The Chronicles of Cancer

I'm on my hands and knees. It felt like someone was grabbing me from the inside and squeezing so hard it took my breath away, something was drastically wrong.

I'm in an emergency examining room. My wife is with me. We waited for the results of a CAT scan. The doctor came in and said he's sorry but it's pancreatic cancer. I'm numb. My wife dissolves into tears. I was right, something is drastically wrong. How do I tell my kids I'm dying?

I'm in a room in the oncology unit. The nurses come into my room to check on me. They ask me how I'm doing. How do I answer that? And then a wonderful woman comes in and wants to pray for me. She asked God for strength and guidance for me. Tough request. When she finishes, I look at her and asked her to pray for my wife and kids. She looks at me and bowed her head again and lifted up my family to the Almighty like I have never heard before. My shirt is wet with tears. I'm heading for surgery. The doctor is going to do a biopsy. He graciously explains the procedure. Everyone has told me he is good at what he does. Would they have told me if he was bad at what he does?

I'm in a small waiting room. The nurse just came in with a needle in an aluminum case. It has the radioactive hazard symbol on the lid. This can't be a good thing. "You can do this" keeps running through my head. I'm at the clinic to see the results of the PET scan. The doctor comes in. The news is hopeful. The cancer has remained in my pancreas. All my vital organs appear to be clear. Hmmm, maybe I can do this. I'm on a gurney being rolled into surgery again. The doctor is going to install what is called a Power Port into my chest. It's about the size of a silver dollar and has a line running up to an artery under my collar bone. Once it heals, I can start the chemo infusions. The nurse has the connector end with a plastic line attached to it. Once she inserts the needle into the port there are no more needle sticks in my arms. The bags are then attached to the port. What a wonderful device. I've heard about cancer patients years ago that had all the veins in their arms collapse due to so many needle sticks.

I'm in the chair for my first infusion. I have had cards and emails and multiple calls from all my support people. The recurring theme is "you are a warrior; you can do this." Well, we are about to find out. After five hours in the chair I try to stand but the floor starts to spin, I'm sweating profusely. People are speaking to me, but my mind is muddy. It sounds like they are in the next room, but they are actually right next to me trying to help me balance.

I'm home on the sofa. My legs feel like I'm walking on stilts. I'm sick to my stomach. I can't drink anything cold. It feels like needles going down my throat. The same thing happens to my fingertips. Millions of needles all at once if I try to pick up something cold along with a roaring headache. My stomach sounds like I have a thunderstorm brewing. I can't do this. Wash, rinse, repeat for 6 treatments.

I'm in a bed at the Indiana University Medical Center. The operation was supposed to take three hours. I was on the table for five. There is a tube running up my nose, down my throat, and into my stomach. There is another tube running into my side about waist high. There is a ten-inch incision extending about an inch above my sternum down to just above my groin. The tube in my throat hurts but not like the incision. They have removed my spleen, 3 inches of small intestine, two lymph nodes, a quarter size plug in my stomach wall and sixty percent of my pancreas. I lay on my back perfectly still for two days. I was fed through an IV. No water, ice chips instead. They say they got all of the cancer. I'm back home on the sofa. Seven days in the hospital. Three days in a hotel room. It was a long three hours coming home.

I'm on so many meds I can't keep track of all of them. Vitamins, pain killers, and diabetic drugs. I could have never done this without my wife of 46 years. She has put her life on hold to be my caretaker. How do you return love like that? I've decided to try for as long as God leaves me here with her. Oh, and let's not forget the daily needles in the back of my legs for blood thinners for 30 days. Those were a real trip. I could pinch my skin on the back of my leg and put the needle in, but I did not have the strength to push the plunger. That fell to my wife.

I'm home and I'm four weeks post-surgery. I'm still experiencing some pain but it's getting better. Time for the next six treatments beginning in two weeks. I've finished treatment number seven.

It's 5:00 AM on a Sunday morning. I'm back on the floor again in excruciating pain. My wife takes me to the ER. A CAT scan shows a bowel blockage. A blood panel reveals a urinary tract infection. The three inches of small intestine they removed has scar tissue and appears on a scan as a partial bowel blockage. It has also caused the infection. Four days in the hospital again tells me not to buy popcorn or peanuts at the movies anymore. I may have to give up raw vegetables and skins on fruit also.

Today I have finished treatment number twelve. The doctor and all the nurses from the oncology unit came into my room and gave me a card they had all signed showing I had completed all twelve treatments. What a surprise, they even took a picture of this old bag of bones holding the card. I hope they get a special place in Heaven once they get there. I am writing this for those who have cancer or know someone who does. Support is key. Whether it is friends, family, church, or even a group on Facebook, I encourage you to take advantage of any or all of them.

I had some very dark days after my surgery. It can be an unexpected card, a silly gift, or a phone call from family or friend that happens on those dark days that gets you through. One thing that pulled me up was when a local law enforcement officer told me "you need to stick around, you're one of us". I don't think he had any idea how much it meant at the time. My faith has been key in helping me get through this. When you are at the bottom of the barrel the only way out is up. I was so low I could smell the dirt. When you look up and God has an arm extended down saying "I got this, grab hold" I took Him up on his offer. I have churches in several states, both North and South praying for me. If I stick around for a while maybe, I'll get to visit some of them once the weather gets good enough to fire up the motorcycles.

I want to end this with an inscription from a plaque a very special and dear lady sent me. I don't know who the author is, but I think he was a cancer survivor. CANCER IS SO LIMITED It cannot cripple love. It cannot shatter hope. It cannot corrode faith. It cannot eat away at peace. It cannot destroy confidence. It cannot kill friendship. It cannot suppress memories. It cannot silence courage. To anyone reading this that has cancer— YOU CAN DO THIS.