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Retirement While Living with Lung Cancer

Blog Post from Anita / October 5, 2018

I made the decision to retire on the drive home from my first meeting with an oncologist. I had just learned that my lung cancer was stage 4. While my new doctor left me with hope of new treatment options, I knew that juggling medical appointments, treatments, side effects, and a stressful job would be difficult and that my health would likely suffer.

But choosing to retire isn’t that easy for everyone. I was fortunate that retiring was financially possible for me. I was 62 years old when I made the decision, and eligible to receive Social Security payments without a waiting period. I also was fully vested in a pension plan. Choosing to retire may be harder for younger people.

Retirement has helped me live with lung cancer. I’ve had the time I need to take care of myself and reduce overall stress. I’ve been able to enjoy spending time with family and friends. Beyond that, my work as a patient advocate has allowed me to learn new things and engage in the world.

Most retirees wonder how they ever had time to work, and I’m one of them, but part of that is redefining what keeping busy means for me.

Enjoying the small things.
I get up later in the morning and take my time enjoying breakfast. I don’t try to be productive every minute of the day. There’s a lot to be said for having fewer responsibilities and obligations.

Taking time for myself.
Having a chronic illness is a part time job. I have doctor appointments and medical tests taking up quite a bit of my free time, at least once or twice a week. I have found self-care to be important for me to manage my side effects—both physically and mentally. Instead of drowning in appointments and obligations, I make sure I set aside time for myself to relax. Above all, I’m glad I have the flexibility in my schedule to take that time.

Finding a new “hobby”.
I’m a lung cancer patient advocate. I spend time each day reading articles, using social media to follow new developments in research and treatments, and communicating with other lung cancer survivors. I also moderate an EGFR Facebook page and contribute written pieces to a few online sites, including my own blog.

Retirement allowed me to manage my disease and live a full life, but everyone is different. There are many things to consider before making the decision to retire.