Kevin Berry is an 13-year mantle cell lymphoma survivor, in his third remission. He works on Human Spaceflight programs, is a freelance writer and editor, and supports newly diagnosed patients through his ministry, Taking Vienna. He lives in Central Florida with his wife and adult children.
If you're reading CURE, chances are you've lived the horror of Day One, which many call Diagnosis Day, or D-Day. You or your loved one haven't slept, haven't eaten and probably spent the day on the phone with family members. D-Day feels a lot like the day a parent or spouse dies. You move in a daze, dealing mechanically with the body's minimum functions and numbly interacting with others who are just as shocked as you are. And also … the internet. A huge mistake we all make.
Day Two may mean follow-up appointments, dealing with your job and entertaining an endless stream of well-meaning visitors, hosting them when all you want to do is curl up in a ball and disappear from the world. Daily life is still a minimal function –eating a little, drinking a little, bathing, getting dressed. Your higher brain functions are alternating between "fight" and "flight," with occasional visits to the land of "this just can't be real."
Somewhere around Day Three many of us experience a shift into action. We enter the "cancer whirlwind," scheduling port installations, evaluating options. Making plans for work, travel and child care. The future begins to creep in, and after discussion with oncologists we begin to have a vision of the next month's events and schedule. Most importantly, our brains' higher functions start to kick in.
I know what I'm talking about. You see, two years ago, I had my third Day Three. On June 22, 2016, I relapsed after my second transplant. I can say that the third time wasn't any easier, but I did move more smoothly through Day One and Day Two. By the time I got to my third Day Three, my brain was going full throttle. Notifications were done, my blog was updated, plans were made and hope was returning.
But I still cried a lot. Moving into the action phase is like putting a band-aid on a gunshot wound. It gives the appearance of accomplishment, but really is just a tiny step towards coping with the horror. The numb feeling is still there, vaguely masked by action. You see your family hurting, your friends struggling with what to say, and you may find yourself cast into the role of comforter and hope-giver.
The best advice I got on my first Day Three was this: "remember, for most cancers, you've got time. Time to fight, time to cope, time to heal. Look ahead to Year One, and think about how quickly years fly by."
So, if you're reading this on your own Day Three, please consider this advice and try, hard as it may be, to see this as the third day of Year One.
Besides the other wonderful blogs on curetoday.com, I hope you'll visit my Taking Vienna site. I also encourage readers to visit the Be The Match site to learn about registering as a potential stem cell donor.