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Life changes after diagnosis

By Dustin, diagnosed in 2017


I was diagnosed with ALK+ NSCLC when I was 27 years old. Prior to diagnosis, I felt like I had my entire future ahead of me. Then, this illness that seemingly came out of nowhere made me question if I would even reach the age of 30. I didn't know anything about genetic drivers of cancer, only that people in my situation, with Stage 4 lung cancer, had very bleak survival statistics. I felt trapped in my body and hopeless.

Soon after diagnosis, I began researching everything I could about my disease. I found that people with ALK+ NSCLC could live much longer and healthier lives than patients without a genetic driver of their cancer. Even better, I could take a targeted therapy drug, which would allow me to continue my daily life as normal. I found that there were new drugs being developed all the time to combat resistance to treatment and I decided that there was hope after all. No one knew how my story would end.

After my diagnosis I started treatment, which was as easy as taking my medicine twice a day. I put weight back on and started feeling almost completely back to my old self. I returned to my full-time job as a public accountant just a week after diagnosis and have been working a regular schedule ever since. I think getting back into my old routines has helped me to feel like a normal person and a functional member of society. I have cancer, but cancer does not define me or my life.

I have also decided that I will do anything in my power to put the odds in my favour in my fight against cancer. I was already a vegetarian when I was diagnosed, but I have tried to alter my diet to be even healthier. I have cut out sugar, reduced processed foods, and tried to increase the amount of fruits and vegetables I eat. I try to exercise whenever I can find the time, which can be as easy as a few laps around the neighborhood, but I think it's important to keep the body moving.

Although I hope to live a long, healthy future, I have also embraced living in the present. I love to travel and experience new places. I have already been to Iceland and Peru since diagnosis, and have trips planned for Italy and Greece.

I was scared and hopeless when I was first diagnosed with cancer, but I am living proof that you can reclaim your life from this disease and not only live, but love your life.