By Dom Cioffi
I suppose the navigation of a cancer diagnosis involves countless hurdles. In that regard, I believe I have successfully traversed a couple early ones.
The first hurdle for anyone diagnosed with cancer involves the revelation. There’s no doubt that telling people, especially those with strong emotional bonds to your wellbeing, is difficult. These conversations usually involve varying degrees of shock, heartache and emotional distress.
I obviously started with my wife and then moved outward to my extended family. Telling those closest to me – my mother, brothers, and closest family and friends – was emotionally exhausting. But through these first conversations I learned very quickly that my demeanor played a crucial role in their reactions. If I appeared strong and positive, they handled the news better. And if they handled the news better, I felt strong and positive.
I knew my stamina with these conversations was limited so I encouraged those that I told to pass the word on to others if they felt inclined. I determined early on that I would not run from cancer. My diagnosis was not going to be a secret or something that I was ashamed of.
The next hurdle was telling my immediate boss and the president of the company I work for. It was important to me to let them know that, while I would be down and out for a stretch, that my overall goal was to come back stronger than ever. I also wanted to assure them that I would do everything in my power prior to leaving to make sure that my work was covered so there would be little effect to the general company workflow.
As I expected, they were—and continue to be—incredibly supportive.
I then made my way through the hallways of our offices, knocked on the doors of other employees, and explained what I was going through. I repeated the facts of my situation and answered any questions they had. Again, it was important to me that everyone in my company hear this from me. I didn’t want there to be any uncomfortable moments in the hallways or any misinformation.
The next hurdle was becoming comfortable with the less obvious conversations—the ones with neighbors or the parents of my son’s teammates. These were instances where I could easily avoid the topic (and at times I did), but chose not to. When one of the mothers at baseball practice inquired why I wasn’t coaching, I briefly explained that for this fall season I was relocating to Jacksonville for some cancer treatments.
I could have brushed her off with an alternative excuse, but in the instances where I did that, I couldn’t help but feel deceitful. And as I’ve learned, many of these conversations have resulted in some poignant information and heartfelt stores of other people’s struggle with cancer.
And of course, there was the hurdle of this column. For nearly 24 years I’ve written about my life and the lives of those close to me. To continue writing a weekly treatise and not mention the single greatest struggle of my life would not only be impossible in my mind, but also a bit disingenuous.
So, with the blessing of the publisher, it was decided that I would document this experience with all its ups and downs for as long as I’m able.
Over the last several weeks I’ve written about my initial diagnosis and some of the emotions involved when cancer enters your world. Those subsequent columns have motivated several readers to email me with support, encouragement and their own stories of cancer. For this, I am eternally grateful.
In every case, whether it has been texts, cards, emails or phone calls, I have been overwhelmed by the outpouring of love and concern by those around me. It’s easy to think that a brief text will mean nothing, but I can promise you, if there is someone in your world suffering in some way, even the smallest connection can prove meaningful.
This week’s film, “Hell or High Water,” features two brothers who have their own hurdles to traverse, except their hurdles involve robbing enough banks to pay off a dirty loan.
Starring Jeff Bridges and Chris Pine, “Hell or High Water” is a gritty film set in modern day Texas, where a family who has spent generations being poor finally has the chance to climb out. The only problem is that no one in the system wants to see that happen.
Don’t mistake this film for a “Butch Cassidy” spin-off. This is a raw, emotionally charged movie that contains a storyline that is as realistic as it is troubling. This is the rare “ugly” film that is filled with beauty—beauty not only with the acting and dialogue, but also with the emotions that it conjures up.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for an early “Best Picture” nominee. A hardscrabble “A-” for “Hell or High Water.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]
By Dom Cioffi