By Amy McMillin, as told to Kendall Morgan
When I found out I had lung cancer, I was working full-time. That hasn’t changed. I’m still working full-time, and my family is trying to keep up the same routine we had before my diagnosis, with some exceptions and adjustments of course.
I have two children. My oldest is in college and my youngest can drive now so I don’t have to do the morning school routine. This is of great help as fatigue is one of the biggest side effects of my treatment. Fortunately, my mother-in-law also lives nearby. She is such a great help to our family. She comes once a month and thoroughly cleans our home and helps us in any other way we need.
It is important to have a support system, both at home and at work. I’m so fortunate to work from home and have a great work support system. When I was diagnosed I went to my manager and we discussed options that would allow me some flexibility in my work schedule. I can rest at times when I’m in pain or not feeling well. I find that a quick power nap at lunchtime can help me get through the day.
I set up my home office to keep track of deadlines and priorities. My memory is a bit of a struggle sometimes and things take longer than they used to. To stay on track, I use a large desktop calendar, to-do lists, and other organizational tools. These help me know where I left off the previous day and what I need to do next. I have adapted.
One of the things that was new to me about being diagnosed with cancer was drug management. The targeted drug I take for my type of lung cancer is very specific to when I need to take it. I have to take two tablets twice a day. They must also be taken 12 hours apart. Also, do not eat anything 2 hours before and 1 hour after taking the pills. It took some trial and error to find a schedule that would work with our family’s schedule.
I find that taking it at 5am and 5pm allows me to have dinner with my family in the evenings at a time that suits everyone. As well as the targeted drug, I now take another drug to help with digestive issues from radiation and that also needs to be taken at specific times.
Prior to my diagnosis, I would see my GP once a year or on the rare occasion I had a bad cold. These days I feel like I’m at the doctor’s all the time. I go to my GP at least once a month for a check up on the medications I’m taking. They help me manage my side effects and other issues I may have.
I’m traveling too [a specialty hospital] once every 3 months for scans. I am being examined by my oncology team and my cardiology team. I had to learn to live with a long list of side effects, including fatigue, stomach issues, skin issues, sun sensitivity, bloating, and weight gain. Each of these side effects requires a different doctor to treat them. Managing all the meds and all the doctor’s appointments on top of my usual work schedule and personal life is probably one of the biggest challenges in everyday life.
But despite all the side effects, medication and doctor visits, it is important to me that I mentally stick to a normal lifestyle as much as possible. It’s good for me and my family. I’m still young and I have so much to contribute to my family and friends. I want to keep moving and grooving for as long as possible.
Some days it’s wonderful and some days it’s very difficult, but I find the most important thing is to have a solid support system in all aspects. Trust your medical team. Rely on your friends and family to help you because they want it and you need it. Beyond that, just keep putting one foot in front of the other. Fight on.