Cancer Leaves Its Mark – & Its a Good One

Greg feigning surprise to
find a tumor on his leg!
Greg’s leg today

“Being cheerful is the only way you can get through it.”
Today we celebrate the FIVE year anniversary of Greg’s surgery in which 10 inches of tibia was removed and replaced with a prosthetic implant.  It was a lifetime ago, and yet happened only yesterday!
To celebrate, Greg has written a blog post for me to share.  After all of Mom’s commentary on the subject, it is nice to read Greg’s view of his cancer and the impact on his life:

There are moments that can change your life forever. Being diagnosed with cancer is one of those moments. Not only are the next few months instantly scheduled for you in a completely different way, but your life will never be the same. 
 
An experience like cancer will leave its mark. From my battles I have seen cancers mark on my Body, Mind and Family. 
 
Body
Scars aren’t reminders of when you were weak, but of the times you were stronger than whatever came at you. After intensive surgery and chemotherapy my body will never be the same. There are some physical limitations that prevent me from activities I enjoyed, but also a great excuse to avoid the strenuous and less desirable ones. 
Sometimes I wonder if I hadn’t been so lucky with my operations and had to have my leg amputated, or live with a colostomy bag for the rest of my life if I would have done it. Would the major changes be worth saving my life? The answer of course is yes. You do what you have to. I’m just glad I got the easy way out and don’t have more serious complications. 
 
Mind
Surviving surgeries and chemo isn’t an easy task, but there is a mental strength that comes from knowing that you can do hard things. There is a mental and emotional mark from cancer. Yes it is hard sometimes to keep smiling, hard to accept your “fate” of the disgusting treatments and its side effects, but as with other hard things you survive. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. If I survived cancer twice and I’m only 22, then leaving home, going to school, serving a mission, those all become obstacles that I know I can overcome because I have seen my strength and I know that I can do it. There is a mental mark, but it isn’t a disability, it’s a support beam. 
 
Family
The final mark cancer leaves is on a family. Obviously there are effects on extra time Mom stays in the hospital instead of being home. There’s dealing with a brother who sleeps in the living room and throws up all day. There’s the extra presents on Christmas from hospital volunteers. There’s the anxiety of going on a mission and leaving behind a sick brother. There are lots of strains that are placed on the family of a sick person. 
The family is different afterwards. Not only do we make jokes about cancer that make strangers stare, but we are drawn closer. I feel that having pulled together and having gone through the experience many times with many family members really helped me to understand why family is important. We have done things others will never do. I feel that as a family we appreciate time we have together. It’s a mark for good. If we weren’t “the cancer family” we’d probably just be some boring family with a cat. 
But I was looking through a box of “cancer memories” in the attic over Christmas break and the large pile of cards I found reminded me that family is a lot bigger. Extended family, grandparents, friends,  church members, neighbors, acquaintances, doctors, Dad’s coworkers children, my dentist, my old orthodontist, school teachers, and many others had taken the time to think about me, pray for me, and “send their love”. Cancer can affect a community. Those networks of love and concern provided a net that helped support me, encourage me, and make me feel like I wasn’t alone. 
 
Cancer leaves a mark, but it’s a mark for good. 
 
It’s the anniversary of my leg surgery (1/11/11) and almost the anniversary of my colon surgery (1/22/15) (yes I try to get them close together on the calendar) and I was thinking how different this year is from last year. Being cheerful is the only way you can get through it. So when I found out last year that I had cancer it was quite a blow. I had already done that I didn’t need to be humbled again. So we scheduled it in, dropped some classes, got some work off, and set out to smile our way through. 
The rule in our family is that you get 3 days of sad then you have smile. This year as I think of the exhausting year last year I can only say I am glad I don’t have to do anything like that again for a while. My life isn’t going to be “easy” from here on out, I know that. But the things I’ve been through will help me out. 
We can’t avoid trials in life, we will all be pushed to our limits, but with faith in God and family surrounding you nothing is impossible. 
I’m glad I’m a cancer survivor. I’m glad it left its mark on me.
 

 

Greg Andrus
 

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