When families share their cancer stories, eventually there is a chapter when the word sadness or depression enters the dialogue. Either the cancer patient or caregiver will say the word that leads the family down a deep dark space of negativity that can be an endless cavern of hopelessness. It is unavoidable for the cancer patient not to spend some time in what I call the “Well of Darkness”. This emotional feeling is like falling into a water well and hitting the bottom of it. The bottom of this emotional water well is a deep underground space. It is very cold and wet. You can feel the mud at your feet and even hear water flowing around you. The darkness is so dark that you can’t even see your hand if you held it in front of your face. The worse thing is you can also hear creatures in the well with you.
So, what do we do when we enter the endless cavern of hopelessness? How do we get out of the “Well of Darkness”? Before I tell how we dealt with this situation, I will share a story to help frame how we found the tools to climb out of the well.
One of my favorite childhood stories is called the “Well of Darkness” story. The story is about a young boy who loved wandering around his family’s country property. The boy, who was always very curious, found himself sitting on an old piece of plywood. What he did not know was the plywood covered an abandoned water well. Suddenly, the old piece of plywood broke and the boy fell through the plywood and tumbled deep into the water well of darkness. When the boy hit the bottom of the deep well, he could see nothing but pitch darkness in front of him. The bottom of the well was so deep that light from the top of well could not reach where the boy landed. The boy began to feel angry that the plywood broke. Next, he realized that he was trapped. Anxiety and fear set in. How was he going to get out of the well? He was going to die in this well. The boy felt depressed and began to cry. Finally, he looked up and saw light from the sun shining into the very top of the well.
At the bottom of well, he was frozen solid and terrified that he would never get out of the well. He began to hear creatures in the well with him. He was mad that he fell but was filled with so much fear that he could not move. Luckily for the boy, a young girl saw him fall into the well. She ran to the boy’s home and told his father. The father used a rope and climbed down the well to his son. The father reached his hand to his son and lifted him up. As the father and son moved up the well, the boy could see the light of the sun getting brighter and brighter filling the top of the well with light. His father carried his son to very top of the well and freed him from his sad situation. The father saved his son from the “Well of Darkness”.
As the boy’s father carried the boy from the water well to their country home, he told his son if there was one thing to remember about this accident is to remember these words. The father turned to his son and said, “When you fall in life, you must look up and get up.” The words of this story have echoed throughout my life. I have gone back to these words “when you fall, look up, and get up” during many of my personal trials, struggles, and challenges which included joblessness, homelessness, and sickness.
Well of Darkness
When we received the terrible news that my cancer returned, it was the spring of 2021. I kept up a positive attitude by repeating the words “we got this.” We beat the cancer from 2019 and we can do it again. During the summer of 2021, I began my second battle with cancer. Little did I know that this battle would be so difficult, and the side effects would be far worse than the first battle with cancer. This second battle would begin my second round of chemotherapy that included six sessions of treatments over a three-month period. At the very start of the treatments, I woke up each morning sick. l was fatigued and nauseous daily. I could not drive, pick up heavy items, or work on complex projects. Even during off weeks of chemotherapy, I could barely make it out of my bedroom.
Then it happened. Midway through my treatment my hair began to fall out. Sadness entered my heart, and I started slipping into my own well of darkness. As I looked at myself in the mirror, I could not help but cry. I really looked sick. The cancer was winning the battle. I began a search for a way to help me from falling into sadness and depression. As I search through different articles on the internet, I unfortunately read a post that said that people with my cancer had less than four years to live. These words literally pushed me off the ledge and I fell and into the well of darkness.
When I hit bottom of the well, I could not help but stay there for weeks. I felt hopeless and defeated. The place was just the like story that I mentioned, and I was the boy trapped at the bottom of the well. I was afraid and terrified. Creatures invaded my mind with thoughts of despair. Then, I finally decided to look up and I saw the shining face of my wife who reached down to me. She suggested that it was time to message friends and family and to recruit prayer warriors. If I could not get up by myself, we needed an army to fight the spiritual battle for my spirit and mind. My emotions were wounded by the negative words of the internet, and the cancer tumors had already invaded parts of my body. I knew that negativity must not overtake my spirit and mind. I have to say it was a very humbling experience to share my sickness with so many people. However, I had to publicly carry my cross through the streets. As it was, the weight of my cancer cross was too heavy for me to carry alone. I needed others to help me carry it.
As thoughts and prayers were delivered through social media channels, I couldn’t help but be encouraged by all the social media posts, healing prayers, and personal messages that filled my inbox and account walls. I began to feel better. My spirit was strengthened, and my mind was at peace. The emotions of sadness and depression vanished. Near the end of my summer treatments, we took a trip to the beach for rest and recovery. That is when I saw the most beautiful sunrise. I was so thankful to see that sunrise, and I thought it was a blessing to have all my friends, family, and supporters praying for me. I decided that it was time to “Look Up and Get Up”. Every sunrise is a blessing for all of us. It is a sign of a new day. I thought to myself “sunrise, I rise.” The persona of Ben “The Rhino” Dichoso was born after the sunrise experience. We created the “Rhino Sunrise” social media accounts in August 2021. The “Rhino Sunrise” social media persona was a mindset platform and messaging system that help me “Look Up and Get Up”. I was able to receive prayers and positive thoughts through social media that raised me up out of the well.
Trials, Struggles, and Victories
By September 2021, I was out of my well of darkness and began to thrive. I joined a cancer thriver community on social media and received daily words of encouragement. I was also able to give back and encourage other thrivers to fight the good fight. I now had an army of family, friends, and followers cheering me on as I prepared for my next big challenge, my second cancer surgery. My surgery was set for the end of October. Unfortunately, the surgery did not go as plan and was cut short due to the spread of my cancer tumors. After the surgery, I slowly slipped back into my well of darkness and stayed there for quite a while. As winter came to Virginia, it not only brought coldness, but sadness and depression entered. These negative emotions set again in after finding out that the surgery revealed my diagnosis of Stage III cancer changed to Stage IV cancer.
Again, it was the thoughts and prayers from family, friends, and followers throughout my social media accounts that lift me back up. Additionally, I had many friends and family checking on me with direct messages, phone texts, emails, and phone calls. The love and care from my support groups filled my days with positivity and gave me a very bright outlook.
I came out of this second fall into the well of darkness stronger in spirit and with more peace of mind. Another new mindset was developed after my second fall when I visited my primary care doctor. He said to me that the mind has power over the body and that if we could harness only one percent of our brain power it could heal all the sickness in our body. He went on to say that I should not believe the life expectancy statistics and that his patients beat the odds all time.
During that same doctor’s visit, I met a nurse new to the clinic who said that she was so sorry to hear about my health condition. That is when a new mindset came into being. I responded to her that I have embraced my cancer cross, and I carried it with joy. Cancer is just a trial. Everyone has trials. People are grieving over deaths of loved ones, troubled with depressed children, or dealing with high pressure. With all trials come struggles. Everyone can work at surviving these struggles. However, I did not want to just survive my struggles. I wanted to have victory over my trials and struggles. I do not just want to survive but I want to thrive. I am a Cancer Thriver, and “nothing can take my joy away”. These collections of thoughts have become another weapon in our battle with cancer.
So, when you hit rock bottom and you are in your own well of darkness, think “Look Up and Get Up”. Don’t be ashamed to ask for help during your times of sadness and depression. There are many people around you who are willing to help you get up from your negative place. You just need to have the courage to ask for help, and you will discover supporters who can bring you to a positive place where you can have victory and thrive. Remember, “nothing can take my joy away”. You can only give it away. Joy is a choice. Choose joy now.
I hope this story inspired you in some way. Please feel to share it with family and friends.
Take Care, Ben Dichoso Jr.
“Look Up and Get Up”
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