Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Me and Plato

On my desk, I have a small scrap of paper with what is most likely a bastardized version of a quote attributed to Plato:

Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.

The idea behind this is more than "be nice." It's more of the idea that struggle is in the eye of the beholder -- what's natural for you is impossible for her. And so on. And that we're all struggling with something. You never know what's really going on with someone else, so tread lightly. Be sensitive. Don't be such a dick that they're forced to tell you that their husband has cancer so their mind is kind of scattered these days and they just figured you could wait frigging 12 HOURS for the name of someone to interview.

Then again, they could just be venting because they found out they have cancer. And they still have a writing deadline, so could you please get off your lazy ass and give them the name of someone to friggin INTERVIEW, for pete's sake.

Another observation, the originator of which I've forgotten: People treat relationships like basketballs, when they're really like soap bubbles.

Yeah . . . that's all I got. Holiday season make me maudlin. And budget season makes me borderline psychotic. Be nice today, y'all. This is hard for all of us.

Friday, November 10, 2006

Am I sick?

I took a hike up to the Universities Health Center to find out about flu shots. The kindly cleck informs me that "due to shortages, flu shots are only available to high-risk patients."

For the first time in my life, I waved the cancer flag. "High-risk, yup, thats me. Got me a compromised immune system I do." It felt awkward though; there's something odd about having a dreaded disease, but still looking perfectly healthy.

I was sent upstairs, where after a little confusion, I was given an appointment and some paperwork to fill out.

In addition to the usual "name / rank/ serial number" trivia there was the standard bank of yes / no questions. "Are you allergic to latex," "Are you taking any medication," and one that had me completely stumped: "Are you sick today?"

I turned to the nurse and said "I don't know how to parse this question. What do you mean by sick? I don't have a fever, so I'm not sick in that meaning of the term. But I DO have freakin' cancer, which is certainly a sickness as well."

The nurse just smiled as if she got these questions from Martians like myself every day. "Why don't you just say 'yes' then," she suggested.

So I checked the 'yes' box, and in the 'tell us about it' field I proudly wrote "I HAVE FREAKIN' CANCER!"

But I'm always going to have cancer, right? So am I going to be sick every day of the rest of my life?

Monday, November 06, 2006

Move along now, nothing to see here

Sober and Malignant is kind of on hiatus right now. There was so much frantic activity right after Dan's diagnosis that we didn't have a lot of time to reflect on what was going on.

It was when I found myself crafting an elaborate Excel table named "cancer matrix" designed to address all the pros and cons of various treatment options that could be crosstabbed with "desired outcomes" that I personally called time-out.

The simple fact is that Dan has cancer, and he's always going to have cancer. The term "cancer survivor" doesn't apply here in the sense that you "have beaten" cancer by following the traditional stages of griefcancer:
1. intial diagnosis of cancer
2. floundering and additional diagnosing
3. treatment
4. treatment side effects
5. remission and/or "cancer free" diagnosis

In Dan's case, (as we understand it) either you have cancer, or you're dead. We can treat it with chemo and stuff, but this type never really goes away.

But this type of cancer also never gets you really sick or kills you, especially if you periodically beat it back with chemo so it doesn't spread into the bone marrow or farther up the lymphatic system. But if Dan ever gets another type of cancer (or other immunity-compromising bugaboo), it gets a whole lot worse very quickly.

Which circles back to the original point -- cancer sucks. Everything about cancer just sucks. We're tired of life sucking, so we're going to ignore cancer for a while. At least until after the holidays, because holidays bring their own brand of stress and joy and suck.

We appreciate the good wishes and tender admonitions to "not let things go on too long," whatever that means. However, Doing Nothing has always been an acceptable option to us and our oncologists. Yes, there are other oncologists and facilities (the next person who tells me about "John [sic] Hopkins" gets a finger up their nose), but cancer treatment isn't like shopping for the best deal on a car, looking around until someone tells you what you want to hear.

We are exquisitely sensitive to the politics of cancer and the fact that what we are doing now in doing nothing makes a lot of people nervous for a lot of different reasons. Dan's cancer has affected his life, but to date, it has not affected his health. Every treatment option that's been discussed affects both. To us, right now, that's not acceptable.

We'll let everyone know when we're ready to git back after things -- maybe next week, maybe next year.

I should also add a disclaimer that while I use a lot of "we" here, I am speaking solely for myself. Should Dan come up tomorrow and say,"you know, I want to see if we can find someone who'll just cut the entire lymphatic system out, then give me a bunch of radiation topped off with kick-ass chemo, and if that doesn't work, then I can just live in a plastic bubble," I'd say, "Outstanding! Let's go look for experimental Canadian doctors RIGHT NOW! Maybe we can find a drug company willing to underwrite the whole thing! If not, I still got two working ovaries and a 150 I.Q., all the makings for a top-dollar egg donor!"