The Hope Protocol

There are a few million things I want to know before I die. Really high on my list, “Is there life after death?” As you can plainly see, I’ve tried to confine my investigation to really useful information. There are, of course, more mundane questions. Lately, much of what I want to know is about “Life after Cancer!”

Recently, I was given the proverbial “Clean Bill of Health.” No cancer in my bone marrow. No cancer in my blood cells. No cancer! Damn! I was just getting used to the idea of living with an 800 pound gorilla in my living room and now nothing, dead air, silence. The life I had was pretty much obliterated by the disease and the life I’ve been living was centered around having and living with cancer. My doctor gave me the news a couple of weeks ago, “Complete Remission” and I’ve been waiting for the other shoe to drop ever since. I now have two questions that have been buzzing around in my head like that last housefly of the summer. Annoying, but not annoying enough to go find the fly swatter.

First question: What do I do now? After all, I was perfectly happy with my monthly doctor visits. They were reassuring. “No change. Things look good. See you next month!” Hell, I even voted! Geez, you think you know a guy and the next thing you know he’s telling you to come back when you can’t stay quite so long; like maybe next year. “We’ll do lunch!” So you report back to your wife and kids that you no longer have cancer and all the kids want to know is” what’s for dinner?” Maybe we’ll get Chinese.

I figured that there would be a celebration. A parade maybe. Fireworks at least. But no! There’s just the quietly lurking, not-quite-sunk-in, happily uneasy notion that I don’t have cancer anymore. Naturally, I don’t trust it! “Are you sure? Do you have the right chart there Doc? Can’t be!” Just a minute ago I was in big trouble. Now nothing? It’s a crazy mixed up feeling and I can’t seem to escape the notion of how ironic and bizarre it is. After all, when I got cancer my response was “Are you sure? Do you have the right chart there Doc? Can’t be!” Now that I don’t have cancer I have the same response? I think I’m getting dizzy. Frankly, I’m a little confused about it and on alternate days I’m both thankfully happy and grumpy. On grumpy days I think to myself, “My back is broken in a bunch of places and my bones are filled with so much glue that sometimes I get the strangest urge to whinny. (Its an old glue factory joke) I have broken disks, bulging disks and my right hip gets finicky once in a while and just stops working. I’m five inches shorter than I used to be, I have no job and no money, but I’m CURED!” On my “thankfully happy” days I think about question #2.

How did I get here? I wasn’t supposed to survive. I had a less than 15% chance of making it at all. Now I’m cured? How?
I know I prayed constantly. There’s no way to make light of this. I asked God to save me and He did! I don’t preach nor do I go to church, but if you ask me, that’s the answer you’ll get. God saved me. I was very specific. I imagined the cancer to be a flame or a spark and I asked God to extinguish it. In my mind, I could see Him doing it.

Naturally, I had a great doctor who had a relationship with the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance. He and those at SCCA do God’s work. They found a way.

Finally, I had hope. It doesn’t seem like much really. I had hope. A small thing is hope, but I believed I would get better. I hoped I would get better. I did get better. I never gave up believing or hoping. I hoped for the best and came to expect it. I had hope.

I know now that hope is that small space between a dream and reality. It’s like the last breath of night just before dawn. It’s neither dark nor light. It is the Hope of a new day. That’s where we live, we cancer survivors. We live in the dim light just before dawn. We teeter on the edge of a dream that really could come true.

So, on good days I realize how fortunate I am. I thank God. I keep believing and I keep hoping. Better days are still to come and lately there are more of those than there are of the grumpy ones. Jim Valvano said “Don’t give up, don’t ever give up!” He was so right. Besides, let’s just face facts, Survivors Rock!

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