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Coping with Cancer

Over the last year I have been diagnosed and treated for two unrelated major cancers. The treatments I received were current, conventional, and very expensive; I was lucky to have good insurance coverage. High tech equipment was used on me and a variety of exotic chemicals were put into my body. It all worked. The cancers went away just as they were supposed to. None the less my family doctor, my oncologist, and my surgeon are all amazed that I did so well. They pat me on the back and tell me how astonished they are that I am still alive.

I don't know what to tell them but I would like to help save the lives of others in my situation. That's what this essay is about; all of the things I can think of that might have contributed to my unusually quick and easy recovery from cancer. It may be that none of the things I mention here really made much difference at all but I offer them in the spirit of good health and long life.

My job does not involve much exercise so to stay strong and limber I invented the one minute exercise . I found that after surgery the extra physical strength served me well and gave me mobility I would not have had otherwise.

I generally avoid alcohol and nicotine. I enjoy an occasional dark stout or dry red wine and at long intervals, often over a year, my wife and I get completely drunk together. If you drink to excess you can avoid most of the hangover by drinking a large glass of water last thing before going to sleep. I will enjoy a few puffs off a friend's expensive cigar during a party but that's plenty of nicotine. I have always lived with people who smoked however so I have a life time exposure to second hand smoke.

I indulge in excessive caffeine and vitamins. I am a third generation caffeine addict and usually drink over a quart of normal coffee a day with cream and no sugar. I take one of the extra strong multiple B complex pills every morning. Look down the %RDA column; several of the numbers should exceed 1000. I also take several grams of vitamin C. I worked my way up to six in the morning then went to four in the morning and four in the afternoon. I hear that it works better if you spread it out more but haven't had the patience. I take other vitamins but they are in the normal range and vary from month to month.

I generally eat healthy. If you cut way back on oil, salt, and sugar it is hard not to eat healthy. My wife cooks up Indian cuisine which is generally very healthy and the spices may have medicinal value. Every morning I have a bowl of oatmeal with lots of raisins. During chemotherapy when I needed to gain weight she blended home made health shakes similar to Ensure. My dad used to make a high protein concentrate food for animals by blending whole milk, peanut butter, and honey; this is probably much like ensure but cheaper.

I avoid bright lights and loud noises. I keep a pair of dark brown wrap around shades in the car and always wear them when driving in sunlight. I also keep some malleable wax ear plugs in the glove compartment for music concerts. I keep a pair of ear muffs in my tool box for use with some power tools and some hammering operations.

All my life I've gone barefoot whenever possible, especially outdoors. I believe this exposes my immune system to many small challenges thus building it up to cope better with big challenges.

Attitude is supposed to be the most important thing and I am told that mine is excellent. It is hard to write about it though because it is hard to observe from the inside. A personal characteristic that often appears as a flaw is my habit of living in the present. When facing a life threatening illness this characteristic is appropriate and adaptive. As I approached surgery and chemo I realized that there would be periods of pain and discomfort but they were in the future and I was already doing all I could about them in the present. When I suffer, I suffer in real time; pain in the past or future does not seem to impact me.

Another characteristic that may be seen as a flaw is that I am not goal directed. I have little ambition, drive, or personal goals. People around me normally direct my activities and this has never bothered me. Conflicting orders from different people important to me is a source of stress and inefficiency however. I believe that part of the reason I coped so well with cancer is that this is the first time in my life that all of the people around me were giving me exactly the same instruction and I did not have to try to balance conflicting inputs. Everybody said "Harry, your only job is to get well." I focused all my energy on getting well instead of trying to balance that against other needs.

I am an only child and the son of a veterinarian. Much of my youth was spent around dogs and cats, sometimes with horrible injuries or illnesses. Their attitude is much better than most humans and I may have absorbed mine from them.

I have a vivid imagination but it has been disciplined by my training as a scientist and engineer so I tend only to imagine the physically possible. Fantasy has never worked for me and my few efforts at it have been disappointing. Recovery from serious injury and illness, including cancer, certainly happens however so I have no problem imagining, even assuming, that it will happen to me.