- Cancer Survivor: Suzanne Lenhart
“The relationship between me and my doctor was one of the single-most important aspects of my healing journey. It was very easy to trust him.”
Long before her cancer diagnosis in 1998, Suzanne Lenhart had been living an active and healthy lifestyle. So when two rounds of antibiotics did nothing to diminish her increasing fatigue or the hardening lump she discovered in her neck shortly after her mother died, she knew something was wrong. “During this time,” says Suzanne, “it was very confusing to me whether I was feeling fatigue and aching because I was grieving so deeply, or if my grieving seemed more extreme because my body was going through some kind of distress.” Needless to say, her diagnosis of Stage 2b Hodgkin’s Lymphoma was quite a shock. “Even the idea that I would develop cancer seemed impossible,” she says. Learning that she had a tumor the size of a tennis ball in her chest was frightening, to say the least. Nevertheless, Suzanne approached her treatment with hope, thanks in part to her relationship with her oncologist at Fort Wayne Medical Oncology and Hematology.
“I had great faith in my doctor,” says Suzanne. “He took time with me, getting updates on my life and my family. He was cheerful and positive, and his spirit of kindness and compassion was soothing, providing for me a sense of safety.” Suzanne’s doctor encouraged her to assume an active role in her healing process, which became “extremely important and powerful,” says Suzanne. “I realized that taking charge of my health, my growth, and my well-being was an awesome responsibility.” In addition to chemotherapy, Suzanne utilized many complementary therapies that helped her traditional treatment go more smoothly. Practicing meditation during treatment, for example, turned the day into an adventure. “During treatment,” says Suzanne, “I would relax, grab my earphones, and listen to a meditation tape, imagining the drugs moving into my body and traveling only to places where they were needed, that the cancer cells might be released.” Practicing a daily spiritual discipline, praying, seeking spiritual counsel, doing yoga, and attending support groups such as the Crone’s Group (“aging to saging”) at Sophia’s Portico (an art and spirituality center) played an important role in her overall health during this time. In addition, she found the Lutheran Hospital Women’s Cancer Center and their Lymphoma support group to be extremely helpful.
At the recommendation of a good friend, she also began taking several vitamin and herbal supplements to keep her immune system in good shape throughout the treatment process. It’s important to note that Suzanne’s oncologist was aware—and supportive—of her alternative approaches, making her relationship with her doctor “one of the single-most important aspects of my healing journey,” she says. In fact, Suzanne’s cancer experience turned out to be a positive and life-changing encounter. “I decided early on to approach the cancer just as I would an adventure—with curiosity, enthusiasm, excitement, gratitude, and anticipation,” says Suzanne.