Thursday, February 21, 2013

Coping with Cancer

I will start this post by stating that I DO NOT have cancer.  But I know many people who have battled with this disease; some have lived to see brighter days, and some were not so fortunate...

My brother, Jason Claytor, was an amazing person who had a very promising future.  While most of my friends' brothers were busy bullying their younger siblings and making life harder for them, my brother was concerned with getting me on the "straight-and-narrow" and encouraging me to be a good son to my mother.  He was someone you could count on to listen and provide the best insight possible from his own experiences and knowledge.  He was the charismatic, handsome, goal-oriented man that I wanted to be, but struggled to emulate because I was a selfish and troubled youth.  

Unfortunately on November, 26th, 2008, my brother lost his battle to liver cancer at the age of 24...

It's hard to put into words the pain, anger and frustrations that plagued my mind for the following months after I lost him.  Months grew into years, and those feelings are all still there - although slightly diminished, because life has a way of continuing on regardless of anyone's individual situations or circumstances.  

Just recently (7-8 months ago), my uncle was diagnosed with leukemia, and it put a quick and vicious beating on him.  My family and I were devastated by the news, and I felt those same feelings coming back, only this time I had a previous experience - I had an understanding.  I knew that if we stayed positive and strong for him, and if we abolished all feelings of doubt that he would overcome it, then it would make his struggle far easier for him.  

He is now home after receiving a bone-marrow transplant, under the care of my loving aunt, and he WILL make a strong recovery because he is backed by a strong and caring family.

One month ago my grandfather was also diagnosed with leukemia, and he is now suffering in the hospital after undergoing chemotherapy at an older and weakened state.  My grandfather use to be the glue in my life, because after my mother and father divorced, he took us in to help support my mother and play the role of a father figure for my brother and myself.  Here comes those awful feelings AGAIN!  But my family and I have been here before, and we have been tested again, and guess what?  WE'RE STRONGER THAN EVER NOW!  We will be there through his fight every step of the way, and we will take the burden of negativity, and throw that shit away so that he can concentrate only on getting stronger and eradicating this disease from his body.  

I soon realized that hanging on to those feelings could only be detrimental to my life, and I would have to learn how to accept them in order to continue growing as a person.  It's what Jason would have wanted for me, and it's what I needed to do.  

Here are my 3 steps for coping with cancer:
  1. Detach from your emotions:  This may sound cold or selfish, but it's true.  You are not the only person experiencing these emotions, and dwelling on them will only weaken your mental strength.  When dealing with any fight or battle (which cancer IS, it's a fight for the person who has the disease AND the people that love and care for them) you must detach from your emotions and focus on the task at hand.  Understand that if it's not your brother/uncle/grandfather/etc., then it is another family's brother/uncle/grandfather/etc.  This is part of the cycle of life - you are born, you try to make the best of life, and then you die.  Do your best to live a positive life, and try to keep things in perspective.  BE STRONG!
  2. Talk about it:  This may be the hardest step of the 3 that I am presenting to you, especially at first.  I tried my best to avoid the thoughts, ideas and conversations about my brother after I lost him, so I'd wear the hat as the "rock" for my mother and sister-in-law, as well as the rest of my family.  I did not want them to see me crying or looking weak, because that would only compound the helpless feelings that they were trying to come to terms with at the time.  So I bottled that shit, deep down, and I cried in private.  In my car, in my room, in the bathroom on campus - you name it.  If it was a private place, and the thought of Jason crept into my head, I lost it, and lost it hard.  But I wasn't getting anywhere by breaking down in private.  It was like pressing on the gas in the snow - I was simply spinning my tires. Once I gained the courage to start speaking to other people about what I was struggling with inside, I learned that by gaining perspectives from other people I was able to look at my situation in a different way.  People shared similar stories with me, and I realized that my feelings were not special, different or unique - they were normal, and MANY people were dealing with these same feelings.  This helps tremendously, trust me.  
  3. Help others:  If you can put yourself in a position where you can help other people who are dealing with the many troubles that you dealt with, or if you can help make life easier for someone who is out of hope or near the end of their journey, DO IT!!!  The feeling of helping others not only helps to soothe your mind and give you a feeling of purpose, but it may give an individual the spark of hope that helps to bring them back into the battle and win.  It can also help soften the blow to a grieving family by taking some of the emotional or financial burden off of them.  Everyone needs support in times of turmoil and distress, so if you can be a part of that support system, no matter how small your contribution is, I am challenging you to do so.
So in reference to helping others, on April 13th, 2013, I'll be competing in the Tap Cancer Out BJJ Open, which is far more than just a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu competition. We're also fundraising on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.  I have set my fundraising goal at $200.00, and need to meet this goal in order to compete. I will be competing with the spirit of my brother, and the strength of my uncle and grandfather.

Please help me support Tap Cancer Out and the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society by making a donation. If you cannot make a donation, then I thank you for taking the time to read this post, and I hope you found my tips to be useful in your challenge to cope with cancer.  I also ask that you share this with your friends and family in a hope to help them, as well as bring awareness to this awesome cause.  

Thank you and stay strong...


  1. Dear Wes,
    Thank you. That was very touching and inspiring to me. I too have lost very close and dear family members to cancer. My husband in 2006 died in my arms at my house to kidney cancer. One year later my beloved mother died of emphysema and lung cancer. I've learned that coping is the only reality because it never goes away and it never will. It is not suppose to. I carry it with me and I learn, grow and share from it as you are. GOD bless you and your family and your strengths. Tina Harney

  2. Thank you for taking the time to read it, and for reaching out to me. I'm grateful to know you and be able to share these feelings and thoughts with you. You are a very strong woman to have gone through those losses and continue to keep such a positive demeanor about yourself, and life. Love you Tina, and wishing you the best!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. Wow, sad to read about how cancer has affected your life but glad to know it has only made you a stronger person. It's actually really sad to see how many people are suffering from this disease and any chronic disease for that matter. Our society is exposed to way too much toxins and is malnourished from eating so much processed foods. The answer to lowering disease rates seem so simple yet pharma companies want to keep searching for "cures" that they can patent and profit off of. It's nice to see that you lead a healthy lifestyle though :)

  5. Yes, Sarrah, it's very sad that people don't take their health into great consideration. Thank you for your encouragement and for taking an interest in my blog as well! I don't know if you are on Facebook, but if so, you might find the content on my page to be interesting or useful., Check it out and give it a "like" if you do in fact enjoy it. Thanks Sarrah, and enjoy your day!!!