It’s been ten years. Ten, sometimes very long, years since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I’ve outlived one oncologist’s most optimistic prediction. In fact, I’ve lived longer than just about any medical professional would have thought possible. The cancer that was once the center and sole focus of my life is no longer the center of my family’s universe or mine. Any trace of the disease is no longer detectable. I’ve thanked God often. Not daily, I must confess, but often. God doesn’t talk much, but I assume He’s heard me.
I don’t really know what I expected. I feel as though there should have been a parade or some wild celebration like a full page ad in the New York Times, “Dennis Has Survived Cancer! Join Him And Everyone He’s Ever Known For A Mega Party In Shea Stadium!” The reality is far from that. I can’t say that I’m disappointed (okay, maybe a little), because life just doesn’t work that way. Cancer has left me more than a little broken and destroyed any semblance of my family’s economic life. I should probably be bitter. After all, I’m a lot shorter than I once was. I can’t walk very far and I’m so broke (monetarily) that I can’t even afford to pay respect. Now that I think of it, I should definitely be bitter. I’m not bitter though. The fact is that life is what it has always been; a journey.
I’ve found myself on a quest to be relevant. I want to be useful again. I want my life to have meaning and purpose. I feel as though I’ve been lost at sea for 10 years and now that I’m rescued I want to pick up where I left off. The problem is that I can’t. I used to work 10 to 15 hours a day if I needed to. Now if I work 10 hours I need 24 hours of rest. I used to get up at 3 a.m., shower, dress and go. Now I get up at the crack of 7a.m. and sit for an hour or two until I know all my moving parts will actually move. This is definitely not how I imagined my recovery.
I’m not complaining even though it sounds that way. The truth is that I think a person has to take a good look at their own resources. You have to be honest about what you can and can’t do. Horse ranching, for example, is out. So is skydiving and panning for gold in Alaska. No big loss. They were never on my “bucket” list anyway
So what can I do? I’ve worked on staying active both mentally and as physically as my broken down 63 year old body will allow. I play golf as much as I can, because it’s the only physical activity where I can have any success and to be honest… I’m addicted. It is strange when you think about it. You hit a small white ball with a stick. Who knew?
While golf is fun, I’ve learned that I need more than that. I’ve been given my life back (mostly) and I really want to share what I’ve learned over the last ten years. I joined a Toastmasters group in my area and I’ve found my “voice!” It turns out that I’ve become a pretty good public speaker and coupled with whatever writing skills I have I would like to offer some small measure of hope and encouragement to Cancer survivors and their families. I can tell others that are surviving Cancer that there is a life after Cancer. I can tell them that there will come a time when whole weeks will pass without their having said the dreaded “C” word even once. I will say that one day they’ll wake up from a really bad dream and it will be time to get busy re-claiming their life. I will say that surviving Cancer is significant and life changing, but that it’s not the end, only the beginning. Finally, I will say that in my life I’ve found that the sweetest fruit always grows at the end of the branch and to get it, you have to go out on a limb!