Step No. 6 of my "Seven Steps of Persistent Perseverance" is "keep making plans." It was a piece of advice given to me by my oncologist on the day he also gave me my final diagnosis of mantle-cell lymphoma and explained the rather grim prognosis.

Making Plans imageAt the end of all the bad news he had to share with me, he put his hand on my shoulder, looked me straight in the eyes and said, "Paul, I want you to keep making plans." In that moment, I knew this was a man who was going to fight for me, and he needed me to find a reason to fight and to see a future beyond cancer.

I want to impress upon every cancer patient and each family member that cancer is a disease — not a death sentence! Cancer needs to be battled and beaten. Yes, this is an incredibly difficult time, and your immediate future looks rather grim, but that is the "here and now" and not the future.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in 2005, it was classified as an incurable type of cancer. Well, because of ongoing research I write this note 12 years later, cancer-free!

This past week someone sent me an e-mail because they read my "Seven Steps" on the Froedtert & MCW cancer blog. The reader asked if I wouldn't reach out to talk with this person's dad, who was recently diagnosed with cancer and starting chemotherapy soon. I was more than happy to make that connection.

In the days that followed, I spoke with that man and his wife daily and shared my experience with cancer and what I learned about how to keep my head above water. It was such a joy for me to hear hope in their voices as I told them of my situation. I do not want to stand and take bows for simply showing compassion to another human being in a very tough situation, but those talks warmed my heart.

One of the plans I made when diagnosed was to be a source of encouragement to others once I beat the bastard. I am an active volunteer for the Vince Lombardi Cancer Foundation, and I do find joy talking with other cancer patients and sharing the hard but "good news" story of my successful battle against the beast.

One thing I started to do when I was first diagnosed with cancer was to keep a diary of each day's events. This helped me look back and see (and celebrate) each success in the face of a few setbacks. I would encourage patients and family members to keep a diary of your battle against cancer. Why? Because the day will come when you will be a source of encouragement to newly diagnosed cancer patients and you will be able to guide them through those first steps in treatment that are the scariest times of cancer. There is a good chance you'll come up with your own steps of Persistent Perseverance you'll share with others.

It is a lonely journey fighting cancer, but it does not have to be that way — you can reach back and help others take the steps you've already taken.


Share Your Thoughts

Have you connected with other cancer patients since your diagnosis? Have they given you comfort? Were you able to provide comfort based on your experience? Share your comments below.

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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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