It was this time last year that I began experiencing severe headaches and was still recovering from my various treatments and surgeries for cancer. I had discovered a new "growth" on my back on the same site as my first surgery and went to see my oncologist. She ask me it I had any symptoms and of course I mentioned my headaches, dizzy spells, blurry vision and ringing in my ears...so this started a series of chest and head mri then a brain mra then re-tests then a pet scan and finally the report from the onoclogist. It went something like this: You have something in your brain. I think it is a tumor. I'm sending you to a brain surgeon and he is reserving an operating room for Tuesday. Always good news to hear. The brain surgeon met me on a Saturday morning in his office. His words were I canceled the operating room after looking at your brain study because it we remove it you would spend the rest of your life smiling a lot ...like the Kennedy girl. People don't function well with a quarter of their brain removed.
Well since that stressful month I've had two growths removed from my back, multiple brain tests and more tests. I still have the headaches, dizzy spells, blurry vision and this ringing in my ears...some days worse than others. I thank God that my surgeon was not out to just do surgery and after seeing 3 "second" opinions I've been told that Dr. Lusk has probably saved my ability to think and function normally. He and other surgeons have told me that no ethical brain surgeon would attempt my surgery unless I have a bleed or other complication and then, according to Dr. Lusk, there is no one qualified in Florida to do the surgery.
Now one year later, life is less stressful. I've been given the ok to do races, hey they didn't even want me to train for a while! So what have I learned? What has God taught me thru this all?
1. YA GOTTA BELIEVE!
When I lived in Philly a few years ago that was the rally cry for the Philadelphia Phillies started by I think Tug McGraw. Well I've found that no matter what YA GOTTA BELIEVE! Like a tri or a marathon even when the pain becomes unbearable YA GOTTA BELIEVE you are going to beat this thing.
While I was a hospital chaplain I worked with many dying patients and saw the five stages of death that Elizabeth Kubler Ross talked about in her book On Death and Dying; denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance. I want to get to that acceptance stage...YA GOTTA BELIEVE while this was happening I'm going to do what ever I have to do to survive....win...finish the course.
2. Have Fun in Life
Lance Armstrong while undergoing chemo for his cancer and brain surgery said about his blood count:
"Those numbers became the highlight of each day; they were my motivation....I would concentrate on that number, as if I could make the counts by mentally willing it."
Lance made it a game. Life is to short to not laugh, love and play along the way. So yes sometimes my humor is a little "sick" but if I can't laugh at what is going on I'd go nuts. I like to have fun and even make fun of myself. So kickoff your shoes, have a beer or two and laugh!
3. Help others along the way
I had learned this a while back but I have gotten away from it. During my time as a pastor, I took on five people at a time, not members of my church, who were dying. I would help them thru the death process. To this day I still keep in touch with families who have lost a loved one.
I decided to do that with cancer/brain tumor, to encourage others facing the same thing I was facing. Thru notes, conversations, phone calls etc I've tried to help several people I know that are facing what I faced.
It you haven't read it I suggest you do, Laurence Gonzales book Deep Survival. Gonzales suggests Survivors are always doing what they do for someone else, even if that someone is thousands of miles away. I decided to do that with cancer/brain tumor patients.
4. Quitting is Quitters
Growing up I had great parents. They taught me so much about life. My mother would say to me: There is no such thing as I can't. This was from a woman who at the age of seven her father died during the Great Depression leaving a wife and five children, three of whom would not live to see age 13 due to a crippling childhood disease.
My hometown of Burlington NJ is the birth place of Captain James Lawrence who in the mist of a great naval battle, his ship almost destroyed and sinking said "Don't give up the ship!"
A race or cancer or a brain tumor I've decided to never, never, never give up! Quitting is for quitters!
We live in a culture that is never content. More is the cry. More money, more toys, bigger house, faster car.... I'm learning contentment. Do I need a new bike? No just lose a few pounds and I'll go faster. My car a 1991 that is worth less than my bike. Do I need a new car? No, it would be nice but why? Could I make more money? Yes I could move back t New York City work from 7:30 to 6:30 have an hour commute each way and make big bucks. However, I'm content working for a small firm from 9:30 to 5:00, I can train in the morning, swim at lunch, and be home in time to work out in the fitness center plus there is the beach to do open water swimming.
The Apostle Paul writing to the Philippians said:
I'm not saying that because I need anything. I have learned to be content no matter what happens to me. (Phil 4:11)
I've learned to be content no matter what happens to me.