Tuesday, 5 July 2011

The Time I Had Cancer (Part Two)

'The Melanoma'

If you haven’t read the first part of this blog, you can reach it by clicking here… or here… or even here. But NOT there – really… don’t click there! You’ll regret it!

It’s a very strange thing, being told by a doctor that he suspects you have cancer.

If some random stranger came up in the street and shouted “You have cancer! I can smell the filth in you!” you’d probably take no notice of the information they’re attempting to express to you, most likely running away instead.

But a doctor… you know they’ve trained for years to recognise that sort of thing; their words carry a weight of authority, so that when they tell you they suspect you have cancer, you suspect you have cancer, too.

To say the news was a bolt out of the blue was an understatement…

An hour previous to walking into that surgery for my appointment, I was living the greatest time of my life… I was happier than I’d ever been, I was content in my job, I was filled with such an exquisite sense of inner-peace all of the time, and after decades of allowing myself to be tossed and blown around by the storms in my mind, I had finally reached a point where I could look at my thoughts and find nothing,  absolutely nothing that could hurt me.

Walking back down the road from the doctor’s, I have to say that I was shaken out of that peace… mentally and physically, with tremors in my hands.

It wasn’t that I wanted to sit down somewhere and cry about it… there was a numbness to it all… a feeling that it just wasn’t fair.

I mean, it felt like a rotten trick – after all these years – to be happy, and for that happiness to be slashed away through the news that I could have some sort of terminal illness; that, now I’d found out what real life was about, it could be taken away from me.

Despite the doctor’s advice not to worry, he was working on the assumption that the mark on my toe had only been there for a couple of months, whereas I knew that it had been there for significantly longer.

I don’t know why I didn’t tell him that information. I guess I felt stupid – faced with the prospect of it being cancer – that I hadn’t sought help as soon as it appeared, because of course I would have spoken to someone about it if I’d even had the remotest of a suspicion that it could be life threatening.

So… it wasn’t just the possibility of having cancer that was a concern, but the possibility of having cancer and, through complete ignorance, allowing it the time to spread.

I made my way back to the Scout camp. It was running with a skeleton staff (not literally, which was good, because that would have made things even scarier) and there was only one person covering the kitchen that day… a young chef named Nicky.

I was still in a state of shock when I asked if I could talk to him. I supposed I felt the need to talk to someone, but, on hindsight, Nicky probably wasn’t the best option and he confirmed that by bursting out laughing when I told him the news from the doctor.

He said: “I am really, really not the person to talk to about this.”

I’d reached that conclusion already.

I know there was no malice in his reaction… that it was probably a nervous thing… but there was nobody else around and that left me feeling a little lost.

I went back to my room, sat on my bed and tried to take it all in.

I didn’t have my computer up there at the time, so I couldn’t even get on Twitter or Facebook to post a status update: Les is now in a relationship… with cancer.

I couldn’t phone my Mother about it as I didn’t want to worry her. She had turned 71 a month earlier and wasn’t in the greatest of health herself, so I didn’t want to be telling her that her ‘baby boy’ might have something terminal.

My ex long-term girlfriend,  a wonderful soul from Sweden who I was still good friends with, had lost both her grandmother and, more recently, her father to cancer, so as much as I wanted to phone her up and talk to her, I didn’t want to upset her.

Bizarrely, the greatest comfort came from a BBC TV ‘celebrity’ who I’d befriended on Twitter not long before, but she’s always been a woman of few words… she offered me positive affirmations when actually what I could have done with was a hug and someone to talk with, not listen to, but she was appreciated.

I still believed in loneliness then, and, thus, I felt lonely.

I spent the evening up at Scout Rock…

The smile had turned into a frown; my brow was furrowed. The awakening occurred just over a month earlier, catalysing a time of pure joy, but there I was again, contemplating the dark possibilities.

I wondered, was it all over, so soon? Was this the descent back to how it was before?

Something was different, though…

I knew that if I’d been given that same talk by the doctor two months earlier, I’d have been a complete wreck. I’d have quit my job and headed back home, back to the comfort zone of feeling sorry for myself and having people around me who would feed me sympathy. I’d have entered a state of limbo and allowed my mind to torture me with all the possibilities ahead, and it would have burned me until I found out exactly what was wrong.

Instead, I was just a bit low… but I think it’s fair to be ‘just a bit low’ after a doctor tells you that you may have cancer.

I sat, watching the clouds drift by, staring at the mountains and the tide turning on the loch. It was wondrous. There was a bat darting around as dusk fell, running a circuit that brought it to just a few feet above my head.

I noticed that the memory of the day slipped in and out of thoughts. When I was absorbed with just watching the world, there was peace, but then I’d bounce back into thinking, and that’s where the mind’s discord began again and I’d follow the fear.

Then it hit me…

What exactly had changed between waking up that morning, happy, and then me being there, sitting on that rock, being worried and unhappy?

If I did have cancer, then at most there would be a few extra nasty cells in my body, but I didn’t feel any different… I hadn’t suddenly developed cancer pain and my hair hadn’t spontaneously fallen out (though it looked like it had, sadly).

The only discernible difference came from processing the information I’d picked up from the doctor, which I’d allowed to become a source of great discomfort… in my mind.

Yet, when my mind was silenced by the sensory overload of witnessing and being a part of the breathtaking scenery around me, there was no discomfort. There was no fear whatsoever.

Since the awakening and moving up to Lochgoilhead, I had been using the mantra ‘My reality!’ I’d say it when I was on the mountain, or standing by the loch, or sitting in my room in the staff-block… it was an affirmation of the present moment… of being alive and feeling happy.

I smiled and said it again, in the indigo dusk.

“My reality!”

Nothing had changed that day. I was as alive as I was when I woke that morning.

Even if I did have cancer, I was alive right then… so why would I waste my time fearing a possible grim future when I had all that life available to me in that moment?

This was before I’d ever heard of Eckhart Tolle, ‘The Power of Now’ or present awareness, and there I was, sitting on the mountain, practicing the lessons in a multi-million-selling book which I wouldn’t read until seven months later.

I woke up that day at peace and happy… and I went to bed that night at peace and happy.

The next morning, with a new group of kids due in, there were three of us in the kitchen – myself and two chefs, Nicky and Gillian.

Gillian was a big lezza, as she described herself, and such a lovely woman. She’d run up and hug me for no reason at all, so was much more supportive than Nicky hadn’t been the day before. Her mother had died from breast cancer, so she knew a lot about the process from referral to treatment and was giving me nuggets of very useful info on the whole procedure.

What she didn’t give me was sympathy, but she didn’t give it in a much more positive way than when Nicky hadn’t given it. She made me laugh instead of allowing myself to slip into feeling sorry for myself… and despite the revelation of the night before, there were those moments where I’d frown and think too much.

We always had music playing in the kitchen outside service times, and Bob Marley was the first song of the morning…

Gillian came up to me, with a smile on her face,  and said: “Bob Marley died of cancer. I think he died of toe cancer, too. Spooky, eh?”

Nicky started roaring with laughter, but I laughed too… probably calling them a bunch of bastards, and rightly so.

The next song was Fields of Gold, by Eva Cassidy – who died of cancer.

Gillian was practically crying with hysterics when that came on. I wondered if they’d both conspired to make a ‘died of cancer’ playlist on the iPod, but she assured me – after reciting the Twilight Zone theme – that it was just a coincidence.

The cancer jokes were thick and fast after that (and in the days ahead)… it may sound a little grim, but they were so helpful in keeping my spirits up. I laughed a lot, and laughing is an excellent reminder that you’re alive.

I received the letter from the hospital a few days later, confirming the appointment with the dermatologist, and I have to admit that my hands started shaking again when I read it.

The letter from the hospital...

Although I was generally doing pretty good, there were times when the possibilities hit me like a freight train… really shook me…

I had aches and pains in my back and sides… some quite brutal headaches from time to time, and I wondered – especially after reading up about that particular flavour of melanoma, and that there are often no symptoms until it is well advanced – if it had spread around the rest of my system.

Was the rapid weight loss really down to exercise, or was something more sinister causing it?

I was 35-years-old… I’d hoped, even though I’d left it late, that I’d find someone to settle down with and maybe have children one day.

It dawned that there was a chance I’d never experience being a father… or a husband… or even fall in love again… that I could be bones in the ground the same time next year.

I didn’t have the ‘skills’ I have now… so even with a positive mind set, those darker possibilities crept in. I’d shoo them away, but they’d keep coming back.

Then, sometimes I’d think that I was crazy even considering I had cancer… that there was no real proof except for what the doctor had said, and that he was wrong… but then I’d flip round and realise that he’s a doctor, and wouldn’t have told me that for the fun of it. He must have had real cause for concern.

The letter from the hospital was looked at too many times. It was unreal, but I’d keep reading it just to check that I hadn’t imagined the situation.

The pattern of gliding and crashing repeated over that intervening period, though the crashes were never really more than a bump on the ground before I pulled myself skyward again.

There was no prolonged terror… just the sudden realisation, now and again, that I didn’t know what was happening inside me, and I wouldn’t know until I got to that hospital and saw the dermatologist… and then there was another stretch of time after that, from biopsy to test results.

But… on the whole, I was filled with a determination to live, simply by living and enjoying my life. I increased my walking routine and would go up to Scout Rock two or three times per day. I enjoyed the company of my new friends… went to the pub a few times per week and shared the laughter, there.

Despite the possibilities, and apart from those moments I hit the ground, I was happy… and I’d never been so happy before in my life.

The morning of the appointment came… I wanted it out of the way… and it was snowing when I looked out of the window.

Mike, my boss at work, had offered to drive me to Alexandria, where the hospital lived, but when I went in to see him, he shook his head and said the pass had been closed. Delivery drivers had been forced to turn back… basically, nobody was getting in or out that day.

It was the mountains…

… and it was particularly shitty timing by Frosty the Snowman, who I’d previously had a lot of respect for.

So… I had to rearrange the appointment and was given a new time, a week later… which meant another week of having to fight that fear of the unknown…

I’d say that time felt longer than the two weeks, previous, because there was the added stress of wondering whether there’d be a fresh snowfall which would block the pass again – and also because I didn’t know what was going on inside my body. I could picture the docs telling me: “Well, if we’d caught it a week earlier…”

But I trudged on… sometimes creaking… the cancer jokes weren’t as fun anymore…

The day came, again – this time, no snow. It was two days before my 36th birthday.

Mike had a busy morning in the kitchen, but he told me he knew the route and the time it would take, so there was no chance of me missing the appointment. I was getting a little nervous as the clock ticked on, but then we were on our way.

I kept looking at the clock as we were travelling, thinking that I’ll know what’s happening in a couple of hours… that I could plan my next move… if it was cancer, then at least I’d know it was cancer.

Just outside Alexandria, we hit a traffic jam, and I started to get a very bad feeling that I was going to miss my timeslot and have to rearrange again. We inched through the traffic for hours, even though it was only 15 minutes or so in real-world time…

Half a beard later, we got there. Mike pulled up outside and said he was going to park up and have a ‘power nap’ in the car while I saw the consultant, so I wandered around to locate the right part of the building and spoke to the receptionist. I was a couple of minutes late, but she assured me it wasn’t a problem, which was a huge relief.

A while later, after staring at daytime TV, I was summoned by a woman with a big smile, who led me up a corridor, into a treatment room.

Her small talk was ace and she put me at ease straight away, directing me to sit up on a bed and take my shoe and sock off.

I watched her face as she frowned, looking closely at the mark on my toe.

“I don’t think this is pigment,” she said.

I didn’t have a clue what that meant.

She grabbed a scalpel and took a sliver of skin away… then another…

“No, it’s not pigment.”

I still didn’t have a clue what that meant, until she looked up and smiled.

“You haven’t got anything to worry about, here,” she said.

Whoooo-hoooooo!

Gosh, I’ve got happy tears in my eyes just writing that down.

The relief was… something else. It was almost (but – really – not) worth thinking I had cancer, to find out I didn’t have cancer.

I grinned the bigliest I’d ever grinned as she explained that it was likely a haemorrhage – that I must have burst a tiny vein in my toe and, because the skin is so thick, it had settled underneath the layers, turning that shade of dark brown, which looks almost exactly like a melanoma. She couldn’t tell for sure until she cut the skin away. If it had been ‘pigment’ it would have gone through to the flesh.

All clear!

Marriage, children, happiness, peace… life… all back on! Decades suddenly stretching ahead of me again, rather than months…

It was a beautiful moment.

I was on a high for the rest of the week, despite getting back to the camp and being told by everyone that I’d just been attention seeking for the past three weeks by pretending I had cancer.

It was definitely one of my greatest birthdays, too… and very good to know that – unless I got cancer or something – it wasn’t going to be my last.

In fact, it was so good, that I had another birthday the day after, so the 8th and 9th of April are now my Happy TwoBirthdays.

Summing up… though I’m obviously delighted to report that I never actually had cancer, physically; on a psychological level, I went through the same process as someone who didn’t get such a fortunate diagnosis… and I’d say that highlights just how much agony the mind can put us through – pulling us out of real life and into that realm of over-thinking… of focussing on the worst possible scenario, rather than waiting until all of the information is in and then coming up with a positive action plan on how to deal with it.

When you’re sick, the last thing you need is your own mind turning against you.

There are so many inspiring stories of bravery from people who didn’t get the good news. As much as I can emphasise with that period of suspicion to diagnosis, I can’t relate to the knowledge that… yes it is cancer. I don’t ever want to know what it’s like, either.

But one thing seems clear… when that bad news is absorbed, the light of life so often shines the brightest it ever has in these people. They realise that, though time is short, they are still alive and they will squeeze every last drop of joy from that life while they can.

We’re here to live…

… don’t wait until your time is running out to realise that.

Life is right here, right now.

“With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,
it is still a beautiful world.
Be cheerful. Strive to be happy.” 
- Max Ehrmann, ‘Desiderata’

Taken later in the afternoon, after returning from the hospital with an 'all clear'. :-)

58 comments:

  1. Oh my dear.. that was fantastic.. i am so glad you didnt have cancer..thank God. That was extraordinary ..thank you for sharing.. that writings just made my day.. so glad you can now search for romance and maybe have children someday.. wish you could get here to USA and i would take you out for a big party.. anyway..i am gushing too much.i just like it a lot. LNovak

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  2. Was fixated reading this blog post after reading part 1! Was so pleased when I read the bit when you heard what the bit on your toe was! I lost my auntie through cancer quite a few years ago, but I always remember the emotions that ran through my body when I first found out she had it, and when i first heard she had died, and at her funeral. I know its the not same as thinking you actually have cancer, but i can imagine what it must have been like for you just thinking you have it! Its really good you had the courage to talk about how it all made you feel. :)

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  3. Ah, thank you Laura. You're wonderful encouragement. :-)

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  4. Thank you, Mark! I haven't lost anyone close to cancer, but I know too many people who have, and I'm sorry to hear of your own loss.

    When I'm King of the World, I'm going to ban it. ;-)

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  5. Wow Les there certainly is a story to be learned from this positive outcome story. I went through the same ordeal several years ago when my Family Physician told me he was concerned about a mark on the side of my nose. He sent me to the specialist and low and behold it was cancerous. With the swipe of his instrument, the specialist trimmed away all of the cancer cells and it has not returned. I still look at the tiny scare where skin-graph replaced the cancer and thank my God for giving me full recovery!
    Your story touched my heart because I went through the same worry without the benefit of positive interludes such as yours. Thanks for sharing you story with us! I am delighted for your positive outcome! Yes!!!!

    Cheers,
    Derrick

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  6. Thank you, Derrick! I'm very relieved to hear of your own safe passage through that time. :-)

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  7. Hi,

    first of all i'm sorry for my poor english level but i'm only a French :-)
    i've discover one of your tweet from Ms Sharp actually fighting for his son. when i read briefly you're blog topic and cancer part 1 and 2. i'm quite sure you're absolutly right in the things you discribe whathever the situation and, since a few months now, i felt exactly like you but the life i'm living is quite different (i'm happy married man with 2 lovely kids and i recently quite my 19 years job but i don't really worry about that now ) and i also think lots of my perceptions have change in the way i see and felt with other people even friends.I spend one week in Scotland 20 years ago;that's definitly a place i love maybe because a part of familly is Britain (the small one !) natives and when you discribe your way up to claim the montain and simply look all around is the best moment of my life simply stare at the things around you and listening sounds or music (my first love); i do it as time it's possible whatever the montain or the walk during vacation but i also love to do it in every place by looking at all places and people there when i got time for it specially in Paris but also on roads and streets even in the town i'm living.
    i would like to thank you to make me understand we're not weird people but only fair ones and sincerly hope the best for you anyway. i'll follow your blog and for sure give you some comments...

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  8. Great post! Really gets you thinking about life when stuff like that happens. Glad you're well and thanks for sharing your story.

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  9. Les,

    My heart aches when I read your story—with anger, relief, and recognition.

    Anger - because it was completely irresponsible of the doctor to suggest you could have cancer prior to any definitive tests proving it. This could have been a fatal decision on his part if you were not of stronger mind to deal with it.

    Relief – because you were able to weather the storm and find out you didn’t have it. So…..sososososososososo (repeat at least 200 more times) happy about this.

    Recognition – because I’ve been there. I’ve had cancer. It took a year out of my life, but I’m here today to write to you. ;) I won’t go into my story, except to say that there are so many lessons I’ve learned from having gone through it—wonderful life lessons that I would not give up even if I could have that year of my life back.

    I am sure you acquired a great deal of wisdom from your cancer scare, and you wrote about it with a true humility and respect. It was beautiful—as are you.

    eden

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  10. Oh what a relief!! I was dreading of what happened next when I read part one.

    I felt silly sometimes for being scared of cancer. A couple of years ago, I found a lump in my breast. I was so scared of going to the doctor and the possibility of it being cancerous, so I could relate to how it must've felt. With my mom's support I finally braced myself to go. Thankfully the doctor said it's most likely just a benign breast tumor. I had it removed and he said it's all clear, no cancerous possibility.

    Thanks for sharing your experience! (and following me on Twitter, or else I wouldn't be able to find your blog :))

    Have a good day and a great life!
    Astrid

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  11. Great post, so basically all it was was a big blood blister? Must have been a huge relief :-)

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  12. As usual, a well-written post. Interesting too. If the doc had not seen the blemish you would not have had this experience to endure, and just maybe you would have been the loser because you have come out of it with your beliefs made stronger. I too have the 'T shirt'. It is a story not to be told here, but what I will say is that, although I was not away from home, I kept my fears to myself for the same reason you would not wish to have worried your mum. I did not wish to worry my loved ones. I suspect it is the same for many people. Keep well, Les, you are precious to all your readers.

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  13. You wouldn't believe how close to home this experience is for me, well, for my wife. Malignant, but caught in time. Leaves a seed of doubt that it could happen again, but hey, happy monthly mole mapping now a regular item on the calendar!

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  14. One thing though. I believe it is very important never to withold any information of a condition like this from anyone, but particularly from close family. Whilst it may save you the pain of their reactions, in the long term, if you did withhold it and you died... how angry, guilty and absolutely gutted with doubt of the security of their relationship with you, would they feel and have to endure in perpetuity...?

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  15. Truly inspirational and a very enjoyable read,even though the subject is usually not thought of in that light. Every now and then all of us mere mortals need, as Tim McGraw sang, To live like you were dyin'.
    Happy belated TwoBirthdays : )
    Carolyn
    off to follow you on Twitter....

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  16. A big sigh of relief! Truly inspiring, I needed to read this today :).

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  17. Loved the post and especially the u-tube connection. Even in the midst of a heavy topic, you manage to find the light. Enjoy the path and be here now.

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  18. Thank you so much, Eden... I'm so sorry to hear about your own experience. I feel lucky.

    There's no anger towards the doctor. Even the dermatologist - who deals in that sort of thing all the time - had to have a very close look, and was only sure when she cut the skin away.

    I see it this way... I'd rather have gone through those few weeks of stress because of an over-cautious doctor, than be here, now, with terminal cancer that spread through my glands because nobody noticed it at all.

    And I've learned that if I have any complaints or if I notice anything unusual, I should get it checked out asap - I wouldn't have had that same mindset if it wasn't for that doctor and the experience I went through... it may yet save my life, someday... so all good.

    I hope you're fully recovered, now? I don't like to think of you suffering at all... xoxox

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  19. Boy, I was holding my breath all through this post, almost suffocated (just kidding). I don't know you personally, but I'm so happy that it turned out benign. I can relate just a little bit. I had to go for a follow-up mammogram a couple of months ago, because "they saw something." It turned out okay, but the few days were, well, not very pleasant (an understatement). The fact that my sister died of breast cancer didn't do much to calm me down. I did feel elated and grateful to get a clean bill of health. And yes, it reminded me once again, how important it is to enjoy and savor the moment, the Now.
    Great post, Les!
    Christa

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  20. Les, fully understand what you are saying, and it IS better to be safe than sorry - my exception was the doctor telling you it could be cancer, but.... I suppose you could have figured that out even if he didn't say it.
    Thrilled with your outcome of course, and your attitude about health as a result of it.
    I'm fully recovered ;) 11 years cancer free this month! Thanks for asking.
    xoxox
    eden

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  21. Hehe, Frenchgeekman – if I wasn’t ‘only an English’, perhaps I’d be able to write in French as well as you do in English. I can understand you perfectly.

    Thank you so much for your comment. I’m pleased that you have found such extraordinary awareness yourself – and no, we’re not weird at all… it’s all the weird people that are weird. We’re doing just fine! :-)

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  22. Thank you, Debbie! I'm glad to be around to tell it. :-)

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  23. I'm really pleased there was a positive result for you, Astrid. That must have been a tough time... but, hey, you're here and now and alive! :-)

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  24. Gosh, Gladys... that must have been hard work for you? I hope things are all clear for you, now, too?

    I guess it's natural that my own experience made me see things a little differently, but it was a relief that - despite the occasional turbulence - I never lost sight of that sense of peace... that's quite a change in my life. ;-)

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  25. Monthly mole mapping sounds great fun, poetjanstie! Haha! :-)

    Yeah, I should have been more open with it. Not that I want to experience it again, but if I did have to go through another such time, I'd be much more open.

    Thanks for the comments! :-)

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  26. Thank you, Carolyn! :-)

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  27. Hehe - thanks Meowie! Glad it helped! :-)

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  28. Ha - Jan, thank you! We've got to keep our sense of humour! :-)

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  29. Thanks, Christa! I'm sorry to hear about your sister... and your own experience with these scary scares.

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  30. Excellent, Eden! Eleven years is beaten, I'd say (though I'm not a doctor!)

    And thank you for all the support! :-) xoxox

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  31. I loved your realization that nothing had really changed but the thoughts in your head...awakening happens all the time. I'm amazed at how much light there really is to let in, that helps us feel joy in the midst of anything. Corny, but true! HAHA!

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  32. It's very true, yes - and I really do believe most people can find this same peace... though a lot are resistant against it. It's great being here, though, eh? :-)

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  33. I was really hoping for a happy ending. A friend had a headache for 2 days went to the Dr found a melanoma on her shoulder and 2 days later she died, very scary stuff. I'm so pleased you learnt so much from your experience I had a similar experience once and didn't deal with it very well.

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  34. I'm really sorry to hear about your friend... once a melanoma gets into the system, it goes everywhere - I think that was the greatest worry I had during my own scare.

    I hope things are well with you now, and you learnt the same lessons I did.

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  35. The happy ending is a very good one. But it's the journey to get there that interests me. Being told by any doctor you've got any form of disease is cause for reflection and we must face it and manage it in 'the now'. Thanks for your story Les. It's really reminded me that I can be here in the moment. I am not my prognosis...and neither were you. Cheers!

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  36. I'm guessing your shaved head isn't because you've become a fan of my writing and you wanted to look like me?

    This is where life is, yep. It's the only place it will ever be - not six months from now or six months ago, nor even five minutes back or forth. :-)

    You are here in the moment, and it's still a beautiful world when you look out from this place. :-)

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  37. That was such a rollercoaster to read. You really have a writing talent that's unique. I'm glad you shared this story

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  38. Thank you. I'm honoured that you took the time to read it and left such kind words. :-)

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  39. Les - that was great, parts 1 & 2. The writing superb. Your outlook inspiring. Thank you for the reminders that life is fleeting and to treat it with positivity. The mind can be a powerful weapon against ourselves can't it?
    Stopping by from I don't know where. Maybe twitter? Will be back!
    Sara

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  40. Thank you so much, Sara!

    It certainly can... if left unchecked, it can destroy people and even nations. Let's hope it doesn't destroy the species. :-)

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  41. I've just read this part 1 and part 2 and could relate so much to your feelings. I was sent with what everyone thought was a benign lump in my breast, it turned out to be breast cancer. I had my breast removed on the 29th June a month before my 40th. Cancer does give you a different outlook on life and where everyone i knew had sympathy to me it was just another of life's hurdles to get over.

    I have throughtout this process been of the mind set it is what it is and i'll deal with it. I'm glad to say my mastectomy was enough to give me the all clear, no further treatment. Life is for living, so live it.

    Thanks for this blog

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  42. Wow. I am a physician and I agree with the idea of extra care and referring if you are not certain about a diagnosis. Still, from the pic, I suspected a small bruise from all the walking and your foot hitting the inside if your shoe. Close inspection may have clued the primary physician in.
    Oh well. The final result is good and that's what important. It's good you didn't have a heart attack waiting for your Derm appointment. :-)

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  43. Saw your post on Twitter.
    I'm happy you didn't have cancer. I know waiting for that appointment and trying to stay positive was hell. I'm a mammographer. I see women with lumps in their breasts who tell me and the radiologist that it's only been there a week or two and I know it's been there much longer. But I also understand their fears. I've been in their shoes. I'm also a breast cancer survivor.

    I didn't have a lump. I had no symptoms at all. It was just a routine screening mammogram. My co-worker did the exam on a Friday evening when we'd finished with the last patient. That's when I saw the lesion on my own mammogram. It looked like an invasive tumor, but the radiologist had already left for the day. So, I had to wait until Monday to have it read. Then there was the follow up mammogram. Then the biopsy. Then waiting for the results. It was less than two weeks actually--June 16 to July 3, 2007. But the waiting was hell. I shared my fears with no one. Not even my husband.

    But once you get the news that it IS cancer, your outlook changes. Or at least mine did. After a brief moment of tears and fears, I went into survival mode. No damn tumor was going to take my life. In the end, it strengthened my relationship with myself, my God, my husband, daughters, and parents. If you survive cancer, it can be a positive experience. Hey, and I also found out that I have a lovely shape to my skull. lol!
    So glad you got your positive experience from a negative result. You got the benefits of the scare without the pain and drama.
    Live life well! You only get one.

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  44. I'm speachless! Both of these blogs are amazing & I'm glad you're ok, because you have lives to touch! I lost my mother to cancer so I know it is a very scary time. For you to keep your positive thoughts and continue to laugh is inspiring! I have delt with the loss of my mother many times over, though I still loathe that cruel beast for taking her, there's still a part of me that's forever wounded. Your experience with the scare makes me wonder, with her & the cancer gone, if I allow it to still have some control. I feel as though I've been given an outlook that I had not explored before. We really do need to focus on the now. You found happiness & how unfair, for you, your loved ones, & those you had yet to meet, it would have been to be told it was Cancer. Your positive outlook strengthened you & I commend you for that. Keep up the great work Les & again thanks for a great blog. -Mindy

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  45. Roses to you Les! Your story reminds me of something my grandma used to say: Don't cross a bridge till you get there.

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  46. This was really amazing, and totally what I needed to hear tonight. It's so easy to get so caught up in daily life and forget what you really have. Thanks for this!

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  47. I actually did have have cancer 7 years ago when I was 33. I am now well and celebrated my 40th birthday last week. I just want to say that having cancer doesn't mean the end. I went to hell and back but I have had the all clear since the beginning of 2006. If anything, your story teaches people to get things checked out, no matter how trivial they think it may be. You are never wasting anyone's time when it comes to genuine concerns.
    Charlotte x

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  48. I have skin cancer - and it's really not a big deal, unless you have one of the very rare ones. Mine will be taken off, I might need some radiotherapy, and that should be the end of it.

    We need to find a way to de-dramatise cancer. Sometimes it's lethal, and often the treatment is horrid. But the myths that come with the name make it far more difficult for those of us who have it to live with it. I'm glad you're cancer-free, of course - but my diagnosis hasn't sent me into a spiral. I have cancer - and I'll get over it.

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  49. I have to say how wonderful this has been to read. You are so right that the mind can put us through so much and we need to remember what is important. Every day is special and we need to appreciate every moment to actually live instead of just being alive. When you say nothing changed but the thoughts in your head you were right…but the thoughts in our heads can have such an impact in the way we see and feel. Can we see the hope and light and feel the life and love around us, or do we get lost in the thoughts to drift blindly in our mental agony? Thank you for sharing this so beautifully. I wish you all the best.

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  50. Hi Les,
    I completely understand the emotional roller coaster of an 'almost cancer' diagnosis...it happened to me as well - three times! Twice with skin biopsies similar to yours and once when a large mass appeared on an ovary. Talk about a trip! I actually came upon a tweet you posted and clicked on over from there. So glad I did! Great post(s).
    Have a great weekend!
    anne

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  51. I'm so glad you got the all-clear. I wasn't so fortunate, in neither of the 2 times I tango-ed with cancer. And the eerie thing - before my first diagnosis, a week before that fateful day, I remember looking out the window of my son's nursery and thinking I was exactly where I wanted to be, and who I'd always wished to be. It was the day I turned 22, actually. Then, the news came - lump, mammogram, biopsy, surgery, pathology results, surgery again, then chemo followed by radiation therapy... Not something I'd wish even my worse enemy to go through...

    But something else you pointed out - the mind is a powerful thing. I had decided right from the start that the parasite would never win, and I stuck to that mindset. And I hadn't heard about positive awareness until I read it here, on your post.

    All this took place 7.5 years ago, and I cherish every new day I get to open my eyes and live my life to the fullest. I don't think you can really understand this feeling, this need, to enjoy the max of every single second, until you've looked the prospect of death in the face, the kind a potentially-terminal illness can bring you face to face with.

    So glad you were one of the lucky few who got a clear diagnosis, but hey, you know what? We're all lucky to be alive, and to be here! :)

    XOXO

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  52. That is an uplifting story. Thanks and congratulations on being cancer-free. You have a very positive outlook on life which I believe will be your guide through a fit and healthy life.

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  53. Funny to find this post tonight, on Tuesday my Doctor said, well that isn't right it is time to book you in for a scan O_o

    Scan is tomorrow, I don't know what it might be yet, I haven't had the talk but obviously Cancer may be one of the things they are looking for tomorrow.

    Thanks for sharing.

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  54. All clear- what an incredible relief! I was sorry to read that you couldn’t find immediate support while first warned of the cancer. So many of us struggle with who to tell, when to tell, etc. But it sounds as though you came through beautifully. There something about that moment when you realize you can cope – it’s empowering.

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  55. Les, it's 5:55 AM right now. With my coffee I read your part 2 and my heart was too close to my throat to swollow. You had my rapt attention! I exhaled at the end of your story with a new attitude. Thank you. God Bless, and yes, "it is still a beautiful world" I love desiderata, always carry it with me.

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  56. Les, you truly are a remarkable young man! I want to be believe that I am awake just like you and at times it's a struggle to find the answers within and shut the ego up :( I am excited that your final diagnosis was a positive one and thank you for sharing yourself and being so transparent.

    I, myself just received news that there is a possibility of osteoporosis and the tests are in 2 weeks. I am glad to hear that I am not the only one that has a mind that is filled with crazy, self defeating chatter.

    At least I have the time to go within and find out what is still cluttering my space...who have I not forgiven, what resentments am I still holding...what am I angry about... that this is manifesting in my body. I know that being pure love, joy and bliss that osteoporosis or any other illness is not possible. I call it blocked energy and before I go for my tests, I too have the opportunity to take my own tests to go within and see what's possible.

    Again Les, I am blessed to have stumbled upon you and thank you for the opportunity to be friends and for accepting my friendship.

    Warm Regards,
    Jagica

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  57. My 35-year-old husband was diagnosed with melanoma the same month and year. It was such a terrible whirlwind experience. We ended up driving almost 800 miles to Houston, TX, where he had surgery to remove it and three lymph nodes under his left arm. Through the grace of God, it hadn't spread, and he didn't have to have anymore surgeries or chemotherapy, but he still goes to Houston every six months for check-ups. In fact, he's leaving tomorrow morning. So, I know exactly what you went through, and I'm thankful you had a much better outcome. We still live with the possibility that it could come back at any time, and it's a horrible way to live.

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  58. Thank you for disclosing and sharing. It is heartwarming to see the responses you have prompted through this gesture. Wishing you much happiness and continued blessings.

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