Lung cancer survivor, Caroline Bernardi, recently published her survival story “Faith, Trust, Gratitude, and Cancer”. The foreword is by her Oncologist, Professor Michael Boyer.
For more information, you can visit Caroline’s facebook page – https://m.facebook.com/Faith-Trust-Gratitude-by-Caroline-Bernardi-1043947135647418/
Here’s is a summary of her extraordinary survivor story.
In June of 2008 I was sitting in my car waiting to collect my two daughters aged 6 and 10 from dance. A terrifying thought came over me: I think I’ve got cancer.
It was unlike me to think such a thing. I only saw my GP once a year for a women’s check-up and a second visit sometimes occurred but very rarely. I immediately began feeling around my mouth and neck which was where the feeling sat.
The feeling never left me and it quickly began to completely overwhelm me. I gathered the courage to tell my husband about this “silly” thought and both of us knew I had to go to the doctor and she, in turn, would put my mind at rest. With no physical symptoms other than knowing, I made an appointment. My GP listened intently, examined me and assured me I was fine.
Eventually she sent me to a psychologist whom I visited every Monday for four months. Her job was to convince me I didn’t have cancer and to find out where this thought had manifested. It didn’t work. Over the course of six months, I visited 3 different doctors, all assured me I was fine. I trusted them, they were the doctors and I wasn’t and I still had no symptoms.
My obsessive exploring of my neck resulted in me finding a lymph node. At my demand, this led to a CT scan and biopsy and on December 10, 2008, I was diagnosed with lung cancer. A PET scan a few days later reported that I had “at least” stage 3B inoperable non-small cell lung cancer. I had 3 tumours in my right lung, 2 in my left, bulky disease on the right side of my neck. Cancer was present in the lymph nodes on the left side of my neck, across my shoulders and down through my bronchus. Not that it makes a difference, but I was a non-smoker.
My life fell apart. I cried for my children and my husband. I cried because I didn’t want to leave them without a mother and a wife. I was always confident, together, logical and capable and that all went out the window when I was told I had cancer.
It is not lost on me as to how supported I was by my husband, family and our community of neighbours and friends. We immediately knew we weren’t alone in this.
I was referred to an oncologist who when I asked would I see my children grow up, replied “you will see them grow more than most would with the time you have left”. I knew I needed to find a new oncologist. My prognosis was grim however I wanted my doctor to believe I at least had a chance so we immediately found a new oncologist who was a lung cancer specialist at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in Sydney.
Whilst I was having chemotherapy I slowly put my jigsaw puzzle together. I researched and then embraced everything that I wanted to do which I thought would help me cope with my day to day life and maybe even help me get well. I began to meditate every day, walked vigorously, ate better than ever, had acupuncture and did numerous other things; these were not things other people told me to do, they were things that I felt were right for me.
After three rounds of chemotherapy I was to have a CT scan. I was fitter, healthier than ever (other than cancer) and my head was often in a place of quiet and calm thanks to my daily meditation.
I knew the news wasn’t going to be good because by now I could feel and see two tumours at the right of my neck. Fortunately, chemotherapy is the answer for many, however it wasn’t for me.
My Oncologist told me that the scan wasn’t good.
However, he had a clinical trial drug that I could take. I began taking the trial drug in 2nd March 2009. I had a CT scan on April 27th 2009 which showed no sign of cancer.
The clinical trial finished and further studies are not to been done. I am still on the trial drug (for compassionate reasons) and remain cancer free. Out of the 2000 or so people who were on it (the trial drug), as far as my Oncologist knows, two of us around the world are still on it. Extraordinary!
I continue to have 6 monthly CT scans and regular visits with my specialist as follow up care.
Since then, I do volunteering in two hospitals conducting meditations with cancer patients as well as doing meditations outside of the hospitals at a studio or at home. I also speak at events to raise awareness of cancer. I still continue with my jigsaw puzzle on a daily basis and give grace every day for my life and what I have been through.
- I have learnt so much over the last eight years and I would like to share just a few…
- I trusted my instinct and it served me well – it still does.
- Find the best medical care possible. Quite often the easiest or closest options aren’t necessarily the best.
- Do what is right for you. Cancer isn’t a time to worry about hurting people’s feelings – it’s a time for honesty of self.
Faith Trust Gratitude