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Memoirs; A fight against cancer
Saturday March 31, 2007 started out like any other day. I woke up early on this particular Saturday and headed over to the lab at the hospital to have some blood work taken. You see earlier in the week I had my annual physical and I was instructed by my doctor to stop by the lab on Saturday to have some blood taken to complete my annual checkup. Nothing out of the “norm,” just a routine yearly checkup. So, as I said I woke up and headed over to the lab and had blood drawn. I left the lab at 10:15am and made my way home to spend time with my wife and kids. At approximately 2:00pm that afternoon I received a call that would completely change my life as I knew it.
I was at home watching a movie with my daughter when the phone rang. It was a nurse from the hospital. She informed me that they had found something with my blood test that had caused some concern. She asked me to come to the emergency room in order that they might speak with me regarding their findings. I asked her if she could tell me what it was they found over the phone. I sensed from the tone of her voice that she was trying to avoid giving me too much information over the phone. She asked me once again to come to the hospital so they might speak with me and I again responded by asking her for specifics over the phone. The nurse said once again that they needed me to come into the emergency room to speak to me regarding their findings. By this time it was very obvious that something was seriously wrong and she didn’t want to give me any information over the phone. I asked the nurse calmly but in a very stern tone to give me their findings and she finally said that they wanted me to come in for more test. She said that my white blood cell counts were extremely high and their first thought is they believe it to be leukemia.
I can tell you truthfully that the moment that word came out of her mouth, time seemed to stand still and I was in a daze. It was as if I was outside of my body listening in on someone else's conversation. She said that they wanted me to come in to the emergency room and I would probably be there for a couple of days. The nurse informed me that the only way they would be able to confirm the diagnosis is for me to have a bone marrow biopsy. At this point panic sets in and I began to inform the nurse that I had things to do that afternoon. I had to go to the park with my kids and spend time with my wife. I didn’t have time to come into the emergency room and I certainly didn’t have time for a bone marrow biopsy. The nurse informed me that I could refuse their recommendation but they strongly suggest that I come into the emergency room and comply with their request.
Shock and panic had now been joined by fear and I couldn’t make up my mind to save my life. I literally was in a state of shock! My wife walked into the bedroom and could see the look of panic on my face. I hung up the phone and began to tell my wife what I was just told on the phone. I just sat on the end of the bed with my head in my hands and I was numb. My wife taking action went next door to our friends and asked them if they could come over and watch the kids. We gathered ourselves together and then left for the hospital. We arrived at the emergency room and I was checked in just after 3:00pm. Once they had us in place someone came in and gave us the run down. The original blood work taken that morning showed that my white blood cell counts were off the charts. A normal white blood cell count is between 5,000 – 11,000 and my count as of 10:15 that morning was 450,000 which could result in a blast crisis. Within the five hour period between my 10:15 blood work and the blood work they took at 3:15 my white cell count went from 450,000 to 550,000. A 100,000 count increase in a little over 5 hours! The nurse informed me with my blood count being so high and multiplying at such a rapid pace they are far more concerned with getting my counts down than determining what the exact cause is at this moment.
Surviving cancer, what a concept! This is my story. Well, actually this only covers the first few hours after receiving my diagnosis. I can tell you as I was reflecting upon that time and writing this down it brought back a lot of those feelings of despair and the fear of the unknown. Again, this is only the first few hours after my diagnosis but I can tell you it seemed like time stood still as we were waiting for information. But, by the grace of God here I am 3+ years into this battle and still moving forward. I can tell you the way to get 3+ years happens one day at a time. Its the only way you get through something like this. Trying to take on too much too quickly can be too much for anyone to handle. You have to fight but that fight takes place one day at a time. Sometimes one hour at a time depending on how your feeling.
Now I have spoken with some who say that cancer doesn’t have to change your life. They say cancer only becomes as big as you allow it to be or in other words it occupies only as much space as you are willing to let it have. That statement struck me and I asked one person who said this what they meant by occupying space? They responded and said they were speaking of occupying space in your mind and not physically in your body. I believe they are thinking about some type of positive confession or what it sounded like they were saying was you have the choice to dwell on it or to not dwell on it. Now it has been my experience that the only people to say this type of thing are people who have never had cancer. If you have had cancer you know that there are times when you dwell upon or think about it. It just happens. Now I am all for trying to keep a positive attitude when dealing with something like this but the fact of the matter is that it becomes part of your life whether your want it to or not.
Hope For The Hurting.
Regardless of what some may say, I can tell you from experience that cancer is a life altering disease that changes everything in life as you know it once you’ve been diagnosed. Now I understand that to crawl up in the fetus position and check out of life all together isn’t what surviving is all about. Having cancer doesn’t mean that we hang our heads in despair and mope around each and every day. Sure, there are times when you feel overwhelmed and you wish you could just check out but we push on.
Surviving means that we try to live life to the fullest. We make the most of each and every day, not taking even the smallest things for granite. From my own experience, much of this journey has been about turning to God who has met me in a way that no one else could. Even during the roughest times He has brought comfort and peace when there would seem to be no comfort or peace to be found. I am blessed enough to have a good doctor who has made the right choices regarding my treatment. I believe and trust in God but I also follow my doctor’s advice. I believe that God has given doctors the wisdom needed to deal with these types of issues. Trusting in God doesn’t mean I ignore my doctor. When I have a headache I pray and ask God to take the headache away and then I take two aspirin. Its the super practical and the supernatural working together. In addition I’m lucky enough to have family and friends as a support system. I have a wonderful church family that is always praying for me. They are kind enough to remind me to look up when I begin to look at myself and my circumstances for too long. Keep it light and keep it simple. For me, having cancer helped me to put things in perspective. It helps you to see what things are truly important in life and what things are not. I have found for me that the 3 F’s are the primary keys to surviving cancer. Faith, Family & Friends. It doesn't get much easier and better than that!