Contributed by Jim Nelson, consultant to CAIRE Inc. ~
I have two ways to go here … I can subtly build up to the reason for my post, or I can just come right out and say it. I think it would be best to get it on the table.
I have cancer. Squamous Cell Carcinoma, to be more specific.
Thus, begins the adventure.
As we work our way through whatever is to come, I would like to share our experiences with you. As I have said before when I wrote of my COPD and the transplant and a few other medical experiences, my purpose is not to garner sympathy. Rather, I want to show that the bumps in the road of life can be approached with a positive attitude, an outlook that will help to keep the worries somewhat at bay.
My gratitude to Mike Hess of COPD Navigator and Noah Greenspan from Ultimate Pulmonary Wellness for their encouragement to post my little journal on their Facebook sites. They honor me.
Not many years ago, a gentleman by the name of Mike McDonald began posting his thoughts and experiences as he was entering Hospice. Mike was a terrific writer, and his posts were, if you can imagine, delightful to read. His attitude was unbelievable, and I am sure that he helped a lot of readers to gather the energy, the good thoughts to make it through the day.
I don’t want to bring anyone down with my recount of our experiences. I would rather not post at all than to bring discouragement to the site. We all have enough of that without my help. Rather, I hope to show that a patient and his incredible caregivers can survive any situation with a good attitude, with grace, and please God, some humor!
As most of you know if you have read many of the seemingly millions of words that I have posted over the years, I was the recipient of a double lung transplant a little over seven years ago. At the age of 71, I received the lungs of a 32-year-old Mormon marathon runner. The new lungs were in fantastic shape and were a perfect match for my body.
The transplant gave me new life. It gave me seven years that I did not think that we would have together. I knew at the time that the availability of the lungs meant that some other family had suffered a terrible loss, and that still weighs on me. We have since gotten to know the donor family. More about that later.
It seems that everything is a tradeoff. Same with a transplant. On the one side, new life and the ability to do things once thought impossible. On the other side, the anti-rejection drugs knock out the immune system. Our immunities protect us from not only colds and the like, but also from certain cancers. Transplant recipients are much more susceptible to lymphoma and to skin cancers.
In my middle life, we spent an inordinate amount of time at Lake Powell in Utah. It is an incredible sight … the blue-green color of the depths contrasted to the reddish-brown of the sandstone and the lighter blue of the sky. It is not a place for those with pale skin. I had always tanned easily, and summer found me the color of the rocks. I knew that it was dangerous, but then I knew that smoking was dangerous, and we all know where that led me.
So, the abuse of the sun and the transplant drugs combined to make me a perfect candidate for skin cancer. Oh, I am quite bald. A fringe around the sides and back and a rather nice beard but nothin’ up top. Not really surprising that my first few skin cancers appeared on the top of my head. They were easily cured by a procedure known as Mohs surgery. Skillfully applied, it can remove all traces of the tumor while leaving only a faint scar.
I visited my dermatologist faithfully and underwent the surgeries and went on my merry way. No big deal, really. Until May of this year. Despite the best efforts of myself and Mary and Wendy and a handful of medical experts, it has gotten ahead of me. It is aggressive, and it is now making itself known on the right side of my face and in one salivary gland.
Truth is, showing an authentic good attitude to you will force me to find the positive and hang on to it myself.
I plan to report on my progress regularly and talking about stuff. I hope that you will join me on my latest adventure.
I love you all …
~ Uncle Jim
Jim Nelson is a double lung transplant recipient and a patient advocate for COPD patients throughout the U.S. and around the world. He and his wife, Mary, are well known patient advocates and brand ambassadors for those organizations who tirelessly endeavor to help those individuals who suffer from a variety of respiratory diseases and the caregivers who support them.
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