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What I learned from dying

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Last Tuesday I found out that I have stage 4 gastric cancer that has spread to my liver. I think this means I’m dying.
But being a journalist, I can’t pass up the opportunity to tell the story of a man whose life and plans might be cut short unexpectedly, so this column will let you, the reader, live and die with me.

I’m calling this column “What I learned from dying” because that was a book I envisioned years ago where I’d interview people who were dying to get their unique perspectives on life.
If things go well this will be a long-term column that could serve as catharsis for me or a peek behind the gown for those who are curious. If things don’t go as well then maybe it’s just a long, rambling goodbye.

A year ago I felt better than I had in probably 12 years, and at the time I said I felt better than I had even in high school. I was working out, going to bed early, waking up early, I had endless energy and I was getting things done. Apparently that whole time I had cancer growing inside of me.

I got COVID-19 in late November, which gave me eight straight days of hiccups, so when I recovered but began having trouble swallowing, it sort of made sense. I waited for things to improve, but they didn’t.

I lost about 50 pounds from not being able to eat, so I finally scheduled an upper scope last month, which showed extreme inflammation. The doctor wasn’t sure why it was so extreme, but I was relieved to finally know what was happening and to begin medicines to treat it.

On a follow-up visit to get what I thought would be his official hypothesis for why I was so inflamed, where he’d tell me to continue the meds and see him in a few weeks, that’s when things took a negative turn.

“Not good” was a phrase he used a worrisome number of times. It was cancer, he said, and he hinted that it had spread. He told me he’d get me set up with an oncologist ASAP, but he continued to say things like “I don’t want to take away all your hope…”

Since that visit I’ve gotten a feeding tube surgically installed into my lower intestine, a jejunal tube, where I get 100 percent of my nutrition. That’s helped my energy, but the large, leaking hole in my side hasn’t helped my mobility.

I’m surprised at how I’ve reacted to finding out I have such a terrible cancer. To be sure there have been plenty of tears, and it’s still hard to say it out loud to people who are just finding it out, but so far it hasn’t taken a big toll mentally. I’ve always sort of refused to be sick and it’s generally worked, so this feels like it should work the same way.

I’m purposely avoiding thinking about all the plans I had to renovate the dumpy house I’m living in, how I was going to finally get my old 911 and my Bug convertible going and was going to go to so many car shows, or how my traveling girlfriend and I were going to see the world.  I’ve begun to wonder about things like how to have a cool funeral, what will happen to all the cool old VW parts I’ve gathered over the years, and whether I can be cremated and painted into a cool piece of art.

I’ve told every doctor so far that I want as much information as I can get to make the most informed decisions I can, but apparently there are things that are best if I don’t know them.

During my initial visit with my oncologist, after he told me it was stage 4 and we discussed chemo, I said I knew it was a hard question to ask but that the first question everyone wants to know is how long they have to live and if he could give me any insight on that.

My sister and girlfriend were both there with me and each either shook their head or said “no, no, no” so the doctor just gave me sort of a side glance and didn’t answer.

I have a feeling the internet would have some information on that, but it also has a lot of scary things that I’d just do just as well to avoid right now. I’m sure if someone less invested than I were to google the prognosis for stage 4 liver cancer they might gain a little additional context for this column, but for now I’ll do without it.

By Dave Taylor


dave.hancockclarion@gmail.com

29 Comments

  1. Linda Dillon on May 5, 2021 at 7:43 pm

    Hang in their Dave. Never give up! You know this whole county sure isn’t giving up! Prayers are BIG. Connections to the big man above are “strong”….and faith is phenomenal.

    • April Wheeler-Brown on May 6, 2021 at 3:59 pm

      Thank you for sharing your experience. I’m sure it will help more people than you can imagine. I worked in oncology for many years. What I know from personal experience and observation is that attitude is a big part of conquering the cancer beast. You sir, have a winning attitude that will take you far!

    • Kelly Vanover on May 6, 2021 at 4:02 pm

      Praying for you and your friends and family. And those tending to your care.
      We serve a mighty God and He is still in control!

    • Brenda Damron on May 10, 2021 at 1:33 pm

      never give up no matter what the % are for others, each person is different from another. Im praying for you, I believe that you have to fight hard in this life to make it, so no one knows just keep a positive attitude and enjoy the rest of your life. NO ONE KNOWS

  2. Connie Duncan on May 5, 2021 at 10:06 pm

    David, our love thoughts and prayers are with you! Connie

    • Jeff Smith on May 6, 2021 at 8:54 pm

      Hey Dave, Not the news I was expecting!
      Would it be crude of me to ask for all your German automotive associated belongings?
      No, seriously Dave, my wife’s Dad just found out he has cancer too, so we’re doing a lot of research.
      I know you Dave, and I also know you and I serve an awsome God, who will take care of us one way or another. It’s not always the way we expect it, but he will none the less.
      I expect you to pull up to our house in your 911 in a few years, so hang in there, and we are here for anything you need. We will be praying for you. Love ya!

  3. Theresa Hardman on May 6, 2021 at 3:15 am

    God is in control. Faith of a mustard seed can move mountains! Strength in numbers…. praying for you !

    • Sunshine Brunner on May 6, 2021 at 2:19 pm

      Thank you for your column. It is courageous to share these raw moments of your own experiences. My family’s thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

      • Lena Poole on May 6, 2021 at 4:20 pm

        David,
        Attitude is key to beating this terrible disease.
        I have been fighting it since May of 2018. Mine started out as endometrial cancer and has since spread to my lungs. I am stage 4 terminal. Isn’t that such an ugly word? Keep fighting as hard as you can for as long as you can. Don’t let anyone tell you how long you are going to live….in my three year fight I have get to find an expiration date stamped on me anywhere.
        Give it all to God and try not to worry about things you can’t control.
        I look forward to reading many more of your articles.
        You could very well be a light for someone who is also fighting the fight.
        God Bless.
        Lena Poole

    • Jamie Schutte on May 8, 2021 at 2:25 pm

      Dave…
      I have been so heartbroken to find out about your recent diagnosis. I know first hand what it’s like receiving that news. I will be sending you and your family so many prayers! The girls and I at Bridgewater will be thinking of you ❤🙏

  4. Becky Reska on May 6, 2021 at 7:11 am

    Dave, in true Dave fashion, you are “painting a picture” with your experience. Continued prayers for you!!

  5. Kari Jones on May 6, 2021 at 8:50 am

    While I read your article, the tears flowed! You are and have been such an uplifting person with a smile on your face thru every obstacle you’ve been dealt with and even with this horrible monster, there is still a smile on your face. God bless you Dave and I will continue to pray for you!

    • Cheryl Gammon on May 8, 2021 at 10:32 pm

      Praying for you Dave.

  6. Alex on May 6, 2021 at 2:52 pm

    Well I for one, definitely want a peek behind the gown!!! 🤪Wow, I had to ask Siri what catharsis means. Woohoo I’ve learned a new word Bc of you!! 🥳👏 Regardless of that or a “rambling goodbye”, you’ll have lots of support from me and others as well! ❤️🤗 As for wanting to know how much time you have left, I would want to know. From my parents having cancer, as well as other family members and friends, the doctors are either spot on or way off. But usually they’re spot on the time frame. I just hope, that if your girlfriend reads this, in case she doesn’t please show this to her, and make her promise to not feed you those wheatgrass drinks or whatever they are like Deadpool’s girlfriend did to him!

  7. Marilyn Owens on May 6, 2021 at 3:40 pm

    Trying to breathe and you definitely have made this old women travel back in time. I watched you grow into an awesome man of God. From skateboarding, VW’s and not eating your vegetables, always apart of our family. Family ❤️ You are loved. Tears, prayers and thankful for your relationship with Christ. Love you David ❤️

  8. Nita Potts-Graham on May 6, 2021 at 3:44 pm

    Dave, thoughts and prayers are with you!

    • Zelma McCamish on May 6, 2021 at 4:30 pm

      Our thoughts and prayers are with you. Hang in there, a lot people will be praying for you❤️🙏🏻

  9. Kenny and Donna Morris on May 6, 2021 at 4:31 pm

    We enjoyed reading your columns and your post. You’re in our thoughts. Prayer for healing.

  10. Tim Taylor on May 6, 2021 at 4:40 pm

    Hey cuz, I was in Texas racing when I heard the news and could only think what a great time you would have there with all the cool cars that were racing. I thought back to when you were at the shop to pick up the 911, and how you told me about the weight loss and throat issue, in my wildest dreams I never thought it would be something like this. Lots of prayers and if you need anything you have my number!!

  11. Matt Malkovich on May 6, 2021 at 5:55 pm

    Prayers for you Dave.

  12. Marilyn Hubert on May 6, 2021 at 8:33 pm

    Dave,
    My thoughts and prayers are with you. It sounds like you have the right attitude to fight this beast, so stay strong. Thank you for sharing your experience with everyone.
    Prayers

  13. Justin Nugent on May 6, 2021 at 11:00 pm

    I look at this screen with tear filled eyes, and I just don’t know what to say. All I can think about is, it seems like we graduated yesterday and your just to young to be going through this. I just don’t understand, but I do understand this, God’s got a plan!! He always does!! It may not make sense to any of us, and that’s okay, but God’s going to use you to help others. I know without a doubt!! Dave we’re praying hard for you!! Praying Hard!!!!

  14. Victor K Brown on May 7, 2021 at 2:56 am

    Thank you for documenting your journey. If is something we all need to learn about. It can have the affect on many things from improving the medical system to how to treat others that are sick, to how to face illness. I just don’t county anything as a done deal whether it is living or whatever. There just are no exact answers. Continue to keep your head up (as you clearly are) and know you inspire us all. I have seen miracles in my life so I take nothing for granted.. Prayers to you and yours.

  15. John Tinsley on May 7, 2021 at 7:29 am

    Prayers David! You will find a way!

  16. Denise Garrison on May 7, 2021 at 9:15 am

    I am so sorry to hear about this Dave!!..I know what a crushing blow this was to you and your intial thought was how long do I have bc that is the first question we asked!!..Just know I am thinking about you and the long journey you have ahead of you!!!…Prayers for you and strength to endure for you during your bumpy road!!!You are loved by many people and with all the prayers hopefully it will take you thru it🙏🙏🙏
    Denise Garrison

  17. Greg Forbes on May 7, 2021 at 5:52 pm

    Dave if ever I could be as brave as you are right now I’d be a man. This breaks my heart but I know if God wants a good journalist he has I’m sure a few yo chose from. I feel greedy saying we all want you to get better and beat this because God makes his decisions sometimes we win others we don’t but as a God loving man I just pray fir your comfort and that if you still have more purpose here then in heaven let us keep you till your old and Grey . David you are strong and you deserve the best comfort possible. Here if you need anything

  18. Roger Willoughby on May 8, 2021 at 10:46 pm

    Dave, this is just like you. I truly hate this news but know I, like many others, am praying for you and your family. I’ve learned for those of us who know Jesus as our Savior, there are things worse than death. May God’s peace flood you in ways you never thought possible.
    Roger Willoughby

  19. *DOC JONES” on May 9, 2021 at 8:20 am

    Dave you are awesome God bless you in your recovery
    911’s and Dubs !!!
    Hand tuff my brother.

  20. Tammy Slack on May 10, 2021 at 5:10 pm

    Don”t give up!! In 2014 I was diagnosed with stage 4 pancreatic cancer. It had already spread to my liver, lungs and lymph nodes. I was given 6 months to live. I refused to give up and went into chemo with a positive attitude. After 12 rounds of chemo, I found out i was in remission. It came back in 2018 and i continue to get chemo but I am living a very productive life. I have never quit working or doing my everyday tasks. Stay positive. You will be in my prayers.

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