For 1,461 days I have been knowingly LIVING with stage 4 lung cancer (who knows how long these rogue cells were growing before we found it). September 27th is my 4 year cancerversary. A day, and almost exact time, I will never forget. It was shocking, devastating, sad, maddening, scary, and anything but hopeful. So much has changed in the last four years.

I had just graduated college and was excited to start my new career in the medical field. Our plan was to get established then my husband would look into changing careers also. We had a big, beautiful house, money in savings and we were happy.

After navigating all the treatments: chemo, radiation, 4 surgeries, multiple biopsies, the many fun side effects that came along, and now my targeted drug therapy (AKA my miracle pills) things are feeling more “normal”. My husband is now the sole supporter of our family and at the same great job, we have downsized into a smaller house, but we are still happy.

And so grateful…grateful for our families’ never-ending support and love, for our friends that stuck around when it counted, for my awesome oncologist and medical team, all the amazing and brave survivors that are now good friends, and for God’s promises about our future. Life is good.

We celebrated by having a delicious dinner at PF Chang’s with my family. We celebrate every occasion with food.

4yr dinner 4yearsurvivor

The statistics are grim = a 2% 5 year survival rate for stage 4 LC. This is changing with focus on genetic mutations and targeting the specific driver of the tumors. The survival rates are higher in this population and I’m hopeful these numbers will continue to rise. I’m so hopeful in fact that I want you all to consider this a “Save the Date.”

Next year will be 5 years! I plan on beating the odds and celebrating with a huge party. We’re renting a banquet room, having food, music, dancing, and an open bar (duh, have you met our family and friends?).
If you’re reading this, you’re invited.
You have plenty of time to save up for a flight if you live out of town and we’ll hopefully get a discount on hotel rooms. I’m not kidding – I expect you all there. The more, the merrier!!!

I was very doubtful I would be alive 5 years later, even 4 years later, but I fight every day to have more time with my family. My faith in God gives me the strength I need and my family’s love gives me the motivation. I try to eat healthy, eliminate stress, exercise, travel, and help other survivors. The best part of this whole journey has been meeting other survivors, sharing our stories, and spreading hope. Meeting a 10+ year survivor ( I know 6 of them!) gives me hope that I can do it too. Many unpleasant things have come with cancer, but many great friendships have been made too. These are connections that I cherish greatly.

Exercise is one thing that helps me feel more “normal”. I can’t run anymore but I still really push myself to work hard, sweat, burn calories, and increase my endurance. Some days I have to force myself to go, but I’m always happy that I did. With my limited lung function I sometimes get discouraged because I can’t do what I used to. Then I remind myself of those that are no longer here and push myself for them. Studies have actually shown that you have a lesser chance of recurrence if you exercise regularly. I know this is hard for some, but even short walks make a difference. Trust me there were days I could barely walk around my short street. Baby steps…

gym1 gym3

My life now consists of reading and researching about lung cancer every day, talking to other survivors, going to several conferences a year, participating on several advisory boards, sharing my story, and pleading Congress for more money for research. Most importantly, making memories with my family and trying to enjoy each and every day. It’s much different than what I had envisioned for my life, but I’m trying my best to make a difference and make my kids proud.

So save the date people – Tuesday September 27, 2016!!!

Heck

with Rep. Joe Heck (NV), the Foster family, Paul and Brett at the Rally for Medical Research

hc2 homecoming1

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