Four years ago… January 25, 2013. I was in the first major surgery of my life. Fighting a foe that no one wants to have to fight, but sadly many do end up battling. It is a nasty, ugly, unfeeling, uncaring foe that is relentless and hateful. One that doesn’t think twice about taking a life. The beast known as Cancer. At that time, my particular version of this beast was of the rarer variety (but growing), Esophageal Cancer.
What did that mean for myself and my family and friends? Let’s make a list (be aware, some of these may seem a bit small or maybe even petty to some, but they were and are things I thought about)...
- 12+ hours in surgery
- 19 days in the hospital – 16 of which were in ICU
- One day from hell 3 days after surgery
- 3 months off work
- Six weeks of daily post-operative radiation treatments
- Weekly chemotherapy sessions every Monday for six weeks, also post-op
- Massive loss of strength, stamina and physical stature
- At its maximum effect... a weight loss of 215 pounds
- Blood clots throughout the neck and right shoulder, including the Jugular vein, caused by the chemo port likely being placed too deeply into the chest
- Too much prescribed blood thinners used when the clots were found that caused the blood work to go insane and almost caused another hospitalization and plasma transfusion
- Numerous visits to a Coumadin Clinic (before work) to help manage the blood thinners and blood work after the clots were taken care of with the blood thinners
- Having to pull around those little carts that hold the green oxygen tanks outside of home
- Weeks of physical therapy (which I was horrible at following through with)
- Weeks of breathing therapy (which I was even worse at following through with)
- Making a lifestyle change when it comes to what eaten, how much, and how often (this change is still ongoing, even after four years)
- Being unable to drive
- Doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments after doctor’s appointments… And so on and so on and so on… ad infinitum
- Being totally insensitive to others and their feelings
- Survivor’s guilt (this is still an issue and sometimes makes me hesitate when writing)
And the list could go on, but you get an idea. As you can see, that entire list was made up of things that are negatives. How about a list of positives?
- I was quite obese when this started… Upwards of 400 pounds. My weight is much better and healthier now
- High blood pressure is gone
- No more Sleep Apnea
- Blood work is well within the normal range for the most part
- I got more time with my family and friends
- I got to meet and hold and play with all my grandchildren
- Had been only six years into my marriage, got more time with my loving and beautiful wife
- Started noticing things I had previously taken for granted… the beauty of a tree, a sunrise or sunset, the sound of a grade school playground at recess, the smiles and laughter of my loved ones, how a baby smells after a bath, gaining an entirely new perspective of what it means when friends and family gather for any reason, how a kiss feels, being unafraid to shed a tear or two…
- I got to see how strong my family and friends are and how much their support means and how much I depended on it (even if I didn’t admit it at the time)
- Realized how strong *I* am
- Discovered my superpower – Kicking Cancer’s ass
In short, I survived. Against the odds based on the staging of my cancer (stage 3) and the medically listed survival rates and all. God has something in mind for me. What it is, I have no idea. I’ll find out as time goes on. They say that he will never place an obstacle in our path that we cannot overcome. This helps to show just how strong you really are and can be. You’ll never know just how strong you are until being strong is your only choice. Does being strong mean you will always win? No… but yes. If you are strong to the end and don’t give up… If you go down but go down swinging, that is a win in my book. That is true for your entire life, not just in the face of sickness or disease. Fight with all you have for as long as you can and you are a winner to me.
I am aware that most of those last few sentences sound like a motivational poster or bumper stickers or something, but they are true to me. Some of the major things I’ve learned over the last four years.
Lastly… Love to you all. Live long and prosper.