In 2012, Leland Fay was diagnosed with Stave IV melanoma. His cancer had
spread to stomach, lungs, and liver. If that wasn't bad enough, he also had
98 brain tumors.
At one point, he was given just six weeks to live. But remarkably, Fay is
still here today.
He underwent a variety of treatments, including clinical trials, gamma knife treatments, and immunotherapy. He also changed his diet and started exercising. And somehow his six week death sentence stretched into three years.
Doctors have used the term "miraculous" and he's been featured in medical journals. Fay says he's not sure why or how he's still here. "I try to
accept the fact I may not live very long but I try not to dwell on it," he explains. Instead he says, "I'm going to act like I'm going to live."
Remarkably, Fay lives a fairly normal life with his wife and children. He still works as an engineer and he even coaches hockey. He also maintains an incredibly witty blog called 98 Brain Tumors, where he chronicles his adventures.
Fay says his bleak prognosis has taught him a lot about life. He recently
shared some of those life lessons with me. Here are five of the many things
he's learned since being given six weeks to live:
1. Forgiveness is a practice.
Fay's melanoma was misdiagnosed by a dermatologist during a time when it may
have been curable. It wasn't until months later, when he sought a second
opinion, that he learned his suspicious spot was actually Melanoma. But
rather than become bitter or angry at the doctor's mistake, Fay says, "I
know from my own career as an engineer that everyone-especially yours
Instead of filing a law suit, Fay made the choice to forgive his
dermatologist. He says he tries not to waste any time thinking about how
things could be different if the doctor would have given him a correct
diagnosis right away. Whenever he does start to get upset over his
misdiagnosis, he reminds himself to forgive, which he states is a conscious
choice he has to practice over and over again.
2. The absence of pain is euphoria.
Going through your daily life without chronic pain is something you can
easily take for granted-until you encounter a health issue. "The absence of
pain is euphoric," says Fay who reports he recently recovered from several
ulcers and inflammatory issues. "Just being our healthy selves is not only a
privilege but euphoric."
3. Enjoy the moment.
Fay says his diagnosis was a reminder of how time really is relative. He
says his sixth grade grammar class felt like an eternity but his children
went from birth to 10 in a blink of an eye.
Fay says the no matter how long he lives, "at some point I will again-just
like when I got the cancer news-look back and realize how quickly it went."
He goes on to say, "All we really have is this moment-so I might as well
try to enjoy it."
4. Stay focused on what you can control.
While Fay couldn't control every aspect of his health, he could control what
type of treatments he tried. In fact, he says he was surprised to discover
how much of the decision-making was left to him. Doctors provided him with
the information, but it was his responsibility to choose which treatments he
wanted to explore.
He conducted as much research as possible, consulted with experts, talked
with his friends and family, and relied on his faith to make the best
decisions. Fay says he never wants to hear that he's gotten worse or that he
has a new type of cancer ever again. "That doesn't mean I won't receive that
news-I get that-but if I do I want to know that I did everything in my
power to keep it at bay."
5. It doesn't matter how much time you spent in meetings.
Fay says his illness has certainly given him new perspective on what's
important in life. While he has returned to his job as an engineer, he says
that when you're told you have six weeks to live, "Nobody ever looks back
and says I wish I would have spent more time in meetings or at work."
He says things that used to be important to him, like his favorite foods, aren't
important anymore either-he changed his diet completely. Instead, he says
good friends and family are what really matters in his life.