Thursday, May 11, 2017
My Fears and Worries of Having Cancer
Sunday is Mother’s Day. I think a lot about my mom this time of year. I suppose most folks do. It’s a day to celebrate your mom, after all. I wonder how my fight against Cancer would be different if my mom were still here. If I were only able to call her up and talk to her about it all. I would worry, however, that she would feel badly for me. That she would somehow internalize this as being her fault, something she did wrong. I can only imagine this is extra hard on my dad. How helpless he must feel for his daughter to have Cancer at 53. We email and “talk” as much as possible these days. Both of us struggling with our health “issues”. I find comfort in knowing he is there for me, but I worry that he worries a lot about me and that he feels helpless in the face of what is happening to me Like others around me, I need him to be strong, to be positive, to be active in my life….. Jesus. Yep. This post is a downer.
This is mostly because I’m withering from effects of the steroids I have to take to keep the allergic reaction of the chemo drug at bay. I feel generally crappy and depressed most of the week now due to these damn drugs. Ironically, it’s not the chemotherapy drugs that are keeping me down, it’s the meds I have to take to keep my body from fighting off the effects of the chemo drugs. And just about the time I feel better, it’s time for another round of chemo.
My oncologist has me back on the original chemo drug for the remainder of my treatment. As you will recall, the drug that caused a torso rash and itchiness. I guess that was less scary to her than the numb face, mouth and tongue caused by the supposed “non-allergic” variety of the drug. Hmph. To keep the rash at bay, I’m on a heavy dose of steroids for the first few days following treatment. Alls great until I come off the steroids. Crash is more like it. And I crash hard. Fatigue, dizziness, depression - generally crappy.
And thus, has been my 2017. I have been fighting Cancer since January 24, 2017. That’s three months, seventeen days. In that time, I’ve had numerous doctor visits, scans, drugs, chemotherapy, as well as a huge amount of pent up tears and fears, coupled with built up hopes and sheer determination. To say I will come out the other side of this a changed person is not an exaggeration. I have learned a lot about myself, my wife, my brother, my family, and my friends who have all had a hand at making me a stronger, more resilient person through this. Guess perhaps, this is by some grand design. Since I’m going to have to muster that strength now for the rest of my life.
I am hopeful I will beat this. In fact, I am determined to beat this. But I worry. I worry mostly at night and when I’m coming off the steroids. I worry about it coming back. I worry about the very real possibility the rest of my life will be spent in total fear of “it coming back”.
Not all Cancers are the same. It’s important to understand the kind you or your loved one has. Many people beat Cancer – never to have it return. Some struggle the rest of their lives in chemotherapy, drug trials, etc. beating back the return of Cancer. The latter is certainly not my Option A, I can tell you that. It’s not even a preferable Option B in my book.
If you have been following along, you know I have triple-negative breast cancer. A 2007 study of more than 50,000 women with all stages of breast cancer found that 77% of women with triple-negative breast cancer survived at least 5 years, versus 93% of women with other types of breast cancer. Now, I have no plans to live just 5 more years and so, yea, this scares the be-jesus out of me.
Sunday is Mother’s Day. My mom lived to be just 66 years old. Her only sister, the same – 66. I always thought they both died at a very young age. I will now have to fight to live to be 66. I will have to be vigilant to live to be 66. I will have to have access to good healthcare to live to be 66. I will have to be “lucky” to live to be 66. I will need to "believe" to live to be 66. I will no doubt need to live in a state with a Democratic governor to have a fighting chance to live to be 66.
I need a stiff drink. And - I need to cheer the fuck up. Hell, I’m still here. I have a lot of fight left in me. One day at a time, right? I have a huge network of family and friends who are pulling, praying and putting out for me every day. I have a wife who loves me, supports me, believes in me. I will become a Cancer survivor. And now for the rest of my life I will be a Cancer survivor. And I will wear that badge of honor proudly.
I have been blessed to have known my great-Grandmother, to have learned to laugh and dance from both my Grandmothers, to feel the love and support of my Aunts, to have the courage and resolve of my Mom. Happy Mothers' Day to everyone who has influenced you in your life like these women have mine.
Fuck cancer. Root for me. Pray for me. Give to Cancer research. Be an educated, courageous voter. Watch me.
Posted by JJB at 6:48 AM