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What I Learned: 6 Questions For Lung Cancer Patient Emily Bennett Taylor

04/16/2016 06:00AM | 9191 views

Five City of Hope patients who have journeyed through cancer will welcome 2016 atop City of Hope's Tournament of Roses Parade float on Jan. 1. The float’s theme, "The Miracle of Science with Soul," adds a deeper dimension to the parade theme of "Find your Adventure."

Emily Bennett Taylor was getting ready to celebrate her second wedding anniversary with her college sweetheart in June of 2012 when she learned she had been diagnosed with Stage 4 lung cancer. Emily, then 28-years-old, was a former college athlete who had led a healthy and active lifestyle and had never smoked. She quickly began treatment at City of Hope and vowed she would do whatever it took to survive. After eight rounds of chemotherapy, as well as surgery and radiation, Emily is now in remission and getting ready for her next adventure – becoming a mom.

Here, Emily answers questions about her diagnosis and treatment at City of Hope.

What was your most pivotal emotional moment during treatment?

Other than the cancer diagnosis, the most emotional moment of my treatment was when Dr. (Karen) Reckamp told me she thought it was time to explore the option of surgery. This was a hugely important milestone because surgery is not typical protocol for Stage 4 patients like me.  

When Dr. Reckamp gave the go-ahead to consult with surgeons, it was the culmination of all my hopes and dreams since Day One – getting the opportunity to cut this damn cancer out of me. Knowing that I'd finally beaten so many odds to get to the point of even being able to consider surgery – that was hugely emotional for me.

What practical tips can you give other patients going through treatment?

  1. Sleep – Sleep as much as you can, as often as you can. Your body needs time to recover and let the treatments do their work.
  2. Celebrate – Celebrate even the littlest of milestones. (I woke up today and didn't feel like crap!)
  3. Stay ahead of the nausea – Talk to your doctor about adding an anti-nausea medicine in with your infusion; then, stay on a regular schedule of anti-nausea meds, even in the middle of the night.
  4. Eat small meals – Being too full or too hungry makes nausea worse; the best way to prevent nausea is to eat small meals throughout the day. Stay away from foods that have strong odors, as they may make you less likely to eat. If possible, ask a family member or friend to cook for you and bring over a meal. Everyone wants to help, and this is a great way to let them.
  5. Drink water – Staying hydrated is so important. Drink lots of water during treatment. If water tastes weird to you, experiment by trying different types of bottled water, or at different temperatures, until you find one you like.
  6. Stay warm – Chemotherapy can make you cold, so bundle up during infusions. Warm fuzzy socks, lots of layers and a blanket. And I recommend bringing entertainment – my favorite was to watch comedies since it took my mind off things and made me laugh.

What family member or loved one did you rely on most?

I can say with all honesty that I would not be here today had it not been for my loving husband, Miles. When I was diagnosed, I think he was probably more scared than I was. But he used that fear to spring into action. He researched treatments, coordinated doctor appointments and made sure I was sleeping, eating and drinking enough, all while working full-time.  

Knowing that he was taking care of everything else allowed me to focus on getting strong for my treatment, fighting through the pain and resting up for the next challenge ahead.

Which person at City of Hope had the biggest impact – and how did he/she help?

I give an enormous amount of credit to my oncologist, Dr. Reckamp. She is truly amazing. But there is definitely one unsung hero of mine, and that's Carrie Christiansen, a registered nurse. As a cancer patient you have a ton of questions and there isn't always someone to answer them. Carrie always made time to answer all of our questions thoroughly, whether via email, phone or in person. From the second we saw her smiling face, I could feel the stress rush out of us at every appointment. And I know she's like that with all her patients. She's truly amazing.

What could a family member or loved one do to help a patient that they might not think of?

When a loved one is in pain, we want to help – it's just human nature. But for a cancer patient, even thinking of answers to the question, "How can I help?" can be overwhelming. It's hard to ask people for something, even if they've offered. We were the most grateful to the friends and family who did something kind without asking – bringing over a meal, stocking the refrigerator, offering to drive me to an appointment, stopping by to take our dog for a walk, getting our car vacuumed out so the dust didn't aggravate my allergies.

Doing something helpful is made that much sweeter when the patient doesn't have to come up with the idea.

How do you continue to "find your adventure" after your journey with cancer?

Since treatment, my husband and I have taken a few vacations. Usually they are laid-back and relaxed. But last year in Tulum, Mexico, I was able to climb a Mayan temple and stand at the top, overlooking the beautiful jungle below. It was invigorating. Not only that, but I now only have one lung, so climbing 137 feet up a steep pyramid was a huge accomplishment.

Beyond that, our next "adventure" will begin with the arrival of our twins, due via surrogate in April 2016. We are so excited for the next adventure in life after cancer.

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