Well, 2007 was going to be a positive, exciting year, at least until you got involved. My oldest son Michael was in his last semester at Regis University. I was so proud of him, and I was looking forward to watching him walk into the next chapter of his world.
Then BAM, February 2, 2007, I got a call that Michael hit his head at work and was in the ER. After getting to a specialist–and you know how easy that process is–we were told it was not you, Cancer, but a benign tumor. He didn’t need surgery, just medication for the rest of his life with a few side effects. We hoped the tumor would stop growing and all chance of Michael having a stroke or going blind would be gone!
In May we attended Michael’s graduation, which was filled with tears of joy and relief. A few months later, Michael got a job at Enterprise Rent A Car in the managers training program. On August 28, less than a month after he started, Michael called me. “Remember that lump I felt and thought it was a zit? Well, it’s still there.” That was not what I wanted to hear!
Michael called his neurosurgeon, who referred him to a urologist. I was living in California at the time, so I flew to Denver to go to the appointment with Michael the next day.
On August 29, we were sitting in the ultrasound department. At 8:15 a.m., Michael was called in. He came out 15 minutes later, looked at me, and said, “I have cancer and we are not going to cry about it.” I sucked up everything inside of me and said, “OK.” But I was not OK! How could my 23-year-old son have testicular cancer?
Thanks to you, Cancer, the next three days were a whirlwind. After the ultrasound, we went in to see the urologist and then five other doctors walked in. I called my husband, who was on a business trip in Austin. He left the meeting immediately and flew to Denver. I called Michael’s brother, Colin, and told him to come to the hospital right away. I knew I would only hear half of what the medical team was saying, and Michael was probably the same, so we needed another set of ears. Cancer, you have the ability to dull the sense of hearing right when people are trying to understand you. So frustrating!
Two days later, Michael had surgery, followed by another surgery a month later. Six weeks after that, he returned to work. Just a few days later while leaving work, Michael slipped on the ice and broke his ankle in three places. What a year! Though 2007 had some good moments, we were happy to leave the many bad ones behind.
As a parent, I want my kids to be healthy and happy. When it doesn’t happen that way, it feels like a gorilla punching you in the gut. Even 12 years after Michael’s diagnosis, when the phone rings and it is any of my kids, my stomach drops, and my first thought is ‘Are you OK?’ I have PTSD, thanks to you, Cancer!
I also experience sadness that my son has to worry about fertility. Will he be able to have kids? Only time will tell. I also fear that you will come back or that Michael will experience terrible side effects down the road. I hope you hear and see my tears!
Yet, despite your intrusion in his life, Michael has not lost his sense of humor. Laughter really is the best medicine! Our family’s relationships are stronger because of you. On the one hand, I hate you for what you put our family and others through. On the other hand, I’m thankful because good things came out of meeting you up close and personal.
Because of you, Cancer, I founded Epic Experience in 2012 to let survivors know they are not alone. I wanted to help them reclaim their lives from you and get out there and be active. At Epic Experience, survivors enjoy the great outdoors, they laugh and cry and share their stories, and they come away with renewed hope and community as a result. And you can’t take that away from them!
Cancer, I still don’t want to feel that gorilla punch, but it might happen again, and we’ll deal with you if it does. Because of you, I know the best way to live: in the moment, making all the memories you can.
“You can’t adjust the wind, but you can adjust the sails” – Thomas Monson
All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer. If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you! Please submit your idea at https://www.elephantsandtea.com/contact/submissions/.