NASHVILLE, February 17, 2017. – So this is it. This is the one-year anniversary of when the doctor told me without saying so that I probably had cancer. I had done my own research and knew it was either that or something else, and while the something else was far less likely given my overall symptoms, I allowed myself to tell myself that’s what it was.
The doctor put an end to to that self-deception, and though he didn’t use the word “cancer,” all the other words he said made it clear that he thought, pending one more test, that cancer is what the diagnosis would be.
The end of the story is, a year later I’m cancer-free, after a hard year of surgery and radiation and chemo, and I can look back on the year and realize that while I wouldn’t have chosen it, I learned a lot and gained a lot, too.
I’m thankful especially for friends and family who stepped up to help me in a variety of ways when I was sick. That includes family members and friends who stayed with me, drove me to medical appointments, sat with me in the hospital for days, and cooked for me when I couldn’t do it myself, and perfect strangers across the country who, when I needed to raise some money for the mounting medical bills, stepped up to buy dozens of prints of my photography (and, in some cases, just sent me money but refused to pick a photograph for me to print for them).
Something else I’ve learned, along with being blown away by the compassion and generosity of people I have never met, is that sometimes people will disappoint you. Some people talk a bigger game than they play. Some people you thought were friends are really just acquaintances. But the number of people who said they’d help and then didn’t was small, and that tells me there’s still a lot of good people in this world.
One of my goals in life in the not-to-distant future is to drive around the country and meet as many of those strangers who stepped up to help and thank them in person.
Well, that’s about it. One year into the fight against cancer. I choose to declare myself cancer-free, though of course it is the blood tests every three months that will tell the tale. The doctor won’t say it officially for awhile longer but I will:
With the help of God, great doctors, and the compassion and support of friends, family and perfect strangers, I kicked cancer’s ass.
Postscript: The daffodils photo accompanying this post was made on Feb. 21, 2011, at Harlinsdale Farm, a historic former Tennessee Walking Horse farm in Franklin, Tennessee. Those were the first daffodils I had seen that year. I’ve actually made a habit of going back to Harlinsdale, to the crumbling old farmhouse, in early February each year since, to see how early the daffodils have come up. I made this photograph while in the middle of a rather contentious divorce, and it remains one of my favorite photographs – new life emerging right next to crumbling wreckage. Transitions. Hope.
I didn’t make it back to Harlinsdale in February of 2016 – I was too sick with cancer at that point – but I am going back there this weekend. With all the warm weather Nashville has been having of late, I fully expect to find the daffodils.
Life goes on.