Through volunteer work and participating in the “Road to Recovery” program as a driver with the American Cancer Society, one survivor found the perfect outlet to cope with the emotional side of healing after chemo treatments.
I knew something was going on. It started around October 2015 with the Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) that the way the commercials on TV explained could be relieved by eating a certain type of yogurt and me trying to justify believing that would cure it. The episodes of IBS were not numerous, but very uncomfortable and could happen at any time.
So, when it was time for my scheduled colonoscopy in January 2016, I can say honestly that I was not really surprised when the doctor told me he found something during the procedure and was 95% sure it was cancerous.
OK. So where do you go from there?
Well, to me it was pretty simple actually. Just live life the same — no drastic changes. I would still work part-time on weekends, still travel, still perform daily chores around the house. No major changes at all. The only major time things felt different is when I had to wear the pump for 48 hours every two weeks and sleep in a separate room. So, if not for all the doctor visits, procedures and chemo during the months of March 2016 through October 2016, life was pretty normal. I am not saying there were not days when I was tired or I did not just feel right inside, but all-in-all I was fortunate.
I had surgery March 2016. I recovered nicely and started chemo in May. I am the type who would rather not know what is going to happen every step in advance, from surgery to the end of chemo. I would rather find out when it occurs — that way I am not dwelling on it beforehand.
I feel very fortunate about my positive outcome. Since my last chemo treatment in October 2016, I have had a CT scan, PET scan, colonoscopy and bloodwork which all came back clear. Now I am on a schedule of a colonoscopy every three years, CT scan every year and bloodwork every six months.
I mean, it is hard to explain what goes through your mind when a doctor tells you he found something during a colonoscopy and he is 95% sure it is cancerous. But after all the fasting and prep for the procedure, I was only thinking about eating and drinking, so the actual diagnosis did not register in my mind. That is, until the nurse called me a couple of days later to confirm the doctor’s findings — that it was cancerous, plus it might have spread to the lung area.
It took me two days to tell my wife the news. It took me two minutes after the nurse’s phone call to cry. I really believe it did not affect me in a negative way. I was not looking for self-pity, did not have the "Why me?" attitude, blame God or anybody else. I always felt I was a positive person and I try to instill that energy in everyone I meet — especially people dealing with cancer.
So, the cancer became a challenge. I tell everyone, “What are you going to do about it? Let’s beat it together!" So why not move on without cancer in my life and everything that is involved with it? The love I received throughout my treatment and the family-oriented nurses and doctors who treated me have instilled in me the motivation and heartfelt passion in assisting anyone who has been diagnosed to make sure they get their treatment.
It was probably during my eighth treatment that another male patient sitting next to me started having a negative reaction to the chemo he was receiving and as usual, the nurses responded quickly and assisted the man. But is was when the doctor (who is also my doctor) entered the room to assist that moved me the most. He talked to the patient and held his arm/hand until the man relaxed and was calm enough to continue with his treatment. It is this type of sincere go-the-extra-mile caring from the heart from this wonderful doctor that inspired me to do the same and get involved.
My side effects from the chemo are all but diminished. But far more important to me is that my cancer experience has allowed me to spread the word to all patients I come in contact with. They open up to me, I open up to them and together we give each other strength and support. I would like to think that in some way I have made it a little easier for them during these traumatic times.
My mission, my passion is to do my part in helping patients with cancer by driving them to their treatments. To me my “Road to Recovery” after chemo treatments was more the mental and emotional side of it than the physical. But I found the perfect outlet by volunteering as a driver with the American Cancer Society. Driving these patients to their treatments has given me faith, hope and love that I have never experienced.
When I transport these wonderful people, I truly feel blessed that I have been giving the opportunity to do it. Together with my volunteering in the Road to Recovery program with the American Cancer Society, I have the honor and pleasure of sharing my experience as well as listening to the patients I drive to treatment; A bonding therapeutic relationship that has matured in the two-plus years I have been involved in the program. These people are truly my heroes and the relationships we have built together are for a lifetime.