How I Survived Cancer for 20 Years

 

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The other day, I received this email from a nice young lady, named Holly:

“You know what I would love to see you write about? Surviving cancer for 20 years. Now, my husband and I are weird health nut people, so I could be off base, but I think there’s a niche of people who would LOVE this. When I look at your site, that’s what I’m looking for. I want to know what you’re doing, what you’re eating, etc. Again, crazy health nut opinion, so take it with a grain of salt. You know what’s right for you.”

I am very thankful to Holly for her input because it helps me to not just “shoot in the dark,” but to be clear in providing answers that my readers can use. The issue is not “What is right for me,” as she stated, but what is right for you, my Dear Readers.

With my purpose being to serve the segment of the blog reading public that appreciates and profits from what I have to offer, I try to be responsive to my readers’ desires, input, comments and suggestions.

I responded to Holly directly by email. I told her I would write a post about this, so, here it is, brought to you by public demand!

A Little Background

In March, 1997 I was diagnosed with Acute Myelogenous Leukemia. I was instantly admitted to the hospital and the first of three one week courses of chemotherapy were started. The scheduled routine was one week of receiving the chemo, and 3 weeks off, for a total of three courses, over a 12 week period.

On the seventh day, unbeknownst to me, I had a seizure which was caused by bleeding in my brain (People having a seizure are completely unaware of it). About 2 weeks later I woke up in Intensive Care and was told that I had had the seizure, brain surgery to fix the bleeding, as well as liver failure, kidney failure and pneumonia. They also told me that my cancer was in remission.

Those life threatening complications caused the doctor to stop my chemotherapy. They nursed me through many ups and downs, but back to what I would call decent condition. I was discharged from the hospital in May, 1997.

When I went home, I was barely able to scrape by, living by myself and it was obvious that my working career had ended…at the young age of 50. I’ll cover the financial and other effects of cancer in future posts. I was 50 years old, and felt the same as men in their 80’s described, as I talked with them. The hard part was that my mind was ambitious, but my body just wouldn’t support the thoughts.

Finally, I learned to trick my mind by telling myself that my job now was to invest in myself, by nurturing myself back to health. It worked, and I no longer felt guilty about taking 4 naps a day and only exercising for 15 minutes; exercise as in walking once around the block. This was a big downturn for a very energetic, physically active person.

the question i never asked

Usually, when someone is diagnosed with cancer, they ask the doctor “How long do you think I have to live?”

While I fully realized that I was likely to die soon, I never asked that question. I recognized my demise as a possibility, but I did not entertain that thought. I focused on getting well and getting back to work. (I finally made it. Now, nearly 20 years later, I am back at work, in my new business of helping people gain more confidence to lead others and change their worlds also. As I write this, I am fighting bladder cancer, but this time I am using different treatments, but the results are not as fast).

In all fairness, I should point out that death didn’t scare me then, and it doesn’t scare me now, and it’s not because I am especially smart. It is because I KNOW that when I do die, that my body will go to the dust of the earth, and that my soul will go to heaven to be with Jesus Christ, who saved me from the condemnation that I would experience, if left to my own devices.

If that seems strange, or even spooky, to you, and you would like to know more, I suggest that you check out the services and archived Bible studies at Shorewood Bible Church. Their services are televised on the internet. They provide the simplest, clearest explanation of the good news of the saving grace of God that I have ever heard.

Summary of what I was doing at this point

During this time from early May, 1997 until July 4, 1997 I was eating the usual foods from the grocery store to nourish my body (that’s all I knew), I was resting a lot…I mean really a lot, and exercising a little beyond my comfort zone, which wasn’t very much. My exercise was mostly walking, leaning on a cane, starting with just a few steps, and increasing a little almost every day.

getting independent on independence day

On July 4, 1997, I boarded a plane for the Philippines. I had a mission to accomplish.

Before cancer so abruptly entered my life, and being determined not to let it take my life, either partially, or completely (I believe in living, not just existing), I continued with a plan I had been making for sometime.

I had a pen-pal in the Philippines. A woman. Through the great distance, she and I had agreed that we would love each other for life, and if, upon meeting in person, disappointment didn’t set in, we would marry.

During my time in the hospital, I had lost touch with her, but when I regained conscientiousness, with the help of a nurse, I called her on the phone and broke the news to her about my condition.

I told her that since we had not finalized our commitment that she would be wise to forget me, because I didn’t know if I would be able to be a good husband. She replied, “No, Sweetheart, I will stick on you.” WOW! I was more determined than ever to not let cancer stop me. This picture of me was taken shortly before my departure to the Philippines.

cropped 6-97 post treatment
Thirty-six hours after my departure, she and her cousin met me at the airport in Davao City, Philippines. I had a 21 day visa, but had promised
my doctor to be back in 12

We visited, made our decision and were soon married. After 9 days, I left the Philippines and returned to the U.S. to see my doctor and submit the paperwork to apply for my wife’s visa. My doctor visit bore good results, but I was really more interested in the visa!

never stop a good adventure before its time

After getting my Sweetheart’s visa applied for, and after resting up for about six weeks, I returned to the Philippines and lived there,
with her, amidst her family for a year and a half, until we finally got her visa approved. I just found a doctor over there to monitor my condition. At
the time of this writing, we have been happily married for 18 years and 11 months. This picture was taken a few days ago.

B&G 6-5-16 - Croppedconclusion

There is a lot more to this experience, but, out of respect for your time, I will save the thickening of the plot for next week’s post.

In conclusion, I think that the single most important factor in my survival was my thinking. I didn’t allow myself to feel like a victim; I thought of myself as a conqueror. I kept my mind on the future. I had my sweetheart to live for. I knew that my life was (and is) in God’s hands; that I would live or die by his sovereign decision, but I “made my request (for survival) known to him.”

As I laid in that hospital bed, I visualized the door of death as (figuratively) being in the upper left hand corner of the room and I knew that it may open to receive me at any time. I focused on the future, without denying the possibility of death.

When a nurse rolled me out of that hospital to a car with a bunch of friends to go home, I proclaimed victory!

Why I think victory was centered in my thinking:

  1. I was just living my life with the idea that cancer happens to other people, not me
  2. Cancer came suddenly, with no warning. It was a real shock
  3. I did the only thing I knew to do; I went to the doctor and did what he said, using my health insurance. I submitted to the usual treatment, which I now know commonly has the side effects of liver failure, kidney failure and pneumonia. According to the 9 part documentary The Truth About Cancer, most cancer patients die of the treatment, rather than the cancer (many, if not most cancers will kill, however, if not treated either traditionally or alternatively).
  4. There were no changes to my diet, either in the hospital, or after my discharge. In the Philippines I ate in nice restaurants, in bamboo huts and from sidewalk vendors. The doctors gave me no dietary restrictions. I know better now and, later in my recovery I did make changes to my diet, which I will cover in the next post.
  5. As I have studied how the human brain works and what makes people “tick,” I have learned that the brain is powerful, far beyond my knowledge in my earlier life.
  6. The bottom line is: You will go where you look, and you will usually get what you expect.

Please don’t skip the comments below. Any experiences you may have had, combined with mine may be information that helps someone who has urgent need and is reading this

Question: Have you been touched by cancer? If so, what did you do and what were your results?

Thanks again to Holly for her help. By the way, she has a great website about not waiting for retirement to start really living, called  Kairosive.net.

If you would like to contact me privately about this post, please use the form below.

 

 

4 thoughts on “How I Survived Cancer for 20 Years”

  1. First, thank you for the mention, Bob. It’s greatly appreciated.

    This is one of the best blog posts I’ve read in a LONG time. Such a wonderful and inspiring story. I’m looking forward to the next one already.

    I love that you never asked how long you have to live. I think that’s such a natural response for people, but like you mention later, you get what you expect. I don’t think it’s strange to not fear death, I think it’s wonderful. Death doesn’t scare me either. I’ve lived a full life and I know that the next phase will be even better. I look forward to a long and rewarding life here, but death is not a fear.

    I admire that you took action and created your own independence. I love the – just go for it – attitude. The mind is so powerful, as are our words. We must be very careful because we get what we expect.

    Thank you for sharing your story. It was a delight to read.

    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment, Holly.

      It’s good to hear that death doesn’t scare you, either. Like you, I want to live long and active, but when the end does come, it will be glorious for me but hard for my loved ones.

      Thank you for pointing out about the importance of our words, as well as our thoughts. That’s important because, as I have recently learned, our cells communicate and read our thoughts and hear our words. I first learned that from Albert Carter in his YouTube video Th Cancer Answer.

        1. Yes, Holly, I found that fascinating. In studies I have done since I watched the video, I have also found several doctors and scientists make the same statement.

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