January 30, 2013
There are times when the joy of the Christmas season seems muted by sad recollections of pain and suffering amidst the circle of friends and loved ones. The season just past was, for me a sort of punctuation of a lifetime of such events. On Thanksgiving night I was rushed to the hospital with fever and chills. What started out as a narrow escape from death by sepsis infection actually turned out to be a life saving event. It seems that in searching for the cause of the infection, a golf ball sized tumor was discovered on my right lung. It was a metastasis from a renal cell cancer tumor that had lain dormant for 17 years ago waiting patiently to kill me. As was the case with the original tumor, I had the option of running in circles in a full panic mode or that of taking charge, gathering data, making a plan and killing it before it killed me. My family and I decided to go for an indoor record of minimum time from discovery to kill. Using the time required for recovery from the sepsis infection and treatment, we visited four different doctors at as many facilities and, as might be expected, got 4 different opinions. We selected an approach involving the latest in laparoscopic technology that literally pulled the rug out from under this nasty creature and sent it to the incinerator. No further treatment is indicated based on scans.
After an initial meeting with the surgeon and scheduling an operation asap, the following sequence of events took place. I showed up for the operation on a Tuesday morning early. That night, I actually ate a light meal. The next day, I walked a couple of laps around the nurses station and, on Friday, I walked out of the hospital and went home with the Foley catheter still in place rather than risk getting the flu that is pandemic around public places such as hospitals. This yields an elapsed time of about 4 days which I like to think of as a record.
I am not blameless for this recurrence of the cancer. I was successful in getting rid of the monster to beat a death sentence years ago with a self directed program of guided imagery. This story is told in my book, THREE MONTHS TO LIFE. I got a bit lazy in doing my guided imagery over the years and allowed this villain to sneak up on me. This will not happen again. There is a lot to be learned from this experience. Perhaps the most important is that when we finally get those little devils on the ropes, we should just keep on punching and never let them get a breath of air. People facing the issue of recurrence should take some comfort in the fundamental truth that if they are close enough to kill us, they are also close enough for us to kill them!
Above all, we should note St Paul’s admonition to be grateful IN all things (not necessarily FOR all things). When contemplating the grief of loss, it is always worthwhile to take stock of what one has left and that usually leads to a healthy attitude of rejoicing. Depression is not the mandated destiny of the soul that suffers. No, there is always the choice for gratitude and this connects to the thread of joy that runs through the fellowship of pain that connects us all to a higher calling. It is out of experience, that I refer to those marvelous words of Romans 8:28 “-all things work together for good to them that love God-“. Joy is a close relative to love and love truly conquers all. Don’t let anything or anybody ever take your joy.
It IS possible!
You CAN defeat recurrent cancer!!
Gerald W. White, P.E.
December 26, 2012
For me, the holidays are special time to celebrate with family and give thanks for all of our blessings. I especially looked forward to the holidays in 2005, the year that my wife and I celebrated the birth of our new daughter Lily. We couldn’t wait to share our holiday traditions with Lily, and we talked endlessly about how we would celebrate her first Christmas. However, our happiness and excitement was soon stripped away from us, when three days before Thanksgiving my wife, Heather was diagnosed with cancer.
Lily was only three and a half months old when my wife was diagnosed. In a single afternoon, we went from planning for the holidays to trying to fight cancer. We learned that my wife had been diagnosed with a rare and very deadly form of cancer called pleural mesothelioma. What little I knew about mesothelioma was enough for me to know that our once bright future was now very uncertain. I tried to remain positive, but all I could picture was the worst case scenario, and that year I felt that I had very little to be thankful for.
Despite all of bad news, we celebrated Thanksgiving and Christmas with Heather’s family. We made plans about what we would do and what Heather’s family would do to help Heather before we headed into Boston for treatment. The memory of this discussion with Heather’s family is etched into my brain. It was one of the worst moments of my life.
We discussed our finances, assets, debts and Lily’s childcare. I listened to the discussion of our bills and finances. Heather’s family told us how they would help us financially, but we had to determine which assets we could liquidate. Heather and I both worked, but with the new baby and the looming treatment and travel requirements, money was very tight. We knew that we wouldn’t be able to stay afloat without help. Heather’s family offered to help as much as they could, but all I could feel was shame and embarrassment. This wasn’t how I anticipated spending Thanksgiving. Looking back now, all these years later, I realize how very much I had to be thankful for, but at the time, all I could feel was despair.
While I was sitting at the table ashamed and overwhelmed, I failed to realize that I was surrounded by family who loved me and would do anything to help me at a moment’s notice. They dropped everything to be by our sides through this crisis, and were willing to make huge sacrifices of their own to help us through. Now I can see how lucky we were, and I am incredibly grateful to everyone who extended us a helping hand during that time.
Because of this, I wanted to take a moment to remember everything I have to be thankful for in my life. I am thankful for the kindness and love bestowed up on me by my family and friends. I am thankful for a healthy daughter and other people who have helped us when we needed it. Most of all, I am thankful for my wife’s unlikely recovery. It’s been seven Christmases since Heather was diagnosed with mesothelioma, and it was in large part due to the love and support of our family and friends that we were able to make it through. We hope and expect to have many more Christmases to celebrate together as a family. We want our story to be a source of hope and inspiration to others fighting cancer this holiday season.
February 4, 2012
Hello, My Name is Gerald White. I’d like to welcome you to my blog, where I hope I can share with you stories giving strength to you (or someone you may know who has cancer), as well as other patients fight their battle against cancer. The stories and resources that you will find here are here for your benefit, and hopefully you can get something from them. I am a cancer survivor who was initially diagnosed with a 20 pound tumor on my left kidney which subsequently went metastatic to my lungs. I was left with an ultimatum by doctors across the country of three months to live, that was back in 1993.