March 23rd, 2016
| Survivor: Colorectal (Bowel) Cancer
Have you ever been asked (or thought to yourself), "Why me"? In order to avoid the trap of that unanswerable question, deciding instead to focus on how one is going to approach the long journey of managing cancer helped one survivor. Detachment, curiosity, and wonderment became his touchstones, leading to acceptance and self-love. Read more below.
Most of us who struggle with this disease of cancer have, at some point, been asked by a well-intended person, “Why did this happen to you?” The first time I was confronted with this question, my response was immediate - “I am not interested in thinking about why; I am going to spend my energy thinking about how to deal with the realities of managing this situation I am now in.”
The change to my life was rapid and thorough. In the span of two months I went from a life of outdoor work and activities like yoga and motorcycle riding, to a diagnosis of stage IV Colorectal cancer. A colonoscopy had shown a large mass in the sigmoid area of my colon, and MRI and CT scans had detected a metastasis in my liver.
I was intrigued by the mechanics of this disease, such as its potential to travel through my body's lymph system. But as to why I became ill and my two brothers or my next-door neighbor did not, I refused to speculate or assign blame to some entity or another.
Eleven months have now passed, in what felt like an endless sequence of doctor visits, imaging, chemo infusions, and surgeries. It took all my strength and focus to put one foot in front of the other and get through each event and every day. Chemotherapy was particularly hard to endure, and my “cocktail” of medicines had to be adjusted several times due to my sinking platelet count. Fortunately, I had retired from my career with the U.S. Forest Service barely a year prior to my diagnosis so I did not have to devote any energy in that direction.
I decided to approach my disease as an adventure, and adopted an attitude of curiosity toward all the medical implements and chemicals, the MRI machines, the surgical staples, the laser ablation tools, and especially the parade of doctors, nurses, interns, and others who became woven into the fabric of my life. The more I accepted these people and their tools as fascinating, benevolent beings trying their best to help me, the better able I was to carry on.
Like others who have had this disease, I suffered the usual frustrations of dealing with appointment setters, figuring out how to pay my share of the bills not covered by insurance, struggling to manage the side effects of chemotherapy, and coping with post-surgical pain levels that were higher than expected. Yet throughout it all I was able to maintain a certain level of detachment from my own predicament, helped in part by meditation and the understanding support of family and friends.
Finding the IHadCancer.com community has given me one more boost of energy. I believe that the more I get out of my own head and look at what is happening around me, and understand the struggles of other people, the more I am able to embrace my disease and love my flawed body with all its weaknesses and strengths.
I’ll never know the “why me”, but I never need to. This is the vessel I have been given to ride through the world in for a few more years. I intend to use it with a newfound respect for its limits and a wonderment at its capacity to grow and heal.
Have you ever asked yourself this question while on your cancer journey? What are your thoughts? Share in the comments below!
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Christopher Liggett is a survivor of Stage IV Colorectal cancer. He lives in Atlanta, GA with his wife, dog, 4 cats, and 2 guinea pigs. Chris retired from the U.S. Forest Service after 37 years and enjoys riding his motorcycles and hiking with his dog. He has three children and one grandchild.