Lane Rosen, a self-employed property manager and owner of the downtown State Theatre, is in remission after being treated for head and neck cancer. (Staff photo: Carlton Fletcher)
ALBANY — When Lane Rosen tells the story of his battle against head and neck cancer, he doesn’t start at the beginning, at the time he was diagnosed.
Rosen says his story instead starts at the end.
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“Should I stay in remission, cancer is the best thing that’s ever happened to me,” Rosen, a self-employed property manager and owner of the downtown State Theatre, said. He waits a beat for his statement to sink in.
This is the second in a five-part series on individuals and doctors coping with cancer.
“I’d rather live the next five years with my current attitude than to live 30 with the attitude I had prior to finding out I had cancer. I know now, I’ve learned how insignificant my troubles are, how important it is to live for now, to go and do things now. I was saving the important things in my life for a rainy day that I realize now might not have ever come.”
Always a free thinker, Rosen said he did experience one of those “cliche moments” when he learned in April of 2011 that he not only had cancer, he had the same kind that had afflicted his beloved grandfather.
“My life did flash before my eyes,” the 43-year-old entrepreneur said. “And I immediately started asking myself some very important questions: Had I done all I wanted in life? Had I done enough for others? Did I save so much for later that I forgot how to enjoy now?
“Although I did get upset and shed some tears over the news, I think I was prepared to see what was next. But I was devastated to think about leaving my children (Oliver, 13, and Olivia, 8) behind. There were so many lessons I still had to teach them, and I worried how my son would go on without me. He’s my best friend in the world. But I knew how important I was to my mother, and I was certain the Lord wasn’t going to punish her by taking me away from her, so I called her to thank her for that.”
Shortly after being diagnosed, Rosen started a six-week treatment regimen that included radiation twice a day and chemotherapy once a week. He soon discovered that he’s the exception to the generally accepted rule that chemo weakens the person being treated with it.
“My doctors warned me that every person’s different and every treatment is different,” Rosen said. “When I got hit with that alien laser (radiation), it took a lot out of me. But I looked forward to the chemo treatment. There were steroids mixed in with it, and they would give me a boost. I’d go through chemo, and the next couple of days I could knock some stuff out.”
Rosen laments the fact that he lost a month of treatment time, time that actually could have hampered his prognosis for recovery, by seeking four different opinions on his diagnosis and treatment. He blames his reluctance on the Internet.
“I kept looking for treatment that wasn’t so scary, but I think I was just hoping someone would tell me what I wanted to hear,” he said. “Of course, I was doing research on my own, scaring myself with what I found on the Web. I think the worst thing I found was a woman who said she got second-degree burns on her face from radiation treatment. It was horrifying.
“Finally I realized I was only fooling myself, so I went in and said just give me my spanking.”
Rosen’s cancer was described to him as aggressive, and so was his treatment regimen. It left its mark.
“It was like walking through hell for a while,” he said. “The treatment impacted my taste buds; I couldn’t taste any food. And I’m the kind of person who likes to talk to strangers, but I was pretty much unable to talk except for a mumble. But I consider myself lucky. The treatment I had is supposed to cause severe nausea, and I had four or five prescriptions to combat it. But I never needed a one of them.”
Now that he’s in remission, two years and counting removed from his treatment, Rosen says he’s a different person, in many ways a better person.
“Fear is one of the worst things in the world, but surviving cancer eliminated fear in my life,” he said. “It’s probably a little odd, but I was upbeat all through my treatment. I knew if it was killing me, it was killing the cancer twice as much. I did feel a bit of depression, though, after I finished the treatment. I’d been actively doing something about (the cancer) during treatment, but about a half-year in I started worrying about whether it would come back, whether the treatment worked.
“But I’ve shaken that. Now I try to do things for others, I try to give back as much as I can. I want to do good things for my neighborhood, and my neighborhood is all of Albany. I’m not afraid to make decisions now; I’ll roll the dice.”
So, cancer is the best thing that ever happened to Lane Rosen?
“In a way, yeah it was,” he says. “Every decision I make now is filtered through cancer. ‘Should I take my son to the Georgia game this weekend or wait for a better time?’ Dude, I’m going now, because there might not be another game. I’m telling you, my attitude is do it now, brothers and sisters. It may be your only chance.
“I have cancer to thank for that. It never goes away; it’s always there in the back of my mind.”