Three Years

Unless you have or have had cancer, you won’t appreciate the significance of the title of this post.

Cancer anniversaries, regrettably nicknamed “cancerversaries” (see “anywho,” “guestimate”), are measured not from diagnosis, but from end of treatment.  I don’t know about all protocols, but mine consisted of six weeks of radiation (5 days per week, about 20 minutes per session) interspersed with five rounds of chemotherapy.

The first three chemo sessions were low-dose support to the radiation, the last two were full-blown, as in the kind where the nurse stands in the doorway and watches you for a couple of minutes after the IV starts to make sure you don’t spontaneously combust. (Maybe that’s why she/he stands in the doorway and not right next to you in the bed or chair.)

On Friday September 25, 2015 I had my last chemo session. My localized, non-met tumor shrunk to nothing, I survived a clinical trial, the chemo and its concomitant hell, 10 days in the hospital for pneumonia, unrelenting fatigue and the infamous “chemobrain.” Three years later my status continues to be NED (no evidence of disease).

What’s important about this anniversary is that I’m more than halfway to the 5-year survival milestone.  Each year I stay NED there’s a greater chance the cancer won’t come back. My oncologist says now there’s roughly a 20% chance of that.  Of course, that could change in the time it takes to divide a cell, and I never forget that. No one with cancer ever forgets that. But for now I appreciate how incredibly lucky I am to have had these three years.  And, that’s all it is – pure luck. And, maybe the good sense and geographic fortune to seek treatment at M.D. Anderson.

Three years.

Three years in I never expected I would have. Three years to watch my grandchildren grow taller and stronger and be amazed at things they didn’t know the day before. Three years of imagination and Watch me! swimming and holding hands on the way to the park. Three years of birthdays and books and bedtime nuzzles. Three years of the people I love. Three years of ice cream and summers and grilled cheese sandwiches. Three years of school days and fall carnivals and Halloween costumes. Three years of Christmas anticipation and magic. Three years of moons and rainstorms and spaghetti with Rao’s marinara. Three years of dog smiles and soft cat paws and animals rescued and loved. Three years of cupcakes and birds and winter wind in the trees, the first smell of fall, summer night breezes and stars. Three years of life in this lousy, trump-infected world. 

When you have a lethal form of cancer, your mortality eclipses your view of the future.  And that’s something that no one who doesn’t have cancer can understand. It’s the first realm of separation.

In his book When Breath Becomes Air, Paul Kalanithi writes,

“The future, instead of the ladder toward the goals of life, flattens out into a perpetual present.”

When you’re older, the ladder of goals is pretty much worn down to a slightly elevated ramp, but even then your consciousness dwells where future is inherent. There’s always tomorrow. A cancer diagnosis dispels that notion.  Your world shrinks and flattens out while the larger one goes on without you. You recede, but you learn to find your place, your serenity, your joy in small present moments and you hold onto those for dear life. (Some of mine are here.)

So, three damn years. Yeah.  Here’s to those ahead of me, behind me and, especially, to those we remember.

 

Really, American Cancer Society?

The American Cancer Society emailed me concerned about my absence and asking for my help in completing a short survey about what cancer issues I want to support.

I replied that I’m a little concerned, too, ACS, because nowhere in the survey is lung cancer even mentioned on the list of issues.  There’s breast cancer right up there at the top. Colorectal cancer. Skin cancer.  But no lung cancer.

The #1 cancer killer is lung cancer.  More people die from lung cancer than the next three deadliest cancers combined: colorectal, pancreatic and breast. 1

Not. Even. Mentioned. The message seems to be “Lung cancer? We won’t even mention it because everybody knows only smokers get lung cancer.”

Yeah, tell that to all the people who have lung cancer who’ve never smoked.

You don’t have to smoke to get lung cancer.  Geez, you’d think somebody there would know that by now.

 

1 https://www.lungcancerfoundation.org/about-us/lung-cancer-facts/

Pressing Questions

I have two pressing questions today.  The first most of you will relate to; the second, maybe not everyone.

Question One:  I’d rather take a bloody beating, but I have to buy a new washer. I wash a lot of human and animal bedding, so large capacity, at least 4.7 cu.ft. Got that part.

Why do I wash a lot of  bedding?  Because I made the huge mistake earlier in my life of accumulating a working zoo of animals in my house, all of whom appear to be immortal and all with varied hair lengths. While I’m happy to have them sleep on the bed, I don’t want to share their hair and the unidentified schmutz they pick up when they go outside 50 times a day to see what that noise was, and then deposit on the day quilt and comforter.  Also cat butts.

So I need your help. Maytag? Whirlpool? Another brand?  Not too high end. (Remember, the chances of me being around another 3 to 5 are slim to none.)

Agitator? Impeller (aka HE)?

I need an answer from some smart people because there are apparently none who work at the one local, independent appliance store in my town. We have a Lowe’s and a Home Depot, but I prefer to support local businesses when I can. I may have to rethink that commitment.

Unfortunately, this store’s primary sales strategy for selling washing machines seems to be blaming (alternately) the Democrats/Obama and the government for tromping on our god-given rights by regulating how much water we can use. Oh, absolutely. Because we all know we can trust millions of other people to be as responsible as we are – if the government would just leave us all alone.

Question Two:  Probably not kosher blog etiquette to ask this, but having cancer makes you not care what you say anymore, so here goes:  Anybody know what happened to Victo Dolore of Behind the White Coat? She just stopped blogging and her WordPress account is now private.  Also, Grandma Lin at Breathing Space? No posts since December. I know she follows this blog, so just wondering if everything’s okay.

Pressing. Questions. Get back to me ASAP.

The Boss of Everything

Youngest grandson, seven, called me this afternoon and wanted to know would I come pick him up “now or later, whichever is best for you” and take him to Game Stop to buy a Skylanders figure (pricy video game paraphernalia,  don’t ask).

Seems his older brother was invited to a friend’s house for the day and since he wasn’t invited and didn’t have anywhere to go it was only fair that he get a toy to compensate for this cruel injustice.

I asked him what Mom thought about this scheme and did she know he was calling me.  He said, “Well, Didi, since you’re really the boss of everything, you can tell Mommy what to do.”

Just wanted to let y’all know in case you thought you were the boss of everything.

Just in case

She clips the coupon for the HoneyBaked Ham,
just in case

And puts it in her purse,
just in case

At Target, she buys sweet candy and colorful baskets,
just in case

She dyes eggs, makes potato salad, arranges flowers
just in case

She tries to smile,
just in case

Goodbye, Stephen Hawking

I’ve mentioned before that I use this blog mostly as a repository of things I want to remember since, you know, chemobrain. Here’s an example.  I don’t know a black hole from a pot hole, but I know it mattered that he did.

An extraordinary human (and fellow atheist) left us today.  Thank you Stephen Hawking for your beautiful mind, your amazing work, your humor and your hope.

And now for my thoughts on guns…

Just kidding.

My opinion is worth about two cents, so unless it would result in some real change, I won’t add to the debate except to say that change will never happen as long as the NRA owns the U. S. Congress. More power to the Parkland kids, though.  I hope they don’t give up.

Two notable links this morning:

— El Jefe at Juanita Jean’s has this thoughtful piece called “The Tipping Point on Gun Violence.”

— The Thoughts and Prayers Make-up Look.  (H/T to YouCallThatArt)

Hope to post more regularly soon, but I probably won’t. Real life seems to get in the way, and I just can’t seem to focus anyway.

There.  Aren’t you glad I kept my opinion to myself?