George

Diagnosed in 2013

George lives in Virginia with Linda, his wife of 43 years. He was diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer in 2013.

Make sure you don't make cancer the center of your life. It is overwhelming at first but you should live the life that you have, you should enjoy the things that you enjoy doing, you should try new things. That's the essence of who you are and you should continue to be who you are.

These are the experiences, ideas and views of each individual person featured here. Your own situation may be different and these ideas may not work for you.

George's Journey With Cancer

  • Diagnosed with Stage IV non-small cell lung cancer in 2013
  • Chemotherapy
  • Radiation
  • Targeted therapies for the EGFR mutation

George

You tend to fall back on people that are supposed to know. We have a very skilled set of practitioners in this area.

It's important for people to get themselves educated and to empower themselves. To look for and get credible sources of treatment.

Have an understanding that the treatment of cancer is changing fast and dramatically. There's every reason to be positive that you can live with this disease.

Linda

Find a doctor that has your same philosophy towards treatment. A doctor you feel comfortable with, that you can say pretty much anything to.

Get a second opinion. Nobody can know everything.

Our doctor said, "You're doing fine, you'll be doing fine for as far as I can see out, but if there are things you want to do, do them now." I'd say that's a pretty good piece of advice.

Never go alone to the doctor. Have someone go with you and take notes. We hear totally different things. Prepare questions in advance - don't go in cold. Stay away from the internet. Some of the things you're reading - even if it's just two years old - are no longer applicable. Things are changing so fast so don't overwhelm yourself with everything that's out there.

Emotions

George

When I get down, I get together with other people or get involved in an activity. You get yourself into this mental spiral.

You have to do something different that breaks the cycle, whether it's a physical activity or a totally different mental activity.

It's important once in a while to have a pity party, to recognize that this is not where you'd want to be. But use that as catharsis.

You feel like you're out of control initially, but you can gain more control than you think.

Friends & Family

George

For us it's been really valuable to be in the same boat as people like us. Trying to link up with some kind of a support group is important because it's nice to know other people are going up and down.

What I would advocate to people is "You are living with cancer, cancer is not driving your life." All of these things are helpful but you don't want to change who you are because you have a diagnosis of cancer.

There is a tendency when you hear that somebody has cancer, or you hear they have Stage IV cancer, that you prepare your goodbye speech. That's not where you want to go.

Like every other thing in life, how you present yourself is how people respond to you. It's very important for you to think if you want to be seen as the victim of cancer, or do you want to maintain the relationship you had with them? With more treatments, better treatments and more impactful treatments, it's important for people to realize they can go on with their lives. Share that you have a problem, but don't make it the center of things.

Linda

We have conversations I never dreamed we'd have. It can be pretty emotional. One of the dangers is pushing each other away because you don't want to be hurt. To recognize that and fight against that you really do need to stay connected, be a team and be there for each other.

Don't get too discouraged, no matter how far along it is.

I lean on friends and family. You feel so helpless. It's been very comforting for me to know that there will be downs, but there can also be ups.

It's like hanging onto a roller coaster.

"Life With Cancer" is run locally through our hospital. It's free. You can go to these exercises and support groups. There's a nurse navigator. We haven't used her yet but it's somebody we can call anytime, who will help us navigate this whole system and who also can answer questions.

Health & Fitness

George

My exercise is walking. I wouldn't say that someone recently diagnosed should become a marathoner, but I do think it's very important to stay active and to find something that fits you.

Whether it's yoga or walking, it does empower you to recognize you have control over your body and there's still stuff you can do in life and things you can enjoy. If you had a sedentary existence, look to take up something - but something you enjoy.

Even if it's going shopping or going to a movie. Cancer can be very isolating, especially for people that are newly diagnosed.

Cancer for me is about living the life that you have, and finding the things you can do at whatever level.

There are apps like MapMyWalk and the FitBit bracelet. I set myself a challenge to see how far I've walked. It is amazing over time - suddenly I realize I've done quite a bit. It's very encouraging and very positive for my psyche.

Linda

We try and walk a couple of miles a day. It is very empowering. If you walked two miles before you were diagnosed and you can still walk two miles after, that's a sense of normal.

We went to a conference and pulmonary rehab was suggested. It's not something we've looked into yet but I think we should have at the very beginning.

Diet & Nutrition

George

I'm much more conscious of fiber because of the lower GI effects of some of the medications.

Taste is an issue. So if there's any change it's that I've been eating food that's a little more spicy. Whether it's good for me or not, I don't know! But it tastes good and I've haven't had big side effects or problems from that.

Linda

The doctor said - especially through the chemo - whatever he can keep down, whatever sounds good to him he eats. We need to get calories. So don't feel guilty about whatever you feel like eating through those periods. Just eat it and it'll be OK.

Travel

George

For long distance travel, I make sure I stay someplace close to what I want to do, so I'm not spending a lot of time and a lot of energy going from the suburbs into the city or from the city to the country.

We now consider travel insurance because although I'm doing really well now, if we're planning to take a trip in six months and we've invested a fair amount of money we want to be covered for that.

Almost every cruise line, or whatever, will offer travel insurance, but it often comes in the form of a credit with the company. That's not very attractive if you're facing an illness that could prevent you from traveling again.

Now, I really enjoy planning a vacation. It gives me an opportunity to anticipate more than I had in the past.

Linda

Also pacing. We're really careful when we plan our trip that we don't drive anywhere more than six hours. That's been a bit of a change.

I don't want to go to a country that doesn't have excellent, usable and accessible medical care, and also where I can't speak the language. That's changed the kinds of trips we might have taken.

On a flight, we'll pay a little upgrade for that little extra legroom, which we never used to do. $40 or $50 a flight. I don't know if that's age related or illness related!

Work

George

The biggest change for me was not so much the cancer diagnosis but the fact I went into retirement before I planned to.

I was very focused on my work and I wasn't expecting to retire. Particularly for newly diagnosed patients, that's kind of the biggest change.

Recognize it's going to take some time. You're not immediately going to figure out what you're going to do. Recognize that you're going to live with cancer, you're not dying of cancer.

It was hardest for about the first six months. I kind of jostled about, reading books and watching TV. But there's only so much Dr Phil you can take!

Now that I've accommodated the new reality I do a lot more reading and I do a lot with digital photography.

The big thing about Linda working is I don't want my life to revolve around cancer. Having her sitting there and watching me just would reinforce that.

So for now, her continuing to work adds a bit of normalcy to what we're doing. It helps us deal psychologically with the impact of the disease.

Think about mentoring, think about volunteering, think about passing on your skills. For someone who's had a life of helping others, you don't want to give that up.

Linda

I love the books he's produced from the places that we've gone to.

I don't have the house to myself anymore! You're not used to having someone there all day long.

Make sure your affairs are in order. It's very comforting to know that if something happens, everything's laid out and ready to roll.

Finances

George

We found an individual who specializes in doing trust work. The process of doing that is not that onerous if you find a firm that specializes in it. I would recommend that.

A lot of attorneys will set up a trust for you that isn't filled. So basically you have a trust and there's nothing in it. You actually have to go through the step of moving dollars and stock accounts into the trust.

Linda

We chose long-term disability insurance. That's given us a cushion of time to be able to plan, rejigger and has allowed us to travel more.

George & Linda's Perspective

George

Even with advanced cancers like I have, you can still continue to live a productive and happy kind of life. Even if it doesn't seem to be at the time you're getting the news.

The most positive thing is the caring of the caregivers. I thought I'd be isolated but I've been pleasantly surprised to find out how positive people are, how genuinely caring they are.

Linda

Don't lose hope. You can live a good life and have wonderful experiences, you can still travel, and live your life like everybody should live their lives - like this could be your last day on earth.

None of us knows whether or not it is, but it just makes you live your life like it is, and in some ways that's a positive.

There's still life to be lived and I feel really grateful for that.

Sadly, George passed away in August 2015. While he will be missed, George’s support, love, and encouragement will live on, including in LVNG With Lung Cancer. By sharing his experiences and practical guidance, he truly embodied what it means to fully live a life with lung cancer. George’s wife, Linda, has expressed a strong desire to continue to support George’s legacy and LVNG With. It has been an honor to have had the opportunity to meet George and help to contribute to his legacy.

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