Living

Beating cancer

For the rest of what I presume to be a lengthy life, I will forever think about the past six months, the half-year during which I fought for my life - and won.

And I suspect that I will regularly be asked how I managed to successfully grapple with cancer, especially by those waging their own war with this viscious disease.

I have not had a lot of time to reflect on it, and frankly I don't know all the details on the medicine I took. But if I were to offer an instant analysis on how I banished lymphoma from my body, here it is.

Take heavy drugs. My oncologist, Dr. Thomas Rado, earned both a Ph.D and an MD. He's deeply into research, and he has a good feel for what he can administer and what his patients can handle. In my case, he was very aggressive. Because my lymphoma was stage 4, he felt he had to be. I sat through six chemo treatments totaling about 35 hours, during which toxic chemicals were pushed into my veins to fight the cancer that had taken residence in my blood and lymph nodes.

One of the nurses mentioned to me that the drugs I was receiving might well have killed many of their other patients, and Dr. Rado didn't disagree. My youth and otherwise general health allowed Dr. Rado and his team to be very aggressive. Obviously, it paid off.

Be a good patient. When I was diagnosed with lymphoma back in November, I didn't care for my odds of survival. I knew I had to do everything I could to pick up percentage points, so I vowed to be the best cancer patient Columbia Basin Hematology and Oncology had ever seen. If the nurses told me to drink 100 ounces of water per day to stay hydrated, I'd drink 120 ounces. If I was supposed to listen to my body (and my wife, my brother, my mother, my boss and my daughter), then I would - happily. If I was supposed to avoid alcohol and caffeine, I would give it up. I did not deviate from this plan. I did every single thing I was told.

Pray. In times of crises, you learn a lot about yourself and your friends. During my life, I have asked others to pray for me very few times. When I found out I had cancer, I didn't need to ask because people began to pray for me. Again, I went looking for every edge, so I asked anyways. I had entire congregations from coast to coast praying for me, as well as people on various continents. I encouraged everyone to pray for me. If they were not prayerful people, I asked for their good thoughts. I know those prayers and thoughts were effective. They gave me strength when I felt tired, and they lifted my spirits when I was low. Prayer is a powerful weapon, and my side of the battlefield was filled with warriors.

Stay positive. From the time I was diagnosed in November through the end of April when I found out I was clean, I gave myself few opportunities to feel bad for myself, to allow darkness to invade my thoughts. I knew I was going to win. I knew I was going to give cancer a beat-down like it had never seen before. Aside from about five total minutes, I never allowed myself to think I could possible lose this fight.

And even if I had, I was surrounded by people who cared about me. My wife was a rock. She rarely showed how scared she was of losing me. She made sure I took care of myself, and she held me up those few times I felt down. My brother, who was living in Michigan, flew into town several times to be with me and lift my spirits. As did my mother, who lives west of the Cascades. She sat with me through my second chemo treatment and called or emailed me daily, as well as made several trips here. At work, everybody treated me normally, which was exactly what I needed. I received cards, emails and phone calls from friends around town and across the country. My fellow Kiwanians stepped up - of course because that's what Kiwanians do. On Facebook, I received positive reinforcement on a daily basis.

I have to think that a positive attitude gives the body strength to fight back.

Have a goal. "Staying alive" isn't good enough. Neither is "growing old." My motivation for beating cancer was our beautiful 5-year-old daughter. My wife and I adopted her from India in September 2007, so we were just coming out of that first year of basically being in survival mode of becoming first-time parents when my cancer hit. One of the first things I told my wife and myself was that I was having too much fun being her daddy to allow cancer to defeat me. If ever there were times I began to feel a bit down, all it would take was one gaze into my little girl's big, brown eyes, and I found all the motivation I needed.

Cancer is not a simple disease. Beating it took everything I had and every angle I could find, and this was how I came out a winner.

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