Be the Boss Over Cancer

by Margot Larson on July 7, 2009
I was Diagnosed with:
Non Small Cell Lung Cancer Stage IIIb Inoperable
Date of Diagnosis:
August 23, 2007
Employment Status:
self employed - part time
Age:
62
Type and Description of Treatments:
Aggressive Chemotherapy (Cisplatin and Etoposide) along with 32 days of Radiation fall 2007. Same cancer found in the fluid same lung December 2008. Treated with 4 infusions of Alimpta.
How do you feel today?

I feel really well today.
I look healthy and no one would ever suspect that I have Lung Cancer.

I have experienced side effects that I continue to address.

Since the diagnosis, what has changed in your life?

Lifestyle has slowed down.
I am no longer working full time.
I filed and am currently collecting SS Disability
I take on a little work in order to keep stimulated.
I provide job search and career coaching by phone.
I am attempting to dedicate energy and time to writing.

What is going well for you right now?

I am recovering from Total Hip Replacement surgery.
As a result, I now have less pain than before surgery.

I developed AVN as a side effect of the Prednisone and other steroids that were part of my treatment. My hip collapsed.

Recognizing the importance of minimizing stress, living in the present and reaching for the things I want now.

What is not going well for you right now?

Concerns about the cost of health care insurance and out-of-pocket medical expenses which are greater than my income.

What has been the most challenging thing about having cancer?

Losing my personal sense of safety. Waiting for the "other shoe" to drop.

Giving myself permission to semi-retire and to no longer pursue a full time career.

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

My husband, nuturer and best friend of 35 years.
My friends.
The Yale Cancer Center social workers
The Lung Cancer Support Group at Yale

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

I don't want my money to outlive me.
I have worked long and hard throughout my life and I don't want to sacrifice while I still am healthy and capable of enjoying some travel, etc..

I have no children. I don't want to save everything for when I might turn 80-90.
I want to find the balance between enjoying the moment, staying stimulated and being reasonably frugal.

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

I work a part-time flexible schedule from my home office. All my work is virtual (phone and computer)

I earn a little to help with expenses yet below the threshold of my disability payments.

I work 3 hours a day perhaps 3-4 days a week

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

I feel isolated and sometimes disconnected from my professional community.

What has helped you continue to work the most?

The fact that my work, as a coach, is virtual

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

Your treatment and your well-being comes first.
If you don't have that under control, you will never return to work.

Work should be only as much a part of your life as it brings you joy and stimulation.

If you work in a stressful environment or situation, it's time to listen to the universe and step away.
Stress leads to disease.

Living should come first.

How have you dealt with any side effects of treatment?

With courage and persistence.

My memory of the side effects during chemo are vague at this point.

The Radiation Pneumonitis had little effect. However, the medication I took destroyed my hip. That condition was significantly more painful than my cancer and its treatment.

I want a break from it all in order to refuel.

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

Ask for more information and support.
There is so much that I wish I had known.
I wish I had better connections to support before treatment. That is missing in many cancer centers.
Even the services that do exist are not appropriately communicating and reaching the patients that need them.

As a result I am writing a booklet about Facing Cancer "What I wish I had known in the first 30 days".