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Cancer Guest column What Next will be using soon

November 20, 2013

I was asked by What Next to write column What next is a wonderful internet site that is like facebook for people who have cancer or are caregivers looking for help. .https://www.whatnext.com/ I’ve posted the column I sent them:

 

 

Xmas_nurse3

I feel like every second is Christmas. Because each day is a gift and I unwrap the present every time I open my eyes!

I’ve had testicular cancer twice. The first time I was 27 and simultaneously discovered a lump on my testicle while the radio aired a PSA that said “men if you find a lump on your testicle you may have testicular cancer.” I couldn’t believe it, but I felt—hey some force is looking out for me.

The second time I was 57. I felt out of kilter, throwing up after some meals—my wife pushed me to go to a GP, Dr. David Resnick-Sannes, who sent me in for a CT scan that found a significant tumor, about four pounds, blocking my ureters.

The odd thing: no significant lump on my testicle, but later tests and a biopsy identified a tiny  lump that created a germ based tumor in my lymph nodes.

Sometimes you can’t find a lump and have testicular cancer!

Statistics say roughly five percent of men who have had testicular cancer, can get it again. If I get testicular cancer the thirds time I’ll be in the Guinness Book of World Records.

I went to the Stanford Cancer Center, which looks a lot like the Hilton, but there’s not mini-bar. My “protocol” (their term not mine) was to get a nephrostomy, catheters in my back connected to my kidneys that drained urine through tubes into “depot bags” trapped to my legs. This was to reduce the enlarge kidney so it could eventually handle the chemo.

Getting out of the shower with the tubes and bags made me feel like a human cat toy.

.After three weeks, I was put on a “regimen” (their term again) of four “cycles” of chemo: eight hours a day for five straight days, interspersed between two week breaks. After all this was done, I’d have to get the testicle removed in an orchiectomy (their term ,my testicle).

At first I felt self pity—you know, “I don’t deserve this.” But I quickly realized I had to direct my anger at the cancer not my situation. I had to be bigger than myself. After all, this wasn’t being done to me, this was a treatment I chose! I had to see everything I was going through as a path to healing.

I couldn’t cure myself, but the one weapon I had was my life, it’s spirit, and the people I loved who loved me. So used that force to do multiply and divide myself faster than the cancer inside me:

  • Purchased a surfboard I planned to ride when I got healthy.
  • Accept I was going to lose my hair, so I shaved it, knowing I was entering another world.  Hair belonged to the world of the healthy and I was entering the world of the sick.
  • I brought boxing gloves with me to show I was a fighter.
  • Instead of wearing a depressing knit cap, I wore a jazzy beret that made me look like a member of the French Resistance.
  • Took pictures of myself throughout treatment. Why? Because you take pictures to have moments to “look back on.”
  • Decorated my infusion area with pictures and blankets and mementos that represented my life.
  • Programmed my iPod with all the music that inspired me at every stage of my life.

When I went into chemo, it was tough to see the people who were weak, pale, and out of shape—and those were the caregivers! I started every week by bringing donuts to the nurses. And I walked into chemo proud, referred to my Stanford ID as my “all-day ride pass.” I always asked the receptionist, “How are you feeling?” Then when she asked me, I’d say, “I feel great. This is the best place for me to be right now. I’m happy to be here.”

People cringed when they saw my tubes and my thin frame and bald head and I’d say, “You looking at me from the outside, I’m looking from the inside. These tubes are ropes to pull me out of the well of darkness into the light. This isn’t what cancer is doing to me, this is what I’m doing to cancer.” People said this was “positive. I replied, being positive meant I had to accept the existence of “negative.” So this was something else.

During chemo I suffered mouth sores (I tried to eat a banana its seeds made my mouth bleed), and had deep jet-lagged fatigue, aches, blackouts, chills. I spent most of my time sitting by a heater or curled and shivering under mounds of blankets. Marijuana cookies and hash in fudge sometimes helped me partially taste food, and enabled me to sleep. I also recommend popsicles! Chemo is like driving through West Texas—you just want to get through it.

It’s been almost two years since I discovered the cancer. So far no relapse. The hardest part is finding a full-time job. Who wants a guy in his fifties who has had cancer twice? I decided to downsize the world and hire myself. I wrote a book about my cancer experience, Today Cancer Tomorrow The World, and give funny motivational-type speeches to groups.

My only complaint is oncologists don’t do enough to prevent nerve damage from chemo, and dismiss our pains as “side effects” when there is nothing “side” about them. There’s a lack of testicular cancer research because it has a high cure rate, but last I checked, losing a testicle is a very important part of being a male. I half wonder if 50 years from now research will find removal of a man’s testicles was just as wrong as the unnecessary radical mastectomies done on women in the early 1900’s.

I’ve never felt comfortable with that term survivor. The raccoon going through my trash can is a survivor. I see us as liberated. You emerge liberated from yourself, and want to help liberate others from their suffering. I blessed and given another chance to be better and I know if I don’t live up to it, I’ve wasted my life the same way cancer tried to waste me.

After cancer, some people do physical things, run marathons, climb mountains, parachute jump, proving things to themselves. That’s just physical. Goals. As horrible as cancer is, it left me with something. If you come out of that suffering and don’t want to relieve the suffering of others, you’ve missed something. Cancer took my balls but gave me a better and bigger heart that liberates the best in us and others to care more for more than just ourselves.

I also do work for Relay For Life, and when I return for my checkups I wear that shirt to show others who are suffering there is hope. And I always return with donuts fro my oncology nurses—the most beautiful women in the world. That’s the main reason I love What Next, we’re there for other people. I’ve found that anyone who was suffering from cancer always tries to help others avoid difficulties and relieve their pain. And What Next gives us that emotionally satisfying option, and my chance to share this piece.

Thank you, Live forever!

Today Cancer Tomorrow The World can be purchased directly from Fred and signed at http://www.fredforyourhead.com/or at Amazon http://www.amazon.com/Fred-Reiss/e/B00DJTRAKM. He also offrers it as a Kindle book for only 99-cents because he knows how expensive cancer treatments are.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. Lynda Hall permalink
    November 20, 2013 6:05 pm

    Love this Fred!!! Awesome blog and so uplifting!!!

    Luv ya!!! 💜

    >

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