(Editor’s note: Randy Broad is a 7 year lung cancer patient, avid lung cancer patient advocate, and Secretary of the Patient Empowerment Network Board of Directors. He is a former international business executive and author of the book, It’s an Extraordinary Life – Don’t Miss It.)
At 52 years of age, Randy Broad was diagnosed with non-small cell lung cancer. There was no history of lung cancer in his family. He had no idea of what the disease was. He was recommended to an oncologist, but realized pretty quickly that this oncologist was not for him. Randy did some research and, as he says, ‘got really lucky’ and found Dr. Renato Martins at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. Randy knew right away that Dr. Martins was the right doctor for him.
Dr. Martins enrolled Randy in a clinical trial, telling him that a trial was ‘tomorrow’s drug today’. That’s all that Randy needed to hear. Eight years later, Randy is living well and telling his story to countless other lung cancer patients world-wide.
In honor of Lung Cancer Awareness Month, I interviewed Randy to ask him about how he is living and coping with the history of a lung cancer diagnosis. Below are his thoughts.
Joan: How did you deal with the initial diagnosis of lung cancer?
Randy: All I could think about was my kids. That they would grow up without a dad. As soon as I was diagnosed, I had to text my kids and tell them that I loved them. I had to figure out what it was all about and what really mattered to me. I went to the local oncologist and was told that I had 2 years to live. I thought, how does he know? How can he say that without even knowing me? I just knew that I had to shop for another doctor. This is a life and death decision. Then I stumbled upon Dr. Martins at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance and I knew that he was the doctor for me. He advised me to enroll in a clinical trial and I trusted him and did just that.
Joan: Knowing what you know now, what would you have done differently?
Randy: Back then, some of the resources weren’t available like they are now. I didn’t really know how to search for a good doctor. Now I really think that the best way to find a doctor is through a pharmaceutical representative. They know all the doctors at all the hospitals. They know which doctor is doing what research and who is most knowledgeable about drugs and clinical trials.
Joan: What would you tell a newly diagnosed lung cancer patient?
Randy: Take someone with you to every doctors appointment. Take notes, talk it over with someone else, because really, you will only take in about half of what the doctor says. You really need someone there with you. Get a good doctor that you can relate to – a specialist for your condition. And even if you really like your doctor, get a second if not a third opinion.
Joan: How do you stay healthy today physically and mentally, knowing that you have survived a serious illness?
Randy: You have to live your life. Do what you love. Focus on what matters and not on what doesn’t. Assess what you want out of the rest of your life. A cancer diagnosis puts life into perspective. Take time to enjoy. Personally, I started writing. First I wrote a blog and got my thoughts down every day. This was cathartic for me and really helped me. It also helped me keep in touch with family and friends who were interested in how I was doing. A blog was a way to communicate my story to all of them. Then I started writing a little more philosophically and my blog turned into a book! Writing this book was a great experience. I wrote favorite stories about my life so that my children could read them and know about my past experiences.
As far as exercise goes, I did yoga and meditated during the time I was getting chemo. Now, I ride my bike and walk. I only really have half a lung that works, so stairs are difficult for me. I have always eaten well. I like to cook and eat healthy. People used to send me information about diet plans. I’d receive about a diet a day: melon diet, this diet, that diet. What I do is I eat in moderation. If I want to eat a steak, I eat it. I enjoy it. I really try and live each day and enjoy what I have.
Joan: Any last thought as a 7 year lung cancer survivor?
Randy: As lung cancer patients, we don’t think about the destination, but live life in moments. When lung cancer patients share their stories, you will hear, ‘I just want to see my daughter get married’, or ‘I just want to see my grandson take his first step.’ I have seen my daughter go through high school, graduate from college, fall in love and now she lives with her boyfriend and they just got a dog together. My life is now measured by milestones that I will always remember.
“The greater the obstacle, the more glory in overcoming it” Moliere