October 25th marked the sixth anniversary of my stem-cell transplant. I had gone in that treatment direction because I became chemo-resistant earlier that year. The five years leading up to 2012, I had been bombarded with various types of chemo-therapy in an attempt to control my mantle-cell lymphoma (MCL). I got my MCL diagnosis in 2005 and that began my nine-year battle against cancer.

When I talk or email with newly diagnosed cancer patients, I can still remember the pain I felt on November 25, 2005 and how much it hurt; so much it made me cry. On that day I got all the final details of all the tests that were done over the previous four weeks. In October 2005 I found out I had Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma but there were a bunch of tests needed to determine exactly what type I had – turned out what I had wasn’t the ‘good’ type of lymphoma.

I remember the first time I walked into medical oncology and witnessed “the waiting room” for the first time, it sent a chill up my spine. I thought “Oh God, why am I here – what’s happening?!!!” From that point forward, every time I stepped into the waiting room at medical oncology or the waiting room for the cancer lab the feeling was the same: these are very sad places. Everybody is scared and everybody has a look of helplessness and hopelessness on their face – patient and family member; it’s the nature of the disease.

So let me offer a word of hope and encouragement to first-time readers and newly diagnosed patients; while it seems your world is falling apart, it really isn’t. When I was diagnosed in 2005, MCL was classified as incurable. Well, today, thirteen years later, there is no cancer in me and I am very much alive.

Almost on a daily basis, there are changes and improvements happening in cancer treatment. Advances are being made at amazing speed. What was a decade ago is probably not the same today. Although you are surrounded by the most horrible time of your life, stay positive about the good things happening in cancer research every day. Even though everything seems lost, remain hopeful and cling to faith; faith in God and faith in your medical team. Find a reason to fight this disease and remember to find something good every day. Keep making plans for your life and what you want to do WHEN you are done fighting cancer.

Finally, and most importantly, take time everyday to recharge your emotional batteries. If you don’t, you will easily slip into those feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. For me, it was always nice conversations with my wife, listening to music, and reading scripture. In doing so each evening, I slept well and was ready for the next day. Recharge your emotional batteries DAILY!

For additional tips, please read my entire publication: “Seven Steps of Persistent Perseverance for Cancer Patients.

I know how you feel because I was there. Once you’re on the ‘other side’ of cancer, you’ll look back, you’ll remember things, and you’ll reach out and help others. That too, is the nature of the disease and path to becoming a survivor.

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About the Author

Paul J. Lawonn has more than 37 years of industrial safety and leadership experience and has provided consulting to more than 100 companies. Prior to his cancer diagnosis in 2005, Paul led the safety function at Harley Davidson’s Milwaukee power train operations manufacturing plant. His last position with Harley was corporate safety manager for compliance and employee training. He was diagnosed in 2005 with mantle-cell lymphoma but waged a successful nine- year battle and is now cancer-?free. Paul’s priority now is on inspirational and motivational speaking, writing, and coaching. He is particularly fervent about donating his time to charities that finance and fuel cancer research and organizations that provide assistance to cancer patients and their families. He’s written a guide to fighting cancer that he calls “Seven Steps to Persistent Perseverance.” 

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