The Top 5 Things Cancer Has Made Me Appreciate (you’re not gonna believe #5)

Is that a click bait headline or what??  I feel like I’m working for Deadspin. All I need is a few unsourced accusations alleging misconduct by our current president and any old “where are they now” type of stories.  Oh, and some pictures of ANY Kardashian. But, considering this is my blog, none of that is gonna happen. Sorry if you were waiting for the latest pic of Kim wearing next to nothing. 

The HMS Dreadnought, the very first of these type of ships, from 1906. 

I am making this list because I’m fighting something right now that I call the “dread knots.”  Now, for you history people out there, a dreadnought was a heavily armored ship with big guns from around the turn of the last century. My dread knots are a feeling of dread that for whatever reason I just can’t seem to shake, along with a feeling of something like knots in my chest. I think it’s because I’m coming off the hormone drugs, and my body is starting to act like I’m an anxiety ridden teenager. Whenever I feel a little overwhelmed, I try to count my blessings. So let the counting begin.

#1.  For the love of people

Anybody that knows me well knows this about me…I am not a people person. I have this ability to be totally happy with my own company. But as I journey down this cancer road, I am finding myself relying more and more on the love of family and friends. It’s funny, I am not that much of a hugger. In fact, I have a tendency to shy away from big ol’ bear hugs like they’re going to give me a virus. But lately, I’ve been much more apt to greet someone with a hug rather than just a handshake or a nod or just a hello. My friends and family are much more dear to me now, much more important, and the love I feel from them sustains me through whatever trials I’m dealing with. Cancer has made me realize that the people in my life are precious to me, and I need them to be near me.

Friends also include the people I’ve met online through the prostate cancer support group on Facebook. Just chatting from time to time with these folks helps me feel less alone in the wilderness of a chronic disease. This particular blog was inspired by my friend Mark Bradford’s blog titled A Gift in the Wound, which looks at the more positive aspects of dealing with cancer. Also, a little advice from people helps too, like my friend Pete Axson warning me about the effects of coming off hormone treatments. It is good to have these people in my life.

#2. Fishrocks…the blog

After not writing for about 30 years, I’m back, baby. With a vengeance. Writing has helped me deal with the day to day issues of cancer treatments, and it has helped me find an outlet for both my frustrations and my triumphs. I started this thing thinking that a few people would read it now and then, but it has caught on and the success of it has been very gratifying and humbling. It has also given me an idea for the future, and that I would like to figure out how to write for a living. As I lose interest in the work I am doing at Steelcase, I am gaining an interest in writing full time. I plan on going back to WMU in the fall, and I’m looking at completing my English major with a writing emphasis. I have no idea what I will do with it, but I know I need to get out of that factory. It is killing me.

Zoey, back when she was just a pup. 

#3. Zoey

When I first started writing this particular blog about the 5 things cancer has made me appreciate, I thought about doing this:

1. Zoey

2. Zoey

3. Zoey

4. Zoey

5. Everything else

But, after some thought, I decided that my dog should probably not be THAT important in my life, so I decided to move her down to number 3. When my family purchased Zoey for me back in 2014, I was about one year into my first round of hormone therapy. I was very depressed, and the anti-depressants were not working. A little black lab pup helped me get my mojo back, and she has gotten me off the couch and walking every day. Even when I really don’t want to. And as Holly has said to me many times, she makes me giggle. And I don’t giggle.

Williamsburg, Virginia 

#4. The bucket list

One of the greatest lessons that a cancer diagnosis can teach you is this: Life is short. We should all think this way everyday, but most of the time we think we have plenty of time to do whatever we want. That, my friends, is just not true. Life is a finite journey, and nothing brings that point home better than when a doctor tells you, “You have cancer.”  In a way, that is the greatest gift of cancer. You realize your own mortality, and that some of your time needs to be spent doing the stuff you’ve always wanted to do. So, when my friend Jim Bird asked if I would be interested in going to Gettysburg over the Thanksgiving weekend, instead of thinking of ways to say no because of the obligations I had, I said yes. Screw obligations, I wanted to see where Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain and the 20th Maine charged down Little Round Top to save the day for the Union. When Holly’s cousins invited us to stay with them in Virginia, instead of saying,”No, we wouldn’t want to impose,” we said,”Yes, we’re going to impose.”  I wanted to see Virginia and Washington D.C. And we had a great time with Rob and Shirley. Those are the kind of things that I probably wouldn’t have done without cancer kicking me in the butt, giving me permission to enjoy my life spontaneously. My wish is that you could all realize how precious the time we have left is, without, you know, actually getting cancer.

#5. Port o’ potties 

If you have read my blogs before, you know I don’t like to be serious all the time. But I’m totally serious on this one. In the last 6 years since I had radiation therapy, going out for a walk has been a bit of an adventure because I just never know when I will have some,(ahem), bathroom issues. I think my oncologist must have nicked my colon or rectum in one of the sessions. So, when I feel the need to go, I have to go right away. And friends, there is nothing like the sight of a friendly little outhouse beckoning you inside when you REALLY have to go. My walks usually revolve around where the port o’ potties are, just in case this happens. Most people hate construction sites, but I have come to love them, just because I know there will always be a couple of these portable bathrooms available in case I need them.  Holly would rather drive 50 miles to a real bathroom than use one, and I admit they can be a bit foul at times, but I have learned to love them. They are far better than the alternative.  It’s gotten to the point that when we pass one, Zoey slows down and looks at me as if to say,”You going in?”

And that’s it, that’s my list. There are other things that cancer has made me appreciate, like giving me the ability to say no to stuff I don’t want to do, and giving me permission to put on a few extra pounds. (It’s the drugs, I swear. Although the drugs don’t force me to eat that double bacon cheeseburger or drink one more beer, but, seriously, it’s the drugs.). But those things would have to go in the honorable mention category. They can be used for another list when I need to count my blessings and feel better when I am fighting the dread knots.

I’m sure it will happen again.

Thanks for reading.


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