I cried for the first time Friday night… I’m not really sure why it happened, it may just have been the realization of how difficult this process is on everyone, including myself. It’s not all bravado, triumphs, and pats on the backs while people cheer from the sidelines. The serious moments are inescapable and frequent, no matter how focused on your goal you become, a figurative slap on the back of the head is bound to happen, jarring you suddenly off course as your mind panics and screams “Wake Up! You could die from this!” Well, Friday was sort of one of those moments. The overall tone of the meeting with my surgeon was a positive one, but the description of three possible surgery paths and their complications detailed the gravity of the situation.
Success in life is measured on such a broad scale, success in surgery is measured in millimeters and centimeters. For me and others with liver metastases the magic numbers are 1 cm and 20%. 1 cm is the margin of healthy liver surrounding the tumor that has to be removed alongside it, this margin is necessary to the success of the operation, to ensure that there are no remnants of cancer left behind. 20% is the amount of healthy liver that needs to remain for it to regenerate and me to survive, so with 8 tumors spread across my liver with a 1 centimeter margin surrounding everyone of them, some precious veins and arteries, space is a little hard to come by. I think that information was a hard enough slap to knock anybody off track. The good news that came at the end of the meeting sort of fluttered right past me, out the door, down the hall, and out the window……
The important thing with any challenge as our good pal Rocky would say: “it’s not about how hard you can hit, it’s about how hard you can get hit and keep moving forward.” Well, it’s not always easy getting that momentum back up. Despite a beautiful, fun filled walk with Amanda and the dogs by the Charles, I had trouble shaking it. Further research on the subject simply got me frustrated, fatigue slowly started to set in and then it happened… As a last ditch effort I found myself re-reading an email from another Stage IV Colon Cancer survivor out loud to Amanda when it started… tears welled up in my eyes, my chest started to heave, my voice became shaky. The further I read, the harder it became to hold back, until I couldn’t hold back any longer, I gasped for air and my body released. I cried hard, my body woven into Amanda’s arms for warmth and support, my head buried beneath her chin in attempt to hide my face. As I felt her shudder and the salty tears begin to drip down onto my head and combine with mine, I felt ashamed. My resolve had been broken, I let her down, I let my family down, I let my army down, I let myself down, I was supposed to be the strong one, the warrior!
Interestingly enough, as abruptly as it started, it left just as quickly. The bad energy pent up in my body was released like an opened flood gate and only the good remained. You will notice often times after a ferocious storm passes what follows is the most beautiful of days. Friday night was now more beautiful than ever as I felt enlightened, calmed and refocused. Miley even heightened the mood by furiously lapping up the salty tears off of our cheeks and getting us both to break out in laughter. Then I finished reading the remainder of the email out loud:
…after 5 years of finding no evidence of illness, this past February Dave Ryan shook my hand and said, “you’re cured, get out of here, call me in a year just to say hello.” TJ, if it can happen to me, it can happen to you, too. I won’t bs you, chemo sucks. I’d rather have surgery anytime (at least you’re unconscious) than go through chemo. But you’ll develop a routine, figure out your rhythms, manage your eating, working, living, and move through it. You’ll also end up hanging on every test result, every scan, some will be good, some not, but you’ll move through that, too. No one will really know what you’re going through other than you and possibly someone else who has been there before, so this is truly going to be a very personal, sometimes lonely, adventure.
So, I hope you find my story inspiring. If you’d like to talk, I’d be happy to call you anytime, just give me your phone number. Or you could just shoot me an email and let me know how you’re doing. Either way, you’re gonna be okay — and in five years you’ll be writing an email to someone who’s just been diagnosed with cancer, and say, “let me tell you my story…”The most amazing thing was I didn’t start crying because of some tragic story, I started crying because of the triumph in it. I cried because I needed to let go of my pent up fears, trust in my doctors and get my rear in gear to beat this thing. I cried because I believed again in winning, I had regained my resolve. I cried because the good news that floated out the window earlier that day finally made its way over to the south end, came in my back door, and seeped into my brain. The tumors in my body are shrinking, in fact all of the liver metastases have shrunk by 1/3 to 1/2 of their original size! As a result, a plan is set in motion to do two more cycles of chemotherapy (minus the Avastin.) If the tumors continue to shrink further, the more real-estate there is for the surgeon to work with and the less complicated the surgery becomes. And surgery is slated for about 6-8 weeks from now, the second step in my Path to a Cure grows ever closer!
Well, I am back up and moving forward with one goal in mind, shrink these tumors! No more slip ups on my diet and exercise, I will not miss a single regiment until I have kicked this disease to the curb (or petry dish, wherever they put those stupid things after they take em out.) So you better get ready Big C…..well, now I guess I can call you Medium C, but you better get ready, because I have a boatload of new tricks up my sleeve.
Much Love – Teej
p.s. Things in my daily and weekly regiment now include:
p.p.s For those in need of some anecdotal humor after a good cry. I had a nurse the other day say “Ok now change out of your clothes and leave your underwear and socks on” then she said something that escaped me as she walked out of the room. So She left, I changed, and eventually she returned with a knock on the door “Are you all set?” I say yes and she proceeds to walk into the room in shock. “I Guess you didn’t want to change into the gown” she says as I stand their in my boxer-briefs and socks. “Haha, nope I guess I’m all set. But honestly I didn’t hear you say that.” She leaves for me to finish changing.
Melissa Fabick September 18, 2011
10/10/2015 11:54:42 am
Everyone needs a good hard cry and to have someone you love hold you tight. I know every so often things (good or bad) will open the flood gates for me, but after a good hard cry, I am ready to take on the next challenge. Keep your head up high and you WILL be emailing someone in 5 years to tell your story. We love ya!
joe roller September 18, 2011
10/10/2015 11:55:08 am
Tom Mc September 18, 2011
10/10/2015 11:55:30 am
You have a very special gift TJ. I have a feeling that millions of people will be reading your first novel in a few years.
MA September 18, 2011
10/10/2015 11:55:56 am
after 18 days as an in-patient, i lost it one day.. it happens..
Dan September 19, 2011
10/10/2015 11:56:15 am
Rosetta's September 19, 2011
10/10/2015 11:56:37 am
I have to fully agree Tom… TJ I cant wait to read your novel soon too! Your story and AMAZING writing skills will be an inspiration to all!
Rosetta's September 19, 2011
10/10/2015 11:56:58 am
Our thoughts, positive energy, and prayers are with you everyday!!
Dan McGrath September 20, 2011
10/10/2015 11:57:20 am
What a terrific gift of writing you have. I was moved by your story and your ability to capture the emotion of your journey. You don’t ever let anyone down but rather lift us all up with your courage to share the inner you! Well done and great luck.
Margot Broom September 20, 2011
10/10/2015 11:57:44 am
“It’s alright to cry. Crying takes the sad out of it. Raindrops from your eyes. It might make you feel better.”
Mom September 20, 2011
10/10/2015 11:58:06 am
Tara September 20, 2011
10/10/2015 11:58:24 am
Kathy Wilson September 25, 2011
10/10/2015 11:58:43 am
Hi TJ, You brought us readers from the depths of darkness to sunshine and hope with your beautiful prose. I remember asking your dad when Dave and I met your parents for dinner last month if you cried when you got the diagnosis and he said “unbelievably, no!” Well, I’m glad you got that out of your system – now let’s get the cancer! From those of us who cry at the drop of a hat, ONWARD!
Julie Widett September 29, 2011
10/10/2015 11:59:15 am
TJ: I wish you all the best with the challenge. You are quite a remarkable young man to have started this blog, what a remarkable job you have done expressing your self. I know these thoughts are helping others in many compacities. It has made me want to be a better person and think about all the dumb things I get upset about. Keep up the good week and you are going to beat this thing. Thanks for giving of yourself in such a difficult time, your smile tells it all about what a wonderful guy you are. Best of Luck Julie Widett
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