I have lived an adventurous and interesting life. I have been a teacher, counselor and coach. I operated a ski and golf resort, built and ran a health club in the 1980's, sold “swamp land” for a developer in northern Wisconsin lake country, opened and operated a number of tourist-type retails stores (you know, the kind that sells bear and moose print table cloths and deer antler lamps) and seven years ago opened a real estate office before the bottom fell out of the market a few years ago.
My wife Pattie and I met 26 years ago and have been together ever since. Because she first had cancer at the young age of 34, we never could have children. Instead, we ran his-and-hers dog sled teams, living in a log cabin on 30 acres in the northwoods of Wisconsin for 11 years. There we started an animal rescue group, called Critter Rescue, and built an animal shelter. We also started a large family together, made up of rescued sled dogs and a number of stray cats.
I already mentioned that my wife, Pattie, is a cancer survivor. She has endured and beaten cervical, uterine and later ovarian cancer.
After years acting as Pattie's caregiver, it was my turn to be the patient in April of 2007, when I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I have faced some rough times: bone damage, lots of chemotherapy, blood clots and more. But I am still here today!
I understand the purpose of this site is to help patients and caregivers realize that cancer does not define them—that one can “get their life back” after dealing with cancer.
I know first-hand this can be done—my wife is living proof. Pattie doesn't dwell on or think much about her cancer. She is a survivor. She doesn't talk about it unless asked. She doesn't read books about cancer or attend support groups. Pattie thinks about her long and successful fight against cancer as little as possible.
Contrast that with my situation. I eat, sleep and breath cancer. I turned my cancer into an opportunity. An opportunity to help other patients. An opportunity to share what I have learned about my struggle—and the struggle of my wife and other patients and caregivers I deal with each and every day. An opportunity to start a new career as a medical writer. Yes, I write about cancer. I write daily on our two blogs, www.HelpWithCancer.Organd www.multiplemyelomablog.com. I write freelance articles for The Myeloma Beacon and other publications. I attend cancer related conferences and conventions. I speak to support groups. I have written a book, Living with Multiple Myeloma, so other patients can learn from my mistakes.
Cancer helped me find a career I love as a writer. Cancer helped me find meaning and purpose in my life.
So here you go—two completely different examples of how cancer survivors live and deal with their new normal. Both ways work. So do a number of other models you can find on this and other sites.
My advice: Cancer patients—take charge of your lives! Decide why and how you are going to live with your cancer—then do it! Live! Treasure every hour of every day.
Feel good and keep smiling! Pat