I cringe every time someone tells me "congratulations" when they hear I had cleans scans. My body tenses up and an uneasy feeling starts build from within. I'm conflicted on how I should respond. I know people mean well and are happy for me, and I absolutely know clean scans are better than the alternative, but there's nothing about my cancer struggle that makes me feel celebratory. In fact, I still feel the need to fight the cancer, and fight it with every fiber in my body. I will be battling cancer in one way or another for the rest of my life. After two bouts with colon cancer in the past three years, I will never let my guard down again. I'm experienced enough to know that cancer is anything but predictable. There are many ways that cancer can have life-altering affects and they can crop up at any time. So the fight is still on for me. It always will be. Is this the way I envisioned living my life? Certainly not, but I have no choice. I'll never be comfortable with my odds of recurrence and the consequences are simply too great.
I fought cancer with everything I had, twice. I had to dig deep and find a level of strength that I never knew I possessed. First in 2010 when I was first diagnosed and then again in 2013 when my cancer returned. Each fight consisted of multiple surgeries, 12 rounds of chemo over the span of six months and 20 rounds of radiation. Plus throw in every possible side effect you could imagine that resulted in almost a dozen unexpected trips to the ER. But I handled it. I embraced the fight. I knew it was something I had to do. I wasn't only fighting for myself. I was fighting for my 2-year-old son who needed his father, my wife who needed her husband. I was focused on the task at hand. The regimen of the treatments kept things routine for me. Granted it was a horrible routine, but a routine no less. I was battered, bruised, my body twisted inside and out, but I continued on. I took on the "warrior" mentality that many cancer patients do when they're in the midst of the battle. The fight continued day after day, month after month. And then one day, my cancer regimen came to a halt. I got clean scans.
After my first bout in 2010, I was in a rush to get back to my life. Or at least what my life was prior to my treatments. I got clean scans on a Friday and was back in the office first thing Monday morning. I acted like nothing had happened, like I had just been out of the office with a really bad cold... for eight months. But after a few days, the wheels started to come unhinged. The reality of what I'd been through started to set in. The structured regimen I was used to was now a thing of the past. My life never got on track and things were different. I had a new reality and it took some time to adjust. I eventually settled in to a new routine and life went one. One that I believed was cancer free. Unfortunately, I was mistaken. My cancer returned three years later and I once again was thrown into the world of cancer treatments.
Today, I'm six months out after I got clean scans again from my doctors. My 2013 fight was even tougher than my first one. I am in the recovery process once more. However, this time there is one major difference. I haven't stopped fighting. Unlike 2010, I have never stopped in my quest to keep my cancer at bay. I fight the physical battle. I fight the psychological battle. I realized that it was the fighting mentality that kept things normal for me while I was going through treatment, so why should I just stop this once the scans came back clean. So while I'm not undergoing chemotherapy or radiation to fend off the cancer, there are others ways I'm fighting this disease. Diet and nutrition, cardiovascular exercise, meditation, acupuncture, weight resistance training, deep breathing exercise, and tai chi are just a few ways I'm still fighting. I devote at least three to four hours a day my wellness routine, and that is mainly the physical training. The mental battle is a continual process. It's a very structure regimen, similar to the structured regimen of the treatments. The goal is the same, to fight the cancer. I made a conscious decision to make health and wellness a priority in my life. I take classes, I read books, I talk to people that can help me in my quest to fight cancer with lifestyle. There's no set way to do this. There are plenty of wellness fighting strategies than can help. I just focused on a routine that works for me. It's a balance of the physical fight and the emotional fight. Each one feeds off the other, so finding the right balance is the challenge.
The fact is I'm still angry I got cancer. Twice! I know the devastating affects it has on people's lives. I live with the fear of recurrence daily and this will be with me for the rest of my life. So I need to know that I am doing everything within my power to fight this, to increase the odds in my favor. It's this fighting mentality that is keeping me alive and hopefully cancer free. Maybe one day I'll be ready for "congratulations". Maybe not, we shall see. But I'll still be fighting, I can promise you that.
Check out Jeff's site at cwellness.com