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Terminal: is it a word you ever think about? Do you usually connect the word with a dreaded disease?

  • July 20 2011

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    Terminal: is it a word you ever think about? Do you usually connect the word with a dreaded disease?

    Have you ever thought how odd it is that the place where we all go to hop on a plane to do business, or take our vacation is called an airport terminal? Same for bus terminal, and back in "the day", the train terminal? I have pondered that thought many times.

    I grew up in a small Minnesota town that was dubbed the "Railroad Hub of the Northwest." Trains were the main economy in our town. We had a huge train terminal. It was a round dark gray building, and very old, but more than anything it felt really spooky to me. You see, I had to walk around that terminal to get to school each day. Lots of days I was with friends, but many days, I walked home alone. I always dreaded crossing the tracks by the terminal to get home. In case you are wondering, I did have caring parents, but we only had one car and my dad needed it to get to work each day. We didn't have bus services for the Catholic school kids. It was a different time and I lived in a small, safe, town. I wasn't worried about "strangers"......I simply didn't like that big old terminal.

    In sixth grade, our family moved across the tracks to a new home. My dad could walk to work, and my brother and I could walk to school. Life was easier on that side of the tracks. I seldom even thought of the train terminal because it simply disappeared from my vision.

    I didn't think of the word terminal again until our oldest son signed on with American Airlines after college, and my husband and I were allowed free pass privileges. What a perk, I thought! First, I had to convince myself that flying was fun. You see, my first flying experience was really scary. We were coming back to Minnesota from a Florida vacation and hit an ice storm. The plane jerked and hit many air pockets. People stopped talking and the plane got very quiet. I remember when we landed, everyone clapped and cheered! It took me awhile to be able to eat on an airplane after that (remember when they fed you on an airplane?) because my stomach got really queasy when I flew. However, because I could now see the world without having to purchase a ticket, I learned to talk down those fears and look forward to going to the air terminal. Our "stand-by" flying experiences have many great and funny stories in themselves, including getting bumped from many full flights and having to sit all night in a U.S. terminal. I came to realize the positive side of this was that the people watching was excellent and I could really get some good exercise walking around a terminal.

    Terminal became a "thing" and not a place, when my dad's side of the family started dying of Lung Cancer. In the span of fifteen years, I lost my dad, his brothers and sisters and two of my first cousins to lung cancer. I had a feeling I would also get lung cancer ~ someday. Call it woman's intuition. I closely resembled my dad's features. I am not a worrier, but during those fifteen years, I used and heard the word terminal countless numbers of times. I decided I might beat the odds if I lived really healthy and exercised. So that became my thought process when I thought of my heredity and my chances of getting lung cancer.

    After my dad died in 1991, I lost 2 more uncles and one more cousin to lung cancer. After that the years sped along and I didn't think about the word terminal very often. I was busy working, raising teenagers, getting them through college, and marriage and then became a "Nana". Life was stable and pretty good during those fifteen years.

    In 2006, at an annual wellness check, I asked my Doctor for a chest X-ray because of my family history. I had just received a great report from that physical, and I didn't have any reason to ask for the X-ray except for my dad's family genetics. I was diagnosed with pneumonia from that chest X-ray, but all I could hear and feel was the word terminal. I had no symptoms, I had been power walking each day, and considered myself very healthy. I felt instantly however, that I "finally" had lung cancer and remember thinking I didn't think it would happen this soon! I was 64 at the time. I got a second opinion and further tests, where it was determined that I did have lung cancer. I choose the premiere Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, FL for my surgery and all follow up. In Sept. of 2006 I learned that I had stage 2B adenocarcinoma of the lung, but I didn't have lymph node spread and it was possible that I would be cured. I also learned that all lung cancers have about a 14% survival rate within the first five years. I decided that I would do everything in my power to not be terminal. I felt extremely blessed that I had asked for the X-ray that caught my lung cancer early, and that I was able to have surgery. Now I was determined kick the word terminal out of my vocabulary! I totally realize that I didn't do this alone. It was only with the help of my faith, my husband and family and the prayers of so many. My husband was my rock during this time. We hung in there together and so far, now 4 years later, we have booted the word terminal from our vocabulary.

    Life has many, many lessons. One that I have learned through facing lung cancer many times in my family, and then in myself, was summed up by Franklin D Roosevelt during his first inaugural speech. That famous quote is, "The only thing we have to fear, is fear itself!" I am making a strong, conscious and daily effort to live by that quote. I truly believe that what we believe can become our reality, so it is important for me to think positive.

    I now look forward to every trip to the air terminal! And in my private prayer, I envision Heaven as the greatest terminal of them all. I hope one day I can go there!


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