Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Margot Larson on August 25, 2012
I was Diagnosed with:
Stage 3 NSC Lung Cancer Right lung
Date of Diagnosis:
August 23, 2007
Employment Status:
PT - Consulting Practice
Type and Description of Treatments:
In 2007, Etoposide and Carboplatin plus Radiation. Late 2008 Alimta along with prednisone to deal with radiation pneumonitis. In 2009 hip collapsed - total hip replacement summer 2009. In 2010 pleural efusion requiring pleural drainage for 5 months. March 2010, mets to the brain; now Stage IV; treated with Gamma Knife. Started clinical trial April 2010, Crizotinib. July 2010 serious infection requiring infusion of anti-biotics twice a day for 7 months. February 2011, swelling on the brain and scans resulted in scheduling brain surgery to remove the tumor followed by Gamma Knife to address 3 small lesions. February 2012, disease progression to good lung and lymph. March 2012 started Phase I clinical trial, Ariad AP26113. By early May, scan report no active cancer and all progression gone.
How do you feel today?

I feel the best I have since diagnosis - oh maybe a little older but I have energy and stamina back. I can garden, clean house and am able to exercise. I feel blessed that I am doing so well at the 5 year mark.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

I have had to set new priorities; I have put my work secondary and focused on my health and my mindset. I have been an excellent advocate for myself and have actively participated in the management of my treatment. I volunteer with cancer organizations. I use my coaching talents to help other cancer patients.
I have greater compassion for people facing illness and adversity, particularly those who do not have the same level of determination, positive attitude and fightin spirit.

What is going well for you right now?

I am able to take on a new consulting assignment. I make a point of spending time with friends and family.
I volunteer. I enjoy every day and search for opportunities to enjoy beauty, such as visiting a field of sunflowers or beautiful gardens. I can travel with less anxiety. By managing my energy, I am able to regain a good part of my lifestyle.

What is not going well for you right now?

I have no complaints or concerns, other than the economy and the politics of our country.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

The ups and downs. You overcome one hurdle, feel good but it's just for a little while. Then the monster is back again with a vengence. I have lost my personal sense of safety=health.

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

I reach out to my husband who has been a terrific partner and support. I reach out to my close friends who have been great cheerleaders. I like to meet with other cancer patients who share my values and spirit and we can encourage each other.

I am competitive by nature so my auto response is to feel the challenge and want to win, to beat it; to prove to myself I can do it.

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

I'm no longer aiming at living until age 100. I've revised my goal to age 70-75
I also don't feel I have to save my money until old age. I want to enjoy it now while I feel good. So I do things for myself now without any guilt. If my goal is too conservative and I do live longer, well I guess I'll just be a poor old lady.

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

The good thing is: I am self employed.
The bad thing is: I am self employed.

I am a partner in a consulting practice. I have not taken on assignment for more than two years.
I did not feel I could develop new customers when I was not sure that I could do the work.
Right now, I serve as the business arm of our consulting practice, handling the accounting, the billing and mentoring the newer consultants. It doesn't pay much but it keeps me engaged.
This month, I accepted a new assignment with a former client since I feel good and I welcome the challenge.

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

I put work aside to focus on my health and my survival. It is my highest priority.
I qualified for SS Disability and I made it work for me.
I am learning to adjust and figure out how to create a retirement lifestyle.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

Challenge. Stimulation.

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

Revisit your priorities. Will working help you in your fight? Will it stimulate you or wear you out?
Is it in your best interest? Are you working only to maintain your benefits? If yes, is there another way to address that issue? Get advice from a Human Resource professional or an Employment Law attorney or a Health or Legal Advocate so you learn about the laws and your rights.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

Complementary medicine, as in Massage, Reiki, Acupuncture.
Relaxing techniques such as Tai Chi.
Pampering myself, doing things that make me feel good.
Resting and giving myself permission to do nothing.

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

Find a mentor, a role model to help you deal with the fear and all the things you have to learn.
Take it one step, one day at a time.
Ask and learn to accept help from those around you.
It's OK to be scared. There will be plenty of opportunity to exhibit courage later on.