By definition, the day a doctor says those scary words, "you have cancer" is the first day you turn into a Cancer Survivor. And although one never wants to hear those words, statistics are against us that we (or a loved one) will avoid hearing them in our/their lifetime.

I had my first focal seizure on March 12, 2005. Three days later, the same thing happened again and scared the HECK out of me.  I went to my doctor, who immediately sent me to a neurologist. After weeks of tests and exams with other specialists to try and determine the cause, the best doctors in Houston could not understand what was going on in my head. We started 5 years of "watch and wait".

In July of 2010, the neurosurgeon decided it was time to take a closer look, which meant surgery. I was happy about finding out exactly what was going on in my head. Then came those words: "Pete, you have cancer”. Now it was my turn to go to work.

One of many things cancer survivors discover is that your best results come from hard work on your mind, body, and soul.  For me that meant radiation, two years of chemo, and physical therapy. Good stuff for the body. Work also meant getting back to some semblance of actually working. I needed to keep my mind working and not sitting idle. Finally, I needed to work on my soul. For me, prayer was the bond between helping my mind, body, and soul to work together for my recovery.

As I was gaining strength, I knew I needed some additional support. That is when I discovered CanCare, a Houston-based network of trained volunteers dedicated to providing emotional support to those diagnosed with all types of cancer. The mission of this great organization is to provide confidential "one on one" support by matching  each survivor with a volunteer that has had the same type of cancer. Through this targeted approach to care, I learned that my journey had been successfully traveled by others that were ready to help.

I contacted CanCare and they matched me up immediately with a 10-year survivor who had exactly the same diagnosis that I received. I spent two years talking, meeting, and navigating my brain cancer with my CanCare volunteer. It was so impactful to my survivorship that I signed up as a volunteer. I have spent the last 3 years providing support to other survivors that have been diagnosed with malignant brain tumors. With my Stephen Ministry and CanCare training, I have now volunteered to be the CanCare liaison for SJD.

I am an eight-year plus cancer survivor.  I have my wife, family, friends, doctors, and St. John the Divine to thank for that. Being a survivor is something that happens to us; survivorship is what we do with the time we have left after we become one. Helping those diagnosed with cancer is a very important part of my survivorship.

Mark "Pete" Petersen

We are a resurrection people! In the weeks following Easter, we are sharing stories that illustrate how we live our thanks to God. We are challenging everyone to think of one thing you are grateful for this week, and one thing you will do this week for others to be a part of God's Living Thanks.

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