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Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cancer is a Journey

*cue sappy music

"Cancer is a journey...and everyone's journey is different." Watching television the other night...well, listening to it, I was in the kitchen making dinner, I heard this phrase from a commercial for The Cancer Treatment Centers of America®. Now, I've had issues with them before - their commercials that lead people to believe that they are cutting edge and can offer things that other cancer treatment (that are ACTUALLY cutting edge) can offer - all from a for-profit institution - we'll just say that it left me skeptical.

But this particular phrase was particularly irritating. A journey is something I picture as something that someone undertook voluntarily. It is a wonderful and wondrous thing and, ultimately, pleasurable. Cancer is not a journey (despite the tongue-in-cheek title of this blog). It is not a journey so much as it is a forced march. Like a forced march, no one wants to go on a 'cancer journey'. You start off by surprise - forced into a very frightening world that until then, had been entirely unknown. Each day is filled with fear - of pain, of injury, of scarification, and of death. Your captor is in control and you have no choice but to continue to put one foot in front of the other until you either make it to wherever you're going, or you drop dead.

This idea of cancer and the treatment of cancer as some sort of adventurous journey is a complete crock of shit.

Let's be real, people, and let's be honest - cancer sucks and it's okay to say that it does*.

*Links to others who agree with this point of view:

Monday, April 18, 2011

Moments of Self Pity...and then back on solid ground

I have been building up to a bit of a meltdown recently. You can read too much about cancer and about people who have cancer and it can get to you. The sad stories of people who die within a few years of diagnosis after a long, protracted struggle and who leave mourning loved ones behind can really bring you down. I've found that I try to create my own sort of statistics by reading stories, finding out how long each person in each story with my type of cancer lasted, what they had to suffer through in order to paint an approximate picture of my own future.

Ghastly thing to do to yourself.

My sister is the most helpful person to me through all this without even knowing it. She sent me the super-smoothie recipe (earlier post) which I attribute to my relative health and well-being and she sent me this blog (click HERE) about a man, now 68 years old, who was diagnosed first with stage 4 lung cancer, then 3 1/2 years later, prostate and throat cancer all of which he has beaten. To celebrate, he is walking the Pacific Crest Trail from California to Mexico. It's an amazing story and what they seem to attribute his survival to is his exercise. I've been reading a lot of about this...that regardless of age, gender, race, etc., the main components of those who survive long-term (I guess that means over five years) is a quality of life that includes fairly vigorous or at least regular physical and mental activity. This is my life. I'm very active, some would say 'outdoorsy' or 'sporty', and I'm a grad student - lots of mental activity.

I can do this. Or at the very least, I can give it my best shot.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chemo Insomnia

Chemo insomnia is a strange thing. I've had insomnia before, usually after choir practice (so much oxygen!) or a particularly ripping graduate class (brain just won't quit). Chemo insomnia is a little different. Sleep teases you - you might drift asleep normally only to be jerked awake by weird body spasms, an odd twinge of pain, or absolutely nothing at all. Seriously. There you are, nearly asleep and then suddenly - AWAKE! Almost asleep. AWAKE. Just about made it. AWAKE. It's like that weird struggle you sometimes have to make it to a difficult orgasm. Extremely frustrating. Tonight, I went through the usual back and forth until I had a weird sensation/dream that someone or something was right behind me, sort of whispering in my ear. I actually squealed. And here I am.

And what can I write about....hmmmmm...I had my PowerPort for chemo installed about a week ago. The bruises are nice shades of purple and green - quite lovely for the spring/Easter season...ummmm....I enrolled for my summer class on the Sociology of Death and Dying - that might make for some interesting blog entries...wweelllllll......I've been reading other blogs and I've got to say that some make me downright jealous. Some people are just really good, entertaining writers who write honestly and humorously about their lives with cancer and I'm not sure that I'm doing such a brilliant job in that department. I've been thinking that, like in other areas of my life, I'm not always that open and forthcoming..."I know you are a private person" someone recently described me as...weird...I never thought of myself as a private person...guarded maybe, but not necessarily perhaps that's the ticket. Open up, expose, send the guards home and fling open the gates of the self!

Or maybe I'll just go back to bed.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

First Post-Chemo Scan Results

I have chosen the illustration to the left (specially made by yours truly) to illustrate the effectiveness of two rounds of chemo. What you are looking at is dramatization of the inoperable main tumor that I have in my left lung. Pre-chemo, it looks angry and appears to have the potential to get angrier. After two treatments of standard chemo, it has suffered quite a shock. Good news for me - more time on the planet. Bad news for the tumor - it must now work harder - which if you think about it is really bad news for me, ultimately. For now though, I'm happy that chemistry has bought me some time.

KB and I have been searching for a home to actually buy - it should cost us significantly less than rent, and we'll be able to nest it and make it our own instead of tolerating all of the plain beigeiness that comes from apartment living. Our lease runs out at the end of May, so here's hoping we can get into something by then.

Until then, it's life as usual in the big city. I continue to be happy and thankful and to love.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Congratulations! You have pulled the Cancer Card!

Today is the 6th month anniversary of my pulling the cancer card! Bob Barker, what prize to we have for our guest today?

Well Burt, we have a brand new thoracic CT with contrast!

It's true. I celebrated this auspiscious day by getting a thoractic CT scan to see if the chemotherapy is successfully combating the cancer. I'll find out on Friday when I go in for my lab/doctor/infusion appointment.

From what I've read on other cancer blogs and wall posts, CT scans of this nature can cause a great deal of anxiety - people are afraid that treatment is not working, or if they are having a scan to see if the cancer has come back, they are obviously anxious that the cancer has returned. Evidently, it's much easier to win the first round with cancer than subsequent ones.

I have to tell you though, I really haven't had any anxiet as of yet. I'm not sure why this is other than 1) I think the chemotherapy is working because some of my symptoms have gone away, and 2) because I have prepared myself for it NOT working. My whole life it has been this way. I prepare for the worst so that I'm pleasantly surprised if the news is good. What's helpful for me too, I think, is that I know that any good news is, essentially, temporary. There will come a day when my DNA mutation mutates again so that any treatment is basically useless. Don't get me wrong, I plan on seeking out different treatment options along the way, but I know where this train is ultimately headed.

Curiously, I'm okay with it.