A sense of humor is a characteristic that I was blessed with. Humor is how my husband, Cameron, and I dealt with one of the most trying times of our lives. It was what we relied on when I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in November 2005 and given 15 months to live without treatment. To increase my chances of survival, I underwent a dramatic surgery, called an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which required the removal of my left lung, half of my diaphragm, as well as the lining of my heart.
I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma in November 2005 and given 15 months to live without treatment.
What complicated the situation even more was the fact that I was a new mother. My daughter, Lily, would be turning six months old just 2 days after my surgery. I would be missing some of her biggest moments like rolling over, eating solid foods, etc. but this was a sacrifice I had to make. Thankfully, I was able to find things to laugh about to help shed some light on this seemingly dark situation. When I found out that my surgery was going to take place on February 2, Groundhog Day, I decided to nickname my tumor Punxsutawney Phil. Joking around seemed to make this risky surgery seem less daunting. I claimed that if my tumor saw its shadow I would have six more weeks of recovery. My sister even joined in on the fun by naming this day I lost my lung, LungLeavin’ Day.
My sister and husband discussed how we should celebrate this day that changed my life forever. My sister, who has had experience with firewalking, came up with the idea of writing our fears on an object to be burned in a fire. Since not everyone was interested in firewalking, Cameron decided we should write our fears on plates that were to be smashed in the fire. One year after my surgery, Cameron purchased two stoneware plates and a sharpie. Despite the cold weather, Cameron and I wrote out fears on these plates, went outside, and threw them into the fire together. This experience was so therapeutic that we decided to extend the event to include both family and friends.
We made the decision to give back to the organizations that have helped us throughout this journey.
LungLeavin’ Day has grown to include more than 75 family members and friends. In addition, we made the decision to give back to the organizations that have helped us throughout this journey: The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization. LungLeavin’ Day is a celebration for everybody who wants to overcome their fears. Even the children participate by writing their fears on paper plates and throwing them into the fire pit. Lily looks forward to this event every year.
I hope that you will take the time today to acknowledge all the simple blessings life has to offer. This year, we wanted to expand LungLeavin’ day to include even more people. We created an interactive webpage where everyone can virtually smash their fears! We hope you’ll join in on the fun!