We Are NOT Alone — Part 1

This is another excerpt from my book Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life: My Personal Journey. It is available FREE by clicking here.

It may be hard for you to believe that I am a very private individual when it comes to all aspects of my personal life. After all, here I am opening myself up in a way I never would have dreamed of before. But my community helped to show me how cathartic it could be for me to share my getting pancreatic cancer with other people outside of the community. I’d like to think that in this intense situation I finally realized the true value of communication and sharing. It is only by letting others in that they may help us in our journey.

I also learned much more about how not to be so judgmental of others (and myself, too). We all approach good times and bad, adrenaline rushes, fear, thoughts of our own mortality, etc. in much different ways. It took me a while, but I finally got it that some of my friends did not want to think about the “C” word, and therefore avoided me.

This gave me greater thankfulness for those who were there with me through the toughest parts of my journey. It must have been hard for them to see me looking like a skeleton (due to my weight loss) with limited mobility and a variety of post-surgery side effects. They never turned away. They were my knights (of both genders) in shining armor.

These are vital socialization observations from “Life After Cancer Treatment: Social and Work Relationships” by Journeyforward.org. Keep them in mind when interacting with others – regardless of your role (survivor, caregiver, etc.):

Having cancer can change relationships with the people in your life. It’s normal to notice changes in the way you relate to family, friends, and other people that you are around every day. And the way they relate to you. When treatment ends, families are often not prepared for the fact that recovery takes time. In general, your recovery will take much longer than your treatment did. Survivors often say that they didn’t realize the time it took to recover. This can cause disappointment, worry, and frustration for everyone. Families also may not realize that the way their family works may have changed permanently as a result of cancer. They may need help to deal with the changes and keep the “new” family strong.

Most cancer survivors who are physically able to work do go back to their jobs. This can help them feel they are getting back to the life they had before being diagnosed with cancer. Whether returning to their old jobs or beginning new ones, some survivors are treated unfairly when they return to the workplace. Employers and employees may have doubts about cancer survivors’ ability to work.

Some friends, coworkers, and others may be a huge source of support, while others may be a source of anger or frustration. Some people mean well, but do not know what to say. Maybe they don’t know how to offer support. Others don’t want to deal with your cancer. If friends and coworkers seem unsupportive, it could be because they are anxious for you or for themselves. Your cancer experience may threaten them because it reminds them that cancer can happen to anyone. Try to understand their fears and be patient as you try to regain a good relationship.

Humor Helps Our Frame of Mind

One of the things that I’ve found over the years is that a sense of humor can really help. Here are a few funny (maybe) quotes. Hopefully, at least a couple will make you laugh. 🙂

These quotes are from Cancer ABCs: [actually, they’re mostly groaners.]

Taken From Actual Doctor’s Notes

  1. Patient has two teenage children, but no other abnormalities.
  2. Patient has chest pain if she lies on her left side for over a year.
  3. On the second day, the knee was better, and then on the third day it disappeared.
  4. The patient is tearful and crying constantly. She also appears to be depressed.
  5. Discharge status: Alive, but without my permission.
  6. Healthy-appearing decrepit, 69-year-old male, mentally alert but forgetful.
  7.  The patient refused autopsy.
  8. The patient has no previous history of suicides.
  9. Patient’s medical history has been remarkably insignificant with only a 40-pound weight gain in the last three days.
  10. She is numb from her toes down.
  11. Occasional, constant, infrequent headaches.
  12.  Skin: somewhat pale but present.

Top Ten Ways To Know You Are A Cancer Thriver 

  1. Your alarm clock goes off at 6 a.m. and you’re glad to hear it.
  2. Your mother-in-law invites you to lunch and you just say NO.
  3. You’re back in the family rotation to take out the garbage.
  4. When you no longer have an urge to choke the person who says, “all you need to beat cancer is the right attitude.”
  5. When your dental floss runs out and you buy 1000 yards.
  6. When you use your toothbrush to brush your teeth and not comb your hair.
  7. You have a chance to buy additional life insurance but you buy a new convertible car instead.
  8. Your doctor tells you to lose weight and do something about your cholesterol and you actually listen.
  9. When your biggest annual celebration is again your birthday, and not the day you were diagnosed.
  10. When you use your Visa card more than your hospital parking pass.

 

 

Jim Valvano ESPY Awards Video

To me, there are three tremendous videos of presentations by those suffering from a terminal illness. Today, we cover Jim Valvano’s speech at the 1993 ESPY Awards show. Jim was a championship college basketball coach.

As the V Foundation Web site notes:

“Don’t Give Up . . . Don’t Ever Give Up!”®

“With these words, Jim Valvano announced the beginning of the V Foundation for Cancer Research with ESPN’s support. During Jim’s memorable speech accepting the Arthur Ashe Courage and Humanitarian Award at the inaugural ESPYS on March 4, 1993, his message was simple: cancer research needs our support.”

“Despite being weakened from his fight against cancer, he delivered an energetic and inspiring speech that brought the crowd to its feet. Although he passed shortly after his speech, Jim’s legacy lives on through the V Foundation.”

“For the past 25 years, the V Foundation has continued Jim’s message by funding incredible projects and researchers focused on finding and end to cancer. Because of the V Foundation’s generous supporters: More than $200 million has been awarded to cancer research and programs. 100% of every direct donation goes to cancer research. There are 16 million cancer survivors in the U.S., with that number expected to grow to 20.3 million by 2026.”

 

Inspirational Quotes – Part 4

Previously, we cited inspirational quotes from Good ReadsWisdom Quotes, and Brainy Quote. Here are several more such quotes.

These quotes are from Lifehack Quotes:

“The art of being happy lies in the power of extracting happiness from common things.” Henry Ward Beecher

“The key to being happy is knowing you have the power to choose what to accept and what to let go.” Dodinsky

“The belief that youth is the happiest time of life is founded on a fallacy. The happiest person is the person who thinks the most interesting thoughts, and we grow happier as we grow older.” William Phelps

“The only thing that will make you happy is being happy with who you are, and not who people think you are.” Goldie Hawn

“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn, or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.”Denis Waitley

 

Click the image to read additional Lifehack Quotes on being inspired.

 

Inspirational Quotes – Part 3

Previously, we cited inspirational quotes from Good Reads and Wisdom Quotes. Here are several more such quotes.

These quotes are from Brainy Quote:

“Happiness is not something you postpone for the future; it is something you design for the present.” Jim Rohn

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.” Omar Khayyam

“Every day is a new day. You’ll never be able to find happiness if you don’t move on.” Carrie Underwood

“Happiness lies in the joy of achievement and the thrill of creative effort.” Franklin D. Roosevelt

“Happiness is a butterfly, which when pursued, is always just beyond grasp, but which, if you sit down quietly, may alight upon you.” Nathaniel Hawthorne

“Happiness is like a kiss. You must share it to enjoy it.” Bernard Meltzer

 

Click the image to read additional Brainy Quote sayings on being inspired.

Inspirational Quotes - Part 3

Live Like You Were Dying

For me, this is the title of a great song from Tim McGraw about making the most of every day. And one real-life hero, who has set a great inspirational example for us all, is Susan Briscoe, who wrote an article for the Huffington Post. It appeared on March 9, 2018. It is titled : “I Am Dying From Terminal Cancer. Here’s What It’s Taught Me About Living.”

Susan, you are really one of my heroes. We wish you the very best. You are in my thoughts and prayers.

As Briscoe says about her situation:

“Pre-diagnosis, I had just turned 50 and was extremely fit, healthy, and happy. Nobody could keep up with me! I was excited about life. It had occurred to me that, with my family’s excellent longevity genes — and some good luck — I might very well live another 50 years. I was enthused about the 30 years’ worth of creative activities and research projects that I had ambitiously sketched out for myself. Both my sons, also healthy, happy, and on-track, had moved out on their own; and after more than 20 years of solo parenting, I was ready for a little more fun. Deeply aware of and grateful for all the privileges that made my wonderfully full life possible, I figured I had had more joy in life than most would ever have.”

“But I didn’t get the good luck part, so now I am going to die. And that is okay. That was the first thing I told my loved ones. My boyfriend. My parents. My two boys. ‘I have a very bad cancer. I’m not going to be around much longer. It’s okay.’ They looked so hard into my eyes, gripping my hands, tears streaming down their faces, as I told them this. When I got to the ‘okay part, they nodded. They knew I meant it. I was okay. It was okay. They were going to be okay.”

“Many people I meet have imagined me in a state of pure devastation and distress at my diagnosis. Loss brings grief; and because grief is painful, like everyone else, I try to avoid it. But the flip side of grief is gratitude for having had whatever is lost to begin with. I have learned that, to a surprising degree, I have a choice about which side to focus on. I could be sad about all I won’t experience in life ― becoming a grandmother is one of the hardest for me ― or I can be grateful for all the gifts, like my wonderful boys, that I was given and fully appreciated. Choosing a state of gratitude has allowed me to remain happy and even joyous in this time. Yes, there is still grief, but the tears are fleeting, and lately rare.”

The Death Project is a blog where I journal about my life with terminal cancer. I wanted people to know that dying doesn’t have to be as bad as we fear.”

 Click the image to read more about Susan Briscoe’s personal journey.

Live Like You Were Dying

 

Feeling Fortunate – Not Sorry for Oneself

I am truly blessed and appreciate the life I live.  I have never once said “why me?” since I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. Rather, I have always asked “how was I so lucky to be diagnosed early enough to be able to have  surgery?” And I try as hard as I can not to be distracted by continuing side effects. Life is great. 🙂

Consider this excerpt from my FREE book on Surviving Cancer and Embracing Life: My Personal Journey:

I consider myself the luckiest man on the earth EVERY DAY. I have felt this way each day since February 12, 2015. That was the date of my Whipple surgery. Why am I the luckiest man alive?

* I have a great family that has been with me every step of the way.

* Because of my endocrinologist, Dr. Joseph Terrana, I was diagnosed very, very early and thus I was able to have surgery because the cancer had not spread to my lymph nodes.

* Through the prodigious skill of Dr. Gene Coppa and his team, my Whipple surgery was a great success.

* Due to my excellent oncology team headed by Dr. Jeffrey Vacirca and his right-hand person Diana Youngs, my chemotherapy was conducted with compassion and caring – even when the treatments were the toughest.

* My friends and fellow cancer survivors continue to be there for me.

* Despite the dire prognosis for those with pancreatic cancer, I was able to dance with my daughter and give a toast at her wedding.

* I have been able to continue working and doing what I love.

* I can exercise and keep myself in the best possible shape. (I actually went to the gym while undergoing chemo).

* And my wife Linda and I have traveled since my surgery, including a “restful” vacation in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico; a cruise from Amsterdam down to St. Petersburg, Russia; a visit to Curacao; and a family vacation in Eastern Mexico. With more to come!

Feeling Fortunate - Not Sorry for Oneself