Miles Beneath My Feet: A New Journey
Writer Amanda Christmann
Photos by Herbert Hitchon
Not long ago, my wife and I sat in a doctor’s office and listened to him tell us that I have cancer. It is prostate cancer.
Hearing those three words—“You have cancer”—came as a complete surprise. I am a healthy and active 57-year-old man. I am a husband, father, grandfather, and a small business owner (PostNet) in the Anthem community. I am also a long-distance runner.
They call me “Lan the running man.” Over the course of my life, I have run about 75,000 miles. I am still going and, as I like to say, all systems are go.
But now things have changed. My doctor’s words echo in my mind: You have cancer.
At first I was shocked to hear those three words. I did not know anything about prostate cancer. I knew that it was common among men and slow-growing, and that if a man is going to have cancer, then prostate cancer is the one to have. But that was like saying that, if you are going to be in a car crash, then a fender-bender is the car crash you want.
Problem: It is still a car crash. And it is still cancer.
More than a runner or a husband or a father or a business owner or anything else, I am a man of deep faith. For more than four decades, when out in the wilderness running, I have looked up to the heavens and talked to God. This is where my strength comes from. It is where my hope comes from. It is who I am.
Lately I have been talking to God a lot. Asking questions. Going over my worries and fears. Wondering how I am supposed to handle this latest challenge, this latest hill to climb.
What is really bizarre about this whole situation is that my father, who is 79 years old, is going through the exact same thing. He has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. My mother was recently diagnosed with breast cancer.
Three of us. Cancer. All in the same month. Bam, bam, bam! Like three gunshots. What are the chances of that?
So now I am on a journey. I have a huge mountain to climb—cancer—and it is unfamiliar to me. I do not know this path. My parents are on this journey with me. What lies ahead? I don’t know. What will the long-term affects be? I am told that prostate cancer and breast cancer are curable, that we can expect to live for another five or 10 years or even longer. Well, how long is 10 years? 3,650 days. Not that long, is it? Makes me wonder what am I going to do over the next 3,650 days, or 5,000 days, or whatever number of days.
I am suddenly reminded that the clock is indeed ticking for all of us. Time feels short. I stand in my store and look out the big windows where I can see Daisy Mountain, and I think, “What lies ahead?”
In the past, I’ve always had an answer for that question. Now, I don’t know.
What I do know is that life is meant to be shared. Good times, bad times, joy, sorrow, fear: these are not supposed to be solitary experiences. We must reach out to those around us. We must help each other and learn from each other.
I have decided to chronicle what happens to me on this journey. My goal is to write about the answers that I find, and to be honest about the fears and the anxiety that I encounter, but mostly I want to write about the hope that I find. I am suddenly very much aware of how much we all need hope, every single day.
We are all going through something. Only God knows our individual stories, but like I always say, if God can put the sun in the sky and keep doing it day after day, year after year, then I know he will help me navigate my way through this rocky landscape I suddenly find myself in.
And so I press on, a little scared, a little unnerved, but determined to make it.
As we runners like to say, I will run from tree to tree, one step at a time.
Lanny Nelson is an Anthem resident and small business owner of PostNet whose diagnosis of prostate cancer he describes as “a marathon I was not anticipating.” Though his diagnosis is not uncommon, his candor and willingness to share his experience is inspiring. Images Arizona will be following Lanny’s journey in the coming months because, like Lanny, we too believe that we all need hope.