Thursday, August 31, 2006
I guess this question is understandable- I've all but disappeared off the face of the earth. Most people have given up on me and started going straight to Bobby to check and see if I'm still alive.
I'm alive as I've ever been, and I'm okay.
This post has to be short because I am at work. Yes, work. I have a job. I'm off chemo. And life is good.
Tired? Tired after starting work less than a week after chemo? Yeah, tired. I'm really tired. I'm tired, I'm working 12 hour days, it's a crazy job, and, friends, I don't think I've ever in my life been happier than I am at the end of an exhausting day.
I'll give you all the details soon, but, for now, know that if I haven't written or called, it's not because I don't love or appreciate you, but just that I'm so wrapped up in something besides chemo, and I'm exhausting every minute of my life of freedom for now.
I'll be in touch soon, and I think of you all several times a day.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Here's the truth: since mid july, the Interferon has been kicking my ass.
I've started 4 or 5 times to blog about it, but I feel like a whiner, so I always end up deleting the post.
Instead, I'm working on a short story that might be a little less whiney and a little more productive. Sort of a day-in-the-life thing.
Until then, I'm going to be a recluse.
That's all I have to say about that.
P.s. I'm down to 6 vials. Again.
Saturday, August 05, 2006
I found this great article, and it rang so true to me, I thought some of you might enjoy it, too. It's short, too, for you remedial readers and slowskies out there.
Word to your mama!
What Happens After the “Cure”
- July 16, 2006
- 5:15 pm
At the time of diagnosis, often times a patient becomes very emotional, or very detached (of course there are degrees in between). Many people tend to take their diagnosis at face value, and place their treatment in the hands of a doctor. They are often too emotional to take charge.
The detached will start forming a game plan. They research, ask questions, and become an active participant in their treatment. They also tend to unconsciously put emotions on the back burner. They are so incredibly busy “staging the battle” that the thought of dealing with emotions doesn’t even cross their mind.
As part of “staging the battle”, many patients also rally the troops. Patients find themselves surrounded with family and friends. All of them relaying stories about their great aunt, Uncle
Joe, and their cousin’s boyfriend who went through the same thing and were just fine. Sometimes, the opposite is true, and people will shy away because they do not know what to say or how to act. This is a very precarious time, because the way you respond to your family and friends is the way they will respond back to you when you need them the most.
It seems that in the diagnosis stage of an illness, there is a lot of confusion. It’s a little like putting together a puzzle. A puzzle that is written in medical terms, and the lay person does not understand it. Everyone is hearing terminology that they have never heard before, and nothing seems to make sense. Once those pieces of the puzzle start fitting together, there comes a sense of acceptance.
becomes invaluable. The patient has doctor visits, possible surgeries, children to take care of, meals to cook, and medications to take that may not allow them to do these things. New issues arise such as how much to tell the family. The consequences of not telling them the whole truth may create new problems later on. Patients may feel the need to force themselves to do too much, which not only delays the healing process, but could also give off the impression that they are doing much better than they actually are.
Anyone who has ever gone through a serious illness has probably been told that they are “so strong,” when in fact, that strength has been mistaken for a patient’s need to not inflict any more emotional pain on those surrounding them. As a result, the patient might find themselves telling people less and less of what is happening, causing the people around them to back away.
For some, treatment may go on for years, and dealing with it is a delicate balancing act.
After the so called “cure,” the “troops” start backing away, going back to their regular lives. All the emotions the patient unconsciously left on the back burner during treatment are now coming out ten fold. This is the point where the patient discovers the toll that the illness has taken on their life and their family.
Before and during a treatment, the patient has so many people by their side - doctors, family, friends.. but afterwards, they can be left feeling isolated and alone. Add that to the fact that the so called “cure” might not be, and you have a recipe for major depression. Life does not necessarily resume. There may still be medical issues that require treatment, and there is always the possibility of failure.
Dealing with an illness of any kind requires a multi-faceted approach. The patient must be treated as a whole including mind, body, and spirit.
Executive Director of TMJ Friends
Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Surprisingly, I got another big change today. But before I get into the logistics of this event, let me give you a bit of background info.
In 2003, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer- renal cell carcinoma. It's a particularly aggressive and fast-moving form of cancer, and by the time he found out about it, it was a football-sized tumor that spanned from his kidney to his stomach and attached to the vena cava. Needless to say, it was all down hill from there, and he passed away January 6th, 2004.
I wasn't there for my dad the way I should've been. I was in California, and though we talked twice a week, I know it hurt him that I didn't come to Texas more often to spend time with him before his death. I spent a few weeks with him in April, and then I got the call in late November that he needed me. I had asked my dad many times if he wanted me to move home, but he always said, "No, sugar. I'm alright. You have your life there and that's what I want." I look back now and know that he didn't want to worry me, and I wish I'd been smarter about the whole thing. He was being selfless, like he always was, and I should've done the same for him.
I was by his side the few weeks before his death, and I learned so much about myself and about life and death in general, just by being there through that. He was a wonderful, strong man, and he deserved a much better death. But this is sometimes how life works: bad things happen to good people, it hurts, and we get through it and move on. In the end, my dad told me good-bye and assured me that death was what he wanted at that time.
It was, of course, difficult for all of us. My dad was the one who primarily raised me, and he and my stepmother were very happy while they were together. Up until that point, they were the only family I'd really ever known, and it felt real and genuine and wonderful to be a part of one, a real family. My stepmom has a very large family, fourteen siblings in all, and with all of them there during the ordeal, there was a great deal of support, which made it easier for everyone.
I re-evaluated a lot about my life at that time, and, after going back to San Diego, I decided I wanted to be closer to family. I moved to Dallas that same week.
Fast forward to May, Mother's Day. I went to see my stepmom and take her out for Mother's Day. She was having an incredibly tough time dealing with my dad's death.
I called the week after to check on her, and there was no answer. I left a message. Two days later, I find out about the melanoma. My doctor tells me that this is an extremely large nodular tumor, and that I need to get treatment soon, and my life is seriously in jeopardy.
I don't want to tell my stepmom this on the phone, and so I continue leaving messages like nothing is wrong. I write letters. I drive to her house to surprise her. She never calls or writes, and I never see her. I write my aunts and my stepsister and ask why she isn't speaking to me. I call and write more letters. I have no responses. It has been over a year since she has spoken to me and I assumed, finally, that she no longer wants me as a part of her family.
And then, today, I thought, Okay, one last try. She answered the phone.
I don't know why people act the way they act when they find out the people they love have cancer.
My relationship with my stepmom has changed because of my Dad's cancer and death. She can't see me anymore.
And someone that I trusted and loved and relied on and needed totally freaked out, came down on me, and let me down when she found out that I had cancer.
None of us react the way we think we will in these situations. Even now, with fellow survivors, I am surprised by my reactions.
I should've been there for my dad when he had cancer, but I didn't think I could do it. And I didn't want to. That's the honest truth. I didn't want to watch the first man I ever loved die.
In the end, I stalled when I shouldn't have. My friend KelMac told me to go to him, whether I wanted to or not. So I did. I'm so glad she did that.
I don't know the point of this blog. I guess I just want to say something that we all know, and that is this: that this life and death we're given, I don't know how many chances we get with it, and it's not easy. But we all just need to realize that we need to be a little more careful with it, I think.
We can't go back in time even when we'd give our whole future to do so. And so these little moments that sometimes seem so pointless, they're actually opportunities to do the things we know we need to do.
People make mistakes, and we still have to love them and hope the best for them, even if that means our own tiny piece of them is broken. We carry that broken piece with us forever if it's not fixed.
That's how important those tiny moments are that we let just slip away.
Hemingway said that people are like their bones- they break sometimes. And sometimes the break heals, and it is stronger in that place than it ever was before. But even when it is stronger, the break is still there. It never goes away, no matter if that is what we want and hope and pretend to be the truth.
It's one of those cancer clarity moments, I guess.
I don't feel right judging my stepmom for this, even though I miss my family- or what once was my stepfamily. Christmas and Thanksgiving and Easter weren't the same without them, but maybe that's just the way things will be for a while. Or maybe that's the way things will be forever.
In the end, the truth is, this woman has no obligation to be my family. It hurts, but I have to think of my dad, and what he would do. He would be selfless and wonderful and forgiving.
And so that's what I'm going to use this tiny moment to try to be.
This is probably the most personal blog I've ever written, and it's honestly quite frightening to put out there. In essence, my journey with my stepfamily is over, and I'm sharing all of that with you- not just because I can, but because it's important, this little bit of knowledge I've been granted. And I know you'd share it with me, if it was the other way around.
Thanks for listening.