Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. A Week of Gratitude: Day 1 – Cancer

 

The President of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, of which I am a member, has asked everyone to post a daily expression of gratitude this week to help aid in healing many of the open wounds in our society. I thought that Ricochet would be a good place to post since this is where I spend most of my “social-media” time.

Ten years ago I had a hernia repaired. During the surgery, the doctor placed a mesh to strengthen the repair. Shortly after my recovery, a lump began to grow above the repair along my beltline. I assumed that it was scar tissue caused by disturbing the underlying tissue to place the mesh so I didn’t do anything about it. I thought that it would be an out-of-pocket cosmetic repair and I used that as justification to avoid having another surgery. Late last year I changed my mind about having it repaired. Constant rubbing by my waistband and belt was causing repeated bleeding and it had grown enough for me to notice a change. My surgeon’s visual diagnosis was a squamous-cell or basal-cell carcinoma, a little scarier than scar tissue, but not anything to worry about. After the resection, the tests came back positive for dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a rare cancer that is locally aggressive but with a greater than 95% survival rate. Two resections and a round of radiation therapy later I seem to have a clean bill of health.

Going over this speedbump in my life has left me grateful for many things.

I had a skilled surgeon who eased my worries in addition to removing the sarcoma. “Don’t worry,” he told me, “if it were really dangerous you would already be dead since you ignored it for so long!” He was able to remove it all without touching anything that wouldn’t grow back.

My radiation oncologist was also very skilled and spent a lot of time providing research about treatments and their effectiveness. She was open about the options and what each one meant. I feel confidence in her continued care as she monitors my progress over the coming years.

There are scores of nurses, technicians, administrators, researchers, etc. who provided quality care, encouragement, support.

I have good insurance through an understanding employer that offset most of the costs of treatment.

So many men and women have spent so much time and so many resources researching disease processes, drugs, and technologies to make treatment for these rare diseases possible.

We live in a country with a system of government that encourages medical research and financial mechanisms to make treatments like mine possible.

There was a man behind me in the radiation queue each day with stage-four lung cancer who showed me what bravery really looks like. I got to know him a little as he talked about starting, running, and selling a machine shop. He and his wife then moved to Austin to enjoy a well-earned retirement only to have to deal with a disease that will most likely kill him. But he was upbeat and determined to do whatever he could to beat it.

My wife and children have been so supportive. My daughters were gentle and encouraging and my sons boisterous and humorous. My wife was both practical and caring. She foresaw the kinds of clothing, work-at-home arrangements, and mixture of tenderness/toughness that I would need to ease my recovery. She is the best part of my life.

Finally, I am grateful to my Heavenly Father. I have no pretensions that I merit such a light burden. If I had to have cancer in my life, this was the one to get. Sitting on it for ten years should have made it much worse, but the growth was all lateral and didn’t penetrate into my muscles or internal organs. My sarcoma was not the sub-type that metastasizes and kills you in two years. I will not know until I stand in His presence all the ways He blessed and comforted me and my family this past year. I will do my best to show gratitude by changing things in my life that need to change and by using my strength to lift the burdens of those around me.

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  1. Doug Watt Moderator

    Thank you for an essay that in these turbulent times reminds us that some things are more important than others.

    • #1
    • November 22, 2020, at 1:43 PM PST
    • 8 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  2. Dr. Jimmy Carter Member
    Dr. Jimmy CarterJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Alan Drake: I thought that Ricochet would be a good place

    Keep posting, Brother. 

    • #2
    • November 22, 2020, at 1:54 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  3. Manny Member

    God bless and continued progress. You caught my attention with the hernia operation. I had the same thing performed on me with the mesh about five years ago. I have not had any issues. 

    • #3
    • November 22, 2020, at 2:54 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  4. Susan Quinn Contributor

    Thank you for sharing your story. It’s inspiring and uplifting. 

    • #4
    • November 22, 2020, at 3:26 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  5. Front Seat Cat Member

    God bless you and thank you for sharing your story. I sometimes see commercials for those mesh products that are used in your type of surgery and there have been lawsuits. Are they still used? You are blessed in so many ways.

    • #5
    • November 22, 2020, at 3:51 PM PST
    • 5 likes
  6. Alan Drake Coolidge
    Alan Drake

    Front Seat Cat (View Comment):

    God bless you and thank you for sharing your story. I sometimes see commercials for those mesh products that are used in your type of surgery and there have been lawsuits. Are they still used? You are blessed in so many ways.

    Yes, I have been blessed in many ways.

    I don’t know if the mesh is still used. The cancer wasn’t related to it as far as I can tell. The research indicates that a sizable percentage of people with this cancer develop it after surgery. As the body repairs two chromosomes swap genes and growth factor is encoded rather than connective tissue. I would have to do more tests to know if that’s what happened in my case. 

    • #6
    • November 22, 2020, at 6:01 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  7. Eddy Ericsson Coolidge

    Thank you for sharing. To have tour kids act that way, you must be a good role model for them. That’s a gift.

    • #7
    • November 22, 2020, at 7:42 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  8. Shauna Hunt Coolidge

    Hello! Thank you so much for this post! I needed it. I’m a member, too. I still need to post on social media. I’m thankful you are here to enjoy all life has to offer.

    • #8
    • November 22, 2020, at 8:11 PM PST
    • 2 likes
  9. Dr. Bastiat Member

    Alan Drake: the tests came back positive for dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a rare cancer

    Holy cats. Dang right it’s rare…

     

    Alan Drake (View Comment):
    I don’t know if the mesh is still used. The cancer wasn’t related to it as far as I can tell. The research indicates that a sizable percentage of people with this cancer develop it after surgery. As the body repairs two chromosomes swap genes and growth factor is encoded rather than connective tissue.

    We still use mesh routinely in hernia repairs. The recurrence rate of the hernia is too high otherwise. The mesh has not been linked to any cancers so far, and we’ve been using it for decades.

    You just got unlucky. Or lucky, actually, as you pointed out.

    You have someone watching over you, my friend…

    • #9
    • November 23, 2020, at 12:00 PM PST
    • 4 likes
  10. Alan Drake Coolidge
    Alan Drake

    Dr. Bastiat (View Comment):

    Alan Drake: the tests came back positive for dermatofibrosarcoma protuberans, a rare cancer

    Holy cats. Dang right it’s rare…

     

    Alan Drake (View Comment):
    I don’t know if the mesh is still used. The cancer wasn’t related to it as far as I can tell. The research indicates that a sizable percentage of people with this cancer develop it after surgery. As the body repairs two chromosomes swap genes and growth factor is encoded rather than connective tissue.

    We still use mesh routinely in hernia repairs. The recurrence rate of the hernia is too high otherwise. The mesh has not been linked to any cancers so far, and we’ve been using it for decades.

    You just got unlucky. Or lucky, actually, as you pointed out.

    You have someone watching over you, my friend…

    Thanks, Doc. Your comment made me laugh.

    • #10
    • November 23, 2020, at 3:06 PM PST
    • 3 likes
  11. RushBabe49 Thatcher

    If I’m not mistaken, the surgical mesh that had all the lawsuits was used in women having uterine prolapse repair. I remember all the publicity about that.

    • #11
    • November 23, 2020, at 9:24 PM PST
    • Like
  12. Stad Coolidge

    Alan Drake: My wife and children have been so supportive.

    Count your fellow Ricochetti too!

    • #12
    • November 24, 2020, at 6:28 AM PST
    • 2 likes
  13. Alan Drake Coolidge
    Alan Drake

    Stad (View Comment):

    Alan Drake: My wife and children have been so supportive.

    Count your fellow Ricochetti too!

    Thank you, Stad. I appreciate it. It amazes me how much it helps to know other people are pulling for you.

    • #13
    • November 24, 2020, at 7:41 AM PST
    • 3 likes