Guy's Guide

CURE, Winter 2014, Volume 13, Issue 4

Michael Irving had to believe that he could stand taller than his disease. And, long story short, he did.

In January 2010, at age 34, I underwent surgery for colon cancer. I’ve been in remission ever since. I am grateful for those who helped ground me in gratitude for the many things and many people I have in my life. Being shorter than most other people throughout my life taught me to look up—I had no other choice if I wanted to see things from other points of view. In reflecting on this lesson learned early in life, I realized I had to take the same mindset in beating cancer—I had to look up. I had to believe that I could stand taller than my disease. And, long story short, I did. Below are some personal insights.

The chemocation: When I was ready for chemotherapy, I entered a treatment room that looked more like a beauty parlor than a medical clinic, with recliners lined up across the sparkling floor. Granted, two days later I would feel awful from the medicine catching up with me. But for the first three hours, I had nowhere else I had to be, and the loveliest nurses in the world pampering me with blankets, beverages and medicine. This was my vacation—my chemocation.

My feminine side: My oncologist’s strategy for beating my cancer included an aggressive regimen of a drug administered in a portable chemotherapy pump, which I wore over my shoulder in what looked like a purse. I could make jokes, saying, “Yes, I am comfortable enough in my masculinity to wear this purse over my shoulder.”

The butt of all jokes: I knew I had to preserve my funny bone with a supplement of humor. Who knew that a 4-foot-7-inch dwarf with colon cancer was in danger of falling short on jokes? So, I stocked up. I paced in the front of grocery stores right where smokers congregate. As they lit up I would say, “You know, that stunts your growth and causes cancer.”

If only this were a sport: I tried taking different perspectives on my fight against cancer. For one, it was as though I was a boxer trying on different flashy robes or different entrance songs as I made my way to the ring. Yes, I had an opponent inside me that was pushing me to fight for my life.

Personal perspective: A burrito is just a burrito, but if you’re 6 feet tall and I have to stand in line behind you waiting for the bathroom, a burrito can really stink. It’s a matter of personal perspective, and it’s a matter of being positive. I tried to keep the end of my 12 chemotherapy treatments in sight. The cancer made my stomach hurt, but relief was in sight (throwing up). I could not stop throwing up, but relief was in sight (the $50-a-pop pill for extreme nausea). So, while it is important to be positive, it is just as important to be realistic in order not to feel let down. Cancer is a very serious illness, but humor can be a reprieve to anyone who has experienced it.

—Michael Irving is a marketing representative in Knoxville, Iowa.

SHARE YOUR STORY! Whether you are a patient, survivor, caregiver or health care provider, we want to read your unpublished (must not have appeared in print or online) stories about cancer and the people, places and moments of the experience. They can be funny, poignant or practical. Send them to editor@curetoday.com. Stories should be no more than 600 words and include your name, phone number and email. We look forward to hearing from you!