David Bradley, Courageous
He likes basketball, video games and cartoons like Pinky and the Brain. Evolving as a man, his childhood was only yesterday. Still, he must confront some pretty grown up stuff.
Cancer intruded on David Bradley's young life in the summer of 2004. He was 21 years old.
In the summer of 2002, David and his best friend decided to lose weight so that they could expand the possibility of participating in sports. When David successfully lost 50 pounds and then 100, he was thrilled but puzzled by the fact that his stomach remained rather large.
"I didn't think much of it at first" David told me. "I thought maybe I was just having trouble losing weight in that area."
Almost an entire year and a half later, in the fall of 2003 while away at school, David recalls that he was suddenly always tired. With still no change in the appearance of his stomach he was needing to sleep about 16 hours a day.
I sit next to David at a local café on a beautiful spring morning and I sip my coffee and listen to him talk. As I watch him drink his orange juice, I am certain this juice is not good for him at all. "Shouldn't he be having something else like - wheat grass shots?" I can't help thinking.
I just want to fix this thing! In my arrogant, well meaning way, I just want to wave some kind of wand, perform some magic trick and "Presto David! Better".
David has been told by his doctors that surgery is not a good option because he would likely die on the operating table. I watch him shifting positions. He is so clearly, physically uncomfortable as he shares with me about his struggle with whether or not to go ahead with the surgery anyway, strengthened by the support of his younger brother who encourages him to "Do it if you think that you should."
"What do you think about David, I mean when you think about the future?" I want to know.
"I think about the fact that I want to be a teacher. But, I feel like right now, I've got to just find a way to beat this, because if I find a way to beat this, the rest of it is easy".
I begin to wonder what I would do. What would I tell my son to do? How does someone go about trying to figure something like this out?
"I have a lot of tough decisions to make about what to do" David admits. "It's funny. Most people focus too much on the things that they want in life. Very few people will say that 'to be healthy' is what they want most. Very few people will say that. I don't think I have ever heard anyone say that. Only people, who are sick, want to be healthy."
As I hand David another tissue, I realize that I have been silently counting my blessings.
"Sometimes things are more difficult than we would like for them to be, and that's O.K." he says. I soak up this sage wisdom that can only come from someone who has been forced to look over the edge of their own uncertainty.
"It is harder for me to listen to people complain, nowadays and, I don't like to complain myself. People in this country don't have the right to complain because ninety-five percent of the people in the world would trade their best day for your worst."
I want to know what David wants his to life to be about? What does he want it all to mean? When I ask him he simply says:
"I believe that for everything bad that happens something good will happen, if not for me than for somebody else."
I have to fight my arrogant urge, again, to try and "fix this" for David somehow. I want to "do" something! This is when it dawns on me that I can listen; just really listen. So that is what I do. I just really listen.
I just listen to what he has to say.
A Wonderful Life
by David Bradley
The first person on my list of friends isn't a person at all. It's more the beginning of a great journey than a circumstance. The first thing I wanted to talk about was my friend my tumor. I don't want to get into medical terms but more or less explain the story of my cancer for those of you that do not know it and maybe it will help to explain the writing of this section of this book.
First and foremost on June 7, 2004 I went to my doctor for a yearly checkup. I had just lost about fifty pounds over the past few months and was happy about that but my stomach didn't look much smaller. When my doctor was examining my stomach upon the receiving of this information he felt a hard mass on mainly the left side of my belly. That night they ran some test and discovered that there was a mass in my stomach that could be cancer. They admitted me to the hospital and within the next few days they opened my stomach and took a piece of the tumor and discovered it was malignant which just means dangerous.
Of course the first thing you think when someone tells you that you have cancer is you're going to die. I do not mean I didn't realize that I was eventually going to die sometime; it was just that I realized sometime was now an ever nearing date and could come at anytime and it became frightening. We all have some fear of death and the unknown but no one thinks they'll have to confront their fear before they turn sixty five or so. Death is a very scary thing when you have to confront it and I've realized that anyone that says they aren't afraid to die is lying.
Anyway back to the story, so after it was discovered that I had cancer we had to meet an oncologist, or cancer specialist, to discuss what type of cancer I had and the possible treatments. After meeting my oncologist I discovered that I had what is known in the broader sense as carcinoid which just means a mass somewhere in your insides but it didn't specifically start in any particular organ. This type of cancer is very rare so much so that they do not have a cancer ribbon or charity for research on solutions to this type of cancer. There are probably only about a few hundred thousand cases of carcinoid in the country maybe less.
The first type of treatment I was put on was in pill form and was supposed to stop the growth of blood vessels into and around the tumor. This was supposed to shrink the tumor by cutting the blood supply off. One interesting side affect of this medication was that if I got anyone pregnant while on this medication the baby had a high risk of birth defects specifically the baby would have flippers instead of arms. Actually this may not be a bad thing if you want your kids to become Olympic swimmers, just joking. While on the "flipper" pill my doctor also wanted to give me two different chemo therapy drugs intravenously or through the veins. Because of my youth my doctor gave me treatments that were very toxic. It is also a good thing that I never smoked or consumed alcohol (with the exception of TGI Friday's Jack Daniels BBQ sauce) because my system was able to handle strong chemo regiments and handle them fairly well. The two intravenous drugs were given to me five days in a row and then two weeks later one drug was given. The main issue with all types of chemo therapy is the side affects. The side affects of these drugs were extreme fatigue. I would be so tired that I wouldn't get out of the bed all day except to use the bathroom and I didn't feel like eating because my stomach was upset and I had extreme nausea so anything I tried to eat really wouldn't stay down anyway. Besides the fatigue and nausea my hair fell out, which didn't turn out to be so bad because it came back baby soft and straight and so sexy if I do say so myself. The ladies love to run their fingers through it and if any ladies ever want to just ask. Anyway back to the story. Because of the fatigue I would never get out of the bed and with the "flipper" pill cutting off the blood supply in September of 2004 I developed a painful blood clot in my right calf. To anyone that has ever pulled a muscle imagine that pain, multiply it by three and then you'll understand what a serious blood clot feels like. After being in the hospital with the blood clot I had to get a new medication blood thinner. I will probably be on blood thinner for the rest of my life because if the blood clot moves to my heart that is called a heart attack and can kill you or if the blood clot moves to the brain that's called a stroke and we all know that can kill you as well. Another side affect of the blood clot is know my right leg swells if I walk around on it too much because the blood isn't flowing freely back to my heart so it can be pumped properly. One more side affect of the tumor is my heart rate is increased and I have what's known as a heart murmur which just means sometimes my heart beat is slightly irregular. Anyway after dealing with the blood clot I went to see the carcinoid specialist who works out of Mount Sinai hospital in New York City. This doctor is a specialist which is just another way of saying he doesn't accept insurance and he charges eight hundred dollars per consultation. He explained to me how rare my type of carcinoid actually is. Let's just put it like this out of the approximately three hundred million people in the United States of America I am one of only three people that have this exact type of carcinoid and I am the only male with it. I am also the youngest of the three people to have this disease. I must admit that with one in three hundred million odds of properly treating this disease if my cancer does go into remission (or starts dying) I will play the lotto because the lotto odds have to be better than that.
That December I had a smaller cancerous tumor taken out of the left side of my neck and it was the size of an orange or tangerine. The large tumor on the right side of my abdomen which is cutting off blood flow to my right leg is the size of a small watermelon and I also have some smaller tumors hanging around in my abdomen area that are close in size to lemons, oranges, and kiwis. So it is safe to say that I have my own fruit stand of tumors. My chemo treatment was changed after the blood clot treatment and I was taken off of the "flipper" pill so I can safely reproduce again. I have been put on three different chemo therapy pills. The side affects on these three pills range from nausea, to pain in fingers and toes, to loss of appetite and fatigue. In December of 2005 it was discovered that the tumor has slightly grown and it began to press on a nerve in my right thigh. This was very painful because this nerve had several nerve endings that went different places in the thigh and it felt like there were three or four different types of pain in different parts of my thigh at the same time. Needless to say this afforded me a stay in the hospital for a few days. As far as all these treatments are concerned nothing has worked. The main side affect of any chemo therapy drug is that it kills good cells in the body as well as tries to kill the cancerous cells. This just forces your body to regenerate the good cells at a faster than normal rate. This is the reason that chemo therapy knocks years off of your life expectancy. In order to try to kill the cancer in your body it has to slowly kill you until you body can no longer take the strain on accelerated regeneration.
I consider this tumor or cancer a friend of mine because it has taught me so much about life and about myself. As some of you can recall I used to be a very power hungry or money hungry person. I had great drive and I used to think that power and money would make me happy. Like most people my age I then even thought that relations with the opposite sex would make me happy. After having to look death in the face I've had to make a decision; I could either get busy living or get busy dying, if you can consider that a choice. I now realize more than ever that the only things that are important in life are the people you care about and the people that care about you and the time you share together. Anyone that tells you different has no clue what they are talking about trust me. This is why I care about all of these people so much and why I like or even love my friends because I realize they and my family are the most important things in life. While realizing that I might not have a lot of time left here on earth I have thought about what I'd want my funeral to be like and what I want said but more importantly who I'd want there. As most of you know I am a cocky confident person so while thinking about what will be said at my funeral I came to the realization that a persons' legacy or the people and memories he leaves behind is the true measure of a man and I hope to become a better man everyday for as many days as I have left. I am no longer afraid of death because I realize that it's just a part of life not to say that I am going to jump in front of a bullet for anyone because I'm too cool to take one for the team.
Those of you who asked this is the reason I began this project because I don't want anyone I care about to not know how I truly feel about them in case my time comes. If I've missed anyone it wasn't on purpose but this is just the beginning they'll be plenty of pages for me to send my shout outs.
The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation
The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation (CCF) has existed for close to forty years. In 1997 it produced its first website which made available to the general public and the medical community information about carcinoid and related neuroendocrine cancers. The incidence of these rare cancers is 3 new cases diagnosed per 100,000 people annually in the United States which equals approximately 8,000 new cases per year.
To support carcinoid cancer awareness, click here.
Or if you wish to mail a contribution, please make your check out to:
The Carcinoid Cancer Foundation, Inc.
333 Mamaroneck Avenue # 492
White Plains, NY 10605
Your support is greatly appreciated!