My journey with cancer: It’s good to be back…

Published 6:52 pm Thursday, April 4, 2019

I feel sure some of you have given up on me and I don’t blame you. It’s been more than a year since my last column and, quite frankly, it was a year I’d rather forget.

Most of 2018 was filled with heartbreak, disappointment, betrayal and, most of all, sadness in the wake of my mom’s death from pancreatic cancer. My own health has gone downhill, which isn’t unexpected: from February 2018 through January 2019, I was hospitalized five times for a total of almost 40 days, many of them spent in intensive care.

But I survived the health crises. What has been more difficult to survive has been the realization that, terminal illness or not, some friends just aren’t going to be there for you. Ever. I was telling someone recently that since my cancer diagnosis in July 2016, there has been a loud ticking in my head. It’s the ticking of a clock counting down the days/weeks/months/years I have left. There is no cure for my type of cancer and that cold, hard fact is always a part of my life.

Sadly, some people have been unable or unwilling to deal with my diagnosis. They became selfish when my poor health created obstacles or inconveniences for them. Instead of helping me, I was shunned or, even worse, talked about behind my back. Someone I considered a close friend, and one I had asked to speak at my memorial service, now acts as if they hardly know me. But that’s fine because ultimately I am the one who has to live with cancer, and I’ll be the one to die because of it.

With all that said, I have fielded questions from people who have missed this column. Wallowing in my own self-pity, I failed to realize that the Daily News has given me a gift, a platform that just may help others in some small way.

I’ll still share my own journey, but I am switching gears a bit in order to share helpful tips from cancer survivors and caregivers. When I was just beginning chemotherapy and developing mouth sores, my dear cousin Leigh Swain offered a simple solution: switch from metal to plastic eating utensils. It worked! Food tasted better and my mouth healed much quicker. That same tip helped my mom the following year when she too was undergoing treatment.

I have talked with a few other folks who were eager to share their experiences. One recalled how ice cubes helped her mother when she was ill; they provided much-needed hydration and were soothing to her mouth. Here are a few other tidbits I have gathered:


Be respectful of a cancer patient’s need to rest, whether in the hospital or at home. Sometimes we just don’t have the strength to hold up our end of a conversation. Please understand it’s nothing personal. It’s just a matter of trying to restore our energy supplies so we can resume as normal a life as possible.

Understand that undergoing cancer treatments lowers the resistance to disease in most patients. If you are sick or have been around someone contagious, do us a favor and love us from a distance. Hugs and handshakes spread germs that come with consequences. But if you are healthy, feel free to love on us as much as you can!

As a patient who is attempting to continue to work, it is important to educate yourself about the Americans with Disabilities Act as it pertains to cancer patients. Yes, we are covered. Employers and/or supervisors should offer reasonable accommodations which may include changing work schedules and providing time off for medical appointments without undue harassment or guilt. Make it your business to educate yourself should you encounter any difficulties. Google, and in extreme cases, a good lawyer can be your friend.


I invite other cancer patients to share their experiences and tips to leading a more comfortable, rewarding life. feel free to email me at Also, please join us Saturday, from 10 10 p.m., at Washington High School for the annual Relay for Life festivities, a celebration for those fighting cancer and a chance to remember those who lost the battle.

And last, I am scheduled for scans April 9 to determine if my cancer is advancing. Any prayers and positive thoughts you can send my way are much appreciated. God bless you.