In January 2016, Robert, 44 years old, learned he had locally advanced lung cancer. The cancer had spread to nearby tissue or lymph nodes within the chest and was unresectable, meaning it could not be surgically removed from his lungs.
After undergoing lymph node surgery and two rounds of chemoradiation therapy, Robert’s disease is currently in remission. He maintains a positive outlook and continues to stay active with his wife of 15 years, Jackie, by his side.
To help others going through the same journey, Robert shares his lung cancer journey below, including the experience of “watching and waiting,” and his advice to others facing lung cancer.
What was your first concern after you were diagnosed?
Robert: When I was first diagnosed, my concern was, ‘How much time do I have? Can we plan for vacations? Do I need to write my good-bye letters?’ I’m so happy that my treatments have gone as well as they have. But they don’t go well for everyone. Everyone has a different outcome.
How has this diagnosis affected your family?
Robert: It’s brought us closer together in some ways, but it’s tough on the kids because they want to ask how I’m doing, but they don’t want to ask at the same time. And I can understand that.
What has been most challenging during your treatment journey?
Robert: What has frustrated me the most is waiting for scans. For me, the anxiety during that period is, I won’t say unbearable, but it’s definitely tough. Waiting to find out whether a treatment worked causes a lot of stress. A lot of people that I talk to call it ‘scanxiety.’
When you’re in treatment, you feel like you’re taking an active participation role, you feel like you’re doing something. When you’re spending that two or three weeks leading up to the next scan, you’re just gritting your teeth, and start thinking what if the tumor didn’t shrink, or what if it did shrink but not enough, or what’s going to be my next option.
My friends have really come around because I consider my friends to be a part of our family. Our neighbors have stepped in to cut our grass, brought us food and constantly check in on me.
How did you cope with the stress?
Robert: I love to stay active. I enjoy running and working in the yard, and my wife and I love to dance. We don’t get to do it as often because we have to kind of measure our activity levels. We would also make plans for the future, to have something to look forward to. We planned a trip to go to Hawaii a week and a half after I finished radiation therapy. It was one of those things where it’s kind of hard to plan, but you have to – you’ve got to plan the good stuff.
What is life like for you today? What does living with lung cancer mean to you?
Robert: Living with lung cancer means to me, finding a way to live, and take the ‘with lung cancer’ out of it. It’s just trying to find a way to live in general and on a daily basis. Every day, I think about lung cancer. It’s never not there. If I plan on a vacation, I wonder, what if the next scan comes back with something or what if I’m having a reaction to a treatment? It’s never far from your mind. So it changes the way you see life a little bit. But for me, it’s about the living. The lung cancer is, for me, just a chronic thing that I’m going to have to deal with.
What’s your advice to someone who’s going through a similar journey?
Robert: My biggest advice to anybody is to live life through the treatment. There’s going to be things you have to deal with, but you have to live your life. Ask your doctor the hard questions. Attack it head on and go live your life, have some fun. You know, just find anything you can to make life worth living.
Watch more about Robert’s story:
US-13539 Last Updated 11/17