Readers voted for the health bloggers who inspire them live a stronger, healthier life as part of our annual Best Health Blog contest, and the results are in!
Read on to learn about Dessureault’s journey with lung cancer, and why her blog is so important to not just her, but the cancer community at large.
Elizabeth Dessureault was pregnant with her first child and working as a teacher in Alberta, Canada, when she was diagnosed with advanced stage non-small cell adenocarcinoma lung cancer in April, 2015. As a healthy 26-year-old, Dessureault was shocked by the news.
“At the time, I was also told that my cancer was incurable and that I had less than a year to live,” she wrote on her blog. “As a music teacher and singer, I’ve always thought of my lungs as being such an important part of who I am, but now they will have to prepare for an entirely new challenge.”
At 5 months pregnant, Dessureault began chemotherapy and had completed three cycles before giving birth to her son, two months prematurely. After giving birth, Dessureault learned through genetic testing that she is positive for a ROS1 genetic mutation, and began treatments to shrink and stabilize the cancer.
In June, 2015, Dessureault began blogging about her journey. We spoke to her about her experiences and how her blog is inspiring the cancer community.
What would you say is the mission of your blog?
Elizabeth Dessureault: “To inspire hope in others who are facing a life-threatening illness.”
What motivated you to start the blog?
ED: “I began writing my blog as a way to share updates throughout my battle with lung cancer with friends and family. As time went on, it evolved into a means of providing hope and creating awareness about the illness.”
Was it difficult to be so open about your lung cancer at first? How did you overcome that?
ED: “It was certainly difficult to open up about my lung cancer diagnosis at first, as there were so many unknowns. As an otherwise healthy, non-smoking individual, pregnant with my first child, I never imagined that it could happen to me.
“Since my diagnosis, I have chosen to focus on all of the things that I have been able to do because I have lung cancer, rather than focus on all of the things that this diagnosis has taken away from me. When I was first diagnosed, I would search [for] one lung cancer survivor story each night. By reading these inspiring stories and not focusing on the statistics, it gave me the strength and courage to face each day. It is my hope that my story could do the same for others.”
When did you first notice that your posts were really resonating with people?
ED: “Last November, I designed and created my own line of ‘Just Breathe’ lung cancer awareness products as a way to raise funds and awareness for lung cancer. These products really resonated with people and soon after people were commenting, and I was shopping products all around the world.”
How did that make you feel?
ED: “The overwhelming support and love that I have been shown is so heartwarming. To know that I have such an amazing lung cancer army standing behind me every step of the way is so uplifting and truly makes me believe that anything is possible.”
Who has your blog connected you to whom you wouldn’t have been able to approach otherwise?
ED: “The friendships that I have made through the lung cancer community are invaluable. Although I wish that we could have met under different circumstances, I am truly grateful for all of the wonderful people I have met and consider myself so fortunate to have made so many new friends.
“In addition, because of my blog I was able to connect with former NFL player and lung cancer advocate Chris Draft. Chris is a true champion for the cause and provides countless opportunities for lung cancer patients. Because of him, I was able to attend the Taste of the NFL at Super Bowl weekend in San Francisco last year! Throughout the weekend, we were able to share our stories while creating awareness about the cause. I also got to meet Snoop Dogg at one of the events! I can’t thank Chris enough for all that he does.”
Has blogging changed the way you look at or approach your lung cancer?
ED: “It encourages me to focus on the positive and to always remain hopeful.”
What would you change about the way lung cancer is talked about?
ED: “There are two misconceptions that I would love to change:
1. Anyone with lungs can get lung cancer. If it can happen to me, it can happen to anyone.
2. Lung cancer is not a death sentence. There is so much hope. New treatments are being researched every single day and through comprehensive genomic testing, there are so many treatment options available for lung cancer. I am so grateful that I sent my tissue away to Foundation Medicine in the U.S. when I was first diagnosed. By testing positive for the ROS1 genetic mutation, it has allowed for me to take targeted oral therapies to shrink and stabilize my cancer. I have recently partnered with Foundation Medicine and the Bonnie Addario Foundation’s Don’t Guess Test campaign as a way to promote the importance of comprehensive genomic testing.”
What’s your favorite thing about blogging?
ED: “Creating hope. When I was first diagnosed, I wasn’t given any hope. I want others to know that you can live with lung cancer.”
Does blogging help you cope with setbacks and challenges you may face with your lung cancer?
ED: “Absolutely. This past month I have had a number of setbacks that have really challenged me. Blogging makes you realize that you are not alone. I am connected with lung cancer patients around the world who support each other through it all.”