Michael H.'s Story

North Carolina – On Friday, May 7, 2004, I received a call from my sister. Meg had come from a doctor’s visit because of nagging bronchitis. She was headed to the hospital for chest X-rays. I told her to call after she talked to her doctor. When she called, it was not the news I was expecting. She was being admitted to the hospital for further testing. The hospital ran more tests over the weekend. On Monday, her doctor came to discuss the test results. He sat down on the edge of Meg’s hospital bed and reviewed the test results with us. Bottom line – Meg had Stage 4, small cell lung cancer and the prognosis wasn't good. In an instant, my sister became one of the more than 219,000 people diagnosed with lung cancer every year. My sister started smoking in high school because her friends were smoking and she wanted to “fit in,” to be accepted, to be cool. As she got older, she tried quitting. I can’t tell you how many times she tried over a period of 35 years. She just couldn’t beat the addiction. She tried nicotine patches, gum, pills, hypnosis, and acupuncture. Nothing worked. Sometimes she would go for a few months without smoking but she always was pulled back by nicotine’s addictive grip. She was finally able to quit smoking when she was told she had lung cancer. My sister was a fighter. She put together a battle plan as if she were a general preparing for battle. She met with her doctors, did research on the internet, she talked to other cancer patients and survivors, she spoke to dietitians, holistic practitioners, and anyone remotely connected to fighting terminal diseases. I guess it was like going into battle. A battle that she and too many others were fighting. We watched as her cancer went into remission and then came back several times. We watched as it spread to her spine and her brain. During the entire time she never once asked “why me?”. We were also with her on August 23, 2005, 18 months after her initial diagnosis, the day she died, just three days after her 50th birthday. No one should ever have to go through what she went through. I made a promise to her that day to do whatever I could to prevent others from suffering the way she did. I would take up the fight that she so bravely fought and lost. I began volunteering at the American Lung Association not long after my sister’s death. It was my way of doing something to help others with lung cancer and their caregivers, families and friends.

 

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