By Amy McMillen, as narrated by Kendall Morgan
When I found out I had lung cancer, I was working full time. This has not changed. I still work full time, and my family tries to stick to the same routine we had before my diagnosis, with some exceptions and modifications, of course.
I have two children. My oldest is away in college and my youngest can drive now, so I don’t have to do my morning school routine. This is a huge help because one of the biggest side effects of my treatment is fatigue. Also, fortunately, my mother-in-law lives nearby. It is a great help to our family. She comes and deep cleans our house once a month and helps in any other way we might need.
It is important to have a support system, whether at home or at work. I am very fortunate to work from home and have a great work support system. When I was diagnosed, I went to my supervisor, 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 nap during lunch can help get me through the day.
I set up my office at home so I can keep track of deadlines and priorities. My memory struggles sometimes, and things are taking me 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 figure out where I left off the day before and what I need to do next. I have adapted.
One of the things that was new to me with a cancer diagnosis was the management of medications. The targeted medication I take for my type of lung cancer is very specific when I need to take it. I have to take two pills twice a day. They should also be 12 hours apart. Moreover, you cannot eat 2 hours before taking the pills and 1 hour after taking them. It took some trial and error to come up with a schedule that matched our family schedule.
I find that taking it at 5 am and 5 pm allows me to eat dinner with my family in the evening at a time convenient for everyone. Besides the target medication, i am taking another medication now to help with gastrointestinal issues from the radiation, and this needs to be taken at specific times as well.
Prior to my diagnosis, i went to see my primary care physician about once a year or on the rare occasion i caught a bad cold. These days, I feel like I’m at the doctor all the time. I see my local doctor at least once a month for check-ups related to the medications I take. They helped me manage the side effects and any other problems I might be having.
I also travel to [a specialty hospital] Once every 3 months for examination. I get checkups with 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 manage. Managing all of your medications, all of your doctor’s appointments, as well as your usual work and home life schedule is perhaps one of the biggest challenges in terms of daily life.
But even with all the side effects, medications, and doctor visits, I think it’s important for me mentally to maintain as much of a normal lifestyle as possible. It is good for me and my family. I’m still young and I have a lot to contribute to my family and friends. I want to keep moving and grooving for as long as possible.
Some days it’s great and some days it’s really hard, but I find that having a strong support system in all aspects is the most important thing. Trust your team of doctors. Count on your friends and family to help you because they want it and you need it. Beyond that, keep one foot in front of the other. Keep fighting.