Friday, June 26, 2015

Life Is Different As a Cancer Survivor-Thankfully!

Everyone sets goals for their life. I wanted to be a husband, a college graduate, a father, and business owner, Those are goals I planned for and I met. Then life happens and with life comes struggles and unexpected challenges.

I never expected, planned or anticipated that I'd live many years of my life with the identity of a "cancer survivor."  I've known so many people who died within 18 months after receiving a diagnosis of cancer that I've always thought a diagnosis of cancer is a death sentence.  I'm certain that belief contributed to my sense of terror when I first received my biopsy results. The idea of surviving prostate cancer for years or decades was something I didn't  think  was possible.

It's hard for me to believe I've lived with the identity of cancer survivor for 6 years. There are times when I find myself grateful for the gift of that identity.

Last week my oldest son called. He asked if my wife and I would fly to Vermont and help them drive their two cars to their new home in Illinois. They also asked us to stay there and help them unpack. I didn't need to think more than a second before agreeing to do this. The idea of taking a road trip with Ryan brings back fond memories of our cross country RV trips together. We are on the road again!

It occurred to me that the pre-cancer me would have said no to my son's request. The idea of leaving my business for 16 days without weeks of preparation and planning would be unthinkable. I would have shifted the blame for my refusal right back on my son by saying: "Why didn't you ask me a month ago about this?"

The cancer survivor me said: "Great let's do it!"

It wasn't easy or natural for me to discover the gifts that cancer brings. It's much easier to recall the struggles, the conflicts, the fear, terror, emotional devastation, the relational challenges, recovering from surgery, losing urinary control and erectile functioning. It's easy to think about the down side of my experiences as a cancer survivor.

As I get further along in the journey it's become much easier to identify the blessings. My priorities have shifted. I don't live to work, I work to live. There's a huge difference between those two options.
Working is a means to give me the freedom to do things I could't do when I retire.

For example,  my wife and I are looking buy a trailer so we can go camping together. We hope to keep it long enough to create memories with our young granddaughter.

For 35 years I cranked out my companies payroll on the first ans fifteenth of every month,  If we were camping I did payroll on the road and had FedEx pick the checks up at the campground. My prostate surgery was scheduled around payroll dates.

The cancer survivor me loosened the reigns of control. My Manager does a remarkable job with payroll. Yesterday I drove through New York,  Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Indiana. We stopped in Kalamazoo Michigan.  I don't worry about setting up an office to do payroll on the road.  I'm invited with helping my son and his wife with their move to their new home in Illinois. We will be there when they walk through the door of their first home.  My wife and I will be there to share this event because the cancer survivor me changed  priorities.

I'm grateful to be a cancer survivor. If I could push a button that would take away my cancer survivor identity by restoring me to my pre cancer days, I'd refuse to push that button. I'm more than a cancer survivor, I've grown to be a cancer thriver. This did not come easily or naturally. It's been a six year journey with years of emotional, relational, sexual and spiritual struggles.

As we get closer to our destination which is Carbondale Illinois I realized this road trip represents my journey with prostate cancer. We've flown from California to Vermont. On the way we experienced delays and unplanned  plane changes.  Our flight across the country did not go as scheduled.  We arrived in Vermont hours later than expected, but we finally arrived.

As we've crossed  through six states we've driven through blinding rain as well as beautiful sunshine. I'm learning to embrace the entire journey with all of its delays, unexpected stops, and unpredictable weather. I've discovered life is a jouney that takes us to places we'd rather not go.  How we react to life taking us to the places we'd rather not go has am amazing impact on who we become.