The Wisdom of a 5 Year Old
It has been almost 3 years, but I can remember it like it was yesterday. It was a Friday and the report was short and to the point. The only words I saw, simply read, “Malignant tumor until otherwise proven." That night my wife Jamie and I had a very intimate, private conversation. That will always be a moment for just us two. It was sincere, it was raw, and it was emotional. It was scary and loving all at the same time. It was also filled with optimism, faith, and hope. No sooner than this happened and we heard the cry of our youngest, Zachary. I got up and went to get him. I picked him up and carried him back to the living room to be with Jamie. As I rocked him, I looked at his perfectly symmetrical face. He gets so much of his appearance from his mother. He has the most round, sky blue eyes of our 3 boys. I remember distinctly thinking, and then telling Jamie, “he is only 5 months old and his Daddy has cancer."
Life changed for us that night. The cancer lifestyle is a long bumpy road. I felt like bad news came in droves. First, it was the diagnosis, followed by surgery, the news it had spread, and eventually chemotherapy. I made new friends on my first day of chemotherapy. We would go on walks using our IV poles as walkers. We each had our story, and although they were different, the feelings were the same. One of my new friends had a cake delivered to chemotherapy. He shared it with the nurses and patients. His doctors had given him two years to live, and on this day, he celebrated beating their odds. My other friend had a bag full of candy. He handed it out along the way trying to bring smiles to otherwise long faces. I remember on one of my last days, meeting a fellow patient who had the same diagnosis as I did. We chatted, talked about our journeys, and then wished each other well. I walked away mentioning to Jamie how beat up he looked from the chemotherapy. His head was bald, his skin pale, his shadowed eyes sunk deep in their sockets. I jokingly asked Jamie if I looked like he did. Without a word, she answered with the smirk on her face as she grabbed my hand and walked me to my chair.
Cancer isn’t something you face alone. It’s a battle fought with, and for, those we love.
When I think of chemotherapy, I think of nausea, a bald head, and fatigue. I think of Wednesday nights. For some reason, the sickness was most predictable on Wednesday nights. I knew when it would hit, and I dreaded the hour it would come. I think of SunChips. While we sat in our chairs getting infused, a kind volunteer would push around a cart full of treats for the taking. They were free with the purchase of chemo. I ate way too many SunChips sitting in that chair. Now, if I see SunChips on the shelf at the store, I immediately get nauseous all over again. I imagine I will never eat another SunChip for as long as I live.
Eventually, the day came when I was declared cancer free. It was the week before Christmas and the greatest present ever. I think about how fortunate I am, every single day. Sometime after, I was talking to my oldest about chemotherapy. Austin was five at the time. I learned a lot from the wisdom of a five-year-old that day. He didn’t mention any of the things I did when thinking about chemotherapy. He didn’t mention my bald head, how sick I was, or how much I needed rest. He simply mentioned that chemotherapy was the thing that healed his dad. To him, that is all he saw.
June is Men’s Health month. The goal is to raise awareness about preventable health problems and to encourage early detection and treatments of diseases. The American Cancer Society states that almost 40% of men will receive a cancer diagnosis during their lifetime. They estimate that in 2017, over 830,000 men will be diagnosed with some form of the disease. In addition to cancer, the number one threat to men’s health is heart disease. Contributing factors are high blood pressure, obesity and high cholesterol. Along with this, 13 million American men have diabetes.
We can do more. We can take better care of ourselves. We can take the wisdom of a 5-year-old and chose to see what can heal us. We can eat healthy. We know we should. We can eat a diet high in lean protein, low in sugar, with high fiber fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats. We can move more. We can get regular exercise. It promotes better cardiovascular health, it improves our mood and makes us feel great about ourselves. Finally, we can make prevention a priority. Many health conditions can be prevented or detected early with routine checkups and visits to a doctor. We can get regular screenings for our blood pressure, cholesterol, blood sugar, prostate health and more. We can be a better version of who we are by focusing on things that promote what we want to become.
Travis A., Clinical Business Operations Manager, U of U Health Plans