How my terminal prostate cancer diagnosis changed me
On my first visit to MD Anderson, my doctor told me I must "plan for the worst, and hope for the best." I had been diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer, and my future was uncertain at best.
There was no longer, "I'll get to it later." The time was now. I needed to get my house in order.
Preparing after a cancer diagnosis
Most of you can relate perhaps if you think about everything you try to do before leaving on vacation.
"Preparing for the worst" is a bit more extreme, but similar in many aspects. As with vacations, we all probably attribute much more importance to our vocations, activities and physical absence than is probably warranted. Yet for the sake of our loved ones and our own peace of mind, we need to prepare.
Realizing what's important during cancer treatment
After my prostate cancer diagnosis, I found I didn't have much interest in jumping out of an airplane or traveling the world. I wanted to invest as much time as possible in the important relationships in my life. I'd spent too long caught up in the rat-race and under the illusion that I would live forever.
It's amazing that when forced into a situation such as mine, the truly important things in this life rise to the surface. All the stuff I thought were so important and dire quickly lost their immediacy. I have done a fair amount of preparing and planning in regards to finances and business-related items since my diagnosis, yet I've reserved the bulk of my energy for my relationships with other people.
My wife and I work hard at making the most out of our time together. We appreciate each other more and savor the little moments more and love a little deeper. We've also committed together to spend as much time as we can with our two girls and our immediate families.
Making every moment count
I've worked hard at investing in the life of my little girl, Kaila. I've created videos that share my life stories with her. I've created a journal that I write in to share all the funny things she does and that we all experience together. My wife and I have become far more intentional about what and how we teach her, while also investing into our parenting responsibilities.
Each night we follow a routine schedule in putting Kaila to bed. After stories and prayers, it's time to pee and brush her teeth. Yet, at the end of a long day, neither my wife nor I feel much like getting up and going to the bathroom. But in the back of my mind, I realize my time to brush Kaila's teeth and talk to her while she pees is limited. Every moment is precious.
Those five short minutes in the bathroom are now priceless. I don't want to miss one, not a single one.
My advice to others from my positioned perspective is to focus on your relationship with God and the relationships with your loved ones. Take the time to consider where your faith fits into your life, spend time with the people you are closest to, make amends and say sorry where needed. Appreciate each experience in a day as a gift.
Prostate cancer is one of the areas MD Anderson is focusing on as part of our Moon Shots Program to dramatically reduce cancer deaths. Learn more about our Prostate Cancer Moon Shot.