By Tim E. Renzelmann
March 9, 2021
Last week Monday (March 1st) Cathy, MOA/SCBS Nurse Manager, called me into the treatment room to speak with one of her patients, Jami Stolper, who had an interesting story to tell. After hearing her story, I invited her to share it with the readers of this Local Cancer Community Update. Not only did she graciously agree, but she eagerly and enthusiastically offered to write it herself!
Jami enjoys writing. In fact, she indicated that she has completed authoring one book and is working on a follow up, both of which she is considering publishing.
Perhaps because this particular day (March 1st, 2021) marked the 21-year anniversary since I started this work, I was feeling a bit nostalgic as I handed her a copy of the most recent Local Cancer Community Update and proceeded to tell her a little bit about its history.
For those of you who may not know this, prior to this Local Cancer Community Update I had been issuing the TLC (Together we Live with Cancer!) Supportive Newsletter since starting this work in 2000.
The TLC Supportive Newsletter was a printed periodical that originally was sent out via postal delivery every two months. The time between each issue along with the fact that I was not involved in offering as many survivor events and activities at the time allowed me to invest more time and energy into each issue, thus creating a more substantive (for lack of better word) publication that featured a wide variety of articles, columns and authors. It was, I would say, more than a newsletter. On one occasion Dr. Matthews referred to it as “Tim’s Book of the Month Club”! 😊
Above Photo: The cover of the very first issue of the TLC (Together we Live with Cancer!) Supportive Newsletter.
As my position continued to evolve and the cost of time (writing, formatting, collating, mailing) and money (printing and postage) to send this publication to a growing mailing list grew, its frequency went from six issues per year, to 5, to 4, to 3...
On what I would describe as a “whim,” I sent out the first Local Cancer Community Update via e-mail in the summer of 2013. My primary intent was to keep folks informed of the growing number of events and activities in between each issue of the TLC Supportive Newsletter.
Almost immediately I noticed an increase in attendance and participation at many of our scheduled activities for cancer patients and survivors. Thus, I found myself sending out Local Cancer Community Updates more often. But, as attendance as well as the number of activities offered continued to increase, I was left with less and less time to commit to the TLC Supportive Newsletter.
Without even realizing it at the time, the last TLC Supportive Newsletter was sent out in early 2017.
Since then, this Local Cancer Community Update has become an effective and efficient means of communication in the Local Cancer Community. Sure, it still needs to be written and formatted... but this e-mail format is less time-intensive (eliminating the processes of printing, collating and mailing) and also more economical (saving the cost of printing and postage).
Admittedly, there are aspects of that original TLC Supportive Newsletter that I miss. I always enjoyed writing and sharing some of my own cancer-related stories through a regular column I titled “My Two CENTS Worth” and occasionally in a column I titled “The World According to Tim.” I also encouraged and welcomed other cancer patients/survivors and co-survivors to share their own stories and comments and was thrilled when they did.
I am a longtime proponent of the benefits of expressive writing and storytelling, especially as it relates to coping and better understanding the many challenges of life, including cancer.
But what I miss most from the TLC Supportive Newsletter is the “Survivor Spotlight” column. This column featured the personal stories of area cancer patients/survivors in each issue. And, from the comments I would receive from our readers, it was their favorite part of that publication as well!
My initial vision for the “Survivors Spotlight” column was to invite cancer patients and survivors to write their own stories to share, but I was surprised to learn that not everyone enjoys the act of writing as much as I do. There are so many stories out there that deserve to be shared, but for a variety of reasons, many people were reluctant to write and publish their stories. So, I became a kind of “ghost writer” for most of the 100+ featured “Survivor Spotlights”!
I certainly did not mind! Writing these stories allowed me the wonderful opportunity to spend time interviewing and getting to know each of these amazing individual cancer survivors!
A combination of my nostalgic mood and to further encourage Jami to write and share her story I also gave her a copy of one of the first TLC Supportive Newsletters. Later that day she e-mailed me and commented, “I really enjoyed them both. They both have great qualities to them. But I would say the first one (TLC Supportive Newsletter) is more personal and deeper.”
I have tried and will continue to do my best to allow this work that I am privileged to do evolve in a manner that best benefits the Local Cancer Community (and I am quite certain that, even after 21-years, things will continue to evolve). Perhaps, at this time, that evolution will involve ways to add some of the “more personal and deeper” stories that filled the pages of the TLC Supportive Newsletter into the weekly details of this Local Cancer Community Update.
Watch the next issue of this Local Cancer Community Update for Jami’s story! I also want to encourage other area cancer patients and survivors to share your “Cancer T.I.M.E.S. (Thoughts, Insights, Memories, Experiences and Stories) with us! And, at least occasionally, I hope to play the role of “ghost writer” for a few more Survivor Spotlights!
Additionally, I may reprint some of the original articles and stories from past issues of the TLC Supportive Newsletter such as this one that I had written for the first TLC Supportive Newsletter in January of 2001!
By Tim E. Renzelmann
Reprinted from the very first TLC Supportive Newsletter (Volume 1, Issue 1) January, 2001
Well, most anyone who knows me knows my love for pennies... so when it came time to come up with a name for this column the choice was relatively easy. What, after all, is better than a penny? Two pennies, of course!
“Two Cents Worth” is a phrase that most of us have heard before and we know what it means... to offer an opinion. But how many of us know the origin of this phrase? Well, after a few minutes on the Internet, I had an answer.
Apparently, the phrase has roots in the gambling world. Poker games often required a small bet to be made by the new player before they could join the game. The notion of offering “two cents worth” came to be used as a way of entering your opinion in a conversation.
So, as I thought about some of the similarities between poker and life and the cancer experience, I realized how appropriate this title was.
I first entered the poker game that is cancer on May 11, 1992 and threw my “two cents worth” into the pot. I was dealt a hand that, at first look, was not a winning hand. But I stayed in the game and I played the cards I was dealt. I could have very well given up hope, walked away from the table and quit. We all have that choice, you know... to give up, to walk away and miss out on the jackpot... miss out on life!
But I stayed in the game and continued to play the hands I was dealt. There were some losing hands. Hands that included chemotherapy, radiation and an allogenic bone marrow transplant. Hands that included fatigue and nausea and physical distress. Hands that included recurrence and uncertainty.
But there were winning hands as well. Hands that included the support of family, friends, and even strangers. Hands that included the caring and compassionate skills of many fine doctors, nurses and caregivers. Hands that included new opportunities, new experiences and new relationships. Hands that included lessons of body, mind, heart and spirit.
I am not a skilled poker player and it is only on rare occasion that I will gather with some of my buddies for a penny poker game. But I do know this much... in poker, just as in life, we simply cannot win every hand. And when we do win a hand, we must remember that the pot we just won is made possible by the contributions of those around the table. Without them there would be nothing to gain. But when the cards don’t fall our way, as sometimes happens, we cannot forget that we have had the pleasure of sharing our hand, even a losing hand, with those around the table.
The very same thing has held true in my life and in my personal cancer experience. I have held my share of winning hands in life and in cancer. I have experienced much joy, much success and many blessings. I am grateful for all that I have gained from those winning hands which, again, came from the contributions of those around the table and in my life.
I have also had some losing hands in my life and in cancer. I have experienced some challenges, some disappointments and sorrows during my 38 years of life and my 8+ years of cancer. (UPDATE: make that 58 years of life and 28+ years of cancer.) But even in those losing hands I have shared in the fellowship, the friendship and the fun of those around the table and in my life.
Perhaps the cost of staying in that poker game of cancer has exceeded two cents (we all know the cost of cancer treatment). But, likewise, I know that I have gained far more than I have lost. And the greatest prize will not be whether I won the game or not but the opportunity to enjoy each and every day with those around me.
And that, my friends, is “My Two Cents Worth”! Let me warn you however, with a basement full of pennies that I have been collecting since the age of eight I have many more pennies and many more “two cents worth” to share with you!