You’ve Got Cancer.
These are probably the three scariest words one can hear. I heard them on December 15 th , 2020.
I had just awoken from a routine colonoscopy to be told that I had cancer. I was immediately taken to have an MRI scan done, followed by blood work and a PET scan.
Diagnosed with stage 2 (possibly stage 3) anal cancer, I would need both radiation and chemotherapy. I was slated to start both on January 5 th .
This was not the way I had planned to start the new year. I’m the goal setting guy. I had already outlined many of the things I was going to accomplish in 2021. I had big plans and big goals. A big one was publishing my book “Goals That Matter” in February. All the goals I had set were now going to have to change. I wanted to keep many of them, but I also knew life was going to change drastically.
I was healthy, active, and full of energy prior to starting treatment. I was used to being able to do anything I set my mind to accomplish.
Chemo and radiation changed all that. For this type of cancer, the standard treatment is a very intense level of radiation 5 days a week for 6 weeks, interspersed with 2 chemo treatments lasting 4 days each.
The first week of chemo and radiation was unpleasant. I was tired and run down, but still able to work a little bit. The second week I started feeling better and by the third week, I was feeling almost normal. I got to keep that feeling for only a short time. My second round of chemo was during week 4 of radiation. I had been warned (and was soon to discover) the effects of radiation are cumulative: Each week adds to the effects.
By the end of treatment towards the end of February, I had all the common issues: Exhaustion, skin issues, low blood counts and lack of appetite. Looking back, I don’t think I have ever been that exhausted. I slept a lot and spent a lot of time watching TV. I did not have energy to do anything other than just exist. I was told this would persist for some time. I am the guy that achieves things though! I thought it would be different for me. I figured the exhaustion would last a few weeks.
I was wrong.
I spent the next 6 weeks getting back to normal. I would have days where I could work for an hour or two and days where I could barely get out of bed. This went on through much of April. I never knew
what to expect day to day.
I am exceedingly lucky that not only did I have a great support team, but I had an incredible leadership team running my company. They took great care of it and ensured everything was taken care of so I could focus on my recovery. From mid-January through mid-April, I probably worked less than 40 hours.
They really did an amazing job, and I am truly blessed to have the team I do.
About halfway through April, I started stringing together more days with more energy. I decided it was time to pick up some of my larger goals, namely publishing my book. It was time to start taking some of the “chunked-down” steps towards other goals.
I started to have a life of a bit more normalcy. I got back into my daily practice of reviewing my goals and taking steps to accomplish them. For me, this is very life-affirming and brings me not only joy but a huge
amount of energy.
My book was published June 15 th . (Available on Amazon: https://geni.us/GTMBook)
On the first of July, I had my first appointment with my surgeon. A PET scan from the prior week and an inspection by him showed no signs of cancer! As anyone who has had, or supported someone with cancer knows, this was an amazing day.
I am now in a 5-year “watch” plan. I will have regular scans every 3-6 months to make sure there is not a recurrence. The prognosis is very good.
Six months from diagnosis, I am back to a more “normal” life—Seeing friends and family, running, eating well, and working a regular schedule, albeit with a bit more time off. Being diagnosed with cancer and the subsequent treatment was a journey that led to a lot of discovery for me. As unpleasant as it was, it brought with it a lot of clarity.
Clarity about What Matters I kept my diagnosis and treatment very private until quite recently. It was a scary time, and I had a very good (but small) support group. With much of the world locked down due to COVID, I was able to go through treatment without a lot of people knowing. Not that I felt I had anything to hide, I just wanted to keep the circle small and focus all my energy on remaining healthy and getting through the treatments. I’m sharing this now because it’s part of my journey and it had an amazing impact on my goals.
It’s interesting what a life shattering possibility does to our thinking. One of the best things that did come out of this was I got a chance to really identify What Matters in my life. I’ll talk about that more in my next blog.