Thursday, August 10, 2017

Where I've Been

I’m sure some of you have noticed that there have been very few posts on this blog for a while. One of you? Anyone?

Well, whether anyone’s noticed or not, I thought I’d offer some explanation.

The fact is that I’ve been dealing with some serious health issues, and I thought I’d describe how that affects my blogging. I’m not doing this for sympathy or to tweak anyone’s guilt or anything. I just have not seen a lot of discussion about what day-to-day life is like for a full-time cancer patient, so I thought I’d give you my perspective.

By full-time, I mean I’ve retired from my paying career largely because the physical stress of the cancer itself, not to mention the various treatments I’ve gone through, make it impossible for me to be productive in a regular job. Moreover, this cancer thing can be a bit of a distraction, not just due to the need to keep showing up for tests, appointments and treatments. It’s also something that occupies my thoughts a good part of the time.

In that sense, the main effect of cancer is suspense. It’s like watching the most gripping mystery movie you’ve ever seen, except it never ends. At least, not so far. And not for a good long time, I hope. But the suspense never lets up. It’s like having a slow motion bullet follow you around. It keeps getting closer and closer, but you never know when, or if, it will hit. One thing’s for sure though … it’s got your name on it.

Apart from the constant suspense, the cancer and treatment can result in mood swings … elation when a new treatment is available, depression when a treatment fails. This is a wild ride. So far, I’ve been through surgery, radiation, hormone therapy, more hormone therapy, even more hormone therapy, a clinical trial of a new drug (super-duper hormone therapy … I think we can finally say that’s not a promising avenue), immunotherapy and chemotherapy. None of these has halted or even slowed the progression of the cancer for more than a few months, and even that was only in the early stages.

Now I’m facing another clinical trial, so I’m very hopeful. But that’s been true before. Each new round of treatment starts with great promise and, so far, ends with discouragement. Of course, it’s just a matter of finding the right one.

Any remaining time and energy are spent doing online research. Google and I are now BFFs. I want to know every doctor and hospital, every drug or treatment or side effect, all the biochemical processes are involved. It's like trying to get a Ph.D. in Oncology.

Physically, the primary symptom is fatigue. The cancer itself causes fatigue, and every course of therapy is even more fatiguing. Some days, even sitting in an easy chair is too exhausting.

Often there are other symptoms, including pain caused by the cancer itself, and various unpleasant side effects from the various drugs. I’ve been lucky in not having experienced much of either of those yet. I haven’t needed any pain management beyond an occasional ibuprofin. Knock wood.

Of course, every cancer and every patient is different. Some are effectively treated fairly quickly, and are then able to go for years without recurrence. Others are much more aggressive and painful than mine.

If a slowdown in writing blog posts is the worst outcome, I shall count myself extremely lucky.

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