Greetings from the world formerly known as Cancerville

The only thing that sucks more than living through cancer is dying from it. That may sound morbid, but it is absolutely true. Before I survived cancer I had absolutely no idea how powerless I was capable of becoming.

cancerville
It’s amazing how weak chemotherapy can make you…more on that later.

It’s hard for me to accept that anyone, even my wife Laura, could possibly understand what I have been through in my fight against cancer. I don’t want to come off as arrogant or pompous. I have a difficult time explaining all that I have been through so it follows that it might be difficult for someone who hasn’t been through it to understand.

That’s what this is about. It is my intention to explain what I have been through both for me and for others. It is my hope to generate understanding in those who have been by my side and to help prepare someone with a new diagnosis of cancer for things to come.

I have the benefit of a highly logical and analytical mind as well as a deeply caring heart. Over the next several posts, I will do my very best to be as thorough and transparent as possible, giving a complete emotional and analytical breakdown of the story.

I also want to offer up an “open email policy.” My contact information is available on this website and I offer up myself as a resource in the future. Please reach out to me via email with any questions or comments. I promise to respond to any requests for additional information and fellowship.

I am looking forward to getting this off my chest and out of my head… I hope it does some good in this world.

Donning New Perspectives

I’ve read this story before, long before I wrote these words. You see it often when people have slammed into a wall and been greeted with their own mortality. In my case, the wall was cancer, a word I never expected to hear that day. Yet, I think it was something I had been preparing my whole life to cope with.

I have jokingly told my friends that I made a deal with God to live forever for as long as I could remember. It was my way of deflecting my mortality and believing that I was ready for anything. I wasn’t, of course. At some point, before the word cancer, I began donning a new set of perspectives.

If you’re like most people you have a need to control every aspect of your life. You guard yourself from being hurt, from change, from anything that doesn’t fit your ideal circumstance. You may not admit it, or even see it, but there it is guiding your every movement through life. Most of the time, you don’t even notice this particular perspective. You’re so used to it that it seems perfectly natural to hide in the safety of it.

I realized that I didn’t have control and more importantly didn’t want control. Life is beautiful in the way that it moves like a river, either carrying us along or moving around us if we get in the way. You can drown in that river or you can go with the flow. We’re told that going with the flow is a form of weakness. It is actually the most sincere form of strength to allow life to grant you opportunities to seize.

When you allow life to carry you along, you begin to see that you have a purpose that life intends for you to accomplish, to change, grow and meet new challenges with a fresh perspective each time. My wife shared with me a beautiful narrative about change that demonstrated personal transformation through the eyes of caterpillar.

Change. Caterpillars go into themselves and melt, reprograming each and every particle into a part of the butterfly that it will eventually become. That melting stage is crucial, that’s the stage when you question all that you are and use it to build the person on the other side of the perspective shift. That’s what I’ve been going through lately.

Laura, my wife, bought me a book titled “Believe” while I was in the hospital. The following quote really touched me.

“We won’t always know whose lives we touched and made better for our having cared, because actions sometimes have unforeseen ramifications. What’s important is that you do care and you act.” ~ Charlotte Lunsford

Cancer saved me from a life that I would hate, in a career that I would despise and allowed me one final opportunity to let go of the puppet strings of my life. While sitting in the hospital listening to the stories of all the nurses, doctors, and family members visiting their relatives I changed a little more each day. Is it crazy to be grateful for cancer? Maybe. I’m applying to pursue a doctorate so that I can follow through with becoming a professor, so that I can make a difference.

Make a difference. Today.

Life and how to write one great song: My cancer journey

Life has a strange way of sneaking up on us. Laura finished her Masters in Social Work back in December. Laura had to do a full semester of an unpaid practicum at the Children’s Bureau. I carried her through her degree and so we agreed, I’d quit my job at the Rotary Club of Indianapolis to pursue the final semester of my degree.

We don’t know for sure when or where the symptoms started because given the past couple of semesters with Laura and I both subsequently out of a job for a period of time and a self-inflicted psychotic semester it would seem only natural that there would be a certain amount of stress, headaches, and exhaustion.

The week before Memorial Day, I felt like I had strep throat, scratchy itchy throat with an enlarged lymph node. We already had plans to spend the weekend with Laura’s family and I wanted to get checked out before we went in case I was contagious.  So we went to the local MedCheck/UrgentCare facility. The MedCheck doctor determined that my lymph node was a bit more enlarged than normal and ordered a CT scan and determined that I had a goiter. Odd, but, alright. I was told to follow up with my family doctor who scheduled an appointment for the next Friday and asked that I get an ultrasound done before the appointment.

We had a great weekend with Laura’s family. I couldn’t ask for better in-laws. We always have a great time, eating, drinking, playing games, it’s the perfect picture of how family should be and I love them for it. In fact, I wish we could go back to that weekend, play some more Dominion, drink a few more Blue Moons, and eat a few more chips and pretend none of this ever happened.

Laura and I left early to give us a little downtime before we started back to our normal routines on Tuesday. We had a good night together, on Tuesday, I had a scheduled interview and landed the job, I started that job the very next day too.

Tuesday night, however, I had a rather painful headache and took some medicine. We don’t know for certain that the medicine or anything I did that night exacerbated the situation. Within about 15 minutes of taking that pill, my neck swelled and I started having difficulty breathing and when I started talking with a higher pitch than Laura (it was quite amusing from my perspective) she made me go to the emergency room. They assumed it was an allergic reaction and sent me home for the night.

Wednesday morning, I went to an eye appointment and the ultrasound and off to work.  I wish that the ultrasound tech had made some sort of indication of what he’d seen while running his scan. I worked late that night to make up for missing part of my first morning, but hey, I was trying to make a good impression on my new employers.

The days after Wednesday really just blur for me. I tried to balance learning a new job, repeated tests, phone calls, appointments, etc. It’s all dizzying in my head. I just remember getting a phone call from a doctor to tell me that he was referring my case to an oncologist and that I should get a bag together because I was going to be admitted to the hospital very quickly. It ended up being Sunday before I was admitted due to a scary set of headaches involving loss of vision on the right side.

I’ve been in the hospital ever since. It’s been something like 3 weeks, I’ve been scanned, prodded, loaded with chemo and as I suffer through some of the worst feelings I’ve ever had in my life, I’ve also been given a chance to see my world in a whole new light.

Laura, as you may now know, means more to me than anything in this world. As I watch her cry, be terrified and suffer in the wake of this thing, my heart wretches in pain for her.  I will make it, I’m going to survive this, and we are good to go. I used to tell Laura that I had a deal with God to live forever. Now I get to remind Laura that having that deal doesn’t necessarily show all the things you can live through and grow beyond.

Laura’s maternal grandma used to have a comment about being aware of what to pray for was simply a matter of knowing how to pray without strings attached. A woman prayed that her son would come back to church only to have him arrive in a coffin. I liked the simple notion behind it. You cannot expect God to do all the work and then be mad at him because you made no effort to be specific with it to. You have to carefully guide and create the fortune behind you.

Because that’s what I have, a small fortune in family, a garden grove full of friends, and some of the best times you’ll ever have, all because of this little journey. I welcome the road.