Cancer is a disease that causes so much misery and death worldwide.
As it becomes more prevalent and common among people under 40, one has to wonder what is causing this illness to rear its ugly head.
In our modern world with contributors such as, stress, poor diet, genetics, family history, etc. medical professionals are baffled and short for answers as to what is causing it; even though generous amounts of money and grants have gone into research, only breakthroughs, no tangible cures yet.
Having been a victim of cancer, life has taken an unexpected turn I have learned so much and I’m getting stronger every day.
I learned more about:
No matter how dark my day was, there was a light at the end of the tunnel. Actually there were three: my wife Lars; son Scott and our new baby son Cohen. As I held their faces close to my heart, it made me want a better tomorrow for all of us to be together, and that hope became a mantra that echoed so deep in my soul it became automatic as soon as my eyes opened when waking up to fight another day.
Due to the illness hitting me at the most inopportune time in my working life, there was not a lot of money saved as a buffer for me to take time off. My boss was supportive with leave without pay (I had no holiday pay left) but I could go to appointments whenever I needed to and I had to find the strength to keep working as the bills needed to be paid.
The chemo sessions would go on Fridays after my half day at work and the recovery, rest and sleep took place on the weekends just to be ready to return to work on Monday, but I never missed a beat.
I was working as a contractor with Navy personnel at the time, and my Navy boss Moses would urge me to take my time and sit down whenever I was feeling I could not cope. All the boys and girls in the department I was attached to showed me so much love and kindness, I strongly believe being there and then proved to make a difference and sped up my recovery due to a very tranquil and stress free work environment, and I truly felt I was part of the team.
Mark was the boss in the Engineering department, a sub department of the Training Services Faculty where I was working at the time. His kind smile and positive words of encouragement came aplenty, we had a common bond; we both had young families and knew what it was like to slog it off on the job to provide for the daily bread.
Like Moses, Mark always made sure I was well taken care of, and if I ever needed to talk, his door was always open, I still keep in touch with Mark after all these years.
Then there was Chito, the head of the Health department, who had a lot of time for me, he saw me at my most vulnerable, when I swelled up and my face looked like Shrek’s. No matter how long it took me to get up those stairs, there was a lot of encouragement coming my way.
During our informal meetings followed by Friday morning tea, Chito once spoke on how much he admired me for not giving up and how much he respected me for my ability to smile no matter how much I hurt. The respect was mutual.
My friend Bucket (not his real name) was a very popular and respected NCO, and was a crucial link between departments. His cheery nature was soothing and his easy going manner took my mind off the dark clouds lurking above me as another day scraped by.
He would bring me a piece of cake, a sweet, a newspaper or have a joke on the ready.
Who says Warrant officers are all prunes? Bucket is a top human being and reminded me of the importance of laughter, and I believe this is because of the tough environments they work under and a joke can take their minds to happier times.
They say every individual on earth is unique, and then there is Alex…..
Alex was someone who was more unique than others, and his strong work ethics and eye for detail would often be seen as pedantic and obsessive, he was quite a character.
Once I cracked that critical exterior and he showed me how friendly and warm he was. He made me feel very special because he paid attention to me, even on days where I hardly made any sense due to my chemo brain. He made me feel unique and I never felt alone. I could lean on him and we had lots of long conversations about the joys of illness because he was having some health issues too.
My wife Lars tried so hard not to let the tears betray her true feelings, and even though I could see the sadness in her eyes, her beauty shone through the many times she made me a cup of coffee while I was laying down in bed after a hard chemo session.
She understood the need to let my mind wander off to a different world via video games, “Kane and Lynch Dead Man Walking” took most of my down time, often helping me channel my anger and frustration with what was happening to me.
When she came in the room she held Cohen in her arms, and she looked so beautiful, making me more determined to get better and beat this ugly and deadly illness.
My immediate supervisor David always stuck up for me, and kept the wolves at bay. He stood by me, and together with Moses, Mark and Chito provided so much support and encouragement.
Loyal people are a rare gem when times are tough, and I have to admit, David was it. We had video games in common and we often discussed fatherhood, the joys, challenges and responsibilities and the relationship flourished.
Even though we parted ways, I will always remember the many kind things he did for me.
On Fridays while the poison killing me was being injected to help me live, my mind would wander off. This process would take between two to three hours on Fridays and the whole world came to a standstill. All the anxiety would blend in with the shadows made by the sun shining bright outside.
While sitting down getting the poison in me, I could not do the very things I loved most, and I had to find ways to tame my need to do something, anything and everything.
While the hours ticked away, I started to become calmer, and five years later, I am no longer in a rush. I am happy to wait at the supermarket, petrol station without the need to rush, what a great lesson to learn in order to survive the madness of modern life.
If you or someone you know is going through this horrible disease, please be patient, forgiving and kind. Cancer is not just a physical disease because through the struggle it becomes a mental challenge, and there is a high probability of developing some level of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder or PTSD, it is quite traumatic.
In my personal case, the steroids turned me into a very angry and unstable person; as I said, it has taken me almost 5 years to get back to how I used to be, it has been a long and often grim journey but I feel better as a father, husband, son, brother and friend.