I think we all have a story to tell. As we experience the journey our life takes us on, I realize the course we take is just as important as the destination we reach. I find we are overwhelmed far too often by life’s frustrations, but far too rarely by its magnificence. Cancer made me change my way of thinking as well as change the way I perceive things in my life. Here is my story.
I never thought I would face the words “you have cancer.” I was 24 when I had surgery for a non-cancerous growth behind my knee. When I was 40, I had a recurrence and found out it was cancer that had been misdiagnosed when I was 24. After talk about surgically removing my leg, I found a doctor that was able to save it, but was told my days as a police officer were over. After aggressive chemo, I finished my career retiring with twenty years of service. This brush with cancer was in my rearview mirror and changed me for the better.
I had a colonoscopy when I was 50 and all was clear. Not long after, due to indigestion and fatigue, my gall bladder was removed. I still wasn’t feeling well. The doctors performed test after test. I had blood in my stool, a colonoscopy was performed and for the second time in my life I had cancer. Colon cancer this time with tumors to the liver, stage IV. I was told by one doctor to go and enjoy the rest of my life. Our entire family was devastated. I felt guilt, numbness, shock, anxiety, panic, fear, disbelief. I cried, I sobbed, I felt so alone. I was at my lowest point I had ever been, I didn’t want to talk to anyone. Go and enjoy the rest of my life, what does that mean? To me that meant go home and enjoy yourself before you die. I was in a world of unfamiliar despair even though I had already been through a cancer battle once and won. Now battling a second time, this was different. I asked myself, what are the odds? I had been through a lot as an officer, but I have never felt more afraid.
The lessons I learned as a scrappy kid growing up in Brooklyn gave me strength. I got up, dusted myself off and searched for a second and third opinion. I remembered the words of my first oncologist who said, “the only way of beating cancer is to hit it aggressively.” We found a surgeon at UCLA who said I would need more chemo before and after surgery, but there should be no reason why I couldn’t beat this. My wife and I left his office with hope. I am now on Xeloda and have no evidence of disease (NED) since my post-surgery scans and hope this continues. Never give up, stay in the fight, and don’t take what one doctor says to be gospel. Question, search, and find the very best health care you can.
I celebrate what an unbelievable life I’ve had so far, accomplishments and hardships, because they have made me stronger. I marvel at god’s gifts: the morning dew, the sun, the clouds, the trees, the flowers and the birds chirping. I tell my wife I love her like I have never loved before. Today I am NED and don’t worry about what I don’t have, but am grateful for what I do have. I remember that to worry is just a waste of time because my faith in god and his divine plan ensures everything will be just fine.
It makes me proud to serve as a Colon Cancer Alliance Buddy and I am honored to be trusted with such a delicate task. Aiding someone who has had their life turned upside down, arming them with information and guidance, gives me satisfaction that I’m helping bringing a sense of calm to the storm. Hope and education to a newly diagnosed colon cancer patient is my chicken soup for the soul. I share my view that a person’s mindset is vital in the battle against cancer, and to do to cancer what cancer wants to do to you. We all learn from one another; sharing information and options for treatment is important in beating this disease. And I am honored and proud to serve as a Buddy for the CCA.
Stage IV survivor & CCA Buddy