The Day I Read Community Voices

Great, I thought. Just six months earlier I had reached the most significant lung cancer milestone; five years had passed without metastases or recurrence since my diagnosis.

Next, as a comparatively new member of the CURE blogging team, I wanted to see which blog or blogs would appear in the first print issue I read. On page 26, I found Suzanne Remington’s story, “WHAT A COINCIDENCE: The Day I found Out I Had Cancer,” and I could completely relate to what she wrote.

Furthermore, I was especially touched by how she described the individual who contacted her, inviting her to participate in the ALK Positive non-small cell lung cancer patients group. Suzanne had initially been reluctant to join the group, not wanting to get too involved in the new cancer world. I re-read her writing, and saw so much of my cancer journey — even from more than one perspective — in her blog, her journey.

Diagnosed with Stage 3B non-small cell Lung Cancer in the spring of 2018, between then and the end of 2019, my treatment regimen included two lung surgeries, four months of Cisplatin chemotherapy, 25 consecutive days of radiation therapy and once monthly Durvalunab immunotherapy.

Led by John, an oral cancer survivor for many years, St. Peregrine’s Club is a cancer support group at my church. During my chemo treatment I attended it once. Like Suzanne, mostly I clung to the familiar, “the before.” I struggled with accepting the severity of my illness.

But John remained in my life, while maintaining his distance. He mailed me inspirational messages and spiritual devotions. He sent me cute and funny emails and even gave my name and number to an organization which gives gift baskets to cancer patients and before long a kind, friendly woman arrived at my front door, bringing me a basket and a beautifully knitted quilt.

On January 2, 2020, I was designated, “in remission” and in early fall 2021 with COVID, for the most part, under control, I decided to join St. Peregrine’s. That Sunday afternoon I imagined myself as a mentor of sorts to more recently diagnosed cancer patients, but I was disappointed upon arriving at the monthly meeting to find only three folks in attendance including John and me.

I was able to make another connection to a local non-profit providing help to cancer patients which resulted in a short list of names for me to use to recruit additional folks on their cancer journeys to St. Peregrine’s.

Debbie’s name was on the list.I called her in late September 2021 and she was at our next meeting in October. She and I became friends, the group has grown and she and I have come to realize that all of our group members share, ask questions, answer question, encourage and inspire. We all give; we all received. Although lung was my third cancer, I still found myself seeking the confidence and courage I was seeing in others, especially my then, good friend, Debbie. I wasn’t until I finished my second pass through of Suzanne’s blog that a big smile came across my face. In the Community Voices blog, Suzanne wondered, “I am not sure why this very busy angel thought it was a good idea to reach out to me.” Could it have been a coincidence that the president of ALK contacted Suzanne when she did – or was it divine intervention?

I remembered how many times I had heard Debbie tell someone that we met when I invited her to the cancer support group. The group had, by then become very important in both our lives. Might Debbie have thought of me as a very busy angel. Once I realized that very real possibility, my mind went one step further. Was John an angel to me, even more so, in his incredible patience, waiting for me to open up and become a part of the cancer world, almost three years after we had first met?

Presumably Suzanne’s ALK Positive Patients group is quite different from St. Peregrine’s, however just spending time with our peers, our comrades in our individual battles with this often, life-threatening disease is highly valuable. I certainly regret that I didn’t get involved sooner with others on similar cancer journeys to my own.

Interestingly, at St. Peregrine’s group, we’ve discussed the term “coincidence.” The prevailing thinking is that there’s no such thing as chance occurrences…someone must be pulling strings to allow for our happy coincidences. Special angels, exist in our lives and they are most appreciated in life when we need them most.

I do find it a coincidence, though, that Suzanne Remington and I share a name, I’m also a Suzanne. Or maybe not?

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