Ashley Stringer of Edmond, OK, was shocked to learn in 2017 that she had lung cancer. The mom of two, who was 34 years old at the time, exercised regularly, tried to eat healthy foods, and had never smoked. “How can this be happening to me?” she remembers thinking. “‘Am I going to die? Will I get to raise my children? What will they miss out on?’ There was a lot of fear and anxiety.”
At first, everything felt overwhelming to Stringer: the tests she needed, waiting to find out if and how much her cancer had spread, learning about treatments, and going through surgery.
“There was a lot of sadness. I kept thinking, ‘Why do I have to go through this journey?’” Stringer says. “And I felt anger, because it didn’t seem fair.”
A serious condition like lung cancer can trigger a wide range of emotions such as grief, anger, and feeling helpless. Everyone is different, so there’s no “normal” way to feel. But no matter where you are in your journey, these strategies can help you handle the emotions.
Share the News in Your Own Way
Decide which people you want to know about your diagnosis, and then share the details you’re comfortable with, suggests Katie Brown, vice president of support and survivorship programs at the LUNGevity Foundation, which offers research, education, and support for people with lung cancer.
“Many people don’t realize that anyone with lungs can get lung cancer, so be prepared for questions,” she says.
If you feel overwhelmed, ask a loved one to help you share the news or answer other people’s questions for you.
Find People You Can Open Up To
When Stringer needs to be honest about how she’s feeling, she turns to her husband or one of a few close friends. “They might not get it, since they’re not in my shoes, but they’re willing to listen and hear what I’m saying,” she says. “If you can, find a person who’ll really let you cry and share your concerns but who won’t try to solve the problem. They can’t take the cancer away.”
Join a Support Group
“In-person, online, or virtual patient groups can help you connect with others who are going through the same lung cancer experiences,” Brown says. Some groups also offer access to information, experts, and free support services.
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