Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Last Day of July!

It has been two years since my last chemo cocktail, that voodoo combination of lethal drugs administered by the nurses while adorning hazmat suits in the cancer ward.  I am a survivor!
I am sometimes asked what advice I might have for someone newly diagnosed with Hodgkin's Lymphoma or even some other type of cancer?
   Maybe see your doctor sooner might be at the top of my list.  I had noticed a small lump on my neck while shaving at least six months before I went to my doctor!  I kept my eye on it as it grew and became bigger and harder, always thinking that it might go away.  By the time I went for my physical it had spread throughout my lymph system, into my spleen and down my spine.  An earlier visit and I might have gotten away with six chemo sessions.  I had twelve.
   There are some things I would do differently.  I would go to my dentist before I began treatment and get my teeth cleaned and a dental check up.  I developed a blood clot along the way, not all that uncommon, and was given warfarin, made from rat poison (these chemists don't work with fine Scotch!) and because of the potential of bleeding, the dentist didn't want to see me.
   I would have gone to the eye doctor to get new reading glasses.  There will come a time when you will not have the energy to do much else and a good book can become very important.  In fact, I would line up ten or twelve good books and get them in advance, knowing now that I wouldn't even have the energy to look for them.
   I would eat!  I would splurge on food and wouldn't care whether it was healthy or not. During this chemical process I pretty much quit eating and lost almost sixty pounds!  I would find a friend (we all know one!) who has access to marijuana and ask them to roll me a couple joints...just in case!
   I began Blogging during this time and that might have saved my life.  You never know why you survive and someone else doesn't?  The guy who played Sparticus on the television died from Hodgkin's Lymphoma or died from the cure!  Stronger people and those with more faith than I have succumb to this cancer.  I liked blogging.  It was a world without time or direction and I could become reflective or jubilant and my reader's would not care.  I met a lot of friends in the blogging world and always looked forward to their encouragement.  While I might fall asleep in front of the television, blogging kept me awake and I had stories to tell.  And questions to investigate.  I did it this way, how did you do it?  Surviving cancer is best as a shared experience.
    Oh yeah, if I had to do it again I would win the lotto first!  I was lucky and had great insurance but cancer is very expensive.  Health issues are the number one cause of bankruptcy in the USA.
   Anyway, July 31st, two years and here I am!  Still after that "perfect tomato" and once again, strong and welding, making my metal art.  Who would have known?  I post here sporadically now, updates.
My main blog, day to day art and what I am thinking is http://www.jerry-carlin.blogspot.com and, if you are curious, my very first blog was on my ArtWanted site and that will give you a day to day, blow by blow view of the experience I went through.http://www.ArtWanted.com/slate
   Mt next check up with the cancer doctor isn't until October.

Friday, May 11, 2012

As Good As...

How does that expression go?  Not as good as I once was but as good as I was once?  That is me, had my check-up today and short of taking apart my atoms in a MRI I am still "Cancer-Free".  I am pretty sure the doctor only knows this because that is what I tell him;  it was not as though my cancer was warn on my sleeves,
pretty much all invisible inside stuff.  I have no symptoms, no swollen lymph glands and most of the chemo symptoms are gone too, except my forever, it seems neuropathy in my hands!  My price of survival and small one at that.  I keep a photo of me above my desk, taken a couple years ago at my worst.  The cancer never did that to me, it was all in the cure, a beast at best.
   I really can do almost anything now, anything from my younger, stronger days, just in shorter bursts but that can be good too!  I tilled my garden, normally a four hour job that took me two days and I just finished spreading a yard of mulch along the paths to designate walkways.  It will take another yard but that can wait until tomorrow.  Time seems to move in increments now like a watch that stops then jiggles ahead to catch up.
I have discovered that it will wait, all of that capturing and saving time was a lie.  There is no hurry.  Tomorrow will be here soon enough and so much that used to be important and cause me to rush just isn't there any more.
Not that I could hurry,  I am just learning to relax.
   I think that for Cancer People (we are NOT victims!) and maybe all retired people, someone should offer a class in "how to do nothing", there is a certain art in accomplishing nothing.  I am still amazed at how the day disappears and I didn't even get to make a "to do list"!  I am learning to not do that too.
   So my next check up isn't until September and I think my doctor and I chose that date because I could bring him some dried tomatoes!  YES!  It is going to be a good tomato season this year!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Another Blog

I am still alive!  I have tried my hand at painting and continue with my metal art and now I am going to have some fun at writing a mystery!  It is totally off the cuff, unedited and out of order and the first chapter is HERE..like any good book it will be half true and half fiction and my experience with cancer will have a lot to do with it.  I am thinking of a chapter per week, sometimes more and sometimes less.
We will see what happens!

Friday, January 20, 2012

Two Years!

It  has been two years almost to the day. Two years ago I had known about the lump on my neck for at least six months.  I had been watching it carefully every morning when I shaved, still there, a little bigger, maybe on both sides, never any pain, not even tender. Finally I went to my doctor.  He knew what it was within five minutes but sent me to the specialist anyway.  The Process of Discovery. Twenty thousand dollars later, lots of tests later, biopsies, pushing and pulling and looking at me under a microscope later they all agreed with my personal doctor: I had Hodgkin's Lymphoma!
   The "Cure" almost killed me but somehow I got away with it.  Hodgkin's is the "best cancer" but a lot of people die from it or die from the cure.   You never see that in obituaries but my guess is that it happens all of the time. Surgery certainly kills people on the operating table.  Radiation kills everything in its path and "Chemo", what I had is like finding a cure with a hand grenade.  It is a poison without discrimination and kills a lot of stuff.
   In two years I met a lot of cancer people at the Cancer Center and met lots of others in the blogging world.
I have reconnected with childhood friends who have been affected by cancer.  Many are now dead and survivors always have that survivor's guilt.  What do I have left to do that could be so great?  You often wonder why you get to live while others die.
   I do a little "art" but nothing special.  No reason there.  I am reading cheap mystery books now.  I read some art books, some history books.  Learning to read all over again and now am stuck on dime novels!
There is some guilt there too.  Something is not quite right that I could while away the day reading dime store novels while people struggle with cancer.
   The World doesn't stop and I know that.  It is a good thing.  We would all fall off.  I find myself short on words.  I have friends struggling with death or looking after someone who is in the thick of this battle.  I think it is a bit like the private world of the alcoholic.  I can't tell you how to survive it or overcome it.  I can only tell you how I did it.  I am not good with links, not very computer literate at all.  Even now, two years later I am pretty amazed when I read my almost daily journal with this battle I did.  Those blog entries are from my original bloggings that can be found at the top of my ArtWanted site, HERE.  For them to make any sense at all you must scroll to the very bottom and read them backwards in the order they were written.
   I have "collateral damage" from this encounter.  My feet are pretty numb and my hands feel as though I am stirring a bucket full of cut glass.  "Periferal Neuropathy"...Me and Dr. House! I take a couple vicodin a day and that gets me through.
   March will be here soon and I am still after that "perfect tomato" so I will be in the green house, my hands in the dirt.  Looking forward to it.