February 19, 2002
Pancreatic Cancer Story
I was awoken out of a medication-induced sleep by voices nearby. As my eyes adjusted to the dim lights of the hospital room, I saw a leg floating past the bottom of my bed. I was thinking to myself: "Boy, these are great drugs."
In the morning, I learned that I was given a roommate in the middle of the night. That explained the noises that I heard. What I saw was my roommate's prosthetic leg that came in after her. Apparently this woman was so big that they needed 3 nurses to carry her in and one nurse for the leg.
I was in the hospital for my second chemo treatment and to have a port-a-catheter put in. I was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer 3 weeks earlier and was still reeling from the news.
Who would think that a 35 year old fitness instructor would get this kind of cancer. According to the statistics on PC I should be an overweight, 65 year old African American man with diabetes. So much for statistics. After recovering from the shock, I would joke about my situation with people at the fitness center. I'd say, "Don't exercise too hard or you'll end up like me."
How ironic that after preaching the benefits of a vegetarian diet I would have to eat all that fast food and sweets to gain back all the weight I lost.
When I found out in Jan of 2001 that I had cancer, I thought my life was over. But it wasn't. My life has just changed. In fact, I have gotten wonderful surprises in my journey over the last 12 months. While in the hospital taking chemo, I met the most courageous, strong and funny people who were faced with the same diagnosis. One couple that I will never forget is Dan and Francine. I was told by my GI doctor who first diagnosed me to call Dan. The doc said that he had diagnosed Dan with the same condition, PC with mets to the liver, 2 years earlier and "He is doing great!" They live close by so I called immediately to try to find out more about this disease and the chemo I would be taking. They were not home so I left a message on their answering machine. The next day they called back from Florida! Both Dan and his wife Francine were so happy and positive it made the whole thing a lot less scary.
My relationships with others have changed as well since I got cancer. Now little things mean a whole lot more. Just kissing my two kids goodnight and tucking them into bed is so special and important. Being able to pick them up from school or coach their soccer teams has become paramount.
People from our town came out of the woodwork to help us. For the first few months, a different family would bring us dinner each night. Which was great since I often didn't feel like cooking due to the nausea brought on by chemo. It was nice to have a home cooked meal waiting for us. Our town started to feel like a village. I have come out of this with wonderful friends and many treasures.
I would never wish this diagnosis on anybody, but if you have to go through it, try to look for the good stuff and the humor. For example, I had to have a port-a -cath put in on my birthday. When the surgeon was confirming that I was getting a port on the right side, I told him I was suppose to get breast implants also. I thought it was a fair request since it was my birthday and we were already in the operating room. Well needless to say I got my port but no boobs!!
I had a PET scan done in mid December and, two days before Christmas I was told that I have no cancer cells in my body. What a great present! We really found out the meaning of Christmas this year. It's not the gifts, it's being with family and friends. I know that there is no guarantee with my condition. But unlike the people in the World Trade Center, I have a fighting chance. We all do!! We are in control of our bodies. You can fight for your life. I know that I am going to fight for my health everyday and do what I love best everyday. And that is spend all my time with my family and friends and let them know that I love them and would never be able to do any of this without them. To all that are fighting cancer always have LOVE , FAITH , HOPE AND COURAGE.