At the Top of My Lungs: Newlyweds Living with Lung Cancer

"Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim." -- Nora Ephron, commencement address to the Wellesley class of 1996

At the top of my lungs. This phrase has a whole new meaning for me now.

I've always thought of myself as a top-of-my-lungs kind of girl, yet that's the very part of my body that has betrayed me. The top of my left lung. That's where the tumor is.

On December 26 my husband, Harlan, found a small lump on my neck, and I was diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer. Our lives changed profoundly and forever.

Apart from that lump, I had no symptoms. I felt healthy, energetic, and strong as I embarked on the most joyful and contented phase of my life. We were newlyweds, having just gotten married a few months before.

My particular type of cancer is non-small cell lung cancer, stage IIIB. The American Cancer Society estimates a five-year survival rate of five percent.

When I saw those numbers in black and white, I took a sucker-punch to the gut. With new urgency I asked myself, "How can I squeeze the best and most out of every day?" Perhaps now I should spend a little less time at the office, watch a little less Project Runway. (Not that Project Runway won't always have its place.)

Living with cancer means living. Cancer is part of my life now. But that doesn't mean it is my life. It's sort of like traffic -- an unpleasant reality that is usually manageable but can be hugely disruptive. Some days I just have to accept that it's a day for the slow lane. But most days I pull on my big girl pants (mine have black sequins), rev the engine, and hit the gas. Radio cranked to 11. Singing at the top of my lungs.

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