I was diagnosed with stage III lung cancer on December 21, 2016. The cancer developed in my left lung and spread to my mediastinum. I received six weeks of radiation every day, Monday to Friday. I finished treatment in March and did another PET scan. The tumor is still there, but it will shrink. I have some side effects like shortness of breath and I’m tired. While I’m waiting to be re-evaluated by my doctors in August, I got back to my job as a volunteer at Sharp Grossmont Hospital where I’m being treated.
One day during a church service several years ago, my pastor posed a question to the congregation: What gifts do you have that you’re not using that can help others? For me, the answer was something simple: time. After speaking with a volunteer at Sharp Grossmont Hospital, I went to visit the hospital to find out how I could help. Three years ago, I began volunteering with the “Blue Angels” shuttle, a service that provides rides to people around the hospital’s campus, and would also shape my experience with treatment.
As soon as I was able, I returned to my Wednesday shift greeting and driving patients and visitors. Being the first person they see when they arrive at the hospital, and greeting them with a smile, is the best part of the job. Every day I meet new people, each with their own story. Some are going in for surgery and worried about the outcome or don’t have family or friends with them. I try to lend support where I am able and share my experience with them to make their visit less stressful. No matter what I am going through, when I come to the hospital to share my time and connect with others, I leave with a sense of peace. It helps take away concern about my treatment and forget what I’m going through.
The last place I ever dreamt I would be is a cancer center. It was an eye opener to how fragile life can be and even how good cancer can be if you treat it right. When I finished my first round of treatment and came back to work, I was able to share my own experience of being treated for cancer with my passengers. I don’t look sick. I’ve had a very healthy life up to this point. When I won ASTRO’s Survivor Circle award, an award for cancer survivors who give back to their community, I felt that the real winners were the staff at Sharp Grossmont. My doctors and radiation team made the process… well, not enjoyable, but more enjoyable than it would have been otherwise. Every day, they make you feel comfortable. It takes special people to do that. I want to encourage anyone who is able to find a way to use your gifts to give back. There’s such a joy that comes from helping other people. Giving back and making an impact on others has a funny way of making an even greater impact on you.