I like the saying at the bottom of Tom Hulsey’s emails: “Life is not a spectator sport.” Although Tom and I have never met, we have spoken numerous times through email, and we share a few things in common. We were both athletes: Tom ran in Ironman triathlons and I ran in sprint triathlons. And, we both fought, and continue to fight prostate cancer.
I say continue because if you’ve had prostate cancer, you know it never really goes away. Doctors may have treated you with seed or direct radiation, or — as in my case —removed your prostate altogether, but it never really goes away. The disease invades more than your prostate.
It plants a seed of fear in your mind! Even after more than two years of negative results on blood tests, the fear is still there. Even after hearing my doctor say that “things look good,” that seed of doubt is still there. But, I don’t allow it to grow. I never water it with the negative thought of “it’s back!” I believe if you allow your mind to take control of negative thoughts, your body will consciously or unconsciously manifest that thought into reality.
I remember, and perhaps you will as well, a commercial that ran in the late ’70s, maybe early ’80s on television. It basically said that “Someone you love or know, has been affected by cancer!” I remember arrogantly thinking “Pfft, not me!”
After having that thought, my grandfather developed breast cancer. It didn’t get him, though (Alzheimer’s did). Almost ten years ago, my mother developed breast cancer. She and my father moved in with me and my new bride of a little more than a year. They knew my wife, a nurse who worked for some time at M.D. Anderson, would know how to help my mom through this difficult time. As my mother’s hair began to fall out, we had a family get together and shaved her head. Seconds later my father said, “Now, shave mine!”
After my mother completed her chemo and radiation treatments, and was given the preliminary ‘all clear’ sign, my parents were set to move out. But then, my father developed prostate cancer. He had seed radiation which caused enough colon damage that he, even today, still deals with the side effects.
About 18 months later, my recently remarried sister announced that she had breast cancer. She had a double mastectomy. Her recovery was long and painful. Roughly 18 months later, my brother informed us he had prostate cancer. He opted for direct radiation. Two years later, my PSA spiked. I knew exactly what it was. I remember my wife asking me, “Do you think you have it?” I told her I knew that I did!
After a Friday morning biopsy, I found out that my cancer — which my doctor believed was Stage 1 non-aggressive — was actually Stage 3 aggressive. My doctor’s recommendation was to remove the prostate and seminal vesicles. So, two weeks later, I had surgery.
I have three young children, ages four, six, and 10. I want to live to walk my six-year-old daughter down the aisle on her wedding day. I want to live to see the young men that my sons become. I want to live long enough to travel with my wife, who, through my family’s cancers, did what she does best: nurse. I have no bucket list. I am a journalist. God has blessed me with a job where I have been paid to fly fighter jets, drive race cars, scuba dive, hunt, fish, sail, hot air balloon, and too many amazing things to list. I have met numerous presidents, world leaders, movie stars, rock stars, and done things most people only get to dream of doing.
So, you’re right, Tom, when you say, “Life is not a spectator sport!” It’s another thing Tom and I share. I believe in life, no matter the circumstances, no matter what you are facing. You only have two choices. You can lay down and die, or you can get up and live! I choose LIFE! I don’t want to be in this club and neither does my mother, father, sister or brother, but we all thank God we are. We are SURVIVORS!