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Guest Perspectives: Sailing Through Life With Cancer

September 30, 2019
...while my disease was seemingly ‘incurable,’ it was still very much manageable. I decided then that I’d never let it hold me back or keep me from living.”

My lifelong journey managing cancer began at the age of 42 when a tumor was found in my esophagus. It was hard to make sense of my initial diagnosis – I was relatively young to be diagnosed with esophageal cancer, and I had no known risk factors. Nonetheless, I was ready to fight.

My cancer was stage I at the time. After a treatment plan that included chemotherapy, radiation, surgery, and rehabilitation, I was relieved to begin remission. My scans showed no visible sign of cancer in my body. I felt I could exhale, at least for now. With cancer behind me, I could once again focus on work, enjoy quality time with my daughters, and get back out on the water – racing sailboats, a hobby I love but temporarily put on hold during treatment.

Like many others, my journey didn’t end there. Just when I thought I had it beat, my cancer returned one year later, in December 2018. This time, it metastasized in my lungs. Now stage IV, I was forced to confront the fact that my disease was likely here to stay. It took time and a strong network of support, but eventually I learned that while my disease was seemingly “incurable,” it was still very much manageable. I decided then that I’d never let it hold me back or keep me from living.

Instead of letting cancer rule my life, I took charge. I worked closely alongside my oncologist, Wendy Mahone-Johnson, M.D., of Texas Oncology–Plano Prestonwood, to ask the vital questions about managing my disease, make a game plan for ongoing treatment, set achievable physical goals, and seek out the support I’d need throughout my journey. These decisions, and my adjusted outlook on life with cancer, came to define my experience of survivorship.

I took several proactive steps to continue to live my life as normal as possible. I joined a cancer support group immediately after my diagnosis, which helped me cope and learn to manage my symptoms. I researched and went through oncology physical therapy, which helped me regain the physical strength I needed to return to sailing. I stopped focusing so much on the aspects of my disease I couldn’t control – survival statistics, progression, and trends in other patients’ cases.

I finally learned to live. Because no matter the outcome, I was already a survivor. I didn’t earn that badge when I went through remission, I earned it when I decided to continue the fight.

Because I made the choice to take control and be my own advocate, I was back out on my boat less than six months after my first treatment. Although my cancer is by no means gone, I’ve forged a better path forward for myself as a survivor. My close relationships with the peers in my support group and the open line of communication I have with Dr. Mahone-Johnson have greatly improved my quality of life.

I know my journey is far from over. I’m lucky to continue to live a full life with my two terrific kids, passion for my job as a cybersecurity engineer, and strength to continue racing – more than I could have ever hoped for in my life as a survivor.

The information included in this testimonial is based on one patient’s unique experience and is not intended to represent all patient outcomes or expectations.


For upcoming webinars visit www.TexasOncologyFoundation.org