John Charles is a chartered accountant—a ‘numbers guy’—who knew that the numbers associated with lung cancer survival were not in his favour. However, in that first meeting, Dr. Frances Shepherd, the head of Princess Margaret Hospital’s lung medical oncology program, said to John after reviewing his tests, “We’re going after a cure here, not remission. Are you up for that?”
“I didn’t spend time googling my type of lung cancer or different treatments, as I didn’t feel it would put me in a positive mindset,” shares John. “I did, however, google Dr. Shepherd, and found out she’s the ‘Wayne Gretzky’ of lung cancer, and that was all I needed to know.”
Despite having such a difficult cancer, John said he didn’t read inspirational books. He found comfort in his own space and with his two teams—his home team with his wife Cheryl of 37 years and their two children, and his PMH care team.
John found his positive attitude easier to maintain thanks to the PMH staff. “They’re always UP,” he says. “The staff is vibrant and excited by what they are doing.” Like most patients at PMH, John feels enormous gratitude to his upbeat team of physicians—Andrea Bezjak, Linda Coat, and Gerry Prendergast—along with a cheerful and compassionate support staff of nurses, administrators, and technicians.
Dr. Shepherd has raised funding for and recruited a world-class team at PMH to research lung cancer at a molecular level, develop new screening and diagnostic techniques, and new treatments. She has won highly prestigious scientific awards and is recognized worldwide for her published papers and her discoveries. When you ask any member of her team why they came to PMH, they all respond that they came for the opportunity to work with her.
While each individual in the lung cancer team is a superstar, it is their ability to work collaboratively that allows them to continually move the bar up on behalf of their patients. As John observed during his time being cared for by this team, “When you want to get to the top of your game, you want to work with the best.” In the past year, the team has collectively published almost 100 research papers and run over 50 clinical trials while caring for more than 800 new lung cancer patients.
John’s course of treatment was intense. He had chemotherapy for 4 hours per day for three days in a row, with treatments every 3 to 4 weeks for a further 6 months. He was also a familiar face in the radiation department—having treatment twice daily for 15 days in a row to eradicate the tumour, plus 2 weeks of preventative radiation after his chemotherapy. And he managed to keep up this regime missing only two weeks of work.
John brought all of his skill and all of his knowledge to this fight with cancer. In a highly successful business career that spans many decades, John has learned how to solve tough problems, to work with people of all types, and to trust and rely on others. These all came into play. But, when it comes to facing difficult situations, experts have found that there is little that rivals positive thinking and a positive mindset.
You might think that a positive attitude is something you are born with, and this is partly true, but we have all grown up knowing that we can see the glass half full or half empty. John heard his oncologist say, “We’re going after a cure,” and he instantly saw his glass was half full.