Friday, March 18, 2011


You have two choices when you get cancer:  you can get very fearful or lose fear entirely.  I have to admit I wasn't too please when told that I had "Hodgeskin's Lymphoma", stage three and a half, which means everywhere.  My entire lymph system and then into my spleen and spine.  It was growing, well, like cancer!
I had this alien being eating me from within!  I always thought that a cement truck might get me or that I might fall off a roof, something sudden, bloody, a tearing of the flesh and broken bones, a crushed skull and over.
Well, that may yet be, but first I had to deal with cancer.
     I did discover that no one dies of cancer.  I remember "cancer insurance" being sold in the 1960's, not insurance if you get cancer but insurance if you should die from it. What a cool scam that was!  You die from organ failure or pneumonia, that "old man's friend".  Or, as I discovered, you can die from "the cure".
     The "cure" is mean and that is all there is to that!  It is a voodoo concoction made from World War One Mustard Gas!  Yes, it really is.  It is designed to kill and it does so indiscriminately.  Surgery with a hand grenade.  It kills the cancer cells and a lot of good ones in the process.  I had 12 sessions of ABVD, horrible drugs that are mostly mentioned by initials only.  Every two weeks for six months!  It is all kind of crazy, you mark the dates on a calendar and get to look forward to the experience!  No, I can't go to lunch with you, I've got my chemo to do!
    I never got sick so you could put a name to it anyway.  I was never nauseous, never threw up, but I sure couldn't eat!  I began the process as a welder-construction worker, strong and able at 225 pounds and weighed 172 pounds when I got my final chemo shots!  It is not a diet I would recommend to anyone.
I never really thought much about the day after death but there were times when I didn't think I was going to make it.  You get pretty weak; I couldn't lift 20 pounds!  You get time to stand back and pretend it is all happening to someone else, like it is all a movie, or an unfinished book and you are not really sure how it will end.
    You sleep a lot.  You are always tired and I have never really found a good way to describe that, so someone not affected could really understand what you go through.  It is a tiredness where death would be welcomed.  My mind was always active even when my body couldn't cope.  I could still think!  I did lose a sense of "future", couldn't even think ahead to the next gardening season.
    What I chose to do or maybe did without choice is to relive my life.  I have done it all twice!  My earliest memories, all my school days, my first guitar, the poetry I used to write, old girl friends, my travels, adventures and disappointments and where I succeeded, all have been lived twice.  It is fascinating how in the deep recesses of your mind, you remember everything!  And I thought a lot about food.  I liked the idea of it even though I couldn't eat it.
    Death and taxes, right?  None of us are going to get out of this alive.  So you learn to cherish life, appreciate the now of it all, each breath, each flower and smell, each touch and every kind word.
I am left with pretty bad neuropathy in my hands but the cancer is gone!  I am not sure what "in recession" means?  That has the sound of still having it but it is getting smaller?  My doctor says he can't find any cancer in me and spent a few thousand dollars trying to do so.  It is gone.
     Some days my hands are so bad that I would just like to sit and hold them.  I don't allow this for two reasons.  The first is that in reliving my life I had no memory of pain.  Pain is not something we easily carry with us.  Too heavy, maybe, or just not important.  I remember getting the Pet and Cat scans and lots of x-rays and the doctor asking me when I broke my shoulder?  It was evidenced in the tests but not in my memory, certainly nothing I ever went to a doctor about. 
    The second reason I ignore my neuropathy is that there are things I want to do.  The will to do them is stronger than the fear of pain.  I do have a fear of atrophy.  I exercise my hands everyday, all the time, constantly.  My cancer doctor says nerves are slow to grow and it might take eight years for my hands to get better.  My regular doctor says that in eight years I will be used to it.  It is like stirring a five gallon bucket full of cut glass.  It is not pleasant but I can do it.
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  1. What is happening to your hands is happening to my feet, broken glass and being bitten my fire ants is the only way I can explain it... shoes make it worse, bare feet not much better... It's been 4 years since my cancer surgery... no one told me it might get better... that's something I could look forward to.
    Fear... I've faced down the big 'C'... nothing scares me now :-)

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  3. I really love your "no-nonsense" attitude. Must be those years in construction. Take no prisoners! Congratulations on your success..I'm very glad you are still here.

  4. I found this both thoughtful and inspiring Jerry thanks for sharing your thoughts.