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Friday, 14 October 2016

Extract: Overcoming Daily, My Story of Surviving Cancer by Glen Kirkpatrick

Today I'm pleased to be able to share an exclusive extract from a very personal biography with you.

Overcoming Daily: My Story of Surviving Cancer is a short teaser for a longer memoir, Overcome: A Story of Intervention, Rescue, and Redemption which is due for publication early next year. The author, Glen Kirkpatrick, has written the memoir alongside his wife, Debbie, to chart their experiences of undergoing multiple cancer diagnoses and treatments. The book is incredibly personal, yet sadly an experience that far too many of us are able to relate to. Cancer has touched the lives of so many people around the world, and Overcoming Daily recognises that. The author aims to help people through this book, by perhaps attempting to help others struggling with cancer to understand that they don't have to go through it alone - a very important message.

Image: Glen Kirkpatrick
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The definition of cancer survivor didn’t come to me until a few years ago. I had been on my cancer journey for more than twenty years before I ever called myself a survivor. It was in 2010, when Debbie and I began to embrace the term. In that year I was diagnosed with a number of chronic conditions found to be directly or indirectly linked to radiation treatments and chemotherapy. The unintended side-effects from these therapies are known in the cancer community as late effects. Mine include heart, lung, and kidney disease. I was in remission from cancer, but the late effects complicated and even threatened my daily lifestyle. We’ve experienced a number of setbacks and have had to make many adjustments in every area of our lives. However, in my personal struggles, I’ve always found that personal growth continues to be a part of the cancer journey.

With almost three decades of survivorship experience, I’m still learning how to make the most of each day. On any given morning I may wake up feeling somewhat lonely. On the next, I might feel a sense of joy, ready to get outdoors and tackle the new day. The happiest days are the ones during which I live fully in the present. Sweeter still are the days I find myself living in the moment. Over time, I’ve realized there are things I must do each day and each week to help me survive. Among the most important things that have helped me are my personal Bible study, prayer, and Christian fellowship. The time I spend with Debbie, our children and our grandson is precious to me. Long walks, when I can take them, refresh me and fulfill the need I’ve always had to be physically active. Meeting with my therapist, writing, and listening to music are very beneficial. To stay connected I began volunteering and organizing groups in our home and online with cancer patients and others with chronic health challenges.

Whatever each day brings, crouching silently at the door of my life is the reminder that my life has been threatened by cancer, the unforgiving disease. My angst comes from my view that I’m living with a wound that can never fully heal. I survived the physical assaults of cancer. However, the long term and repeated emotional trauma, has taken its toll well beyond the news of remission.

Because of this, I sometimes find it difficult to absorb my personal history of living with cancer. Three different physicians have tried to summarize my overall health status between 2008 and 2013. My former primary care doctor told me I had a heart murmur and then said, “You’re fragile.” After discussing my need for aortic valve replacement in five years, my cardiologist uttered, “You have a lot going on.” While at the hospital with pain in my abdomen, the emergency room doctor looked at my health history and said, “Crazy.” The “fragile” comment, although true, brought with it deep heart ache. When my cardiologist said, “You have a lot going on,” it actually validated what Debbie and I already knew: we did have a lot going on. The thought of living with two diseased heart valves, one that would need replacing, made me very uneasy. Finally, the “crazy” comment, although unprofessional, was kind of humorous. In fact, I seem to remember responding from the hospital bed, “Crazy good or crazy bad?” I can’t remember his answer now, but I don’t think there was a lot that was good about my condition. So, I’m fragile; I have a lot going on; and my history of cancer and other diseases is crazy.

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Overcoming Daily: My Story of Surviving Cancer is available to buy now.

Will you be reading the book? Let me know in the comments below!

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