For the past couple of weeks, I have written about my leukemia and chemotherapy to encourage others who have been diagnosed and might feel anxious about the future. As it turned out, you readers have encouraged me instead.
The truth is, I am doing great. I am in capable hands and love my family doctor, my oncologist and their nurses and staffers. I feel blessed that my disease is a relatively slow, easy one; many other people who have it can go for years without needing treatment.
I’ve been given great support from my employer and co-workers, and I’m able to do most everything I could in the past. After only one session of chemotherapy so far, I realize that the side effects might increase with further treatment, but I remain upbeat and optimistic.
I have to, because my wife lowers the boom whenever I get to feeling down. The only fatalistic thought she has allowed is the one I made just after I was diagnosed. We were walking in our backyard and spotted a large turtle.
“That’s the last turtle I’ll ever see,” I told her as we stood there arm in arm.
We both laugh about it now. That was four years ago.
I can’t count all the responses I got from readers, most all of them uplifting and helpful. Cards have poured in from my church, my Sunday school class and members of both.
I am grateful for the prayer lists I have been put on by a great many people, both friends and strangers. I’ll take all the help I can get.
Telephone calls, e-mails, greeting cards and comments on our Web site and Facebook brought well wishes from people who have gone through cancer treatment or have helped loved ones in that situation.
The main lesson I learned from all these people is that I am not alone.
Of course, I knew that to begin with; cancer shows up in many forms. As a respondent named Kevin said, “I don’t know of a family that hasn’t been touched by this tragic disease ... I know mine has been many times.”
Most of the people I have heard from were glad I talked about it. Steven wrote: “I, over the past year, have learned that cancer is a word still whispered. It’s a shame, (for) fear is a bummer and no help at all.”
I was pleased to hear so many success stories. Sometimes the message between the lines was the love shown by spouses, parents and children of the patients who went to extraordinary lengths to provide care.
I especially love the story of Claire, who was diagnosed with leukemia and a tumor when she was one.
Her grandmother delineated a string of miracles through the years that have beaten the disease, and she sent photos of the beautiful toddler who had lost her hair to treatment and the beautiful cancer-free girl on her 16th birthday.
Thanks to all of you who shared your stories with me. You are on my prayer list, too.