Living As A Cancer Survivor - Personal Tragedy

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Death is something none of us can avoid. It can show itself in an obvious way or in a similar way. The hope you get from someone who inspires the best of you because of their love and imagining your life with them can also create part of you to die if that ends. Not being able to pay bills and allowing your mind to destroy any positive thoughts is another example of death you can face. Since many of those situations involve children and those you are responsible for, that also can trigger destructive thoughts that cloud your mind.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor - Our Pets

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I think therapy animals should be available at every cancer hospital. The love an animal gives you is much different than a human. They understand a side to us that humans never will. They accept us, and their entire day can be made just from our being in their presence.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor - Scars

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The only way we can deal with our scars is to share them with others. Cancer will lie to you and make you feel you are alone. You are not. You never know how your story can change the life of someone else unless you reach out.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor - Persistence

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What I understood then is you have to be just as relentless against this disease as it is against you. You have to be persistent. The battle turns post-treatment into a mental war. Every day you can be faced with a reminder of things that you can no longer do. After you thought you had won the battle of your life, you realize that the damage inflicted has forever changed you.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor - Reliability

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Among the many things that cancer took from me was my ability to be relied on consistently. I could no longer control some situations because of my health. I was forced to resign from my job at ESPN because I could not always answer the bell to work every day. 

When you are 33, and you can no longer be relied on to do your job, because of sickness, that is a tough pill to swallow. 

I always prided myself with keeping my word. Due to the onset of Crohn's disease and Lymphedema, any plans I make the other party knows it's contingent on how I feel.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor - Forgiveness

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One thing we all struggle with is forgiveness. I have made some brutal mistakes that have devastated others and been incredibly selfish. I have been the poster boy for thinking only of myself. When I felt convicted and made aware of my behavior, I experienced long seasons of remorse and self-loathing.

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Dying Cancer Patient Final Words Inspire Many

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When you are facing death, the thoughts, words, and advice that form in your mind are remarkable. There were a few times during my brush with death that I expressed my views about what is essential in life.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor - Worrying

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This topic is difficult for me of which to speak. I don't want to be a hypocrite, so let me start by saying worrying impacts my life consistently. I did not have this mindset before being diagnosed with cancer. I am not worried about the cancer returning, but about the side effects that create environments that I can't control.

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Living As A Cancer Survivor: Actions speak loudest

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When you are dealing with cancer, many things will be outside of your control. As a family member, spouse, sibling, or parent, seeing a loved one suffer is one of the worst feelings you will experience. The sentiment is mutual for the patient or survivor. 

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Another Perspective Part 5 - Questions Anyone?

The following excerpt is the third thing that Rachael Yahne’s mentions in her article “5 Things that they never tell you about life after cancer

People will be scared to ask you questions (even though they'll have a lot of questions)

I'm not sure why people are scared to talk to me about it. I know they are just trying to be gracious, and I can't speak for all survivors, but as far as this one goes: ask away. If you have a question, let me answer it. If you wonder something - from what it's like to be on steroids to whether I lost my eyelashes and eyebrows too - go ahead! Sure there are days in my regular, healthy life after cancer that I'm not giddy to talk about it. But when it really comes down to facts, I'd rather help you understand so that if ever you know someone who has to go through this battle. That way, you'll know more of what to expect and what that person might need. Additionally, if you're my friend, I'd like you to know me. So don't be afraid of me or afraid to talk to me, it only makes me feel 'othered' as Janet Mock says.

The truth is, every cancer fighter's experience will be incredible different. The fact that we need to talk more about the struggles after cancer is a very good sign to me, because it shows that we are at a point where survival is up, and people are looking to thrive and live well after cancer. So don't be afraid to talk about it, don't be afraid to reach out.


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Another Perspective Part 4 - Awkward Conversations

The following excerpt is the fourth thing that Rachael Yahne’s mentions in her article “5 Things that they never tell you about life after cancer

There will be some awkward conversations...

In life after cancer and treatment, even the physical parts of your being are different. Especially when it comes to dating. There are scars. There is skin that is very tender to the touch because of the radiation. There are hangups and insecurities that are caused by the way my body is different now. So yes, there will be a level of communication absolutely necessary to make sure both partners are comfortable.

And there will be even worse conversations about it. There will have to be talks about what the future looks like with someone who has been through treatment, and who can never guarantee that it won't come back. There will have to be talks about what life would look like if it did come back. There will have to be a shared courage around it. There will have to be openness and honesty to a degree that most couples don't have to offer. But trust me, it will make your love so much richer and more incredible.

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Another Perspective Part 3 - Fear

The following excerpt is the third thing that Rachael Yahne’s mentions in her article “5 Things that they never tell you about life after cancer

There will be a new sense of fear in every part of your life

It just doesn't look the same once you know how fragile your life is. That fear, of the past and of it coming back, can haunt you for the rest of your life after cancer. But what I like to tell others in my public speeches and online articles (even the ones not about cancer) is that even though there will always be fear, you don't have to let that fear decide what you do and how you feel. You don't have to let that fear run your life or even ruin your mood. You can feel it, acknowledge it, and still choose to love and to be joyous and even to take risks in your life after cancer (whether you've experienced it or someone you love). You don't have to be ruled by it; you just have to choose to live from and for something greater than that fear.

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Another Perspective Part 2 - Appearance

The following excerpt is the second thing that Rachael Yahne’s mentions in her article “5 Things that they never tell you about life after cancer

Some people will not like seeing pictures of you

I'm not sure why people feel it's appropriate to tell me that they "don't like" seeing pictures of me during treatment, when I was bald and overweight from the steroids. I personally think I look great, because I'm doing something incredible. They often tell me that pictures of me during treatment make them sad, which is strange because they don't make me sad and I'm the one who went through it! So as far as this survivor is concerned, if I can take the experience itself as well as the photographic proof, so can you. Don't tell me it makes you sad, in fact don't feel bad for me at all. Be proud of it, be in awe of it, and see that this is the story of triumph, not tragedy.

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Another Perspective Part 1 - Emotional & Physical Changes

My Scars Tell a Story
By Mark Everett Kelly

When I started this blog back on June 17, 2019, it was my intention to describe my experiences currently living with the side effects of cancer treatment.

RachaelYahne

Survive & Thrive

More Stories Living As A Cancer Survivor

My blog submissions have ranged from advice to warnings along with compassion. I am learning with you as we go along in this journey together, so I hope that as this blog reaches more of you that you feel free to share some of your perspectives with us.

Back in May of 2016, Rachael Yahne, wrote her experiences living after treatment in an article/blog entry titled “5 Things They Never Tell You About Life After Cancer”.

Rachael and I share many similarities in our stories. She was diagnosed at age 17 (I was 3 months shy of my 17th birthday). She was treated for an advanced form of cancer at world renowned hospital (I was treated at Memorial Sloan-Kettering in Manhattan, NY). We both were offered the best in terms of support, educational resources and mentors.

The next five blog entries will deal with my view on Rachael’s points.

It Will Be Hard To Go Back To Normal

Both Rachael and I agree wholeheartedly on this. I can’t stress enough that whatever you viewed as “normal” before, will change. For some the change is dramatic, while others might not be as severe, but nothing in your life will be like it was before. I choose to separate the changes you experience into two areas, emotional and physical.

EMOTIONAL

You relationships with everyone will permanently change. Some will look up to you and think you can now offer advice on life, others will feel uncomfortable and even guilty and avoid you.

The following excerpt is from Chapter 11 of “My Scars Tell A Story” titled “A Harsh Reality”.

“People now looked at me as different, which also means they expect different things out of me. It’s almost like I was not allowed to be a seventeen-year-old. Because of what I went through, I could not live the normal life of a seventeen-year old. People now expected more out of me. As soon as I came back, teachers and parents wanted me to share what I went through with the other kids as a lesson on how short life can be and to appreciate it. Parents would ask me to talk to their kid who was in trouble and advise him to straighten up because life is short. I wasn’t ready to do this. I just wanted to be Mark again. I wasn’t ready to be a role model nor did I want to be. When I started to get back into classes, it was so hard for me to concentrate on school. Thankfully, my teachers were very understanding, but sometimes too understanding. When I would not hand in an assignment or would hand in unsatisfactory work, they would let it slide. I’m not sure this was good for me. At times when I needed to be pushed, I wasn’t. Whether I liked it or not, I was receiving special treatment.”

SURVIVORS GUILT

Another part of the emotional changes you feel can surround feeling guilty about surviving. When experiencing treatment, almost everyone will encounter and even befriend other patients and family members of patients. Watching your child, spouse, sibling or friend die is one of the hardest experiences of this life. By no fault of their own, others might look at you with an attitude of “Why are they so special”, and even think that you have an attitude of superiority, especially if you talk about your relationship with Jesus .

PHYSICAL CHANGES

These changes can be the most damaging. For me, I could no longer function sexually as I did prior. While that is very VERY difficult and humiliating to share, I can’t expect others to open up about their struggles when I’m not being honest.

I could no longer have children. Sex (at the time I was a virgin) was also now much more challenging because of the damage that radiation did. These are issues that make me feel like less than a man. I see myself as damaged and that no female should have to deal with my inconvenient body functions.

Another issue was that I could no longer hold in my bowel movements. This started about 6 months post treatment and have never gone away. After gallbladder surgery in 2003, I had to wear a diaper, which I still do.

The emotional and mental humiliation of living with those two issues post treatment is severely humiliating for me. I will discuss the mental and physical issues and how they affect my life again in a later blog.

For more on Rachael Yahne, please visit her website .

As always my heart and prayers are with you.

God Bless

NEXT BLOG DATE: August 15, 2019 - Another Perspective Part 2

Living As A Cancer Survivor - Winning The Mental Battle

My Scars Tell a Story
By Mark Everett Kelly



Some days It takes all my strength to just get out of bed.

Living with two permanent illnesses in Crohn’s and Lymphedema can be a exhausting battle both physically and mentally.

I don’t believe in sugar coating the truth and doing so would forfeit the purpose of this blog.
The fact is that the mental battle you fight to stay positive and not want to just lay in bed and feel sorry for yourself can be overwhelming.

I would love to tell you that my faith lends me to start each day reading scripture and speaking out against the negativity that could prevent me from doing my part in supporting my family, but I don’t. However, when I discipline myself to start my day in that fashion, it does make a difference.

Side effects of treatment effect everyone in different ways. It is very important that you start a regimen which can help your body heal from the damage done to your body, especially your kidneys and liver. Exercise is also important in getting back whatever weakness your muscles and joints experienced.

Keeping a daily journal is also helpful to understand how your body is feeling everyday post treatment. Doing so will ease your mind concerning the progress you are making along with showing that you are strong enough to overcome the limits that are being placed on your system.

My heart goes out to all those who deal with the never ending mental battles that ensue after treatment. Ultimately, the victory is ours in that we have overcome something that wanted to kill us.

My prayers and thoughts are with you. I pray mercy, health and claim victory over the negative thoughts that can invade your mind as you prepare to start your day.

God Bless

NEXT BLOG. Monday, August 12