Early in 1987, I grew extremely fatigued. Then one morning in May, I was shaving and noticed a lump protruding on right side of my neck.
Glen and Debbie
My doctor ordered chest x-ray and biopsy of the lump. Results were in: lymph node was malignant. Helplessness, confusion and fear overcame Debbie and I. Soon after I had diagnostic surgery called Stanford Staging Laparotomy. Diagnosis: stage 3a Hodgkin’s disease. After my release from the hospital my physician told us, “Cancer was found in other lymph nodes”. I was then scheduled for 50 Radiation therapy sessions.
Closing my eyes during the humming of the radiation I imagined the screen of the then popular video game ‘Space Invaders’. The cancer was the asteroids and the radiation were stealth-jet planes destroying enemy cells. At the end of each session I envisioned video display void of asteroids and my body cancer free. Over the course of the 50 radiation treatments I grew fatigued, my skin became lightly burned and I lost my sense of taste.
I was only 30 years old when I began radiation. Debbie & I cheered when treatments were over, cried tears of joy when the Doctor told us the Hodgkin’s was in remission. My sense of taste returned. I regained the weight I had lost that year. I returned to my work as a Police Officer.
I had a second chance at life. My wife Debbie got her husband back, and our young son Russell, would grow up knowing his father. However, nothing would ever be the same. Cancer changed everything.
I soon returned to my childhood love of riding a bicycle, and began training for competition. These rides represented for me a freedom from the weakness of cancer. Soon I was in the best shape of my life. During this time Debbie and I began biking together. I was so proud of her for finishing the long organized fun-ride we did together.
Being told I had a life threatening illness, then surviving it, changed me. Although so very happy to be in remission, I grew increasingly unsettled. Looking back I was preoccupied with preserving my health and protecting my family.
The boundaries of the walls at home became painful reminders of the months I spent there recovering from surgery and radiation. Debbie & I began looking for a home with a piece of land. Finding an old ranch home on 4 acres in the hills of the Northern San Diego County, we bought it. In December of 1988, Debbie, me and Russell moved into our new home. I was relieved to be far from the area where the life of our young family had been recently threatened.
Within weeks, Debbie, then pregnant with our son Trevor was hired by Penasquitos Pet Clinic as a Veterinary Technician. Four months after our move I was hired as an Experienced Police Officer with the City of Escondido, CA.
Our new ranch home was for us an incredible family retreat where my young family could start anew. And on May 24th, 1989, our joy grew when our son Trevor was born. Debbie & I were so happy to be blessed with our growing and healthy young family.
This Time I Will Die
Over several months the all too familiar fatigue I experienced in 1987 crept in. Debbie and I were shocked when biopsy confirmed the Hodgkin’s disease returned. Then as I had feared, I was told I needed to have Chemotherapy.
I would drive myself to my Oncologists office where he would administer the Chemotherapy. After each therapy session I became nauseous and vomited while driving myself back home. Then what seemed like for hours I would repeatedly vomit, lye back down in bed, get up and vomit one or more times, before I was ever able to lie down and enjoy the peace of a few hours sleep.
Over the course of the Chemotherapy I grew extremely depressed. In my mind I was dying a slow death. As I falsely believed back then Chemotherapy was given only to extend the life of cancer patients who were going to die anyway.
Thoughts of suicide turned to unsuccessful attempts at taking my life. In December, 1989 my Oncologist told Debbie & I the cancer was in remission. A bittersweet moment for Debbie as my lingering depression continued to add to her burden of caring for her ill husband and our two young sons.
Cognitive therapy and various psychiatric medications hadn’t resolved the depression. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) was deemed by physicians to be the only remedy which could end the Major Depressive Episode. I underwent the ECT. In a word, I woke-up. I was released from the hospital and returned home to Debbie and our young sons Russell and Trevor.
It took some time for me to fully regain my physical and mental health. However, in time, our young family became whole again. A particularly fond memory is the joy of me Debbie, Russell & Trevor spending warm nights outside our country ranch gazing at the star filled sky.
Different this Time
In September, 1991 I was diagnosed with Chronic Lymphocyte Leukemia (CLL). However, this time was different. Debbie and I were now armed with our new Christian faith, supportive group of friends and our deep love for one another. A love refined by the fiery struggles of the life we’ve shared over our 32 years of marriage. Oh, and about the CLL, it went into remission in 1996.
These days Debbie & I live with the late-effects of the cancer treatments I had in the 1980’s. Dealing with the limiting effects of these chronic illnesses has proven both challenging and rewarding. Above all were grateful to the Lord to have another chance at this thing called life!
I was doing an internet key-word search for ‘cancer survivor’ when I came across WhatNext. I registered and have been answering member posts and responding to questions posted on the WhatNext web site. As a long term survivor I’m encouraged to read posts which range from the recently diagnosed through to those in long term survivorship. I enjoy answering questions posted and including information on helpful resources when relevant.
Glen can be found at WhatNext by his Username as Outlier, stop by his page and tell him thanks for sharing his inspiring story.