By Nick Talbot
Killeen Daily Herald
The scars are slowly fading away.
It has been two years almost to the day that they were carved into me, curving up my abdomen and down my side.
I usually refer to them as my constant reminders. Soon I won't be able to.
Soon they will be too faded.
But, now two years later I know I don't need them to realize their significance and the impact that they have left on my life.
In October of 2007, I was diagnosed with kidney cancer.
I spent Thanksgiving of 2007 in the hospital. The turkey was bad; the cranberry sauce unimaginably runny and the pumpkin pie was nonexistent.
The pain too was unimaginable. I could barely walk.
Two days after the surgery, it took everything I had to walk 50 steps down the hallway.
But, I survived.
I was luckier than most, my tumor, while malignant, was encapsulated in the kidney. With its removal, I was diagnosed as cancer free.
In all the doctor's visits, which
were taken every three months, since then, I have remained that way.
On my one-year anniversary, I had a friend, a fellow writer, who wanted me to open up and opine on how my life has changed. I really, couldn't do it.
Truthfully, I still did not know the answer. And even more truthfully, I was still scared.
At that point I still did not feel like it was over.
Constant doctor visits will do that – especially, when they freak out and want to run you through a CT scan for every little sneeze.
Besides paranoid doctors what else has changed?
Sure, I root harder for Lance Armstrong and Jon Lester, a pitcher for the Boston Red Sox who has recovered from lymphoma.
I can relate to them more now. They know what it is like to lay on the hospital bed, waiting on the pathologist's report, waiting to see whether you are going to live or die.
And while, that might seem a little harsh, or maybe even over-exaggerating – the doctor's had already pretty much concluded that it would be encapsulated before I underwent the surgery – it was how I felt at the time. In the hours I spent in and out of consciousness, as time slowly trickled by, I was left wondering. The doctors' promising diagnosis were not reassuring enough.
Afterwards it seemed many things had changed. I had changed.
I know now, that I had, but not in the way I needed to.
At first, the cancer scare made me want to accomplish all of those things I have always dreamed of doing –
writing a novel and traveling abroad abundantly the two foremost on the list.
For a while, I focused on that. I made good ground on the novel.
I went to Thailand with my wife.
And while I no longer have those moments of panic or wonder how I will leave my mark on this world and whether I will get to see it all, I still try focus on the things that I deem more important. One of the things I have in fact learned is how to balance my priorities and realize what is truly important in life.
But it is not always easy.
So easily we fall back into the fold, go back into the rat race. And, to an extent, I have done that, too. The novel is still sitting on my desk, 300 pages, almost finished, but now just collecting dust as I focus on other things, like writing for this newspaper.
There of course have been other minor changes. I can't eat as much meat.
I am not "supposed" to drink alcohol at all; all easy sacrifices and, in the grand scheme of things, unimportant.
Because I know now that before the surgery, like most twenty-somethings, I think I took life for granted. I ran through life like nothing could take me down.
Now, I know that life is fleeting, but I am no longer scared.
I simply know better.
Because, I know every day I need to just simply be thankful I'm alive.
Contact Nick Talbot at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7569