Tuesday, March 4, 2008


Hi! I was thinking today of the word "serendipity." I'm a writer, a reader, and an English major; so yes, I do think about things like this (lucky Kelly, right?). Few words in the English language are as fun or as joyful to say as "serendipity." I often find myself wanting to use this word but refraining because I want to make sure the circumstances truly suit its semantic glory.

Anyway, I'm using the word today in this blog because I think I had a couple of serendipitous moments in the past week. The first occurred while I was browsing through my bookshelves looking for items to send to the Goodwill. I picked up a stack of books and noticed one, Andrew Weil's "Spontaneous Healing," that had been recommended to me by a friend when I first received my cancer diagnosis. The book bills itself as a guide on "how to discover and enhance your body's natural ability to maintain and heal itself." I had purchased the book last January on her recommendation and immediately read Ch. 19 titled "Cancer As A Special Case".

At the time I first read this chapter, I came away discouraged largely because of one sentence:

"Once cancer becomes established in the body, and particularly when it has spread from its initial site (metastasis), it is very difficult to cure."

This did not seem promising. Plus, I was already a bit skeptical of "healing" as a form of cancer treatment because it typically presumes that the person who needs healing is living an unhealthy lifestyle. This was not the case with me. Prior to my diagnosis, I ate a very healthy diet, had a very active lifestyle, and had very solid relationships with the people I love. Needless to say, I didn't read much more.

When I picked up the book last week, I turned it over in my hands and then--almost instinctively--turned to Ch. 19 again. I don't know why. Maybe to reconfirm my reasons for rejecting it originally. Whatever the cause, I suddenly found myself deeply engaged by the words on the page. They were the same as I had read before, but this time I found myself focusing on a different sentence:

"The future (of cancer treatment) will bring immunotherapy capable of rousing a slumbering immune system to action."

This exactly described the way melanoma treatments have developed since I had my malignant mole removed in 1995. After reading a little further, I flipped to the front of the book and located the copyright date: 1995. More than twelve years ago, this guy was writing about something that the best melanoma oncologists are embracing today!

This, I believe, was serendipity! I immediately decided I would accept whatever recommendations Weil had for boosting the immune system. And--lo and behold--his recommendations from 1995 largely conformed to the recommendations given by Dr. Legha, Dr. Richards, and almost every other oncologist I've visited in the past year: be active, and eat a diet of low fats, low sugars, and lots of fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. He also recommended the use of guided imagery techniques and herbal supplements. A local cancer support group has free classes in the imagery techniques so I'm going to give some of those a try. I'll have to talk to Dr. Richards before taking supplements to ensure that they won't interfere with my current treatment.

It was obvious to me that the potential benefits of optimizing my "healing system" outweighed any negatives that might come from following Weil's recommendations, so I didn't need any other motivation to do it. But then I had my second serendipitous moment. Kelly, who rarely reads books (she prefers magazines), recommended that I read a book she had received from one of her clients. The book is called "Love, Medicine, and Miracles" by Bernie Siegel. I found the first few pages intriguing but nothing particularly special. And then something interesting happened. The author asked a question of the reader: "Do you want to live to be a hundred?" Even though I was reading quietly to myself, I immediately yelled "Yes!" to the empty room before continuing with my reading. Here's what the rest of the paragraph says (pardon the ellipses and parentheses; I'm trying to summarize):

"(I) have found that the capacity . . . (to fight cancer) . . . is accurately predicted by an immediate, visceral 'Yes!' with no ifs, ands, or buts. Most people will say 'Well, yes, as long as you can guarantee I'll be healthy.' However, the persons who . . . (fight cancer successfully) . . . know that life comes with no such warranty. They willingly accept all the risks and challenges. As long as they're alive, they feel in control of their destiny."

This paragraph, which incidentally was first published in 1985, gave me a tremendous boost of encouragement. Earlier that day, I had looked at myself in the mirror after taking a shower and thought 'This is not what a diseased body looks like.' Siegel's words seemed to confirm that thought. I am not a diseased body. I'm an individual who wants to crush this melanoma and get on with my life. That's how I felt last January; it's also how I feel now. And it's actually been rather easy to maintain this attitude thanks to all of you: our friends, relatives, and neighbors who have done so much to support me, Kelly, and the kids through this whole experience.

So that's it: serendipity. A couple of unexpected happenings that have put a little extra spring in my hobbled step. I hope you all enjoy a few serendipitous moments of your own in the coming days.


PS. We were organizing some photo albums the other day and came across some pictures that really took us by surprise. Everyone tells us Finn looks like Jack. But he seems to look a heck of a lot like Aubrey and Regan when they were the same age he is now. Can you tell which one is Finn? I'll give you the answer in my next blog post . . .


michelle wait said...

What an awesome blog. Thank you so much for sharing your serendipitous moments with all of us. Did you know that your stories are a reassurance to us all in are own special way, regarding things going on in our own lives? Your words are truly effective. Reading what you write is like listening to a phenomenal vocalists sing...you both use your talents to draw people in and captivate them with your talent. Thank you for sharing your talent with all of us!
Love you,
--I'm going with A...final answer :)

aubrey said...

it's definitly A!!! the face is soooo finn!!

Katie Clancy said...

Jeff, well said as usual. Please keep us posted on what you think of the books! And, for the record, my money is on a) Finn b) Aubrey c) Regan.....
Love, Katie

mka said...

This was an easy test. A Finn, B Aubrey, C Regan. And after I saw your old photo album, Jack looks like Jeff, who looks like Gary. Aubrey looks like Kelly, who looks like Rick. Finn looks like Regan, but when he was born he looked like Aubrey. It's funny how so many different people can look so similar, and yet so different.

Marc and Mike said...


Just a guess - I've never seen any of the kids in person as babies - maybe I should ask Marc for his help.

Great job on the blog - we've been slacking off, and I need to get posting again.


Terri said...

Michelle couldn't have said it better than me, when I read this I thought exactly what she thought. Glad to hear that you are getting to experience some serendipious moments, the only thing more fun than saying the word is experiencing it.
Thanks for the updates.
Love, Terri

Mary H. Dodd said...

Jeff, Aubrey, Regan and Finn,
Sorry I'm so late responding to the blog. We are fortunate enough to have a customer of Dad's print off the blog and give it to him. (Thank you very much) So I've been enjoying the pictures of the kids--how time flies. Aubrey is still the thinker--the oldest has the responsibility to lead the rest--you're doing an awesome job. Regan, where is the camera, she's always ready with a big smile!! Finn, those eyes and eyebrows just make you think "I wonder what he's thinking now" Too cute! Jeff, great job writing. I like to think that maybe when Grandma Helen taught me to write thank you notes, which I in turn taught you to do, maybe contributed to your writing skills. But actually, it's probably your Dad who read to you so much as a small child. Love you all, Mom/Grandma Mary P.S. Looking forward to seeing the gorgeous faces of Kelly and Jack soon.

Jim said...

A. Grandpa Gordy
B. Kelly Archuletta/Dodd
C. Bryan Hoffart :)

Barb Kickhaefer said...

Hi Jeff:

I follow your blog from Marysville, KS, along with talking to Jane when I see her. I'm Barney & Elaine Schneider's youngest daughter and we've probably met at the O'Neil reunions. My husband & I were told 19 years ago he had cancer and would only live 2 years. We were very young with an 18 month old son. One of our good friends gave us Bernie's book. It was a great read then as I'm sure it is still today. Funny how some things don't change with time...like Bernie's book, or the day I read Kelly saying she was just trying to act normal and breathe. In October of 1989, two months after Kenny's last treatment, we announced the upcoming birth of our Maggie. Kenny and I will watch her graduate high school in May and cart her off to college this fall!! As I write this it sure puts into perspective whatever I thought I was stressing about this week.

You all have a great attitude. Keep writing, your non-fiction stories...they are an inspiration to your readers. No one knows for sure how the story ends, ok maybe One.

We are living proof of God's great blessings,
Barb Kickhaefer