By Amy McMillin, told to Kendall Morgan
When I found out I had lung cancer, I was working full time. That hasn’t changed. I still work full time and my family tries to follow 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. It’s a big help because fatigue is one of the main side effects of my treatment. Fortunately also, my mother-in-law lives nearby. She is such 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’s important to have a support system, at home and at work. I am so lucky to work from home and have a great support system at work. When I was diagnosed, I went to see my supervisor and we discussed options that allow me some flexibility in my work schedule. I can rest when I am in pain or not feeling well. I find that a little nap at lunch can help me get through the day.
I set up my home office to meet deadlines and priorities. My memory is sometimes a bit difficult and things take longer than before. To stay on track, I use a large desk calendar, to-do lists, and other organizational tools. These help me know where I left off the day before and what to do next. I adapted.
One of the things that was brand new to me with the cancer diagnosis was medication management. The targeted drug I take for my type of lung cancer is very specific as to when I should take it. I have to take two pills twice a day. They should also be taken 12 hours apart. In addition to this, you cannot eat for 2 hours before and 1 hour after taking the pills. It took some trial and error to come up with a schedule that would work with our family’s schedule.
I find taking it at 5am and 5pm allows me to have dinner with family in the evening at a time that suits everyone. In addition to the targeted drug, I am now taking another drug to help relieve digestive problems caused by radiation, and this also needs to be taken at specific times.
Prior to my diagnosis, I was going to see my GP once a year or on the rare occasion that I had a bad cold. These days, I feel like I’m at a doctor’s all the time. I see my local doctor at least once a month for checkups related to the medications I take. They help me manage my side effects and any other issues I may have.
I also travel to [a specialty hospital] once every 3 months for scans. I get exams 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 them. Managing all the medications and doctor’s appointments in addition to my usual work schedule and family life is probably one of the biggest challenges in everyday life.
But even with all the side effects, medications, and doctor visits, I think it’s important for me mentally to maintain 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 give to my family and friends. I want to keep moving and grooving for as long as I can.
Some days it’s wonderful and some days it’s very difficult, but I find the most important thing is to have a strong support system in all aspects. Trust your team of doctors. Lean on your friends and family to help you because they want it and you need it. Beyond that, keep putting one foot in front of the other. Keep fighting.