Meggan Larson: I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It
An Interview With Savio P. Clemente
Don’t claim cancer. The second the doctor told me that what was in my body was cancer, I told people that I had been diagnosed with cancer; not that I “had” it. Words are powerful. Don’t claim something you don’t actually want. I spoke life over myself and refused to accept anyone telling me I had cancer. I didn’t have it. It wasn’t mine. I had been diagnosed with it and then healed of it.
Cancer is a horrible and terrifying disease. Yet millions of people have beaten the odds and beat cancer. Authority Magazine started a new series called “I Survived Cancer and Here Is How I Did It”. In this interview series, we are talking to cancer survivors to share their stories, in order to offer hope and provide strength to people who are being impacted by cancer today. As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Meggan Larson.
Meggan Larson is a best-selling author, Course Creator, Business Strategist, Wife, Mom, and Adoptee. She has a passion for helping women entrepreneurs believe in themselves so fiercely that they become unstoppable forces to be reckoned with.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series! We really appreciate the courage it takes to publicly share your story. Before we start, our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you tell us a bit about your background and your childhood backstory?
Absolutely! I was adopted at three months old and that really shaped who I would become as an adult. I kept everyone at an emotional distance and couldn’t even look anyone in the eye until after I was married. I was a happy enough kid with lots of energy and I loved track and field. Most people assumed I didn’t like them at first when I met them, but I was just really shy and insecure. Thankfully I’ve (mostly) grown out of that.
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My favorite life lesson quote is this: “It’s never your circumstances that dictate your success or failure in life. It’s how you deal with the circumstances that matters.”
This was revolutionary to me the first time I heard it because up to that point I had been happily blaming everyone else for my lot in life. It was always someone else’s fault that I was unhappy, and I expected the worst so that’s what I often got. Once I started taking personal responsibility for my life, everything changed. I began choosing joy in the midst of tough circumstances and I realized that the quote was true. It didn’t matter what happened to me, what mattered was how I chose to go through what happened. I can’t always choose my circumstances, but I can always choose my attitude.
Let’s now shift to the main part of our discussion about surviving cancer. Do you feel comfortable sharing with us the story surrounding how you found out that you had cancer?
I had just had my second child three months before and when he was born it was through an emergency c-section. I had developed excruciating pain in my left side and by the end of the day I was feverish and my baby’s heart rate was over 200bmp’s. The pain went away after he was born, and I thought that was the end of it. Three months later the pain came back along with bleeding and a positive pregnancy test, so I headed to the hospital. They ran tests and told me that I was really pregnant. The hormone that detects a pregnancy is called HCG and normal levels for 40 weeks of pregnancy is about 117,000. My levels were at 284,000 and I couldn’t have been more than a few weeks pregnant. At first, they thought it was a molar pregnancy and they planned to remove it but it turned out to be an incredibly rare and aggressive form of cancer caused by my pregnancy (Gestational Trophoblastic Neoplasia — try saying that three times fast!). By the time I started chemotherapy just 48 hours later, my HCG levels had climbed to over 500,000 which were the highest my city had ever seen. (Yay for being rare!)
What was the scariest part of that event? What did you think was the worst thing that could happen to you?
The scariest part for me were the unknowns. I was nursing my three-month-old full time and I had to stop immediately but he wouldn’t take a bottle. The hospital said I’d start chemotherapy as soon as a bed was available, and I didn’t know how long I’d be in the hospital for or if it would hurt. The worst thing I thought might happen was that I would die. It was a very rare and aggressive cancer and not much was known about it.
How did you react in the short term?
To be honest the very first thing I did was pray. I knew that cancer was too much for me, so I asked my Jesus to take my fear away. Oddly I didn’t ask Him to take the cancer away, just my fear because I wanted to go through it with joy. I asked for His peace which surpasses all understanding and a joy that would radiate in and through me and that’s exactly what I got. I told my sister first (my husband knew because he was with me) and I told her that I wasn’t going to stop sharing about Jesus now because who was going to tell a cancer patient to be quiet? I had spent so long letting things happen to me and dictating how I felt that I refused to let this be another thing that determined my feelings. I was going to choose how I went through it, and I was going to choose joy.
After the dust settled, what coping mechanisms did you use? What did you do to cope physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually?
I’ll be honest, I didn’t try to lose any weight or eat salads or anything while I went through chemo. I ate what I wanted and enjoyed hospital dates with my husband while my three-month-old and nineteen-month-old were with my sister or mom. Mentally and emotionally, I focused on what was going well. When I lost all my hair, I was happy because I had always been curious to know what I would look like bald and now I knew. I looked great by the way! I laughed a lot and smiled at everyone. I wrote thank you cards to my pharmacists and doctors and nurses and even managed to get on the radio! I was so happy in fact that some well-meaning family members chided me for not taking cancer seriously enough. Spiritually I leaned into Jesus. I knew He would take care of us, and He did.
Is there a particular person you are grateful towards who helped you learn to cope and heal? Can you share a story about that?
If there’s anyone to thank for the mindset shift that happened in me it was my mentor at the time, Dani Johnson. She was a speaker and coach and I had been attending her business training seminars for five years at that point. When I first started to attend, I was an angry closed off person who didn’t trust or like anyone. She taught me the importance of focusing on what was going well because you get more of what you focus on. Up to that point I had been focusing on everything going wrong in my life and that’s what I was getting more of. I began to shift my thinking and it took years but eventually I trained myself to always focus on the good no matter how small it seemed. That’s how I got through cancer with a smile on my face because there was always something to be grateful for. I still have that mindset today and I don’t know how I could do life without it.
In my own cancer struggle, I sometimes used the idea of embodiment to help me cope. Let’s take a minute to look at cancer from an embodiment perspective. If your cancer had a message for you, what do you think it would want or say?
I think it would have said “stop trying to people please to the point of your own devastation. You are killing yourself for people who don’t even care about you.”
What did you learn about yourself from this very difficult experience? How has cancer shaped your worldview? What has it taught you that you might never have considered before? Can you please explain with a story or example?
What I learned from this difficult situation is that even the worst circumstances can be made joyful. There is always something to be grateful for even in the worst of times. When you go through something like cancer, you have people’s attention. You can inspire so many just by choosing joy in the midst of cancer. People listen to you in a way they never have before and it’s an incredible opportunity. When I went through cancer, I chose to encourage everyone around me. That’s why I wrote thank you cards to the staff and smiled at everyone I saw. Doing that caused people to reconsider the things they had been complaining about and I began to see a shift in those around me. A friend of mine confided in me that she had been angry with her dad for choosing joy through cancer because she didn’t understand it and he passed away. She told me that watching me go through it the way I had changed her perspective and gave her peace about her dad’s death. That moment was so impactful to me.
How have you used your experience to bring goodness to the world?
My son was born in October of 2011 and that December I started a nonprofit in my home to bless strangers who were struggling with gifts and dinner for Christmas. That first year we helped maybe five people and I loved it. After going through cancer and expanding my connections, I asked for help the following Christmas to bless others and I ended up with over a hundred volunteers. Now we have over three-hundred volunteers and have blessed thousands of people. I don’t think that ever would have happened if I hadn’t gone through cancer with joy and met so many amazing people because of it.
What are a few of the biggest misconceptions and myths out there about fighting cancer that you would like to dispel?
First, that if someone is going through cancer with joy, they must not be taking it seriously. That couldn’t be further from the truth. There was a massive difference between me and everyone else going through cancer in that hospital and let’s just say, I’m glad I did it my way.
Second, once the cancer is over the battle is over. The worst time of my life was actually right after the cancer because we were devastated financially. People tend to forget about cancer patients after they’re done fighting for their lives but that’s actually the time they need support the most.
Third, it’s crucial to tell a cancer patient about your magic pill or potion that will save their life. Everyone means well but I must have gotten fifty messages from well-meaning friends offering their supplements to me. It was overwhelming and frankly, unhelpful. Also, shaming someone for choosing chemotherapy is unacceptable. People need to let others go through cancer however they want to go through it.
Fantastic. Here is the main question of our interview. Based on your experiences and knowledge, what advice would you give to others who have recently been diagnosed with cancer? What are your “5 Things You Need To Beat Cancer? Please share a story or example for each.
#1 — Don’t claim cancer. The second the doctor told me that what was in my body was cancer, I told people that I had been diagnosed with cancer; not that I “had” it. Words are powerful. Don’t claim something you don’t actually want. I spoke life over myself and refused to accept anyone telling me I had cancer. I didn’t have it. It wasn’t mine. I had been diagnosed with it and then healed of it.
#2 — Choose joy. So many people believe that our feelings dictate our will but actually it’s the other way around. We get to choose our feelings with our will and that makes all the difference in the world. Sure, I could have gone through cancer with fear and a pity party but who would that have served or impacted? No one. I didn’t want to waste such an incredible opportunity to impact others, so I chose joy. I hope you will too.
#3 — Be careful who you surround yourself with through cancer. One thing cancer will do is show you who your true friends and family are. I was shocked at some of my family members shaming my husband and I for not having any savings and telling us we should have been prepared for something like cancer. Other friends disappeared completely and that was disappointing. My own father was angry with me for getting diagnosed with cancer. It was wild! But God is good and provided complete strangers to help us with our needs and I’m still friends with many of them to this day.
#4 — Have a point person to field questions, suggestions, comments, and more. My sister was that person for me. I was able to direct people to her and she was able to step in and answer things I was too tired to answer. She was able to deflect well-meaning suggestions about supplements I should take or why chemotherapy was evil and protect me from them. Stress was the absolute last thing I needed so that was such a blessing to me.
#5 — Focus on anything and everything that’s going well. There is truly always something to be grateful for. When I had to spend the night at the hospital every other week for 17 hours of chemotherapy, I got alone time with my husband, and we treated it like a date. We played board games, laughed, watched movies, and hung out. When I felt so nauseous that I couldn’t eat, I was grateful that I wouldn’t gain any weight. When I had to have a needle in my stomach five times a week to boost my white blood cell count, I was grateful I didn’t have to pay for it because it would have been $6000/month. I focused on the good and that’s what I got more of.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the greatest amount of people, what would that be?
It would be to help people get out of poverty so that even if they faced something terrible like cancer, it wouldn’t wreck them. I would love to start a nonprofit specifically to help people through a major unexpected illness so that they wouldn’t have to worry about the money piece. Money in the hands of good people will do so much good. I want to help as many people as I can become independently wealthy so that together we can fund orphanages, house domestic violence survivors, help single dads be a part of their children’s lives, and basically impact the world to be a better place.
We are very blessed that some very prominent names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might just see this if we tag them. :-)
I greatly admire Elon Musk and would love to have a conversation with him. His refusal to quit, ability to think outside the box, and not let his haters bring him down or stop him from innovating is incredibly inspiring to me. Imagine all the good we could do together if more people were so willing to go after their dreams and dare to do something that had never been done before.
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Thank you so much for sharing these important insights. We wish you continued success and good health!