The New Triumphs

Five years ago, I was in the Iraqi desert, an embedded journalist with the 3rd Infantry Division. None of us could have imagined back then that the war would go on for so many years, and that the costs would be so high.

That experience tested and challenged me.

Five years later, I'm in physical therapy. Standing for a few minutes without holding on to anything, getting up from a chair without help ... these are new triumphs. How things have changed.

Trying to cope with my cancer is the hardest thing I've ever done. Harder than any war. The toll on my body has been substantial, greater than any hardship I've endured.

And like those other major experiences, it has taught me things. I've learned more about who I am, more about strength and courage, more about life.

My career prepared me for that war, five years ago. I don't think anything can prepare you for cancer.

I look back on the war now and think how easy it was for me. These last couple of years? They've been tough.

But all these experiences have made me who I am. And for that, surprisingly enough, I'm grateful.

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No one ever thanks journalists for the costs they pay to cover wars.

Thank you, Leroy, for the risks you took and the compromises you made to your family to cover the wars for the rest of us. (I was living abroad at the time, so I never saw you on TV, but strangely enough I could get NPR thanks to a NATO station's radio station).

Thank you, Leroy, for the personal risks you take by laying it all on the line here. Your very intimate blog. Being so open about your condition, sharing your pain, even having Laurie share your pain for your when you couldn't, that is a very special thing.

Thank you for your bravery. We appreciate it.

Sent by Liz L. | 7:50 AM | 3-21-2008

We are grateful and blessed to have you in our lives. I reflect on your strength while going through scans, calls and more tests. It helps so much. Happy Spring.
With care.

Sent by anne lumberger | 8:22 AM | 3-21-2008

Good Morning Leroy! What a happy morning for me to discover your message. I had thought that you would be taking the week end off.
I am so interested in why you say that fighting cancer is far worse than the war experiences. Is the difference because you felt healthy, in your prime, and most of all,-in control? How could that be when with each of these instances, you are still staring death in the face and have no control over it? In fact, now you can make decisions which determine what might make a difference, while five years ago, you had no control over what the enemy would do or where you would be sent? I believe that I am missing some deeper meaning in your message. Your comparisons intrest me and it is amazing how you compare these two phases in your life. Obviously, the war and your Journalism had a profound effect in shaping thoughts about life and how you are dealing with cancer.
You make me realize just how each event in my own life through the years has affected my attitude today.
Oh Leroy, it sounds like you have reached yet another fork in that path.
We are all "bringing up the rear"!
A quiet, peaceful Easter to you and Laurie.

Sent by J C R | 8:24 AM | 3-21-2008

At one time or another, we've all wondered how we'd respond if we were really tested. Now you know,Leroy!!

Your courage is inspiring. Your daily blogs bring us Hope.

You have not only passed the test but you are also now our teacher and mentor! Grace under fire. Cancer's onslaught seems unwavering but you meet each challenge at the breech and continue to stand strong in spite of the odds. I'm proud to be a part of your band of cancer fighters!

Blessings and prayers for you and Laurie.

Sent by Al Cato | 8:27 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy, I've noticed that people who read your blog encourage you to publish a book from this writing. I can see their point. However, your biggest gift to me as I accompany my husband on his cancer journey is the fact that you show up in Real Time, Monday through Friday, with a column that is lucid, often funny, humane and brave enough to describe for us your moments of pain and fear. You broaden my life these days and help me live in the day I've got. I am grateful, too, Leroy, that you have had the strength and generosity to graft the experiences cancer has brought you onto your hard-won craftsmanship as a journalist. Thank you.

Sent by Ceese Stickles | 8:29 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy,
Thank you for this post. It is so introspective. There are certainly life experiences I have had where I thought "nothing can be harder than this." But then something else pops up...and you look back on what you've been through, what you've learned about yourself, and you are grateful. Because with each experience, you grow stronger, and you become a different version of yourself. A fuller version of yourself.
It's true, nothing can prepare you for most of what life offers...but it's the living through these things and learning from them that makes it all come full circle.

Sent by Kathleen, NJ | 8:40 AM | 3-21-2008

I think it is impossible for healthy people to realize just what the cancer survivor lives with every day. How many recurrences can we have before there are no more (I'm on my third recurrence). Taking medication for Stage IV cancer (what's Stage V? Death?)sometimes makes me stop and think about the time I have left. I went back to work last July after 8 months and I'm happy to be here. My family doesn't think I should work but it is my therapy. You probably will never realize the good you do everytime you write your daily blog. It keeps me uplifted even though I feel your pain I know that there are many of us out there and we give each other strength that others can't. Be well and be strong. Our prayers are with you as always.

Thank you, thank you, thank you.

Sent by Linda | 8:44 AM | 3-21-2008

Amen.

Sent by Susan | 8:45 AM | 3-21-2008

Your last two sentences are the very key to this life's journey I think.

Bravo!

Sent by Lori | 8:46 AM | 3-21-2008

i'm greatful too.

Sent by travis | 8:48 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy - Accepting all experiences in life: I call it "weaving it into the quilt of my life."

I hope you have a lovely Easter/Purim and will be even stronger in your next blog!

Sent by Tina Lewis | 8:49 AM | 3-21-2008

A few years ago, I was having some pretty serious family problems. Around that time I was having a conversation with a friend and I remember telling her how fortunate I felt that I had never had any real problems, no real tragedies in my life. My friend reminded me about my family troubles. And still, I felt, life is good, I have nothing to complain about. I now have stage IV lung cancer. I guess this is my life's trial. You know what? I still feel good (most of the time), I still think I have nothing to complain about. When I read your story today Leroy, you reminded me of how blessed I really am.
That same friend has a saying , "Most people don't have real problems, just invconveniences". She says cancer is a real problem. I suppose she is right, but damn this cancer is inconvenient.

Sent by Theresa Lovin | 9:08 AM | 3-21-2008

Yep, cancer is the battle of all battles. No one can explain to you how awful it is unless you experience it first hand yourself or as a caregiver. To watch a disease ravage a loved ones body (sometimes without much tell tale signs on the outside) is devastating.

I think that is why we all keep reading your blog Leroy. You make us feel less isolated and your determination is very inspiring.

Thank you and God bless you.

Judy

Sent by Judy Voller | 9:10 AM | 3-21-2008

We're grateful, too, Leroy, for who you are ... and we appreciate you sharing your journey with us. God bless you.

Sent by Dianne in Nevada | 9:17 AM | 3-21-2008

Good Morning, Leroy and all. Today is an absolutely beautiful day in southern PA. A few months ago, I had to wait two months for a repeat of a dubious brain scan. For those two months, I thought about what it would mean if that second scan was significant. I feared how that would change me from who I am to some other person. It took me those two months to realize who I am is who I am, bad experiences and all. You said it so much more clearly. I AM grateful.

Sent by glenda | 9:17 AM | 3-21-2008

A couple of years ago, I had a small skin cancer removed. It was nothing like what you are going through, but I remember sitting in my rocking chair with my one year old daughter falling asleep in my lap, and the fear of mortality rising up in me.

Now my five year old is going to the dermatologist to have something looked at. It is most probably nothing, but the old fears have come back magnified, because it is not me, but my daughter. There is nothing to do but sit, wait, pray, and love.

Sent by Sokol | 9:19 AM | 3-21-2008

Ah Leroy,
Your attitude amazes me. Daily I look for something to be learned from my husbands cancer but after almost 4 years I still can't say I've learned anything except how the medical system works! I admire your ability to express yourself to the world everyday and rarely is it anything but positive. You and so many others have amazing strength.But you're right...nothing prepares one for cancer.

Sent by kathie | 9:20 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy, Laurie and all, Happy Easter! This time of year is always so awesome for me. Rebirth, the grass is getting green, the birds are singing, the crocus are blooming... I hope all of you find beauty in every tomorrow! Have a great weekend!

Sent by Laurie Hirth | 9:24 AM | 3-21-2008

Well said.

Have a great and restful week-end.

Peggy

Sent by Peggy | 9:27 AM | 3-21-2008

i get this. thanks to cancer, i can teach my son a few things about being brave. i know i'm stronger than i thought and tough if i have to be. i wouldnt have known this about myself, if i hadnt gotten cancer.

Sent by jean | 9:31 AM | 3-21-2008

Let me assure you, Leroy, those of us who know you personally and those of us who know you only through this blog are all grateful for who you are, too. Each of us is the sum of his or her past; making the most of that unique past is essential to creating the best future for each of us.

Sent by Joe Robertson | 9:33 AM | 3-21-2008

Thank you for reminding me that we never know what will be waiting for us around the bend and that strength and courage are present in us in ways we could never imagined-Beverly

Sent by Beverly Kaufman | 9:34 AM | 3-21-2008

Dear Leroy,
I am grateful for who you are, too! I am sorry you have paid such a price for it. Wishing you and Laurie a Blessed Easter. You are in my prayers.
Charlotte in Rural Ridge, PA

Sent by Charlotte Kewish | 9:41 AM | 3-21-2008

I am awed by you. Each step back you take, you take two steps forward in your committment to appreciate life and see the bright side of things. At this point, after almost 2 years of continuous chemotherapy, I have to say I am happy. The cancer has taken me on a path to live more intentionally and appreciate the world around me. I hope when this cancer takes me to a more 'challenging' level, that I remain optimistic and grateful, like you.

Sent by elm | 9:46 AM | 3-21-2008

As a 2 time cancer survivor and a survivor of Huriicane Katrina, all within a 3 year period, peple tell me how stong I am. I don't think I am strong, I think that the survival instinct is stong. Afterall, whay choice do we have but to suck it up and move on. I live 1 mile from the beach in Waveland Mississippi. Our town was ground zero for Katrina, Everyone lost EVERYTHING...this little town is strong, we are fighting to come back...just like you, Leroy, me and all the others here...we will stand and fight until something changes or somebody wins. FIGHT ON MY BROTHER, the world needs you.

Sent by liz Zimmerman | 9:50 AM | 3-21-2008

Dear Leroy,
You are an inspiration to us all. As always, prayers to you Laurie and this wonderful blog family.

Sent by Sasha | 10:09 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy and Laurie, Happy Easter. I look forward to your blog each day and always am inspired by your stregth and courage. I haven't written lately as I broke my hip in Fla. in early Jan. while on vacation. I just returned home to Syracuse, N.Y. I could so identify with your Rehab stories, the first step, getting up out of the chair, etc. It was a long haul but I am so appreciative of the wonderful people who helped me in the Morton Plant Rehab. I am now home alone with lots of friends and family carting me around. I feel great but can't drive and still on the walker. I'm enjoying my grandchildren this holiday weekend, they are good about picking up after me. I hope you can enjoy this holiday, eat some good food and be comfortable. I read most of your responses each day. What a wonderful group of people who write in so often. Thank you again, I loved Laurie's blogs. You both have such a talent for writng and it is most appreciated.

Sent by CHaber | 10:11 AM | 3-21-2008

Hey Leroy, I'm going to hijack your blog here and write to Sasha. She said yesterday that she's just having a damned hard time right now, in the midst of serious depression. Honey, you don't have to suffer through your husband's illness alone. YOU are in the throes of something terrible just as surely as he is, and you have the right to some professional assistance as well.

Your husband's oncologist might be able to recommend a therapist of some kind to you, or your own family doctor can do that. You can always call the crisis lines available in your area (and yes, when you feel *that* badly, it's a crisis). If you belong to a church/temple, the leader could offer you some solace. A cancer support group can be surprisingly soothing.

Don't just "try to be strong". Get the help *you* need first, so you can give your husband the help he needs. This is like the airplane spiel: put your own oxygen mask on first, and then help the person next to you.

Really really really...caregiving is NOT an intuitive or easy task. It is hard work, physically and emotionally and spiritually draining, even devastating, and like so much of this illness, it doesn't come with a how-to.

Let us know what you're doing for yourself, okay?

Peace
jj

Sent by Joan Jones | 10:36 AM | 3-21-2008

Your thoughts certainly apply to the millions of us trying to survive our own war called cancer. Let's also remember all the many young men and women trying to rebuild their lives after devastating physical and mental injuries. Most importantly, we must never forget those who died for us. May they be at peace and may their families somehow find comfort.

Sent by Shaun | 10:53 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy,

All of us prefer pleasure to pain, but I'm with you about pain being the only thing that tests and teaches us. You have done the learning so very gracefully.

Sent by Diana Kitch | 10:55 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy, your juxtaposition of the war and your present theatre of operations made me wonder if you ever feel a greater sympatigo with wounded warriors now themselves in rehab? They are legion, and are no doubt as surprised as you are at the things they are struggling hard to do these days. Life surprises in so many ways. You remain a warrior, Leroy. Both being embedded in a warzone and living the medical challenges you've come through qualify you as courageous, clear-eyed, graceful under pressure, and a great gift to us all.

Sent by Sarah | 11:31 AM | 3-21-2008

I started reading your column on the advise of a friend when my husband was diagnosed with melanoma. That was over a year ago and it has now metasticized and is in stage 4. We both now read your insights daily, worry if you miss a day and pray for you as we would a friend. Thank you for being courageous and identifying so well with the feelings of a cancer patient and being an encouragement daily as we watch you walk the walk of a cancer patient with strength. Thank you so very much. Linda

Sent by Linda | 11:50 AM | 3-21-2008

Leroy,
Thank you for sharing your story. As a journalist you are able say what others also feel, but do not know how to say. My dad's prostate cancer has returned and he is going through struggles similar to yours. Reading your post each day helps me better understand what he is going through.

Sent by Cathryn | 12:04 PM | 3-21-2008

HAPPY EASTER to everyone. Leroy and Laurie, hope you have a good and painfree weekend. Cancer has changed all of our lives, whether you are a caregiver or have it. My best friend had to do last weeks blood test over again this week and wait until the next day for results....my heart was in my throat and was actually sick while waiting for the results. The beast is hard to deal with, but can be tamed.

Sent by Teresa in WV | 1:06 PM | 3-21-2008

Yesterday and the night before were difficult times for me. Death seemed like it would be great comfort. Then I began thinking of you and your strength and determination to take then next step, fully knowing it won't be an end to pain or a cure for cancer. Thanks so much for your open letters to all of us. They help us more than you can imagine.

Sent by paula kent | 1:17 PM | 3-21-2008

Leroy, I hope you and Laurie will have a good Happy Easter weekend.

Thank you so much for helping us to look inward and be appreciative of what we have despite the trials we go through. The strengths that are built.

Sent by dorothy in oregon | 1:43 PM | 3-21-2008

Leroy, None of the experiences of life can prepare you for this battle. The disease takes things from you, small things sometimes, and larger more important things, like the ability to walk. None of us could have imagined what we are now going through. War is hell, so is cancer. Hang in there, see you Monday. Stan

Sent by Stan Wozniak | 1:56 PM | 3-21-2008

Sasha,
I hope and pray you are better -- Let us know. I am worried for you.

Sent by bettye | 2:08 PM | 3-21-2008

Dear Leroy, Laurie and All,

God Bless you All with love, comfort and healing on this beautiful spring, Holy Day.

Sent by Connie | 3:03 PM | 3-21-2008

To everyone on the blog:

Happy Purim (today) or Happy Easter (Sunday) or just have a great weekend.
Hope its peaceful, and that everyone finds healing!

Sent by Marcy in NJ | 4:12 PM | 3-21-2008

Just got home again from work..guess I'll always be the late comer now that I am back at work. Anyway wanted to say "ditto" on everything said in comments today. Sometimes the writers are as eloquent as the Blog owner :-)
Shalom to all at this Holy time for Jews and Christians alike.

Sent by Jo Ann Baswell | 6:59 PM | 3-21-2008

you are a very strong and very caring and very wise man. you have fought and are fighting with all that you have - you share so that others are no as fearful of the unknown yet they know how hellish it is. take care - have a good easter and g-d bless you. janice goldberg white

Sent by janice goldberg white | 7:48 PM | 3-21-2008

Reading your blog puts everything in perspective for me. I'm sitting at my computer after watching a gorgeous full moon rise. It's that time of year when the Mockingbird sings all night long. My husband is snoozing in the lazyboy in front of the tv. Enjoy those precious moments, Leroy and Laurie. Best to you both.

Sent by Paulette | 11:59 PM | 3-21-2008

Leroy, your daily comments remind me of your strength and focus - you are an amazing guy. Thanks for all you have done for your profession and the King family. Courtney is with us this weekend, and we all wish you a Happy Easter. Adios for now. Jim

Sent by Jim King | 12:53 AM | 3-23-2008

I certainly understand your sentiments. I am dealing with IT now and can honestly say nothing prepares one for the trials.

Sent by Mike Williams | 1:56 PM | 3-23-2008

Almost a year ago, when I was seventeen, my Dad succumbed to his cancer. He was a journalist as well, and reading your heartwarming entries reminds me of him.
He tried to keep most of his illness out of his columns, but I think its inspiring that you are willing to let so many delve so deep into your personal struggles.
Thank you for being honest and witty and brave.

Sent by Brooke | 11:01 PM | 3-23-2008

Happy Easter Leroy. You are amazing.

Sent by Jennifer in CA | 12:51 AM | 3-24-2008

And we are greatful too and learning right along with you.

Sent by Nichole | 1:17 PM | 3-24-2008

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