By Tammy Davis
My friend’s cancer is back. Stage 4.
He has a three-day treatment every other week. He gets the chemo on Monday, wears a pump and tubes on Tuesday, and gets it all taken out on Wednesday.
For the most part I know the routine, but sometimes I forget and have to ask if it is a chemo week or an off week.
My friend, Wes, is remarkable. He doesn’t refer to his chemo schedule that way. He calls his chemo weeks “good weeks” and his off weeks “great weeks.” Until recently, those labels irritated me. Every time he referred to his routine that way, I would fuss. “You don’t have to be strong all the time.” “It’s ok to be angry.” I gave that man lots of sermons.
I thought he was trying too hard to be positive. I thought he was being false or putting on a brave, but fake, face. Every time I would call him out, he would say he really didn’t care what I thought. He was sticking by his description: the chemo weeks were good and non-treatment weeks were great.
Everything changed for me last week. I gained clarity. Wes was coming over to help me with some projects on a Sunday afternoon, the day before his chemo Monday. Even in the middle of cancer treatment, he was thinking of others. That’s the kind of man he is.
On that particular Sunday, it was cold, but the sun was shining. I was in my kitchen cooking and listening to Pandora and watching the birds at my feeder outside my kitchen window. I was basically enjoying life when it hit me. Wes wasn’t trying to be falsely positive. He considers his chemo weeks good weeks because those treatments keep him alive. Wes is thankful to be here on this earth. It’s just that simple.
Maybe cancer does that to you. A stage four diagnosis certainly gets your attention. The second time around hits harder than the first.
I think Wes has made his peace with cancer. Once every two weeks, my sweet friend can sit in a lounge chair for six hours while chemicals pour into his beautiful body. He can nap and sip on ginger ale when he gets home. He can deal with a fanny pack on his waist and a port under his skin because those things keep him alive. Those three days every two weeks are the price he has to pay.
What I considered “the awful chemo days” are necessary days. Because of those three days every two weeks, he will live to see his two grandchildren grow. He will coach football and watch football and walk his dog. He will listen to good music and play the piano and sing with his church group. He will attend his men’s group on Tuesday mornings, and he will be in church every Sunday. He will flirt with the ladies, and the ladies will flirt back. He will take the boat on the water, and he’ll find a quiet cove, and he will pause long enough to say, “Thank you, Lord, for giving me this day.”
Nobody wants cancer. But if we let it, maybe cancer can have one redeeming quality. Maybe the threat of death will snap us into living. Maybe cancer will get our attention and serve as a wake-up call. Maybe cancer will help us see that there are no bad days – not as long as we are living and breathing and loving.
Good days and great days. Wes Dorton might be on to something. Maybe there are only two types of days – good ones and great ones. Even days filled with chemicals and tubes are days to be cherished.
On that project-filled Sunday afternoon, I apologized to my friend. I should not have accused him of being fake, and I promised not to do it again.
Because of his tremendous faith, I’m trying to banish the term “bad day” from my vocabulary. No more bad days for me. I might have a day full of headache and aggravation. I might have a day filled with problems that need a solution, but even those days are good days. I’m having a day. God has given me a day. I will rejoice and be glad in it.
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Tammy Davis is a freelance writer based in Columbia, SC. When she shared this story with her friend, he told her he was glad she didn’t have to have a pump and a port to understand all the lessons he’s learned from his battle with cancer. Davis’s first book, “Chin Up, Buttercup,” is available on Amazon and Kindle. Visit her website at www.tammydavisstories.com.