I have to begin this blog on a sad note. There have been personal and national tragedies that occurred since I agreed to write a blog about hope and optimism. I lost three friends to cancer in a week's time ... and last night, my city lost five police officers who were gunned down in cold blood while doing their job of overseeing a peaceful protest march. Sometimes, events make it hard to see joy and optimism, but it's still there. We just have to look a little harder.

donna-roseEven though I will miss my friends badly, they each outlived their prognosis for stage IV lung cancer by years. The reason they beat the statistics and had years added to their lives after being diagnosed is because of the huge advances being made every single day in new treatment options.

I am the beneficiary of research. When I was diagnosed in 11/2012, my oncologist estimated that I would live only four months. I would have beat his estimate, even with only receiving traditional chemo treatments, but I likely would have succumbed to my disease within a year of diagnosis.

But when my cancer began to grow after stopping chemo to give my body a rest, I was fortunate enough to join a clinical trial for immunotherapy. The day I joined that trial, hope returned to my family and to me.

Now, three years after beginning to receive nivolumab, also known as Opdivo, I am not only aliv but living life. And, feeling good enough that a month or so ago I felt confident enough about my future health that we added two new kittens to our family. Their names? Divo, for the drug that gave my life back to me, and Esperanza, which means hope in Spanish.

donna-kittensDo you see the significance of this? After I was first diagnosed with cancer, I wouldn't renew magazine subscriptions, because I didn't want to waste the money. I thought I would die before a year's subscription ended. Now, I am confident enough that I will live that I brought two new baby lives into our family, lives that will be dependent on us for many years into the future.

A cancer diagnosis is still scary, but I am proof that there is hope. I have many friends who were, like me, given less than a year to live. Instead, they are celebrating their 5, 10 and 15-year cancerversaries. Like me, they are the beneficiaries of research and either receive targeted therapies or immunotherapy or a combination of treatments. Not only do these treatments keep us alive, their side effects are far less than what we underwent when getting traditional chemotherapy.

donna-natureHope reigns!! And researchers are making tremendous strides. More and more of us are beating the odds. If you or someone you love receives a cancer diagnosis, give yourself a moment to grieve, but then, pull on your fighting boots. There's still a lot of life to live!

Hating cancer…loving life,

Donna Fernandez