There are certain moments in life that rise above the day-to-day routine. They remain memorable for various reasons. Some of these moments were planned. Wedding and vacation photos are a reminder of the good times that were shared.
Other moments happen due to unforeseen circumstances and the lasting memories do not result in cherished photos. These moments can still end up having a positive effect. Sometimes it is just a matter of getting your attitude right.
Six years ago I had a seizure that left me unconscious for three hours. When I woke up in a hospital bed, I was escorted down the hall to see the MRI results.
I sat there as a woman I had just met showed me images of a brain with a walnut sized tumor in it. These images were of my brain! Rather significant news indeed.
Some people think that I am crazy to be sentimental about this time in my life. After all, it was a period in which I was eventually diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. While I may be crazy, I have always looked at it in a different light.
I was fortunate that I had the seizure to alert me to the tumor's existence – I may be alive because of it! There is a good chance that without that moment in time, I may have lived with an unknown tumor until it was too late.
So yeah, the anniversary of my seizure is something that I want to acknowledge, even celebrate.
With no plan for a formal celebration I decided to go up to Hurricane Ridge near my home in Washington State to see what I could get myself into as I thought about how lucky I have been.
I was greeted by an unexpected snow storm -- a reminder of the tumultuous times from that moment six years ago. Only this time it was a joyful and exciting time.
Stoked with the recent news of another “clean” MRI, I was completely “living in the moment” and appreciating the crazy wind and snow that was merely a light rain when I left town.
During my hike as the wind and snow increased, I found a calm spot to catch my breath and warm my hands. The need for a break quickly turned into a time to reflect. To think about how I got to this point and how I'd changed in those six years.
I think anyone who goes through the cancer experience, as the one diagnosed, or as a loved one, changes to some degree.
I am more understanding of other’s situations and more tolerant of peoples’ struggles. I have come to believe that people can effect change in their own lives and in the lives of others.
Recently, I have been affected by two of those who have passed after extremely strong battles against “the beast.” Two of my good friends, Peggy Comment and Neil Jervis, were both diagnosed after I was. No matter how much they fought, and despite how strong they were during the conflict, their bodies eventually could take no more.
They are gone and I am still here, but they will stay with me forever.
While this makes it personal, the statistics put it into perspective. Since that memorable day for me, 8.4 million people in the United States have been diagnosed, resulting in the loss of over 3.3 million lives.
Many people choose to keep the cancer experience to themselves. I respect them for that. I share my experience to give others insight and hope.
If there is something to be learned by my sharing this part of my life then I believe it is worth it.
I know that I may still face more complications from this potentially deadly disease, but as I returned from my exhilarating outing I knew that life was not out to get me. I was out to get life!
By Jack Ganster
Jack Ganster of Port Angeles, Washington, is the founder of Survivor's Outdoor Experience. More information can be found at survivorsoutdoorexperience.org.
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