In my world after a long winter, we welcome spring

The second part of this post is a little bit different than anything I have ever written. It focuses on the experiences of being diagnosed with and living with cancer.

When the results of my biopsy came back as positive for cancer I felt certain that it must be a mistake. As a young child growing up not far from Buffalo New York we had people visiting us fairly often who were being treated at Roswell Cancer Clinic. When I was 18 my older brother who was just 8 years my senior died from cancer when I was 18. My cousin his age died from a different type of cancer some 15 or so years later. I have Uncles and Aunts who also had cancer. My mother, in fact, had 4 types of cancer when she died. About a year or so ago my brother-in-law was diagnosed with leukemia and about 6 months before I found out I had cancer my oldest brother was fighting the same cancer and was facing radiation since his cancer had gone beyond what they removed. Within a week of my news my other brother had the same diagnosis.

The fact that I truly had cancer was brought home when my surgery to remove it was scheduled. When the reality of cancer hit me I didn’t send for the undertaker but my plans for anything beyond surgery was limited. It was brought home to me that no matter how well I did today, tomorrow was no longer a guarantee. I stopped taking even mundane moments for granted. I began to see what a gift each day truly is. In a sense having cancer was a gift. It helped me see as clearly as I have ever seen the reasons to be thankful far outweigh the reasons to be unhappy or complain.  

My surgery was set for January 12th.The days leading up to it including Christmas and New Years flew by no matter how much I wanted to slow them down especially the week before my surgery. A week before my surgery I had a cat scan and my doctor gave me the bad news that my cancer was more aggressive than they had thought, something to look forward to I thought. I was scheduled to be in the hospital for no longer than 24 hours including the 4-hour surgery.

At 5 AM I entered the hospital for what was to become the longest 5 days of my life. My surgery went well and I found myself with the best care by the best hospital staff that I could have asked for and it made my hospital stay easier.After my surgery complications developed and these fine folks went the extra mile to help me. For the next day and a half I was as sick as I have ever been. No matter how sick I was they helped me through each moment of sickness. I was told that for at least three of them they felt so badly for me that when they left the hospital they cried for me. I have never been so well cared for. Cancer gave me yet another gift, the gift of being cared for my selfless kindhearted people. It was a gift so rich that I did not fully understand the value of this gift until after I had gone home from the hospital.

For a day before my stay at the hospital and my last day I was not allowed solid foods and for 3 of those days  I did not have any food at all. When I finally was allowed to eat solid food and drink coffee the food was phenomenal.I don’t believe the eggs had much seasoning and the potatoes needed salt but they tasted as good as any food that I have had. Cancer gave me the gift of appreciating even the simplest foods.

While in the hospital and especially the following three weeks I was helpless and had to have help with everything from toileting to going from one chair to another. I have never appreciated the kindness of others the way I do now. Cancer gave me the gift of seeing and appreciating the kindness of others.

My urologist told me that with the surgery that he felt certain that all of the cancer was removed. 3 weeks ago a blood test confirmed that and I was told that I am cured of cancer.Cancer has truly given me the gift of life.Because of cancer I no longer am concerned so much about the day to day things and the little problems of each day. Cancer has caused me to truly value life’s most precious gifts; love, kindness and caring, the richness and beauty of each day. I no longer look forward to the future for fine memories but collect them as I walk along.

When I was told I had cancer my fear was of what it would take from me, I had no idea of how much it would give to me. Life offers us gifts or a source of destruction. The choice is ours.