How Having Cancer May Have Saved My Life

If you know me well, you already probably know what I’m going to say. If you don’t know me very well, what I’m about to say may seem a little crazy. I mean, who would say something like, “Cancer saved my life?” Well, let me see if I can put this in a way that makes sense.


As I’ve said before, I’ve had cancer two times. The first time was when I was 13 years old. I had bone cancer in my left arm and it had traveled so quickly and done so much damage so fast, the only medical response seemed to be the amputation of the arm. They took my entire arm (they call it a Four Quarter [4/4] amputation). They also took my collar bone and scapula. Now, I was left handed so I had an even more difficult time adjusting. I had to learn to do things differently and with my non-dominant hand.


It was not certain whether I would survive. In fact, the docs told my parents that if they wanted to take me on a brief vacation it might be wise to do it sooner rather than later. I still remember fondly that trip to the Land of Enchantment, exploring the pueblos of Sandia, not knowing the horrible chemotherapy that awaited me when I returned home to Texas.


Fast forward to the age of 39 when I was diagnosed with colorectal cancer. I then learned that young people who had cancer have a higher propensity to get the disease again. I won’t go into the details of what this cancer entailed but it was not pleasant. Once again my body was changed and scarred. Radiation, surgery, and chemotherapy (again) were in my future.


If you have ever been in the hospital for any length of time, you know how helpless you can feel. You wake up when told, you take pills when told, you are probed and prodded, stuck and drawn…I felt totally helpless. So much so, that when I got out of the hospital I began to look for ways that I could take back some semblance of control that was totally within my own personal power. And the biggest way I could do something about my health was to control what I put in my mouth.


That sense of control was very important to my recovery after this second bout of fighting cancer. And, in order that I not make this post too long, I’ll tell you more about that big change in my next post.


Until then, I wish you Peace!


Russell Elleven
The Minister of Health