Saturday April 23rd was a big day in my life. It was the two-year anniversary of my last chemo treatment. I had a very nasty strain of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. The treatment was extreme, unpleasant and very dangerous.
For the approximate two years that I was going through treatment I wrote 249 entries at Caringbridge about what I was going through. If you want to read any of the entries from my web journal, click here. The journal helped me manage my thoughts and emotions while going through treatment. I great lesson that cancer taught me.
Two years has gone by and it feels like cancer treatment was twenty years ago, not two years ago. I still have a bunch of side effects from cancer treatment and side effects from the treatment of my side effects, but life is with me and my cancer prognosis is pretty good.
This brings me to some thoughts I have about cancer, the treatment that one goes through and even some life lessons that I’ve learned.
Cancer treatment stinks, you get through it from your attitude. The people who provided the treatment were great. The treatment itself is awful. If there is something that can wrong with your body, it can and often happens.
The way I got through the treatment was through support from my family (especially my wife Suzanne) and having a positive attitude. I learned to observe what was happening to me and not to become involved in the treatment or how awful I felt. I believe the skill of learning to observe from the outside has served me well since cancer treatment.
The disease is an evil disease. The worst day of my life was when I learned that I had cancer and the type of cancer I had. At that time, the information on the Internet was out of date. It looked like I had a 20% chance of being alive two years later. Fortunately, that information was wrong.
I learned that the first information one receives is not the last word. The lesson I take from the diagnosis of cancer is that bad news doesn’t always mean its bad news. If one can learn to breath and go with the flow, bad news can often get better.
A few life lessons
Here are some of the things I’ve learned:
Bad news is just that bad news. It matters what you do with the news, not that you got it.
When you have needs ask, no one makes it through life alone. Asking for help is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of strength.
Create a team to help when times get tough. The medical team that has worked with me through this experience has been great. However, I had to create the team and manage it for me to get real benefits.
Do your own research. Experts are often wrong. If something doesn’t sound correct, put everything on hold until you are comfortable with the direction you’re going. There are almost no times where a timeout for a day or two will make a huge difference.
Be the leader of your team. You can’t abdicate leadership. You will work in your own best interest. It’s your job to make sure that everyone is doing his or her job. If they’re not, then you have to take personal responsibility for getting your team back on track.
Cancer treatment is just part of life. The skills that I learned during treatment have and are serving me well. I think the most important thing I’ve learned is to observe what’s going on, but not getting pulled into with emotions. Observation of our situation allows for analysis that serves us well. And, that’s an important thing.
Two years is a short period of time, but in my particular situation it’s a lifetime. Comments are accepted at Jpatrick@stage2planning.com.
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