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June 6, 2006

There's Always A Reason To Celebrate Life - And Yes There Is Indeed Life After Cancer

Topics: Administrative
Yes, life is sweet, very sweet, every damned minute of it. We just have to figure out how to cherish it, and what to do with it as we pass through it. We can just watch it pass, or we can engage it, and join with it - me
This morning started out like my day on Monday - more or less a bad health day from MS problems and some carryover effects from another little health issue (don't worry, I'm not going to give you one of those boring, "I feel like caca stories about how bad someone feels). I woke up early this morning, my usual 4 AM time to start my daily reading on news and research stuff, but couldn't make it out so I stayed in after grabbing a couple of anti-spasmodics from the bedside, waited, and ended up falling back asleep. A few hours later I woke up again, remembering from last night that I wanted to talk to my son before he left this week (he's home from Iraq ) but couldn't dial the phone and ended up dropping it - so figured I wouldn't be able to handle the keyboard for posting and just waited a little longer to wait out the episode.

But now here I am back at work on the keyboard, more or less fit as a fiddle, and happier than a kid with a ten dollar bill in a candy store because I just realized a few moments ago, that even with the little MS and other health issues, I'm alive, I have LIFE, and it was almost 5 years ago that I was told I only had a 20% chance of living 6 months. That means, as we speak, I'm officially still a cancer survivor - of no less than "big time" cancer.

Yep, it was then that I heard the real shocker, the doctors told me that I had stage IV basaloid squamous cell carcinoma (BSCC), a rare, aggressive form of poorly differentiated squamous cell carcinoma, and that I should get my affairs in order - my life's train was about to leave the station (my words, not the physicians).

Interestingly, I had spent much of my life in cancer research, had even developed a couple of drugs that had been used in cancer, had developed and had been part owner in several cancer centers, and now I had it myself - and it looked like I was going to die from it.

But I couldn't figure how I could have basaloid squamous cell carcinoma, usually associated with alcohol and tobacco abuse, especially since I had never been a smoker or a heavy drinker, and had never used drugs. Besides, I wasn't ready to die, this couldn't be happening to me, and hell, all this after years of battling MS, often with weeks and weeks in hospitals? The doctors had to be wrong.

However, their diagnosis turned out to be right, but fortunately for me, they were open to input from other physcians, which is probably why I'm able to be here today and bore the hell out of you with this story.

As to how I ended up with BSCC, likely after all the immunosuppressive drugs I had been given over the years for MS, and a metastasized skin cancer from too much sun over the years, I'd been the unfortunate beneficiary of "perfect storm" of events.

As a result of my profession (immunopharmacology), my idea of fun has always been perusing research journals in immunology, molecular biology, clinical pharmacology, etc. , and after the surgeries were over (and the chemo and the radiation - all times two), I was going through the literature when I found the answers to my questions in the transplant journals - after all, that's where I should have looked all along for histories and studies of the effects of long-term use of immunosuppressive drugs. The ENT surgeons later agreed with what was implied in the research literature.

However, none of that is the point of this post, which is to point out that I'm here, life is good, life is sweet, and no matter what doctors say or don't say, it's hard to beat a good combination of the human spirit, a lust for life, a supportive family, good fortune from the man upstairs, a big-time change in both outlook and inward view of life, and a best friend that I believe to be the best damned cancer physician in the world - a guy with no less than six medical boards including internal medicine, medical oncology, radiation oncology, clinical pharmacology, and public health (and well read - when we'd go fishing together on my boat before I came down with MS, he actually would bring research journals with him so he wouldn't lose reading time). So a big thanks to Gerald H. ...

And make no mistake about it, we can live with cancer, and although we may never really beat in our life time, we can damned well deal with it, and should. Giving up is not the answer, life is simply too sweet. And today I'm here to tell everyone who reads this that getting cancer was the best damned thing that ever happened to me. It changed my life for the better! Today I am only half the complete jerk I used to be, much less selfish and self-centered, and I embrace life much more rather than simply passing through it.

My home is wherever I am, at every moment during the day, and I truly feel love for every human being I meet and know (there are of course more than a few that I may love but don't particularly like - I'm only human). Although I've always had the inate ability of men from the deep South to laugh at themselves, now I consider myself a regular living laugh-in, it's just hard to take life's little problems and my own imperfections, many as they are, too serious. Again, life is sweet, and it's great to be alive today, when this keyboard would otherwise have years ago been put in a box or the trash, along with the rest of my insignificant and unimportant material things of a life I no longer had any need for.

I keep reminding myself now, that all that the only part of me that will exist after I'm gone is the memory others have of me; it's my choice as to whether or not those memories are of comfort to them and cherished by them, or put away - out of their minds and hearts.

Our take home message here is that life is indeed worth celebrating - every damned minute of it! And thanks to all you readers for joining me at Hyscience each day, to keep up with what's going on "out there" while talking about your "in here".

Posted by Richard at June 6, 2006 10:27 AM

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