Thursday, December 24, 2009

Skipping to end

As you may have guessed things worked out for me and my life indeed is a miracle. The final radiation treatment was Christmas Eve 11 years ago today. It is wonderfully symbolic to think I completed my medical salvation on the day before celebrating the birth of the savior of my soul, heart and mind.

I would like to say I am now fully cancer free but the reality is that I do not think I will ever really be free.

Years ago when I going though all the treatments I would often I fall to my knees and ask God “why me?” Now years later I find myself asking the same question but in a different way.

Instead I pray;

“Why me Lord? Why was I healed when there are so many others out there hurting? What lesson(s) do you have for me? What am I to do with this gift?”

The reality if life is that we all should be asking ourselves these questions everyday. Any life we have is a gift and it should be treasured and shared in a positive way with others. The Bible says, “life is no longer than the width of my hand…at best each of us is but a breath” Psalm 39;4-5

My prayer for you is that you will take a moment today to realize the fact of our temporary lives as we wait to move on to our eternal one. Don’t wait for a lump to start living. Your gifts and your impact are way too important to be wasted on any activity that does not bring glory to God and service to others.

I know I am taking my anniversary today as an opportunity to ask the important questions again and as reminder of my overwhelming responsibility to do something with the extra time I have been given.

Merry Christmas

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Note: On 12/24 it will be 11 years since I completed my final cancer treatment. This week I am writing reflectively a bit about my experience.

My chemo treatments were an all day affair at the doctor’s office in his treatment room. Hopefully you have never had to visit one of these rooms. Mine was filled with large recliners set side by side and I was typically by many years the youngest person receiving a treatment. The type of chemo I received was different from the other folks in that I got it all in one long day and I did not lose my hair. The in office treatment was followed by immunotherapy through self administered shots in the evening. I will spare the details only to say the reaction to the interferon was far worse than the chemotherapy.

The miracle here was that the therapy began to shrink the tumors faster and to a smaller size than the Dr’s had believed were possible. Suddenly the prospect of having the tumors surgically removed became an unexpected reality. In this second surgery they would remove the remaining tumors and at the same time all the lymph nodes under my right arm and near the right side of my neck.

Hope was on my radar.

The second surgery—

I will never forget the day we met with the Dr. for the results. The poor guy could not even look me in the eye as he told me the news. Yes they successfully removed the four remaining tumors. Unfortunately, almost all of the nodes removed showed clear signs of cancer.

All I could think was, “this can’t be happening to me” “I have too much left to do” “Why Lord would you have my son grow up having never known his father just as I had? Why! Why! Why!”

I decided right then to no longer ask why or fear my fate. Instead I wrote this credo in my journal:

Dave’s Credo

What I know:
Through the power of Christ, I will be healed;
I have read all the statistics and understand the challenge before me;
This is a battle that cannot be fought alone;
There are people out there who are beating this thing;
I have a wonderful medical team working to help me be well again;
Cancer is a word and not a sentence;
What I plan to do:
Since I have already read the statistics, I will no longer worry about them;
I will work every day to get closer to God so that I may understand this plan for my life;
I will put my health and treatments before work;
I will remember that what is important is to love my family and strive to support them (its really not about me);
I will continue to believe that I will be healed;
I will seek out support from friends and family;
I will work to reduce stress in my life;

This credo indeed was a bit of a turning point for me from an internal attitude point of view. I had decided to move on and live life no matter how long that life may turn out to be.

More to the story with my next and final post on this topic….

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Note: On 12/24 it will be 11 years since I completed my final cancer treatment. This week I am writing reflectively a bit about my experience.

(continued from yesterday)

The early tests and conversations with the medical team were not encouraging. I had five tumors all in my lymph nodes with three under my arm and two near my neck. It is bad to have tumors in two places and so far from the original mole as this meant the cancer had metastasized. Quickly the doctors set out a plan for me that first included surgery to be followed chemotherapy, immunotherapy, surgery again if possible and finally radiation.

My cancer was declared Stage IV. This is not good news for any cancer and especially with Melanoma. The best five year survival rate I could find on the Internet for a stage IV patient was 19% with most sites showing an even smaller % chance to live. For hours I would just stare at my computer screen and read over and over statements like this one:

“Modest progress has been made in the treatment of metastatic melanoma over the past decade. With the advent of high dose interleukin-2 (IL-2), it may be possible for a small number of people to be cured of their disease. Despite this, the average survival in people treated for metastatic disease may be as short as nine months”

CRAP!

Darn you Internet and your vast amounts of information.

There was not only talk of treatments but there was talk of pain management, DNRs, quality of life and planning for the worst case scenario. The Dr. to his credit did not want to give me a worse case date but when forced by me said it could be months.

More to the story with my next post….

Monday, December 21, 2009

My Journey through cancer..


Note: 12/24 is the 11th anniversary of my final cancer treatment.

I will never forget that morning. I woke up just like any other day and started my normal routine. Little did I know that my life was about to change forever. I was in the shower enjoying a steamy start to another exciting day. Life was good. New job, new house, wonderful wife and a beautiful nine month old son peacefully sleeping in his room. At 31 years old, the world of possibilities was finally opening a door for me.

Then as I washed under my arm I felt it—I pressed hard to confirm it was there and when doing so found a second one. I immediately and without a shadow of doubt in my mind knew what I had discovered--Cancer

I was no stranger to the possibility. It was five years earlier when a mole had been removed from my back and declared melanoma. However, after such a long length of time I had become confident I would not have to deal with this again. Suddenly, and without any forewarning that confidence was gone.

I went on to work without saying anything to my wife and immediately contacted the Dr. for a same day appointment. The look on his face as he felt the lump was all the confirmation I needed. Next he said, “feels like you have three lumps here.” “What about the ones on your neck?” What! Turns out I had three tumors under my arm and two smaller but obvious ones on my neck.

I held it together pretty good until leaving the dr. office. Next stop was the little prayer chapel at church. Here alone and on my knees I asked the obvious why questions. Through the death of my mother just a couple of years earlier I had seen firsthand the slow dying process for those with cancer. Also, through the death of my dad when I was a young child I knew what it was like to grow up without a father. I cared very little for myself even in these first moments. I mostly worried that my son would now have to live the childhood I had lived. It was a childhood with no memories of an earthly father and filled with anger, pain and blame as a result.

More to the story with my next post….