My Merriam-Webster dictionary defines the term “survive ” as “to live or exist longer than; outlive”. The summer of 2010 marked three years from the cancer surgery. All my checkups leading up to this point had been good. My PSA results continued to be <.1 ng/ml. However, is three years a sufficient amount of time to declare yourself a “survivor”? Did I really “outlive” the cancer?
My understanding is that if you make it to five years, then you’re considered cured. But just the stealth nature of this disease made me feel uneasy. I never really had any symptoms leading up to my diagnosis, just an increasing PSA reading. Despite my generally positive attitude, I continued to wonder if bad news was lurking around the corner, waiting to beat me down again.
In the early summer of 2010, we added a new member to our family. We’ve always found comfort in having animals in our house. With several cats and one aging beagle, we welcomed Calvin, an adorable 2.5 month old yellow labrador retriever to the mix. Animals don’t ask for much, but who can deny the unconditional love pets provide their owners. Being a lab, I knew that it was just a matter of time before Calvin would be joining me on my regular runs at home. The veterinarian had advised us to wait until Calvin was around one and a half before taking him on longer runs. We did take him for long walks though and he loved going.
I hadn’t told many people about my diagnosis at work, other than some of my work running buddies. I also asked them to keep this information to themselves. I didn’t want to discuss my situation at work so I kept things to myself. Work was an escape for me. I focused in on all the projects before my group and it helped pass the time. When I wasn’t busy, my mind would sometimes wander and I would find myself thinking about things that could go wrong. I didn’t want to become a hypochondriac in the process. So I made a point to stay busy both at work and home.
Life is full of good and bad things. I guess that’s suppose to help balance things off. I remember telling my friends about my diagnosis at a local pub after a run back in late 2007. The usual cast of running characters were there. In particular, Doug Zimmerman learned of my cancer at that time. Little did we know that less than three years later we would lose Doug during a run from an apparent heart condition. I wondered back then if my days were numbered. I was the one with cancer.
For some reason, we didn’t get 2010-2011 Gampel season tickets to the UCONN Men’s basketball games. We had gotten season tickets for the past six or seven years until then. But we faithfully watched them on TV every game. Wouldn’t you know it, the UCONN Men went on a roll, lead by Kemba Walker and won the Big East and NCAA tournaments with a remarkable eleven game winning streak. This should go down as one of the greatest tournament runs ever in NCAA history. It’s amazing how a little distraction can help get you through tough times.