Reality as you know it, is gone. It's your fight, and it doesn't play nice or dance to a song named Fairness. Make no mistake, it is out to harm you, trick you and kill you. For some, the treatment and duration of your fight will be brief. It may not seem or feel that way when you're told you need 6 weeks of chemo followed by radiation, but trust me when I say,--"You, are one of the lucky ones"-- if your battle is short. Still, there is much for you to learn, regardless of the miles ahead or the time spent in treatment.
In the beginning, we're all the same. The impact of a diagnosis has the same internal explosion and the same starting line as the person before you and, the person after you. You've joined a community of followers, I'm going to help you "NOT" become one of the many who followed others into the ensuing chaos of a potential terminal ending. One thing none escape is the onset of emotion unlike any you've ever experienced. Initially they'll run your life, consume and twist every thought. Learning when to allow the gut-wrenching bouts of grief and fitful tantrums is part of the process. It is then and only then, weaknesses are removed. Emotional weakness can blind and distract you, so by all means have your breakdown--screw you God moments--because they are a crucial part of staying on the road. Emptied grief can slowly be replaced, with love, courage and at times, acceptance. All of these, in their purest form will get you back in your lane. Prolonged grief, hiding it or denying it, will keep you in the ditch.
We all end up in the ditch, at one time or another. Try to remember and then train yourself to realize ditches have a way out and right now--as you sit or stand in that ditch--it's only a moment, or two or three. Your life will become a series of moments and you chose on which moments to stay. Moments will come where you wish you could rip your own heart out, as you sob violently, sometimes silently, in hurt and despair--but they are just that--moments of emotion even though they'll feel like an eternity.
I'm here to tell you they will end, they always do. Don't stuff them away, try to cover them up or deny the fact they are attacking your heart. You can only say, "I'm fine'" for so long, until you crash into a giant concrete wall, and that wall will not budge one inch. It'll leave you in more pieces then you thought possible. Ditches are easy to maneuver yourself out of--hitting a wall-- not so much. I highly recommend ditch drifting over hitting the wall every time. My advice, if you feel unsteady, if too much is coming at you, you have every right to take your foot off the pedal and slow down.
Cancer is usually slow, and by writing that I mean pulling over onto a rest stop isn't going to allow it to speed ahead of you and win. And you, must make that decision. As much as we'd like to think our loved ones are inside our thoughts -- understanding how we feel; and they'll take care of it-- they aren't. You are the driver, you're the only one inside that head of yours and only you know when to pull over and rest, they won't. It's your engine, it's your body, and learning how it functions and what it needs is critical.
Cancer is after your body, not your thoughts. It couldn't give a rat's ass about your thoughts in general, but holding things in gives cancer the green light, as you sit staring at the red one. It's after you, not what you believe in, and it's not particular on how it goes about the task of breaking your body down. Never underestimate what you can't see happening inside your body. If I had to pick one thing to tell
you, and only one, I would say protect your body at all cost; as if it were the most precious thing ever given to you, because IT IS in this battle. You cannot exist without it, plain and simple. Notice the subtleties; on the inside and outside, and then write them down in your Fight Book.
You're going to learn to be a warrior against an inside enemy that you can't see, until it shows itself on the outside. When its outside, I'm not going to tell you it gets easier, it doesn't, but at least you will be prepared and ready.
If you are reading this, I'm assuming you, or a loved one has been given a diagnosis and your world has come crashing down. In a sense it has and tomorrow will bring more of the same. I'm here to help you navigate your way through it. It's a road with many detours, and dead end streets if you don't know the way. I learned things during my 15 years of travel, and I went down many a wrong road. I've also ridden with others who did the same and none were able to right themselves back to the finish line here on earth. I wanted to intervene and tell them their navigation was wrong, but I didn't, I should have been that annoying backseat driver we all hate. I'm ok if you hate me now, if it saves your life or what may be left of it. I'm done giving cancer and all that come along side it, the opportunity to confuse you. I took the hard road full of pot holes, speed bumps, lots of ditches and I without a doubt, hit and smashed into that concrete wall over and over. Then I started to pay attention and realized what was after me.
I was surprised to find there were Allies of Cancer. So here I am--to tell you all my story of survival--after all said I wouldn't be, and some were the best of the best. I spent years in hospitals, not weeks, not months but years; in ER's, in ICU's, on terminal floors where not everyone was as fortunate, as I. I knew the drill of a 911 call so well I'd instruct the paramedics--if I was conscious enough--what vein if any, they'd hit. I was sent home by 5 different hospitals after they'd done all they could and told to get my affairs in order. I threw many a nurse and doctor out of my room, even had a few charts thrown back at me when I refused to follow instructions I knew would cause me harm. That was a sign, I'd made the right decision. I kept going. I traveled to Mexico twice, by myself, to the cancer clinics in Tijuana, and spent several weeks in a hospice care room, after the very last hospital had done all it could do. I left that hospice room alive to only go home and face even more hurdles. In fact, I walked out of three ICU units "Against Medical Advice" or as they call it, I "AMA'D". I was threatened by nurses and doctors who said if I chose my way I would die. I didn't. I have much to tell you. It's taken years to bring myself to write this for you. I didn't want to go back, but I owe it to those who didn't make it, and aren't here to tell their stories and if asked, they would tell me to write it. In fact, a few did.
At the same time, I needed to make sure what I wrote was based on my experience and in order for that to happen, I needed to rest and approach what I am going to lay out before you in a strategic manner and not on my personal life or situation. Some of it won't be what you want to hear, some of it may or may not apply, but at least it will give you an idea of what is to come and implement into your situation.
Prepare yourself. I won't sugar coat the pitfalls, but I can show you where to find some light. It's not easy, it's not social time or share day, or a trip down memory lane, its "Combat". And by God, you need to know it, learn tactics, a strategy and live it each day, until you see a white flag. You now have enemies and if you think of them as such, you will be armed better than I in the beginning and possibly better than those who lost their place here on this earth. That is my hope, to better arm you for what lies ahead. So stand up soldier, we're going to kick some ass.
Dedicated to those that still live in my heart and soul...As you read this blog meant to be a book,
travel this road, you will find the precious hidden treasures life brings as I did.
You will find them in yourself, yet often others help you dig them up, clean them
off for you and then let you shine.
Victoria, my girl--this is all for you. Every single word.
Wyatt, my boy-- one look was all it took and my heart was yours forever.
Chad, my friend, my cellmate, my comrade in battle--your infectious laugh
and unwavering strength taught me the meaning of a living soul on earth.
Donnie, the silent warrior--your presence brought such warmth and bravery.
It lives on in those you loved.
Joan, a mother and a friend--I loved you in a way I never thought possible;
and Harry as dear as a man could be, you made me smile and laugh from the
inside out, every time.
Robert, my surprise friend--how was I to know you would share your last
breathe on this earth with me. I hope I make you proud.
Jason, our sudden kinship--the moment we met, each of us knew it wasn't by
chance, something was coming. I wish it hadn't, yet you kept the light in the
fight and courage the entire time.
Lynn, the girl who drove me nuts--you're still the princess of all princesses.
None of the rest mattered.
Steve, first loves never die--you are still the one and only.
Mildred, my grandmother--for loving me from beginning to end.
Jack, my grandfather for being the man I admired.
My father Jim, for being my dad.
And to those still here that pushed me in this direction....
For Kenny, my brother in blood (literally) and in Christ; JB for healing a
scar, or two, at just the right time with just the right touch, bringing pen to
paper; for Wendy who never left or gave up on me even when it wasn't fun.
Kathleen, for always knowing I was different and being OK with it!
Raiya for always and forever having my back like a sister from another
mister, Reno lives on forever.
Play along for a bit and IMAGINE yourself sitting in a doctor's office. Its quiet, a little chilly and the mood is somber. You're nervous, yet not. You've prepared yourself or so you think, for the expectation of test results finally giving you that long awaited diagnosis. You're emotionally and physically exhausted from sleepless nights. Nights that rolled into dark early morning hours while everyone else slept. Nights of fearing the unknown and imagined scenarios of doom. You've read horror stories on the internet and connected with them all. And now you're up to bat, as the doctor walks in and gives you three words you can't say "No thanks" too. Three words you can't give back, they're yours. Here are your three new words:
"YOU HAVE CANCER"
A semi-truck just rammed you into the pavement and you’re still breathing. You’re lying face up dead and alive all at once. I can’t explain it any other way. Even if you suspected the probability of a diagnosis, it makes no difference. The delivered results are the same and nothing prepares you for impact. They now belong to you and there is no giving them back or a return policy. The only solid truth in that very moment is, you are still very much alive, not dead.
"BUT IT CERTAINLY FEELS LIKE IT".
Now you live with a killer on a daily basis. Don’t start dying the moment those words are yours. Don’t help cancer. Never give it a pass or think you'll be any different then those it's taken before you. And never, consume the words of someone who says, “Don’t worry, it’ll be ok” and let it change your strategy, until you see it's white flag of surrender. In fact, never take any advice that leads you to believe you have nothing to worry about over cancer. It’s out to kill you. It could care less about your thoughts. Thoughts are useless against cancer. Remember that as you try to imagine it away or play nice with reality. Never forget it's after your body and make no mistake, it doesn't play fair.
This is your new life. Each morning when you wake, within the first 3 seconds Cancer says, "Good Morning... I'm still here. And I'm gonna distract your days and nights with dread and sorrow, as I slowly turn your army of cells into mine".
That's what BLOOD CANCER DOES...it haunts your every living minute...while you smile at all the new friends who suddenly appear.
I want to help you in combat down this dangerous and deadly road. Because cancer won't be our only enemy and it's imperative you stay on the right road. Let me help you...trust me. I hit every pothole, ditch and side railing I could find. I stayed in the ditch so long I begged for God to take me. Instead He denied me and said, "You are my daughter, a daughter I will protect but you will suffer at the hands of many...get back on the road and keep your eyes open. I will give you wisdom and discernment to make the hard decisions and I already know sometimes, you won't listen". And I didn't, but even in those moments of despair and darkness I learned. I never knew in the beginning how far from the bottom I was...but boy was He ever right. I saw evil up close and personal in all forms. Evil never greets you with an evil grin. Evil will hug you tight. My first word of advice...Cancer is evil and it brings a trove of other evils with it. Get yourself a good warrior to stand alongside you, and then assembly your tried and true, bad-ass take no prisoners army. You will need them...