Chemotherapy and radiation were certainly no fun, although they were critical for my survival. When I initially received my stage four diagnosis, I immediately asked my ENT, about surgery, chemo and radiation. He told me that with surgery and radiation alone, my chances for survival were approximately 85%. When I asked about adding chemo, he told me that would increase my chances for a positive outcome by an additional 5-7%. To me it was a no brainer. I thought of my kids, who at that time were twelve (boy/girl twins) and nine (son). Would I expect them to study harder for a math test in order to receive an A or 90-92%, as compared to simply receiving a B or 85%? Absolutely, I would. I had to choose the most aggressive plan of treatment to insure my greatest chance for survival. I saw no other option, as this pertained to my health and my decisions would impact my wife and kids for years to come. In my mind, based on the facts that I had gathered, the only choice was chemo, radiation and surgery, anything else would have been irresponsible.
My first radiation treatment began on Wednesday, June 24, 2014. My first chemo appointment was the following day. Quite honestly, after those first appointments, I thought, this wasn't that bad, although realized that I was going through mental gymnastics more than anything. I had no idea what I would endure.
Here are a few pictures from my treatments:
When I stated in the title of this blog, Separating Mind from Body, what I became quite good at was going through the treatments with a positive attitude, not allowing myself to focus on the scariness of the word Cancer. I would lie there during each radiation treatment and listen to music on my iPhone. By doing this, I could focus on music, remain as calm as possible, and understand how much time was left. I knew when I got to a certain song, it was almost over. It completely took my mind away from the fact that my head was clipped down to a table, and that I was battling cancer.
On a similar note, I tried to make the process of chemo as pleasant as possible. Remember, one day a week, I arrived for radiation around 8am, and began chemo close to 8:45am. Chemo ended around 4pm. It made for a long day, so scheduling times all day for family and friends to visit was critical to remaining positIve and upbeat. In fact, I sent Outlook meeting requests to family and friends so people would remember their appointment times. As well, I gave the front desk where I had chemo a list of my visitors, so they could greet them. Everyone I dealt with embraced my desire to make treatment a more pleasant and less lonely experience.
Lastly, to get through the seven weeks of treatment, I created a cancer calendar. While it may sound depressing, it actually motivated me, as I crossed through each treatment and used it to count down to my last treatment. I looked for fun cancer type calendars and ways to handle the process, although after lots of internet searches found nothing. That is what motivated me to create my own.
Here is what my calendar looked like. It was basically a timeline of my experience.
August 11, 2014 - On of the happiest days of my life - I had crossed the finish line!
Here is the take away: Your body can handle the treatment, as along as your mind remains strong and positive. I would not suggest spending too much time online researching your cancer, nor what could go wrong. I would focus on what life will be like after cancer, and what you want to accomplish as your feel healthy and better. My saving grace was that I found doctors I trusted, and who cared about me. I also leaned on my family and friends to help me get through the fight. We spoke often and I saw them weekly and many times daily.
Please reach out anytime. I am here to answer your questions, and share my thoughts based on my experience.
You can do this!