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Wib Manuel: Reflections after a cancer diagnosis

By Wib Manuel

Special to the Salisbury Post

Since my high school days (grad ’61), I had always had addictions to those little chocolate cookies with white (sugar and lard) filling. After my track career running the mile and the mile relay was over in college, I also developed a strong addition to those Madison Avenue-marketed cowboy cigarettes.

After 30 years of both, I was surprised by my first heart attack and stent in ’95 at the age of 52. I had never been overweight and had led a very active lifestyle. Growing up in Winston Salem, my grandfather was a tobacco farmer.  RJ Reynolds passed out free sample packs of four cigarettes in high school cafeterias at lunchtime. What could possibly be wrong with that?

At the age of 52 I suddenly became much smarter and gave up the cigarettes. I continued, however, to have a flirtatious affair with cigars and, yes, I did inhale.

After my second heart attack and stent two years ago, I gave up my cigars. I felt like I was in excellent health. Several months ago I began to have a gnawing pain under my right shoulder blade. After two months and several doctors, Dr. Latimer, an orthopedic doctor, made a diagnosis. It was lung cancer — a large tumor in the upper lobe of my right lung.

My wife and I were devastated but thankful that a battery of tests by Novant’s doctors (Patel, Capeto, Wimmer and Mitro) all showed positive results and pointed to a good chance for treatment and a surgical solution. Five weeks ago I started chemo and radiation here in Salisbury. I can’t say enough about how fortunate we are to have these doctors, nurses and technicians available for us here. If all goes well, I should have lung surgery at Novant Presbyterian Charlotte in early November.

During the last few months I have had time to reflect about many things. I would like to share a few of them with you.

1. Don’t fall prey to well-meaning but negative people. They are “Debbie Downers” and they will suck the energy out of you. Distance yourself lovingly.

2. Surround yourself with positive strong people that can kick you in the butt when you need it. My wife, Julie, is a good example as well as Tippie Miller, Rick Parker, Margaret Almeida, Jim Dunkin and many others.

3. Appreciate your good friends — the ones who drive for hours to come visit; the ones who bring you cookies, personalized golfballs, homegrown tomatoes and peaches; the ones who bring you DVDs to watch; the ones who send heartfelt letters or cards and especially those who pick up the phone in this day of texting.

4. Don’t get wound up about the few friends and family members you don’t hear from. You probably should feel sorry for them. They need to work on their people skills. A good word of advice would be to ratchet up their care, concern and empathy for others. Don’t rely on others to tell someone that you asked about them. Tell them yourself. It would be a wonderful gift to the recipient and be an even bigger blessing to you.

5. Work on your faith. Your God is there for you. It may be in someone’s loving smile every morning or in a yellow butterfly or a red bird or He might be standing right behind you. You just have to be smart enough to look. It’s that simple … I promise.

6. Finally … a sugar/lard filled cookie is probably OK once in a while but do whatever it take to quit the cigarettes and tobacco products. Trust me. This is scary and no fun. If you are lucky to live to my age you will be glad you did.

Well, that’s about all the homespun wisdom I have to share with you today. If you like I will check in again in a few months to let you know how things have progressed. I am very positive about my future prognosis. Julie and I have much left to do for ourselves and others. Wish us luck and pray for us. In the meantime, hold hands and love each other everyday.

Wib Manuel is a retired steel executive. He moved to Salisbury in 2007. He and his wife, Julie, have five children and 10 grandchildren. They reside in Forest Glen. They are members of First Presbyterian Church, participants in Novant’s Whitehead Stokes Society, active in fund raising efforts with the Glen Kiser Hospice House and other charitable efforts. He remains an avid but mediocre golfer.

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