This month will mark the fifth anniversary of my last cancer treatment – October 30. It is a day I certainly do celebrate because back in 2005, I wasn’t supposed to get past 2010. On November 25, 2005, I received my diagnosis of Mantle Cell Lymphoma, a type of Non-Hodgkin’s Lymphoma. In 2005, MCL was classified as an incurable type of cancer and the prognosis for an MCL patient was rather grim with a life expectancy of about three to five years.

Why is this so important to write about? Because for all the newly diagnosed cancer patients, you need to understand that cancer treatments are changing almost on a weekly basis! What was once classified as ‘incurable’ (as was the case with MCL) is no longer so emphatically true. When chemotherapy stopped working and I was “chemo-resistant’ in 2012, I underwent a stem cell transplant. I was blessed that one of my brothers was a near perfect match to me. On October 25, 2012 I received his stem cells, and two years later I was cancer free.

Every Christmas season, the Clinical Cancer Center at the Froedtert Hospital campus holds a cancer survivors Christmas Celebration, and each year we keep outgrowing the hall we are using because there are more and more survivors every year!

So here is the word of encouragement you need right now if you or someone in your family has just been diagnosed with cancer – cancer is a disease; not a death sentence! Diseases need to be fought and beaten and the weapons of war against cancer keep getting better every year. Connected to this website is a link that takes you to my Seven Steps of Persistent Perseverance. It outlines those things I did on a daily basis to help keep my head above water during my 9-year battle with cancer. And remember – I’m nine years past my expiration date and enjoying life!

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.” 

Thomas Tolan

Congrats on the anniversary, Paul!