A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

The Introduction and first two segments to this multi-segment blog/e-book can be found at the links at the bottom of this article. 

Segment Three – The Most Important Component (Part 1) – Resources – Personal Resources

In February of 2023, we received a comprehensive bill/statement from our insurer on the cost of cancer treatment. It informed us that we had (outside of our premiums) out-of-pocket expenses of just under $4,000 during 2022. It also informed us that between Medicare and our private insurer, our total medical expenses for the year were about $580,000. 


I am reminded on a now-regular basis that I live in the land of the privileged. It’s medical privilege.  We pay handsomely for our Medicare supplement, without which, this project would not be moving forward with:

  • $1200 scans
  • $3000 drugs
  • And a once-a-month $17,000 injection.

Holy smokes.

The last one is amazing to me. The drug is literally more precious than gold.

While financial resources are not the most important, they color everything else that we do.  With the clairvoyance of an oracle, my wife (the CPA) took us on a journey about four years ago to change our personal resource position.  She convinced me, wisely so, to go on an austerity program for just a short time to eliminate every vestige of our personal debt.

  • House? Paid in full.
  • Cars? Eight years old, but also paid off.
  • Credit card debt? None, and paid off monthly.

It wasn’t easy, but I have to give credit where it’s due. 99% of the credit goes to my wife.  1% of the credit goes to Dave Ramsey (www.ramseysolutions.com).  He got her on this campaign to clear our debt, and establish our reserves, which couldn’t have happened at a better time.  We eliminated the last of the debt just before my diagnosis. It freed us up to live with a nominal income without tapping into our retirement funds.

The lack of debt became one of the biggest personal financial resources we had ever had.

Lesson Learned: That “rainy day” fund that you’re setting aside will come in mightily handy. It will rain.

Personal Resources

Beyond the cash resources, there are other personal resources to consider. The most important personal resources you have are your friends. If you ever have a life-altering diagnosis, you will find out who those people are.  For me, they are far too numerous to mention, but I’ll go ahead and talk about a few here because of the nature of their support and why they were so very important.

Jeff Z. was my best man in my wedding.  While there have been years when we have not been in touch, Jeff remains my best man. He is a reminder of the best qualities of any human being I know.  He and his wife, Debbie, have adopted and fostered more children than anyone I’ve ever known. He raises llamas and alpacas, has chickens, and works as a truly artistic tradesman plying a craft called pattern-making.  (It’s not about dresses.  To look it up on Google, search “industrial foundry pattern-making”.) When he and I got an hour to chat at a local fair last year, it was truly healing. He reminded me of all of the best qualities in the human race.

Ginny P. is my sister, and the only other person I know who holds a candle to Jeff in the race to be the best humanity has to offer.  She is the cheering section. When I was a teenager wrestling with my parents’ divorce (she had headed off to college out of state), she was the one to remind me I was not alone.  The simple plastic Snoopy trophy she sent me during that episode of life is a constant reminder that she’s my support system.  The fact that she survived cancer in her 50’s didn’t hurt, either.

From there I could list dozens and dozens of peers who consistently make my life better, each for her/his own reason.  I only list these ten because I had to stop somewhere, and they all came to mind, but that doesn’t diminish the contributions of others in this episode in my life:

  • J. LeRoy W.  – A project management legend and the most credible person I’ve ever worked with
  • Gina F. – A big business visionary who took time out of her life to make (and ship) me homemade baklava
  • Judy L. – A high-school pal (and cancer survivor) who projects a sense that the world will ultimately come out right
  • Jody Z. – My most stalwart friend who keeps me youthful by dragging me down memory lane for every youthful indiscretion
  • Rick U. – My roommate in Maine, who shows me what life could have been if I had stayed in the media, but who seems to reinforce my life choices every time we talk
  • Drew Y. – A college roommate who has switched paths multiple times through life, and always comes out looking like someone who makes perfect choices
  • Mary T. – Part of the business support system who reminds me that it’s about people, not business
  • Lisa H. and David N. – Two business partners who make me feel needed and appreciated every time we get together
  • Doug D. – A college co-worker who rushed to my aid early in the cancer story and who serves as a reminder of how firm thy friendship, O-Hi-O….
  • Steve E. – A faithful, dedicated, reminder that faith and belief in God matter, and can be manifested in the day-to-day

I list these only as a sampling of the people who have been (and are) making a difference in the cancer journey.  Each one of them is a resource of the highest order, as are all of my friends and co-workers. And while the nuances may be difficult to discern, each one brings something very individualized to the table.  Each one has a healing presence of their own.

Lesson Learned: Early in my journey, I realized that every person I was dealing with was crucial in my recovery.  As a personal reinforcement of that fact, I started sending out gratitude e-mails to the individuals who were making a difference. From students who would comment on some positive experience I had brought to the table to co-workers or friends, I would send out a short e-mail reminding them that I remember our friendship, and value them as resources in the fight.

Better than money in the bank. Every person who sent a card. Every person who made a phone call. Every local friend who dropped off food.  Each of them made a difference. In trying to accomplish the project objective, it’s vital to remember that THEY are what make you possible. While there’s a temptation to lock out the world and put one’s nose to the grindstone in hopes of overcoming the challenges ahead, the real work gets done when you rely on those around you.

In the next segment, we’ll look at professional project resources.

If you wanted to read the lead-ins to this segment, they can be found at: