Living Life Between Cancer Appointments


When cancer entered our life, fear was a constant. However, we tried to live as joyously as possible between check-ups.

The battle began in 1997. My wife’s first skirmish with “C” was when she was in her 40s and received a diagnosis of breast cancer. Our reaction included, but was not limited to, shock, tears, depression, rage and fear.

Always fear…

With her diagnosis came surgery, chemo treatments, radiation and many follow up visits with good doctors.

Once these measures were completed, our regular visits were usually positive experiences from which we went home with good reports. Life went on with high school and college graduations for our kids. We jumped into this phase with many weekend trips to their college games and meets on quite a few weekends. They were our favorites because we saw them enjoying college life and we relaxed and went along for the ride.

We tried to “celebrate” after each good visit in ways that could fit our budget such as concerts and local travel adventures. Planning these respites was part of the fun.

When retirement came for us both, we felt we were home free. However, in 2015 as second diagnosis for breast cancer was given to us. More surgery was needed, but it was not quite as stunning as the earlier experience. Perhaps we were “seasoned” a bit. Still, tears, depression, rage and fear returned. Always fear…

Somehow we got through this second skirmish and being older and more financially stable, we planned cruises, bus tours to wonderful sites, family visits to our kids and grandkids and even a few family vacations where we all piled into a VRBO.

In other words, after every good report we made a plan to live life and enjoy the time extensions.

In 2017, routine blood work indicated a high white count and further testing proved a new type of cancer, chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). This was not necessarily connected with the previous cancers, maybe just bad luck.

Initial treatments were not successful and proved very expensive, even with our good insurance. We actually considered “divorce” as an option. My wife would fall into a lower income bracket and the drug costs would be greatly lowered.

Fortunately, her numbers improved after three months of shock, depression rage and fear. Always fear….

The blood work will never be normal, but it is acceptable. A win for us.

Mixed in with all this were three melanomas. Two were not as serious and were removed surgically. The most recent was worrisome and required lymph node biopsies and a PET scan to determine if/where it might have spread.

It really caught us off guard and we had already scheduled a cruise. Our oncologist urged us to take the trip, perhaps as a stress relief before the PET scan and the possible bad news. The trip was somewhat hampered by shock, rage, depression and fear. Always fear…

As with all biopsies and scans, waiting for results is the worst, and this was just days before Christmas to boot.

Then we received the best Christmas present ever. The scan was clean and we will just have the regular three-month check up scheduled.

This war has continued over 25 years with a variety of highs and lows. My courageous wife has battled through it all and continues to go forward. She even swam and bowled in the Senior Olympics and won several medals.

A key for us has been trying to overcome the fear. When a good appointment issues another three month extension or reprieve, we jump on it. I have become less reluctant to participate in her planned adventures. Fear? Always….

However, life is still very enjoyable, even in our seventh decade. Plans are still made to live life between the appointments. We deal with one hurdle at a time.

As I compose this, she has already baked and decorated dozens of Christmas cookies to share with family and friends. I even suspect more dance lessons could be on the agenda.

Find things you want to do and try. Trips, community activities and family visits are available and enjoyable. Think outside the box. Thanking God becomes a more personal priority. Laughing at the silliest things is therapeutic. Live life fully between the appointments! There are only so many grains of sand in the hourglass. Don’t waste them.

If you are facing what I have described, remain optimistic. These diagnoses are no longer death sentences. Fear? Always…

The three-month intervals between appointments and check ups are your green light to live life to the fullest. Attitude is everything. We hope you are as fortunate as we have been.

This post was written and submitted by James Danaher . The article reflects the views of James Danaher and not of CURE®. This is also not supposed to be intended as medical advice.

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