As you go through your cancer treatments, you'll start to wonder if you are still a person, just another patient or somebody's science project. At times, you will feel more like a science project than anything else. I understand that because after I was diagnosed with mantle-cell lymphoma in 2005, I often felt like a science project instead of a person.

Chemistry LabI'm not telling you anything new when I say you will go through a battery of tests after diagnosis to pinpoint the best treatment regimen for your disease. That's when you'll start feeling more like a science project than a person. When you start feeling like that, please remember you are still very much a person, and a very important one — to your medical team and to your family.

There is so much happening these days in the world of cancer treatment. Take my situation, for example. In 2005, mantle-cell lymphoma was classified as an incurable type of cancer. With treatment, my life could be extended a few more years, but the disease would eventually take me. Today, in 2016, I write this blog entry totally and completely cancer free!

Each year, Oct. 25 marks a special anniversary for me. It's the day my brother's stem cells were infused into my body in hopes that his stem cells would recognize cancer as cancer and kill it. That was in 2012 — the same year I got my first grandchild.

I have a framed picture in my office, and on the frame it says, "New Life." It is a picture of me holding my new granddaughter the night before I checked into Froedtert Hospital for my stem-cell transplant. The picture always reminds me of my thoughts that night: Will I get to see her first birthday? You see, five years of chemotherapy left me chemo-resistant and the next "science project" step was a stem-cell transplant.

Now let's fast-forward to Autumn 2016. My granddaughter is four, and she has a little baby sister who will celebrate her first birthday in November. One weekend this fall, my first granddaughter spent the night with Grandma and Grandpa (me). We played in the park, walked through the leaves and just had a great time! I didn't realize it back in 2012, but because I was someone's science project, I write this blog entry today enjoying the seasons, an expanding family and a new life!

Today, I am a young 60-year-old guy who has two wonderful granddaughters I adore. I'm rebuilding my life. I'm restarting a career I had to give up to fight cancer, and I'm making plans for the future.

If you are struggling with the initial weight of a physician saying to you, "I'm sorry, but it's cancer," then I'd like to offer you the steps I learned in my nine-year battle against cancer that helped me keep my head above water. Those seven steps are:

  1. Stay positive.
  2. Remain hopeful.
  3. Cling to faith in God above and in your medical team here on Earth.
  4. Find a reason to fight the disease.
  5. Celebrate every success as you move through treatment.
  6. Keep making plans.
  7. Spend time every day replenishing your emotional batteries.

If there was one glaring fact I learned in my fight against cancer, it was the importance of recharging my emotional batteries every night; that became my most important work. I found that when I didn't recharge my emotional batteries, I'd tend to go negative, lose hope, question faith and wonder why I was fighting when I should have been recognizing the little success in treatment and realizing life was still good even though this great unpleasantness surrounded me!

The "Seven Steps of Persistent Perseverance" is the title of a document I prepared with cancer patients and their families in mind. It outlines what I learned over the years as I kept up my resolve to fight cancer.

As I bring this entry to a close, I pray you will find some solace knowing that God is still in control, and there are never any emergencies in Heaven. There will be times when you'll occasionally hear discouraging news about how your body is responding to treatment. Don't let bad reports bring you down. Step #1 of the Seven Steps is to remain positive and avoid going negative. By all means, keep your emotional batteries fully charged, never stop fighting, never stop hoping and never stop believing. Cancer is a disease — not a death sentence; fight it, beat it and enjoy the rest of life yet to come!


Share Your Thoughts

How did you face your cancer diagnosis? What words of hope and suggestions do you have for other cancer patients? 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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