Strength and love along the way

Published 5:47 pm Friday, August 26, 2016

“When you get a cancer diagnosis, you learn two things: you are stronger than you ever imagined and you are loved more than you know.”

A friend shared this with me shortly after my diagnosis, and I felt as if it had been written specifically for me. For years, the fear of cancer ruled my life to some extent; every lump, bump and unexplained bruise gave me pause. My Grandma Cutler passed away after a battle with cancer when I was in high school, and I later learned that this hideous disease had made itself quite comfortable among other family members. I sometimes felt as if cancer was out there lurking around corners, just waiting to pounce on me.

But when my own diagnosis came in late July, there were no hysterics, very little tears. Instead, I adopted the attitude of, “Okay, this is what I’m dealing with, so what do I need to do to handle it and have the best life possible for as long as possible?”

The best decision, for me anyway, was just to turn everything over to God. I have never been one to wear my faith on my sleeve, but I have been a Christian for most of my life. I trust in God’s word and have placed myself in his hands. Whatever happens to me is part of his plan, and I find a great deal of comfort in that. I liken it to being a young child again and having your parents meet your every need.

I have gone from being someone who obsessed over every little detail and who worried about practically everything to being someone who just takes it all one day, one step at a time. I highly recommend that to everyone.

As for the second part of the quote used in the opening paragraph of this column, I have never been a particularly social creature in that I don’t want or need to be the life of the party. Heck, most of the time I don’t even want to be at the party.

But the outpouring of love, prayers and support has overwhelmed me in a good way. Family, friends, coworkers, acquaintances and strangers have reached out, and church congregations all across our area have added me to their prayer lists.

I now know how much love surrounds me each and every day. And I don’t take it for granted; in fact, I don’t take anything for granted anymore. Every day God allows me to wake up and enjoy my life is a gift I treasure.

My journey with cancer has been a short one thus far. In fact, I say I’m still in the “honeymoon stage.” But I have already learned there are few guarantees in this battle. Just when you think you are settling into the routine, there may be a bump or a curve in the road. I have already had a couple of “surprises” including a sudden hospitalization and, more recently, a bout with pneumonia. After an afternoon receiving IV fluids and high doses of antibiotics at the hospital, I was allowed to go home and continue my recovery from the latter.

When I first learned my cancer treatment would begin, in part, with at-home chemo in pill form, I thought it would be a piece of cake. Oh, how naive I was. I have been blessed in that so far I’ve had few side effects. What I have learned is to listen to my body; the chemo, while attacking the cancer, also drains you of energy. I am having to cut back on some activities, but it’s a fair trade-off. And naps are highly recommended.

There has been good news, too. During my most recent visit with my oncologist, on Aug. 19, my blood work results were termed “excellent.” An added bonus was losing 17 pounds — you read that correctly, 17 pounds — in one week, all fluid caused by the treatment. So my body is adjusting to the chemotherapy and other medications we are throwing its way, and it is working hard to keep up the fight.

As I learned the week of my diagnosis, due to the nature of my cancer, my long-term prognosis remains uncertain. But isn’t life uncertain for us all anyway?

Just relax, take a deep breath and savor every moment. And pray. The peace, comfort and joy you will find are immeasurable.

Kevin Scott Cutler is a teaching assistant at Chocowinity Primary School and a freelance writer for the Washington Daily News.