Treatment 5 of 12 (8/23/2012)

“and if the wind is right you can sail away and find tranquility…”

Sailing in my Clipper 27ft sailboat was always a pleasure. This was a very nice boat, with a beautiful cabin and well stocked galley. This boat was clean and comfortable and fit me well. The trip was well planned and I was looking forward to yet another enjoyable time on the water.  My destination was a couple days away and I fully expected this to be another great adventure to add to a long list of successful voyages.

After sailing for a day I was a bit nervous when I could no longer see the shore.  Regardless of the fear I simply chose to trust my GPS and keep on course.  And after a while; I relaxed and started enjoying the sights, sounds, and sun. Life is Good!

It wasn’t too long into the trip before I started to doubt my 27 foot sailboat. When I realized that my course was going to cross with an ominous storm the fear started to consume me and I was on the verge of panic!  I just knew that my small craft was no match for the weather that lie ahead. I noticed that the waves were increasingly threatening and the swells left me with walls of water surrounding my tiny boat.

I was traveling East, directly into the storm and my instinct was to turn my craft 180 degrees and head West, away from the storm.  So I followed my instinct and promptly adjusted course. Traveling West, over what seemed like hours, I continuously looked back to see if the storm was gaining on me; imagine my surprise when I noticed yet another storm flanking my port side. The storm brewing in the South horizon was even more ominous than the one blowing in from the West, filled with fierce lightning and thunder.

I once again adjusted course and set direction Northwest (again away from the now two storms stalking me).  I hoped I could avoid these storms as I feared this tiny and inadequate craft simply could not overcome the tribulation that these gales would deliver.

Sailing at top speed on the Northeast course I couldn’t help but wonder about my fate and whether my end was destined to happen soon. And as if things couldn’t worsen, I glanced down at my instrumentation and found that my GPS was not functioning correctly. My GPS picked a fine time to break! I have grown to depend on high tech solutions and without this tool I was surely lost. Now the wonder turns to worry. Was I heading towards land or further out to sea? What lies ahead of me? What was on the horizon?  Was there yet another storm?  Would battling the turbulent seas be inevitable?  Pondering what might happen given this predicament is a very scary thing to do!

All of you who know me realize that I don’t have a sail boat nor do I know how to sail. However, this story helps me communicate what cancer feels like to me!  All is going well, the children are finishing their college, retirement is not too far down the line, grandchildren are something I look forard to, and the future with my wife Connie looks bright. When suddenly I’m faced with testicular cancer and then, several months later, an even more serious second primary cancer (colorectal cancer).  And to make it even more of a challenge, the next thing we find is that the colorectal cancer has metastasized in the lung.  Now what? What storms lie in wait?  Or maybe, just maybe, we will ride out the storm and find clear sailing in the future? Uncertainty!

I’m sure you all have heard the saying “cancer sucks!”  Well, I have to admit that this phrase, although poorly worded, really hits the mark!  Cancer is a horrible disease for a lot of different reasons.  For me the uncertainty about the future and the side-effects of the cancer treatments are the biggest current challenges. It can be overwhelming at times and certainly is a source of frustration and anger, among other emotions.  I also think that the emotions can rise up within me at the worst times. Although I try to deal with them in positive ways, they seem to negatively influence communication with those closest to me and cause relationship challenges (additional stresses we certainly don’t need during these times). What can I say, Cancer Sucks!

And so I have to accept the prognosis and perservere through the storms!  The doctor estimated that taking chemo would increase the chance of remission by 20 percent.  However, there is still a 50% chance of a recurrence (even with chemo).  And of course, these estimates are not based on an exact science.  They are one doctor’s educated guess. Each cancer patient is unique and the cancer they are battling is also unique. The doctor has to extrapolate from dated and disparate studies and try to apply this knowledge to my specific case (thats how they refer to us – as cases). I’m sure the good doctor is doing his best at estimating; however, I am also very sure it is NOT an exact science.

Even the treatments for cancer (chemo and radiation) are challenging.  They come with many negative side-effects, not least being exhaustion/fatigue.  Unfortunately, it is not as simple as taking a pill and carrying on with our daily lives.  Chemo does disrupt life and without a guarantee that it will help. Even so; I will try to minimize the disruption! I will fight it and try to carry on my normal activities. And we are rolling the dice with the chemo and hoping this time it helps!

Anyway, enough with delving into feelings and emotions – that is very unlike me.  I usually do a really good job of checking any “bad” emotions (a.k.a. burying them so deep that they are surely forgotten and rendered harmless). Just kidding, I think I’ve done better in my later years (good trend) at listening to my emotions and acknoweledging them. I try to understand the reason for the emotion and allow myself to feel and experience them. With hope that the bad emotion won’t linger and fester and ultimately cause additional challenges. Yes, I also know I have to do better at this emotion mangement thing!


I accept the LORD as my personal savior! I will trust in the LORD.  Jesus is my partner through whatever challenges lie ahead.  And I will Love my family and friends.  Simply said I will try to keep my sites on living.  And I will focus on keeping faith and humbly accepting each day as a wonderful blessing from heaven.

Today is the day the LORD has made; Let us rejoice and be glad in it!

Thank you to all who continue to offer prayers and support for me and my family!  I too pray for you as well; that Life will be filled with Love and many blessings for you and your families!

And thank you God for all the wonderful blessings you continue to send to me and my family and friends! While we may not be deserving of many of these blessing we are always very grateful!

Go Tigers!   Go Lions!   Go Blue!  Go Wings!

Go Marshall 7th Grade Football Team!!!


6 Comments on “Treatment 5 of 12 (8/23/2012)”

  1. Kathleen G. Galen says:

    I like your analogy with the sail boat in the storm….the good thing about storms is that they dont last forever….if you allow your boat to take the natural coarse the water will eventually take you where you need to be and the rainbow after a storm is God’s covenant with us. Phil I am glad you are sharing with us….I am sorry that you have to go through this. And you are right, CANCER SUCKS on many levels. Keep the faith my dear friend, keep your focus on winning the fight, and succumb to the love around you. I am proud of you and wish you all the strength you need to overcome. Good thing we are D tough! Love to you and the rest of the family! your forever BFF.

  2. Carole MacKay says:

    I can’t believe how much you look like your dad. And it’s pretty apparent you have his strength. I think you’ll win this battle. One complaint, though…you for got to mention my Red Wings!! Love to you and your family. Cousin Carole

  3. George (little brother) says:

    Here’s one He wrote on my heart and I often recall it. “I make known the ending from the beginning, from ancient days what is yet to come; I say, my purpose will stand, I will do all that I please” –Isaiah 46:10

    And Psalm 46:10 goes with it: “Be still and know that I am God”

    He has promised that His purpose will stand. And so it is!! When I think of how an earthly father loves his child, then imagine God’s greater love for each of us. Of course we’re fine, safe in the boat though the storm rages. The thought of His great love is a warm blanket to rest in as sleep comes each night.

    Little brother George……..
    ……………………………………….”The Lord is my shepherd this is nothing I shall want, He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, He leadeth me beside still waters, He restores my soul for His name’s sake….”

  4. Linda Sult says:

    Phil, Thank you so much for sharing your perpective and insight into this horrible disease…Yes “Cancer does Suck,” but God continues to be in control of all that we have to face. You are in a unique place to share your faith and you do so very well!!! Prayers continue for you and your family!

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