The Things We Knew We Should Be Doing All Along

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The following is a commentary from Morning Edition, Nov. 27, 2006:

I was up at the cancer center the other day, waiting for a friend. I just sat and watched all the people. You can tell the regulars right away. They walk with purpose. Off to the lab for blood work. Upstairs for chemo. They're the ones saying 'hi' to the nurses and doctors who've become their friends.

You can tell the people on their first visit just as easily. They have that lost look of new students on the first day of school — not sure where anything is or what they're supposed to do. The regulars have gotten past that deer-in-the-headlights look. Their faces show determination more than anything else.

I noticed one man in the lobby. He was wearing his bathrobe and he didn't seem concerned at all. I saw a young woman frantically looking for someone. I assumed they were father and daughter. When they found each other, they hugged. The young woman held on tightly. It was a very private moment... in a very public place.

Would they have done that before the man got cancer? Would they even have hugged, except on rare occasions?

I think one of the things cancer does is break down the walls of our pride. A doctor told me early on that cancer meant many people would want to talk about things I definitely didn't want to talk about. He was right. I have to talk about my body to strangers. I have to talk to my doctors about my greatest fears. I have to talk about my death. But it doesn't bother me anymore.

I don't worry as much about keeping up a facade, either. I have cried, more than I ever had before. I've been more open to friends and loved ones about how much they mean to me. Before I got sick, I would've been embarrassed to say some of those things out loud.

In the cancer wards, you see more physical displays of affection. A touch, a hand on the shoulder, some gesture meant to reassure or just let the other person know they're not alone. Cancer teaches that worrying what other people will think and being discreet is something we don't have time for.

What has happened, I think, is that we've all been humbled. Cancer has freed us to do the things we knew we should be doing all along.

I don't think I'll ever forget the image of that man in the bathrobe and that young woman holding on to each other so tightly in the midst of a crowd. For me, that's life as it should be lived.

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I sent you a brief note a few weeks ago. I read your stuff all the time now. My cancer has returned. Like you say, at first, it scares the s—- out of a person and then you get used to it. Two quotes, one from a friend who has hep c, "nothing like a life threatening disease to get your priorites straight." And my favorite from my daughter-in-law's grandfather, Stanley, who is 90 and been through the cancer wars a couple of times, said to my son, "I got some advice for your father. Pass it on to him. Tell him not to worry because you only live till you die!" I love this guy. Leroy, hang in there and I raise a glass to you.

Sent by Alec Lambie | 9:42 AM | 11-27-2006

Thank you, Leroy Sievers, for sharing your life with your readers. I am a stranger to you, yet because of the intimacy, openness and honesty in writing from your heart, I feel like a beloved family member or best friend. Thank you for giving and creating a circle of humanity which enriches us all. We care for you and wish you blessings to fill your heart!

Sent by Fran Welsh | 9:44 AM | 11-27-2006

I want to live as Leroy Sievers describes some cancer patients do in his story "The Things We Knew We Should Be Doing All Along." Life is so much more fulfilling and beautiful this way.

Sent by Damian Gennette | 9:45 AM | 11-27-2006

Leroy,

Thank you for your wonderful words this a.m.

So true — -so real — merry xmas to you!

Keep thinking the good thoughts. Get better soon — your attitude is everything.

Sent by Hilary Hickok | 9:53 AM | 11-27-2006

I am a cancer survivor for 11 years. This experience has taught me to "see" the world and people with "new eyes."

I enjoyed your new insights too and look forward to sharing your journey with you.

Sent by Evie | 9:56 AM | 11-27-2006

Thanks, Mr. Sievers.

I just finished a year working with special needs kids. Most of them are lost in another kind of privacy. They have autism and mental retardation, and they live in a very solitary world of anxiety and perceptions. They're surrounded by caretakers but they only come out of their personal galaxies with the greatest effort. On my last day with them, we watched a video about the percussion-and-dance group, Stomp. The kids focused for most of those forty minutes, moving their bodies and checking with us to see if we were hearing what they heard. It was a critical learning moment for me. We need to make sound and move our bodies. Even playing alone in the deep woods with my dogs, I've been reserved and fearful of who would see or hear me shushing my song in the leaves. Your story this morning made a big difference to me. It will help me dance and sing. It will also help me advocate for those kids. In a school that spends at least sixty thousand dollars a year for each student, there is no music or movement program for them.

Thank you very much for sharing this journal and telling us your stories.

Sent by Liz Hauck | 10:32 AM | 11-27-2006

I know what you mean about the comfort and familiarity of the chemo clinic. My husband died 6 months ago of pancreatic cancer at the age of 59. He was a "frequent flyer" at his chemo clinic for 18 months, undergoing three different, aggressive regimens in a determined effort to extend his life. That place and the staff there came to represent the physical manifestation of hope to us. As long as you had another appointment to return, everybody believed that you had at least another week to live.

When he became too sick to continue chemo, six weeks before his death, we missed going there and seeing everybody, staff and patients alike. We knew that it was the beginning of the end.

Sent by Marilyn Morrissey | 10:34 AM | 11-27-2006

I was very moved by Leroy Sievers commentary on Nov. 27. I printed it out and am anxious to have my 8th grade students read it. I believe that they need to understand how vain and futile saving face is and how difficult it makes it to bridge trust to other students when we have our thick walls embedded with glass up around ourselves.

It is tragic that it takes infirmity for us to be real with other people, and to some respect, vice-versa. Earlier in the school year, I had my students write about what this quote from Lao-Tzu meant to them "Treat everyone as if they were wounded."

Sent by Stephen Lindow | 10:38 AM | 11-27-2006

I am a 10 year plus survivor of Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma. I was diagnosed at age 28, five months after my wedding. Half-way through six cycles of chemotherapy my body started showing signs of pre-mature menopause. Four months later my husband and I were given confirmation that my chances of conceiving a baby were zero percent.

Two years later I gave birth to our daughter, (Amazing) Grace.

Miracles are EVERYWHERE.

Sent by Wendy Smith-Jobski | 10:46 AM | 11-27-2006

Thank you for the piece I just heard on NPR. The description of the man and his daughter was very powerful and true. I published a book in 1999 on my experiences with two cases of testicular and intense chemotherapy over time. In it, I recounted such scenes, as I saw them, for the power of human contact. Your story has caused me to go back and re-visit the book. I opened the final chapter with something similar to your theme:

Flows and Steps:

My experiences with cancer have changed me. When I decided to do something with my disease, I faced challenges that I could not anticipate. My story is much more common than it is heroic, much more human than superhuman. Maybe my story can help explain what happens when people recover...

From: Climbing Back: A Journey With Cancer

Thank you again...

Sent by Mark Gerner | 10:54 AM | 11-27-2006

While I do not have cancer, I do understand what the diagnosis of cancer means. My late wife was diagnosed with cancer in April 2000, six months before we were married, and lost her fight against her cancer in June 2001. Two-thirds of the time I knew my wife was spent battling her cancer. I've written a lot about what the two of us went through on my Web site and am in the process of writing a book based on our time together. You can read about us here.

I wish you the best and will keep you in my prayers and thoughts.

Sent by Dan | 2:36 PM | 11-27-2006

Dear Mr. Sievers,

I read your post today (Monday) with interest. I am a counselor in a Cancer Center N.J. I was very touched by what you said about doing the things we should be doing all the time. I am going to discuss your comments with some of the patients with whom I work here. I know that many will be touched and identify strongly with what you are saying. What I have seen here is that often people go through a sort of awakening, and go through a process of deciding to change their lives in some way, becomimg more aware of how to develop and pursue a life that is truly more authentic and worth living.

I have learned alot from the patients here at my job. Good luck to you.

Sent by Kathy Morelli | 2:46 PM | 11-27-2006

Last month I met my friend T. for lunch. The sunlight glowed above was the deep clear blue October sky. She surprised me with a hug. We sat outdoors, where we could share the lunch hour together — away from the pressures of work. Do we take enough time for our friends, for ourselves — for the really important things?

All around us, the city swirled. People walked to the subway, to shop, to make a cell phone call — all in that fast purposeful way we do in the city — self important and invincible. We sat and spoke about recent trips, families, and, ominously, that she would be going to the hospital for a few days and would be recovering, for some weeks more. The timing was indefinite, as was the purpose.

A couple of weeks later, responding to my e-mail, T. wrote that she spent five days in the hospital and was now at home. "Please feel free to call me. I need friends to talk to."

The 'c' word had not been spoken but I had a sense of what was going on. An inner voice was saying to me "she needs you" although that reality was playing out in slow motion — for her and for me.

Now, I know many people who have cancer. Thanks to the corporate prayers at church thanks to the celebrities — we finally speak about it openly and realize that it touches so many people around us. Yet it always seemed a little bit distant — compartmentalized, somehow. How many people did I not make time for?

A month later, we are sipping tea in a bright room, with a southern exposure. T. is radiant, as the sun strikes her face smiling animated and filled with so much grace. She has many concerns about her future, yet chooses to spend an hour of it with me. Her time is precious, but she does know the importance of holding the things that are beautiful and true. I'm happy for her. And want to care just as much, even when she is tired and doesn't want to talk.

Sent by Emile Bellott | 3:05 PM | 11-27-2006

Leroy,

I have followed your blog from the beginning. As many of them do, today's rang so true to me as I battle prostate cancer. A month a go I participated in a survivorship fashion show. The clothes the 28 of us wore were only a sideline to the struggles and triumphs each has experienced. Each model in the show had his or her biography read to the audience, and your description today prompted me to offer mine, with the feeling reflected by so many of the other participants, all cancer survivors.

October 2004 I was diagnosed at the age of 43 with advanced prostate cancer, 7 years before screening is recommended. There is no history of this disease in my family. I know the purpose of my affliction will have to be answered on a different level, although those afflicted never cease to ask why? Over the course of two years I have lost many things and have gained many things. I have lost most of my hair, many of my nails, much of my physical strength, and the rudimentary belief that there will always be a tomorrow. Those things that I have gained were always there but never given the true importance they deserve. The love of my life, my wife of 20 years, and my two children. The true meaning of friendship came from those around me with whom I thought I had only small things in common, and yet they turned out to be more like family then friends. Being in someone's prayers now has a meaning that goes so far beyond just being in their thoughts, rather that they're asking for help on my behalf. My life has been altered, and to say that every night a prayer has not been said to return to the way things were before would be false.

We truly don't know what problems or afflictions others have. Too often we sympathize but don't truly absorb the visceral ramifications that other people's problems have on them. I have watched as the nurses at UMCs cancer center displayed incredible compassion and hope despite of the task put before them. They do their jobs with kindness, and a grand sense of humor. Exchanging jokes, barbs and occasionally a recipe or two.

Like so many that have sat in those recliners and tried to put a good face on a bad situation, my life has hit a bump in the road. I can lose control and crash or I can ride out the rollercoaster. With my family, friends, and those I meet along the way to hold on to, I will live my life to the fullest and smile at Gods gifts along the way."

Thank you Leroy for putting in words many of the feeling and observations that all of those afflicted with cancer have undoubtedly felt or seen. I wish you Gods speed in healing and a happy holidays this year and for years to come.

Sent by Jeff Canterbury | 3:20 PM | 11-27-2006

Thank you for sharing your journey with us. I just finished my cancer treatments and had my second port removed a couple of months ago. I am always struck when people tell me how "courageous" I am... I don't feel brave. I didn't have a choice but to undergo treatment if I wanted to live. I met a woman who told me that I should consider meditation in lieu of chemotherapy. Now that would have been courageous, I suppose.

Another comment about the chemo room-when I completed treatment I felt sort of sad and a bit worried-no one would be monitoring me on a weekly basis anymore. I wanted to get on with my life, but part of my life had become receiving treatment. When my oncologist retired a few months ago, I felt irrationally abandoned. I still am very sad that he's no longer there for me, and yet I'm one of the lucky ones who doesn't need to see him every week anymore.

I wish you the very best.

Sent by Wendy | 3:27 PM | 11-27-2006

I loved your article this morning.

Fantastic. Someone SAID what I feel.

Three years ago I did a chemo stint for testicular cancer, yes, I can say "testicles" at the dinner table now. I kept my Web log through it all. sometimes it was the only thing I did on a daily basis.

Chemo breaks you down, physically, and emotionally. You learn what is important (family and friends) and what is NOT important (schedules, deadlines, projects, work, things, stuff)

It's sad I needed a life threatening experience to remind me to live.

Last July my son was born, naturally, no test-tube frozen semen-cycles needed! Wahoo. He and my wonderful wife are the joy of my life.

Every year I donate some money to the Cancer Society for research and every chance I get, I drop off flowers at the oncology clinic for the wonderful nurses there, who saved my life, and showed me how to live it.

I hope you hit remission, I hope you spend every minute you can with family, and I hope your chemo goes easy. Keep writing.

Sent by Charles Statman | 3:49 PM | 11-27-2006

I heard your commentary on my way to work this morning — my first day back to work after my father died on Nov. 17 from pancreatic cancer. I hadn't heard you before, and your words today were very meaningful to me. During my dad's illness, we spent more time together than we have in years — we live about five hours apart. When it became clear that trips to the chemo center weren't working and there was nothing else they could do, I spent 10 days with my dad — time that I will always cherish. We had wonderful talks about things we most likely wouldn't have discussed under other circumstances. He used his last two to three weeks to talk to almost all those closest to him, and when he died, it was at home with many of his closest loved ones with him. It was very peaceful and we were all so glad to be there. While the cancer was an awful thing, it did give us the gift of time together that other things may not have allowed, and I will always be grateful for that.

Thank you for your comments and experience. Good luck to you through your journey.

Sent by Chris Heinrich | 4:06 PM | 11-27-2006

I have just heard about your story on NPR. I lost my "brave" husband this past April. Neither of us were prepared or experienced in the world of cancer. What a journey it was. I am now dealing with the fall-out and all of the emotions. I wanted to be strong for him for three plus years. I am crying out all of those tears now.

We both felt before he died that if we had a choice of re-living our past three years with cancer, we would choose the cancer years. We both learned so much about ourselves and other people. It brought us closer together as a couple and strengthened us. Now that he is gone... I am not so resolved, but I view the world differently! Michael learned just how much he was loved by the whole community. Something he would never have realized!

It hurts and helps to read your story and the comments of other listeners. I am reliving many days and moments. But I too know that it will be ok.

Be strong as you can be, go to work if you can, (Mike worked up to the day before he died.) make someone laugh and keep writing. You are helping yourself and so many others.

Sent by Deborah Compton | 4:09 PM | 11-27-2006

Enjoyed your commentary for first time this morning and went to the blog. I am a survivor, six years from Hodgkin's Lymphoma, now 44 years old. I never had the fear of being terminal although a toxic reaction to the chemo came close to shredding my lungs and killing me. I volunteer with survivors in a few programs, one "coaching" newly diagnosed patients and/or their families and the other teaching second year medical students how to deliver bad news.

One of the common themes among survivors is how their diagnosis served as a wake up call from the sleepwalking through life. A reminder of what is important and to focus more on giving back, not just to your loved ones but the community at large. Your comments about a gentle touch and pride melting away are universal in the cancer community.

A favorite quote that I share often and helped me through darker hours: "I am wounded but not slain, just let me lie here and bleed for awhile and I shall rise and fight again". Even more meaningful for me because it came from a friend of my deceased father who said that he had sent it to her years ago and now sincerely believed that she was meant to deliver it to me from him.

I too intended to fight through chemo, keep working and keep everything as normal as possible. The poison eventually made a different decision for me. Eating, Sleeping and going to the bathroom were all difficult daily chores. The nausea was horrible, weight loss rapid, until I switched to Steroids and ballooned up with accompanying irritability and mind racing.

Never asked why me. Just wanted to fight it, naively having no idea what that entailed. Another good quote: sometimes life is just about showing up. Many days were just about survival. I couldn't enjoy anything in depths of my chemo, not reading, TV, my family....I was virtually catatonic, just staring at the walls with deep chemo brain... a useless, depressed blob... which was totally opposite my glass-full outlook. But, as my Mom said at the outset, it would be a blip on the radar. It's different for everyone, but it was a 9 month blip for me. I did not believe that I could regain my strength, let alone appetite. But hope and belief and faith and strength from others were amazing. I realize that I've droned on too long. I could probably comment on your every entry but just wanted to get something out. Thanks for sharing and reading.

Sent by Bill Grossman | 4:26 PM | 11-27-2006

I've listened to your stories on NPR several times recently. At first I didn't want to hear anything about cancer because I was diagnosed with chronic leukemia about six months ago. As time as passed, however, I find your words and experiences soothe me somewhat, just as your bravery encourages me. I'm not to the point where chemo or other treatment is necessary and I only see my oncologist about every 90 days to keep track of blood levels, but I know one day he will tell me it's time for chemotherapy. I've thought I would refuse it. I have heard such bad things about it, about the quality of life one has with it and so forth, but you seem to be doing OK, at least part of the time. Living is something we are so accustomed too, it's hard to imagine dying. I'm afraid, not so much of dying, but leaving loved ones behind and losing a quality of life I have grown to enjoy. I'm 56-years-old and I began surfing (not on the Internet, but on the ocean) three years ago. Many things like that I have started late in life. In fact, I feel like I'm just beginning to live and feel cheated. Yet, I am still here. I'm not taking chemo yet, and I listen to you, someone who is going through what I dread most. Anyway, I just wanted to say I appreciate you and wish you the best.

Sent by Jim Owens | 4:31 PM | 11-27-2006

The horror stories that I heard about chemotherapy came true when cancer invaded my life. Earlier when asked for historical accounts of all the happenings after each treatment, I would be wanting for words because nothing was available in that warehouse where I conveniently store them for retrieval at a later date when needed.

Being quick with a comeback for whatever verbosity that was thrown at me, I found it odd that my answer was a short "I can't describe anything." Then, I followed it with the all-too-common line: "I wouldn't wish it on my bitterest enemy."

Grateful that only one breast was taken and I still have the other, the annual trip to the imaging center have become all too routine and sometimes a nuisance but it is a reality that I must face together with other women. It is this yearly trek that binds us females into a sorority of sort.

Even if the initial blow from the first pronouncement by the surgeon has been weakened by time, cohabiting with something that is more spectral than real is a challenge that I picked up and I won't allow the fear of that shadowy figure lurking somewhere in my life to deter me from taking much from life. My oncologist's determination to prevail over the scourge that cancer inflicts gave me much impetus to be as vigorous as I can in my battle with cancer.

Everything written in the commentary resonates with me and I'm glad that it has been articulated well. This will encourage anybody whose life has been affected by cancer to be upbeat in spite of whatever odds they face.

Each day is a gift, that's why I treasure it. I thank God that yesterday, I was able to make it worthwhile. I hope and pray to God that when tomorrow comes, I will still be here.

Sent by Edith S. Pleta | 4:34 PM | 11-27-2006

Hi Leroy:

This morning, your NPR commentary was on radio alarm — the wake-up call to get me going for my daily radiation therapy. I'm half way through a post surgery, two-month regiment. I really found it comforting to hear about your experiences. Sometimes we think we are isolated in "just getting through this," and I remember being one of the "deer-in-the-headlights" people on the first I walked into radiation oncology.

One of the things I've had to accept is that it is OK to go with the roller coaster of emotions related to diagnosis and treatment — that we don't have to constantly keep up a tough front. This is especially true as we try to be the protector of our children, spouse, and people with whom we are closest.

I wish you well!

Sent by Marie Rowles | 4:36 PM | 11-27-2006

My friend Bo Johnson was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer this summer. I was referred to this site by a friend who beat his leukemia. Check out his blog and it would be nice to contact him to give him some inspiration or promote his Lung Cancer foundation "Addis Cure." He is a tough sob and if anybody can beat this it is him.

Sent by James Robinson | 4:43 PM | 11-27-2006

Leroy,

Another insightful post that mirrors what people dealing with cancer feel. It does raise an interesting question, though. As time passes after a diagnosis, how do you keep that same sense of urgency in saying what needs to be said and reaching for the hands that need to be held? Our family is two and a half years out from my husband's diagnosis and since it seems like the immediate cancer threat has passed, I wonder if we will act on what needs to be done or if we are complacent? Not sure this has an answer but it is something I thought of reading your post.

I do have to ask how the pie was last week? I hope you had seconds as well as whipped cream on it!

Sent by Andrea Clay | 5:11 PM | 11-27-2006

Leroy,

I heard your commentary on the radio this morning. I'd heard your name mentioned before and wondered if you were the guy I knew at Princeton, but then when I heard your voice. It's amazing but we don't change so very much even over 30 years. Anyway, congratulations on your accomplished career so far, and especially on how you are making lemonade out of lemons and continuing to serve the public in such a selfless and generous way. I wish you many years of continuing health and success!

Sent by Jim Kukula | 11:16 AM | 11-28-2006

Hi Leroy

I really enjoy your commentaries because you're so articulate. Just a note to let you know I'm praying for you daily — actually several plus times in my day. My mother had cancer last year and I relate to many of the things you talk about. Your observations reflect someone who notices and enjoys individual people and you can read their emotions so well. Take care and please keep those commentaries coming. I enjoy them very much.

Sent by Carol Whitman | 11:18 AM | 11-28-2006

Leroy,

An extra piece of pie for you!

Whenever you get down in the dumps, just remember all the nice things that have been said about you today.

Thanks.

Sent by David Larsen | 11:20 AM | 11-28-2006

I heard your spot on the Phoenix, Ariz. affiliate this morning and wanted to find out more. Your blog is incredibly on the mark. I am a two time cancer survivor! My first cancer was diagnosed in March of 2000 — inoperable stage 3B lung cancer. As the doctors say to me now, it's amazing that I am still here. My second cancer was diagnosed in July 2005 — breast cancer.

What you are saying in your blog needs to be said. It is so true. The fear the first time you enter the chemo room, the people who have visible burns from radiation. Then you get used to it and get to know the people and the doctors and nurses who care so much, and your goal is to survive and go on with your life.

It is definitely a "character builder" and an experience that changes your life forever. I have been very fortunate to make it this far, and I try not to be afraid, but sometimes it overwhelms me. For the most part, all you can do is enjoy each day and appreciate each happiness you have. Eventually, we will all pass whether we had cancer or not!

Best of luck to you and thank you for your excellent commentaries.

Sent by Joanne Walker | 11:25 AM | 11-28-2006

Leroy,

So sorry to hear that you are stricken. You're way to young for that. Your NPR commentary was inspiring. Looking back on the recent deaths of my mom and Joyce's folks, I recognize the truth of your observations. Hang in there. (I'm passing the word about your situation to all your friends at KTVU who dont listen to NPR.)

Sent by Bob Hirschfeld | 11:29 AM | 11-28-2006

I'd like to thank Leroy Seivers for offering his very personal and accurate observation of the dynamics between people that occurs in cancer treatment centers.

My mom faught cancer for five straight years, following my dad's death, and I was her main support person through it all. She would be receiving treatment and I would show up with lunch or stories of my day, or just to sit with her in silence. As time went on and she got sicker, the talking lessened and the physical contact increased. Being together became more important than talking about things and pysical contact or presence became the communication.

I saw cancer transform my mom in her ways of thinking and being. It changed her relationships. It changed what and how she did things. It made her face herself in the most raw and difficult ways. She ended up teaching so many people in her life the most unexpected lessons. I guess I could say, my moms cancer even changed me.

I wish so much my mom could be the one in the hallway of the hospital wearing a bathrobe and I come running to her and hug her as tight as I can. But we have already had the chance to do that. It was an exhausting roller coaster ride that no one can do forever. I suppose its now someone elses turn to be transformed by someone elses cancer.

Sent by Kylie Cole Higdon | 11:40 AM | 11-28-2006

Leroy,

I heard you for the first time today and was comforted by the fact that you are chronicling your journey the good the bad and the ugly. My mother was diagnosed with cancer last year around this time and, you know, anniversaries are funny things. I've only recently been able to process all that has happened in the past year, but I know that talking about it and writing about it is incredibly cathartic. I've been blogging about our experience as well and feel like I've been given some kind of truth serum along with a cloak of invisibility. I feel like I am able to see things that not everyone is able to see and am also able write about it without any kind of filter, because, as you know, nothing is more blunt or to the point than cancer. Thank you for bravely sharing your stories. You are helping more people than you will ever know.

Sent by Debra McCurdy | 11:42 AM | 11-28-2006

Cancer took my bestfriend, the love of my life. Your commentary reminds me of her and the struggles we endured. It brings me joy and closure. Thank You.

Sent by Edward Rose | 11:59 AM | 11-28-2006

My family has been hit hard with cancer in the last few years. My stepfather's father died a few years ago from prostate cancer. One of his sisters has had leukemia, a niece is a young woman who survived breast cancer, a sister-in-law (and also the mother of the niece) has breast cancer, and I just finished chemo for colon cancer this past summer (my latest check up says I am cancer free). My aunt is doing well, and my cousin and other aunt are in remission, so I think we all thought we could take a breath, get rejuvenated, process all that has happened. We were stunned about a month ago when my step father — who is like a father to me — got very ill and was diagnosed with lung cancer.

I told my sister last night that in a way I am now grateful I just went through cancer treatments. I can help him learn the language and culture of the cancer club, I can try to prepare my Mom and him and pass on questions they can ask the doctor. It is a whole new world.

Like others have posted, you become strangely attached to this new world. When I had my check up last week, I felt almost excited to see my doctor and the oncology nurses. The nurses celebrated my good news with me, and were so sad to hear about my Dad. My Mom called me while my Dad began his treatments yesterday. She said she was understanding my observations of this bond we form, she was watching patients come in for appointments, but stopping by to see the nurses even if they didn't have treatment.

I actually had Ewing's Sarcoma over 16 years ago. I was young and angry, and never wanted to talk about it. This time around with colon cancer, I opened myself up to just experience it, and share that experience. My husband has noted that I even talk about my first experience with cancer more than I ever did.

Thank you for sharing your experience too.

Sent by Kelley E. | 12:03 PM | 11-28-2006

Yes, cancer seems to give us wings... or the freedom to do those things we thought about doing but never executed. Now I do all those things, the catalyst being cancer. It gave me the excuse for something else, too. It allowed me to (boy, this is going to sound really selfish) stop doing those things I never wanted to be doing. For example, the annoying acquaintances that I always accommodated. After going through the surgery and the chemo, I just felt like I could say "no" without guilt. It's like I was able to clean house, so to speak. So for me, I felt like I was given the freedom on both sides of the coin... to open up and share or close the door. My choice.

Sent by Carol Eagan | 12:15 PM | 11-28-2006

I was told I had advanced rectal cancer in Dec. 2003. I found it myself six months after requesting and recieving a digital probe from a physician I had been seeing for five years.

The guy missed a three centimeter tumor which had been growing there at least ten years. By the time I found it, it was too advanced to save my rectum and required chemo and radiation for metastases in lymph nodes.

From the time of diagnosis I didn't know if I wanted to live the remaining days of my life unable to do things because of damage by "treatment."

I was overdosed on chemo for months because the oncologist typed my weight as 40 percent higher than it was and over — stated my height. (I was weighed weekly.)

The nurse who administered the drugs didn't know how to use a computer to correct the misinformation. Even after the height and weight were corrected, the physician missed it and reordered the overdose.

I've been dealing with loss of memory and inability to do important tasks.

I was given too much radiation in spite of severe damage recorded early on.

I have much more resentment for physicians who ignore crucial information and feedback than cancer brought on by inappropriate diet and lack of medical care early in life.

Permanent impairment which severely diminishes quality of life and inattentive physicians interested only in processing more patients, preserving income and defending against possible lawsuits, have increased my distrust of successive doctors.

The image of a father being held by his daughter is what I find sorely lacking in most medical settings.

It is also the most important. I learned that unless you are loved by someone sufficiently, life isn't worth living. The decisions of what treatment and by whom are crucial and patients are rarely given adequate information to make them. I think there should be much more caring touch by professionals. Patients are tender and suffering human beings deserving of the respect a friend would get. Those who helped me most were women and one or two men who had the same cancer only more advanced who knew what I was experiencing and cared.

Sent by Ed Hall | 12:19 PM | 11-28-2006

I just want to say thank you to Leroy Sievers for sharing his experiences with us all. Although I have not (yet) had to face cancer myself, I have close friends and family members who have had or are currently fighting their own battles and you have given me great insight into it all. You have made me laugh, cry, talk and think and made all of those things easier to do. I hope you know how much your courage and openness have helped others.

Sent by Maureen Merchant | 12:03 PM | 11-29-2006

I read your blog and it helps me more than you know. I have pancratic cancer diagnosed a year ago and just found out my tumor is growing despite the treatment. I'm taking x-mas off because I don't want to start something I don't know how it will effect me. My last x-mas unless there is a miracle and my grand chidren can enjoy as normal a holiday as possible with what is going on. If this looses me time so be it, this is a priority today to me. God bless you and yours, I hope the tube comes out soon, I understand the end date anxiety all too well. You make a difference in my life and so many others, just keep it real like you have been its what all of us need at this point in our lives. Sincerely Mary Fitzpatrick

Sent by mary fitzpatrick | 4:20 PM | 12-4-2007

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