Tuesday, June 2, 2009

A Very Happy Anniversary!

Ray is five years cancer-free today. Five years is supposed to be the "magic" number, we should be celebrating reaching the "now-we-can-breathe-a-sigh-of-relief-we’ve-conquered-cancer" goal.
But I’ve read recently the general term used most often for melanoma is NED (no evidence of disease). Melanoma doesn't usually have a "5 years out and you're cured" attached to it. Unfortunately melanoma can return after many, many years. You can consider yourself NED (or cancer free) after your surgeon performs a wide excision, that is you can consider yourself cancer free until something shows up and proves you wrong. The key to this disease is to be vigilant, but not paranoid. Watch any moles for change, practice sun safety, go for LOTS of different testing throughout the year, plus regular visits to LOTS of different doctors and GO ON LIVING!
And that’s exactly what Ray does.

Ray’s had a few small moles removed, but the BIG one, the scary one, the REALLY BAD kind of Melanoma (is any kind of skin cancer good?) has now been gone five years and it was replaced by a big divot in his back. I love that divot, I love that scar, I love that hole in his back, for when the surgeon created that cavity he created a lifeline for us. Most days it’s easy for Ray and myself to forget that we had to contend with any of this but then something will happen to bring it to the forefront. The doctor finds another suspicious growth, a coworker mentions they lost a loved one to skin cancer, and a few years ago Ray tried to add to his life insurance and he was turned down because of his diagnosis. The insurance agent asked Ray if he ever had skin cancer and Ray answered honestly that yes he did have skin cancer. The agent then asked, “But not the bad kind, right?” And Ray answered honestly again that yes, it was the bad kind. The agent then asked for the phone number of Ray’s oncologist and he said he was sure it would be fine, he would just call the doctor as a matter of routine and he’d get back to Ray, he assured Ray that he didn't think there would be any problem with Ray getting more life insurance. He got back to Ray, but it wasn’t fine, it turns out there was a problem, Ray was turned down for any more life insurance as he was deemed too high-risk.
But we know how Blessed we are. And we are thankful to God for His many Gifts to us.
And I think five years cancer-free, or five years ‘no evidence of disease’ is one of the very big Gifts we have to be thankful for.
It is indeed a very Happy Anniversary for us!

(Notice I keep saying "we" and "us" in this post when it is Ray that was diagnosed with skin cancer and not me. I know everything is not 'all about ME', but while spouses of cancer patients might not have to go through any testing, surgery, or treatments, the diagnosis is just as horrifying to us, the fear that grips us is just as real, each subsequent test and doctor visit just as nerve-wracking, and each clean report just as joyful. So, yes, even though I know this is not all about me, I do consider spouses of those that survive cancer as cancer survivors too, just as I consider those husbands and wives devastated by the loss of a spouse to cancer [or anyone who has lost a loved one to cancer] as cancer victims, hence my use of "we/us". Plus, we've been a team for over thirty-eight years now, whatever trials I go through, Ray is there from start to finish alongside me, and what he goes through, I walk by his side right along with him.)


  1. Oh Eileen what a beautiful post. Congrats to Ray, I am so happy for both of you. You are absolutely correct when it comes to using the word we/us. It should always be used when it comes to a spouse or family member as it's something you both through. God Bless my dear frined.....:-) Hugs

  2. Wonderful post Eileen...Cancer became part of our lives 2 years ago...and as you say...it only takes small happenings to quickly bring it to the forefront of our minds...it's always there...but nothing we dwell on in our daily lives...Take Care!

  3. Actually, Eileen, I would have found it strange if you had NOT said 'we' and 'us'...there are times when the spouse is as affected or even more so than the patient.

    My oldest daughter, Ria (who never listened to me about this and even used tanning beds as well as the sun) had a lesion removed on her back about a year ago. In my mother's Irish family there were at least two others who had skin cancer but went on to live good long lives.

    Do celebrate...this is a great blessing from God and I knew you'd like that hollow in his back, because you know the good things in life to treasure!

    blessings galore for nothing but good health for the two of you,


  4. Thank God it is "we". And also thank God it was me, because I always thought that I had the easy part in this episode. Love you!

  5. Eileen, I really enjoyed your post today and am very grateful for you and Ray being cancer free for five years. The book i'm reading "Two-Part Invention The Story of a Marriage" by Madeline L'engle, I think you would enjoy very much. Gods blessings to bth of you!

  6. I just popped over from Carol's blog, Charli and Me, and allow me to congratulate you on that good news! Yea!


    Sheila :-)

  7. Thanks to everyone for stopping by and thanks for all your good wishes, it's very much appreciated!

    Diana, that book does sound like something I'd love, I'll have to get that one!

    Ray, well, there are no words, and you know. Just thanks for every day and our everyday life.

  8. Eileen, If you popped over to my site to comment 5 bazillion times I would just LOVE it...just keep popping away, my friend!!
    Someday, if you go really wild, you could even e-mail me...psst, I wouldn't tell anyone!

    blessings and more,


  9. No pictures?

  10. I had no idea you both had been through such a difficult 5 year journey. You are so upbeat, so positive, and have a heart filled with gratitude. That should have been a sign to me because "hard times produce a strong woman with a grateful heart."

  11. My sister is still cancer free after 4 years so we are hoping that it too will last onwards and she can remain cancer free forever. thanks for this lovely post.