Nine Years Ago Today I Said Good Bye to Cancer

Posted May 26, 2014 by jimhigley

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May 26, 2014.  Nine years ago today I was having surgery to cut a bunch of cancer out of my body. And while I didn’t like the situation I was in – I could not WAIT to get through surgery, get the cancer out of me (honest – that’s how I visualized it. I actually told the doctor as I was being wheeled into surgery, “…and when you’re done cutting, feel free to cut a little more because I wanna be sure you get it all…”)

My doc done good.

So I’m sharing Chapter 12 from my book, Bobblehead Dad, 25 Life Lessons I Forgot I Knew, which deals with the events of this day – nine years ago. For those of you who haven’t read my book, each chapter starts with a reflective story from my past – then flips to the then-current story of my cancer journey. Enjoy. 

And thank you to so many of you for supporting me for the last nine-plus years!

Chapter 12

Summertime, and the Livin’ Is Easy

Summer officially begins on June 21. At least that’s what the calendar states.

But for me, that’s always been more of a technicality.

With my calendar, summer holds the firm time frame between Memorial Day and Labor Day.

When I was a kid in Nebraska, we had a cabin on a little lake about fifteen minutes from our house. We owned the cabin with two other families and took turns enjoying it following a prearranged schedule that our parents set up at the beginning of each summer. However, we always celebrated Memorial Day and Labor Day together. All twenty-something of us.

Our Memorial Day bash was the official opening of the summer season. We’d pull our little speedboat out of storage, haul out all of the swimming toys and life jackets, rake down the sand on the beach, and air out the cabin as all of us—pale from the winter—celebrated the beginning of yet another hot Nebraska summer. For us children, who had typically finished the last day of school in the prior week, it was our first opportunity to taste the freedom of summer.

This was not a fancy cabin. It had two bedrooms, the coolest of which had bunk beds. It had a big patio facing the lake, and a long, sloping sandy beach. And all of the furnishings were a mishmash of old relics from the three families.

Three months after our Memorial Day bash, we were back together again, this time at our Labor Day party. More relaxed and tanned than we had been on Memorial Day, we enjoyed one more final hurrah before we returned to school, studies, and schedules.

In between those two parties, we welcomed a life that slowed down.

We had a revolving door of friends and families out to the cabin.

We took time for each other.

We grilled.

We played board games.

We hung out.

My brothers seemed to tolerate me more. Sometimes, I even thought they liked me.

My dad was more playful.

Our dog ran loose.

We kept the windows open at night and could hear the steady sound of trains on nearby tracks.

We did this every year.

Enjoying the sounds, the tastes, the smells, the sights, and the feel of summer.

*****

The only good thing about surgery—if it’s possible to say that—was waking up afterward. At first, I wasn’t even sure if the operation was over or if I was about to go into surgery. And there was a brief moment, as I recall, of assessment to ascertain if I was dead. Things were very foggy. But I remember being aware of heaviness throughout my body. It was quiet. I couldn’t move from my waist down. My legs felt as if an elephant was sitting on them.

I moved my hands slowly down to my abdomen. Tubes were attached everywhere. Aisle five of Ace Hardware had apparently been relocated to my stomach.

Yep. I was in the recovery room.

I had a nurse named Brian. I had no sense of any other person in my life. Just Brian.

I went in and out of the most relaxing sleep. I thought about nothing. I simply existed.

Such was my pattern for hours and hours. Exist. Sleep. Wake. Think of nothing. Repeat.

The lights were dim. I could feel a perfect breeze. I heard equipment humming.

I was content. I was at peace with the world. I was at peace with myself. I didn’t know anything about the outcome of my surgery. I didn’t need or want to ask. And while the anesthesia was doing the lion’s share of the work to keep me in this state, I also was fairly clear about what was registering in my mind.

I visualized I had arrived at the other side. The other side of just what, exactly, I wasn’t sure. But I had this strong sensation I had ascended to the top of a mountain and I could now start to see what was on the other side.

As groggy and foggy as I was on the outside, my soul had clarity it had never experienced before.

Around ten o’clock that night, I was moved to a room—in the pediatric ward.

How hilariously appropriate, I thought.

And I had the most wonderfully peaceful night’s sleep.

Paradisiac.

When I woke the next morning, I was alone, and I lay in my room and thought.

Not about surgery, however. I also didn’t think about what the doctor might tell me that day.

Instead, I realized it was the Friday before Memorial Day. The Memorial Day weekend was starting. And I was going to be in the hospital through all of it.

No projects to complete. No chores to do. No schedules.

The Memorial Day weekend was here and I was going to do something I hadn’t done in a long, long time.

Absolutely nothing.

And even though it wasn’t yet June 21, summer had finally returned.