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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Good-bye Lung Cancer Awareness Month

Lung Cancer (and Pancreatic Cancer) Awareness Month is almost over. Like any ‘awareness month’, the end of it is a signal that the world has been loosed from its month-long obligation to be aware of our suffering.  For those who live with and suffer from cancer or whatever condition or ailment warrants its very own month, we continue to be painfully aware of our conditions day after day after freaking day.

Awareness is great. Don’t get me wrong. I think it’s important for people who suffer to have support. But by marketing awareness, what do we really do? We make people feel good, recognize their unfortunate status, thankful, perhaps that their condition is not ours, and move on.  Oh, and we also buy stuff.

Awareness can also spur donations, a (sometimes small) percentage of which goes to treatment research, which is very good and very necessary. But the question for me is why are we not spending more money looking for causal agents? I understand that this is a huge undertaking, especially considering the vast varieties of cancer types and sub types that are just being discovered. But think of the money that we as a society spend on cancer t-shirts, rubber wrist bands, NFL sweatbands, and pink just-about-everything that could be used for researching why so many of us are getting cancer in the first place.

So as you turn the page on your calendar and turn your thoughts from those with Lung and Pancreatic Cancer, you can say hello to December – International Safe Toys and Gifts, National Drunk and Drugged Driving Prevention, Season Depression Awareness, Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness, and Young Children’s Safe Toys & Gifts Awareness Month. 

I've just ordered rubber wrist bands for all of them.

Monday, November 26, 2012

Winter's Bone

Although a good movie and incredible book (that I highly recommend) about life in the poverty-stricken Ozarks (where I spent the last part of my childhood), this post is about bone metastases that sometimes accompanies lung cancer. In particular, the discomfort and real pain that comes about or increases during the winter.

I have a lot of bone metastases.

My cranium, my spine and multiple spots in my sacrum, pelvis & upper femurs all light up like the seasonally-appropriate Christmas tree whenever I have PETs, CTs and MRIs. Although I am lucky enough to have had some success with surgery, radiation and Zometa stopping the tumor growth and actually growing new bone, come winter time, I feel like Old Man Winter incarnate.

The discomfort can range from achy to heavy fatigue to the occasional sharp, stabbing pain originating in the back and running through nerves to remote areas of the arms and legs. On the upside (not to be too masochistic), the pain does remind me that I’m still here. I’m still alive (take THAT cancer - HA!).

Some time ago, my oncologist told me that to have such extensive bone metastases (as opposed to extensive primary tumors or extensive metastases I more vital organs) is a little unusual. My orthopedic oncologist told me that this sort of cancer ‘expression’ is a double-edged sword – you get to live longer, but you also end up with increasing amounts of pain and debilitation. What do you say to that?

The way I see it is this – many people who have other diseases or disorders live a life wherein they hurt a lot and/or can’t get around very well but still maintain a good life (friends, family, hobbies, etc.).  I can deal with eventually having to use a walker or wheelchair.  I can deal with daily pain (so far anyway) especially if I can maintain a clear mind with which I can think up any number of distractions from the pain.

Also ready access to any number of popular pain medications – yeah, drugs help, too.

Here’s hoping we all survive Winter’s Bone.

P.S. At the very least, rent the movie.
P.S.S. A shout out to Deborah the Poet for inspiring this post.