361 SIMPSON ST.
MCDONOUGH, GA. 30253
(480) 251 6578
I am submitting my story "Cancer Whisperer" for your consideration and possible use.
Thank You for your valuable time and consideration,
Best Regards and Happy Holidays,
Since being diagnosed with late stage cancer in October 2013 I have been on a remarkable journey of transformation that has reshaped my thinking and how I now live my life. Still living and learning now with Lupus and Alzheimer's diseases I am proof positive you can still keep moving forward in life, despite your limitations. If you'd have told me years ago that I would be writing about my multiple battles with four separate types of cancer, lupus and Alzheimer's diseases. I would never have believed you. I had always hoped that one day I would write some great literary piece - I don't think I ever hoped that one day I would write a piece about cancer, especially not from personal experience but hey you just never know in life. When I was first diagnosed with stage 2 Appendiceal Cancer in October 1980, it seriously rocked my world! There I was 18 years old, athletic, minding my own business, when a torrent of a diagnosis knocked the wind out of my sails. Everything changed in an instant. I was no longer Andrew - I was now a "cancer patient". I honestly hate that label but it sums up what was to become the majority of my life.
A cancer patient. In my mind, those particular words conjure up a picture of somebody very sick, at the mercy of physicians and medications feeling very disempowered. Which is exactly what I was. These days I use the term cancer survivor because that is what I am. Simply because I don't have the official seal of "You are in remission" which only ever seems to happen in movies, as it's never been clear cut in my cancer experiences, doesn't mean that I am still a cancer patient. The fact is, I live with cancer every day. I am forced to deal with the emotional, physical and mental side effects of cancer every waking moment, but it's much easier being a "cancer survivor", being somewhat in control of my experience than a "cancer patient"
There's a lot of stuff I wish I had known when I first got cancer and there were fewer resources out there than there are currently. Needless to say I had no idea what to eat, how to tell friends and family that I had a deadly disease that could kill me, sooner or later. I attempted to juggle this curveball and try to find a life lesson from this long journey. That's how I dealt with this vicious blow from life. Reality was, I did not want anybody to feel sorry for me. I never wanted to be considered a victim. My goal was to be a strong survivor from the first day I heard the word "cancer". Throughout this long journey I learned four very powerful lessons that I'd like to share with you so you can live life more fully... even without a deadly cancer diagnosis. This is exactly what I needed then. Somebody to encourage me and tell me to pray hard and love harder.
1. The Reality: Cancer Changed My Appearance.
The treatment for 5 different and deadly cancers (Appendiceal Cancer, Gall Bladder Cancer, Malignant Melanoma x2, Renal Cell Carsinoma Cancer) took away my hair, my organs, my skin, my eyebrows. All the physical assets I owned were tampered with, lost or stolen from me at some point. The lesson? Love goes much deeper than looks. The people who matter to me love me no matter how I look or how many scars I have. One day when I was recooperating from one of my surgeries, my six year old daughter found a picture of me from better days and said, "We love you Daddy no matter how you look" That was truly a defining moment that made me feel blessed beyond belief, as the tears welled up and rolled down my cheeks. I knew I was in the moment of pure love and that's something worth celebrating. I determined that cancer would not define who I was in life.
2. The Reality: Cancer Is Destructive.
Radical surgery and drugs save our lives but the process is crap. I have experienced all sorts of symptoms and surgeries that were pretty uncomfortable, to say the least. I almost got used to them as time passed by, yet I just had to keep going back for more. For many years to come as it would turn out. Never take your good health and energy for granted folks. To actually get up in the morning and feel healthy, comfortable, pain free and full of energy is a truly beautiful thing. To feel somewhat normal is extraordinary. I will never again consider a normal day, when nothing painful happens a chore. Each morning when you awaken, even if that day seems like nothing special, take a moment in time to truly appreciate the incredible gifts of your health and vitality.
3. The Reality: Life Is Truly Short.
Each and every time I was diagnosed with cancer there was a short amount of time while waiting for the biopsies or test results when there was a distinct possibility my life would come to an end much quicker than I thought. My mortality would simply smack me along side the head. Somehow it's taboo, and I was a bit in denial that my life is very short and a tremendous gift. Awareness of my physical mortality gave me a swift kick in the behind to live my life fully. Folks, every day is truly a gift. As I continue through my journey, my mind could easily be consumed with worries about what the future holds and thoughts about the past--Why me? What could I have possibly done to deserve this? I could easily be filled with loads of fear and anxiety. It was imperative that I remain true to my authentic self and thrive.
4. The Reality: Love Always Conquers Fear.
I had never experienced such a feeling of presence. I feel so utterly aware of what truly matters in life and just how much I have to be grateful for in life. When you are diagnosed five times with malignant cancer in your body, all the petty stuff that fills our everyday lives and relationships falls away, and all that remains is simply love. I have never felt fear in the same way since I have been diagnosed now with lupus and Alzheimer's diseases in the last couple years. The love I have recieved from my wonderful wife and five chihuahuas has stepped up to envelope me, and my fears have dissolved. Whenever fear comes to meet you in life, attempt to flip it around and find love. Consider all that you love and everyone who loves you. Like myself, you may find fear dissipates immediately.
As a grandfather of three small little ones, I am so used to putting myself last and forgetting to look after my needs. After my last bout against renal cell carsinoma, requiring the removal of my right kidney, I have tried to put myself on a journey of healing, prayer and faith. I have tried to really make myself a priority, not really knowing exactly how much time I realistically have left here. I must take the time to give myself love. I have never really taken time to heal and nurture myself in life. Not only is it important for yourself but for those around you as well. The ripple effect it has had on my kids, grandkids, my family, and friends has been profound. Everything starts with your relationship with yourself. Accept love, and be kind to yourself always and forever.
In some bizarre ways I feel almost grateful to have battled cancer five times and be going through my current ordeals. Somehow it has shown me to step past fear and be invincible. When I first was diagnosed with the "C" word, I simply didn't know how to deal with the experience. I couldn't even begin to talk to my family and friends about the diagnosis. I lost a lot of weight and sleep. Finally, I went to counseling at the hospital where I was being treated, and I got myself energized. "You don't have to go through cancer alone" is my message to people newly diagnosed with any variety of cancer. Make certain that you always have someone to lend you an ear. Praying and talking helped restore my energy and positive attitude during all five of my cancer battles.Please let my story remind everybody who reads it that every person touched by cancer has a unique story to tell. We are making progress together every day to save lives and create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. It has been an honor to share my personal story with you. My prayer is that somewhere along the line of my story, you will have felt hope and strength. I am no longer merely surviving, with God's grace I am thriving!