PREFACE TO THIS LETTER: My father is also a prostate cancer patient, walking right alongside me. It's an unexpected "twist of irony" in our connection as son and father ! I have always had tight bonds with all of my family members, but this shared diagnosis between "father and son" has drawn Dad and I even CLOSER together, beyond all words to describe.
My dad wanted to write a letter to the newly diagnosed for all of us here, because he has overcome incredible odds. Knowing a bit of his story will make his letter even more powerful to anyone who reads it. When my dad was 50 years old, he was unexpectedly diagnosed with acute leukemia. His case was critical, and he was not expected to live.
I am the oldest child in my family, and Dad asked me to always watch over my siblings and to take care of my mother, in the event of his passing. He was hospitalized, 'round the clock, for 100 continuous days ... receiving experimental chemotherapy, in a desperate attempt to save his life. With leukemia racing through his body, it was a race against time from the moment he arrived at the hospital ... he had been the picture of health his entire life. We hear that so statement so often, don't we ?
I was a young school teacher then, just getting started in my teaching career, and this happened to my dad during the summertime when school was out ... so, I sat by my dad's hospital bedside for 100 days in a row, and sometimes through the night when things looked bleak, encouraging him to keep "pulling through" ...
Throughout that summer, a tremendous bond was formed between us during those 100 "life on the line" days, in ways that have become even more meaningful today. I could NEVER have foreseen how important that bond would become to both of us now, and the pathways that BOTH of our lives have taken ever since ...
Even though Dad faced very grim odds of survival, I noticed that my father seemed to have incredible resolve, courage, and HOPE. Incredible HOPE ! HOPE?!! Really ?!!?!! Sometimes I didn't understand that HOPE that HE HELD ONTO EACH DAY ... his case APPEARED so hopeless, to be honest ... often, his doctors spoke to me behind-the-scenes when there was bad news from the lab reports during those 100 days ... as the relentless rounds of chemotherapy infusions dripped through his veins, day after day after day ... drop by drop by drop.
I knew what the doctors were saying ... I was told the slim medical probabilities of his survival. They kept saying, "You're his oldest son, right? Well, the news isn't good today, I'm sorry to say." HOPE is a powerful thing, as I discovered that summer ... life lesson here ... for all of us. Dad showed me that in incredible ways during that summer ... the POWER OF HOPE for the newly diagnosed.
Honestly, there were times when I wanted to take those dreaded infusion needles out of Dad's veins with my bare hands myself, pack up his suitcase, tell his doctors we were LEAVING, and drive Dad 100 miles back to my HOMETOWN where my parents still live, instead of enduring one more minute of those treatments. Instead, I gritted my teeth ... practiced PATIENCE ... and watched the chemo infusions, as they continued ... drip ... drip ... drip ... and I kept hoping those endless drips would somehow save his life. Would ONE of those drips of chemotherapy chemicals be the one that started saving his life ? Was it possible ?
Newfound HOPE arrived ... each day ... in the form of notes and cards and letters from friends and family members in the mail ... we read those cards and letters countless times ... more cards arrived each day ... and I learned the value of SUPPORT FROM OTHERS in their words. It came from the people Dad and I had both known our entire lives ... the CIRCLE OF SUPPORT ... words, penmanship, encouragement, verses, postate stamp, mailbox ... care, concern, compassion, courage ... HOPE !
Dad's personal mantra for living was always stated to me in these words, "Son, the SECRET to LIFE is ENDURANCE. Don't ever forget that ... ENDURANCE !" I grew up hearing him say that countless times through my boyhood years ... never were those words more needed than that summer ...
Miraculously, Dad pulled through his bout with leukemia ... and SURVIVED ! He is a shining example put before me today, in my OWN journey with cancer ...
A few years ago, Dad was suddenly diagnosed with cancer once again, when he was in his early 60s ... this time, it was prostate cancer. He had surgery and has been watched over very carefully ever since.
Just a few years later, the tables were turned, and I was diagnosed with prostate cancer in my 40s ... my dad providing INCREDIBLE support to me when I first heard the news, based on his own medical journey. In fact, he was there standing beside me in the doctor's office when I received the news of my own prostate cancer diagnosis. A new school year had just started for me. I drew from HIS strength, standing there next to my dad in that moment.
My dad's urologist and oncologist are both incredible doctors. Based on my father's experiences, I chose both of those doctors for my own case ... and they have continued to help both my father and me in incredible ways, now that we both have faced a prostate cancer diagnosis. Together, Dad and I have formed an incredible bond with our shared doctors.
Something I saw my father doing, even during those darkest days when he was hospitalized with leukemia over 20 years ago ... even when his own future was so unknown and so uncertain ... Dad ALWAYS reached out to other patients, young and old and in-between ...he talked to them ... he listened to their story ... he showed tremendous heart and concern for their well-being ... and he prayed for them. I was amazed that he focused on OTHERS ... instead of himself ... in the face of his own life-threatening diagnosis. It was a powerful life lesson, put in front of my eyes ...
Now that I also "walk in his shoes" in terms of facing a cancer diagnosis, I look to Dad as an example and his unwavering belief in reaching out to others. In reaching out to others, he discovered from his own experience ... you are somehow helped, in fair return.
When Dad heard about
this letter writing project, realizing he has been LIVING A FULL LIFE for over 20 years since first being diagnosed with cancer, he IMMEDIATELY wanted to share his thoughts with those who just received the news of their own cancer diagnosis. In the past few years he often says to me when I'm visiting my hometown, "Today has been a GREAT day ... I just LOVE living life."
Reading my father's letter written below was an incredible gift to me, as well, because of the lifelong bond we have shared over time ... and how my father and I are now drawn together in yet another way because of our shared prostate cancer diagnosis. My father's letter follows below, in the hopes it will reach others who will benefit from my father's strong belief in the power of HOPE and finding one's own PERSONAL STRENGTH.
Indeed, Dad, the secret to living life HAS been endurance, just as you always said. You see, Dad ... I WAS listening all those years ago ! (Preface Written By: "Cyclone Fan")
Here Is My Father's Letter To Those Who Just Received A Cancer Diagnosis ...
I sat down today to write a letter to THE NEWLY DIAGNOSED ... this is for each one of them and their families, friends, and loved ones ...
Normal reactions to the trials of life are commonly met with DISBELIEF and FEAR. However, we are all human and some emotions and fears are too powerful to be contained, even with a strong personal faith, after one's initial disbelief is accepted.
Quite unexpectedly, over twenty years ago ... at the age of 50 years old ... I was suddenly pushed into the WORLD OF CANCER and the distinct possibility of passing away with acute leukemia. In more recent years, I was also diagnosed with prostate cancer.
To be honest, the fear of leaving behind all of those you love is so overpowering ... so, you begin DAY ONE finding out EVERYTHING you can about
the unwelcome INTRUDER in your life, known as cancer.
You FIGHT BACK ... each and EVERY DAY ... to beat the odds you have been assigned. Along the way ... you doubt ... you cry ... you fear ... AND ... you HOPE !
Along the way ... you NEVER GIVE UP ! You DO WHATEVER IT TAKES ... to endure another treatment ... to sit through one more dosage of chemo ... to put yourself through one more scan ... to take one more pill ... and you PRAY. Pray without ceasing ... for yourself and for OTHERS !
With these words I've shared with you today, my friends ... you'll know IN YOUR HEART ... that YOU will be THE ONE to beat the odds !
Written in the spirit of reaching out to others,
DAD ("Cyclone's Father")
EPILOGUE: There's a bit more to tell you, now that my dad has written his letter to the newly diagnosed. Over time, as I began my own treatments for prostate cancer, the story of "father and son" BOTH being diagnosed and treated for prostate cancer began to spread widely across my Midwestern hometown. Six generations of my family have lived in the same county for over 100 years, and my father and I know almost every family in the area. Realizing that together we represented TWO GENERATIONS of men, Dad and I realized that our story had the potential to reach a wide range of other fellows who also faced a prostate cancer diagnosis ... and to encourage other fellows to stay vigilant in their own health and to stay up-to-date with doctor visits and regular physicals.
Since then, Dad and I have found ways to communicate, support, and "reach out" to others from my hometown area. We've shared our stories ... offered some medical advice, when asked ... given recommendations for follow-up care ... shared the names of the doctors who have continued to treat both of us ... visited other prostate cancer patients ... sent cards and letters and messages of support ... had "one brother to another brother" talks with them ... and advocated the importance of practicing due diligence in regard to men's health.
Over time, Dad and I have talked to family friends ... church members ... neighbors ... our relatives ... the fellows at the coffee shop ... my old college roommates ... work colleagues ... old classmates from high school ... "one fellow to another fellow" conversations ...
When I'm back visiting in my hometown, Dad and I have reached out to other fellows in coffee shops ... local pubs and cafes ... church gatherings ... the local barber shop ... the bank ... the post office ... the grocery store ... sporting events ... the country club at the golf course ... and downtown on "Main Street" where happenstance conversations often occur in smaller communities.
Since then, other family friends have gone for check-ups with their doctor and some of them are also currently being treated for prostate cancer, following their own diagnosis. This forum is a shining example of that every single day ... "one brother to another brother" ... REACHING OUT !
To this day, my dad treasures a large CARDBOARD BOX ... still filled with the original cards and letters of support he received during those 100 days he spent in the hospital over 20 years now. There's a lot of HOPE inside that box, believe me ! Meanwhile ... thanks for the letter, DAD, and much more than words can EVER say !
Post Edited (ISU-CycloneFan) : 11/16/2016 10:46:37 AM (GMT-7)