Growing up as a kid, my body developed faster than my peers. Consequently, I could perform sports at a higher level than most; better at baseball, basketball, and track. As an eighth grader (1960) I was a track star (of course all that changed in high school when other kids’ development matched mine and exceeded it).
I ran low-hurdles and short sprints winning most. I was anchor on the 220-yard relay team and our team only lost one race. In that race I was far ahead of my nearest competitor, but half way through my run I stepped on a piece of wood that was not supposed to be on the track, pulling a muscle in my left leg. Made it to the finish line hopping on my right leg. We placed third.
Fast forward to the year 2004. I noticed my left thigh becoming thicker, but I attributed it my long ago pulled muscle. There was no pain, so I thought little about it. However, during a routine doctor’s appointment for blood pressure and cholesterol check, my doctor noticed the thigh (I was wearing walking shorts). She asked when I had torn the leg muscle. I responded that I hadn’t. She countered with the comment she could see it had collected in my thigh near my knee
I asked if that happened would I notice pain. She responded by saying it would be excruciating. I knew I had not felt pain there, but as I walked my normal 3 – 4 mile walk each evening I started favoring my left leg. That caused my right leg to start hurting.
I decided to go to a specialist in Mooresville, IN. After explaining the problem, he asked me to drop my pants. Looking at my thigh he commented, “Wow. A Lance Armstrong quad.” Then looking at my normal right leg, he commented “Uh oh. We got a problem.” I took his required MRI back to him and he showed me a large mass. He said he could only tell if it was malignant or not with a biopsy and he said only the surgeon removing a malignant tumor could do the biopsy, as from where it was taken had to be totally removed. His comment, “You’ve got to go to the boys uptown.” Which turned out to be surgeons in the IU School of Medicine in Indianapolis.
The head surgeon at the IU Med center looked at the MRI. He told me he would do the biopsy, but also said he’s seen about a thousand of these images and he is confident it was malignant; a Sarcoma or soft tissue cancer. He took the biopsy and told me he would get the results to me in a week. Having pointed out that I would be on a cruise for 2 weeks, I gave him my cell phone number.
Sure enough, one week into the cruise, I got his call and it was cancerous. Surgery was scheduled the week after I got back. Told my brother about what was going on and told him to not come. Of course, he never listens to me and came anyway (this time I was really glad he did).
After the surgery, they showed me a picture of what they removed. It was huge; 6-7 in in length and about 2 inches in diameter. He told me that they removed a large margin of apparently unaffected tissue, but that I would need to undergo radiation treatment for 33 days.
Having obtained an oncologist, I underwent the required treatments. My oncologist stated if the cancer was still growing, it would most likely appear in my lungs first. So, he ordered lung X-rays and leg MRIs every 6 months for a number of years. Not seeing anything, he said I only needed to do it once a year. After a couple of years of that, he changed the test to only lung X-rays. Doing that a couple of times, he went to one two-year skip and then a three-year skip.
Returned in 2018 after the three years. I talked to him in the examination room for an hour (only ten minutes concerning the cancer check) about my Navy career and the Navy reserve events in his life. He ordered a chest X-ray for 2019, which really surprised me. Again in 2019, after talking in the exam room for an hour about my plans to build a new house and his house renovations, he ordered a new chest X-ray for 2020.
The 2020 exam was the same way. Showed pictures of the new house, he talked about building a new pole barn then spent about five minutes on my cancer check. He stated that after 15 years, the type of cancer I had almost never returns. However, he looked at his desk sideways and said, “But, hell, why take a chance.” He sat down and wrote a chest X-ray order for 2021.
On the inside, I was shaking my head and thinking what was going on. But he stood up, gave me the order, shook my hand and said, “I’m glad to see you in such good health.” Then it hit me. Most of his office visits must be excruciating. He probably must tell people all kind of sad, devastating news about their cancer and how it probably will affect their life. With me, I think he sees why he chose his profession.
Now, realize all of this is from God; his skill as an oncologist, me being under his care, the surgeon who removed the Sarcoma and margin, and the effectiveness of the radiation.
So, am I a cancer survivor? For me those two words together are meaningless. It’s like saying one is a car-wreck survivor, a heart-attack survivor, or a Coronavirus survivor if they live through it. Someone who is alive after a car wreck might die in one or two years later in a car wreck. Someone who lives after a heart-attack may die from one later. Someone who is alive after having the Coronavirus, may die from it the next virus season.
The fact is all these things happen and much more to some people as they live their lives. Having said that, I have written this very long Blog for a very short lesson:
NO ONE’S BODY SURVIVES THIS LIFE!
Then the Lord said, “My Spirit will not contend with man forever for he is mortal; his days will be one hundred and twenty years.” (Gen 6: 3).
And I must point out, when God stated the 120 years, the earth was spinning a lot faster then than it is now. Those 120 years are considerably less today.