Dear Family and Friends, I'm Sorry I Gave You Cancer......4 Times

by GregP_WN

You have probably heard that old saying "it takes a village to....(insert your situation)". With cancer, it's also true. We cancer patients can't do it on our own. 

Dear Family And Friends, I'm Sorry I Gave You Cancer Four Times

We will need your help, these are some of the things that my cancer might require you to do.

  • Sometimes to get to treatments because we're too weak to be driving. 
  • To stay with us in the hospital, because it gets lonely there by yourself.
  • To go pick up our scripts at the pharmacy, if we're to sick to be driving we are probably too sick to pick up the drugs.
  • To fix us something to eat that doesn't burn our mouth, or make us nauseous, or maybe our favorite so we will eat.
  • We need you to go with us for most procedures, there's no telling what fresh hell we will be put through or be asked to drink or have injected. We might not be able to drive after this either.
  • There's trips to the doctor's office for follow ups after all of these procedures.
  • There is probably going to be some major surgery along the way, we will have lots of our family there. Thank you all for taking a day off.
  • The lawn is going to need to be mowed before I will feel like it, could you.......
  • Some of us get in a financial pickle with the extra expenses with going to the doctor, having to pay what the insurance doesn't, put gas in the car, spend nights away from home when surgery is 6AM and you live 125 miles from home. We miss work and have less income to go along with the extra expenses. Cancer doesn't care.
  • We might just need someone to talk to, sorry, but we might unload on you in the middle of the night.
  • Maybe we will need someone to do the grocery shopping, so our spouse can stay with us. Some of us don't need to be left alone, ever.
  • The car won't start, I'm sitting in it, it's cold outside, I'm too weak to walk back to the house and need to get to the doctor's appointment. Can you come jump me?
  • Some of us need help with the kids, they will need to be picked up from school, taken to ball practice, to and from dance lessons. You will handle that..right?
  • When the life altering, life-threatening surgery comes we will need a lot of support, can we count on you?
  • And don't turn your phone off, I'll be calling for something, you can count on that.

Everyone...has been affected by cancer. You are either a cancer patient, survivor, family member of a patient/survivor, or friend of one. Cancer touches us all. Cancer doesn't choose who it's going to pick on. Some have a visit from it once in their life, others two, three, or four times, or more. It makes no matter how much money you make or have, where you live, your race, religion, or your political preference. When the needle gets stuck in our arm, it's the SAME arm.

So yes, it does take a village to fight cancer, we can't do it alone. We appreciate your help, deeply, more than any of us can express how much we appreciate you. Thank you seems trivial, but......thank you. 

I started recruiting my "village" way back in 1988 when I got my first diagnosis. I had been to the doctor, by myself, I didn't need any help, to see about a sore throat. That sore throat had kept me from working, so I had to get it checked out. I never went to the doctor, never. But this one time I went. That one time probably saved my life.

Me And Donna, Proud To Be A Caregiver

Before we knew what was wrong with me, I made one more trip to a doctor by myself, this time to get a needle biopsy of these giant lymph nodes in my neck. That was my last solo doctor visit. From then on my village started growing. 

First, the family gets cancer

Cole Side Of The Family

One week later Donna and I drove back to Jackson to get the results, of that biopsy, Hodgkin's Lymphoma

What came next? First, Donna wasn't in the exam room with me when I the doctor gave me the news, so when I went outside I gave her the bad news. She was now the manager of my village. 

One thing that's harder than being told that you have cancer, is telling your Sweetie that you have cancer. 

Next up was Mom and Dad. I was 28, young and thought this was just a cold or something that I was going to breeze through and it wouldn't be a problem. So I called mom up and said with a little disgust in my voice, "well, I have cancer"! Just blurted it out, then said, OK, gotta go, I'll tell you more later. I never realized how bad they took that until years later when my sister told me that after mom got that call she called to talk to her about it. Sis said she was torn up about it, I didn't think anything about how I said it. So, mom and dad were recruited into my village, and by third party recruiting, so was my sister. 

Me Mom Dad

My brother was next, I told him about like telling mom, I just blurted it out and went on with my day. You can't act like a sissy when you're talking to your brother you know. 

Your workplace gets cancer

At the very month that all of this started I had just taken a new job in Memphis. Donna and I had moved to Memphis for a position I accepted with this company I had been with for 3 weeks. That day that I got the results of the biopsy my boss, his wife, my sales manager partner in the office, the office manager, and two receptionists were all recruited into our village that day. Everybody that is connected to your life will be in your village. 

All of these people didn't sign up to live in our village, they were drafted, they are now a member whether they wanted to be or not. We needed help to move to Memphis, there were brothers, uncles, sisters, and even a nephew that wasn't born yet all involved with that move. 

After two years, this run with cancer was over and we were leaving Memphis as fast as we could after I got the "all clear" report from my doctor after 6 months from treatment. At this time we reversed what got us to Memphis, most of those same tribe members came back to Memphis to load us up and take us back home. Thank you tribe, you did good!

Me And Pete

18 years passed by in what seemed like a couple of months. One morning I woke to find a swollen lymph node again. This time behind my ear, and a few weeks later that tell tale sign of a swollen lymph node in the neck showed up. So here we go again. Time to start beating the tribal drum again. Sweetie had to resume her job as the village manager. 

This time instead of spending a lot of time in Memphis, we went the other direction to Nashville. Again, there is time off work, travel, hotels, surgery, treatments, just take what happened 18 years earlier and rubber stamp it. Except there was more of it all.

Most of our village was still in tact and were involved in my third cancer diagnosis whether they wanted to be or not. I own a business, one that I started when we moved back home from Memphis 18 years earlier. We had  employees at the time, they were instantly part of our village. They had to step up and assume duties that I wasn't able to do for years before. If they didn't, the jobs wouldn't get done, if jobs don't get done, customers don't pay, if they don't pay, well, you get the picture. 

This round with cancer was squamous cell carcinoma of the right tonsil, stage III. Much more serious than the first two rounds with Hodgkin's. 

First up was a serious surgery to remove the tonsil and margins. One month later was an extremely serious surgery, a radical neck dissection of the right side. That surgery put me down for a month. My village during that month had to keep me medicated, Sweetie took care of that and kept me fed what I could eat. We had to have groceries, household supplies, various errands run. Donna's brother and sister took care of a big load for us there. There were trips back to Nashville to get checked, again that took me away from work, the "work village" had to keep it going or risk not getting paid. Cancer affects everyone we cancer patients touch.

I had to have some maintenance done on our business building during this time, my brother and his son took care of that without even bothering me with it.  He wouldn't have had to have done that if not for my cancer. 

There have been so many instances of deeds being done for us that we surely have forgotten some of them. But we hope they know that we appreciate it, and we love them dearly. 

Ten more years drift by in about a month (it seems) and number four shows up to take another shot at me. So, it's time to start beating that drum again. 

This one is different than the last three in circumstances and severity. This diagnosis was pharyngeal cancer. Or to put it easier, cancer in my voice box. This diagnosis would inconvenience a lot of the village. 

Right away, Donna's sister assumed the role of her assistant manager of the tribe. She has been to almost all the doctor's appointments and procedures, and surgeries with us. Her help has been invaluable. 

Me Donna Deana

Deana's boyfriend Pete has kept us in firewood all winter long. He didn't think he would be in charge of the heating situation for us. But there he is, splitting wood. 

Donna's brother Terry and wife Bea, have been in the tribe from the beginning. Terry has helped with firewood when we ran low and Pete was on his way, he makes runs to the store, or basically just anything we may need, he is there. 

Our adopted son/nephew Boo Boo and Beth in Knoxville have supported from long distance. It's tough on family that are not close to be able to help not being here. 

The extended family has ,been on standby for whatever we might need.  Those that can't be here on a regular basis have dropped checks in the mail to help with those things that consume cash when dealing with a cancer diagnosis. We know we can count on them, it's appreciated and they are loved!

Then the friends get cancer

Friends have been recruited into this village this time. Before my major surgery Donna threw me a surprise dinner party with 80 or 90 of our friends. They came bearing good thoughts, prayers, offers of help and support, and gifts. Lots of donations were given to help us through this unknown time. Every one is appreciated, we thank you all that came, and all that continue to support us. It is an extremely humbling experience to be in a room full of family and friends who are there specifically because they knew you needed their support. 

Dinner Family2

As of this writing, I am almost three months past this surgery, currently in lock down on our property. With the Covid-19 pandemic running it's last bit (we hope) we are still in isolation. Since I have a hole in my throat that is only about 6 inches from my lungs, I need to be a bit more careful than the average person. We, like everyone else will be happy when this is over. 

In the meantime we have had to put Deana, (remember, she is the asst. mgr. of the Village) into overdrive. On top of taking care of the office duties at our business, because I haven't been able to go to work in a month, she is also the grocery shopper, errand runner, bill payer, mail getter, and all around helper. All because I have cancer. 

So, you see, I am the one that has been diagnosed with 4 different types of cancer, in 4 diagnoses over the last 32 years. But everyone that I have touched has also suffered from my cancer. If you have done anything for us that was connected to my cancer, you have been touched by cancer. 

Thank You Note

It takes a village to fight cancer, because when I get cancer, all of the family, friends, and the whole village get cancer. You didn't want it, didn't ask for it, but you got it, and went through it with us, and I am sorry that I gave you cancer, but from the bottom of my heart, Donna and I thank you for taking the ride with us. We hope we can all be "cancer free" very soon!

Related Articles About My Cancer Experiences

Learning to Live Life As A Laryngectomee

10 Positive Things Found In A 4th Diagnosis

Gratitude and Humility-How to Get It

Diagnosis #4 Just Got Real

Book - Cancer You Will Not Get Me, 3 Times Is Enough

Note, this book was written a few years ago before my 4th diagnosis

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