Ed Steger is a head and neck cancer survivor. He was diagnosed in 2005 and after rough patches in 2006 and 2007 has been in remission. He writes a blog about his cancer experience at www.hncancer.blogspot.com.
How often have you said to yourself, "If only I had a chance to start over?"
Although I've been living with cancer since early 2005, it was only within the past year that I had an epiphany: I actually do have a second chance at life! Not a "time machine" type second chance, but a chance to re-evaluate my life before cancer and decide how I will live my life going forward.
Part of this was driven by the realization that I probably won't die of cancer within the next three months. The other part was driven by the need to re-purpose my life after meeting a major goal -- providing guidance and watching my then 13-year-old daughter mature, graduate from high school and begin her life as an independent young woman.
That being "done" -- is one ever done? -- the following is what I've decided to do with my second chance.
Giving back and making a difference
B.C. -- Before Cancer -- I always loved my job. My educational background was in math and computer science. My professional work added experience in project/program management, process engineering and change management.
What I loved most about my work was making a difference, making it quickly and putting it to work. This drive worked very well for my clients and staff. I built business enterprises that changed the way large organizations operated and, with my team, made those organizations more efficient and effective.
Fast forward to A.C. -- After Cancer. Drawing on this love for making a positive impact, I was invited a year ago to become a patient research advocate volunteer at my cancer center. It's taken awhile to begin to make a contribution in this role, but I'm beginning to see where my background strengths and volunteer efforts may contribute to advances in the fight against cancer. Time-wise, this isn't a large commitment, only two days a month.
But, I do see the potential for positive impact, and that gives me hope and purpose. My two sponsors at the cancer center have made this possible, and I thank them both for their trust in me and this opportunity to give something back.
Continuing to learn
Three years ago, I developed a renewed interest in learning about the larger world. Thus, I've become a lover of reading. I now read two non-fiction books a month, many on the subject of health care, and a few historical books.
I read articles of interest in daily and periodic publications. Topics range from cancer research and personalized medicine, to public and global affairs. I've also recently started taking a few college-level courses.
For instance, right now I'm in a college-level biology course. About 90% of the course is online, which fits well with my post-cancer disabilities and my preferred style of learning.
We meet for a lab once a month. It's fascinating and the instructor is terrific. She makes learning fun and has done everything possible to provide an environment where students willing to put in the effort will learn this material.
I find it challenging, which adds to the allure. Eventually, I believe it may allow me to contribute more (or in a different way) in my cancer center volunteer activities. If it does, that will be a bonus.
Read A Second Chance at Life Part II.