Non-small cell lung cancer survivor: Cancer taught me compassion
KELLIE BRAMLET BLACKBURN
The idea of chemotherapy terrified Pushpa Damle. She was scared of the side effects. She was scared of feeling weak. She was scared she couldn’t do it.
Pushpa had already undergone a successful lung cancer surgery, but doctors at MD Anderson in Sugar Land told her that chemotherapy could ensure that her non-small cell lung cancer didn’t return.
“I asked myself, ‘Do you want to give life a shot?’” she says.
In the end, her desire to live a long life outweighed her fears. Pushpa agreed to receive chemotherapy.
An unexpected non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis
As a business owner, Pupsha had just begun to think about retirement before her non-small cell lung cancer diagnosis in November 2011, and she loved spending time with her grandchildren. Aside from cancer, she was healthy. She never suspected that the lingering cough she’d developed just before Thanksgiving would lead to a lung cancer diagnosis.
“Cancer was the last thing anyone – including me – would have expected,” Pushpa says. “I had everything to live for.”
Chemotherapy for lung cancer treatment
Once she agreed to the treatment plan, Pushpa underwent 12 weeks of chemotherapy. Once a week she was administered chemotherapy at MD Anderson in Sugar Land from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.
She experienced few side effects during that time, aside from fatigue.
“I consider myself lucky to have tolerated it so well,” she says.
While she knows that everyone’s chemotherapy experience is different, she was glad to learn that the treatment had improved over the years and wasn’t as bad as she’d expected.
Finding hope through myCancerConnection
But Pushpa still struggled to find hope. She wasn’t sure anything could ease the anxiety that cancer brought.
She joined an online support group, but what helped more than anything was talking directly with lung cancer survivors. Through myCancerConnection, MD Anderson’s one-on-one support group, Pushpa found comfort. She gained new strength and hope after talking with a woman who had been diagnosed with stage IV lung cancer 29 years earlier.
“After that, I thought, ‘OK, I can do this,’” she says.
Now six years cancer-free, she volunteers with myCancerConnection to give others hope.
A new sense of compassion
Pushpa says lung cancer helped her find a sense of compassion.
On more than one occasion, she’s spotted strangers who looked worried and concerned. Each time, she’s approached them and offered them a hug. And each time, they’ve responded warmly and said her compassion came at just the right time.
“I want patients to know that it’s OK to be scared. It’s OK to ask for help,” she says. “And I want them to know there is life on the other side.”