With any type of Cancer, and despite a positive outcome of being “cancer free,” there is always the attendant fear of its possible reoccurrence. This fear almost swallowed me whole and very nearly destroyed all hope because I learned that, (to borrow a popular phrase) “Here there be monsters” on the road to recovery.
In the first months of my convalescence, I was focused solely on “getting better” but as I regained strength and mobility, I was afforded the time to contemplate my circumstances and to wallow in grief, anger and self loathing. I began to look upon the loved ones who had nurtured me back to health as my judge and jury, not as my loving family. As the physical pain ebbed, I embarked on a new road to destruction, crushing self-pity. I transitioned from the physical pain of my surgeries to self-inflicted pain of telling myself that I was worthless. I waded into the rushing streams of both depression and self medication. Once again, the unmatched feistiness and fortitude of my family battled against my instinct to crawl away but I was out flanked by their warmth, uncanny indulgence and fierce determination. They spared me no quarter and successfully fought for me like a third arm.
My wife and daughter saw everything, as if I had been laid bare. In spite of my inability to speak, to express my profound sadness, ultimately they could only look on as I closed my outer shell and withdrew into a private darkness. Torment was now the enemy, not Cancer, not fear, not even death. Time lay heavily on me as I reflected on my life, it’s meaning and as I struggled with my innermost demons of shame and self-doubt. Not being introspective by nature, this process was both rewarding and a victory unto itself as I made the final push to reconcile my mind with the new limitations of my body. This breakthrough may have not been my finest hour perhaps, but not one in which I take the least pride.
Cancer left me with a grievous wound and took away my ability to talk normally. I now had to adjust to using a manual device known as an Electro-larnyx that allowed an alien, monotone “voice.” Challenges faced me daily, but wonderful events were about to unfold that would give my life new direction, meaning and a voice! I was invited to speak to a group of professionals about disability awareness. My “speech” was well received and soon, other offers began to materialize for me to convey my message. These would include audiences of Managers and Executives at two major Universities. As I approached the podium at my first address, I was handed a name tag that read simply, “Vincent Stafford, Speaker.” For a man without a natural voice, this was a moment to be savored!
My healing has begun in earnest as I am able to help other’s to heal. As for the lies, the defeatist self-doubt and the shame I heaped upon myself, I learned an important lesson; “A truth that’s told with bad intent, beats all the lies you can invent.” – William Blake 1757-1821