Navigating Lung Cancer: Embracing a New Normal - Episode 6
Shubham Pant, MD: Welcome to our next segment. I’m very happy to introduce Richard Dickens, MS, LCSW-R who is a social worker. Richard, tell us, you do a lot of other things. So tell us what you do.
Richard Dickens, MS, LCSW-R: I do. I’ve been at CancerCare for 22 years. It’s a wonderful organization. I came there as an oncology social worker. It was a career change for me in midlife, and over the years I developed many programs, as well as now my title is Director of Client Advocacy. So I was responsible for and very much involved in bringing the voice of, we call our people clients who come to CancerCare because we work with patients, caregivers, and bereaved and to more the national debate with pharmaceutical companies, with stakeholders, with government and things like that, bringing the voice of the patient.
Shubham Pant, MD: Patient and caregivers out here.
Richard Dickens, MS, LCSW-R: To their discussions.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s amazing. And you told me also that you are yourself a cancer survivor.
Richard Dickens, MS, LCSW-R: I am. I was in the midst of a career change. I was a marathon runner, and then I got diagnosed at 37 with non-Hodgkin lymphoma. And I put graduate school off for a year and eventually did finish and was hired at CancerCare where I originally came as a patient. And I’ve been there for 22 years.
Shubham Pant, MD: And the rest is history.
Richard Dickens, MS, LCSW-R: The rest is history.
Shubham Pant, MD: Taylor, tell me this, you’ve also. Richard out here was a marathon runner, and you were a college athlete. I try to do a 1K on and off, so I guess I’m in the same category as you guys. But tell me about how was it for you after your diagnosis. You were a college athlete, you were into soccer. I know you had to kind of hang up your cleats. But when was it that you realized that this is not something that you can do and how did you change your life around after that?
Taylor Bell Duck: In the initial diagnosis and treatment, you kind of go through a state of shock and then survival mode. And so you don’t have really a whole lot of time to process what’s kind of happening to you or for me it didn’t. And so I guess when I realized I kind of had a new normal, a new life was at my three-month follow up, all my girlfriends were on spring break and I was sitting in this physician’s office sulking because I was so upset that this had happened to me. And that’s kind of when my physician had a true heart to heart with me and said, Taylor, this disease affects way more people than you could imagine and it has a terrible stigma, and it’s very underfunded, and you have an opportunity to use your voice to speak. And so at that point, I kind of made it a goal of mine to really try to speak up any time I had the opportunity and then also just realize that I had a new different life than what I had before. And it wasn’t worse, it just was different.
Shubham Pant, MD: Different.
Taylor Bell Duck: Emotionally and physically. And physically I think was a big challenge for me just because I was in great shape, then I got to the point where I was not in great shape. And so there was little things along the way that I used, tips to kind of help me get back into shape. And one of the things I think that kind of kick started me was my physician and PA challenged me to a 5K.
Shubham Pant, MD: 5K?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes.
Shubham Pant, MD: Did they run a 5K?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes, they were in great shape.
Shubham Pant, MD: Something I will now challenge my patients to do ..... [laughter]
Taylor Bell Duck: And so the 5K was actually to support lung cancer research. So I thought what a great cause. It will be a year after my diagnosis. We’ll make it work. And so I trained pretty hard for that 5K race.
Shubham Pant, MD: After your surgery, after part of your lung had been taken out.
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes, yes.
Shubham Pant, MD: That’s amazing.
Taylor Bell Duck: And so they ran the race with me. They were significantly faster. So the cool part was is that they finished way before me, but they turned back around and ran back to where I was, and then we all finished the race together which I thought was really, really cool. It was definitely awesome to see that kind of support from my healthcare team. And it really kind of put me in gear to continue to work on my fitness and be okay with the fact that I’ll probably never run a 7-minute mile again, but that’s okay as long as I get out and I’m active.
Shubham Pant, MD: So are you still active? Do you get out now?
Taylor Bell Duck: Yes.
Shubham Pant, MD: Tell us a little bit about, for people like me who are not very athletically inclined, what all can we do? What are you doing right now?
Taylor Bell Duck: Absolutely. So I think that if you can find something that you semi enjoy, it’s probably better than doing something.
Shubham Pant, MD: Eating? [laughter]
Taylor Bell Duck: Yeah, it’s better than doing something that you hate. I always try to find things that I enjoy to do that keep me active. I’m learning to play golf, but I make it a point to walk the course as opposed
Shubham Pant, MD: Not drive.
Taylor Bell Duck: Not ride the cart. And so that’s one of the things that I, small tip or trick that I think is helpful. So it’s good to play golf. Even if you are riding the cart, you’re at least out being active. But I think any time you can take an incremental step to do just a little bit more is better. So I have a push cart and I walk the course. It’s pretty good exercise if you’ve never done it.