Friends – The Brighter Side – guest posts

This week’s Guest Post comes to us from a blogger living on the other side of the planet from me here in Indiana.  Sharifah Rashidah bt. Syed Ahmad comes from Malaysia.  I am featuring her writing this week because (1) it is good, sincere writing and (2) her writing illustrates the universality and courage of cancer survivors everywhere.  She writes her blog THE TONGUELESS TALK-Battling Oral Cancer
**Please click on “Book Club” to read about July’s selection by one of our own cancer bloggers.

Oral cancer takes away a lot of your life if you survive. Your ability to speak and therefore to perform in your job, socialise, eat, and to a certain extend your friends and even spouses. This is the time that you are lucky enough to find out who your friends really are. Some survivors are really blessed with people around them who truly care and go out of their way to make life easier and more meaningful. Some are also fortunate to make new friends, friends that they had never met pre cancer who come forward to offer help in every way selflessly and unconditionally. I find it truly amazing that there are actually many people out there who would just extend their hands whenever you need help. All you have to do is ask and they are there.

However, there are also friends who would just shy away from you, not because they don’t like you anymore, but just that they are probably afraid that they might be saying the wrong thing and end up offending you. In my case, my slurring speech sometimes scare people off from talking to me. When they can’t make out what I say, they would be very apologetic, for making me repeat it a few times. I do not blame them at all because I am aware how I sound like. I speak with an “accent” and I am not offended.

Since losing my tongue, I am not as talkative as before, especially with people who are not used to the way I speak now. Not to say that I am embarrassed with my condition now but I don’t want to embarrass them for not understanding what I say. You see, some people would go to the extent of pretending that they know what I’m saying just to avoid an uncomfortable situation. And I hate making anyone feel uncomfortable around me.

Usually, when I say a word that is not understood, I would try to find other ways of saying it. For instance, I had a telephone conversation with a friend this morning. I told her that my medical leave would be over in January 09. I pronounced the word medical, “mae-i-al” because I could not produce the /d/ and /k/ sounds. Then, she asked, “what?” . So, I knew that she could not figure that word out. So, I said, “Oh..I have to go back to work in February next year.” Then, she responded by saying that its great that I would be working soon.

However, one good thing that has come out from this is that, my writing has improved tremendously since I have to rely on my writing more than before to express my thoughts.

Its just great to be alive!


Recently, I went for a movie “Angels and Demons”. There was a dialogue uttered by Tom Hanks which really got me into a reflective mode about my own faith. The dialogue went something like this…

The Padre asked Tom Hanks: “Do you have faith in God?”

And answered by Tom: “Faith is a gift which I have yet to receive”.

Since my cancer journey started, having faith in God has been a cliche whenever friends and relatives who come to visit try to say something comforting to me or whenever they text me or email me. It is a very good advice and I do accept and thank them wholeheartedly. What I’m trying to say is that, having faith in the almighty really helps me going the rough times. In that sense, I consider myself fortunate that I have received this gift, I mean I would really like to believe that I have this faith in me. However, is this gift big and strong enough for me to sail through the sea of the future which is full of uncertainties and turbulence? With cancer, you really don’t know which direction this horrible journey will take you to. You just have no choice but to have faith that God is there for you no matter what. Or else you will feel really helpless and that you are all alone fighting your own battle.

It is very common for cancer survivors to say that having cancer is a blessing in its own way. I think looking at your fate that way really helps in coping with the horrible reality of having cancer. You try your level best to grope in the darkness of cancer to find just a ray of light and somehow find a way to expand it into a beam. Hence, you often come across cancer survivors saying things like having more friends, being closer to god, and experiencing a lot of love flowing around them, and the likes. We, cancer survivors really have no choice but to imagine ourselves being in a bright light no matter how dim the light may be.. just to keep our sanity!

Bye, for now.
“Faith is not something to be taken for granted”


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Friends – The Brighter Side – guest posts — 1 Comment

  1. Dennis,
    Thank you so much for featuring my blog entries. It really is an honour. And it feels really good to be able to share my thoughts and experience with a wider audience.

    ps I am actually in the process of writing a novel detailing my cancer journey. Maybe one of these fine days, you could discuss that too..

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