I got a call from a coworker a few months ago that started a chain of events that I have oddly become accustomed to.
The coworker is someone I have known for several years but don’t normally conduct business with. He’s close to my age, holds a high corporate position, and is well-respected in our company. When he called, I knew something important was on his mind.
I assumed his phone call had to do with a work project, but I was incorrect. After some initial niceties, he launched into his reason for contacting me.
His father (who is 80 years old) received the same cancer diagnosis as me earlier this year. The family was obviously scared and concerned. They had brought him to the best doctors in their area and received the best consultation available, but they still felt lost once the treatment started to break him down physically and mentally.
That’s when I was contacted.
My cancer battle was in full force at this time six years ago so it’s still relatively fresh in my mind. When I was in the throes of treatment, I was scared and unsure. I remember wishing I could talk to someone who had been through the same procedure just to know they had withstood the assault and were now thriving.
But I never had that luxury, so I went through the entire process alone and uncertain. Because of that experience, I vowed I would make myself available to anyone who asked.
Over the years, I’ve counseled many cancer patients. Generally, I follow the same regimen: I tell them about my own diagnosis, my treatment, and my recovery; I’m truthful but also positive. But most importantly, I try to leave everyone I talk to with the notion that as hard as this experience is, they will get through it and they will thrive on the other side.
I listened intently as my coworker explained that, during a routine exam, his father’s dentist discovered an anomaly on his tongue and suggested that he get it checked out. After a visit with an oncologist, it was determined that he indeed had cancer and would need surgery along with chemotherapy and radiation.
When my coworker was finished talking, I launched into my own experience with cancer. I was brutally honest about where his father was headed and how difficult it was going be. I was frank, but I also conveyed the idea that he would survive and thrive afterwards.
I also suggested several tips for comfort during treatment. I found that the hospitals and doctors were great when it came to treating the cancer but had little to offer for the other 23 hours of the day that you were suffering.
My coworker thanked me for the insights; he seemed genuinely thrilled that he now had some tangible solutions to bring to his father to alleviate the discomfort and anxiety he was experiencing.
Before hanging up, I told my coworker that I would be willing to talk to his dad at any point during or after treatment. He thanked me but said his dad was a prideful, stubborn man and likely wouldn’t want to appear weak or infirm to a stranger.
I said I understood and we hung up.
Last weekend, my coworker called me back and told me his father was finished with his chemo and radiation treatments and was recovering. However, he was having a difficult time coming to terms with the assault on his mind and body.
He also said his father wanted to talk to me.
A few days later, I spoke with a very broken, prideful 80-year-old man. I could tell it took everything in his being to call me. I listened and let him purge, agreeing with most of his assertions. At one point he broke down crying, saying he felt like a failure.
That’s when I told him that he was at the lowest point in this journey, but things were about to change. I told him that, while he currently feels like the weakest one, he would soon turn into the strongest one. And with that strength he would pull his loved ones along with him and out of this nightmare.
This week’s film, “Luckiest Girl Alive” starring Mila Kunis, features a young woman on the verge of marriage and career success who is about to have her own nightmare rekindled.
Everyone loves a story about a gorgeous woman awash in luxury and social status. It’s pretty to look while also tweaking that jealous bone deep beneath the surface. Films like this may feel initially rewarding, but if the story isn’t solid, the whole thing falls apart quickly.
“Luckiest Girl Alive” has a passable story, which allows the accoutrements to sparkle and shine. Kunis is the main driver here and certainly makes a case that’s she good actress — it’s the supporting cast that seems mundane.
A “C+” for “Luckiest Girl Alive,” now available for streaming on Netflix.
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.