About a month ago, I attended the Life Writing workshop here in Fort Frances. The 20 of us were given 45 minutes to write a story. As a retired forester, I had several bear stories but instead wrote the following:
I am a cancer survivor and perhaps my story can provide hope to others—cancer can be beaten!
In the spring of ’98, it took me three hours to mow my lawn—ordinarily a half-hour job. My heart was okay despite an aortic heart valve prosthesis and a bypass. The problem was a low blood count.
My doctor’s comment—you’re only running at half speed. Several scope examinations revealed nothing. Iron was prescribed.
On Tuesday, March 9, 1999, I was ill all night and ended up in La Verendrye hospital emergency ward. On Thursday, March 11, our two skilled surgeons operated and removed a tumor from my small intestine—lymphoma.
On Thursday, April 8, I had my first cycle of chemo at Thunder Bay, and on Friday I received two bags of blood. Then on April 23, a Friday, I was back in Thunder Bay for more scans plus other fancy tests. All that was over by noon, and my companion and I returned to Fort Frances.
Then a funny thing happened. There was a message to pick up my companion’s son’s dog in International Falls as the son was going out of town. Passing through U.S. Customs, all hell broke loose, bells rang, and the customs officer nearly fell out of his perch.
“What have you got in your car?” “Nothing but a box of tools.” The officer still scanned his signals. “Has anybody been in the hospital?” “Yes, I had CT scans, etc.”
We all chuckled. Apparently whatever I received during the scanning process made me radio-active and set off the alarms.
Coming back through Canada Customs, nothing happened.
On May 6, we returned to Thunder Bay for cycle number two. The April 23 scan showed the presence of a 2 cm x 6 cm mass.
All subsequent cycles were in Fort Frances at four-week intervals. Even though I lost my hair, my lawn grew in rhythm with my chemo cycles. Following each chemo in the morning, I mowed my lawn in the afternoon. I was back on schedule—half an hour or so—thanks to some virile person’s blood!
After cycle no. five, we returned to Thunder Bay on Aug. 24 for CT scans, x-rays, and other tests. All clear of signs of cancer. Still, the oncologist recommended completion of the “normal” six cycles plus one other to make up for the less than full strength first one.
I completed cycle no. seven on Sept. 28.
Following the usual post chemo roller-coaster ride of one’s infection defence capabilities, and, avoidance of crowd cautions, by the end of October, my blood count was up.
As the Rev. Dr. Robert Schuler, in his Hour of Power positive messages, might say, my hurt has turned to a halo and I pray others experience the same.
Even my hair is growing back.