Living with cancer: The decision


I absolutely love my weekends. I covet my time off.

I exercise, take the kids for walks and to the pool. I swim a few laps while they splash around, like dolphins. We make silly videos or play UNO or Bounce Off. I work on my projects, read, write, conduct research, watch family movies, and I even order food delivery through a Honduran app called Hugo — which is similar to Door Dash.

From Friday afternoon through Sunday night, I run on a natural high. I really enjoy life.

But recently, my energy level has become depleted. My commitment to a 40- or 45-hour work week has spiraled into 55- or 60-hour ones. The work stress has climbed too. The job has become even more demanding, probably much like yours. It is a job I absolutely love, though. Almost as much as my coveted weekends.

I love my staff. I try to motivate them while insisting on results: Returning out-of-school youth to the classroom, helping them graduate high school and find employment. None of it easy, but there is little more professionally rewarding than submitting weekly reports that describe how my team has encouraged young dropouts to return to high school, complete the year, and reenroll the following year, or how we trained and placed youth in jobs that allow them to pursue their dreams in their own country.

A couple of weeks ago, I traveled to La Ceiba, Honduras, on the coast of the Caribbean Sea. I spoke to a group of university interns, who had beaten all odds to emerge from the most dangerous neighborhoods in the city to succeed in college. They motivate me to work harder, do better. On that trip, my team trained a young woman, coached and prepared her with a mock interview and arranged a real interview at a local restaurant that was hiring. The next morning, she started her first day as a server, and my team and I went to the restaurant and took photos and spoke to the owner. It made my day.

But the 60-hour work weeks and mounting stress are taking their toll. I am not exercising like I used to. I am lethargic much of the time. A month ago, I resigned, giving my supervisors six months to find a replacement. I planned to work part time from Florida for the next few years. But there were some snags in my plan. Now I am faced with the choice of either signing on for one more year and trying to reduce the hours, manage the stress better, take more time off — and toughing it out — or returning to Florida and tough it out.

One day last week, I hit a wall. At 2 p.m., I climbed up on my bed and turned on Netflix. I just didn’t have the energy to work anymore that day. Two days later, I went to the doctor, told her how burned out I felt, and updated her on the cancer diagnosis.

She said, “No other physical issues?”

“The prostate cancer is not enough?” I asked.

She read my file and told me, “I see you were here in 2019 for Burnout Syndrome.”


After a few tests, she told me, “You are in good physical shape. Better than good … You are just mentally stressed” and overworked. She recommended I reduce my stress and cut back on my work hours. Take some time off and recharge my batteries. She also suggested that I speak to a therapist.

“I don’t think you have processed the cancer diagnosis” or the trauma from the attacks in Iraq.

I didn’t tell her that a week earlier, I waited on the line for 30 minutes for my first virtual appointment with a new therapist who never showed.

The Honduran doctor also started explaining that at the age 62, I couldn’t expect myself to exercise or have the energy that I did five or 10 years ago, but I sort of zoned out at that point. I didn’t want to hear that hogwash.

When I was diagnosed with cancer in January and experienced moments of self-pity, my cousin who had just undergone prostate surgery told me, “It is not the time to think of yourself. We have to hold everything together and be strong for everyone else. For our spouses, our children, siblings and grandchildren. We have to make good financial decisions now, so they are just a little better off after we are gone.

Since I returned to Honduras in April, I have largely put the cancer out of my mind. My surgeon and I opted for active surveillance, which means a PSA test every six months to see how the cancer advances. A biopsy once here and there.

But gone is the self-pity. I have a loving family and supportive friends. I have understanding and flexible supervisors (a bunch of them). My Honduran staff are amazing in every way. They motivate me with their smiles and attitudes. And I have great doctors.

Now comes decision time. Every one of you who have reached retirement age have faced the same dilemma. In fact, many of my family and friends have retired only to come out of retirement to resume a profession they loved. All of you motivate me.

I told my bosses that I would make the decision in about 10 days. I am flying to Florida in late June for business, and I plan to take a month off, ride my bike from Panama City Beach to St. Augustine, Florida and back. I want to read, write a travel blog and think. Recharge my batteries.

I would love to hear from you. Write me at: [email protected]. Follow my blog at

Craig Davis, who was born in Seymour and graduated from Brownstown Central High School, currently lives in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, and works for a U.S. government contractor on school-based violence prevention. He is the author of “The Middle East for Dummies” and is conducting research for a genealogy and social history book in Kurtz and Freetown. You can visit the Living with Cancer weekly blog at and write him at [email protected].

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