I’m not Grandpa! …Or am I?

Being part of a blended family can be frustrating and confusing, especially when you’re uncertain what role you fill. However, if you listen closely, a little voice might tell you the answer.

 My wife, Becky, had children at a young age. When she found me in 2009, Jeremiah was 14, Tiffany was 12, and Scotty was 9. Teenage years were looming all over. I had no children of my own, making me as a novice at child rearing. Attempting to be a parental figure to step-children is difficult enough. Attempting to do so with teenagers? Difficulty level: expert.

From the start, I shunned the idea of being “Dad.” The bond between a child and a parent is sacred, and I refuse to disrupt the relationship these kids have with their real dads. More importantly, moving into a blended situation and immediately attempting to claim a parental role is rarely an effective way to endear yourself to a child. You can try to act like your ideal image of “Dad,” but in my experience, most children past the age of 5 can see right though adult pretense. They want to know you for who you are, not who you think you should be to them. For my part, I was just a male figure, and I hoped to be a positive one (whether I am is still up for debate.)

When I first moved in, I didn’t put on airs or take on some rehearsed role. I acted like myself. I took care of the kids’ needs and tried to restore order when they were out of control, but I stayed out of Becky’s way when it came to discipline. I treated all three kids as equals. They were sort of like little roommates. In time, they became little friends. When I married Becky, I became a step-father, but as years passed, the kids seemed more like siblings. To this day, they’ve never referred to me as “Dad.” I didn’t want that, and neither did they. They call me Seth.

Because that’s who I am.

Things got complicated when Miah and Tiffany, like their mother, started having children early in life. Teen pregnancies weren’t common in my own family, and seeing them happen caused me endless grief and frustration. In fact, I predicted the first one, and I blamed myself for not being able to stop it. I learned the hard way that people must make mistakes and decisions on their own, regardless of any advice you may give.

This wasn’t the way I wanted things to turn out. It was a difficult time for me, and it set a negative tone for my perspective on the growth happening around me.

Faster than I could comprehend, they came. Tiffany had Nicole when I was  36. Then, Miah fell in love with Ashleigh, who already had Annabella from a previous relationship. He and Ashleigh had Aaron. Finally, when Tiffany and Chris had Lily, a short time later, I was only a few months shy of 38.

Suddenly, there were four grandchildren.

For Becky, the frustration passed quickly, as she accepted the bounty of life and welcomed each newcomer to her family. Although she, too, was only in her late 30’s, the idea of being a grandmother appealed to her. She readily taught the wee ones call her “Grandma.” She loves playing the role, and she loves to see the her family expanding. To her, it’s a time of growth and excitement.

For me, it wasn’t so easy. I wasn’t ready for all the sudden growth. We had finally blended as a family of five; now, the kids were parents too? Becky kept trying to sell me as “Grandpa,” but I resisted. I didn’t want to be “Grandpa.” Emotionally, it didn’t make sense! I was never “Dad.” No one had ever called me that. Without being “Dad”, how could I possibly be “Grandpa?” It was madness!

For a good year-and-a-half, the whole thing tore me up psychologically, as one baby after another came into the fold. To hold onto my identity, I had to deny that I had any place in the equation. Whenever Becky referred to me as “Grandpa,” I would contradict her. I knew I was being a curmudgeonly old grump, but I was unable to accept how things had turned out. Where Annabella was concerned, it was even more confusing. My step-son’s girlfriend’s daughter; I mean, how do you reconcile something like that?

Becky: “Go to Grandpa, Bella!”

Me: “I’m not Grandpa!”

Becky: “Yes you are. Give Grandpa a hug!”

Me: “I’m not Grandpa!”

Becky: “Yes you are.”

It reminded me of that episode of Dexter’s Laboratory, in which Dexter accidentally turns himself into a bald, liver-spotted octogenarian. The family believes him to be the grandfather, and he keeps shouting, “I’m not Grandpa!”

I didn’t want to be Grandpa.

It was the simple, honest mind of a child that revealed me for the stubborn jerk that I am.

Bella is the oldest, by close to a year. I met her when she was 8 months old. From the start, we got along quite well. She would throw me little smiles, grab my hand in effort to steal my wedding ring. She paid attention when I spoke. We laughed together. But when Miah and Ashleigh got closer, it didn’t take long for Becky to start referring to herself as “Grandma.” Of course, I contested this. “They’re not even married!” I insisted, but she didn’t care. You see, she already understood the art of blending families.

As soon as Bella learned to speak, she was very liberal with the phrase, “I love you.”

“I love you, Daddy!”

“I love you, Grandma!”

“I love you!” to the waitress in the restaurant.

She learned fast, too. One day, she walked into the house, gave me a big smile, and shouted out my name… or some version of it.

“Setch!”

Ha! I thought. She knows who I am. I love that kid. Of course, it pleased me that she knew me as I wanted to be known, not by some semantic-based title that I had done nothing to earn.

One day, I was standing in the kitchen. Bella wandered in. She seemed preoccupied, so I didn’t say anything. She puttered around for a few seconds, and then from behind my back, for no special reason, I heard the words of a two-year old, garbled but perfectly intelligible:

“I love you, Grandpa.”

I’m not… Ah, shit.

It was the first time any of the grandchildren had called me that. Even then, I could have argued semantics. “No, no,” I could have said, “I’m not Grandpa! I’m just a rotten old man. You call me by my name, damn it!” Still, I had to ask myself, Do I want to continue arguing semantics? Or does Bella have a point? Even if she does, I don’t want to want to be Grandpa! I don’t want to be Grandpa to this… this sweet, precocious child who… who recognizes me as a close member of her family… and.. and…

Oh, God, what an asshole I am.

Under the circumstances, I did the only thing that was appropriate. I said: “I love you too, Bella.”

It didn’t matter how old I was. It didn’t matter if Miah was a step-son or if Bella was Ashleigh’s from another relationship. Miah was Daddy. Becky was Grandma, and I was Grandma’s husband. But even that was just semantics. She called me Grandpa because I’m her Grandpa, just like Ashleigh’s dad, just like her granddad her bio-dad’s side. Sure, it’s confusing, but how the relationship came to be is irrelevant. A toddler doesn’t consider such things.

Maybe it doesn’t matter what I want to be. Maybe what matters is what I am to her.

So once more, a small child –infinitely wiser than the educated fool she looks up to– manages to melt some ice away from a withered old heart.

These days, I see the grandchildren as little Cohorts, running around and filling my life with new stories. Bella will be 3 soon. She knows many things, and I can almost hold a full conversation with her. Nicole, who just turned 2, is now the one toddling around with an ever-expanding vocabulary. She calls me Grandpa, too.

After all, that’s who I am.

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The Jazz Man Came a-Knockin’

A decade ago, I met jazz legend Clark Terry on an airplane. He was a terrific guy, and the experience was inspirational. So why does the memory haunt me to this day? 

Clark Terry was a famous jazz trumpeter. He played swing throughout the big band era,  later venturing into bebop and hard bop. He was a mentor to, among others, Miles Davis and Quincy Jones. He recorded with countless musicians, and he even played on the tonight show.

I met Clark once. It’s not often a homebody like me meets a celebrity, and as someone who lives and breathes music, I was quite proud when we crossed paths. In recent years, however, I forgot that it even happened. It came back to me unexpectedly the other day. As I was walking into town, searching for musical opportunities –bands to jam with, children to teach– my encounter with a cheerful old Jazz Man came flooding back. Some of the details are missing; I met him on an airplane, flying back from Florida, but I can only guess as to when it happened and where I was coming from. Still, why did I remember this story at a moment when I was searching for opportunity? And why did I let allow myself to forget in the first place?

I’m going to guess it was 2005, because that’s the year Clark won the NARAs President’s Merit Award, and when we met he said he had just been given an award. My family and I happened to be in the first class compartment of the airplane, thanks to something involving my father having points with the airline and seat availability. As to why we were in Florida, I suspect it was for my grandmother’s birthday.

As I made my way into the cabin and located my seat, I noticed an old black man occupying the window in front of me. By the way the flight attendants were caring for him, I could tell he was someone important. They were all calling him “Mr. Clark,” and offering to bring him any manner of comfort. Several people were aware of his presence, but none of us knew who he was. After subtly questioning the flight attendants, my brother, Jeff, told me, “It’s Terri Clark!” I passed the information over to my parents. The woman across the aisle leaned over to ask who the celebrity was. “Terri Clark!” I answered. Boy, was that exciting!

Wait. That doesn’t sound right. Terri Clark is a woman!

Jeff was lucky enough to sit beside the cheerful old fellow. They formed a fast acquaintanceship. Before long, Jeff turned around again and murmured, “It’s not Terri Clark. It’s Clark Terry!”

“They always get my name confused,” Clark said, but he seemed perfectly okay with that.

So I spread the corrected word: it was Clark Terry, a famous old Jazz Man. At this point, I became jealous of my brother, who spent the next two and half hours chatting with a musician of over 60 years. Periodically, Jeff would look back and share some tidbit with me, which would allow me to ask my own questions. Clark was very soft-spoken, making it difficult to hear him over the engines, so I relied on Jeff to keep me in the dialogue.

Eventually, it came out that I was a drummer. I recall a passing a few messages back and forth; probably information about how long I’d been playing and what sort of music I liked. I wanted to make some sort of vocational connection with the man.

My brother listened to Clark’s response, then looked back at me with a slightly bewildered expression. “You want to jam with Clark, Seth?”

Um…

My brother, whom I had known my entire life, had just asked me if I wanted to jam with Clark Terry. No, scratch that: Clark Terry had invited me to jam with him! He was, after all, going back to New Jersey, were I lived year ’round.

While I’ve always been a rock/metal drummer and an unashamed metalhead, I’ve been known to play a little jazz on both my kit and my radio. Like any drummer worth his salt… regardless of what he plays… has studied venerable grandfathers like Gene Krupa, Buddy Rich, Max Roach, Louis Bellson, and Elvin Jones.  But my skills at jazz were less than rudimentary. I dabbled in easy stuff, and I had more of a back beat than a swing. Did I want to jam with Clark Terry? COULD I jam with Clark Terry? It was a ridiculous notion. Ridiculous. I could never hold my own with a guy like that. Me showing up at a jam with jazz musicians even approaching Clark Terry’s level would end in abject humiliation.

“No, I’m not a jazz drummer,” I said. “I’m just a rock drummer. I could never keep up with a jazz musican.”

My brother relayed my response to Clark. I heard the Jazz Man say, “Ohhh.”

And that was that. Later, I had the privilege of taking Clark’s trumpets down from the baggage compartments. Incredible, I thought, I’m holding Clark Terry’s trumpets! Clark signed the back of my drum pad. Next to his name he drew a cheesy little trumpet, giggling infectiously as he struggled to render it. He disembarked once the cabin had emptied, and I waved to him in the tunnel. After that, I didn’t see him again.

Cool story, right? I met a celebrity. Immediately after it happened, I recounted the event to a number of people. I mean, I had proof right there on my practice pad. So why did I subsequently forget the experience, and why is it haunting me now?

Could it be because age and hindsight have given me a different perspective on what really happened that day?

Clark Terry asked me to jam with him.

And I said…

No.

The reasons I turned down Clark’s invitation are transparent: Self doubt. Fear of failure. Fear of humiliation. In the end, I just couldn’t imagine how a small, socially-withdrawn, obsessive-compulsive peon like myself could belong at the session of a legendary Jazz Man. Fear and doubt caused me to miss one of the most unique opportunities of my lifetime.

Looking back after a decade, my choice seems even more ridiculous. Even if I really didn’t have the chops to play with a musician of that caliber, how many other scenarios could have unfolded?  I didn’t have to impress anyone, right? I could have sat in on a slow, easy jam. Even that would have been extraordinary. In fact, maybe someone else there might have been a funk/fusion musician and could have met me in the middle. Hell, I should have just gone and watched these guys make magic! I didn’t have to play. But that’s another question: would it have been just Clark or a collection of musicians? What sort of contacts or friendships could I have made? Would I have been introduced to a great music teacher, or a literary agent for my writing? Maybe I could have just made some cool friends. Maybe Clark Terry, mentor to the gods of jazz, could have been a mentor to me!

Perhaps, perhaps not. The possibilities are endless. My point is that we’ll never know.

For so much of my life, I’ve been ruled by fear and doubt. As many of you know, when you’re caught in the clutches of these insidious emotions, the easiest recourse is to let them have their way with you. We bow to the fear. We embrace the doubt. We tell ourselves, “There’s no way I could ever do something like that!” Well, here’s something I wish I had asked myself that day: “Is the concept of me jamming with Clark Terry any more outlandish than the concept of Clark Terry asking me to jam?” Today, all I have to show for my decision is a half-faded, barely legible signature.

Do we go around this mad world once, or do we come back for repeated attempts? No one knows. However, in 38 years here, I’ve learned something: fear and doubt are powerful motivators, but in the long term, they lead only to regret. The next time you’re facing an opportunity and demons from the id come crawling out to take it away, ask yourself this: “What do I really have to lose?” If you can’t come up with anything that’s honestly important — if bankruptcy, injury, or death aren’t in the equation–  then what are you hiding from? What are you protecting yourself from? Opportunity came for me; I was afraid of being humiliated, so I took the safe path. Maybe I avoided humiliation, but years later, I feel even more humiliated for saying “No” to a legend.

The opportunity to correct that mistake will never come. Clark Terry died on February 21st, 2015. His life was a musical odyssey. According to Wikipedia, he played with Duke Ellington, Count Basie, Quincy Jones, and many others. He appeared on over 900 recordings. He mentored a handful of the most important jazz musicians of the 20th century. He received over 250 awards. When I met him, seemed like a humble, down-to-earth man; kind, playful, and relaxed.

Once, I met Clark Terry on airplane. But the story didn’t have to end there.

What will you do when the Jazz Man invites you to jam?

-S

MT. OSCEOLA : A HEALING HIKE

Mt. Osceola is located in the White Mountains regions of New Hampshire. Rising 4,000 feet, it’s one of several mountains that form the town of Waterville Valley. The other day, several of the cohorts and I attempted to climb it for the second time.

Why the second time? We had previously conquered Sandwich Dome, another Waterville monster that comes in at just under 4,000 ft, and we’re no strangers to the summit of Mt. Pemigawasset (Indian Head, in Woodstock, NH). So why did we fail this one? Well, during our first attempt at Osceola, we left unprepared and took too long trying to locate the trail head. We drove 45 minutes to the town of Lincoln (where we previously lived), and then traveled along Rt. 112 looking for the correct trail. As it turns out, we had to enter at the Greeley Ponds Trail to find the Mt. Osceola Trail. By the time we got there, it was too late in the day to attempt to climb.

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This trail is on the Kancamagus Highway, a few miles east of Loon Mountain.

Before we left for the second attempt, I was concerned. I’d been experiencing a lot of unexplained joint pain, muscle aches, and other phantom symptoms. I’d even had blood drawn to look for Rheumatoid Arthritis or another bout of Lyme Disease (I’ve had it before). Even worse, the second attempt was plagued by delays that caused us to arrive after 3:oo PM, ensuring that we were once again too late to head for the summit. But the hike did wonders for me. We got further up the mountain, I got a better feel for the trail, and the experience was like a panacea.

Just past the entry point of the Greeley Ponds Trail lies a beach of sand and stones formed by a rough stream. Crossing can be difficult, but there are options for the sure-footed.

Scotty boogies across the river.
Scotty boogies across the stream.

After that, it’s pretty straight-forward for a while. The trail is well-maintained near the bottom, including a number of man-made bridges over the boggiest areas or places where the roots are excessively tangled.

I always love spots like this.
Crossing the swamp.

I pulled up Led Zeppelin’s “Over the Hills and Far Away ” on my iPod, guessing correctly that the song would make for good hiking music. About that time, we stopped for a breather. Scotty asked for some water to cool down, but he got more than he asked for when Becky tossed the contents of a bottle in his face. After that, it was more rocks, roots, and river for a while.

We found Ray Brower's body near the Back Harlow Road.
We found Ray Brower’s body near the Back Harlow Road.

There was a spot where the trail split left and right, with a forward path heading down to the riverbank. Believing the Greeley Ponds Scenic Area was to the right, we headed left, which eventually took us to another intersection. A sign pointed the way to the Osceola Trail. At this spot, we ran into a woman coming down the mountain with her daughter. Although profusely apologetic, she seemed to suggest that we weren’t in good enough shape to climb the damn thing, and went on to detail her daughter’s athletic exploits and her own mountain conquests to illustrate just how tough the hike was. I thought she was trying to be helpful, but Becky seemed to think she was sizing us up. As a result, we wanted to reach the summit even more.

Bilbo came upon rough steps climbing up the Lonely Mountain.
Bilbo came upon rough steps ascending the Lonely Mountain.

I went on ahead while the cohorts came along more leisurely, and I wish I could have gone all the way up. The trail was stunning that afternoon, particularly with the way the sun was hitting it. There were a few places where the treetops turned the woods into a premature dusk, but as I ascended, rays of sun broke through and illuminated the trail. At one point, a vista opened behind me, and it triggered one of those “I AM ALIVE!” moments. Though it wasn’t a great view, there was just something about turning around and seeing those mountains peeking through the trees, something to remind me how far up I had come.

It’s the sort of reminder we all need from time to time.

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We had climbed higher than I realized. 

I know what it’s like to get tired on a steep hike, but this climb rejuvenated me. All the joint  and muscle pain I’d been having seemed to vanish. The higher I went, the further I wanted to go. I probably would have gone all the way to the top had I not lost vocal contact with the others, so I started back. I experienced a brief moment of horror when I’d been descending for more than five minutes and they neither showed up nor answered my calls, but I finally found them down by the vista. As one of the cohorts wasn’t feeling too well, we chose to head back down.

Into the light!
Sun on the trail.
Bog of Eternal Stench.
Bog of Eternal Stench.
I'm thinking of sending this one into Hustler.
I’m thinking of sending this one to Hustler.
This is quite cool; lady slippers are endangered. They too look like they belong in Hustler.
This is quite cool. Lady slippers are endangered. 

I think another try is in the cards. We might even be able to ascend from another direction, as we later discovered a southern access point to Osceola on Tripoli Rd. This one looks a bit more promising. Even better, a trail for Mt. Tecumseh lies across from it; that one is also on our bucket list. If we can get on the road earlier, either summit should in reach!

-S

Up the mountain.

8 THINGS I WISH I HAD KNOWN BEFORE MY WIFE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER.

8 THINGS I WISH I HAD KNOWN BEFORE MY WIFE WAS DIAGNOSED WITH CANCER.

My wife, Becky, spent the last year battling breast cancer. She suffered through chemotherapy, radiation, and a double mastectomy. Last week, about a year and two months after first being diagnosed, she finished her breast reconstruction, and is now going through the expected emotional reactions. This is a woman who has been through many traumas, and after coming this far, she seems stronger than ever.

It wasn’t easy, though. Below, I’m going to share part of our story by outlining eight key points that we learned the hard way. I’d like to stress that I’m NOT a doctor or a medical specialist. We learned each of these points the hard way: experience. I hope my musings can help future patients by better preparing those who are at the beginning of their own journeys. A lot of these things are known, but here it is from my perspective.

If the first two points manage to help someone catch a tumor in its early stages, even better.

Again, I AM NOT A DOCTOR, NOR DO I CLAIM TO BE. THIS IS NOT MEDICAL ADVICE. BE SURE TO VISIT YOUR PHYSICIAN FOR PROPER DIAGNOSES AND TREATMENT.

EARLY DIAGNOSIS CAN GIVE YOU AN EDGE.

1.EARLY DETECTION: HAVE A PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER YOU TRUST, PART 1.

How many times have we heard that early detection is key? Becky’s cancer was found quite by accident by Dr. Ullah, our PCP. Becky went in for a routine check-up –one that she came very close to cancelling because she felt it wasn’t necessary. Prodding her to go to that appointment was one of the best decisions I have ever made. While she was there, she complained of back pain. Dr. Ullah examined her back, then noticed that she had some swollen glands in her neck. Being the cautious fellow he is, he asked, “When was your last breast exam?” She said, “About 18 months ago.” He decided to give her one right then and there.

That’s when he found the lump.

2. BETTER SAFE THAN SORRY: HAVE A PRIMARY CARE PROVIDER YOU TRUST, PART 2.

Finding a lump wasn’t all Dr. Ullah did. The mass was buried under thick knots of tissue; he had to poke around for a while. The fact that Becky possessed not only thick tissue but naturally cystic breasts made coming to a conclusion even tougher. Becky admitted that her OBG might have found the same lump over a year and a half ago, but the OBG assumed it was nothing. Dr. Ullah, however, is much more conservative. He didn’t care that Becky was only 37. He didn’t care that she had no history of breast cancer in her family. He simply didn’t like the lump. Something seemed wrong to him. Therefore, he sent her for a mammogram and an ultrasound.

We received a 99% diagnosis immediately after the imagining tests. Both her radiologist and her surgeon admitted that many PCP’s would have dismissed the lump due to Becky’s relatively young age and lack of family history.  But you know what? The lump was measured at 3 cm, and further testing revealed it to be a stage 2 tumor. The radiologist was also cautious, taking biopsies of the lymph nodes under her arm because he didn’t like the way they felt.

This is how we learned that the cancer had already begun spreading to those nodes.

All of this means they caught the disease *just* in time.

The moral: most of us don’t like going to the doctor. We don’t like undressing to be poked and probed and stuck with needles, and we really don’t like the idea that the doctor might find something. But have your regular check-ups, get suspicious things looked at, and don’t settle for the idea that “it’s nothing,” if you think it may be something.

3. DON’T BE AFRAID TO SEEK A SECOND OPINION.

This goes without saying if you hate a diagnosis or a suggested course of treatment. But even if you’re comfortable with your physician’s plan, never be afraid to consult other professionals. Until you ask, you don’t know what other forms of treatment and technology you might be missing. Different people possess different knowledge, and there are all kinds of treatments. Our oncologist (the doctor who regulates chemotherapy) specifically told us we could seek a second opinion if we so desired. He even went as far as to say, “I won’t be offended.

WHAT HAPPENS WHEN YOU LEARN YOU HAVE CANCER?

4. SETTLE IN FOR THE LONG HAUL.

A diagnosis of cancer is just the beginning of a long, challenging ordeal. Let me be clear: cancer is a life-changing event, and not one that ends anytime soon after your diagnosis. It’s not a sprint; it’s a marathon. It’s not a quick excursion; it’s a journey. Your life is going to change. Visualizing yourself beating the cancer is a good practice throughout treatment, but accepting that you’re about to face a tough road and steeling yourself for the experience is critical. Identify the people in your life whom you can trust, the ones who plan to take the entire journey with you. This is going to be a battle, and the best approach is to take it one phase at a time, one day at a time, one step at a time.

5. BE PATIENT WHEN WAITING FOR TEST RESULTS.

Cancer isn’t just a one-and-done diagnosis. There are many test, labs, and results. Some will take longer than others.

First, we learned that Becky had a lump in her breast. Then, we had to wait for the ultrasound and mammogram. After the imaging, we learned that she, in all probability, had breast cancer. Then, we had to wait for the biopsy to learn what sort of cancer it was. Then, we had to wait to speak to the surgeon before we had some idea of the staging. Prior to that appointment, I didn’t know if my wife had an early-stage, localized tumor, or a stage 4 metastasized tumor that has spread to other organs. They did get her treatment started in a relatively prompt manner, but even that had to wait until after we’d met the oncologist and heard his plan. This series of long, painful weeks was one of the scariest and anxiety-inducing periods I’ve ever been through.

It goes even further. Becky underwent chemotherapy before the surgery to remove the tumor, so it wasn’t until after the bulk of her treatment that the mass was sent to the lab for dissection. This means that we didn’t really know the true and final staging of the tumor until much of the ordeal was over.

There will be a lot of questions, and it will take months to reach all the answers. I know it’s a difficult way to live, but my advice is not to drive yourself crazy waiting for tests and results. In the meantime, live your life. One day at a time.

6. IF YOU NEED TO CRY, DO IT.

Coming to terms with something like this is dreadful. With the battle looming ahead, now is not the time to repress your grief. If you’re the patient and you need to cry, then cry. If you’re the spouse, cry. Do so if you’re the parents of the patient, or the children, or a close friend. Everyone involved will need to be strong down the stretch, so let it out now. There’s no shame in this. Some days will be harder than others. Sometimes the emotion will be stronger than your ability to hold a smile. On these rough days, feel what you need to feel.

Other days will be better. Just take them one at a time.

7. LIVE ONE DAY AT A TIME

Notice a trend? Don’t think about “What if…?” “What then…?” and “When will…?” The only way to survive a fight like this is to take everything one step at time. When you’re in the diagnosis phase, try not to think about the staging phase. When you’re in the staging phase, don’t leap ahead to the treatment phase. Trust whatever doctors and methods you’ve put your faith in, and deal with whatever is happening at this moment in time.

8. BE A SURVIVOR

This is choice that YOU make. Not long ago, I asked Becky if she sat around post-diagnosis wondering, “Is this was the end?” She said she didn’t. From the beginning, her plan was to undergo whatever torment lay ahead in order to rid herself of cancer. She never questioned the fact that she would live on in the aftermath.

Becky isn’t the only cancer survivor I’m close with. Nearly five years ago, my aunt was diagnosed with an enormous sarcoma that was thought to be fatal. She underwent horrific, radical treatments, figuring, “If I’m certain to die anyway, what do I have to lose?” At some point, though, she chose to survive. She decided to beat the disease at any cost. Today, she’s been cancer-free for close to five years. Will it come back, as the doctors predict? No one knows, but she continues to live her life one day at time, for as long as she can.

Obviously, cancer takes countless lives, but until every physician you visit tells you, in no uncertain terms, that nothing more can be done, the fight goes on. We can’t predict when we’re going to die, and with cancer the odds can tip either way. However, we have the technology to treat the disease better than ever. Trust your medical team to do their part. Your part? Beat the damn thing.

Two more things:

SHARE YOU EXPERIENCE

I have other thoughts regarding the treatments phase of the experience. I may or may not post them. Until then, there are many stories similar to mine and Becky’s. Despite that fact that Becky seemed “too young” for breast cancer, after she was diagnosed, we came across and endless stream of stories just like hers.

SUPPORT CAN BE FOUND ALL AROUND YOU

You’re going to battle; don’t be afraid to send a rallying call! You may be surprised at how many people come out of the woodwork for you… and which ones are the most supportive.

If any readers want to share their own experiences with cancer, please do!

Oh, one more thing about preparing for treatment: IMG_8365

Spouses, take note: I promised her that if she had to shave hear head, I would do it to, even though I had never gone bald. It was an extraordinary moment of bonding between us.

-S