Two years ago, when Lynda Asher found out she had cancer in her lungs – again — she did what any reasonable person would do: “I went out that night and bought a surfboard.”
Lynda’s strategy for navigating a chronic illness is “Live for today. Plan for tomorrow, but live for today.” And she wasn’t going to let anything disrupt her strategy.
Not her two rounds of lung cancer. Not her two liver transplants. Not kidney failure or quadruple bypass heart surgery. Certainly not the hepatitis C diagnosis that began her continuing medical adventure in 1998. “A transfusion that saved my life (after a car accident) nearly cost me my life 40 years later,” she says. And then for a while, it seemed like “every year I was losing an organ.”
At 63, Lynda now volunteers as a Michigan Medicine PFCC advisor, helping medical students learn about empathy, serving on a radiation oncology advisory board, consulting on the construction of a new patient tower for University Hospital, and offering one-to-one peer mentoring for liver patients and others who are facing complex diagnoses.
Before her own health forced a retirement, Lynda operated and consulted for several non-profit and environmental organizations, including Ann Arbor’s Project Grow Community Gardens. Even after she became a patient, she founded another organization to support liver patients around the world and became an ambassador for the American Liver Foundation.
As a peer mentor to other patients, Lynda encourages them to control whatever they can (whether it’s diet, exercise or attitude) and roll with the things they can’t. She says that shortly after she started having health problems, she realized that, “If I wanted my friends and family to want to be around me, I needed to be pretty positive.”
Now she helps other patients find their own paths. “I was flexible and adaptable. I think a lot of people can feel stuck. I can’t get them unstuck. But I can teach them ways to help them be more effective patients. They also appropriately feel alone and scared. I did, also – particularly at my first diagnosis. I just try to lend an ear and a hand to help them get through a bump in their road.
“The universe has kept me alive for a purpose,” Lynda says, “and this is one of the purposes.”
By Dale Parry, PFCC Advisor