Five Tips After Five Years: The First Week of Chemotherapy

Five Tips After Five Years: The First Week of Chemotherapy

Chemotherapy

Five years ago this week, I started my medical battle against advanced stage testicular cancer. Chemotherapy was a go, and I found myself in scary, unfamiliar territory. That day, my mom and dad were at the hospital with me while my wife held down the fort at home. We went through chemo education, blood work, tours, and finally, I settled into a chair at the chemo suite to take my poison. It would be the first of 28 total treatments.

Many cancer survivors and patients have found themselves in that familiar uneasy situation. No matter how much you prepare yourself, you find yourself overwhelmed, and facing incomprehensible physical and mental anguish. It seems that no amount of preparation and research can actually prepare you for what lies ahead. Scared and confused, many cancer warriors find themselves later saying that the first week is the absolute hardest.

Over the last five years, I’ve had the chance to speak to many survivors and patients, and act as a patient ambassador and mentor. I’ve learned many things from all of the people I have been in contact with, and it’s always great to be able to share my story, in the hopes that it helps someone else. This has given me time to contemplate the first week of treatment and what goes through the minds of so many.

So as I look back on five years since my first time in the chemo chair, I want to share five tips for surviving the first week of chemotherapy.

Tip #1 : Stay Hydrated

I know they hook you up to a million different saline bags, but that’s just to keep everything flowing good. Depending on what chemotherapy you are taking, some can cause metallic tastes in the mouth, and others can make you feel like you’ve just run a marathon. Besides that, the toxins in the drugs can build up quickly in your system. It’s important to keep drinking water as much as possible. Letting ice melt in your mouth, or chugging those Fiji waters.

Sports drinks like Gatorade, while they may help replace much-needed electrolytes, are not always the best for the chemo patient. They can be high in sugars, and your body’s ability to process it may be altered by your treatment. Drinks that are high in sugar are generally not a good idea with an already queasy stomach. Here is a great information source on dehydration and chemotherapy.

Tip #2 : Ask Questions

Write them down ahead of time, write them down as you think about them, write them on your hands and arms if you have to. Most importantly, just ask them. This is one thing that, if I could do it over (like I would really want to) I would do differently. I didn’t ask enough questions. It wasn’t that I didn’t have plenty of them, I just didn’t ask them.

As a patient, you are your own best advocate. Nobody can know more about how you feel and how the treatment is affecting you. You have to stick up for you. If you don’t understand a procedure, or a blood work report, or something like that, ask questions. Don’t let a nurse or doctor walk away until you understand everything you need to.

Tip #3 : Go For Comfort

My grandmother, Nana B, is a wise lady. After watching my grandfather go through his own battle with cancer, she sent me on to my first week with sweat pants, and comfortable long sleeve shirts that buttoned part way down. Everything was lightweight, and the buttons on the shirt made it easy for them to access my portacath. I quickly learned as treatment went on that the rule of treatment days was comfort.

Take changes of clothes with you. Too hot? Change into something cooler. Too chilly? Change into something warmer. Bring extra pillows and blankets. Hats for your head, comfortable shoes. You’re going through a tough medical procedure. The last thing you need is to be even more uncomfortable than you already are. The more comfy you feel, the better you will feel in general.

Tip #4 : Get Your Entertainment On

Are you a music lover? Sketcher or painter? Are you a writer? Whatever your biggest form of entertainment is, bring it with you. For me, I had a sketchbook, iPod full of music, and my computer. You could guarantee that I wasn’t bored. The days were still long, but I got to kind of control the flow of what I was doing. From playing games, to blogging, to jamming out to Skankin Pickle, I kept my favorite things close.

It’s kind of like the comfort thing. The more familiarity you have around you, the better and more comfortable you are going to feel. Do you like to knit? Knit something during treatment. Play board games? Challenge a nurse to Connect 4. I guarantee it will make your day AND theirs. Life is changing and different when you start treatment, but you don’t have to let it steal all of your fun.

Tip #5 : Keep On Moving

Physically, emotionally, and mentally. Keep on moving. Another thing I think I did wrong. I slept and laid around… A lot. While getting your rest is going to be extremely important, it’s also going to be important to keep moving as much as you can. This keeps your immune system stronger, and can drastically help prevent wasting syndrome. Walk when you can, do some light aerobics, play some pool or hold a dance in your own living room.

Mentally and emotionally, you have to keep moving too. Dwelling too much on the situation and the fears will wear you down faster than the treatment. The mental rock bottom is a hard landing zone. Keep in touch with family and friends. Hold conversations with strangers at the mall. Challenge yourself to learn a new language, or skill, or start doing brain teasers.

 

That’s what I’ve got for today. My top five tips for surviving the first week of chemotherapy. Are you a cancer survivor? Someone who is going through treatment right now? What are your best tips? Share them in the comments below!

Five Years: Looking Back on the Day that Changed My Life Forever

Five Years: Looking Back on the Day that Changed My Life Forever

Five Years

Five years ago, I had what was not even arguably the most difficult day of my life to date. September 11 of all days. We should have known just by that. For months prior to that day, I had been experiencing symptoms of something. Some swelling and discomfort. But not having insurance I just tried different things at home. Until it started getting worse. So the evening of September 10th 2012, we decided I would go up to the ER to be checked out. This is how the following day went.

8am: Wife takes my son up to drop him off at the primary school.

9am: We watch my daughter walk with her class down to head start.

9:10am: Get in the car to go to Abingdon.

9:50am: We arrive in Abingdon at the ER and check in.

10:37am: The doctor comes in to the exam room and does a physical examination. An ultrasound is ordered.

11:00am: I go to the ultrasound room. The tech does her thing and the whole time has a serious and disconcerting look on her face.

11:37am: I am ordered to have CT scan done. My wife leaves the hospital because it’s time to get my daughter from Head Start. She decides to go ahead and pick up our son as well, because we knew it was going to be a while before I would get out of there.

1:17pm: ER doc returns to my room. She sits down and asks where my wife is. “She had to go pick up the kids” I inform her.

1:19pm: After all the medical jargon is spit out she looks at me and says “Mr. Taylor, your ultrasound showed a large mass within the left testicle. The following CT confirmed multiple masses within the abdomen, the lymph nodes, and in your lungs. Mr. Taylor, I’m not on oncologist, but there is enough evidence to show it’s cancer. And it doesn’t look good. In my opinion, hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.”

That was five years ago now. Five long, tough, rocky years. So much has happened since the day that would forever change the course of my life story. Five years that went by in a flash, while at the same time seeming to have taken decades. Five years, and a whole lifetime of difference. I’ve watched myself bounce back from the toughest thing in my life. Watched my mother struggle with her own diagnosis, treatment, and life after cancer. Learned of my dad’s near brush with cancer. I watched countless online friends go through the struggles, and numerous ones that lost their lives during.

Five years have brought a world from the brink of prosperity to the brink of destruction. Lives from the bottom to the top, and from the top to rock bottom. So, what have the last five years held for me?

Back to school – In 2015 I entered a classroom for the first time in 13 years and began my journey to become a college graduate. I had dropped out of college before in 2001 and in 2002. In May of this year, with my wife and kids, mom and dad, and sister and niece in the crowd, I walked across the stage, Magna Cum Laude, and received my degree. 2 years of hard work both being a full-time dad, and a full-time student, combined with all the ins and outs of taking care of a house.

Starting over in the work force: I left my old job in 2012, just months ahead of my diagnosis. So five years had passed since the last time I had clocked in at a job. In July of this year, I began a new job, and a new path to an IT career. Landing with one of the better companies in town and have enjoyed (mostly) every moment of it. Nerves that almost had me sick to my stomach the first day have now gave way to forming friendships with those I work with, and finding my way into a new work family.

Dealing with demons: I write every now and then about mental illness and my own life living with it. It had been years since I had last acknowledged my demons. In 2014 I made the decision that to better myself and be better for those I share my life with, I would seek the help I needed to get back on track. I have no shame in the fact I take medicines daily, the fact that I off and on see a therapist. I do what I have to do for myself and my family.

The last five years have also brought around their fair share of struggles too. Not everything since February of 2013 has been completely peachy.

Outlasting the long lasting side-effects: Nobody told me how long the side-effects of treatment would last once it was over. Fatigue, stomach issues, neuropathy… It took many years to get back to my new normal and even feel like it wasn’t still something that was happening to me. Still to this day, I deal with many of the same side-effects. Of course, these things get better with time, but I can’t wait until it’s all over.

Balancing life and recovery: Life never slowed down for my cancer. The kids still had school, they needed dinner to be cooked. In the years following, there was not time for me to simply recover. They grew up, my wife worked, I had responsibilities to keep. Balancing it all was a major act of will-power and to this day remains so.

Five years can feel like a lifetime. They can feel like just yesterday. They can be the many stories of triumph and shortcoming. Five years can be the difference between where you are, and where you end up. Five years since my life changed forever. And in some ways, it is still changing my life. Except now, I get the option of how it does.

 

 

 

An Open Thank You Note to Those Who Saved My Life

An Open Thank You Note to Those Who Saved My Life

JMH Cancer Center

To those who saved my life:

How does thank you even begin to sound adequate at this point? Five years later I am on the verge of closing out one of the biggest chapters of my life. The chapter that started with Dr. Early in the Johnston Memorial Hospital emergency room saying these words to me:

Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.

I’ll never, EVER forget that day. I mean, how could I? That was the day I was told I had cancer. And not just a little cancer, a LOT of cancer. Life threatening as long as I had waited to be seen. The next few months I would walk in and out of the doors of the cancer center, the ER, and a couple of rooms and the third floor during my inpatient stays. I would fight with treatment, fight infections, and fight unwieldy IV poles that just didn’t want to roll with me as I walked.

But my fight was not mine alone. Nothing about it was just mine. It took the prayers, good vibes, and well wishes of thousands across the country. It took my family making emergency trips from Columbia, SC to Abingdon on call to help out. It took friends coming over to help out at the house. And it took you. All of you, working together, doing your jobs.

To the nurses: My God if I could bake you all a million cookies I would. Between the long shifts, the grueling pain in your feet and legs, long nights, and rude patients. You are angels and saints of the medical world. Your dedication to your jobs, to your patients, and to the world around you showed in every greeting and every lighthearted conversation we had. You deserve much more than you will ever get in return for the hard work you put in to saving lives of people like me. I owe you a lifetime of gratitude.

To the staff of the JMH Cancer Center: You know, I will have to admit, that I’ve seen much more of you than I have cared to in the last five years. But here’s the thing, you’re not just “the cancer center”. You became friends and family to us. You took on a role in a job that I’m sure has more disappointments than joys at the end of the day, and you never let it get the best of you. Your caring, compassionate nature welcomed a scared 29 year old man, and you limped through it with me. Dr Davis, you became Dr. D, the hip, awesome tie wearing oncologist who walked us through treatment and survivorship with a calm gait, and welcoming handshake. The volunteers have lifted our spirits on so many occasions, and I can’t imagine having ever been in a better place during that time in 2012.

To the imaging technicians: I wish I could remember all of your names. Sadly though, it’s not the cancer, it’s just me being terrible at remembering people’s names. I cannot imagine what it’s like to do your job. To be the ones to sit there and not make an apparent note as to what is going on during scans and x-rays. To be the first people to realize that someone’s day is about to get dramatically worse, and still treat them with a smile and a laugh. You all have become a second family as well. And I know you don’t often remember me when I come in for my regulars now, but rest assured I remember all of you.

To all the countless faces that supported me during my toughest trials: Mom, Dad, Sis, Wife, Kids, Friends, Strangers… A remarkable thing happened during those trying months. I witnessed family literally drop what they are doing to be at my side. I watched my wife, the warrior of our family, take on so many roles she was never asked to in order to keep our lives going. I saw friends willingly give up their time to be a part of my battle in whatever ways they could be. I watched people I have never met send me cards and prayers, and wishes of health and luck. I’ve searched the internet and seen the mass amount of support that complete strangers threw behind me. All of you, even if I don’t know you, need to know my deepest thanks are going out to you. Because of you, there was never a time I felt alone.

As we get ready to mark 5 years since that day in September, I want to not only think about the hard times, but think about the literal thousands of people who helped me through it. To me, you are all heroes. Whether you wore scrubs, or a stethoscope, mopped the floors of my hospital room, or came by to just hang out during my downtime, you are all what made it possible.

And I thank you.

Sincerely,

Johnny T (Cancer Free since Two Zero One Three)

I am Okay but the Memory Remains

Memory Remains

I’m okay, I promise you. I’ve had clean scans for the last 4.5 years. Yeah, there are still some long-term side effects that I deal with but otherwise, I’m okay. People ask me about my cancer experience all the time. I really don’t mind talking about it, especially if I think it will make a difference in somebody else’s life. It’s great that people I don’t see for long periods of time ask me if I’m still good. It shows they care. I’m really okay now. What still hurts, is simply this: The memory remains.

As time has gone by, the physical demands of surviving cancer have diminished greatly. Nausea isn’t as big of a problem as it used to be, neuropathy really only strikes when it’s cold or I’m over working my body. The fatigue I used to feel has gotten much better. But the memories of the experience linger, and they feel like it was simply a few hours ago. The sights, the sounds, the smells, the feelings. All of it lingering behind like a bad tattoo sleeve that you can’t cover up.

That bench over there out in front of the main building? That’s where I was the only time I heard my father drop an F bomb, right after I did, discussing the discovery of something in my brain. That computer out there in the hallway? That’s where I first really saw what the doctors saw in the scans, and it shook me to my core. Room 3204? I can still show you where I hung up the felt Christmas trees my kids made me while I was inpatient. I’m okay now but,

The memory remains.

I look around the lobby and never forget that I am too fucking young to have to be doing this. At 29 years old and more than 30 years younger than the majority of patients I would say good morning to, I never fit in the scenery around the chemo suite. And now, at 34, I still don’t belong. Yet, there I am, a few times a year, hoping to God that the news is still good. I don’t know that I could handle it if it wasn’t. Ad everyone there has the same thought on their mind: Why the hell did it have to be me? Damnit, why couldn’t have been someone else?

The memory remains.

If you have ever had a CT scan with the IV contrast then you know the taste of pennies you get when it starts to run. I can taste that at the mention of a CT scan. I use hand sanitizer like nobodies business. But never without being able to smell the cleaning chemicals they use once a day to mop the hospital rooms. I have learned every bit of medical coding on my hospital orders and could probably do it all myself at this point. I can find my veins faster than the nurse and pose for the x-rays quicker than they can take them. I am okay now, but

The memory remains.

I spoke with the intake lady today as I waited for them to process my insurance for my x-rays and blood work. She is currently two years cancer free. She shares the same sentiment. We will never be quite the same again. While life will go on, and continue, there will always be a little bit of what if. What if I go to the doctor and they tell me something is wrong again? What if I end up with a secondary cancer due to my previous treatment? What if, what if, what if.

That is the biggest part of the remaining memory. It’s the part of us that will always remain under the watchful eye. It is part of us that will stay forever in the shadows of what could be, and what has been. The constant in our new-found lives after cancer. Long after the follow ups stop. Long after the sights and smells have vanished. This will be what remains.

For those that have been there or are there now, it is a common bond that we all share. Every one of use has different memories that are associated and remain. We all went through different experiences on our paths to being survivors. But we are all linked through one common thought.

The memory remains.

Surviving Cancer: Six Things They Don’t Tell You

Surviving Cancer: Six Things They Don’t Tell You

Surviving Cancer

I became a cancer survivor at the age of 30, just weeks after my birthday. Months before, I was diagnosed with late stage testicular cancer. The months in between the diagnosis and the good bill of health seem like such a blur now. Yet, I remember each and every day like it just happened. It was a tough road to walk that I was forced to travel. Still, the odds ended up in my favor, and here I am today, almost five years cancer free.

When I first received the news of “no evidence of disease” I was elated. That was it. The pinnacle of my life had already been reached. Surely, nothing that came after this would even hold a candle. I have been right on part of that. I have not faced anything as hard since then. But I also haven’t had the rainbows, easy days, enjoyment of life’s every fine grain like I thought I would. What came after cancer was actually a bit of a shock to me.

I’ve had a variation of this post in just about every blog I have written since my cancer experience. But I know there are so many everyday who start wondering “Am I the only one?” There is a lot about surviving cancer that will take a person by surprise, and it’s not what you see talked about that often. From depression, to PTSD, to lingering physical symptoms. So today, I am listing six things that they don’t tell you about surviving cancer.

Your Feelings are not Irrational – They Are Okay

There is this misconception when it comes to surviving cancer that immediately after it’s over, things become all rainbows and triumphs of human skill. The fact is, depression is something that affects 15%-25% of all cancer patients. This often extends beyond the battle and treatment. Other common mental disorders in cancer survivors include PTSD, generalized and social anxiety, and anger disorders.

Feelings of anxiety, sadness, anger, and even guilt are common in the cancer survivor. And that’s perfectly okay. During treatment, it is hard to focus on dealing with so many emotions. That often comes after the fight is over. Know that it is completely normal. Also know when it is time to seek professional help. There is no shame in it. Don’t let others control your emotions for you. Things will get better in time.

 

Physical Symptoms Can Long Outlast Treatment

This has been one of the toughest things for me personally. I expected to have side-effects for the first couple of weeks after ending chemo. I did not expect them to last years later. However, it is common to experience physical symptoms from the treatment, surgeries, radiation, and the damage the cancer does to your body. Some of the most common, long-lasting symptoms include nausea, fatigue, and neuropathy.

This is something that was not really talked about by my oncologist or the nurses there. The more I’ve talked to other cancer survivors, the more I realize I’m not alone in that. While you probably will feel much better once treatment ends, do not be caught off guard by long-term symptoms. Pay attention to your body, note the changes, and consult your doctor anytime you think something is not right.

The Magic of Surviving Doesn’t Happen Immediately

Often when we read about cancer survivor’s it’s about the awesome things they go on to do. Run marathons, climb mountains, start their own businesses, and so on. Which is great stuff. It’s awesome to see what people can do with their lives after cancer. But don’t expect it to be a sudden thing. We generally tend to think that when the experience is over, ALL of that experience is over.

That’s not the case however. Cancer doesn’t just end when treatment ends. The fight can continue long afterwards. A lot of cancer survivors find themselves in a hole after treatment. I felt like I must be doing life wrong because all this great stuff didn’t happen immediately. It’s not to say that great stuff won’t happen. It will, in due time. Treasure your survivorship, but always be prepared to fight, even after treatment has ended.

Survivor’s Guilt is a Real Tough Enemy

“Why me?” A constant question asked by cancer patients. Why did it have to be me diagnosed? Why does my family have to go through this? A very normal part of the process of going through cancer is questioning everything. Because it doesn’t make sense. It never will make sense. Another thing that’s hard to make sense of is why you survived when others didn’t. Survivor’s guilt is a feeling of guilt you get because you are a survivor when others aren’t. And it’s a real mental enemy to have to battle.

It’s a tough to explain emotion to those who do not experience it. But it’s also an important emotion to be able to work out. Survivor’s guilt can eat at you until you find yourself at rock bottom mentally. Survivor’s guilt also contributes to other mental disorders commonly experienced by cancer survivors. Having a strong support network of other survivors is an important part of being able to handle survivor’s guilt when it comes. We’ll never have all the answers, but we can have all the support we need.

Friendships that Faded Will Not be the Same

The toughest lesson I learned from my experience with cancer was this:

“At a time when my life was at a standstill, everyone else was still moving forward. I could not expect them to stay behind and wait for me.”

When first diagnosed, I had a lot of friends that came by, offered support, brought food, and handled the kids so I could rest. But as things went on, the amount of people coming by slowly dwindled. And that was a hard thing for me to come to grips with. I’m sure there are many survivors reading this today that have experienced similar things. Once the experience is over, we happily wish that everything will go back to normal.

This is where things get complicated. Often times, we change when going through cancer. We aren’t the same person afterwords, and rightfully so. But other people change too. Sometimes, the friendships that went by the wayside stay that way. I have had friends tell me they just didn’t know what to expect or how things would go, and so they distanced themselves. I have no anger towards them for that. New friendships will come, and old ones will be remembered. Things change, and I must change with it.

Mortality is the New ‘Not Paying Rent On Time’

When we get older, into adulthood especially, our fears tend to change. They go from fear of death, fear of getting lost, and fear of falling off the bike, to fear of not paying the bills on time, car crashes, debt, etc. As a cancer survivor, one of the worst fears becomes our new found grasp on our mortality. Any brush with cancer is a brush with death. And with that, comes all kinds of new fears.

Staring your mortality in the face is not an easy challenge. And what’s it is over, you find yourself with a renewed fear. The “What if” questions that plague your mind now far outweigh your worrying about bills and debt. The realization of mortality and limited time become the new way of life. This is an important time to have a strong support network, to have great relationships with your doctors, and to really learn what makes a life count.

Do you agree with the six things on this list? If you are a cancer survivor, what is something that you wish you had known ahead of time? Drop your thoughts in the comments below!

Living Under the Shadow of Cancer

Cancer

Cancer. The bastard disease of humankind that kills without hesitation, without prejudice. It is one of the most dreaded words in the medical world, especially if you are a patient. Cancer will turn a world upside down, backwards, and inside out. And more than likely, cancer will be what kills me in the end. That’s a depressing thought to have I know. It’s one of those things that is just ingrained in my mind, and something that contributes to daily anxiety. Let me break it down for you.

My Cancer Story

It was in the fall of 2012; September 11 to be exact. I was in the emergency room at a local hospital. Having been poked and prodded, run for an ultrasound and through a CT machine, I already knew that I wouldn’t be leaving that day. The ER doctor comes in and delivers the line that would rip my world apart. “Hope for the best, but prepare for the worst.” It was cancer. Testicular cancer that had gone undetected. It spread from my groin to my abdomen, and on up through my chest and lungs. It was bad. Really bad.

In the months that would follow, I would undergo 3 surgeries, and 4 months of chemotherapy. Hospital stays became so common I carried a “just in case” bag with me to the doctor and any trip to the ER I had to make. Blood clots, high fevers, a blood transfusion, all became a part of my life. In February of 2013 I would receive the best news of my life: I had made it. I survived. My cancer was in remission.

Cancer: A Family Disease

I would not be the first one in my family to have to experience cancer, and I wouldn’t be the last. My great-grandfather was diagnosed with throat cancer when I was younger. My grandfather was diagnosed with prostate cancer when I was 24 and passed away in 2008. My mother was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2015, and my father had a brush with thyroid cancer just last year. This doesn’t include all of the other extended family I know that fought with cancer too.

Call it a series of unfortunate events, but my family has become really good at preparing for and fighting cancer. It has become a part of every day discussion and worry. Cancer has found a way to be the one thing I fear more than clowns, and that is pretty serious. It’s not a fun commonality to have with your family members. It’s better to have the same like in music, or politics.

In The Shadow

If you read up on cancer recurrence, how family history contributes to your chances of getting cancer, and how a personal history automatically raises your chances of getting cancer again, it’s not hard to do the math. Statistically, I am more likely to die from cancer than anything else as far as medical conditions go. This is knowledge I live with and I don’t think there is a day that goes by that some part of that thought enters my mind.

I am almost five years out from treatment now. I go twice a year for checkup scans and it never gets any less stressful. We in the cancer community call it “scanxiety”. It’s a special kind of anxiety that just grips you when it’s time for follow-up scans and appointments. I nervously pace around the house in the days between my scans and my appointment. Every scenario that starts with the phrase “What if” is analyzed and response planned to a needle point.

Ask anyone you know who has survived cancer, and they will likely tell you the same thing. There is a shadow that you live under after cancer. One that seems a little darker than the other shadows of life. The cancer shadow does not fade with the light in life, and it loves to wrap its arms around you when you are the most vulnerable.

Staying Ahead of the Shadow

This is where life really gets interesting. When you consciously make a choice to stay ahead of cancer’s shadow, good things happen. It took me a long time to reach that point. For two years after it was over, I let my experience with cancer define me. I let physical leftovers turn into mental stumbling blocks, and truly wondered sometimes if it would ever get better. The change didn’t happen immediately, but it didn’t start until I made the decision to start it.

The realization that cancer was a part of my past and not my current state was a huge one. I realized that, while I still may deal with the after effects, I can be more than the experience made me. It was at this point in my life that I decided, you know what? I’m going back to college. I set a goal of achieving a degree and finishing out with a stellar GPA. Once I put my mind to it, the rest wrote itself.

I am now a college graduate. I earned my degree while taking care of my kids and the house. I hit my goal of a 3.5 GPA and I even made it out with a few honor society graduation cords. I let the cancer experience be the springboard that sent me forwards, instead of the roadblock that held me back. Everything I have done since starting school, has been done because I decided to let the shadow stay behind me.

That’s life under the shadow of cancer. For some, it’s a dark place that makes you want to hide under every tree, rock, and cave. For others, it becomes the platform on which life slowly starts to get better and things move forward because life has new meaning. I have been in both camps. The shadow of cancer continues to follow me, but it can stay behind me throughout this journey. I have places to go and things to be.