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The value of a cancer patient/survivor in the workforce

Many people diagnosed with cancer have jobs. We might be manual labors, white collar workers, or even students. Whatever the activity, work dominates much of our lives. It not only fills our days, but has a great impact on the lives we lead with family and friends our workmates can become as close as family. Many of us spend more of our waking hours with fellow workers than we do with our families.  Even when you’re sick regardless of your role business must continue. Meetings must take place, goals must be met, and the normal cadence of the workday must continue. I think cancer helped me be a better sales executive. It helped me cut through a lot of the...

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Time to meet the neighborhood

The “neighborhood” of the 7th floor. This introduction was the most memorable. I had hardly left the room before I began to observe the full range of sights and sounds on a cancer ward—a very old woman asleep with her mouth wide open in the semi- dark, alone; a mother holding the hands of two children as they walked into a room to visit a man who must be their father; a distant laugh and then, seconds later, some nearby crying. Dozens of people were struggling with cancer on a single floor, each one a complicated life. all these unimaginable stories, all these lives in danger and the larger set of lives deeply affected by their struggles.

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How poison might be just what saves you

The chemo nurse sets me up. As he releases the chemo, I watch a vivid green liquid moving through the IV tube. The effervescent green river entering my vein. I can’t take my eyes off the poison entering my body. I know it’s going to make me sick, I just don’t know yet how sick. I try to comfort myself with the reminder that this attacker may well be my protector. The drip takes two hours. The IV pole is still attached, and I use it as a crutch to enable me to stand. It will become my best friend and dance partner every time I come to Sloan Kettering for treatment.

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Find a new purpose and meaning through suffering

Reading the book, “Man’s Search for Meaning” by Viktor Frankel, the renowned Austrian neurologist and psychiatrist who survived the Holocaust. Reading about his road to physical and spiritual survival made me wish I’d come across his book during my treatment. “We cannot avoid suffering,” Frankel writes, “but we can choose how to cope with it, and meaning in it, and move forward with renewed purpose.” He had an amazing ability to discover love, beauty, and even humor in the most perilous circumstances.

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Feel your fear and find your courage

I experienced a panic attack the day they gave me my diagnosis. Looking back on my fear that day in the hospital room, I think it was an essential part of the process of recovery. The anxiety was so overpowering I really had no choice but to acknowledge it and allow it to take its course—shake me to the core, bring me to tears, race my heart. There would be more moments like this and each one helped prepare me for the long fight ahead. During those long months I began to draw inspiration from a surprising source—the Spartans of ancient Greece. Historians regard the Spartans as among the most disciplined and feared warriors of all time. Military training began...

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