My Cancer Journey: The Unsung Heroes

Two months ago, to the day, I was diagnosed with stage 2 breast cancer. Today was my follow up appointment with the surgeon. Today I got the news that I would NOT need chemo. We were hopeful, but prepared for treatment. Wait. What? No Chemo? Is that a thing?

My mind usually goes blank when the medical mumbo jumbo comes out. Happened today in fact. Simplify it, condense it, and give me the bottom line. The science stuff is not my thing. That is what doctors are for. As long as she knows what the pages of the reports say, I am good.

If I am taking your photos, you do not have to know about f-stops, shutter speeds, or white balance while I am shooting right? I am a firm believer in letting professionals handle the details.

Thankfully Dawn understands when the doctor begins talking about genes and percentages. She saw the usual glaze over that happens while I wait for the English version of the science speak and translated. It took me a minute to digest it. I asked if she was sure. The doc chuckled and told me this was a great thing.

All I heard was that despite not being able to save the Ta Ta’s, at least I get to keep my hair. I am so relieved. My recovery is moving along well, but I am still having nerve pain from the surgery. It is common and should subside, hopefully, eventually. I may not need chemo but I will be on medication to help my body not make any new cancer for the next five years. I’ll take it happily. Did I mention how relieved I was?

Dawn is relieved too. In fact, she just went in our room to put something away and fell asleep across our bed. The only nap she has taken in the last month. So I am blogging (covertly) as she would never let me write about her the way I am going to.

The past few months have been hard. We put plans on hold and practiced our waiting game. A lot. From day one, I received the best care all the way around. No question. My healthcare team is amazing. My wife is amazing. Our friends and family are amazing.

So many people have reached out to me with well wishes and sending love, thoughts, and prayers. It got me thinking that the cancer patient is always referred to as the warrior. Which is true. Knowing so many lined up behind me during this battle made the fight so much easier.

Often overlooked are the caregivers, who in my opinion are also warriors. I have never seen a pink “I survived taking care of my spouse or loved one who has breast cancer” t-shirt. No one is organizing an “I survived being a caregiver” 5K. Not that I am aware of. Could be possible, but I have never seen one. I could not have done this without the help of my family. I could NOT have done this without my wife.

From the moment we left for the hospital my wife has taken care of everything. I repeat, everything. I required constant care. I could not even put socks on by myself. I could not do anything. I was sick for two days from the pain medication, unable to sleep or move around without help.

Bear Shit PileShe was not only managing me, but the household, our businesses, and making sure nothing slipped around here, especially me while in the shower. My wife was nurse, mom, chauffeur, housekeeper, cook, secretary, concierge, sanitation, dog bather, and liaison while I was out of commission. She even had to pick up a giant pile of bear shit from the yard after one trashed, literally, our side yard.

Dawn did have an assistant. Our youngest son, who I now lovingly refer to as “The Warden”, was on the job when she was tackling items on the task list outside of the house. I was being watched 24/7 when this kid was around.

One day last week he came to the top of the stairs, saw me holding a broom, swooped down and took it from me. He ratted me out when I folded a hand towel and would not let me get my own ice for the first two weeks. At least six times a day he would ask “what are you doing?” while peeking around a corner if he heard me move at all. The other two kept my popcorn tins stocked and did chocolate runs. They all were awesome in their own way.

Dawn Waters is my heroThe worst part of this was knowing that I would not be able to comfort Dawn while I was in surgery or in pain. I know this has been difficult for her, but you would never know it. She makes everything look so easy. No one has taken better care of me than her. She is going to hate this but I have to say it.  Dawn is my hero. And yes, I have a t-shirt to prove it. Long story.

Caregivers may not be the one with the diagnosis, but they have cancer too. The whole family does. I realized this early on. I know from experience that taking care of a sick loved one can be lonely, exhausting, and overwhelming. Remember the caregivers because they are the unsung heroes on the front lines.

Cancer sucks for everyone whose life it touches. Understatement of the year. I am grateful to be able to look ahead to start planning and dreaming again. Cancer stops things cold. The year is almost over but is ending on a much better note than I expected. For today, I feel like I got to shove it up cancers ass. Yay me!

My wish for 2017 is to be able to return all of the love and support I, and my family, have felt during the past few months to those who need it the most. My only resolution is to continue to pay forward kindness and generosity in the coming year.

I am ready for whatever the New Year will bring and looking forward to getting back to work and some sort of normal. I am in the process of creating my first collaboration and exhibition after being selected for an emerging artist program at The Venue in Orlando. I. Am. So. Excited. I will be sharing more details about the project in my next blog. Save the date: February 27th.