Stricken with breast and ovarian cancer, Esther Maddux discovered how low a person could feel.
The experience led her to discover ways that helped her rise from the depths.
Today, Maddux, a Kansas State University professor of personal financial planning and a certified problem-gambling counselor, uses techniques that she developed from her cancer treatments to treat addictions.
As Kansas makes its foray into the state-owned casino business, she has made it her mission to help prepare host communities for the some of the potential fallout.
She and others with training and expertise in gambling addiction held a two-day session in Dodge City in August. The Boot Hill Casino and Resort opened there in mid-December.
Far from being narrowly focused on addiction, the seminar offered a broad look at issues involved in opening a new casino in a community.
It featured representatives from court services, community corrections, mental health agencies, Kansas Social and Rehabilitation services, representatives from the city, Ford County, the Kansas Racing and Gaming Commission and the casino.
It included a class for students on responsible gambling, treatment, recovery, legislative issues, financial and legal aspects of gambling and how problem gambling affects individuals, families and communities.
Maddux and Jean Holthaus, of the state SRS office, first offered the course in Topeka in January.
Maddux said they'd hold similar sessions in Sumner and Wyandotte counties before state-owned casinos open in those areas.
Gamblers, Maddux said, lost $100 billion in casinos last year, and 3 to 4 percent of adults had a gambling problem.
But, she added, "I don't want to totally focus on the problem. The reason we have it is to provide revenue for the state, so it does have its benefits. As Boot Hill comes on line, it'll be a source of business for Dodge City, and it'll be a source of entertainment."
The state has a fine system for treating addictions, she said.
Eleven colleges in Kansas offer counselor certification, including Butler Community College and Newman University.
SRS is committed to training and increasing the work force to support communities that will have casinos.
In addition, the state's expanded gambling law mandates that 2 percent of the gambling revenue from the state-owned casinos go to a problem-gambling fund.
"The support structure here is very good," Maddux said.
Maddux focuses on the intersection of personal behaviors and personal financial planning. She is working on a book on the topic, "Financial Behavior Assessment and Consulting."
She helps people see how their behavior affects the way they handle money or leads to addiction. She tries to motivate them — and those around them who unknowingly contribute to the addiction — to change those behaviors.
Maddux, who graduated from the University of Georgia, has a master's degree from the University of Tennessee and a doctorate from Purdue. She came to Kansas State in 2003.
She had been a professor at Georgia for seven years, then sold retirement plans for a life insurance company and owned her own financial services business.
And she had battled cancer.
"In 2000 and 2001, I was absolutely miserable," she said.
It wasn't only cancer. Maddux, who has been cancer-free since 2002, was dealing with personal issues, too. She realized during treatment she needed to change her life.
"I had to learn how to take a look at what I was doing that caused problems for me, and find a way to use healthy approaches," she said. "I had to totally reform the way I create my life."
That experience helped her understand how to help addicts.
During her cancer treatments, doctors gave her the usual tests — mammograms, X-rays, MRIs — to determine where the cancers were and how far they had spread.
But Maddux realized there was more than just a physical component of the disease to deal with, there was what she called a "metaphysical" aspect as well.
So she developed her own test, a "pet scan," spelled "PPEET" for Presence Power Energy Exchange in a Transaction.
It was a way for her to recognize behavior patterns in herself that had led to problems. Now she uses it to observe and treat behavior patterns in clients and those around them that lead to and perpetuate financial calamities and addictions.
"With metaphysical mutations, you can't give them medication. You can teach them how to reform their behavior," she said.
"The client has to come to believe that they have to change their behavior."
That can take years.
"People with addictions become comfortable with their addictions. It is seen as the solution to a lot of problems, until it becomes a problem. Because it becomes so deeply ingrained, it becomes very hard to get rid of," Maddux said.