The fear of, cancer, can be just as powerful as actual, cancer, right? And not all, cancers, in fact most, cancers, are not a death sentence. So, what I wanted to do was to explain in my book is that we don’t really know what people are going through.
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Cycle of Lives shares 15 REAL STORIES OF TRIALS AND TRIUMPH WITH VICTORY AND DEFEAT: Many books only share one perspective; however, David’s book provides cancer stories told from 15 different perspectives, allowing readers to examine a wide range of experiences, events, emotions, backgrounds, and viewpoints. This array of human experiences will help readers to grow in empathy and better understand how issues like suicide, abandonment, loss, survivor guilt, abuse, fertility, and more, affect the way people deal with the traumas that shape their lives, cancer, or otherwise.
How has your life been impacted personally by cancer?
David: What brought me to this project was, my sister was diagnosed with, terminal brain cancer, in 2004. So, she was right around 40, married with two young kids, great profession, life going great for her. Then all of a sudden, she was diagnosed with, terminal brain cancer, and all that was going to be taken away. To me that was profound on a lot of different levels. Because not only was she gonna face the reality that she was going to die soon. Some people get a terminal diagnosis, but survive, but my sister had no hope.
She had kind of come to terms with the fact that there was a lot of different aspects of it that she had to deal with. And I think that’s kind of true with anybody that might have that type of an issue, where you’re forced to face your own mortality. And with, cancer, especially, you’re kind of given sometimes time to get your house in order, right? A lot of a lot of people die on the spot, they don’t get tine to put their house in order.
Myrna: So, let me ask you, I know I’m jumping ahead of myself, but it seems like a good point to ask the question. Do you think that from the people that you’ve spoken to you, do they appreciate getting this time? If somebody asks, how much time I got, and I said five months? Do they appreciate that time and knowing they have 5 months to live? Or they prefer not to know?
Do people appreciate knowing of their mortality
David: That’s a great question. I think it’s probably super personal. That’s the whole reason that I wrote the book, if you are going through, trauma, or know somebody who is going through, trauma, whether it’s terminal or not, but it’s related to, cancer, you know, some other major trauma, if you do have the opportunity to form deeper connections with these people, do so.
The problem is, is that we often self-isolate, and or we abandon people not willingly, but we just, we don’t want to say we don’t know what to do. We don’t want to make people feel guilty. We don’t want to say the wrong thing or bring people down or whatever. And so, a lot of times, people do not use this time constructively.
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Myrna: How did you deal with your sister’s diagnosis? And how did you help her?
David: Great question. So, what we did was, throughout our adult lives, we were close, sometimes not close, because life just gets in the way, right. Like we she had her family and kids and friends and work and you know, just like gets in the way. After the, cancer diagnosis, though, I think we probably talked way more regularly and purposefully.
I had a friend recently who lost one of his best friends, and he said that they couldn’t count the number of, cancer nodes, on his lungs, because there was too many, so he died really quickly after his, cancer diagnosis. And my friend said, that was probably the best way, why put him through all that pain?
Sometimes the reality is there, I felt like with my sister, even though she fought for three or four years, I mean, there wasn’t an option for her to survive, because she had a massive tumor and it spread. What happened was that anytime that I reached out, she was available. We didn’t always talk about heavy stuff. But knowing that there was a finish line, fast approaching, I think that we, with intentionality really tried to try to bond as deeply as we could.
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A terminal diagnosis of cancer
Myrna: Now, a lot of people who are given that diagnosis would say I’m gonna make peace because they tell you to put your house in order and make sure you tell everyone you love them. And maybe you should do the things that you have always wanted to do. You think that people do that, like their, bucket lists? Do they do that?
David: I think that’s a rarity. Because you know, we live in denial. And one of the people I spoke to was a doctor, an oncologist at NYU. She told me that no one accepts that they are going to die from, cancer. They always have hope, so very few people put their house in order or do things on their, bucket list. One of the things she told me that really made a lot of sense was, the human brain is not wired to be able to really contemplate in an understanding way our own mortality, it just doesn’t just doesn’t happen.
I think that kind of explains why we don’t ever want to put our house in order and we don’t ever want to do those, bucket list, kinds of things. Because we just don’t think we’re going to die. So the vast majority of people that I spoke to, they did have a fair amount of denial, either from them or the people that they loved. They put off taking care of things. They were abandoned by people that loved them, they self-isolated and didn’t close loops that they probably should have closed.
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Cancer patients live in hope
Myrna: So true, that is why suicide is so against the norm, because most of us are wired to preserve our life, and we will go to great lengths to stay alive, even when the quality of our lives is taken away, we want to live. So that is a very distinct, very good information to put out to someone who is reading this, that is either going through, trauma, or they know someone who has been given a terminal diagnosis of, cancer. Make sure that you tell your loved ones that you love them and put your house in order.
David: My book is not all about death and dying from, cancer, because, cancer, does not always mean death. Even the fear of, cancer, can be unbelievably traumatic for some people, right? Imagine if you received a diagnosis, it was early diagnosis, like a stage one, cancer, or something, and very treatable. But now you got to live the rest of your life thinking in the back of your head, oh, my gosh,
- Am I allowed to go out in the sun?
- Should I eat a certain food?
- Do I need to exercise more?
- Is this, cancer, going to come back and take me?
- Do I not have kids because I don’t want to lose them in case my, cancer, is fatal.
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Living in fear of cancer
I mean, the, fear of cancer, can be just as powerful as actual, cancer, right? And not all, cancers, in fact most, cancers, are not a death sentence. So what I wanted to do was to explain in my book is what are people going through that we might not know? Or what, traumas, have affected them so that they’re not able to navigate this kind of traumatic diagnosis of, cancer. Because we don’t really know what people are going through.
Myrna: Yea death and taxes are the only thing that are guaranteed. And yet, we don’t want to we don’t want either of them.
One of the things you said, though, is that, went and you interviewed, these 15 cancer survivors even though each one of their stories were different, you found something that was consistent that linked all these stories. What is the link?
What every cancer patient fears
David: Sure, so there were two things that was consistent. And just to add one more thing to what you just said is it also is not just people that had gone through, cancer, that I spoke to, but also caregivers, doctors. I spoke to people that never had, cancer, themselves, but their lives were centered around, cancer, as a caregiver, or maybe they were with a loved one who went through, cancer.
So, I wanted all those different perspectives, because I think that it’s not the same. If your spouse is diagnosed with, cancer, there still is an unbelievably deep and traumatic set of emotions that go through you, as well, right? You’re not even the one with, cancer, but imagine what you must go through watching your spouse go through, cancer.
But the two things that I found that were quite consistent with every person I spoke to whether they made the book, or they didn’t this is one:
- No matter how crazy people lives are, nobody thinks their life is that interesting. They’re just living their life
- Two they feared asking for help. The theme that we’ve been talking about, which is almost everybody not everybody, had a big identification with the thought of, I don’t know if I’m equipped to form really deep connections with the people around me about what I’m going through.
- They are dealing with the tasks like how do I get to my appointment? How do I get my kids watched while I’m in the chemo chair? How do I navigate time off work? How do I eat healthier? They don’t want to be a burden, so they have a hard time asking for help. And that was very, very consistent with almost every single person I spoke to.
Myrna: Do you think it’s because people don’t really like to ask for help?
David: That’s definitely a. Yeah,
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Patricia’s story: I don’t get colds, I get cancer
There was one story about this woman her name is Patricia and she made the statement I don’t get colds, I get, cancer. From that statement, I delve into her, mindset, and I am assuming that she’s had a hard life because she made the comment that I don’t get colds, I get cancer, which tells me that, cancer, kept coming back. But, one of the reasons that I want to I want to I want to touch on it, is because I also know when we make statements like this one, then it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. So, what can you share about Patricia’s story?
David: Wow, that’s a great insight. So, her story is really fascinating. And one of the things that was hilarious was like the second conversation I had with her she tells me, “My life’s not that interesting.” So, let me try to explain her story. Her story is pretty fascinating, because I thought it was about the fact that she had, beat cancer, five different times over a 35-year period. But that’s not what her story is about. Near the end of her talking to me, I asked Patricia, I go, Hey, What’s your secret? Like how did you, beat cancer, 5 times?
And she said to me, well, ever since I moved on from x, and I’ll give you point x in a second. She said, every time that I moved on from point x, all I did was I just said to myself,
Every single day, you have to put your feet on the ground, get up out of bed, and go about your day.
Now sometimes David, I was able to make my bed and walk away. Other times, I make my bed and lay right back into it. But I wanted to get up and put my feet on the ground and make my bed and go about my day. Oh, wow. Now not knowing her story. If you told me life was get your feet on the ground and make your bed and go about your day, I’d roll my eyes go on, whatever, you know, good for you.
But her story is this so when she’s a teenager she was in a relationship and that the relationship was exceptionally abusive. To the point where she has is forced to cut ties with every person that she knows, including her family friends, not allowed to go out anywhere on her own. He beats her up if he just thinks that she’s having a bad thought. I mean, it’s horrible. Okay, so after four years she learns how to escape by getting another identity and she escapes that abusive relationship.
Shortly after she escapes, she gets diagnosed with, cancer, for the first time. Over a 35-year period she gets diagnosed with, cancer, five different times and five different types of, cancer, very serious. Her story is while beating the first, cancer, she met some someone and he becomes the only person that she had ever met that she could trust and that she could love and felt would love her no matter what.
This man helped her recover from that abusive situation she had escaped from. And he was beside her for her whole life, during which time she was fighting all these different, cancers, and living her life. This love sustained her through battling her cancers, caring for her dad who died of, cancer.
Everyone has their time in the barrel
She looked at herself one day in the mirror, and she said, hey, don’t walk around, like all burden. Don’t walk around all emotional.
Everybody has their time in the barrel. All you do is just keep getting up, keep putting your foot on the ground, make your bed and go about your day.
And I’m just like, holy cow. She’s had been through all of that and the only solution to her was, everybody’s got a tough life. Everybody has it bad, you could be burdened by it. Or you could not just get your feet on the ground, make your bed and go about your day. I’m like, That’s brilliant. Right. And so, so that’s, that’s Patricia’s story. So, I mean, there’s more way more to her story you have to read the book.
Myrna: Well, you surprised me with that answer. But I get it. When I looked at that statement. I don’t get colds, I get cancer. I thought that was a, defeated mindset. You know, saying I’m always sick. And then you become always sick, like self-fulfilling prophecy. But instead, she’s looking at, cancer, almost like a cold, something that you get through. You get, and you just go on with your life!
Never sick a day in my life except cancer
David: And you know, one of the first things she said to me, she goes, I never been sick a day in my life. I never had a cold; I never had the flu. I have never been sick except for, cancer, and all the other stuff that came with it, I literally have never been sick a day in my life. And she goes, if somebody wrote a story about me, it would be titled, I don’t get colds, I get cancer!
Myrna: What do you want the reader to walk away with after reading your, cancer stories?
David: Well, first of all, what I want them to know is that each one of the book participants, doctor, patient, loved one, whatever survivor, they chose a, cancer focused charity, or other charity that they wanted the proceeds of the book to go to, so 100% of the proceeds of the book, no matter where it’s sold, or how it sold, it gets divided up between the organizations that they chose. So that’s number one. What I want the reader to know is they’ll be doing some good financially, there’s not a lot of money in books, but 100% of it will go to support their organizations.
But I think what more you know, like that saying, we talked about it earlier, like you never know what people are going through. That’s what I want readers to walk away with. We really have no idea what people are going through. For example, Patricia finished a master’s in art. She’s an amazing artist and when you were sitting next to her in art class and admiring her work, and she’s admiring yours, you would have no idea what she had gone through.
Myrna: How can readers get their hands on your book? How can they connect with you on social media?
David: Yes, the book is available wherever books are sold. So, Amazon, Barnes and Noble, your local bookstore. Up until a week ago, I couldn’t have said this. But now the audible is out. So, it’s, it’s available as a book, as an e book or as an audio book. In fact, we had 15 different actors each read one of the different stories, so it’s very entertaining, and very inspirational and it’s not very heavy. There’s a lot of inspiration that can come from these stories.
They can connect with me on Facebook or Instagram @cycleoflives or @David Richman or go to my website www.David-Richman.com And they can learn about the institutions that we’re supporting, and all the other things that are going on around this whole cycle of life’s project.