Bring It On Cancer

by Timothy TusickDecember 11, 2019View more posts from Timothy Tusick

Dear Cancer,

I’m grateful you came to me. You made me realize who I am and have brought far more good into my life than bad. I recognize what you are doing to me is nasty, messed up, and depressing but you will never depress me, and you will never break me. Life said, “fuck you” and made you part of my life but before I leave my room every morning, I do 100 pushups and stick both my middle fingers up at the sky.

All that I endure patiently only makes me stronger mentally, physically, and spiritually. I made a promise not to pity myself and very rarely do I complain despite my situation. Ever since I was a kid I hated when people would whine or complain. My family and friends don’t know the things I have to go through every day. I am going to complain, a lot, but only for the purpose of this letter and I promise to talk about the good you have brought me. So now I am going to talk about “the shit”. In my head I call all the problems you gave me “the shit” because it’s problems specific to me and pretty much only me—the shit that I’m the only one dealing with, the man on the moon, so I’m sorry to complain but…..

The Shit –  I never thought I would be writing a letter to you.

I never thought you would become part of my life at 19 years old. I never thought working out 8-10 times a week and eating clean that I would get cancer. I never thought I would hear nurses at an emergency room say to me “I don’t know how you’re alive your hemoglobin level is at four and your spleen is the size of a football” or “How did he even walk in here today”. Or the words “You have cancer Tim. Acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL)

“We’re going to the Seidman cancer center” from my Father. I never thought at 19 I’d have to worry about my blood pressure. I never thought I’d have to endure 3+ years of chemotherapy. I never thought nurses would come to my house to give me shots of chemo. I never thought I’d spend 50 nights in a hospital. I never thought I’d have to worry about death, lose my hair, lose my immune system, lose my physique, lose my strength, have constant mouth sores and bloody gums, feel carsick 24/7, swallow pills daily, get poked weekly by needles, have a spinal leak, watch my face bloat to the point where I was unrecognizable to even myself, leave college, have countless procedures, tests, and prescriptions.

I’ve had more problems and suffering in one day than most people will face in their entire life. Cancer, all of your victims do, and the list of problems you give us could go on and on; I only listed the first things that popped into my head. You made me say goodbye to many things I love and forced me to go through so much change.

Before I met you, my schoolwork was great at Kent State University, I was healthy, had a ton friends, was in a fraternity, and I did two philanthropies. Also, I was in phenomenal shape from years of wrestling, running, lifting, and calisthenics. You took that strong, confident 19-year-old, stuck a port in his chest and after the first 29 days of chemotherapy, in-patient, he was weaker than most nursing home patients.

Walking upstairs was scary, I didn’t know if I could make it up one flight, and if I did, by the time I got to the top, I was close to fainting. The first day I came home I was afraid of two stairs leading up to my front door. I almost fell on the way up. All I could do was one push up and yet 30 days earlier I could do 50+ without stopping. It felt like I was in Harry Potter and one of those ghost things was sucking the soul out of me. I tried not to look in mirror most days because I didn’t recognize the man looking back at me. Years of hard work to put on strength went to shit in less than a month and I was skinnier than a holocaust victim, yet my face was fatter than a 285lb heavyweight because of the pills I was on. I became a twig, my face blew up, and hair fell out every time I touched it. It was very strange watching all of these changes occur and believe me; I didn’t like it.

But I never let it bring me down. I just let it happen and focused on the good. I recognized what was happening to me and in the wise words of The Beatles, I just “let it be”, for all of the “the shit” you gave me. I didn’t let it conquer me. I never stopped working on myself. I never let anyone see I was in pain or suffering. I never let depression creep back into my head. I never stopped having a good attitude because when you can’t control what’s happening to you, you can control how you respond to it. There’s a quote that goes something like this:

The Shit – “Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you respond to it”.

I memorized a poem called Invictus, a few years ago when I had my medial meniscus removed. Invictus means “unconquerable” or “undefeated” and the poem is about being an unconquerable soul. It’s about not letting circumstances and adversity control you; to not feel bad for yourself but recognize what is happening and be the best you can despite the storm raining down on you.

After my diagnosis my friend Sam LoFaso started making Timstrong bracelets. They’re orange and one side of the bracelet says the word Invictus. He sold 500-600 at my alma mater Padua Franciscan. Since then my family and friends have been giving them out and spreading my message. My Uncle Joe Bucci has sold 400+ at his restaurant J Bella, my fraternity brothers from Kent State wear and have sold one hundred, my family and all of my friends wear them, I gave 65 to my internship company First Day, my brother sold 100+ at his high school Strongsville, I give one out almost every day to a random person and tell them my message. My friend Brinn gave her volleyball team each one, etc. People I don’t even know from far away wear my bracelet in support of me and they all receive my message. To be unconquerable.

I have never said why me. The changes and learning to deal with all of “the shit” was overwhelming but I take life day by day and just do as much as I can. I should have died weeks before I saw a doctor. You were taking hold of my life months before I ever knew it. I should not be alive. That is something I will never forget.

The Shit – Every day that I wake up I’m going to smile, just because I woke up.

That’s what one of my friends, Pat, who works at UH said when she had cancer as a child. I live by it now.

The Shit – I’m writing this letter to you.

I’m writing this to you, cancer, while chemotherapy is pumped into the port implanted in my chest… so HA take that bitch! Anyways I was just telling my doctors everything I did yesterday, and they say to me “Wow. You truly are amazing. You do more than any other patient I’ve had”. That’s what my doctors say to me pretty much every week and it’s true. When you don’t feel bad for yourself life is pretty good.

Despite “the shit”, I’m up every day at before 7am and by dinner time have already done 4-5 hours of homework, did 100+ pushups, read my book(s), meditated, hit the gym, and have cooked and eaten clean and healthy food. After that I try to hang out with my friends or make the most of the day and go do something; see a movie, go to the metro parks, play basketball, swim, draw, fish, I do whatever I want (with necessary precautions)!

You see everyone has their own “shit” they’re dealing with. Everyone will go through something, whether you realize that or not. Everyone has their problems to deal with. We are human and we have to suffer because it’s part of life. I believe life is about learning as much as you can, facing adversity with courage, and striving to be the best version of yourself. So just because “the shit” I go through is different than most people, am I going to quit? Am I going to be a downer? Am I going to complain to everyone constantly? Heck no. No way.

To be honest, I got a lot to worry about, but I think I’m happier than almost everyone I know. If you ever ask how I’m feeling I will say “phenomenal”, “great”, or “no complaints.”. Very rarely would you hear something like “ehh I haven’t gone a week without puking”. If everywhere I went, I told and showed people all the problems I deal with, then they would feel even worse for me. I would be a stick in the mud. That would be me letting you win! Yeah right! I want to make everyone around me happy and not make them feel bad for me. When you become part of someone’s life, everyone already feels bad that person. No matter what. Can’t blame em either.

But that’s the last thing I want; people to feel bad for me. I am the happiest I’ve ever been in my entire life and I hope that shows through my actions and presence. You messed with the wrong person because when you thought just came into my life, you came into a thousand lives. I have so many people praying for me, sending me letters and gifts, texting me, and supporting me that even if I wanted to, I could never feel bad for myself. There’s more than thousand people walking around with MY timstrong Invictus bracelet. Heck, Indians player Carlos Carrasco is wearing one! I am surrounded by love and amazing people; I have no more complaints for you.

There are people that have it far worse than I do. You have brought too much good in my life so not for one second will I let “the shit” break me. The day I got diagnosed my godmother said to me “what are we doing here?” I said “fighting”.

I’ve never stopped fighting you since you tried to kill me and now, you’re barely alive. Maybe not even.

I’m in remission and you’re not coming back. I’ll continue to push myself and defy what my doctors think is possible. I’ll keep raising money to kill you by selling bracelets, donating, and running 5 ks. I will never quit, fold, give in, or forfeit. I will continue to gain strength when I’m not supposed to. I’ll continue having a good attitude towards you and my situation. I’ll continue trying to be a beacon a positivity. I’ll continue trying to make everyone around me smile. And I’ll continue kicking your ass until you are nothing left.

But before your dead, I’d like to say thank you. Thank you for overwhelming me with love. Thank you for giving me a million more opportunities, despite taking a few away. Thank you for teaching me the importance of self-love. Thank you for bringing me closer to my family and showing me how many people are looking out and praying for me. Thank you for all of “the shit” because growth requires suffering. Thank you for teaching me so much about gratitude. Thank you for teaching me how to be mindful. Thank you for showing me how much my friends care about me. Thank you for showing me that I have discipline and patience. Thank you for showing me I have strength and courage. Thank you for showing me that I can roll with any punches life throws at me and hit back. Thank you for showing me that I remain undefeated, that I am an unconquerable soul. That I am Invictus.

From Yours Truly,

Tim Tusick

 


All of the posts written for Elephants and Tea are contributed by patients, survivors, caregivers and loved ones dealing with cancer.  If you have a story or experience you would like to share with the cancer community we would love to hear from you!  Please submit your idea at https://www.elephantsandtea.com/contact/submissions/.

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