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A Science-based, Personalized Cancer and Life-Healing Plan Using

Mainstream Medicine and Complementary Healing Therapies


“When planning a journey, or building a bridge, it is critical to know where you want to go and from where you are starting.”
— Karen Lawson, M.D.*


The Balanced Scorecard is a successful planning and management tool, developed at the Harvard Business School, which I helped to put in place at the Fortune 500 company where I was Vice-President of Human Resources. After I received my dismal cancer diagnosis, as I was reeling from shock and confusion, a business mentor recommended I use the Balanced Scorecard to create a plan for recovery. His suggestion prompted me to think of my illness from a business perspective. When we faced a serious challenge at work, we often researched how other companies had handled a similar issue. I immediately shifted my focus from “this is happening to me,” to the question: “What could I learn from other people diagnosed with serious cancer?” 

I looked through the medical literature to see if I could find the answer to the following question:
“ Did people with cancer, who lived longer than predicted by statistics, do anything different than those who died within the expected timeframe?” I discovered to my surprise an enormous amount of scientific research that said “Yes.” As I eagerly read the studies, I identified the parts of my life that had the greatest potential to help me get well again. I also learned that what was needed here was more than a physical approach. The journey ahead of me was going to be primarily mental. My attitude would play a vital role in the choices and decisions that lay ahead. I knew that I needed concrete help to transform confusion into clarity. 

The Balanced Scorecard was the tool I used to organize my mental playing field. It enabled me to prioritize, identify roadblocks and barriers, and highlight my progress and successes. My accomplishments gave momentum to this process, and I took the time to celebrate my progress with family and friends. I learned that all decisions involved some risk. I saw that I would have to give up the idea that I could continue to live my life as I knew it before my diagnosis. Making changes in the roles that I had previously played and was strongly identified with, was among the most difficult actions I had to take. Later, I would see that the changes themselves, as well as my experience in making those changes, would serve me in ways that I could never imagine.

Three months after my diagnosis, I was journaling while waiting to get a pedicure on a Tuesday afternoon — something I had never done before because I always worked during the week. I found myself writing: “What would I say if my fairy godmother came to me and told me, ‘I will take your cancer away from you, but you have to go back to the life you had before.’” Without hesitation, I wrote, “No.” I had already become aware that the quality of my life had immensely improved. Later on, as I met and began working with cancer patients, I realized that my response was not unique. Many times I heard people say that their life was happier and they felt more fulfilled than before their diagnosis. Their common theme was that they had examined their life with courage and determination, making changes that took them from victimhood to being the CEO of their own lives.

The power of the Balanced Scorecard is that it is unique to your sense of self and your priorities. It deals with what is possible. But habits aren’t broken overnight. Your goal should be progress, not perfection. If you are realistic about what you can accomplish, you will find the Balanced Scorecard a very useful tool long after you have recovered. I continue to use it to this day. Below you will find a description that highlights the key points.



The Balanced Scorecard empowers you to focus your resources, time, and energy on the areas that have the greatest impact on your health. The approach is simple and strategic. You ask yourself the following questions: 

  1. Which key areas of my life most affect my health?

  2. How do I score in each area today? 

  3. Where do I want to be in each area?

  4. How do I get from point A to point B?


Remember, this is a process. Depending on the area, you may take weeks or months to make the changes. Small steps can make a difference, and the Balanced Scorecard takes you on a series of steps toward your goal.

Suggested Areas of Your Life

  1. Conventional medicine: doctors, hospitals, decisions about surgery, chemotherapy and radiation

  2. Complementary healing professionals: acupuncturists, nutritionists, massage therapists, coaches, healers, reiki, naturopaths, support groups, etc. 

  3. Nutrition, food, and supplements

  4. Exercise

  5. Finances

  6. Relationships — family, friends, supervisors, co-workers

  7. Work and career

  8. Stress reduction, i.e., meditation, yoga, chanting, journaling, etc.

  9. Spirituality

  10. Religion

  11. Leisure

  12. Community involvement


In business, it is often said, “What gets measured gets done.” You can track your progress towards your goal using both quantitative and qualitative indicators of success. 

Objective indicators include:

  • Tumor markers

  • Blood work 

  • Body scans

Subjective indicators include:

  • Energy level 

  • Pain level

  • Stress

  • Appetite

  • Emotional state

  • Ability to perform typical pre-diagnosis activities




Before you begin your investigation and assessment of how each part of your life can contribute to your health, you may need to make some immediate, short-term changes in your life. I needed to take a leave of absence from my high-pressure corporate position, so that I had the time I needed to create and implement a plan to get well. George (see case histories) had to immediately find someone he could trust to handle some of his responsibilities while he underwent chemotherapy.



Who are the key people in your life: spouse, boss, customers, children, friends, community members? How does your illness and your goal to get well affect these relationships? What do you need to do to get them to be your supporters and promoters?



The Cancer Defense Program Scorecard helps translate a vision of getting well again into an action plan that is simple, holistic, and uniquely yours. Rather than being overwhelmed by too many choices and data that seem disconnected, you will create for yourself a remarkable tool for clarity and unity.

*Karen Lawson, MD, Director of Health Coaching, University of Minnesota Center for Spirituality and Healing, in Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine, September, 2009, v.15, n.5, “Could Health Coaching Build a Bridge to a New System of Healthcare?”

Learn more about the recommended Program Diet here

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