12/31/2013 05:24 EST | Updated 03/02/2014 05:59 EST

How Four Old Friends Battled Their Way Through Cancer Together

From 2010 three of my friends and I have racked up cancers of the tonsils, lymph nodes, bowel, intestines, prostate, lungs, liver and bone. So why with all this recent health crap do we still look happy? There are many reasons, but three stand out.

What is so special about the four men in the above picture? At first glance, it is just four dudes in their early sixties that appear to be totally content in each other's company. Dig a little deeper and a story emerges.

This is me (second from right) and three of my dearest friends in September 2013 on the 45th anniversary of us meeting at Peter Robinson College in Peterborough. In the fall of 2010, 42 years after meeting, we each received initial diagnoses of cancer. Talk about parallel lives!

Although I'm certainly biased, it is difficult to know from looking at this picture that anyone is sick. From 2010 till when this picture was taken, the four of us have racked up cancers of the tonsils, lymph nodes, bowel, intestines, prostate, lungs, liver and bone. Three days before the picture, one of us finished a lengthy course of radiation. Two of us, who have stage four cancers are just a couple of months away from more chemotherapy and radiation. So why with all this recent health crap and the swords of Damocles hanging over our heads do we still look happy? There are many reasons, but three stand out.

The first is that none of us went into victim mode. When John first found out about his cancer and the treatment that was required, his comment was "Bring it on." All four of us dealt with cancer like this -- total acceptance of the condition and then a goal of putting it in the past. It is the new hand of cards you've been dealt so make the most of them. Any time spent feeling sorry for yourself or dwelling in fear about what is happening or may happen just takes your power away and gives it to the cancer. We've been able to treat cancer as a horrible inconvenience, not the end of our worlds. It has been difficult at times, especially when the treatments and surgeries knocked us on our asses. But they are temporary conditions and essential to healing so we've dealt with them in the present while looking forward to a brighter future.

The second reason is strong support networks. We are all fortunate to be in solid marriages and have children who are there for us. Cancer has shown who among our friends and relatives are capable or willing to be there for us. Those that can't cook during this time get kicked out of the kitchen, at least for now. We've learned to not spend energy on those people who are not supportive at this time and to rely on those that can help.

Last and certainly not least is humour. We've all been blessed with strong humour genes. Many times over the years, one of us has managed to make one of the others pass most of his dinner through his nose. Regardless of what is going on, we're able to put a positive spin on at least part of the situation. I don't know where this trait comes from, but it has been perhaps the most important factor in my healing through the last three and a half years.

Happiness and fear cannot ride the same horse. When you are laughing, fear, worry, pain, all of that negative stuff has to get off the saddle. Practice humour long enough and the negative emotions just kind of go somewhere else.

So Bill, Jim and John, I love you and thanks for the 45 years and a pre thanks for all the years to come.


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