A sense of humor is something that I was blessed with. It is an attribute that can help one through the most difficult situations and is a characteristic my husband, Cameron, and I relied on when we faced the most difficult time of our lives. I was diagnosed with mesothelioma in November 2005. After undergoing a series of tests, doctors determined that I was eligible for an extrapleural pneumonectomy. This surgery required surgeons to remove my left lung, half of my diaphragm, and the lining of my heart.
This was undoubtedly a risky surgery and the situation was complicated by the fact that I was a new mom. When I learned my surgery was to take place on February 2, Groundhog Day, I was able to lighten this dark situation by using my sense of humor. I decided to name my tumor Punxsutawney Phil and joked that if my tumor saw its shadow during removal I would have another six weeks of recovery. This laughter eased some of my own fears about going into surgery. Even my sister joined in on the fun. She decided that we needed to name this day I lost my lung. Soon, we began to call February 2 LungLeavin’ Day to mark this life changing event.
Cameron and my sister began to ponder how we could celebrate LungLeavin’ Day. LungLeavin’ Day was, in many ways, about overcoming fears. My sister, who has had experience with firewalking, came up with the idea of writing fears on an object that was to be destroyed in a fire. Since the idea of firewalking didn’t appeal to everyone, Cameron decided that we would write our fears on plates that could be smashed in a fire instead.
On the anniversary of my surgery, Cameron went out and bought two plates and a sharpie. We wrote our fears on these plates, headed outside into the cold night, and shattered our plates in the fire. We found this to be extremely cathartic- it symbolized our ability to conquer fear. As a result, we decided we should extend this event to include family and friends.
Now, LungLeavin’ Day has now grown to include over 75 friends and family members. In addition, Cameron and I decided to give back to a few organizations that have been of great help: The Mesothelioma Applied Research Foundation, the International Mesothelioma Program at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA, and the Asbestos Disease Awareness Organization.
LungLeavin’ Day isn’t just a celebration for cancer survivors or those battling cancer. It’s for everyone; everyone has fears. We even get the children involved by having them write their fears on paper plates to be burned in the fire. Our daughter, Lily, looks forward to this event every year.
This year, we decided to include even more people in this celebration. We broadcasted LungLeavin’ Day live via Facebook and launched an interactive webpage where you can virtually smash your a fear of your very own. We hope you get a chance to check out the site and partake in the fun!