Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Finding The "Can" in Cancer

It seems like I've fallen into the habit of reporting on my different doctor visits. Yesterday's call on my melanoma specialist surgical oncologist went well. Far better than my last appointment! But they remembered! I had an 11:30 am appt with the doctor (labs were done) and I saw him at 3:30 pm. On the dot. Yes! A FOUR hour wait! But I was soooooo good! I really was. I waited nicely and patiently. After my behavior last time I let him have his sweet payback. I owed it to him. But it was worth every second of the wait to be told I was good to go for another six months. He totally appreciated my snakeskin pattern compression sleeve and glove; so we had a good time. But, his resident came in at 2, sat down, looked at me and said, "You left without seeing him last time, didn't you?" We had a nice discussion about that, which consisted of me apologizing and explaining why...I really was sorry. And apparently, I'm not the only one who's had to leave without seeing the doctor. Appointment booking still needs tweaking at the new Duke Cancer Center.

But let me tell you what I'm tickled about, and Duke Cancer Center patients, listen up! All the clinics have wonderful volunteers. I went to 3-2 and ours, for that time, was John. John is a cancer survivor, as I suspect most are, and he got our attention to tell us all we needed to know about snacks and being positive. AND...about a book that Duke Cancer Center is GIVING to their patients who ask for it. He had copies right there at the desk. I expect all the clinics in the Cancer Center have copies available. Other Cancer Centers need to get a plethora of copies to GIVE to their patients as well. If you are a patient, any cancer, at a Cancer Center, please make the suggestion to someone who can actually do something about it!

The book: Finding the "Can" in CANcer. The front cover also has these words, "Like a tree...Accept the rain, take deeper root, And reach for the sky." (The link goes to the book at Amazon in case you're interested!) Also, something to know, in the front of the book a website is given, "www.findingthecanincancer.com". I've looked and, at least for now, there is no longer a website (this book first came out in 2005 and a second edition in 2007 so it's possible it was taken down since publication). Also, a search for this title in hopes of finding the surviving authors, led to a site and a blog with the name but it's not these women.

This book is written by four women with cancer who found their way into each others' hearts and lives. Men, this is not a "woman's" book. This is for men, too. Everyone will appreciate the love, life, and courage exemplified by these women. One woman started her cancer journey with one type of cancer and later melanoma was added to the mix. I made a note to look her up on Facebook, but later learned, as I continued reading, that she and one other of the co-authors died before publication.

The book begins with each woman telling her own story: Nancy, Pam, Susan, and Terri. These women were and are fighters. Some fought cancer for decades...treatment and surgery became a way of life but kept them alive. Nancy is the one who had a vision about finding the "can" in CANcer. "You CAN survive!"..."You CAN help others"..."You CAN make a difference." She was on a 20 year plus cancer journey and that helped her through it. She also learned "you can put 'treat' into treatment." Nancy didn't see this published.

Pam learned to approach her cancer as "a problem and proceeded to do what was needed to be done to take care of it."

Susan had to have her right arm, shoulder, clavicle, and top ribs amputated and one of the things she writes about dealing with her new look is, "Now I was dealing with a unique shape, and to my surprise, I found it to be quite freeing. I threw the word "normal" out of my vocabulary and began to be comfortable with being me and accepting that it was an ever-changing experience." Susan is the one who also developed melanoma and didn't live to see this published.

Terri tells her daughter that she (the daughter) is like her in that "she's like a teabag--she'll know her strength when she's put in hot water!" Terri also shares, "What you do does not define who you are; what defines us is how well you rise after falling.

After they share their stories, they share practical helps and resources in dealing with the diagnosis and life with cancer.

PART 1: Diagnosis: Hearing the News and Coping With It; and Telling Family and Friends

PART 2: Essentials: Being a Cancer Patient; and Practical Concerns

PART 3: Understanding Procedures: How to Prepare for Tests; and Common Types of Tests; and Treatments

PART 4: Side Effects...Things That Might Help

PART 5: Nurturing Your Inner Self: Looking & Feeling Better; and Living Better; and Personal Resources; and Spiritual Resources

PART 6: Upstaging: Surviving Stage IV and Thriving At Stage V. Here they see "StageV" as recurrence and living with cancer as a chronic disease.

There is also another list of resources beginning on page 235 for "Books," "Financial Help," "Information Hotlines," "Magazines," "Professional Associations," and "Websites."

This is written, assembled, put together by women who found themselves cancer patients at Duke and became fast friends. This is by our own for us and all who join us in the journey. Their own words, many of which I found to be uplifting, insightful, and definitely worth passing on to you.

I leave you with this from Nancy on page 229, "I grew up on a farm in the mountains of North Carolina near West Jefferson, and we had several fruit trees. I learned that if a tree stops bearing that you could cut a gash in the tree and for some unknown reason that tree will begin to bear fruit again. I think the gash is a wake-up call to us to examine our lives and see what we are doing to be fruitful."

Cancer may bring a gash with it into our lives, but that gash can serve a mighty purpose in God's mighty Hands.

If cancer is part of your life, take a page from the book of these ladies and find the "CAN"

And be grateful that it's there.