My Personal Fight with Cancer, that Monster in the closet… Part 1
I have been recently asked to share my experiences during the past year in my fight with pancreatic cancer and I must say first off that although I have had experience as a care giver to my mother who died of lung cancer I had no idea at all how to deal with what would be my own battle for life. When I was diagnosed I had been in the hospital for several days waiting for an answer to that big question of "what is that on the CT scan?" I must say that in my heart of hearts I knew that it would be cancer as it not only took my mother in 99' but my sister as well in 98'. My first concern of course was that of my daughter and my grandson but they have lives of their own and as she pointed out I must first take care of myself before I can care for someone else (oh how true).
The oncologist assigned to my case was a man that has an outstanding reputation in the circles of oncology and the surgeon that he brought in was the best in the state so I was well taken care of and was ready to listen to what would become my life's course for however long it lasted. A computer was wheeled into my room and my doctor, Dr. Issam Makhoul began to explain to me just what was taking place inside my body and what we could do about it. I was diagnosed with a common form of pancreatic cancer but what had taken place was that the tumor instead of being at the head of the pancreas was towards the tail and it had begun to wrap itself around various arteries and such that would indicate that surgery was NOT an option for me at the time. It was Stage 4 pancreatic cancer and it is considered terminal in 94% of all known cases, so I can say with all honesty that I was not really happy with this at all. I will never forget Dr. Makhoul's next words to me no matter how long I survive this difficulty, "what we are going to talk about today is going to change your entire life forever." Well in all ways possible his words have been true and I have gone through nothing but change since the day I walked out of UAMS and returned to my life as it was.
In my case surgery is not possible due to the growth of the tumor and it's encasement of my main arteries and if it were attempted it would cause my death by simply bleeding to death due to complications. I was told that chemo and radiation were my only choices and that it "might" shrink the tumor allowing for surgical removal in time if my body reacted to the treatment in a positive manner. So I at once set out to beat this invader by doing all that was recommended in my case. I went through 15 radiation treatments and a round of chemo that included my carrying an infusion pump around for 2 weeks. Well after 6 weeks of treatment and waiting we found that along with the side effects (I was terribly sick) the tumor had grown one full inch in diameter. Ok, I thought, this is great so what next? Well we took a 2 week break, circled the wagons and came up with a new plan that we hoped would make some kind of difference. I was taken off of the radiation treatments and was given a chemo cocktail made up of three different drugs which again included the infusion pump so away we went with the new process!!!! I was sick for over three weeks and there was no answer to this but after a new CT scan it showed that we had halted the growth of the tumor, my blood work came back fine so maybe, just maybe we had found the answer......
During these first few months of treatment for cancer I was told over and over by people that had come into my life that my oncology nurse would become my best friend and that I should depend on said nurse for all of the answers needed during my treatment for cancer. Well I for one agree and the importance of this should never be over shadowed by anything else. She is indeed your first line of communication in ALL matters pertaining to your treatment and to your life, or how you will be able to live it. For me, it was time for a major change because my nurse, Michele and I could not get along. The way I see it, I am in control of how my case should be handled and what meds I am willing to pump into my body no matter the opinions of anyone else. Michele could not see this so we had to part ways. Now I must say that Dr. Makhoul did try to accommodate me and I will be forever grateful but the problems between Michele and I grew to a personal level and had to be put to rest. I am now with Dr. Thomas Sneed at Arkansas Oncology and I could not be happier. The staff here does their very best to make sure that I am comfortable in everything, from decision making, to my meds, and to any care that I need at any stage of my treatment. It takes a bit longer to do the chemo sessions here but it is more than worth it. My last session lasted for 3 1/2 hours and I was not only fine with it but was a bit aggravated that it was time to go as I was watching a movie on my iPhone
Tomorrow I will share how the cancer has affected my personal life and how I have fared with it but most of all, before I go on with anything I have to say these few things.....
If you ever have to deal with cancer or any other life changing medical issues make sure you are comfortable with the people who are treating you. You must have the utmost trust and confidence in them and you must think clearly about your future and how it affects everyone around you. Things may well never be the same for me but they can be better and that my friends, is a lesson well learned.
My Personal Fight with Cancer, that Monster in the closet… Part 2
You know, a lot of us believe our lives to be mundane at best but in this day and age with all the social media and such we go through some type of change every day. People share ideas with us, include us in their private lives and supply us with information we never gave any thought to. I too believed my life to be uneventful and downright boring until that day back in January when I was told that I have pancreatic cancer and that my life would never be the same.
As I have stated before, my first thoughts were of my daughter and my grandson and how my death would affect them. What memories my grandson Jack would have of me, what impact have I really had on my daughter’s life. In-fact, there was a flood of thoughts that went through my mind that afternoon but when that rush of thoughts cleared and I realized that the lives of my family would go on no matter what I began to think of these really simple things….. What have “I” done? What have “I” truly accomplished? Have “I” left my mark on anyone or anything at all and would “I” be remembered? My idiotic mind first came up with the idea to have a really fantastic headstone placed on my grave, something that would be noticed by anyone who walked through the cemetery but hell that even sounded ridiculous to me once the thought was completed!
This last year has been nothing but changes for me. When all of this started I was pretty much alone visiting with my daughter and grandson and working all the time. I really had no big responsibilities in my life and I had just begun as diretor of Firm Foundation Ministries. Oh I was busy and to my thinking at the time, happy so what more did I need except an answer to this cancer delima? Well God had other plans as He usually does and He began moving me in a diretion that would prove wonderful for me. Now don’t get me wrong here, I never said that living alone, working at the job you always wanted and pretty much feeling free were setbacks or a mundane existance. When you are living solo you can explore many new things and go places without the need to take anyone else’s needs or wants into account, hell you just do it! Well this was not going to be the direction I was headed nor was I going to do just what I damn well pleased, as I said, God had plans so in March He shuffled the deck and dealt me a new hand.
I had been friends with a lady here in Cabot for about a year interacting online and talking on the phone. I must say that yes, I was attracted to her from the start but just did not have the courage to act on it. Well in March of this year all that changed when we met for the first time…… Hmmmm, I had found someone to share my life with but how was I supposed to do this with the damn cancer haning over my head? Needless to say this worried me to death and I had no previous knowledge to fall back on for answers. It was then that I decided to simply turn this over to God and let Him point the way. I told Suzanne about the cancer and of course she was very concerned for both her and myself and what the future may hold or if there was even gioing to be a future. So we began to see each other on a regular basis and we enjoyed our time with one another. We ran around all over the place visiting here and there getting to know one another and meet each others family. Suzanne of course fell in love with my grandson Jack and I believe the feeling was indeed mutual. My daughter and her new husband Terry also came to be very fond of her and for once my daughter gave a gold seal of approval to a woman I was dating. I met Suzanne’s sister and her husband and really enjoyed spending time with them and just talking about the state of the universe. Everything was going along real well and I had no complaints until the next round of chemo started and I became really sick.
I had filed for disability in February and was under the impression that it would take a long time to receive approval so I was content to continue working but when I became sick from the treatments my boss and my close frined Jim Coffey suggested that I take a break. Well I said I was ok and that if I felt that I could not continue I would admit it and we would do whatevert became necessary. In May this came to be and I could not do the things required of me on a day to day basis so I agreed to go and stay with my daughter while I was being treated. I of course believed this would only last a couple of weeks and I had no idea that it would be July before I was able to function again as a normal person.
Well I received my disability in March, which was a miracle and by May I was moved in with my daughter so I could be watched and made to take care of myself. In June My daughter and family went to Texas for their wedding (Alisha’s to Terry) and Suzanne came to stay so I would not be alone and to make sure that I took care of myself properly. Well this proved to be a blessing in that Suzanne and I were now able to explore the possibilty of moving in together and it worked!!!! Today we live in a nice 2 bedroom apartment in Cabot, AR and share our love with the family. I have begun to work online doing some small things and hope to grow a business from this. I miss the ministry and the guys but I plan to launch a prison ministry in January 2012 so I will be involved once again blessed being able to bring the Word of God to those who have been tossed aside by society. Just being involved again in something makes it all worth it and being able to care for Suzanne is a blessing as well. God has shown me that my life was not coming to a close, it was just starting and that the possibilities were indeed endless.
All in all I am happy today and the cancer is just another challenge. My faith and my trust in God has grown by leaps and bounds and I will be forever grateful for the blessings I have received. I know that one day this terrible disease will bring me down and maybe by then I will be tired and ready to go but until then I look forward to ALL that life has to offer. My biggest prayer for today? Why it’s to help all of you and I pray that my success may be an example to you so that you too can enjoy a “mundane” life just as I do everyday….
And by the way, there are NO such things as monsters. Not in the closet nor under the bed. They are only your human fears and its up to you to make them work in your favor!