Cancer used to be a scary thing. With little research, limited treatments and next to no hope for remission of later-stage cancers, doctors who spoke the word cancer were viewed as the grim reaper visiting early to let you know he was coming and there’s not a thing you could do about it.

We didn’t understand it, and the not knowing what, why and how made it more mysterious and frightening.

With the abundance of research now, and most of it available at our fingertips, cancer has become more understood than ever. We can read about what causes it, how we can avoid it, and the new treatments that researchers are discovering every year.

When my 78-year old mother was diagnosed with Stage 3 lung cancer, we didn’t know enough to be worried. I was with her when the doctor came into the room, gave us a serious look over the rim of his bifocals, told us the news and then sat back. I think he expected shock, tears or something. But I hadn’t done my google searching on: “what if it’s lung cancer?”, so my mother looked at me, and not seeing me panic, she figured it couldn’t be that bad.

We just looked expectantly at the lung specialist and asked, “What do we do now?”.



My mother smoked for over 50 years. My four sisters and I had tried to get her to quit dozens of times, and she had quit briefly a couple of times.

But after her heart problems, and having 2 stents put in, her body just couldn’t take the abuse any longer, and that summer she got dizzy and fell over while working in her pantry.

She still can’t explain why she lost her balance, but my sister who lives with her was concerned enough about the bruise and swelling on her foot to insist that she go to the doctor.




The doctor listened, did some x-rays of her chest and head (during which she kept telling him that she hadn’t hurt her head or chest!) and told her he was sending her to a lung specialist because there was a dark spot on her right lung that needed more examining.

I think way too many people ignore symptoms that may or may not be signs of serious health problems. No matter how old or young, no matter whether we exercise and eat healthy foods or binge on fast food way too much, we all have this in common: the belief that it can’t happen to me.


That somehow out of all the people on the planet, I should be immune to everything except the occasional cold. That whatever is wrong, my body will fight it off and I’ll be just fine in a couple of weeks.

Unfortunately, that’s not the way the law of averages works. Or is it Murphy’s Law that comes into play?




Many of the symptoms of cancer are symptoms of other diseases as well. Only a doctor can make an accurate diagnosis. So make an appointment to have a checkup if you have any of the following:

  • continuous or lasting cough or hoarseness
  • persistent change in bowel habits
  • ongoing change in bladder habits
  • persistent pain that appears to have no cause
  • changes in how a mole looks on your skin
  • a sore that won’t heal
  • unexpected bleeding
  • unexplained weight loss
  • a new or changing lump
  • difficulty swallowing

We spent countless hours in chemo and radiation that Fall.   My mom hates needles, but stayed so brave. The lung cancer that she had eventually went into remission, and she has recovered most of her lung capacity (after losing 65%). She will be dependent on her bottled oxygen for the rest of her life, but she thinks of herself as a pretty tough old bird.

I still think that her positive attitude was half the battle.

Cancer Can’t Do What it Used To

Do you think positive attitude plays a part in the body’s ability to fight disease? Has it happened to anyone you know? Please leave a comment below–I’d love to hear your thoughts!