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Advice For Newly Diagnosed Patients- Mike Lawing

By Elaine Guinan on August 10, 2017

Michael B. Lawing from Rutherford County, NC is involved in advocacy for cancer patients at the local, National and International levels. He serves as a Member of the Board of Directors of the Kidney Cancer Association, the world’s largest non-profit dealing exclusively with Kidney Cancer with over 90,000 members in 102 countries. He is one of the community leaders of the KCA Community Member Pages on Inspire.com and regularly serves as a consumer reviewer for research grant proposals through the National Cancer Institute and the Congressionally Directed Medical Research Program. He is a member of several cancer support groups in the Carolinas and a volunteer at the local Hospice program. Here, Mike tells us about his cancer story, and the advice he gives to newly diagnosed patients. 

Dr Veronica McLymont - cook for your lifeIn mid-November 1997, I went to the emergency room of a local hospital with waves of nausea and an intense pain in my lower abdomen. The day after Thanksgiving a large tumor that had encapsulated my entire right kidney was removed. In a matter of days my life had been forever changed; I had been transformed from a fairly healthy 49-year-old man into a survivor of kidney cancer whose hopeful prognosis was perhaps five relatively good years with an expected decline in health after that. From the outset my urologist/surgeon explained that not a lot was known about kidney cancer at the basic medical or patient level and that I should try to learn all I could about the disease to perhaps improve my chances of survival. I was told that chemotherapy and radiation was ineffective on this cancer; that no other treatment options other than surgery were available as far as he knew. He also told me that due to the large size of the tumor that had been removed I could expect metastatic disease within 3 to 5 years. He committed to helping me to find information and also to refer me to a specialist should metastatic disease occur. In September 2000 when metastatic disease was found he referred me to a specialist some 90 minutes away from my home.

Prior to my diagnosis I had been a person with a very positive attitude and had a deep faith in God. Those attributes have proved invaluable to me throughout my journey of survivorship, especially in those first years when we were faced with progressive disease and a series of outpatient and inpatient surgeries as well as some very harsh treatment regimens that required hospitalization. While I still have active disease that requires a program of regular diagnostic procedures and occasional periods of treatment I am able to enjoy an almost normal lifestyle and am privileged to be able to share insights and information with other survivors and their family members.

For many patients who are diagnosed today with most of the 200+ types of cancer there are often many diagnostic and treatment options, surgical and other interventional procedures as well as a host of supportive comprehensive therapies that were not available a decade ago; in fact for many cancers there have been significant advances in the past few years. One of the first pieces of advice that I pass along to those recently diagnosed is to somewhat disregard the stories that will be told about someone who had a cancer experience a few years ago. Another recommendation that I make is for the patient as well as the family to become knowledgeable about the various treatment options and drugs available for the cancer they are dealing with. While doctors are increasingly including the patient in the decision-making process about which treatment or procedure to use, a poorly informed patient is often unable to fully participate in these important conversations. While the medical team’s recommendations will often be the best option for a patient, there may be important considerations regarding quality of life, personal or family convenience, and a host of other items that the medical team may not appropriately prioritize in making their recommendation. Being better informed also helps a patient/family member to have more confidence as they go forward in a new treatment regimen or procedure; they will often be able to be much more proactive in the management of side effects and in recognizing items which they should contact their doctor or oncology nurse about.

For almost two decades I have encouraged cancer survivors with a phrase adapted from the writings of Dr. Norman Cousins: Don’t deny the diagnosis; Try to defy the outcome.

Wishing you the best in your journey, Mike.

For more information about Mike’s journey and work in for the cancer community, check out this article in Cancer Today.

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