AIKEN - Having cancer doesn't mean people have to stop living their lives - and that includes going to work each day.
Dr. Paul Goetowski delivered that message at the Aiken Chamber of Commerce's monthly luncheon Tuesday. He said with minor alterations, cancer patients can live normal and healthy lives and can still be productive workers.
"Cancer is one of the most feared words in the English language," he said. "Cancer is vastly different than it used to be. (It's) not a death sentence."
Dr. Goetowski works with cancer patients at the Carolina Cancer Center, a branch of the Aiken Regional Medical Centers.
It's crucial, he said, for cancer patients to remain active. They need encouragement from co-workers and family members, he said.
Aiken County Coroner Sue Townsend was diagnosed with breast cancer in November 2000. Ten days before Christmas, she had a radical mastectomy followed by six weeks of daily chemotherapy.
"I never gave up everything," she said."(People in my office) came together and said, 'We're going to get through this."'
Dr. Goetowski said most cancer patients miss work because of fatigue caused by chemotherapy. Employee absence because of cancer can cost companies millions of dollars, he said. Those costs can be avoided, he added, if companies rearrange employees' hours around rehabilitation.
As coroner, Mrs. Townsend's schedule allows for flexibility. Some days, she said, she split her work time to allow for rest.
The best way to deal with the disease, she said, is a positive attitude. Though her cancer is in remission, doctors have told Mrs. Townsend the disease could return within the next four years.
"You can get depressed about it, or you can just consider it a rock in the road," she said.
"I never gave up everything. (People in my office) came together and said, 'We're going to get through this."' - Sue Townsend, Aiken County coroner and breast cancer survivor
Reach Josh Gelinas at (803) 279-6895 or firstname.lastname@example.org.