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.
Johnny T (Cancer Free since Two Zero One Three)