Still Savoring Life After Stage 4 Lung Cancer

Five years after receiving a 3-month life expectancy, cancer survivor Carole embraces life, aging and all that goes with it

Lung Cancer Patient Carole Berwick after stage 4 diagnosis | cCARE | CA

Now in her 70s, Carole has a few more aches and pains than in the past. However, you won’t hear her complain, as aging gracefully is something she feared she wouldn’t have a chance to do.

In 2015, after receiving an X-ray for a nagging shoulder injury, she was surprisingly diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer and told by two different providers she had only a few months to live. “[The diagnosis] was traumatic and I started planning for my death instead of my life, and then I met Dr. Lamon,” says Carole.

Now, five years after her original diagnosis, cCARE’s Dr. Joel Lamon has helped Carole not only escape what she was told was her fate by other doctors, but managed to find a newfound purpose in life. Carole now wants to help and encourage others with cancer not to give up on life.

“Dr. Lamon said the one thing I don’t want you to become is a patient. He said you can live your life as you did before with joys, aspirations, and goals or you can live your life as a patient. I chose not to live as a patient,” explains Carole.

“When once I had many, many fears, I now find myself often at peace and without fear.” – Carole

As a licensed therapist and also the caregiver of her husband of 58 years (who has multiple sclerosis), Carole’s living a full and productive life while working to spread a message of hope to others.

Learning not to go it alone and having the right cancer support system

Since her original lung cancer diagnosis and ongoing treatment using targeted therapy, Carole’s tumors have basically remained the same size. She attributes much of this success to the wisdom of Dr. Lamon, her oncologist, and the continued care she has received at cCARE for the past five years.

“I find him exceptionally wise. I also believe it’s very valuable that Dr. Lamon is not only an M.D. but also a Ph.D.,” Carole explains. “He’s not just practicing medicine, he is also constantly involved in cancer research and gathering of information. Dr. Lamon is extremely dedicated and extraordinarily committed to the treatment of cancer.”

When Carole found herself facing an unrelated health issue, she was impressed that Dr. Lamon showed up at the hospital to review her surgery plans. “He is always on it, always present and participating. He will not let you down. He is an amazing doctor and humanitarian and has always been available whenever I needed to get in touch with him.”

In her journey through cancer diagnosis, treatment and survivorship, Carole has learned a few things about herself … and that is, she could not have come so far on her own.

“Having a solid support system (family, friends, professionals) can be the hardest thing to obtain for some people,” she says. “But my family is close, and I have a husband of 58 years who has constantly supported me. I’m very lucky my husband is alive, that I am alive to be with him, and we have a home to share together.”

Facing a future … with lung cancer

“When once I had many fears, I now find myself nearly fearless,” continues Carole. “I have faced the inevitable and no longer find it frightening. I’ve had a wonderful nearly five years I didn’t think I’d have.”

Although there is still no cure for cancer, today’s treatments are proving more effective and affecting survival rates for all cancers, including lung. “In this world we have many brilliant people who are working on cures for cancer, and with the amazing and advanced technologies I think we are going to make it, so don’t give up.

“I didn’t know it in the beginning, but I now have realized I have a future. Your life does not stop with cancer.” explains Carole. “In fact, it can take a turn for everything that is good and positive if you are fortunate.”

Her continued mission to de-stress and cope

Along with a dedicated team of providers, Carole attributes much of her longevity and health to her focus on de-stressing and exercise.

“Seeing my husband unable to use his hands, legs, and feet, I am inspired and grateful that I have the full use of my arms and legs. I’ve come to understand, movement is life itself … that along with my treatment, exercise and movement is keeping me feeling well,” she says.

“As a therapist of 35 years, I have worked with many people who have had illnesses (depression), and if they stop moving their bodies, they get much worse and some pass away,” explains Carole. “You have to keep moving! I know it’s not easy, but you can’t give in.”

While every cancer case is unique, the emotional turmoil is often the same. Carole experienced varying stages of stress along with the varying stages of treatment. “Stress was wearing me down and taking away my ability to face my responsibilities and be productive, not just for myself, but everyone around me,” remembers Carole. “Well-meaning people can say things to try to give you hope, but the real hope comes from within. You have to find that place within you that says, You can do this.”

Though Carole is living her best life, there are still days when even she needs a good reminder to not sweat the small stuff. “Dr. Lamon has been responsible for me not worrying myself to death. He doesn’t allow me to do that and will call me on it if I begin to worry excessively. I’m so thankful he’s my doctor.”

As for the future, she’s ever mindful that each day is one she didn’t know she’d have, aches, pains, joys and all.

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