Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Margot Larson on July 24, 2008
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage 3 Inoperable Lung Cancer
Date of Diagnosis:
August 23, 2007
Employment Status:
Self - Employed
Type and Description of Treatments:
Aggressive chemo treatment: Cisplatin + Etoposide daily for 6 consecutive days, two weeks off, 6 more consecutive days. Radiation 32 consecutive days up to a level of 60 on Gray Scale
How do you feel today?

I feel generally well.
I have some minor side effects from taking Prenidsone to reduce the inflamation caused by Radiation Pneumonitis.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I have changed my lifestyle, to take it a bit easier; I have reduced my number of work hours.
I have taken steps to reduce stress, gave up my fear of cancer and my fear of money (or lack thereof).
I have made lifestyle changes and am focussing on changing my nutrition and eating habits in order to prevent further cancer.
I am living in the present.

What is going well for you right now?

I am focusing my work around Coaching others through career changes, life changes and planning for retirement. This allows me to work from my home office and makes my work virtual so that I can spend the winter months in Florida.

I am also dedicating more time to writing and hope to be able to publish another non-fiction book and perhaps a youth mystery.

What is not going well for you right now?

On some days I feel a little isolated and I realize I need to reach out and schedule lunch and coffee with someone so that I can have more stimulating conversations.

On some days I feel very tired or sleepy and occasionally emotional or teary eyed.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Realizing that since I had no clue that I had cancer, (My health was very good at the time I was diagnosed) and this could sneak up on me again and there is no way of my knowing it. It impacts my personal sense of safety.

Knowing that lung cancer often spreads to the brain is very frightening.

Learning to ask for help and to reach out.
Learning to share my vulnerability.

When difficulties overwhelm you, where do you go for support?

My hushand and best friend have been very supportive and there for me all along. I have a very broad network of friends, family and colleagues that I can call on.

How have your long-term goals or life goals changed since diagnosis?

I applied for early Social Security and I am not putting off enjoyment or pampering. I am taking the steps now that I would have taken closer to age 65-70.

What is your work arrangement right now? What are your hours?

I have a flexible work schedule.
I work from my home office from 8:30-5:30 PM some days but take a break mid day to run errands, have lunch out, etc... Other days I may just work 5 hours.

I consider myself as working part time

I have increased my "virtual work" assignments and decreased time required with clients on-site.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your work life?

I have eliminated my affiliation with organizations and clients that I found to be stressful.

I have minimized traveling. No out of state training programs.

I am making an effort this summer to go work comfortably outside, either reading, planning or writing.

I take time off to visit with friends, schedule massages, reiki and accupuncture during what would normally be work hours.

On the down side, it has severely impacted my income.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

I need the stimulation of interacting and keeping my mind busy. When I am working or writing I feel energized.

I have always gained a great deal of personal satisfaction from being productive and seeing results.

What advice do you have for others trying to work through treatment?

You must put yourself first.
You must do whatever will benefit you at that moment in time. This is critical to your recovery and success.
This is also contrary to what most women do naturally.
So we must remember that we will not be able to help and nurture others unless we nurture ourselves first.

Do not waste time on asking why, or with anger and denial. Spring into action.

Set up a system of communication so that you keep family and friends informed without your having to personally communicate and be on the telephone when all you want to do is vegetate.

My recommendation is to go to and set up a website where you can journal weekly and receive messages from friends. It became a wonderful medium for all concerned. My friends all thank me for doing this.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

I am quick to say that I did not have a great deal of side effects from treatment. That is not completely true.
I was dehydrated and it took a while for me to realize and to ask for hydration at the Cancer Center and then at home on the weekends. It made a great deal of difference to my well being.

The most traumatic side effect was losing my hair which occurred between the two chemo rounds. It fell out in a period of 12 hours. I was devastated. I had convinced myself that all my positive thinking would result in it thinning perhaps but not falling out.
For months, I could not stand to look at myself in the mirror. I have always disliked baldness and when men shave their heads as part of a new fashion.

The burning of my esophagus was very serious. I was unable to get food down and yet I needed the nutrition and protein to counter the effect of chemo on my body. I could not stand the taste of Ensure and those types of drinks. I lost 25 lbs in 3 weeks.

I began to cough up blood shortly after my second round of chemo and ended up in critical care and in the hospital for 9 days as my blood counts plummeted below acceptable levels.

Other than that I was fine.

I did not experience nausea and vomiting from the chemo. I experienced some vomiting because the food was not passing through my esophagus and any coughing would bring it up.

If "today's you" could give advice to "day-of-diagnosis you," what would you say?

I don't think I would change much.

I approached my treatment with a positive attitude and determination, with a firm belief that I would beat this.
I affirmed that I would have limited side effects from the treatment.
I followed doctors recommendations, treated myself well, rested, avoided exposure to the public and potential germs, worked just enough to remain stimulated.
I wasted no time feeling sorry for myself, asking why or being angry.
Instead I sprang into action.

I shared my journey with my friends, family and colleagues and asked for their support and their prayers.

I did all the right things.