What does “C” look like?
We hope that it never impacts us or those we love, but the reality is that “C” impacts more and more people every second, minute, hour, day, month, and year.
If you haven’t figured it out… C = Cancer.
There are many types of cancer with several stages and several methods to try and treat it–sometimes they are successful and sometimes those we know and love succumb to the cancer.
In 2004, I had my first run in with the “C!” Months and months of testing, convincing the doctors that while I appeared to be a healthy 24 year-old, something inside my body was not healthy. After CT scans, x-rays, and biopsies in September 2004 I received the news that I had stage 1B lung cancer (the tumor was controlled to one spot was at least 3+cm big). At the age of 25 I opted to have the tumor removed by means of surgery. A wedge lobectomy was done on December 29, 2004. Following surgery minimal treatment was required–I developed asthma from the surgery due to the removal of part of my right lung.
In the years to come I had a couple more surgeries to remove nodules and granunomas that would develop near the same spot of the former tumor.
I took charge of my health and I made sure that I never settled for a dismissive doctor or test. I knew my body then and I know my body now.
In late April 2018, I had some more test done because I was not feeling great. I was coughing up some blood and just felt not right. I went through more test.
Test after test. Result after result.
It was getting old. People at work and who knew me probably thought “My word, this guy is always sick…” Heck, I even thought that about myself.
In June 2018, I received some news… They found another tumor on the right lung–near the same spot of the one in 2004. It was somewhat obstructed by scar tissue from the first surgery. They took a biopsy and then the call came a few days later. “Nick, can you come in…” Since all the test results I received prior were sent to me–I knew this time something was not good.
Late June I was told that I had, yet again, Stage IB Lung cancer in the right lung. Test were done, including MRI’s to determine if the cancer had spread to any other parts of my body (including my brain). Thankfully it had not and the overall words from the doctor is that my prognosis was good.
I remember going into work later that day and trying to focus. I made a decision that day that perhaps some of you will never understand–and I say this with a heavy heart don’t ever tell someone what they should and need to do–when faced with information of this magnitude you need people in your life and you need support, right? Well, I made a decision that I was NOT going to tell anyone– I was NOT going to tell my parents, my spouse, my siblings, my friends, NO ONE!
Why did I choose to do this? Simple. I wanted to be treated as Nick, not as a cancer patient. I didn’t want pity or people worrying about me. I was a grown man who was going to be 40. I can make it through this alone. I didn’t want to worry anyone.
In the months between June and August I made sure all things were in order in the event that something bad would happen. I made a last wish document and provided to a friend who didn’t ask why or anything. I signed a DNR at the hospital.
I began treatment called immunotherapy. The idea is to treat the exact spot and so it was. For months I went to the treatment center and sat for a bit of time–I looked around and saw so many others around me that were worse off than me and I realized that my reasoning for not telling anyone was justified.
Many people had someone to sit with them, for me I was always alone. I remember putting on the in the case of emergency who they should contact. Obviously my spouse and a close friend were put on the form. I just hoped they would not have found out that way.
Several CT scans through 2018 I got reports on the progress of the immunotherapy treatment and the tumor was shrinking.
I decided that it was time to tell people. Why? Because I felt I was hiding a huge part of my life. Slowly, I began to tell people, Zach, Mom, Carly… and so on.
Of course they were like why didn’t you tell me sooner? The reason wasn’t because I didn’t think they should know, it was more about me being me. Living without the thought of Cancer lingering in the heads of those I told.
I am alive and treatment is working and people are worse off than me. While the last couple of months have been tough–pleurisy build up and coughing up some blood, the treatment seems to be working and I will continue to walk into the treatment center alone– because strength and faith is what I am bringing with me.
I love those who I consider dear to me and I didn’t tell them because I wanted them to be happy and think that all was fine with me.
The “C” word is still in my mind. I don’t know the reason for the second time, but I am hopeful and positive that things will be okay. I believe the fight isn’t over until we give up. I have watched many who have fought a similar battle and still are here to tell about it.
Point is that none of us know for how long we will be on this Earth and so we must live each day with the knowledge that God doesn’t give us more than we can handle, right? Some days are easier than others for me. Some days I am sad, some days I just feel like crap–tired, nauseous, in pain, and wondering if–today was my last day. If it was–did I tell those I cared about exactly how I felt?
My rationale here is that we live a short life in reality. How we live it and what we do with our time is important. Stepping outside of our “comfort” zone and not worrying what societies “norms” of acceptance are and just live.
I chose to live. I will treat the cancer with this treatment, but I will not put my body through treatments that only puts my quality of life at stake. For some it will be hard to understand that if “chemo” could take care of it sooner, why not try that– personal choice is that I have seen how it impacts people and I will not do that to myself or my family. I think my overall rationale for keeping everyone in the dark was to prevent them from having any pain or sadness or in fact any obligations to help me. Sure, people who love you will help you, but for me it was more of a choice to live life like all was normal–and to pretend when I felt bad that all was fine.
I know people want to know because they care and love me, and I totally get it–I appreciate it and I realize that when we are faced with situations like this it is best to just be honest–for me perhaps it was more about trying to make it go away and live a life without having “C” hanging over my head. If I didn’t tell people then it didn’t exist, right?
These were all the questions and thoughts that ran through my mind.
Each day I get up, I realize that “C” is still living in my body. I read about treatments and prognosis of life after treatments and I hear about all these people I know that have “C” and watch those I know dealing with it and I realize that we are NEVER alone and we should NEVER be afraid to tell those we love that we have cancer.
I am not sharing this with you for pity or words of apology, but rather I am sharing because this is a battle that I am fighting and will continue to fight as long as I can. Doctors feel it will go in my favor and I have to maintain my faith. What I ask of you is this:
Pray for those with cancer.
Understand that some days are good and some days are bad.
Life is short–celebrate it. Cherish it and those you love.
Find your core family and friends and love them.
So here I am a 40 year old man, non-smoker who again is facing lung cancer. I have no regrets in my decisions I have made to this point, but I will say now that I have shared it a sense of peace resides over me.
Don’t feel bad for me, I am fine. I will be fine. I am alive.