Living with lung cancer without realizing it
The summer before being diagnosed with lung cancer, Juanita Segura found herself wheezing. As the wheezing persisted and then worsened, she decided it was time to visit her primary care physician. She left with a diagnosis of asthma and a prescription for an inhaler. By the fall, she knew something was very wrong. The wheezing had become unbearable and a relentless cough had taken hold.
It took repeated doctor and ER visits before she would be admitted to the hospital. Even then, the explanation for her symptoms remained elusive. Juanita, growing more and more frustrated, insisted on having a CT scan. A full 18 months after the onset of her symptoms, it was that scan which led to her diagnosis:. Juanita had Stage 3b Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer.
Living with lung cancer: Treatments and testing
Standard protocol for treating lung cancer includes months of chemotherapy and radiation. In Juanita’s case, the treatments were unsuccessful. It was then that her doctors did further tumor testing and discovered that she was ALK+. She was then given a targeted therapy and, within a few months of treatment, she was deemed no evidence of disease (NED).
Lung cancer treatment in any form is a challenging undertaking. Juanita’s experience was no exception. Once she finished, she was profoundly aware of how fortunate she was to be healthy again. It was then that she made it a goal to re-examine and improve upon every facet of her life.
How lung cancer changed her life
Juanita’s efforts worked. Before her diagnosis, she was a diehard “hamburger and fries kind of gal.” In sharp contrast, her diet now consists of lean meats, lots vegetables and tons of water. Determined to stay healthy after lung cancer, she takes several vitamins and supplements. And, in the interest of levity, a craving for McDonald’s french fries (or, another of her favorites, Honeycomb cereal) will not go unmet. Juanita will allow herself the indulgence because she knows that “life is precious.”
Her next self-imposed challenge: exercise. When it came to exercise, Juanita’s pattern had always been the same; she would quit “the moment it got too hard.” Now, not only is she a CrossFit trainer, but has opened her own box (that’s CrossFit talk for studio)!
Juanita’s final and possibly most dramatic life change was her spirituality. She admits with remarkable frankness to having been a “mean, confrontational, judgmental and in-your-face” person. The Juanita of today is kind, open-hearted, accepting and humble. In finding her spiritual connection, all her relationships improved. Her marriage has flourished. Her 5 children are thriving. And she is elated to be preparing for the arrival of her first grandchild. It was lung cancer, she says, that paved the way for becoming the very best version of herself.
“I thank lung cancer for making me humble and teaching me how to see the good in everyone. I sin every day, but my faith has taught me that God loves all of us…no matter what.”