Saturday, March 31, 2012

When All Hope Is Lost

After speaking to a Sunday School class recently, someone asked me, in so many words, when is it okay for a cancer victim to give up?  She mentioned knowing someone who had terminal cancer and there just didn't appear to be any hope for recovery.  Wow!  Tough, tough question.  Hard to answer it in a few words.  It may take multiple blogs to address this one.

First of all, this question runs counter to my philosophy of fighting cancer.  As stated in my book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", an integral part of overcoming cancer is never giving up, no matter what the odds.  In his book, "Peace, Love & Healing", Dr.  Bernie Siegel puts it more succinctly in saying, "It doesn't matter what the disease is.  There is always room for hope.  I'm not going to die because of statistics."  Hence, a cancer victim always has to believe that there is a chance for recovery.  The more a person fights it, the greater the chances of overcoming it.

Another way to view this issue is by visiting a sports analogy.  It seems like the best coaches, no matter what the sport, are the ones who proclaim their team has a chance of beating a formidable foe, irregardless whether they are outmatched.  It would be better to have a coach say, "If we play well, we have a good chance of beating the other team" as opposed to saying, "We really don't have a chance to win".  Such a coach gets his players to believe in themselves and their abilities.  The result?  Lo and behold, sometimes the underdog does win against incredible odds. 

In addition, a good coach gets his team to play hard throughout the entire game.   Even though his team may get down by a few points or runs, he encourages them to keep playing hard.  Sometimes, as a result of the players' continuing effort, the game does change.  What may have looked like a sure loss at some point may actually become a victory.

In relation to this, the good coach doesn't give up until the waning moments of a game, when, and only then, it is inevitable his team will lose.

So, in response to the question about giving up when all hope is lost, I think the cancer patient should fight bravely until all chance of recovery is nonexistent.  The patient, and the patient alone, should decide when it's time to give up.  Dying of cancer is not a failure.  Unfortunately, it's a  normal part of life in this lost and fallen world.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

How Can Nurses Help

I've recently had the privilege of speaking about my cancer experience to a Sunday School class at my church. I also spoke to the local chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society. I welcomed questions from the audience at the end of my talk. However, after each talk, I went home and wondered if I could have answered some questions in a better way.

For example, a nurse asked me what specifically she could do to help cancer patients in the hospital. I responded that much of the recovery depends on the patient, for example, does he or she want to get well?  Studies have shown that the people who fight cancer have a better chance of overcoming's as simple as that.

Yet, in my book, I state one way of overcoming cancer is continuing to do the normal activities of life. In doing so, it sends a message to the body that a cancer patient wants to live. When I was going through chemotherapy, I still went to work, went to church, whatever, as much as my health would allow. Sure it was tough.  Some days I went to work, only being able to eat jello and drink ginger ale due to nausea.  I also was extremely fatigued due to the side effects of chemo.  But I went to work anyway.  I believe such activities (with God's help, of course) ultimately helped me to survive.

Hence, how can nurses help? Encourage cancer patients to do normal things. For example, get out of bed, walk in the hallway, sit in the lobby, etc.  When out of the hospital, again, cancer patients should continue life as usual to the best of their ability.  The mindset should be that cancer will not be a hindrance, but an obstacle that will be overcome. 

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Think About It

Working in the health care business can be emotionally draining.  There are many nights that I come home and worry about my patients, especially if they are not progressing well.  I have a bad tendency to second-guess myself, e.g. did I order the right medication or treatment, were there warning signs I should have recognized sooner to prevent a patient complication, should I have notified my collaborating physician about an issue, etc.  However, I've discovered for the most part that my judgement is usually correct.  Nevertheless, it sometimes takes me hours to process events in my patients,  In other words, I have to think things through thoroughly to feel at peace with myself and my judgement.

It dawned on me that I am also continuing to think through another issue, that is, my bout with cancer.  Although I wanted to quickly put it behind me, I still am trying to process the whole ordeal.  That's the way it is when you go through cancer.  It is not like having a minor sickness which can be easily forgotten with a simple surgery or treatment.  Cancer takes "big guns" to destroy it such as chemotherapy, radiation or surgery.  It lives up to the axiom: the harsher the diagnosis, the harsher the treatment.  In addition, once overcome, it leaves an enduring mark of its hideousness.  In my case, it left me with an artificially created bladder out of my small intestine, forcing me to catheterize myself three times a day.  I also have peripheral neuropathy, permanent hearing loss and damaged kidneys from the chemotherapy.  In females, it may leave one with the absence of a breast, I imagine, striking at the heart of womanhood.  Hence, to totally put cancer behind may be an impossibility, especially with daily reminders of its damage.

Perhaps one day I'll be totally at peace with what I've been through.  But, for now, even though I know God had a plan for allowing cancer in my life, I continue to think about it...and think about it...and think about it.  I can never escape it.  Oh, how I wish I could!   

Friday, March 16, 2012

The Healing Power Of The Pen

After my bladder cancer surgery in 2004, I learned everything anyone would ever want to learn about bladder cancer.  Being in the nursing profession, I wondered if perhaps I was being called to share my experiences with others.  I did a literature search at UAB and discovered there were no recent articles about bladder cancer.  I subsequently sent an e-mail to Nursing magazine to see if they would be interested in such an article.  They responded favorably.  So, within a couple of months, I wrote a manuscript entitled, "Bladder Cancer: Signs, Symptoms, Diagnosis and Treatment" and submitted it to Nursing.  Several months later I received word that my article was accepted for publication, albeit the name of the article was being changed to "Bladder Cancer: Revealing News About A Hidden Threat".  I was ecstatic.  It took about another year for the article to be in print, but how happy I was to see my manuscript published in the April edition of Nursing2006.

Years later, after my second bout with cancer and chemotherapy, I felt led to write again.  Whereas the Nursing2006 article was very clinical, i.e. how do you get bladder cancer, how is it diagnosed, how is it treated, etc., I began writing a book which delved not only into the physical aspects of going through bladder cancer, but the emotional and spiritual aspects as well.  As a result, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer", was born.  You could say, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go..." was as Paul Harvey would say, the "rest of the story."  It was penned after I suffered the rigors of harsh chemotherapy and multiple hospitalizations.  Hence, I had a huge arsenal of material from which to draw.  

Although my primary purpose in writing the book was to encourage others, I discovered a hidden benefit to myself after the book came out: emotional healing.  For years, I had tried to put the best spin on my cancer diagnosis and treatment.  Yet, in writing, I revisited the horror and shock of my cancer on paper.  Of course, once published, having a book has led to some opportunities to share my cancer story.  However, in speaking about my experience, the tears which I failed to shed over the years due to my cancer predicament have started coming to the surface.  These tears remind me of how much damage has been inflicted to me by cancer and its treatment.  It is imperative that I keep writing until the tears dissipate and I can glory in my current state.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012

Do You Hear What I Don't Hear?

I never dreamed that cancer would take away part of my hearing.  After having major surgery for bladder cancer in 2004, I thought my cancer struggle was over.  Yet, after cancer was rediscovered in my lymph nodes in the latter part of 2005, the worst part of my journey was ahead....chemotherapy.

In March 2006, I began chemotherapy with Cisplatin and Gemzar for about twelve weeks.  The Cisplatin was the harshest drug and caused the most side effects.  Not only did I develop severe nausea (leading to dehydration and multiple hospitalizations), anemia, profound fatigue, kidney damage, and peripheral neuropathy, I also developed tinnitus (or ringing in my ears).  This made me feel like I was hearing the sound of crickets in my ears at many times during the day.  Later, and even more disturbing, this progressed to partial hearing loss.  I noticed I could no longer hear the numbers "beep" on the microwave, the turn indicator or the "blinker" on my car became silent, and conversations on the telephone were more difficult.  I couldn't hear my pager at work and had to change it to vibrator mode.  When watching TV, it became imperative to use closed captioning to follow the dialogue.

I graciously finished chemotherapy in June 2006 but, unfortunately, the side effects remain, although the peripheral neuropathy has improved somewhat.  Due to the persistent hearing loss, I was forced to purchase hearing aids in 2007 but they are of little help.  I mainly wear them when I'm in a crowded venue, for example, going to a concert or a movie.  They help some, but my hearing is still a major struggle.  For example, my wife and I attended the broadway show, "Wicked", a couple of weeks ago.  It was a great, great show.  Although we sat in the balcony (I couldn't afford the prime seats), I should have been able to hear the dialogue....but I couldn't.  I imagine I comprehended about five per cent of what was being said.  My wife laughed frequently at the dialogue, but I never did...I couldn't hear it.  So frustrating.  It's also frustrating having people repeat what they are saying to me.  Sometimes they have to practically yell so I'll comprehend the words.  I feel so handicapped.

I'm meeting with my ENT doctor in about a month to discover if there are more options to restore my hearing.  But for now, my world, in a discouraging way, is somewhat silent.

I write more about my struggles in my book, "A Place I Didn't Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer" which is available on

My book is also supposed to be available on Kindle soon.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Overcoming Cancer

Welcome to my blog.  Let me tell you a little about myself.

I am a cancer survivor.  In June 2004, I was diagnosed with an advanced form of bladder cancer and had my bladder totally removed.  My surgeon created a new bladder, a "neobladder", out of twenty inches of my small intestine.  In March 2006, cancer was again discovered in my lymph nodes.  I underwent three and a half months of brutal chemotherapy.  During my chemotherapy, I was hospitalized five times and received a total of seven units of blood.  My chances of surviving five years according to my oncologist were 15-20%.
But God had other plans.  I am happy to report that as of June 15, 2011, I am officially cured of cancer.  I am fully convinced that God had a hand in my diagnosis, treatment and  recovery.
I have subsequently written a book entitled, “A Place I Didn’t Want To Go: My Victory Over Cancer” (the title is based on John 21:18).  In my book I describe the physical, emotional and spiritual aspects of going through cancer.  I also list the seven warning signs of cancer, the three types of sickness mentioned in the Bible and a six step guideline for overcoming cancer.  This is especially important, seeing that one out of two men in the United States and one out of three women will experience cancer at some point in their lifetime. Hence, my book provides hope for anyone going through cancer or major illness.  My book is loaded with Scripture and I believe it is doctrinally sound.

My book is available on Amazon for $10 (plus shipping and handling).  So far it has received pristine reviews.  It can be accessed online at:

There was also a story about my cancer survival and book in The Birmingham News on Wednesday January 11, 2012.  It can be accessed online at:

I am praying for avenues to share my story as God provides. I would be honored if I could share with your congregation, men’s group, whomever, how God has brought me through cancer.  I have been saved since 1975 and a member of NorthPark Baptist Church (formerly Roebuck Park Baptist Church) in Trussville, Alabama since 1983.  I am also more than willing to answer any questions online about cancer recovery.