After a terminal illness diagnosis, an army of thoughts can invade one’s mind: How long will I live? Who will take care of me? Should I get a second, third or fourth opinion? Is there a cure? Why did this have to happen to me? Shock, denial, anger, depression and acceptance seem to battle for occupancy in a person’s emotional space. Juggling those feelings, along with the physical impact of an incurable disease, can be mentally exhausting.
There is hope in knowing that you are not traveling this road alone. You can gain strength and encouragement from people who are living with cancer. Minneapolis author Mac Walton offers that comfort with his book, Miles to Go Before I Sleep: Lessons in Living with Cancer Today (Lifetouch Publishing, 2006), an inspiring confessional about the author’s journey with colon cancer. In the book, Walton shares his experience and offers valuable insight on how to live and cope one moment at a time.
At a small café in Uptown Minneapolis, Walton took the time to discuss his book and his life.
What do you think caused your colon cancer?
My diet, and eating food that stays in my system. African Americans are becoming more educated about how our diet may contribute to certain illnesses. Eating more protein and fresh vegetables can help put nutrients back into the body.
In your book, you described how some your relationships changed after you became ill. Have you rekindled your friendship with people who distanced themselves after learning about your diagnosis?
I have rekindled a few relationships. It was mostly my male friends who stopped spending time with me. They think of me as a tough guy. Their wives and girlfriends keep in touch. The distance has helped me clarify what true friendship is, and it’s sort of a relief.
What does a typical week in your life consist of?
I have chemotherapy for two or three days biweekly. I visit my friends often, and I enjoy going to bakeries and cafés. I also write grants for some nonprofit organizations.
What advice would you give to someone who was newly diagnosed with a terminal illness?
You can thrive with cancer, but it is not easy. You go through feelings of non-acceptance, confusion, denial and grudging acceptance. Then you come to terms with it. Doing something meaningful helps. Do not be obsessed with death. Be obsessed with living.
The semi-retired Walton has worked as an advocate and written correspondence for Lutheran Family Services, Phyllis Wheatley Community Center, The City, Inc., Visitation Monastery and Catholic Charities. He is the president of Cultural Dynamics Inc., a Minneapolis consulting firm that specializes in violence prevention and program development.
In Miles to Go Before I Sleep, Walton vividly describes being hospitalized, feelings of loneliness, and the influx of emotions around sharing his illness with family and friends. He also shares the lessons he continues to learn about survival, relationships and gratitude. The book is a valuable tool for people who are living with cancer.
Mac Walton will be holding a book signing for Miles to Go Before I Sleep on September 15, 7 pm, at St. Martin’s Table, 2001 Riverside Avenue in Minneapolis. More information about Walton and the book can be found at http://miles togobeforeisleep-mac.blogspot.com.