The "Let's Talk About Lung Cancer" social media page was something I never thought I would be making. These are the messages I never thought I would be making. It's funny how the universe gives us what we need right when we need it.
Before my father was ill, I knew very little about Lung Cancer. Admittedly I was very ignorant and uneducated on the subject. I believed some of the stigmas surrounding it. I just didn't know all of the things I do now because no one is talking about it. And after my dad lost his battle to Small Cell Lung Cancer, I was left feeling hopeless and without any purpose in my life.
It will be three years this coming summer that I started the Let's talk about Lung Cancer pages. I created them in hopes of reaching people. I wanted to share my dad's story and help educate those like me who knew little to nothing about Lung Cancer. I wanted share resources and support groups. I wanted to be the voice my father didn't have. Our family didn't.
Last night I had the thoughts of defeat. And I was wasting my time. That my message wasn't getting out there. I debated deleting the pages.
Then this morning I got this beautiful and terrible sadly message from a woman who recently lost her own father to Small Cell Lung Cancer. She found me through my pages and sharing my dads story. My words helped her get through her journey and are giving her hope for the future.
I don't think I have cried this hard in a long time.
The universe gives us signs. We just have to look for them. My purpose in life is to continue fighting this battle with you all. My Lung Cancer family here on the internet and in my in person support groups. You guys are my people. You are my tribe. Sometimes the best people in the world get lost along the way. I am here to THANK YOU for all of your continued support by talking about Lung Cancer. Spreading that awareness, and getting the word out there.
I won't ever give up. This is my life's purpose. Thank you all for everything you do.
Now that everyone has put their pink shirts away, let's remember that Lung Cancer kills more women daily than Breast and Ovarian cancer combined.
An average of 193 women die each day of lung cancer, one every 7 minutes.
Yes, you read that right....
Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death among women. It is also the leading cause of cancer death in men.
In 2018, an estimated 70,500 women will die of lung cancer, 25% of all cancer deaths in women. Of the men and women with lung cancer, 17.9% are never-smokers.
Lung cancer in male and female never-smokers is the sixth leading cause of all cancer deaths.
Approximately two-thirds of never-smokers diagnosed with lung cancer are women. Of never-smokers, women are twice as likely as men to get lung cancer.
Recent studies indicate that the rate of never-smoking lung cancer is increasing.
The five-year survival rate for women with lung cancer remains low at 21%.
Despite a higher number of annual deaths, lung cancer receives only $1,831 per death in research funding from the National Institutes of Health, the least funded of the major cancers affecting women.
As a photographer, and self proclaimed artist (smile) my biggest coping mechanism has been taking pictures. Even as a child, I would stock up on disposable cameras and drive my grandparents crazy to get them developed for me.
I documented everything about my father's cancer journey in pictures. From the day of the diagnosis, to the emergency hospital stays, the treatment, the rehabilitation, the home hospice, and his death.
It's hard for me not to be emotional seeing these pictures. So many different thoughts and feelings that I experianced these last days. His last month of life.
My dad had gotten a cold that winter and it just would not go away. He was stubborn and would not let my sister or myself know just how bad he felt.
For a while his cold symptoms had even seemed to clear up. But by early spring he had developed a terrible cough again. A lump in his lymph nodes on his neck had began to form. He believed they were just swollen because of his cold, so he did not say anything to us.
My father was never the type of person to see a doctor. I was never fully sure if it was fear, or trying to avoid the financial burdens of medical care. He was always like this. As long as I can remember. Stubborn single father who always tried to put everyone's needs above his own.
When he finally let us know what was going on, his lump was as big as my fist. I was terrified, but I tried so very hard not to let it show as I knew it was my turn to be strong for my father.
We went to the ER and left with a recommendation for a cancer specialist. I remember before the official diagnosis feeling so hopeful. I had done a lot of reading online, and originally doctors believed he had hodgkin's lymphoma. A very scary cancer indeed, but it had really good survival statistics. We were ready to fight.
When my father went in for the biopsy he had a lot of trouble breathing and was admitted to the hospital. We waited a week for the results of that test. Rapid test showed he indeed had cancer, and doctors began to discuss chemotherapy with us. But we had to wait for the official diagnosis with the cancer type.
I was still very hopeful. I got to know his oncologist very well over this week. His nurse too. I was bugging them every day to see if they had results as the hospital we were in seemed to know nothing.
This week seemed to last a year. The wait. It was terrible.
I remember getting the call. The call. The life altering call. I was sitting in my friends car outside the hospital. I had been doing over night stays with my dad and was getting ready to go home, eat and shower. For whatever reason, the phone did not ring and went straight to voice mail. I played it on speaker. Right away I knew by my father's oncologist's tone that things were really bad. I had never heard sadness in a doctor's voice before. And he said he was sorry. So so sorry.
Up until this moment we never heard the words Lung Cancer. And I never in my life had heard of Extensive Staged Small Cell Lung Cancer. I knew nothing.
I later learned the 5-year relative survival rate for stage III SCLC is about 8%. SCLC that has spread to other parts of the body is often hard to treat. Stage IV SCLC has a relative 5-year survival rate of about 2%. My father discovered his in stage 4. Some doctors classify anything that has spread past the lungs as "Extensive Stage Small Cell Lung Cancer". It's a terminal cancer with very little treatment options.
I hid in the tiny bathroom of my dad's hospital room, I sat on the floor and I cried. I punched the sink. I felt like I was going to throw up. But I got up, looked in the mirror and said "get it together, Lopez... get it together, Taylor." Wiped my tears away, and went back to sit with my dad.
We agreed to do Chemotherapy to shrink the tumors to help with breathing and extend quality of life. We learned that this would not be a cure, and that they could not even properly give him a true estimate of time. Just that if we didn't do the chemotherapy, it would be very soon.
After chemotherapy, my father almost seemed to be getting better. His growths did decrease in size. And we were all feeling hopeful. We were told perhaps a hospice would be a great option for us. I don't think anybody was ready to hear that.
We were moved to a recovery room on the top floor. It was bigger, private and had a view.
The chemotherapy caused huge painful blisters all over my father's legs. A rare side effect. Something we were not ready for and would continue to worsen and grow until the end.
We were warned about his chances of pneumonia and infection. But were told to remain positive.
He went from the hospital into a rehabilitation center for a while to learn to use a walker and adjust to his new life. Things seemed great at first, but then my dad started to feel really sick.
That's when the ground was ripped from beneath our feet. Our worst fears had came true and my dad had developed pneumonia.
He was tired. He didn't want to fight anymore and asked me to call a hospice so he could come home. He hadn't been home for nearly a month. I think that in part made him want to stop fighting faster. He just wanted to come home. And decided against more hospital stays to treat the pneumonia.
He lived exactly one week from the time he came home from the rehabilitation center.
I have a long post about the spiritual experiences I had during the last week of my dad's life, and I will link it here: (Saying Goodbye To My Father; A Lesson In Faith) https://www.sugarygiggles.com/blog/saying-goodbye-to-my-father-a-lesson-in-faith
We had an amazing hospice team that I will forever be thankful for. I am not sure I could have done it without their amazing help and resources.
My father died at home surrounded by people he loved. I wish that we had more time, and that things would have went differently. I remember at one point in the hospital him telling me not to worry, because he was not ready to go yet either.
Not a day goes by that I don't miss him and that I don't think about him. Grief is truly a journey that we will go on forever.
I shared a lot of these images before in a collection, but I did not offer any real context to them. I simply said "my father's cancer journey in pictures". That's it. I really can't believe it has taken me 2 years to make this post. To clarify what all these images mean.
The endless medications, the breathing machines, the hospital stays... all of it. Even now, I feel like I have not put enough weight into my words and that I could do better.
I am posting this to let others going through similar know that they are not alone. That their feelings and emotions are valid. I don't think anybody can fully understand what it is like to have someone you love diagnosed with a terminal disease. Knowing that they are going to die.
We all need to be kinder and gentler to each other. We only get one life. And your time on this Earth is precious.
*Disclaimer; I was not paid or given any free products to express these opinions.
The very first time Doterra was mentioned to me and how I needed to try it was when my father was diagnosed with Lung Cancer. Now I had already been using Essential oils... but this was supposed to be THE brand to go to.
My father was dying and I was desperate to try anything to give him some peace and relief. My bill with them was over $200 for 3 oils. Yes, you read that correctly. Full disclosure, I do not mind paying more for quality. I buy organic vegetables and locally grown from my farmer's market. So I was willing to pay for quality. But even more so...to dig into the way I was thinking at this time. I wasn't in my right mind when my dad passed. I did not have time to do price checking. My only concern was if these oils were real and could get here fast as I could not travel to the place where I normally went. I needed mail order.
They arrived a little later than what the website said. But still a fair amount of time. I take no issues with this.
After my father passed, which had absolutely no relations to the oils. He had end stage lung cancer, oils were for comfort... I started to do a little research on Doterra and their oils.
And again, let me stress... the oils were good quality. But I noticed right away that they were not much different, if any than the oils I already had in my home. So I got to thinking... why were these 2x and in some cases 3x the money?
Their website says: "certified pure therapeutic grade"
That sounds amazing, right? But what does it mean exactly?
"Therapeutic Grade Essential Oils is a Potentially Misleading Claim. No governmental agency or generally accepted organization "grades" or "certifies" essential oils as "therapeutic grade," "medicinal grade," or "aromatherapy grade" in the U.S." (aromaweb)
And the more I researched I found that not only is it basically a meaningless term. Doterra made it up. This next part is from their own website;
"Without an accepted standard for essential oil quality, doTERRA created its own testing process, calling it CPTG Certified Pure Therapeutic Grade®."
I started to feel a bit stupid. I wished I had reached out to other people in the cancer community before spending all that money. But the cancer industry, much like Doterra knows when people are desperate for health and a long life for ourselves or a loved one... well we would do just about anything.
Then I got really curious about their marketing techniques and the way they ran their company. Full disclosure, I despise MLM companies. I think they sell people pipe dreams, encourage bad Karma, and make you sell to your friends and family to be successful. What a nightmare.
The lady I bought mine from was a casual friend on Facebook. She tried to push me to join, and it kinda irritated me at the time because I kept having to reiterate to her that my father is dying. I am in charge of his hospice care. I have no time to join your team.
I also found it odd that she, and other sellers on Facebook insist you give them your email address so that they can further discuss the benefits and uses of these oils.
Why was this? Well I later found out Facebook has been laying the ban hammer on MLM company reps. Especially those who make statements not approved by the FDA.
Come to find out the FDA has been up their bums since 2014. And before you jump on the conspiracy theory train.... The FDA isn't anti Essential Oils. Neither is the National Cancer Society.
Again, not disputing Essential Oils. I think they are AMAZING! And if you want some science to back it up, check out this study: https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4070586/
My issue is the shady dealings and over priced product of one company. So let's continue....
I still couldn't find anything that justifies the increased cost of these oils that use the same exact ingredients and sources as other companies.
And I wasn't alone. Many people and former reps have came fourth with their stories about the extreme costs of these oils. Many felt guilty for selling these products to people with limited income because they knew that there were cheaper alternatives out there.
(I will link some of those stories below)
One thing I keep hearing over and over is all the good this company is doing for people. How amazing their oils are for people. But if the average person can not afford the oil, what good are they actually doing?
I am a firm believer in this:
So exactly how much more money is Doterra to other companies? Let's break it down.
Doterra Lavender: $28.00 for 0.5oz
Eden's Garden Lavender $10 for 0.5 oz
Plant Therapy Lavender $6.95 for 0.5 oz
How about something as simple as Basil. Here are screenshots from their websites;
These are huge differences. And if you research just these two companies I used as examples (Eden's Garden & Plant Therapy) you will see they have absolutely outstanding reviews.
The big difference? 30% 40% and in most cases over 50% cheaper. Their blends are double and some go for over $100 for 15 ml. Why in the world is that?
I am not here to bash the quality of Doterra. Again, I purchased my own oils from the company in 2016. I was happy with the oil... but I felt I was cheated with the price.
Is Doterra a scam? In my honest opinion, all MLM companies are scammers. And most people will not make the money they are told. In fact, most could earn more getting a part time minimum wage job.
And their oils were not any better than most of the leading brands you can buy on the market. Including those sold in Walmart and other major retailers.
But ultimately this is a decision you have to make for yourself. And YOUR Karma.
Do you honestly feel it is morally right to sell people who may be struggling financially oils at 3x what other companies charge for the same quality oils? Because again, let me stress... the oils were good quality. But I noticed right away that they were not much different, if any than the oils I already had in my home. So why 2x and in some cases 3x the money?
Do you think it's fair to take advantage of people who are already paying HUGE medical bills? People with cancer? People with chronic illnesses?
Do you want to push products on your friends and family to make a little extra income?
People who trust YOU to help them make an important choice.
That is for you to decide. Personally, I can't lie to people just to make a quick buck.
If you found this blog post because you were worried about Doterra and heard some of the things I did... And now you're like crap, then where do I buy my oils?
Here are a few alternatives that I use. I encourage you to do your own research and make the best decisions for you and your family. There are MANY others out there. You could probably even find some small local person who makes their own blends as well.
Other blogs discussing Doterra:
If you can't get out the house to see a therapist, or don't have health insurance. I highly recommend www.betterhelp.com
They have a ton of promo codes for free sessions floating around the internet. I am not sponsored by them, so sadly I don't have a promo code... but if you google around, I am sure you can find them. Their website is full of licensed therapists and you can even shop around until you find the one that works best for you.
Video chat, phone call, text / email. As often as you need. Whatever works best for you and your budget.
I personally use them.
((***edit I recently found out they have discounts for low income families. I am not sure how this works, but worth an inquiry. ))
Struggling a bit financially but still need someone to talk to? https://www.7cups.com also has licensed therapists, but also offers a FREE community with tons of resources and communities + FREE peer to peer chat. So if you're looking to talk to someone dealing with something similar, they are a community of really awesome people.
If you need help right now in this very moment, the national suicide hotline is 1-800-273-8255
Or if you are like me, and talking on the phone with strangers gives you a bit of anxiety...
Text 741741 from anywhere in the USA to text with a trained Crisis Counselor.
I also can suggest some spiritual coaches and peer support groups if needed. Just shoot me a message here or on fb.
I didn't get as many pictures this time as Inbnwould have liked to, but I did get the chance to meet some people from the Chicago chapter of Norml. A couple hundred people stopped by throughout the day and I would say their event was a pretty good sucess!
This event was hosted by Jim Patton and his page is https://www.facebook.com/Chicago-Peace-Fest-107420245952134/
Worth a follow for more Chicago related marijuana information.
We are coming up on the last week in this home. The home you last lived in. The home in which you took your last breath. At first the idea of leaving brought me nothing but happiness... but as the days pass I feel a bit conflicted.
I have this thought in the back of my head that when we die, our souls get traped at that location. Ridiculously silly, I know. And I could see you laughing at me for thinking such a thing. As silly as it is, I think a part of me is going to wonder if you're still at the house on North Pitt. Waiting for us all to come home.
After all, I am the person who stopped burning sage because it chases spirits and I wanted you to stay.
I wish I could talk to you about the choice to leave as a whole. Packing us all up to go to Chicago is overwhelming.
You would have loved to see Poppy-Marie and Justin playing in the snow. It's supposed to be spring, but it doesn't feel like it. Not at all.
I am still struggling through therapy. I say struggle because constantly having to explain how I feel is tiring. I get that it's helpful, but some days I just want to crawl under a rock.
Till next time. Love you. Miss you.
Last years event turned out so amazing. We got to meet some really great people. This year I will not only be walking in the Philly event come this October, but also the Chicago event in Aug!!
Join us as we walk together to raise awareness and funds to defeat lung cancer and raise our voices for lung health. LUNG FORCE Walks are a time to laugh, learn and imagine a world free of lung disease. Our walks promote fitness and help forge lasting connections between participants.
Your support saves lives by funding key lung cancer research and providing people who are impacted by lung cancer with invaluable resources, assistance and information. Get involved today by forming a team, registering as an individual or participating virtually.
Why Do We Walk?
Join us for the LUNG FORCE Walk - Chicago on Sunday, August 12, 2018 at 10:00 AM .
1410 Museum Campus Dr.
Chicago, IL 60605
I will post more information about the October event as it becomes available.
I continue to struggle with not having you in my life anymore. We're coming up on two years since you've been gone, but lately it feels like day too...not year two. I worry that I am not getting better. Sometimes I fear that I will never get better.
I find myself angry a lot. At myself, at the world. At everyone who can get up in the morning and live their lives. I am so livid that nothing feels the same. Like the colors around me. The greens in the grass, the golden oranges in pinks in a sunset. They don't look the same to me. They look off... like when I didn't set my apature properly. Like I am looking at a world with not enough light.
I am haunted by the things that were not said. Before you died.. the morning you passed you told Robbie there was still so much you wanted to tell me and it kills me that I will never know.
I am not the most loving person in the way of hugs or physical touch. And I wish, as an adult I would have hugged you more. I wish I could have given you more actions than words. And you know what I think about? Holding your hand as you passed and the last time I did that before that day. I think I was 12 or 13... you grabbed my hand to cross the street and I remember thinking oh god what if someone from school sees me. I feel guilty now for thinking that.
I am a mess of guilt and burdens that I know are not exactly mine to bare but it doesn't stop me from feeling them all. Knowing things were not my fault doesn't help me sleep at night.
We are soon entering the 3rd month of 2018. Tavo and I are faced with a life changing decision and I have no idea what to do. We are so very lost and I desperately need your wisdom. I feel like you are the only one who could have lead us in the right direction. Honestly, dad? My life has been a string of choices that haven't always been in my best interest since you passed. I find it so hard to even think about the direction my life should go as to me... my whole entire world has stopped moving.
I guess... here is some good news. I have reached back into therapy. That is where this letter is coming from. I am trying to deal with my PTSD in a constructive way. This letter. I know you will never ever read it, but maybe some day someone will come across it. Maybe it will help them.
I love and miss you. I hope there is more for you. I hope in some way you are still you and you are happy. I love you very much and I think about you every day. I know if I could be half the person you were my kids will be ok.
I will continue to write to you. And I hope that some day these letters won't be so sad.
A family tradition almost lost.... in 2015, Tavo and I talked about doing new traditions for our little family. We both loved the idea of elf on the shelf, so decided it would be a new Lopez family tradition. That following spring my father fell ill, and that summer he passed away. So that following Christmas, 2016 we did not unbox our new elf. I spent the next year very mad at myself. I really wanted my kids to have this. Especially my two youngest. Poppy and Justin who still believe in the magic of Christmas. Being able to push through the grief and pull together really takes a lot of forgiveness and soul searching within myself. This year we are going to try harder as a family to be happy again. To love, and to be loved.... and we will be welcoming a new elf friend. Name coming soon!
I really thought that this year it would be easier. I could come into November feeling productive. Host a #LungCancer project, have a happy Thanksgiving dinner, smile on your birthday... but I have not been able to do anything. I still struggle to get up in the morning. And this past month has been one long string of what feels like never ending anxiety and depression. I could give you a fancy metaphor about dark deep holes forming below me that I fall into. Not being able to climb out...That feeling of absoulte hopelessness. But....Maybe simply saying that the part of me that died in June of 2016 is now killing what was left of the person I used to be. If you could see me now, I know you would not be pleased with what you saw.... Still, even that isn't motivation enough to claw even a tiny hole to peek at the light that was once there. I used to be the happy friend. The one always making jokes and people enjoyed being around. Now I have no one left. And I can't blame them as I don't even want to be around myself. I miss you, dad. You were the only person who understood me and loved me unconditionally. You were more than a father, you were my best friend. I wasn't ready to say goodbye. None of us were. There were just so many things that were unsaid. You were supposed to see Ashlie graduate and tell Poppy stories. I don't like being the oldest in the family. I don't know how to guide and keep everyone together. I feel like I have failed you and I can't keep my promises. As I write this I just feel even more crazy as I know you will never read it. Your consciousness, your energy is moved on into space or the Earth... you.. the things that made you, you are gone. And grasping that just tortures my mind. I am so tired of being tired.
These are my purchases. I feel really good about it and plan on talking about my new pretty stones in a future post.
Hello friends. Next month is Lung Cancer Month, and in honor of those survivors, those lost and their families, friends, and loved ones... I am going to do a ART/Photography project. My hope is that it will go viral and get a discussion going.
It is hard for us because we compete with prostate cancer awareness that month. Getting the conversation going is not easy, but I believe even if we could help end the stigma around Lung Cancer just a little bit... we would have done something great.
I live in the Harrisburg area of PA... but I have thought of a way that everyone can participate in this project around the world.
All you need is a black marker, a couple sheets of paper and a camera. 💗
I want our stories heard. I want people to know that we need help. If this sounds like something you are interested in, please let me know. Together, we can make change.
I lost my father Robert Edward Taylor Jr. to Small Cell Lung Cancer on June 16th 2016. We had only found out about his extensive stage small cell in May. We first knew something was wrong late April. We tried chemotherapy, but his body had a bad reaction. In addition to getting an advanced case of blisters on his feet, he developed pneumonia. His WBC was over 100,000 thousand and after being in the hosptial a month, he was tired... he just wanted to come home. So we made plans for the home hospice.
He passed away exactly 7 days after leaving the hospital. That last week will always stay iny mind because I believe I was truly blessed and able to talk about the things I needed to before he passed. Throughout this journey I met so many people who were not able to say their last goodbyes, and for that I am greatful.
His wishes were that his body be donated to science so that someday, no family will have to feel the way that we all do. I started a cancer awareness page here on facebook in his honor. I hope that I can help spread awareness for this terrible disease.
Today on World Lung Cancer Day, I would like people to remember the courage my father had. Not just in his battle with cancer and will to live... but how he lived his life.
He was a single father of two daughters. A man raising 2 daughters alone wasn't easy. He worked as a veterinary tech for 35 years. He was passionate about his job and taking care of animals.
He loved music. Jazz, blues, and rock n roll. He had a place in his heart for Marvin Gaye, The Beetles, John Coltrane, and Eric Clapton.
He was a fisherman and taught his daughters how to fish. We would go to the lake every Sunday growing up in NY and would catch sunnies, bluegills, catfish, trout, and black bass.
He was a lover of the beach, ocean, and nature in general. Our special place was Glen Island in New Rochelle, NY.
He had a passion for cooking. One of my favorite things he made was chilli. I've tried forever to get mine to taste as good as his. It was just perfect.
He is survived by his two daughters. Lauren Taylor and I. His six grand children. Ashlie 16, Robert 14, Kelli 11, Anthony 11, Justin 8, and Poppy-Marie 3. His son in law, Gustavo Lopez jr. whom he looked at like his own son. And his best friend of 50 years, Brian Gillen.
I hope that I can continue to make my father proud and make a real difference in the fight to battle Lung Cancer. Thanks for reading.
I get a little tired of people who assume that just because you have kids, you are automatically completely uncool, and that all your time is spent wiping babies from head to toe, giving spit baths, criticizing their every move, volunteering for PTA, blogging in your spare time, clipping coupons before crock potting a pot roast, ironing the clothes, bleaching the whites, mopping the floors, harvesting your eggs, sewing for your etsy shop, scrapbooking the little things, taking pictures of everything they do, saving for college, reading Dr. Suess, socializing at the bus stop, sweeping the floor, laughing over coffee with your jogging stroller, wearing your birkenstocks and listening to Baby Einstein.
Just because I DO THESE THINGS OCCASIONALLY.
Does not mean for one second that sometimes I don’t just want to be a kick ass girl with streaks in her hair, a ring in her nose, a tattoo on her arm, concert tickets in her purse, vodka in her fridge, a leather mini-skirt in her closet, her best single friends and a standing reservation for Las Vegas once a year with a don’t ask don’t tell policy, and the desire to just once be seen as more than the mother of 5 kids. Sometimes I just want to be seen as a “Maggie”. A “Maggie” with an extremely adorable set of children… (I joke, but sometimes it's hard to over come labels. )
Married + 5 Children
Born in New York
Living in Chicago Land
Italian + Mexican American household
Published Photographer + Artist
Lung Cancer Activist + Advocate
Social Media Enthusiast
Openly in Grief Therapy
Believes in Freedom Of Religion
Studied Animal Science
Backpacking + Hiking
Crystals + Meditation + Yoga
Writing + Scrapbooking + Blogging
Foodie + Cooking + Baking
Tropical Fish Keeping
Coffee + Coffee Shops
Travel + Road trips
Okkervil River + Good indie bands