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10 Years Later …

What Can I Do Now?

by Dennis “Doc” Knowles

Inspiration image

It’s been 10 years. Ten, sometimes very long, years since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I’ve outlived my oncologist’s most optimistic predic­tion. The cancer that was once the sole focus of my life is no longer the center of my universe. The disease is no lon­ger detectable in my body. For this, I thank God often.

I don’t really know what I expected to happen after I was given the all clear. Perhaps a parade or some wild celebra­tion publicized by a full-page ad in The New York Times: “Dennis has survived cancer! Join him and everyone he’s ever known for a mega party in Shea Stadium!”

I can’t say that I’m disappointed this wasn’t my reality (OK, maybe a little), because I know that life just doesn’t work that way. Cancer has left me more than a little broken, physically and financially. I should probably be bitter, but I’m not. My life is what it has always been – a journey.

My life is what it has always been – a journey.

I, however, have found myself on a quest to be relevant. I want to be useful again. I want my life to have meaning and purpose. I feel as though I’ve been lost at sea for 10 years, and now that I’ve made it safely back to shore, I want to pick up where I left off. The prob­lem is that I can’t. Before cancer, I was able to work 10 to 15 hours a day. Now if I work 10 hours, I need 24 hours to rest. I used to get up at 3 a.m. I would shower, get dressed, and go. Now I sleep until seven and then sit for an hour or two until I know that all of my parts re­quired for moving will actually move. This definitely is not how I imagined my recovery.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not com­plaining. I’m just trying to be honest about what I can and can’t do. Horse ranching, for example, is out. So is skydiving and panning for gold in Alaska. No big loss. Those things were never on my bucket list anyway.

So what can I do? I can stay active, mentally and as physically as my 63-year-old cancer survivor’s body will allow. I can also share what I’ve learned over the past 10 years. I can offer hope and encouragement to other cancer survivors and their families.

I can tell them that there is life after cancer. I can reassure them that there will come a time when whole weeks will pass without a single utter­ance of the C word. I can tell them that one day they’ll wake up from this nightmare, and it will be time to get busy reclaiming their lives. I can attest that surviving cancer is significant and life changing but it’s not the end – it’s only the beginning. Finally, I can say that I’ve found that the sweetest fruit always grows at the end of the branch, and to get it, you have to go out on a limb.

♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦

Dennis Knowles is a multiple myeloma survivor living in Orting, WA.

This article was published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, May/June 2015.