and support there is in our family, (but I hope you guys aren't picturing the kissing family on SNL.....too far...but that is representative of my relationship with my cat). And of course my extended family and friends have showered me with love and support and encouragement that truly makes all the difference. 

Peeps reactions
This part is kind of interesting. People's reactions to the words, "I have cancer," really go all over the place. My favorite reaction was, "Did you get your medical marijuana card yet?". My least favorite reaction, "Omg, I can barely breathe." <<Oh, you can hardly breathe? Maybe we should go to the emergency room. It could be lung cancer. You're right, I'm being too harsh. Most reactions were sincere and often followed by words of encouragement. It really is amazing how quickly people rally around you. But I also find the stigma attached to lung cancer a bit annoying. Which reminds me, I have not been focusing on the statistics, I recommend you do the same. How many nonsmoking 22 year olds do you know that have lung cancer? I feel like 20 year olds should have their own subset of stats.   
I also find that people tend to follow your lead in regards to talking about cancer or reacting to it. We all know I'm just a wee bit sarcastic, so I can't help joking about this from time to time. If you have questions, just ask me. But don't bring up topics on death.....were you born yesterday? Come on. 

Goals
My doctors have told me I need to write down some goals and plan for the future because I am going to be okay but need to avoid dwelling on how my life has become somewhat frozen right now. Although some of this may seem personal, oh well. A cancer diagnosis seems to strip you naked (figuratively and literally), so here we go: (in no particular order)
1. Backpack and travel through Europe
2. Do a Southeast Asia trip
3. Fall in love and have kids (line up boys, nothing sexier than a cancer patient)
4. Return to Tanzania
5. Sky dive
6. Only do jobs that truly mean something to me/ that I enjoy (goodbye money, hello nonprofit world)
7. Keep my family healthy and make them do screen tests every week, just kidding, kind of
These were just the first few goals that came to mind. I'm sure I'll be adding to it weekly. 

Shape up or ship out
So yes this really sucks. But I'm ready for the fight, mostly because I have to be. I found out about this a week after graduating from Cal. I had accepted a job working with kids in Denver and was ready to live it up for a year. But I've been thrown one more challenge. This summer has been one of a kind to say the least. I still plan on moving to Denver, soonish, and living it up. 
In the mean time I'll be kicking it with the parentals which means lots of good food and wine and running everyday. I'm grateful to be asymptomatic and feel 100% normal, physically, and now that I have plenty of time I'll be doing a few trips in the near future: bay area, Denver, Vegas, and NYC (hopefully), so I'll be calling you to sleep on your couch!

I suppose the next time I update will be when we figure out the chosen treatment (so maybe 3ish weeks?) If I'm really bored perhaps before then. Love to you all, kwa heri! (<quiz! go figure out what language that is).


I later realized that this was taken the day of diagnosis. Honestly this was not a conscious "day-of-diagnosis" pic. I was more in denial and bored watching tv and took a selfie. But now you all get to see what I look like haggard, weird, and frazzled with no makeup. Embarrassing, yes, but I had to include it. 

Checking out the chemo room. Forgot to mention the radiation I had done. That's my mask in the right corner. I had my eye met radiated for 14 days, since that was my only symptom. Right eye vision isn't stellar, but could bounce back fairly soon. (Also fun side note: I have stumped every doctor I've seen so far because they have never seen lung cancer metastasize to the eye, usually it goes to the brain..which thank god my hasn't! knock on wood). 


Me and momasita at graduation a week before the chaos. Talk about mom of the year award, she has temporarily left her job so I can hire her as my medical navigator, insurance fighter, supporter, and bff. 


Okay, this picture has nothing to do with a cancer blog but how cute is this picture of my mom? Killing it. 

Fam bam.

14 comments:

  1. You are an INCREDIBLE young woman and I know you don't know me from " that homeless man that hoots and howlers the weirdest things" but I check up on you almost every day. Your courage is truly an inspiration and a reminder to me and my girls (all about your age) of how freakin' easy we've always had it. I'm so glad you've cleared your head and positioned yourself for battle. Geez... what took so long...? ;-) I have no doubt you will kick some serious cancer butt - now you know what you've been training for! *Anyone* can run a marathon or do an Ironman.... (cough, cough, snicker, snicker - I couldn't run around the block...) I look forward to celebrating your victory!

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  2. I love love love you! You are a hero! You are gonna beat it and we are going to make sure of that!
    Love you lots
    Beena

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  3. Hi Corey from all your rel's in Australia.
    We are thinking of you and your family and wishing you all the best.
    Gary

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  4. You sound like a fighter and that's a good thing. I'm rooting for you.

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  5. Hi Corey, wow I read this a few days ago and it's taken me a few days to process it, because who would think this could have ever happened?! How absolutely shocking. I am so thankful you had that eye test, and glad you're feeling good. I am so very PROUD of your spirit and attitude, you are truly amazing. Sounds like you have tons of love and support from your incredible family and friends -- plus really amazing doctors. We'll be sending our most positive thoughts and prayers. If you ever are up in the East Bay as travel, please know you have a guest room and pool to use, plus home cooked meals! We'll be thinking about you constantly, and look forward to following your blog as you fight and conquer cancer. You are a fantastic writer -- funny, informative, and poignant -- and the blog will be a great way to chronicle your journey. YOU GO, GIRL!
    Love,
    Lisa (D'Onofrio) Bloom

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  6. Hi Corey...LOVE your blog....Emily was correct...you re a force to reckoned with...as she is!....Both of you will change the way lung cancer is perceived...this I am sure!

    I am also fighting this crappy disease....I had a Left upper lobe removed....with chemo.....and still have 2 nodules in the other lung....that are being carefully watched...may be looking at a biopsy and more surgery up the road.....Love Bonnie,her daughters and the foundation....Stay Strong,Corey....will be checking on ya!....Mara XXX

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  7. Hi Corey -
    This is your Aunt Mignon's friend, Molly, feeling your strength and power 3,000 miles away in New York! Keep up that humor and that attitude. I have many many friends - all alive - who have battled all kinds of cancers, with all kinds of diagnosis... including lung. You are AMAZING and I'm sending you lots of love and support. <3 Take care, Corey.

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  9. Your humor is so appreciated by me. It is what has always comforted me in times of profound pain. And, your spirited writing inspires my ability to send you lots of positive vibrations and love.

    (Your mom, who works at the college with me, sent this to me months ago and I am just now finding under piles of unread emails. I am so glad I did. You will stay in my heart.)

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  10. Your name was recommended to me to look up; I've just been diagnosed as well - NSCLC IV. Your posts are funny, endearing and have made me feel hopeful and less alone. Thank you for sharing your journey.

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  11. Oh and PS - I go by Cori! TWINSIES (kinda)

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    1. Cori!
      Such twinsies. So nice to virtually meet you (sucks it's via cancer, but we'll get through this one way or another). Thank you for the compliments. Luckily writing has been somewhat therapeutic, but meeting others who get it, is even more helpful. <3 <3

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  12. How i survived lungs cancer.
    I was diagnosed of lung cancer in 2011 and the doctor (oncologist), because i was a chronic smoker who started smoking from 16 and told me i had just two years to live that my lungs had been damaged, that even on the best medication i still had two years. I needed help because i was scared to die and i did chemotherapy, radiotherapy and it was unable to treat or help me. I coughed nearly every minute. In my death clock counting just 6 months remaining, if you knew me then i was good as dead because the cancer had eaten me up. My wife was fortunate enough to contact doctor Amber, a herbal doctor who came and treated me in our house using his medicine and that is how i was saved (where western medicine and methods failed), that was the greatest decision my wife had taken aside marrying me. Today i am totally fine without any symptoms of cancer, it was all confirmed by my oncologist that i am clean. Do not die in silence or rely only on western medicine herbal medicine is very effective. You can contact the doctor on (drambermurray@gmail.com) for more information about his treatment.

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  13. Corey, I'd love to interview you for our patient guide. Your story will inspire others! Please contact me at dcampbell@patientresource.com. Thanks!

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