A gentle voice softly spoke into his ear in the middle of the night: “Don’t worry, everything will be OK.”
He got up! Sat on his bed, looked around, who was this? He looked at his wife she was fast sleep. He heard the voice clearly, couldn’t tell if it was a male or a female voice. It was soothing to his soul and had an amazing calming effect. He could clearly remember the feeling of someone breathing next to his ear. It was real! It really happened! He kept looking around longing to know who or what it was. He then fell asleep like a baby of 12 hours straight after 10 days of hell.
The next day his wife reflected to him that he was in such a deep sleep after many nights of turmoil and she did not have the heart to wake him up. She was delighted to see him peaceful. She inquired and he didn’t know how to explain what happened. Was that his imagination? Was it his longing of the soul? Was it an illusion? Did it really happen? He asked himself and decided to keep the experience to himself for the time being.
A few months earlier, he noticed a lump on the side of his neck near the lymph nodes. He thought to himself it was perhaps a fatty tissue underneath the skin. There was no pain, he dismissed it and then forgot about it. As a filmmaker, having his own production company, he lived a highly active life, full of deadlines and intense daily work. He really didn’t have much time for the little, insignificant lump. About six months later, he felt his throat was bothering him. He shared that with his wife and she instantly made an appointment for him. He met with their primary physician. He took a look, touched the area and immediately ordered a biopsy for the next day at the hospital by a surgeon.
He was hoping for a prescription of antibiotics and wanted to go back to work. He was editing a film and had a deadline.
The next day, the surgeon informed them that he had to go deep inside and that the results would be ready in a few days. He went back to the editing room as usual. The next day, his wife called him at 5 pm; said she must talk to him immediately. “Can you tell me when I come home, I have a deadline.” He asked. There was a few seconds of a deep silence, “ You have cancer!” She was trying to be strong.
His mind went blank for a few minutes. He wondered in his mind if he heard it correctly, cancer? A thought passed, “We didn’t have any history of cancer in the family. Could it be a mistake? Human error? False positive?” It couldn’t be, he thought to himself for he was an active athlete, jogging, swimming, and eating healthy. He was overwhelmed by the thoughts and feelings going through his mind. He didn’t know how long the silence went on.
“What should we do?” he finally asked.
“You should see the doctor right away!” his wife was firm.
He softly shared with me; “You know, there is no way to describe that feeling. A curious feeling, unless someone has experienced it, it is impossible to understand. It was the first time in my life I was facing death.”
“My throat was completely dry, my mind heated up, I had to get hold of myself. The editor was waiting for me in the editing room to finish my phone conversation and finish the job to meet the deadline”.
“God, I don’t know what to do. I have two young kids. Give me strength to take care of my family.”
He asked his wife to pick him up, went to the editing room and quietly said, “We will finish tomorrow” and left the office. When they met the doctor for the urgent appointment, he was informed that the cancer has covered the whole neck area. He showed them the X-rays. “You have to go to Europe for treatment immediately,” the doctor said. Unaware of the depth of his health issue, he started to bargain. “ Sir, I have no time for Europe, I have two projects to finish now.”
The MD looked him straight in the eye and said, “This is a life threatening situation. You do not have time. You must go immediately. I will get your medical records ready.”
The couple left the doctor’s office and went to a coffee shop looking at one another in silence. “What do we do?” It was their love for one another that gave them the energy and hopes to face the situation.
It was then for the couple the beginning of their worst life altering experience…
The day of their wedding, they remembered the priest reminding “I unite you in the sacrament of this wedding for the best and for the worst .” Until that day life was so gentle and the worst was now hovering their lives with uncertainties over the horizon.
The first thought was to protect their children from this trauma, at least for the time being. They went home.
The kids were doing their homework. He was trying to act as natural as possible. They put on an act, hugging and kissing the kids. This time the hug felt different. There was a deep feeling inside. He thought to himself “What a lucky man I am. What an amazing family I have.” It was hard to let go of the children, feeling the possibility of loss. He wondered “Wow much time do I have with them?” This was a first time experience for him.
The doctor gave them the name of an Institute in Europe that specialized in the treatment he needed. He informed them that this center is the second best center in Europe specialized in cancer research and there is a long waiting list. When they had called the Institute directly, they were informed that there was going to be a six-month waiting list for new patients. He did not have that time. The next day, his wife called her mother asking for help. She had a friend who knew a professor at the institute as a friend. The friend contacted the doctor while he was on vacation. He said he would do all he can.
They received a call from the Institute within 30 minutes that they will take him as a patient right away. “That was the first miracle!” He said with a smile.
As I was listening to him talk, I was hooked, all ears.
There was a chaos; a new agenda, ”Life & Death.”
Who was going to run his company in his absence? What would happen to the project he put his heart and soul into? The company had to go immediately to a lower level of functioning.
When he shared about his health issue at work, going to Europe for treatment, loving offers poured in from all kind of places. Persons who had only a few professional contacts with him offered to do anything needed to keep the company functioning. He said he left feeling loved beyond imagination. It was an amazing experience. He was not aware of that much love around him. A new awareness was emerging about what is really important in life.
“My wife turned out to be my Guardian Angel. I would have never succeeded without her. She embraced the fire of hell.”
They kept the health issue away from their children. The Universe supported that.
By strange circumstance, before going into this challenging scenario, his wife planned a 2-month educational camp for the children. A plan made months earlier. Maybe her female instinct whispered to her to do so to help them to focus all their energy on the forthcoming challenge.
The medical files with all the X-rays, scans, lab results had already been sent to the Institute. On the flight to Europe, he was holding his wife’s hand wondering what life had in the store for him. He decided to share about “The Gentle Voice” experience with her unsure of her response. To his surprise, she said, “I heard exactly the same words too! Yes, I couldn’t tell if it was a male or female either, but I knew you were going to be OK.”
They smiled at one another knowing that he had the protection of an entity beyond his understanding. It was such an amazing and comforting feeling.
They arrived at his cousin’s apartment. They were like brothers who grew up together. He expressed how much he loved this cousin and had such warm memories together. Now, the circumstances were critical. He said it was during his treatment that he’d realized what an extraordinary soul his cousin is.
They went to the Institute for the first time. He was well aware that life as he knew was no longer. This was a new chapter with uncharted challenges in front of him. The medical doctor, working with cancer patients for years, perhaps to some extent desensitized to the agony of a new patient said. “I am not a psychic or a fortune teller, no crystal balls. When I look at your file, I am telling you that it is going to be a difficult ride. We are going to give you the strongest and hardest chemotherapy we have.”
There is going to be 15 days of nonstop chemo, then a 10 day break, followed by a second round for 15-days. Then there will be a two week break, followed by 36 sessions of radio therapy.”
A voice came through him, “Doctor, I will do my best and you do yours,” the brave soul said firmly. The doctor seemed inspired by the positive attitude of this new patient. “It’s a deal!” he said. Then he put a paper in front of him and said, “If you wish to sign this.” The form was about the risks of certain products not tested before. It was experimental and patients must take responsibility for any unknown factors.
“Oh God, my case is bad! This is going to be a kick ass chemo. That is going to impact every organ in the body. He knew chemo was poison. He was wondering if his body could stand it. In the back of his mind, he reminded himself of the gentle voice as he heard the doctor saying “We are going to monitor your kidneys every 30 minutes. You are an athlete. We do hope your body withstands.”
He asked for a private room. He had seen the movie The Bucket List, wanted privacy facing the side effects of the chemo. The battle had begun. The chemo machine was his constant companion. He said every time he left the room for a short walk he felt a world of pain. He was a filmmaker, fascinated with images, now seeing horrific people with half of their faces gone. He wondered if the gentle voice was with him. He needed protection, longing to hear from the voice again, giving him hope. The poison was going through his body. His loving wife stayed with him every day, all day and night, holding his hand tight.
The first day, he felt hungry and looked forward to his meal, something to enjoy. A couple of days later, he could not stand the smell of food. It was repulsive and it was the end of eating. He was happy if he could hold in some water with a bit of sugar. No food in 15 days! Time was going slowly. He was looking forward to the 10-day break.
They decided to go to her parent’s home outside of the city for the 10-day recovery.
On the ride home, he started vomiting violently. “What’s happening to me? I didn’t throw up in the hospital,” he thought to himself. He didn’t want his wife to see him like that.
He recalled that in the hospital, they gave him a medication to prevent vomiting. He said his mother in law was simply an angel who took care of him, hovering around him with a smile. He vomited for the whole week, feeling that his guts were coming out. His body was rejecting the poison.
When he went back for the second round of chemo, he knew exactly what to expect. Now the children were back from their holiday and it was time to tell them and bring them over. He had lost so much weight. He looked different. He was such a handsome man with beautiful brown eyes. He was famous in the family as having the looks of a movie star. Now the chemo hit his body like a severe thunderstorm.
He was sitting in a chair in his room in the hospital when the children arrived. What a defining moment, facing a brutal reality. He was longing to see them and hold them tight and never let go. Nobody cried. There was a feeling of deep love. The children were giving daddy energy for the fight of his life and it was the best medicine seeing them. It reminded him that the fight was worth it. The non-verbal was deep and powerful. No need for small talk. The loving bond of the family had become much stronger facing the deadly cancer. The loving energy filled the hospital room.
The second round started, another 15 days of straight chemo. There was good news. The bumps were gone. The chemo was working. The doctors were hopeful. The critical question: Did the cancer metastasize?
The 15 days of hell and nightmare passed. He was unable to eat and there was fear of his bone breaking. He was simply too weak to go for radiotherapy. There was a consultation. He must gain weight before the next treatment. He wasn’t sure if he could take it anymore. He wanted to go home and be away from the hospital and the horrifying images. The doctor agreed to let him go home for 3 weeks focusing on weight gain. His smile was pale.
He loved being home with his family. It was September, and it was important for them to be present for the kids going back to school. His wife, a skilled Chef prepared delicious meals with a great deal of love. Life had a different form in their household. Yet, the loving energy was flowing.
Back in Europe, he started 36 sessions of radiotherapy. They were using laser technology aiming precisely at his throat. He was wearing a metallic mask and was locked to a table to assure no movement. The exact point was bombarded with laser. His throat was completely dry, no saliva and a deep burning sensation inside and outside, his skin around the neck was like a piece of leather. He was not able to eat and could only drink water. There was high level of radioactivity in his system. He was taking 20 tablets daily including painkillers and high dosages of morphine.
His body was getting tired; thoughts of giving up were crossing his mind frequently. It was like a marathon runner far away from the finish line feeling exhausted. He said he felt extremely tired, it felt like swimming in the middle of an endless ocean in the darkness looking for a lighthouse. He reminded himself of the Gentle Voice. He thought someone beyond is helping him. I know I heard the voice. It was real. Someone is with me; protecting me. He reassured himself. A smile came across his pale face.
Then the face of his maternal grandfather emerged in his mind. It seemed as the universe was reminding him of the unconditional love that manifested in his beloved grandfather. He closed his eyes and imagined his kind eyes, giving him a back rub with a kind smile as he did frequently when he was a small child. He could feel his loving touch on his skin as it was happening in the moment. He could feel his grandfather’s love.
His beautiful hair was falling with every touch. The brave soul called on his cousin “Would you shave my head please?” The cousin hesitated for a second and then his love took the hesitation away. They went to the bathroom and came out transformed beyond physical changes. “Yes, I am bald now.” They laughed and took photos. He said he discovered a new dimension of his cousin’s personality. What an amazing human being. It is in pain we learn about the essence of who we are.
During the treatment, his in laws had moved to their home taking care of the children. He simply wanted to go home. Immediately after the 36 sessions, he went back home with a follow up appointment.
The worse was yet to come but he did not know it at the time. An even tougher challenge was on the horizon.
He was on a high does of morphine to cope with the pain of the burning inside. At home, he slept for two weeks. He had become a vegetable; barely living. That was not who he was. He was a man with passion, loved his work and found meaning in his creation. He had to go back to the office. The medication was keeping him down. He was losing himself. One day he woke up and said to his wife “I am going to stop taking these pills today. I want to get on with my life.” He was not aware that his body had become dependent on morphine and stopping cold turkey would be extremely dangerous. He had been taking painkillers for over 6 months.
Then suddenly, the physical withdrawal hit him. He became highly anxious with frequent cold sweats, heart pounding, scared of everything, crying and shaking for 10 – 15 minutes. He was holding on to his wife. When the attack was over, he was plain scared wondering what happened to him. Within a few hours, a second similar attack started. This time his wife called the doctor and reported the severe attacks. The doctor stated that the body had become dependent on morphine and he must decrease the dosage gradually. “I am not taking that shit!” He screamed.
From day one, his wife accompanied her husband without losing faith and determined to fight like a tiger refusing to let the cancer take her Love away from her. She saw him suffering with the first poison of the chemo, then with the burns from radiations, then with the morphine overdose, enough was enough, and she was even more determined to stop his agony.
Without following the doctor prescriptions, they both decided to reduce gradually but faster than prescribed by the doctor. Frightening side effects showed up straight away, but she hung on during a week, hugging him day and night to help him to sustain the panic attacks, hallucinations and convulsions he was going through.
After 10 days, the symptoms were gone and the brave soul recovered from severe dependency with the power of his mind, the support of the Gentle Voice and love of his family. “Now I know what it’s like when chemically dependent people go through withdrawal. It is a nightmare.”
When he felt better, he started reviewing the past few months of his life. He wondered what helped him and what images were in his mind.
A memory emerged, a week before he was diagnosed, he had a presentation for their most important client. He had done other similar projects for them. He was hopeful to get this project. They had made the presentation and the Executive Director loved the idea, approved the project and gave the green light to start the date of filming, expecting to start within a month.
A week later, when in Europe facing the threat of death, his wife sent an email to the Executive Director sharing about the health issue and suggested giving the project to someone else with an apology. The next day, he received a personal call from the Director stating that they will wait for him. He said the loving gesture of the businessmen was heart warming and gave him the energy to make a decision that he was going to make this film no matter what!
Actually making this film ended up being his best therapy, even if it was sometimes difficult to stand on his feet. The project happened to be a blessing in disguise. Not only did it allow him to live his passion, but also it gave him a reason to be and stay alive! The good news is that the film received one of the highest international awards in the world!
Yes, he went back to work where he was able to nurture his passion. “Passion is a blessing of God, a candle through darkness.” He said: “Creation of something, anything is impacting life, leaving a foot print.”
“You have been in complete remission for seven years now. How do you see life after this encounter with cancer?” I asked.
“Life is short! Before, I assumed I had time. Now, I feel time takes notice of you, like a lover. Some take time as a commodity, Impact Time, Impact Life, make a dent in life. What is life? Each moment? Get involved! When you put your foot in the river of life, you will feel the coldness of water, the current, and your feet feel the stones in the bank of the river and the joyful feeling of water. If you don’t put your foot in the river, you will never know that experience, the price of not getting involved is destructive.
“I am the luckiest man on this planet and I know it. I love my wife and family. I cherish every moment of my life. I fell in love with images at a young age and I will create to my last breath.”
“Life is a daring adventure, or nothing at all”. Helen Keller
Happy Birthday to you…