One of my favorite things to do is drive fast when the weather is nice. You know the kind I am talking about…cool breeze outside, windows down, and the radio turned way up. There has been many a day when I could hop in the car and let my cares grow smaller and smaller in my rearview mirror…
For the past 2 years that is how my life had been…there had been ups and downs, but I was enjoying myself. Not too many worries, plans for the future were looking up, the road was stretched out in front of me and I had my foot down on the pedal.
I didn’t see what was waiting around the next bend in the road…and it brought my tires to a screeching halt.
I have to admit, at 26 years old, there is a certain air of invincibility that surrounded my life. I have always been fairly daring. I was willing to take risks now and then. Not afraid of what the future held, because I knew it was all going to be good. Have I mentioned that I am an optimist?
When life stopped around that bend my invincibility proved mortal. An ugly beast stood in the middle of the road…a beast I never thought I would see was staring straight down at me…his hot breath made me stumble back…and I suddenly didn’t know what the future held for the dreaded monster Testicular Cancer was now in my way.
I remember staring in the mirror. “No, they have to be wrong,” I told myself. “I am too young to have cancer.” Dumb statement, I know now. There are hospitals everywhere filled with kids fighting this stuff. But, this was me. It couldn’t happen to me could it? Yes, it could. And did for that fact.
Looking back now on the day I found out I am surprised I handled it as well as I did. After the initial shock wore off, the doctor asked me what I wanted to do. I told him if something is broke, then it needed to be fixed. That was 12/7/2004. Three days later I was in surgery. The tumor was removed.
I wish I could describe to you fully the feeling you get when you know part of your body is no longer with you. I am thankful that it is not a part of my body that is seen. It is not like losing an arm, or a leg, but it definitely affects you. I don’t like the feeling of being broken. Like I need fixing. But that was exactly what I did need. As far as I knew, the cancer was gone.
When I think of the people I most look up to I come to a couple of qualities that make me want to pattern my own action after theirs. Perseverance and Character. Can you make it through something and can you do it with your character still in tact?
There are many people I have read about and many I have known that stick out in my mind. In reading one person crosses my mind who emulates these two characteristics: Job.
Here is a man who had everything he could ask for. He had a large family. He had a profitable business. He had a good home. He was in a great position in life. Then in one swift moment all of it was gone. His children were dead. His business was stolen from him. He was flat broke. His wife told him to curse God and die. His close friends told him that he must be a bad person for God to punish him like he was being punished. What did Job do? He honored God. He persevered through the adversity. He was an example of godly character. A man I can look up to.
When looking for a man in my own life that has emulated these characteristics I don’t have to look far. I call him Dad. And by the way, Dad if you are reading this, I just want you to know that you are my hero. Always have been, always will be.
My Dad was a police officer. He got hurt arresting someone. He had to have surgery to fix damaged bone in his spine. He had the surgery 3 times. Did it hurt him? Yes. Did he persevere through it? Yes. Did he see God’s plan unfolding through it? Yes.
Dad told me once that God was trying to get his attention when he got hurt. He took the experience he had had and knew that God was in control. He dealt with pain and anguish, but I know that his faith in the God who loves him is stronger for it. I admire that. I want to be like that when I grow up.
I pray that through the times I have had with cancer I have been able to exude these qualities like those I look up to. It has been hard at times to keep my head held high, because frankly chemotherapy is awful. I did not want to go to the doctor’s office those days that I went. If I could have called in a personal day I would have. I kept going though. One foot in front of the other is all I could make myself do, but I wouldn’t stop doing that and I found myself out on the other side. Done with chemotherapy.
I wasn’t sure I had made it through with much character. I haven’t cursed God through this, nor will I ever. I have had my bouts with anger though. I have not been happy about having cancer. Who would be? I wondered about making it through with character until I read a note that a very dear friend wrote to me. He told me that he appreciated the loyalty I brought to our friendship. He went on to say though, that he admired the loyalty that I showed to Christ by using God’s strength to overcome the situation. I had to sit back and soak that one in. By putting one foot in front of the other and trusting that God would lead me where I needed to be I found myself on the other side of cancer. So, if you are reading this, thanks man. I needed that encouragement.
You ever have that feeling that you are safe and find out later that you are not? That is how I ended up feeling after I had surgery. I was sore, but from what the doctor told me there was a good chance that they had gotten everything and I wouldn’t have any more problems. Slowly I began to feel confident that all was going to be ok and the worst was behind me.
As you can imagine, it came as a bit of a shock when I got the phone call. It must be strange for some doctors to have to call their patients and give them bad news over the phone. My bad news? The cancer had spread.
It didn’t scare me to find that out. I have kept a solid attitude for the most part. It was something that needed to be beaten, but was I feeling up to the challenge? Honestly? No. The prognosis was that I needed to have surgery yet again to remove the lymph nodes from my chest. The cancer spreads through the lymphatic system. To keep the cancer from spreading through my body they needed to be removed.
You ever have a feeling that you just couldn’t explain? A voice going off in your head telling you not to do, or to do something specific? I have heard that voice on different occasions. I heard it loud this time. It was screaming, “Are there any other options that would prevent surgery?” It was also screaming something louder than that. I came to realize that I did not feel comfortable with the idea of surgery. I had a feeling deep in the pit of my gut that I should stay away from it. Again, I don’t know why I felt this way, I just know I did.
So I prepared myself from that point for my second option: chemotherapy.
Were you ever scared of monsters as a kid? Under the bed? In the closet? The neighbor’s dog? Whatever your monster was, it was scary. I remember the feeling I would get after the lights went out…a rustle just outside my window…a dog bark…the tension hung thick in the air…a monster was outside, I just knew it…slowly I would build up courage to look out my window…what could be lurking near, I didn’t know…there I saw my monster…a couple of old people walking down the street for their evening exercise…oh yeah, and it so happened the wind was blowing too.
What did you do after frightening, albeit unjustified, times like that? Take a deep breath and roll over. Remind yourself it was just in your head. Nothing to worry about at all. It was all in my head…
Cancer isn’t like that. It doesn’t just go away. Wishful thinking doesn’t get rid of it. Wishing it wasn’t there doesn’t get rid of it. Unfortunately that is what gets a lot of people. They fear they may have it, but don’t act quick enough. They have a hard time admitting to themselves that it could happen to them. They try so hard to ignore the monster living inside their own body.
I thank God my case was not like that. Not long after I discovered something was wrong the tumor was taken out. Not long after I was told the cancer had spread I was in treatment. God has taken care of me every step of the way and I am extremely grateful. He has taken my monster and rid me of it.
My dream day when I was a teenager was to be able to sit around all day, watch TV, read, snooze, and do as little as possible. It was the ultimate goal to be so lazy. What could be better? They were few and far between, but what fun they were. Ok, that is a lie. During the summer there were plenty of those days. We could be as lazy as we wanted to be.
I thought of this as I sat in the chemotherapy sessions. There I was sitting in the therapy room in a big blue recliner. I had my laptop on my lap. A TV across the room. Plenty of stuff to read. Plenty of time to snooze. It was the worst days I have ever spent.
There were many days that I would have called in and told them I was not coming had that been a feasible option. With each day that passed I dreaded the next even more. I had to sit there while various bags of liquid streamed into my body attacking the cancer.
The best part about those endless summers of fun was the freedom you felt. The worst part of chemotherapy was being trapped in that blue recliner and having to subject myself to the medicine. The sick feeling that came just hours after the first treatment of any round. I tried my best to hold my chin up. Some days I did better than others. Some days I didn’t do so good at all. It was all I could do to put the blanket over my head and pray that sleep would come to my eyes to help me pass the time.
I felt sick and useless all at the same time. All I could do was sit there. Sit there and wait and hope that the chemotherapy was doing what it was supposed to do.
Have you ever been really thirsty? So thirsty that you started to see hallucinations? Not many of us have reached that point, but I do know how it feels to be so thirsty that your throat is dry. You tongue is cracked. Your lips are too. You long for that next drink of cold cool water…
That is how I felt sitting in that chair. I didn’t lose my hope. I didn’t feel like I was going to die. I was just a thirsty man who was sick and in need of a good drink. In my case, some positive news as to how the treatment was going.
That news came after round 2 was complete. I was sick. Didn’t feel good. Deep down inside me, though, I knew everything was going to be ok. I just needed to hear it out loud. And I did. They took a blood test on me after round 2 was complete, just before I started round three. My blood test results that had been out of whack when all of this started were back to normal. The chemotherapy was working.
My spirit felt the cool sensation of the good news hitting it. I have never doubted that God is able to do what He says He can do. I knew He could heal me. The hard part for me was having the patience to wait and believe that He would. Patience paid off. God answered my prayer, and chemotherapy was only half over.
I have always hated being the bearer of bad news. I never wanted to be the one to tell somebody that something wasn’t going to go their way. It was hard. You would tell them the news and then watch as the disappointment and hurt spread across their face. Like telling a kid that you won’t be able to take that camping trip after all…it just leaves you with a sick feeling inside knowing you were the one who told them.
Having to tell people that I had cancer was a lot like that. The expression of fear spread over their faces. The disbelief. In the minds of many people cancer is an automatic death sentence. It is a shock to hear that news about someone you love. It is hard to tell the people that you love that you have it.
It hurts to watch someone that you love process the information you are sharing with them when you are telling them that you are sick. People that love you hurt with you. So when I started telling people what it was I was overwhelmed by the love and support I got, but I was also touched to see how the ones I loved hurt with me. It was tough because I felt like a broken person. It made it much easier because there were loved ones there to walk through these times with me.
Sitting in chemotherapy was miserable, but became less miserable when someone showed up to keep me company. It didn’t matter if we didn’t say much, I felt better because they were there. It was a way that the ones that care about me showed me in a real way. Thanks. I needed it more than you know.
And while I am on the subject of being thankful, I have someone special to say thank you too regarding the subject of this section. Marixa, had it not been for you these days would have been unbearable. I know there are times that you wondered if you were being or doing enough for me. You felt like you were doing a poor job helping me get well. You were dead wrong. You did more for me by loving me through this than I can ever express. You are my lover and my partner. My best friend and my soul mate. The vows we took on our wedding day are more real to me now than they have ever been.
We have had many days that have been truly bright. Those days were easy to walk through together. The dark days are where the love is tested. A fire of sorts that shows the true purity of the love. We walked through this hard time and your love never shined brighter. You loved me constantly through the worst time of my life. I pray that God gives me another 70 years to love you the way you have loved me in these months. You are my dream girl, and it is my goal to love you with all I am for as long as I am. Thanks baby, you did good. Real good.
I will be the first to admit that God does not always work in ways that we understand. Sometimes he takes us through places in life that we would just assume not go. Cancer was not my choice. I would not have gone through it had I had the option. No one would. Surgery was not something that I ever planned on having. Chemotherapy was not on my to-do list. All of these things did happen though. Do I know why? Not exactly. Am I a different man because they did? Yes. Is there work to be done because of them? Yes.
There is no choice. Life is to be lived differently now. Little things are not to be taken for granted. Family is to be cherished. Time is to be spent wisely. Laughter is to be frequent. Tears are to be shed when needed. Love is to be given freely. There is no room for hate. God is to be worshiped, for He alone is worthy of it. There is no second chance in life. It has to be lived right the first time.