I write this on July 4, three weeks after my birthday. As birthdays go, this was an unusual one. Not for the number, though it is a significant number.
My birthday was the day I learned I had cancer.
C-A-N-C-E-R. Are there any other 6 letters that can generate so much emotion and fear? Like many others who’ve had that diagnosis, the word assaulted me physically, spiritually and emotionally. I assumed it was a death sentence. I despaired thinking of all those under my care – I have a collection of people that rely on me emotionally and financially – and how they might cope with my loss. I despaired for all I have planned; all I still want to do and achieve and how it’s unfair to be taken when there is so much, so much, I need to do. My first reaction was to start canceling this, canceling that. Just plain overreacting. That first 10 days was earth shattering.
I’ve largely come to my senses now. I have a lot going for me. I have excellent doctors, a spiritual healer, a nutritionist, a fitness advisor and the time and resources to develop a successful program and strategy to defeat this opponent. And not the least, I have faith in a Lord and Savior and many people praying for my health.
The really good news is that I don’t have those most deadly forms of cancer – pancreatic cancer, esophageal or brain cancer. I have something called Lipsodial Sarcoma which is a cancer of the fat cells (Insert fat joke here). Specifically, I have a tumor in my left thigh — a large one. It’s been classified as low to medium growth and, as such, there is some small probability that it has already spread to my organs (metasticized). I’ll know more about that over the coming weeks and months.
It was my 65th birthday. Certainly, a milestone birthday. I am now officially a senior citizen entitled to low price coffee at McDonald’s and Medicare. Though I feel no different, there is something about that number that makes you realize that there is an expiration date. The number of days coming is less than those behind and I need to carefully consider how I want to spend them. Every day does become more precious.
I am lucky to be surrounded by a wonderful team at RTA, a loving Italian family, my nearly 100-year-old mother and many friends. One of the wonderful things about the c-word is that it has broken down barriers with friends. I’ve been brought to tears by the outpouring of affection. Many are offering prayers. Some have added my name to their church prayer groups. In a couple of cases, a call to say an “I love you,” before the sands of time run their course. In many ways, I now feel more surrounded by love than at any other time in my life. I ask again, is there any word more powerful than that c-word?
I am going to defeat this. I will continue to rely on my doctor, my spiritual healer, my priest, my nutrition program, my emotional support system, a lot of loving friends and my faith.
And I’d like to have your prayers too.