Brain Cancer has to be one of the most devastating diagnosis.
“We found something.”
When Peter Green first heard those terrifying words his entire life changed. The diagnosis was brain cancer. It shook him to the core. His dreams came to a halt. Right then, he knew he had to concentrate on getting well for his young son and those who loved and counted on him.
In his book, “My Cancer Journey: From Discovery to Recovery,” Green weaves together all the pieces of his life-family, friends, romance and work-and the dramatic changes they all undergo after his diagnosis. He unabashedly shares his battle with brain cancer in a no-holes-barred, truthful and emotional look into his personal journey. This insightful book covers the gamut of emotions cancer patients feel and the exercises and techniques that helped him through this difficult period in his life.
We recently sat down with Peter to ask about his journey.
“How did you react when told?”
When the doctor told, me they found something. My whole body started to react. I broke into a full body sweat and felt the blood drain out of my body. But thinking back I know I started an internal transition. Physiologically I felt myself leaving a world I had experienced for 45 years. A world for the most part that was safe and somewhat predictable. Now I was being pulled into a world I had never been a part of and one which I had no control over. No matter if I survived I knew I would never be able to fully return to the world I knew and was a part of before.
“What was your prognosis?”
I was diagnosed with stage 3 brain cancer and would participate in a clinical trial at Sloan Kettering in NYC. That would entail 6 months of intensive chemotherapy and another 25 straight days of full brain radiation. I was never told what my chances were and I never asked. I felt the need to focus and fight. Being given a number or odds was something I didn’t want to know. No number was going to define my chances to survive.
“How important is family support?”
I felt blessed to have a family that jumped right in and became a part of my team. I often say that the doctors have their teams of specialist and we too as cancer patients need to form our own team to help us navigate the realities of going through cancer. If you’re lucky it will be your family. Often that is not possible so you need to seek out friends and other support options that the community provides as well as hospitals. I know for a fact that support now by hospitals for those going through cancer have gotten so much better than when I went through cancer in 2005/2006. It continues to provide me a strong sense of the good in people and how people want to help. Often it will come from those you least expect. I believe the good in people truly rises when they see another in need.
“How did you cope with the side effects, if any?”
I experienced many side effects that chemotherapy and radiation provide. Extreme nausea, Fatigue, Depression, Fear to name a few. I was a single Dad of my 10-year-old son and I realized I needed to do something. For me the exercise program I designed that I could do in my home was the best way for me to combat my side effects. These exercises allowed me to stay strong through the treatment both mentally and physically. The exercises gave me the sense that I was now part of my treatment and was working with the doctors to fight my cancer, I was not just a bystander but part of the solution. Most importantly they allowed those that loved me to cope better over my cancer, my family, my son. Now they saw I was fighting and was determined not to let cancer defeat me.
“How did you tell your family, especially your young son?”
This was perhaps the hardest part both telling my Dad and my son. I realized how scary it was for my Dad and the thought one of his children would die before him. I made sure I told him in person and not over the phone. Coming from a large family I did rely on my sister to prepare him prior to me seeing him face to face. Once I did he fell into my arms crying. It further emboldened me as I felt I needed in some way to take care of him.
My son was a much more complicated dance. I sat him down with his mom now 4 years divorced and told him Daddy needed to go through these treatments. He completely lost it and immediately started to make me promise I wasn’t going to die. I only saw one solution to calm his worst fears. I said “I promise I won’t die” It was at that moment I knew I why I would fight and not leave him.
“How did you manage to work and go through treatment?”
At the time of my diagnosis I was a leading executive for a large media company. I managed a large sales force of over 40 people. My job and those people felt like a second family. I was fortunate to work for a great company. I was un able to go into the office due to the need to protect my immune system. Initially I would spend hours on the phone talking to people while laying on my couch. I was lucky that I had my brother staying with me, helping take care of my son. My brother seeing how tired I was getting would often just take the phone out of my hands and say “Peter needs to rest now” I was so used to being in control that I had hard time letting go. I finally realized a real manager would feel confident in the people he trained and the systems he put in place. It was this revelation that allowed me to let go and let my team show their skill set. This allowed me to further focus on fighting my cancer and using all my energy focused on this one goal.
“What is the first thing you would tell someone just diagnosed”
I often get asked this question. My answer is the same. Everyone reacts differently and whatever that reaction is should be respected and for the most part in many cases it is out of that person’s control. My own physical reaction was one I couldn’t have prevented. So, if they cry, scream, have panic attacks let them happen. Only after you feel those reactions can you now decide how you are going to deal with all the realities cancer delivers. –
– The fear you will fear along this journey
– The Transition from one world to another now being a cancer patient
– The reality of how it will affect your family, work, friends
Cancer doesn’t care of your life before cancer. You still have responsibilities in your life that will remain. None of this seems fare but it is your new reality. My advice is focus on you and how you are going to fight. Try to build a team that can help you deal with all the responsibilities you will still have. Take action both mentally and physically that will keep you strong. Recognize you are fighting a war that you must win. The power of the mind is amazing and your body and will to live is incredibly strong. Only you can call on that inner energy. That is what I would tell those when diagnosed. Find that energy as I always say ultimately It is:
Your Body. Your Mind. Your Fight.
Along with the publication of his book, Green launched Workout Through Cancer (WOTC), a company dedicated to building a community of people affected by cancer providing hope, inspiration and guidance through the sharing of a unique exercise program. Oncology approved, this is the only exercise program designed specifically for those going through their cancer journey resulting in improved body and weight management; maintenance of cardiovascular function; mobility/flexibility; and mindfulness and focus, which help reduce depression and emotional pitfalls.