What I have learned in the past 6+ years since a deadly, incurable renal cell cancer diagnosis in May, 2009 is not to lose hope. Something to hope for. Someone to love. Something to do. I’ve heard Mr. Bill Turner use these words as a prescription for a happy life. This mantra is working for me and I suspect it will for others, too. At the date of diagnosis — that Monday in my office with the door closed, close to my office speaker phone on the credenza with the person I love most in life sitting on my lap, I remember thinking how sad I would be if my life ended without getting to see our sons get married, without experiencing the joy of having a grandchild, without getting to grow old with Jill, having my parents deal with the loss of a child (no one should have to find out how that feels) and oddly, not being able to see downtown Columbus and Phenix City become something really great.
This October, our son Michael will celebrate his first year of marriage to Janice Rice. Someone to love. Hope springs eternal! All four of our sons are gainfully employed, doing what they love and self-sufficient.
I have remained hopeful, when even the act of thinking hopeful thoughts was painful. When I lost 100 pounds, due to the bone-rattling ills of taking a powerful, oral chemotherapy drug, I tried to find joy in regaining a youthful, thin body. The act of clothes-shopping became fun again. Skinny jeans.
Now that I’ve regained every single one of the 100 pounds that I lost, I realize that without the imminent fear of death at my door, I can go about trying to lose weight like a normal person. Cutting down on calories, walking and exercising when I can. Something to do. And, I can hope that skinny jeans might be in the plans for me again. Hopeful. My doctors haven’t confirmed my suspicions that the extra weight I was carrying at diagnosis might have greatly contributed to my survival. I’m working on getting the weight off, or at least stabilized, but if the worst happens, I’ll have my “winter weight” onboard to steel me against the 8th round with this damned disease.
Someone to love. Jill Tigner loves cats. One of the greatest lessons I have learned in life was taught to me by Jill: “You’ve just got to love a cat.” This past weekend, we added a beautiful Russian Blue named Gracie to our pack. Walking through PAWS Humane on Saturday, looking for that perfect spark in the eyes of so many beautiful felines, THE ONE we thought we’d choose, based on the PAWS website, didn’t make the cut. Gracie’s green eyes lit up every time I walked into her room. She bounded up the structure several times to get “eye-level” with me. A little head bump, a low, rumbling purr. All signs that she wanted us to pick her. Something to hope for.
I remain stubbornly hopeful about my body’s ability to fight off this disease. I remain stubbornly, hopelessly in love with Jill Tigner. I remain firmly plugged into life — working to tell people’s stories through our magazines. For all my brothers and sisters who are fighting cancer, find something to hope for, someone to love and something to do. Stay hopeful and positive. Wake up every day and ask yourself what you can do to deal the cancer another blow. Find a way to rob cancer of its ability to shout you down.
And, if everything feels like it is falling down around you, look into the eyes of a shelter pet, take her home and work through this thing together.