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Young Adult Survivors

The challenges of friendship, romance, children and careers take on new complexity for young adults with cancer.

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By Alanna Kennedy

Cancerblog

After a lung cancer diagnosis, a young athlete longs for her active life

By Alanna Kennedy


Liz Dols, 27, of West Chester, Pa., loves anything active—running, skiing, biking. When she was having trouble breathing in the summer of 2006, her doctor thought the problem was asthma. But asthma medication did nothing to improve her condition, and doctors ordered more tests. A tumor was found in her right lung after a CT scan.

“No one was thinking lung cancer. It was not even on my radar,” says Dols. After all, she was a healthy 26-year-old who had never touched a cigarette in her life. But in October 2006, she was diagnosed with stage IIIA adenocarcinoma, a type of non–small cell lung cancer.

Unable to pursue her active lifestyle, Dols says she lost a coping mechanism. “I ran and rode my bike to make me feel better. Not having that has been difficult.”

In this blog excerpt titled “Scrappy,” from March 25, 2007, the day before a chemo treatment, Dols writes about how she misses biking and running and how her competitive nature is helping her face a new challenge—a competitor she calls “c funk.”

i am fired up. i should be easing into bed, doing some writing and reading, and relaxing a bit before drifting off to dreamland. but instead, i have this energy i can’t explain; it is a feeling any competitor would be familiar with. the second before the start of a big race ... the foul line during a big game ... being up to bat against a tough pitcher ... staring down from the top of a tough-looking ski run ... i love this feeling.

... i cannot begin to describe how much i miss running or biking like i used to this time of year. when i think about the annual cushion peak adventure race my heart hurts. i love the nervous anxiety leading up to the beginning, not knowing what the race director has opted to throw at us this year. i love the taste of mud on my hydration pack and the half water - half gatorade mix that awaits me in each transition zone ... i love the competition. it brings out the best of my scrappiness.

... and so, this must be why i am so ripe with my beloved competitive energy this evening; i am throwing down against the c funk once again tomorrow. it promises to make me feel my most miserable once again. i won’t like it while i’m doing it, and trust me, a mud-laden bike bottle full of gatorade isn’t going to make me smile. but i am a fighter. this isn’t a new development. it was built into me at the factory. i live for this. so while i can’t really jump up and go for a run to release the energy, i will use it to get through the coming weeks. when i get down, i’ll think about how scrappy i am and grin and bear it and fight it tooth and nail. and believe me, my funk is the biggest foe i could find. do you blame me for being ready for the game?

To read more of lizzy ... outliving the bastards one day at a time, go to www.blizzardd.blogspot.com.  

To recommend a blog for CR’s Cancerblog column, send an e-mail to Kennedy@CRmagazine.org