Friday, May 20, 2016

Cancer Peacenik

I've heard the term "Cancer Warrior" a lot recently. It sounds much better than "patient." Definitely better than "victim" or "survivor." It implies that you're a fighter. I totally get that. And of course, I've recently become part of I'm proud to be one of their "warriors." I'm very pleased and excited to be part of this new platform. The trouble is, I don't feel like much of a warrior.

I've never been a fighter. I've always been more of a pacifist. If you and I have been in an argument, you might disagree with that statement, but I'm talking about actual physical fighting. I've always been skinny and non-athletic. In school, I avoided fighting, because I could never win. I was known as the kid that you could easily pick on. And I was picked on. I was bullied throughout my teenage years.

Thankfully, as an adult, I don't think I've ever been threatened with physical violence, or ever inflicted violence on another person. I don't believe I've ever struck another person in anger. In matters of war and peace, I tend to be a "peacenik," to use a term from the 1960's. Yes, I'm an aging hippie. Guilty as charged.

I seem to have the same attitude toward my cancer. As I've said before in this blog, my instinct is not to fight, but to accept. I am getting the recommended treatment for my cancer at this point, and so far, it appears to be working. So it's not like I'm doing nothing. But there is a limit to how far I'm willing to go with treatment. There's a limit to how hard I'm willing to fight.

Among the cancer patients that I know and have had contact with online, I am in the minority. Most others with cancer are fighters. That's certainly understandable, especially if you're young. The survival instinct is overpowering in most living things. Maybe mine will kick in someday. But for now, I am at peace with whatever happens.

I know people who, as soon as they were diagnosed, wanted to get the cancer out of their bodies as quickly as they could. But they were all operable. I'm not. There are treatments that my doctors tell me could "get it all," but I don't believe them. I know people who thought they had gotten all of the cancer out of their bodies, only to have it return. As aggressive as my cancer is, I doubt that it's really possible to kill all of it with conventional treatment. I've seen too many instances where that turned out not to be true. There's a limit to how much I'm willing to put myself through when there's no guarantee of success.

I know what I'm "supposed" to do with regard to treatment. I know what people want me to do. But if you want to know where my heart is, I would rather just trust God for everything, including my life. If God heals me, awesome! It means he has something for me to do. But if God chooses not to heal me, that's awesome too. I win either way.

There's also the issue of coverage, which I talked about in my post, "Profit And Loss." If I lose Medicaid at the end of this month, I won't be able to pay for treatment out of pocket. Traditional treatment will be out of reach. I'll take that as a sign.

I am hopeful about alternative treatments, and I intend to pursue one or more of those. But there's a limit there, too. I'm not going to do wholesale lifestyle change. I eat pretty healthy. My wife and I eat organic as much as we can. We live right behind a Whole Foods, and I'm there all the time. I avoid fast food and processed food. I eat very little red meat, and avoid deep fried foods. My nutritionist thinks I eat very well. So if some naturopath tells me to go on a series of cleanses, or wants me to become vegan, sorry. Not happening. Carbs are non-negotiable for me as well. My attitude is that I'm going to spend whatever time I have left on this planet eating what I like. Life's too short. Especially for me.

But I'm not set in my ways. I have made lifestyle changes. For instance, I've become very disciplined about exercise. I work out every other day, and walk my dog every day. I stand at my desk, rather than sitting. I recently watched an interview with the leading naturopathic expert on prostate cancer in the United States. He said that the number one lifestyle factor in surviving prostate cancer is frequent, vigorous exercise. I was already working out to counteract the effects of Lupron, which makes you lose muscle tone. When I heard that statistic, I committed to working out for the rest of my life. Or I should say, for as long as I can.

I've made changes to my eating patterns to keep my weight up. That's been very successful. I take supplements to fight the cancer and help me deal with side effects from treatment.

My lifestyle has already changed in fundamental ways. There's no avoiding that when you have cancer. But there's a limit to how much I'm willing to do. How much I'm willing to put myself through. I want to enjoy the time I have, however long or short that ends up being. As I've also said before, I'm about quality of life, not quantity.

I realize that if I had children and grandchildren, my attitude would probably be different. But I don't. If my music career was going full steam ahead, and I was in demand as a concert artist, maybe my I'd feel differently. But the opposite is true, and I'm fine with that. I'm actually great with it. I'm happy to be retiring from music. I never thought I'd feel that way, but cancer has completely changed my outlook.

Before I was diagnosed, I was very concerned about getting another gig to replace the worship leading position I had lost when our former church closed. But since I found out that I have cancer, I have no desire to try to get another church gig. Or any gig. I told my wife recently that, since my diagnosis, there hasn't been one time when, while sitting in the congregation at church, I wished I was up front running the show. Not once. I'm happy to just go to church and not be responsible for anything. Again, I'm at peace about it. I feel "released" from that career.

This is one reason why I think I've had so much trouble getting what remains of my music work done. When I think about my music career, I'm very happy to have had it. It's been a great blessing doing what I love for a living. But I have no desire to continue it, even if there was lots of potential work out there for me, which there isn't. I'm not that guy anymore. I'm someone different now. It's like I can feel God saying to me, "Well done. You rest now. I have something else for you to do."

I know that I should think having cancer is terrible. But for me, it's been liberating in many ways. For the first time my life, I have peace. My eyes have been opened to what's really important in life. I feel like I know exactly what I'm supposed to do. I have no idea how our financial needs will be met, but as with my health, my desire is to just trust God. If I'm trusting him, and doing what I feel he's leading me to do, I have no doubt that he'll supply our needs.

Does this make me a cancer peacenik rather than a cancer warrior? Maybe. But I guess I don't see my cancer as a war to be won, or a contest to win. I hate it when I hear someone say that a person "lost" their battle with cancer. No one exits this life as a loser. Not all warriors come home alive from the battlefield. If I don't make it back alive, I didn't lose. Actually, I will have won the greatest prize of all.

If I could give one piece of advice to the loved ones of my fellow cancer warriors, it's that if the one you love who has this disease seems at peace with their circumstances, and doesn't want to fight much, please don't think they're giving up. Acceptance is not surrender. It's realism.

So while I don't feel much like a warrior, I know who has already won the battle with death and the grave. He is not the Prince of War, nor the Prince of Fighting. He's the Prince of Peace. He may have an amazing miracle in store for me that I'm not expecting. He may have a new assignment for me that I know nothing about right now. But that's up to him. As for me, I will keep living on the joy, love, and peace that surrounds me and fills me for as long as God keeps me here.

Whether I survive the war on cancer or not, this war will be won. Maybe I'm just getting an advance preview of the peace. #waroncancer

1 comment:

  1. Oh my this is an eye opener....never thought of it this way.....thank you.