I promised myself and you guys that I would not constantly write about my experiences in battling cancer, but I guess it is now such a part of me that I have to get some of it out. Now that I am able to kind of slow everything down and look at my situation objectively, I realize that I may be able to help people who have cancer and people who know someone who has cancer.
How can I help? By giving you advice based on experience that may just help you realize what is going on in your head, and what is going on in the heads of the people around you.
I have been through it all so far. I had the friends and family who rushed to my side when I was diagnosed and who never left. I wound up starting this website with one of them, and I still look to the others for support and advice. When you have cancer, you have to accept some harsh truths that, once you accept them, become more manageable over time.
While I had friends and family who rushed to my side, I had plenty of others who wanted nothing to do with me when they found out. You will find out who your friends are when you get cancer, and you will find out which family members you can rely on. Don't ignore those revelations. You use them to build the strongest support network you can.
I have a little bit of a public persona, so I am an easy target for petty people on social media and elsewhere. I read the posts of people who said I was faking it for attention, or the people who were suddenly oncologists and said that I didn't have it as bad as I said I did. Those people all turned out to be cowards. When confronted with their chance to hear the truth, they shied away and blocked me from speaking to them.
When you develop your support network, don't look outside of it for encouragement or opinions. If you do, you will find that a lot of people in this world (and this community) are petty rumor mongers and attention whores who want to use your misfortune to make themselves look better. Over time, even I learned to ignore those people. Some of them I even pity a little bit.
You will lose time at your job and you will lose a lot of money. I finally did my taxes and realized I lost more than I thought. Don't be proud. Don't push away the help of people who care. Your family will need that and you will need it too. It is stressful enough battling cancer, but the stress gets worse when you start worrying about possibly losing your home or your car.
When you are first diagnosed, keep saying the word "cancer"out loud until you can do it without breaking down. Why should you do that? Because you will have to, at several points in the initial part of your treatment, have lucid conversations with people about cancer and your treatment options. You will have to tell your job you have cancer, and your spouse will have to adjust as well. It took me a week before I could say the word without choking up. But once I was able to say it, I felt like I was able to confront it easier.
Own the fact that you have cancer, and don't let the disease intimidate you. Having cancer these days is not the death sentence it used to be. There are plenty of options you and your doctors can try before you come even close to giving up. Listen to your doctors and do what they say. Don't be a maverick and don't trust the diet supplement information online over your doctors. Be honest with your doctors, and listen to everything they say.
Cancer does change you. Cancer does become a big part of who you are. But it does not need to dictate your life. Get on with your life and do the things that you want to do. You may do those things a little slower and you may need to catch your breath once in a while, but keep living your life.
When you get cancer, the rest of your health issues become amplified. I could have lost my sight to cancer, and I had no idea it was coming. I am a bigger person, and my extra weight was not helping my battle at all. It took a while for the idea to sink into my thick skull, but I realized about a month ago that I need to do my part to improve my health as well. I have lost weight, I am trying to exercise, and I am trying to get better. When you feel better, you fight stronger.
For the people who don't have cancer, I have this to say to you. People with cancer, for the most part, are not bald, deathly ill, and constantly hooked up to an I.V. bottle. Most of the people I see at Roswell have the same healthy look that anyone else would have. It isn't until the fight is almost lost that someone starts looking like the stereotypical cancer patient.
So don't try to make yourself feel better by telling someone with cancer that they are faking because they look healthy. I have heard stories from so many cancer patients who said that their families don't believe they are sick and those families actually walk away from the cancer patient. Cancer is not something that can be fought alone. If you would rather judge someone because they don't look like what you expect instead of standing by their side and fighting with them, then you are a horrible person.
I have seen a lot since December 27, 2015. I have experienced a lot. I have changed a lot. I now know how absolutely black-hearted and awful people can be, and I know how wonderful people can be. I still intend to win my fight, but I want to help others as well. Don't let anyone make you feel guilty about having cancer (it happens - often). If you reach out to family and friends and cannot get any support, then talk to your doctor. Roswell has an amazing program in place to get cancer patients the emotional support they need.
Don't fight cancer alone.
Don't cave in to the petty garbage of backyard gossips and fake friends.
Don't ever stop fighting.
No one will ever know what you are going through, but trust me when I say that those closest to you are suffering right along with you. My wife is amazing. She is my rock. If you get struck with cancer, find your rock and don't let go,
You can win. Don't ever think you cannot win. Just fight.
George N Root III is a Lockport resident who was both elated and disgusted by what he saw from people when he was first fighting cancer. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.