Trish Blackburn – Que sera, sera
Metastatic lung cancer survivor, Trish Blackburn, tells us why she avoids gloom and doom doctors and how she keeps on pushing on.
Trish Blackburn (57) lives in Sandringham, Gauteng with her husband, Chris. They have three adult sons and one grandchild.
In November 2020, Trish experienced pain in the area of her kidneys and had shortness of breath. Since COVID was rife at this time, she went for many COVID tests, but they were negative. When the pain became unbearable, she went to hospital and was admitted.
After a scan, a lung biopsy was performed. “That biopsy isn’t recommended for sissies,” Trish says. The biopsy confirmed that she has Stage 4 non-small cell lung cancer.
She started chemotherapy and then commenced a two-year immunotherapy treatment shortly afterwards, which she goes for every three weeks. The immunotherapy has shrunk the tumours. Her medical aid pays a portion and the rest is out of pocket. Once this treatment plan is finished, Trish’s oncologist will decide what further treatment is necessary. Currently, Trish only uses an oxygen machine when she sleeps.
“When I started treatment, I used medical marijuana to help ease the pain and my oncologist was aware of it. For nausea, I ate a slice of ginger,” she adds.
The 57-year-old still works and has been working from home since COVID. “I have such nice bosses who have been so supportive, and it has been good to keep my brain active. There is nothing wrong with my brain, I just need a new body,” Trish jokes. “Plus, it’s good to feel needed and add value.”
Accepting an incurable cancer diagnosis
When asked how she felt when she heard the news, Trish smiles and says, “Que sera, sera” which means whatever will be, will be. “We have accepted it and take each day as it comes. We are very positive people and I tell my oncologist to please not send me to gloom and doom doctors. I remember once she sent me to another doctor and this doctor said, ‘You do know you have Stage 4 lung cancer?’ and I said ‘Yes’, then she said, ‘You do know what that means?’ Chris and I are well aware of what it means but it’s not their choice of when I’m going to die. They can’t tell me that.”
“Cancer runs in my family, my gran and father passed away from cancer and my mother had breast cancer twice. Chris had prostate cancer in 2017 so I have seen him and my mother recover so cancer isn’t new to us. Thankfully, my close friends push me to keep on going, plus my family and, of course, my gorgeous grandson.”
Fracture in the spine
This year April, it was found that Trish had a fracture in her spine due to the metastases. She underwent a major operation to remove the affected bone and for spine fusion. Unfortunately, Trish says it has been extremely hard to recover from this operation. She is also on bone-strengthening medication which slows the breakdown of the bones by cancer to prevent bone fractures.
While Trish was in hospital, her seven-month-old granddaughter, Emily, was in the same hospital being treated for juvenile myelomonocytic leukaemia (JMML). Sadly, she passed away and this took an immense toll on the family. Trish has made a beautiful memorial garden for Emily.
Having a bright outlook helps in these situations and thankfully my family have this type of attitude. I try to make the most of every day, living like it is my last.
This article is sponsored by Novartis in the interest of education, awareness and support. The content and opinions expressed are entirely of the patient and not influenced by Novartis in any way.
Photo by Laurelle Williams – Word for Word Media