BY ASHLEY DICKSON, utahvalley360.com
One survivor uses cancer as a look at human nature
Jim Lindow would have liked a motorcycle for his 48th birthday. Instead, he found out he had an advanced stage of melanoma.
Within a week doctors had amputated Jim’s right ear and removed dozens of lymph nodes and a saliva gland. After 35 radiation treatments, the Highland resident began chemotherapy treatments.
“It was all kind of a shock, but you just deal with it,” he says. “You can either go into treatment or not go into treatment. You don’t have the choice to say, ‘Well, this doesn’t look fun. I’d rather not have the cancer.’”
Jim had 91 total treatments over the course of one year. And though his body fell victim to every side effect imaginable and the melanoma was life-threatening, he didn’t see it that way.
“I’ve not had a sense of depression or fear throughout this experience,” he says. “My own mortality wasn’t in my control, so the focus was on doing what I could do.”
After Jim completed treatments, he began the maintenance phase of monthly appointments, which gradually became bi-monthly, then semi-annually, and now annually. And though melanoma has a high reoccurrence rate, Jim says he doesn’t feel like he’s under a cloud of doubt.
Now nearly five years since his 48th birthday, Jim has picked up parts of his life that were left behind during cancer treatments. Before being diagnosed, he had climbed Mount Kilimanjaro, Africa’s highest mountain. Now, he still enjoys hiking but hasn’t conquered anything of the same magnitude, though he did finish a 100-mile hike through the Uintas last year.
And Jim’s amputated ear has been restored. Faced with the options of reconstructive surgery, a prosthetic or growing his hair out and going without an ear, Jim met with Paul Tanner, an anaplastologist at the Huntsman Cancer Institute who designs and creates “artificial anatomy.”
“Paul’s background is as an artist, and he has an awareness of color and texture,” Jim says. “The point of the prosthetic is to have something realistic you wouldn’t notice, and he does an unusually good job.”
Jim considers his experience to be an “interesting look into human nature.” Before cancer was in the picture, Jim had decided to leave his job as manager of a trucking company to focus on something more service-oriented — a degree in occupational therapy. As part of his education, he works in cancer rehabilitation, where he first learned about the unique perspective most cancer patients take.
“When people are faced with their own mortality, they show faith, optimism, a focus on other people and a disinterest in their own problems,” he says. “It’s not what I expected.”
And the optimism wasn’t always based on a hope of surviving.
“Optimism isn’t necessarily believing they’re going to recover,” he says. “People often knew they would likely die, but it didn’t affect optimism in terms of being cheerful or helping others. They didn’t have the option of choosing to be petty anymore.”