Listen to this 11-minute introduction to the Cancer Can podcast project.
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I’m Chris Sis, host of a podcast project I’m calling Cancer Can. Here, I explain what this project is, why I’m doing it, why I’m not qualified, why I am qualified, and finally why I’m calling it Cancer Can.
First, my own brain cancer diagnosis 5 years ago washed away my prior ideas of permanence that I—like others—used to protect myself from realities that make most of us uncomfortable. Realities like mortality and change. This is a temporary existence and we all engage in temporary activities throughout our finite lives. To that end, this podcast project is a temporary project I’m engaging in with an unknown endpoint and number of episodes to be determined. I’m planning on a few episodes. A few conversations that could benefit me and others. I’m doing it because at this moment, it is what I want to contribute to a vulnerable, everyday growing, and under served group—those human beings living with a cancer diagnosis new or old—survivors of cancer, and especially those actively wrestling with it.
Where can those of us living through the life altering and life threatening diseases—the diseases that are collectively referred to as cancer—turn to find information, tactics, tips, inspiration, hope, and insight? Where do we turn and who do we listen to?
With so many of the topics that interest us: sports, finance, investing, movies, music, food, entrepreneurship, news, politics and more, the sea of sources is endless. 24/7, a litany of TV channels, magazines, websites, podcasts, apps, books, and YouTube videos wait, ready to help us immerse ourselves in anything. Anytime. We can learn and improve virtually anything. I’ve done this in areas I’ve been passionate about or made a part of my career. One can be an A+ student in any area they immerse themselves in, thanks to this age of information abundance.
Those we consider experts or champions in some of these areas are made cultural icons…celebrities. Those who throw footballs the best, predict stock market performance, act in blockbuster movies, or create the most popular music are celebrated and revered. Even commentators of such icons are made famous in and of themselves. We find them everywhere. Their faces plastered across magazines and news sites. Their social media posts read by thousands or even millions.
This is all fine. We are all hungry for entertainment, information, and inspiration. In the times we live in, content for any number of interests is bottomless.
But what about those getting diagnosed with cancer this year…more than 1.7 million of us in the United States alone? And what about more than 15 million cancer survivors living in the United States, and more around the world? For all those people, and those who love them, handling cancer is a huge necessity in living. For these people—that is, for many of us, cancer will affect most aspects of our lives and the lives of our loved ones. When I was abruptly forced into this cohort 5-years ago, I started asking myself where I could go to figure out how to best handle a diagnosis that immediately pervaded every aspect of my life.
What do I read? Who do I listen to? How do I become an A+ patient and survivor? That is, how can I do everything in my control to live as long as I can with the best quality of life? How do I lose the least from this setback and gain the most from it? How do I make the best treatment decisions and then prepare for and execute each step of that treatment? How do I best mitigate and recover from the physical, emotional, and mental burdens? How should I think about the impact to my lifestyle and adjust it to match a new reality? What are the tips and tricks those who’ve gone before me already know that I don’t know yet?
Who are the Michael Jordan and Tiger Woods of the cancer world? Where is the Warren Buffet, or even the Jim Cramer of surviving cancer to tell me what must be done and how to prioritize that which I should do? In some fields, the best of the best are all-stars or celebrities. Fame often favors fortune and entertainment. And large microphones follow fame. Thus, we hear from them often.
In the field of cancer, however, the best of the best are heroes, but not celebrities. They usually aren’t on TV or seen in the media. They’re in operating rooms, hospitals, clinics, laboratories, and non-profit organizations. I want them to have microphones too, and I believe cancer patients and survivors would benefit by hearing more from them. I want to hear from the doctors working to solve cancer and the survivors who have endured it. There are all-star survivors, toughing out treatments, or simply living their lives with acute appreciation for each moment after finding their way through a diagnosis and treatments. They have stories, lessons, and advice to offer those who follow them.
To be clear, the patient today has a deeper pool of resources available than ever before—thanks to the internet and the scores of organizations providing information and support. My aim is to bring some of that information and the voices behind it to the ears of those who need it. It is to have some of the conversations I’ve wanted to have or hear for myself—the conversations that can help someone be an A+ patient and survivor. After a couple brain surgeries and a year of brain radiation and chemotherapy, I know that there are many days when a cancer survivor might not be able or feel able to sift through internet resources or have a real first-hand conversation with experts, other survivors, and others whose knowledge and perspectives would be of great value at a particular moment. For this person, bringing these conversations to the ears via a podcast that can be listened to even if feeling awful is most helpful. For a longer term survivor juggling daily life, delivering these conversations via podcast that can be listened to even while folding laundry or driving to work is also ideal. This is what I looked for, but could never find while trying to figure things out for myself.
For the sake of honesty and disclosure, let me tell you why I’m not qualified to put out a podcast on any topics related to cancer, or anything else for that matter. I’m not a doctor, nurse, researcher, or medical expert of any kind. I don’t make a living in the medical field, or have any medical education whatsoever. I’m not a professional interviewer either, and I’ve never been drawn to speak into microphones, unless to communicate in a cockpit. In fact, professionally speaking, I’m an airline pilot and a CPA. That is to say, I’m not stupid, but there is little or no overlap with this topic or this medium. However, for the last 5-plus years, I’ve fumbled my way through being a cancer patient, so I will assert to being experienced at that. That experience, some other medical challenges I’ve overcome even before that, combined with a deep curiosity that has undoubtedly put a few of my doctors behind schedule, do qualify me to ask questions of those who know more than me or have stories to share.
So while I’m not an oncologist or talk show host, I know what it’s like to suffer through the bad of cancer and embrace the good of it. I know what it’s like to agonize over treatment decisions. The need to be at once decisive and thoughtful—the what to do. The where to do it, the who to trust to do it, the how to get through it. I know the waves of isolation and fear. But I also know the sweet rays of hope and love. I know what it’s like to have cancer violate my brain. To have it steal that which I’m passionate about and have dreamed of. But I also learn how to fill that vacuum with matter less tangible. I know what it’s like for my body and mind to lose basic functions and not know what will come back or when. But I also know the extra joy the mind and body bring when they do function. I know what it’s like to contemplate mortality—not just as something that relates to everyone, but as something that relates to me. To look at my dog and wonder if he’ll survive me. To look at my infant and determine that I must live, if only to ensure she remembers me. But because of this uncomfortable contemplation, I understand that time is the real currency of life, and treat it as such. Cancer can shed light.
These effects I mention—the bad and good, the dark and light—that cancer can have are why I’m calling this project Cancer Can. Cancer Can, to me, has a positive connotation. It doesn’t deny the horrific effects cancer can have, some of which I just mentioned. But it does allude to the positive that cancer can bring if we look for, allow and embrace that good. Cancer can be solved, for example, albeit one small puzzle piece at a time. Each of us are pieces of that puzzle. In turn, each of our pieces are puzzles in and of themselves. I want you to solve your piece of the puzzle. In other words, for you to best control that which you have control over, and to make the most of what you don’t have control over in order to live your longest and best life. That is what it means to be an A+ patient and survivor. I can’t make that happen. But I think some conversations and dialogue could help make that happen, and that is what this is about.
Links to my social media are on the top right. Email any feedback or suggestions you have to firstname.lastname@example.org. Of course, these episodes won’t be perfect, as this format and role aren’t familiar to me. For that I apologize. I suggest and humbly ask that any listener ignore my awkwardness and focus on the knowledge and insight of the people I interview. And finally, I’ll be posting notes and links for each episode on this site. Feel free to share this site/podcast with anyone you know of who may be dealing with cancer and might benefit from these conversations. Thanks for your time and interest.