Return to The Best Times Homepage

Readers Share

Cancer: A bump in the road

Vic Druten

I've had an interesting three months.

It started with a regular physical, involved an easy-as-pie X-ray concerning back problems, evolved into trips to a super-sadistic machine called an MRI to check out some lymph nodes, a not-so-bad run through a CAT scan to verify information, a never-heard-of-it test called a PET scan, a so-much-fun colonoscopy, a done-in-a-minute back biopsy, a rough four-hour abdomen biopsy that ended up with a blocked intestine that sent me to five nights in a hospital while I was entertained by continuous enemas, dozens of suppositories, too-many-to-count needles, and diagnostic readings galore.

All this time, I was hooked by IV to an iron pole, fitted to a heart monitor with multiple chest attachments, and shackled to the bed with compression cuffs around my calves, with my arms at my sides, for almost a week, with no food or water! I began to wonder, where are those civil rights people when you need them?

Always in the past, I thought of myself as the macho guy who ate pain for breakfast. I thought I was the man who considered obstacles in life to be just bumps in the road that could be overcome with good old-fashioned grit and willpower. I thought this was my problem and only my problem. I, personally, would take care of business. Dad would have been proud of me!

Well, I got chewed up, spit out, and bumped through the roof of my car. And the chemotherapy hadn't even started yet.

You, dear reader, are a senior adult, so you may be thinking that you've been through all this, or you know someone who has. So now I'm wondering, Why have my close senior friends not shared these nightmarish journeys—journeys that undoubtedly involved extreme mental torment, great physical suffering, and unbelievable emotional disruptions to their lives?

Well, we are a generation that has some tough bones and hard bark. We keep important things private and tend to believe that being stoic and quiet about our suffering is the dignified way to go. "My cross, I'll bear it," is our motto. But stoicism can be a long and lonely road to travel.

So I started to blog friends and family and associates, letting them know what was going on. I kept them in the loop. I recognized that those who love me, are close to me, care for me, and feel my pain were a support group that beat any kind of therapy or counseling medicine could offer.

I made it clear from the get-go that I did not want visitors for awhile, I did not have energy to talk on the phone, and I did not want to discuss what I had blogged. So, you are asking, how could these dozens of buddies help me?

Their messages, delivered on the phone and by computer, boosted my spirits. Cards came that were compassionate, funny, and put a smile on my face. Food showed up to help my exhausted wife. Someone watered my garden, another person cut my grass. Errands were taken care of. Prayers were said. People waved and honked as they drove by. Comforting thoughts were shared through my spouse. I was made well aware that an unbelievable number of friends had my back. It is absolutely amazing how the smallest consideration becomes so consequential during critical times.

In fighting my newly diagnosed cancer, I felt that I was not alone; I felt that I was part of a gigantic, close army of great buddies who were going to help me fight this upcoming war. I felt hundreds of pairs of hands on my shoulders, uplifting my spirit and determination.

A friend who is a cancer survivor told me that this journey would be life altering. I thought she meant just for me, but it wasn't that simple. When someone in a group goes through turmoil, the compassion spigot is turned on full blast. People take a second look, a third, a fourth, to see whether you're OK. Love and friendships grow. Relation-ships take on depth. Empathizing becomes an art form.

I'm telling you, a large group of pals expressing care and consideration overloads your heart with love until you almost want to explode. And when you feel that way—look out, Bad Stuff, this guy has an army to help him win this war!

So, kudos to the many folks who expressed concern, who touched my soul, who strengthened my resolve. Your encouragements buoyed this guy up to now be better equipped to handle this upcoming bump! Bring it on!