Not too many years ago, a diagnosis of advanced cancer usually meant it was time to get your affairs in order and bid goodbye to your loved ones.

But with recent treatment advances that’s no longer necessarily the case. And if the patient is able to maintain an optimistic attitude about fighting his or her disease, all the better.

When John Lunardo of Hazlet was diagnosed with stage 4 breast cancer five years ago, he fell into a depression and sat in front of his TV for three days straight. But then. something changed.

“I said, You know what? I could either do this, or I could do what I do all the other times, get on my bike and ride, make people laugh, make my wife smile,'” he said. “And that’s what I did.”

After his breast was removed, Lunardo underwent chemotherapy. He says he lost some, but not all of his hair, and had bouts of nausea, but it never stopped him from moving forward.

“Sometimes I’d wake up in the morning, and the cancer would say, 'No, you’re not going for a bike ride today.' And ah, I’d say, 'I don’t think so. I am gonna go,' and I’d just kick it in the teeth.”

Lunardo  continues to get treatment for his cancer, but he said “I never miss work and when I come home each night I’m able to make my wife smile and laugh, so that’s important to me, you know.”

Lunardo is convinced his positive outlook is a key factor in his battle to overcome his cancer, which has spread to different parts of his body, but has been kept under control.

His advice to other cancer patients is find a good doctor and “if you have a passion, embrace it. If you don’t, find something that you really love and go after it. I love being around people who I can make ... feel good about themselves.”

He’s also focused on making goals, completing them, then moving onto new ones.

“Every day I feel thankful,” he said. “I don’t dwell on things I can’t do. I focus on trying to do the things I can do even better.”

Lunardo’s doctor, Dr. Serena Wong, a breast medical oncologist at Rutgers Cancer Institute of New Jersey, believes her patient’s attitude is very important.

“The mind is a powerful organ and has a lot of effects on us,” she said. “Not just emotionally, but physically as well.”

She notes Lunardo initially had a lot of back pain and coughing, because cancer had spread to his bones and lungs. But with different therapies and treatments he no longer has those symptoms.

“My hope is that we can continue to treat him for many years,” she said. “And if this current treatment stops working we’ll move on to something else.”

More From New Jersey 101.5 FM