My younger son, Shane, was nicknamed “Baby Haga” by his cycling teammates—not because he’s my “baby,” but because he’s Chad’s baby brother. They were both on the same elite Austin-based Super Squadra team. The nickname stuck. So here’s Baby Haga’s blog in honor of Mother’s Day 2014, that still brings me to tears.
Back in 2012, Chad wrote a blog to honor my birthday and Mother’s Day. I thought today would be an appropriate day to share what wonderful boys I have. (Shane’s blog dedicated to me will be next.) For those who get to spend Mother’s Day with your children, count yourselves lucky. I have still not been able to spend Mother’s Day with Chad since he originally wrote this blog. This year, Chad is “across the big pond” in Italy—racing the Giro d’Italia (Italy’s version of the Tour de France for those who are non-cycling fans.)
I attended an educational seminar today sponsored by MD Anderson at the Ritz-Carlton in Dallas. I had an opportunity to chat briefly with Dr. John Heymach, the oncologist to whom I give credit in my book (His Love Carries Me) for saving Chris’ life in 2010. Dr. Heymach not only changed Chris’ treatment plan from chemo to radiation when he had postobstructive pneumonia, he recognized that Chris fit the profile for having a rare ALK+ gene mutation and sent his lung biopsy tissue to be tested. The results came back positive, and MD Anderson’s clinical trial for ALK+ helped Chris achieve “no evidence of disease” within 12 weeks of starting the trial. Chris never had the opportunity to get his photo taken with Dr. Heymach, so I grabbed the chance when I got it!
In February 2016, Chris and I had the privilege of meeting Danielle James and her husband at a LUNGevity Hope Summit in the Dallas area. Danielle benefited from the drug crizotinib that Chris was in the clinical trial for when it was FDA approved for lung cancer. They shared the same rare gene mutation. She is such an inspiration with what she is doing with her life, I just had to share. This is Danielle’s story (shared with her permission):
My Bible fellowship group recently started sharing stories of our spiritual growth from our early childhood to the present, and something that seemed somewhat insignificant when I was in college now has significance.
. . . DeLayne Haga for His Love Carries Me. Yes, I won the “Henri Award” at the 2018 Christian Literary Awards gala! This is Joy & Company’s “most prestigious award among faith-based writers.” The book won in the “Non-Fiction” category against some strong competition. It was a night to remember with photos on the red carpet and an interview by radio personality/author Donna Patrick.
We had just found out the previous day at MD Anderson Cancer Center (in August 2010) that Chris was considered to have inoperable stage IV lung cancer, which had metastasized to the brain. As reality settled in the next day, I was an emotional wreck, no longer numb from the initial shock of the previous day’s news. But cancer wouldn’t wait for me to gain control of my emotions. It would continue to threaten my husband’s life at a rapid pace. I couldn’t let fear paralyze me. I needed to take action to learn how to best treat it and enhance my husband’s quality of life. I had a job to do as his caregiver, and I planned to give it my best shot. Being part of the team to save his life began with learning as much as I could about what we were facing.
This is a continuation of the previous blog. I hope you will be blessed by watching these videos.
Today’s blog is because of a woman I’ve never met who bought Cancer on Two Wheels and posted a sweet review on Amazon. She has inactive cancer, and a well-meaning friend asked her if it was depressing to read a book about someone who lost his battle against cancer.
Here is part of what she wrote:
These are the websites I found helpful. I do not vouch for their accuracy or endorse products, procedures, services, or medical advice given through these links. Do not substitute my opinion or those found on these websites for those of your personal physician.
Have you ever been puzzled by the “Big Pharma conspiracy theory?” I’ve lost count of the numerous times I heard accusations on social media that there’s a conspiracy between doctors and Big Pharma to hide the cure they’ve found for cancer so they can continue to rake in money through treatments and medications. I find that hard to believe. Doctors and biopharmaceutical employees and their families get cancer and use the same treatments they recommend to the public. If a cure existed yet, they would be using it themselves. But they die from the disease just like anyone else.
I’d like to fill you in on what my husband and I experienced firsthand and put the conspiracy theory to rest.
Although there’s never a good time to have cancer, this is an exciting era with scientific breakthroughs becoming increasingly common that extend the quality of life for survivors. I have hope that a cure for the disease will be found in the near future. Researchers continue to make great strides in understanding the biology behind cancer and developing new ways to deal with it. Treatments that didn’t exist just a few years prior to my husband’s diagnosis saved his life. He achieved “no evidence of disease” three times, and he lived six years instead of just six months.
Our friend Cindy passed away from lung cancer at age 39, and we attended her funeral in Houston on November 1. That day was difficult for both of us. With Cindy’s passing, four of the lung cancer patients we had become friends with and mentors to had died. They didn’t live as long with the diagnosis as Chris had. He had a little bit of survivor’s guilt because he was diagnosed first.
“Why am I still here and they’re not?” he asked.
Cindy’s death strengthened his determination to be a voice for people who can no longer speak for themselves here on earth. He wanted to raise awareness of this despicable disease and get it the attention it deserves.
The media has done a fantastic job of teaching our society that smoking can cause cancer. Now another harmful influence is causing deaths from lung cancer in those who have never smoked due to delayed diagnosis—stigma. People, including many doctors, still think that only smokers get the disease.
Be honest. When you hear that someone was diagnosed with lung cancer, is your first thought, “I’ll bet they smoked”? You would be amazed to know the number of times Chris was immediately asked, “Did you ever smoke?” His answer: “Never.”
10% to 15% of new lung cancer cases are among never-smokers.
60% to 65% of all new lung cancer diagnoses are among people who have never smoked or are former smokers.
If you have lungs, you can get lung cancer. Early detection is the key to surviving this horrible disease. My late husband was misdiagnosed for three months because his doctors never suspected lung cancer since he had never smoked. By the time he was diagnosed, it was Stage IV and had metastasized to his brain.
Symptoms of Lung Cancer
The signs and symptoms of lung cancer can take years to develop, and they may not appear until the disease is advanced. Some symptoms of lung cancer are in the chest:
Chris always wanted to raise awareness of lung cancer and get it the attention this despicable disease deserves, especially during November—Lung Cancer Awareness Month. He was upset that breast cancer—not lung cancer—was still getting all the media attention, with pink everywhere.
Back in 2012, he made the following tongue-in-cheek announcement on CaringBridge:
Seeing Chris so weak during radiation was scary. Formerly robust and full of vitality, he became skin and bones, sleeping a lot, and looking like “death warmed over.” I struggled to keep a strong front, holding a tsunami of emotions in. Occasionally, billowy waves crashed over me, destroying my façade.
Many mornings I’d have a smile on my face as I kissed Chris good-bye before I went to work. But as soon as I got in my car, tears started flowing, and I cried all the way to the office. My client and his wife, Jay and Lou Ann, were so compassionate. Having worked with them for eleven years in their home-based office, we’d become close friends. Seeing me walk in the door with a shiny red nose and bloodshot eyes, they knew I was having a rough morning and let me cry on their shoulders while they comforted me.
Six months after Chris was diagnosed and he had experienced setback after setback, we could have easily started feeling sorry for ourselves. But we had a reality check that I documented in my journal:
Wednesday, we were riding the shuttle van back to the hotel from MD Anderson. We stopped at a children’s hospital to pick up a mother and her nine-year-old son. She struggled to lift him into the front seat. He apparently had brain cancer, as he was bald and lacked motor skills and had tremors. The mother was cheerful, as was the boy. He sang with the radio on the way to the hotel (or at least attempted to sing). We were all laughing because he was so happy, and it was so touching.
Years ago, after listening to Dave Ramsey say that cancer insurance is a gimmick and isn’t needed if you have good health insurance, I agreed. But then my sister-in-law developed cancer and had previously purchased cancer insurance after her mother and sisters were diagnosed with cancer. It really helped them with extra expenses not covered by regular health insurance. I was finally able to talk my husband into allowing us to purchase cancer insurance in 2006 after his father died of cancer and his sister had been diagnosed with breast cancer. It was one of the wisest decisions we made.
You don’t truly understand the financial impact of cancer until it strikes your own home.
I had an opportunity to share about God’s faithfulness during an interview about Cancer on Two Wheels and His Love Carries Me on “The Review with Joy and Company” on live radio. It may not have been a loud roar like a lion, but it’s the loudest my lamb’s voice can do without becoming hoarse.
Although I was panicking and filled with anxiety the weekend before the interview, Joy, Rose, and Rosemary put me at ease, and it was an enjoyable experience. With each speaking engagement, I am becoming more confident as I share our story in speaking engagements. Here is the link to the interview on Facebook Live.