I Have What???
One Man’s Journey Through Breast Cancer
Richard M. Wiener
Richard Wiener presents an extraordinary account of his journey with one of the most dreaded diseases anyone can ever get. Rich, poor, black, white, Asian, Indian, some illness never discriminate and will strike when the iron or tumor you might say is hot. Rich is truly remarkable and very proactive when dealing with life and his health. After losing his wife to this illness he was quick to jump on the bandwagon to find out just what it was that was lurking beneath the skin of his left breast. Could it be a cyst or was it a tumor? Rather than contemplate the answer and sit on his hands thinking it would disappear all by itself he describes from the very first page how February 12, 2012 would be one day he would never forget. You might say this day would either save his life or take it away. Doctor’s visit, surgeon’s visit, opinions states and biopsies taken and the end result of the verdict: BREAST CANCER! These words would devastate anyone and the thought that it was cancerous some would feel, but not Rich, it was a death sentence.
As Rich describes his hospital stay, the side effects from all the meds and then beginning chemo we hear the voice of a man who wants to live, will survive and has a positive attitude that is totally inspirational. Finally, at home and trying to adapt to the drain in his chest, the limitations it imposed he managed to deal with the pain, the drain and much more. On March 20th he started his first treatment and the description although graphic and quite vivid helps anyone that might have to deal with this illness and the same treatment to understand what it entails from someone that lived it. Week One was hard and his appetite, some pain attributed to the chemo and other side affects are described. Week two he realized that he could now eat and his appetite was improving. Thursday, April 12, would be a landmark day for him. Blood work, hoping all would go well, so that he could get the next set of treatments and April 19th Week 3. Feeling good which is great, hoping to eat something and with the help of his daughter-in-law things went smoothly including the chicken dinners from a friend and the frozen pizzas from another. Second round, side effects discussed and keeping a diary of the events for the nurse and for himself. Questions recorded for the doctor and the nurse, bloods checked again and seeing the oncologist he learns that his white blood cell count was high normal, which was great to ward off infections. Questions that he asked dealt with headaches, steroid meds that also addressed nausea, and how to add these meds to his daily routine and learning to deal with joint pain and much more.
For those that want to understand the definition of a Chemo Cocktail, the meds included plus the glorious side effects just read page 40 and be totally enlightened. One thing he did have was a healthy supply of Crystal Light lemonade or water with Propel. As the author states stating hydrated was vital so tons of Jell-O and chicken broth too. Included before the final week of treatment begins are amazing family photos, which include his beautiful wife Lynn, his amazing daughter and daughter-in-law and his son and grandson. For himself and I am sure for them he not only kept it together but was and still is determined to see it all the way through and survive.
Throughout the book you hear the author’s voice as he relates his journey in his own words in the first person. From the moment he heard to the present you understand the stress, the emotional upheaval and the fear when you hear that dreaded word Cancer. But, Rich is an inspiration for everyone and during week five he does explain the exhaustion he feels, the difficulties he faced walking up the step and the beginning of another round of treatment. Yet, through it all you never hear him whine, complain, feel sorry for himself or ever give up.
Lunch with a friend, energy level low, dinner great and hopefully able to watch some television Rich knew that only good times he hoped would follow. Okay: you are entitled to some complaints since they were related to food and your taste buds as he tries to decide what’s for dinner and it all seemed to taste the same. April gone, May just ahead and hopefully he would feel like going out.
Week 7 and the journey continued as Rich and his doctor discuss the BRCA test which he would take after all of the treatments were over and hopefully would come back negative. Rich continues with his daily routines, how he feels and the many setbacks he has and the new found energy he gets to go shopping, the discomfort in his knees and ankles, and the fact that he headaches are finally gone. Week eight he has a reaction that is affecting his taste. Imagine how great he felt when he sent to the health club, worked out and has breakfast. Normal days are not that easy to come by and he certainly relished the ones he had. Now, I know he was feeling better as he decided it was time to get a pedicure. Now, you are talking Rich! But, the elation was short lived. His cleaning girls on the way and he was hoping to be on the way of the house and to the mall to a movie, dinner with a friend and then more pills the next day for the last round of chemo.
But, not everything ran smoothly and he has a setback that causes him to spend some time in the ER and the hospital. The reasons for his stay you have to learn for yourself and the problems entailed are explained in Chapter 18 for the reader to understand. But, the end result was more serious and a stay in ICU. More information, more pills, more dietary restrictions and you won’t believe where his cell phone wound up. That you have to read and find out for yourself as sometimes-funny things happen and in the middle of everything just might make you smile. The author’s journey is still going on and he will be taking certain drugs for five years and he is living his life because nothing will get it down and nothing will take away the precious gift that God gave us all.
So, Rich: plan that celebration of life party and invite all of your family and friends. You are truly amazing and this book is one that everyone needs to read. For those men out there that think it cannot happen to you: think again.
Fran Lewis: reviewer