10 Things I wish I Knew When I Was DiagnosedGary Heyer
Let’s face it, the sentence nobody ever wants to hear is, “You have stage 4 colorectal cancer that has spread through your lymph nodes and into your liver.” This was a sentence I had expressed to me just 3 days before Christmas in 2017.
At that moment, I was scared beyond words. I had no direction. I had no idea how I was going to be able to fight this disease or if I was going to even be able to. Now that I am 2 years into my war and in my second remission, here is the list of the top 10 things I wish I knew when I was diagnosed.
My Cancer Diagnosis Was Not My Death Sentence.
When you are first hit with news like a cancer diagnosis, your mind automatically shifts to, “I am going to die.” or “My life is over.” Well the fact of the matter is that we are all on a path to death eventually and quite frankly, we have no control over when or how it will happen. Just like I had no control over the fact that I was just diagnosed with cancer.
What my cancer diagnosis did for me is it woke me up. I didn’t know what my war was going to end up looking like then and now that I am two years into the war with winning 2 battles so far, I still don’t know what this war will end up looking like in the end.
So now as I reflect on my diagnosis, I realize that it was in fact my LIFE SENTENCE, because I chose to start living by simply being a better version of myself today than I was yesterday. And now, the compound interest effect of that daily investment into myself has proven to be the greatest blessing or gift of my life.
I am NOT in Control
At the point I realized that I was not in control of “95%” of the things I was trying to control in my life, I was able to finally start to formulate the right mindset and game plan for the war I was about to engage in.
I grew up in a Christian family and I have always believed, but when you are at the breaking points a cancer battle will take you to, you have to completely submit to having faith that God will guide you and guard you along your warpath. This is not a Christian thing, this is about God and I do believe that we are all striving for God’s grace and love no matter the path to Him as we are all His children.
I will never tell you what to believe in, but I will tell you that if you try to take on this war without the vulnerability of letting your Higher Power take the wheel and lead the charge through the trenches, the trenches of this war can get dark, nasty and lonely without Him. Giving up control of all the worldly things we try to control will FREE us to then….
Work On The FEW Things We CAN Control
Now that I have been on the battlefield for 2 years, and working hard daily on my commitment to being a better version of myself today, I have found that there are very few things that we can control in our lives. The good news is that when we focus on these few things first, and put ourselves first in these specific areas, we can get amazing results and feel better throughout anything the cancer treatment side effects bring our way.
If you think about it, cancer treatments such as chemotherapy and radiation are designed to tear our bodies down. Chemo targets our bodies globally and works to kill everything in site. So I spent a lot of time and resources focusing on strengthening my body from the inside first by dialing in my nutrition, hydrating my body properly with the right water, and supplementing my body with herbs and plants.
If you take anything from this article at all, please take this one with you. We are products of what we consume. We are made up of 70% water and our major organs are made up of 80-90% water. Water is the most important thing we can put in our body for that reason and therefore the type of water we drink and use in our lives is even more critical.
Through months of research and a couple years of consuming many different alkaline waters, I found that consuming a living water gives my body the most hydrating, antioxidant rich water to help detoxify and repair my body from the cellular level.
We also have systems in our bodies that can thrive off of nature’s fuel; fruits, vegetables, and herbs. This is the way our creator designed us, so if you “don’t like vegetables”… get used to them, because you can boost your immune system and help provide yourself with amazing energy to get through all that is to come from this war.
People Really Just Don’t Know What To Say
I have had so many people reach out to me since I started putting my journey out there on social media. It has been a great blessing for my family and I. To have the amazing amount of love and support that we have had the whole way through, whether it be from friends and family I have known a majority or all of my life, or if it has been messages from people that I have never met, the amount of love I have received makes me speechless at times.
The common denominator throughout any interactionI have had is that everyone wants to say the right things, but for whatever reason sometimes may not come out as planned. Just realize that they are not trying to be mean, they are just trying to be there for you.
You can help them along by being firm in who you are and comfortable with your circumstance of having to fight this evil disease.
The way that I have been able to do that is by not allowing my cancer battle, nor the side effects from the treatments define who I am. I am a warrior. I am a husband. I am a father. I am a son. I am a brother. I AM NOT CANCER and cancer will never define who I am. I challenge you to live with the same conviction and watch what happens within your conversations.
People Want To Help, BUT Don’t Know How. So Learn To Ask For It
Over the past couple years I have been blessed with so much generosity in many different forms of help. Whether is has been bringing meals during the difficult times, or financial support to help with the medical bills and life, it is all needed and appreciated.
This war is long and taxing, physically and financially, so chances are there will be help needed and sometimes all you need to do is ask. I have had so many people that I run into that tell me, “Man, had I known I could have helped and would have loved to.”
So the lesson here is to let people know you need the help and then give them the paths to help you.
Designate a Medical Information and Communication Manager
Look, when you are fighting cancer you have so much information to process and things you have to take care of to fight the disease, that you do not have time to deal with the mountains of paperwork, scheduling, phone calls, and more that comes with it all. Take the stress off you by designating someone close to you that can help you manage it all.
I suggest that this person be someone that you can trust with your personal information, but also close enough for them to be with you during appointments. This person for me has been my mom. My wife is so busy with taking my daughter to and from school and her outside school activities and helping me with out businesses, that she doesn’t have the bandwidth to handle it all either. So we made a decision as a family early on that my mom would be with me at my appointments and manage the paperwork and communication with the hospital and insurance company.
This simple part of the game plan is so important to define and implement very early on in the fight.
We Are a Product of What We Consume
We always have heard the saying, “you are what you eat.” Well that couldn’t be more spot on. But I want to take that a step further and say, “we are a product of what we consume.”
I mentioned trying to only control a few things that we can actually control. Well this is a big portion of the secret to your truest happiness and best quality of life. YOU are a product of what YOU eat, what YOU drink and what YOU allow into your thoughts and out of your mouth.
If you are used to eating a lot of burgers, burritos and bon bons, then you need to stop immediately and learn to eat more fruits, vegetables, grains and nuts. You must stay away from processed and fast foods.
If you like drinking sodas, sports drinks, bottled water, tap water, then you need to consider the kind of water that you drink and drinking only water and teas made with good water. I have found that Kangen Water is the best water solution for getting ultimate hydration and for cleansing our by bodies on the cellular level.
If you are hanging out with people that don’t make you want to be the best person you can be, then change who you are hanging out with. This may even mean family members. We have enough to worry about and bring us down in a war with cancer, we need to have people around us that can build us up and make us smile.
This also means to be careful with what you are watching on TV or on social media. Spend less time in the line of fire of the social warfare and media propaganda and dive into a book and follow people that inspire you. Sounds corny, but it works. Trust me.
Don’t Underestimate The Side Effects of Cancer Treatments
Since I started this war on December 22, 2017 I have been through:
- 46 rounds of chemotherapy
- 30 rounds of radiation
- 10-1/2 hour surgery where they removed my rectum, ½ my colon, my gall bladder, 17 lymph nodes and half of my liver
- Multiple emergency room visits and ambulance rides due to set backs
- A second diagnosis after 7 months of remission
- 4-1/2 hour surgery to remove the tumor that came back in my liver
The side effects have been a wild and crazy ride. I have had neuropathy for a year and a half to where I can’t feel my hands or feet and even up to my knees at times, and who knows when that will ever go away. There is a laundry list of other things that I feel from side effects and are not always easy to deal with.
I have found that through fueling my mind and my body with the right stuff, the side effects have become more manageable. More importantly, I have found that by fueling my body with the right stuff, that I have been able to eliminate all prescription medications from my life.
Please do not underestimate the side effects from treatments and don’t underestimate the length of time that they can, and may haunt you. You can help yourself through the side effects by getting started right away on fueling your body and mind with intent to become healthier, no matter how well you feel or not.
Just start putting one foot in front of the other. Our bodies were made to move and when I started this war, I was 285 pounds and so out of shape and in pain from all the inflammation I had in my body. I knew I needed to get active and start loosing weight. So I began by walking around the block, and let me tell you, I could hardly get around once without wanting to fall over and hurl.
Through consistent efforts of finding moments throughout the day to get some walking in or even making the walks from one place to another more challenging, I began to loose weight and gain more energy. It felt so good and I wanted to keep getting stronger so it just became part of my daily game.
I have a saying now, “always take the stairs.” That mantra was developed because instead of getting a handicap-parking pass to park close to my office building I was going to daily, I would chose to park at the top of the parking structure and take the stairs down and then back up at the end of the day. This also became part of my daily game I played to becoming a better version of myself today than I was yesterday and I began to take the stairs at every opportunity throughout the day.
Now I am weighing in at 215 pounds, my college basketball playing weight, and running again without any pain, something I haven’t been able to do in 20 years. Oh, and I have been able to do this while going through all the chemo, radiation and surgeries they have thrown at me. So start moving and keep moving.
Stay Optimistic and Keep In Faith
Mindset is everything. Your positive outlook and attitude can propel you to positive outcomes within this war.
Remember, you are not in control of 95% of the things you have been trying to control up to this point. Let go and let God take the wheel. You focus on being the best version of yourself everyday and the compound interest on that investment will give you the greatest returns you have ever seen in your life.
Once you are able to gain control of the few little things that you actually can control and you start feeling the results of your efforts it will be hard to not stay optimistic.
And don’t try to hit homeruns every day, you can find your wins within daily singles. It is the continuous growth that you will get daily from all of this that will help you fight this fight with a weapon that no evil can match… unwavering faith.
I hope that this gives you a glimpse of hope that you are going to be ok. If you don’t have a friend to help you through this or to help you develop a game plan, then I would like to be to be that friend for you. Please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
And remember this… cancer does not define you…. How you show up on the battlefield every day does. Let’s go to war together and combat cancer until we find a cure.