By Lance Hensen
There have only been five things in my life that have really rocked my world.
The first was when my wife agreed to be my wife, and then there was the birth of each of my children.
The fourth was when I was on a golf course and I got a call from my urologist informing me I had prostate cancer.
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The last was when I was in the ear, nose and throat doctor’s office for a follow-up visit for removal of a lump on my neck. I had originally been told after the surgery that the lump was benign and everything was good.
During the follow-up exam for the surgery, the doctor came in and told me I had throat cancer and I’d have to go to a specialist to determine treatment.
Believe me, there is nothing more dramatic in your life than when someone tells you that you have cancer, let alone having someone tell you twice for two totally unrelated issues.
During the treatment (chemo and radiation for throat cancer), I read the book “Every Day I Fight” written by ESPN sportscaster Stuart Scott before his death.
In that book, he said that having cancer is not a death sentence, it’s a life sentence. What you do after you have been diagnosed with cancer defines who you truly are.
I firmly believe in the thought that even after the treatments are done, you still fight every day of your life. You are no longer normal, but you try like heck to maintain some resemblance that you are normal and everything is going to be OK.
That summer, I walked 18 holes of golf three times a week and trained for a 5K race, and now, I bike 5 miles a day. People ask me why. My reply is that I do everything I can every day to convince myself that I’m normal.
I still have a picture of Stuart Scott in my office that I see every day. In that picture, he is lifting weights and wearing a T-shirt that says “Every Day I Fight.” This is my motivation every day. Even though I’ve completed treatment and am now cancer-free for two years, I still struggle with little things that will never be the same.
The people you surround yourself with also define who you are every day. You have family and friends that will do everything that they can to help you maintain that resemblance of normalcy.
For those of us who have had cancer interrupt your life, find yourself someone else who has made the same battle. In Stuart Scott’s book, he explains that once you have cancer, you belong to a certain club, and if you aren’t in the club, you have no idea the battles that are fought every day to remain normal.
Our family and friends do everything that they can to help us, but they can’t (and shouldn’t) have to feel the battles and pain that we have been through. Sometimes, it helps just talking to someone who has been through or is going through the battle and have similar feelings about the battle that you need to talk through.
A friend of mine asked me, “When you were going through your treatments, were you on anything for the depression?” As I look back on it, when you’re going through the treatments, you are totally focused with getting through each day and really have no other focus.
I didn’t need depression meds then. When I really needed them was during the recovery after the treatments. Things just aren’t the same, and things don’t heal as fast as you want. This is especially so after you have spent however many weeks abusing your body to kill the cancer cells that have invaded your life.
I don’t think I will ever be normal, but there are many in my life who would suggest that I never was. But each day, I wake up and am thankful for the time I have with friends and family.
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Name: Lance Hensen
Types of cancer: Prostate (diagnosed August 2013); throat (diagnosed December 2014)
Occupation: Operational compliance specialist at Lannett Pharmaceuticals in Seymour
Family: Wife, Janet Hensen; son, Ian Hensen, 22; daughter, Stephanie Hensen, 23