Shatter Your Fears
They say laughter is the best medicine. It is a characteristic that helped get my husband, Cameron, and me through the most difficult time of our lives. I was diagnosed with malignant pleural mesothelioma on November 22, 2005 at 1:30 pm. Without treatment I would only have another 15 months to live. This was not an option as I had just given birth to my only child, Lily. Therefore, I underwent a risky but promising surgery known as an extrapleural pneumonectomy, which required the removal of my left lung, half my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.
Despite this trying situation, I was able to shed some light on a seemingly dark situation. My surgery was to take place on February 2. When I found out this news, I began to call my tumor Punxsutawney Phil after the famous groundhog. I joked that if my tumor saw its shadow during removal, I would have another 6 weeks of recovery. This joking seemed to take the seriousness out of this trying situation. Soon, even my sister joined in on the fun by deciding to name this life-changing day. We began this day I lost my lung, LungLeavin’ Day.
My sister and Cameron eventually began to think how we should celebrate LungLeavin’ Day. My sister came up with the idea that reflected her experience with firewalking. She suggested we should write our fears on an object that was to be destroyed in fire. Since this idea seemed a bit daunting, Cameron decided that we were to use plates instead that were to be smashed into a fire.
On the anniversary of my surgery, Cameron purchased two plates and a Sharpie. That night, we wrote our fears on these plates, went out into the cold night, and smashed them into the fire he had built. It felt great! Since we found this to be extremely cathartic, we decided to extend this event to include family and friends.
LungLeavin’ Day has now grown to include over 75 friends and family members. Cameron and I felt the need to give back and began to use LungLeavin’ Day to help raise money for mesothelioma. All money is donated organizations that played a pivotal role in my recovery: 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 isn’t just a day for cancer survivors- everyone has fears. Even the children partake in the event by writing their fears on paper plates that are burned in the fire. Lily looks forward to this event every year.
This year we decided to try and broaden the reach of LungLeavin’ Day. In addition to the live webcast on my Facebook page, we created a webpage where you can virtually smash your fears. We hope you’ll participate!