Tuesday, April 13, 2010

I REMEMBER (what I like about cancer)

It probably seems peculiar to consider what is there to like about cancer. I think that “THE C-WORD” gets a bad rap. For one thing: (stating the obvious) NONE of us is getting out of this life alive, and I think there are MANY worse ways to go. I’d choose cancer over sudden death by any means or a long painful downward spiral of physical function. Permanent loss of mental and/or physical function from stroke or aneurysm? NO thank you!

I’ve never included my name on the list of those who’d like to simply to die in my sleep. (I think the presumption of those who DO want to go that way is that they’ll get to live a “LONG” life before taking that long last nap. Obviously we don’t have a whole lot of choice in that matter.)

Speaking from experience, sudden death is horrifically painful for those left behind. Both the survivors and the departed are deprived of the ability to easily tie up loose ends.

But, I digress, because my point in appreciating my cancer is focusing on LIFE. I think that the fear associated with cancer has to do with the focus on impending death. The cancer diagnosis makes it uncomfortably more difficult for many to ignore their mortality and impermanence.

It seems much easier to pretend we aren’t going to die, to assume that we’ll live to “a ripe old age.” So, I’ll say it: I’m going to die, and so are you. And just because I’ve got cancer doesn’t mean I’m going to go before you.

Last year, during my first rounds of treatment for lung cancer, I had no problem finding much to celebrate and be grateful for. In all fairness, I felt I wasn’t really challenged. I was off work, on disability, without any big financial worries, and I tolerated my treatment well. No nausea, hair that only thinned. The worst side effect I experienced was occasional but profound fatigue. This meant that I’d sometimes spend 3-5 days in my pajamas, doing not much more than moving from my bed to the recliner. Kinda sounds like a vacation, huh?

This year, I’m finding myself dealing with a few new side effects, including pain, which has not only disrupted my sleep, but necessitated prescription pain meds over the course of months. I’ve also lost my hair, or at least most of it. Keeping my spirits up HAS been a little more difficult this time, but I am coming around.

As long as I can be comfortable, and am blessed (as I know I am) to not have to struggle financially, then this ISN’T so bad.

So, here’s at least part of the list, now that I’m beginning to remember what I like about my cancer:

I don’t have to wake to an alarm clock 5 days a week.
My friends bring me meals.
I can nap every day.
Friends and loved ones make sure to say “I love you” frequently.
If pain keeps me up for a few hours in the middle of the night, I can watch a movie and knit until the pain meds kick in, and just sleep in a little longer in the AM.
I’m expected to be grumpy once in a while.
I have the time to meditate, pray and generally focus on my health.
I gain a couple of hours every day from not having to “dress professionally”, prepare lunches, and drive to and from work.
I can take more time to stay connected with loved ones.
I cry more easily.
When I have the energy, I have the time to take walks or putter in the garden with my husband.
I am considered to have more wisdom because of what I am going through.
I am more aware of the simple beauty of life.

Saturday, April 10, 2010

Hair: Down to here, down to there, down to where it falls by itself....

After trying out a blog site a week or so ago, I decided to move here, where my friends can post comments.

Since my first post on April 2, I’ve lost almost all my hair. Although I had extensive treatment last year (from January—September), including surgery, chemo, combined chemo/radiation, and MORE chemo, my hair only thinned the first time. It was noticeable when I was out in the sunshine, but overall, I looked healthy through my treatment…most folks NEVER guessed I was in treatment for cancer.

Funny…’tho I’d been told that 95% of folks on this year’s chemo drug (Taxotere) lose their hair, I guess I’d let myself feel rather cocky from skating through the treatment so easily the year before. Last year’s chemo cocktail was supposed to be a butt-kicker, but that wasn’t my overall experience. I’m BIG on botanicals and supplements, and give much credit to them for my ability to tolerate the treatment. I guess I thought I’d unearthed the collective “silver bullet,” but that remains to be seen.

So, I imagine you’d think I wouldn’t feel so blind-sided when I found wads of hair in my hands during my shower on the Friday before Easter. That was NOT the case.

My initial anticipated discomfort with hair loss had to do more with my loss of privacy than with vanity. I’ve been very open about my cancer, but wanted that openness to come on my own terms…I didn’t necessarily want to announce to the world-at-large “I’M IN TREATMENT FOR CANCER!” I’m surprised to find that after only a week, I’m pretty comfortable exposing my fluffy head in public, even around strangers.

However, for those times when I want to look “normal”, I did purchase the beautiful wig I set my sights on last year. It still has to be fitted, so, in the meantime, I’m wearing hats when I don’t want to scare small children. I’m finding I’m having more fun with that than I had expected. Around the house, when it’s warm, I’m going hatless. I’m loving my husband’s response…he seems to think it’s pretty adorable, and kisses or caresses my head quite frequently.

For now, I’ll close, and start my day, which means, in part, downloading a picture or two of my exposed head before helping my hubby garden.

Lung Cancer and other goodies

Ok, Ok, Mary Jo…I’m doing it, I’m blogging.
I’m letting go of all the “who’s going to read this”

I am the face of lung cancer. The current picture was taken March 13, 4 days before starting my 2nd go-around of treatment for adenocarcinoma, or non-small-cell lung cancer. Since then, I've lost almost all of my hair...I'll try to post a new pic shortly.

I was previously diagnosed just before my 53rd birthday in December of 2008. I was Little Miss Sunshine the first time around, and now find myself balking about whether I want to or can keep myself in that box, at least as constantly.

I’ve got such a good support group of friends. I guess part of me wonders how letting myself whine more will impact my friendships. I know…it’s easier to be around when someone isn’t darkly contemplative, or just plain bemoaning the obvious gradual loss of their hair. And I know I probably sound grumpy when I respond “please don’t suggest that I just be upbeat & cheerful.” If you know me, you’d have a hard time remembering me being anything other than that all last year during Round One.

I know, it’s hard to know what to say, but sometimes I’m not wanting advice.
I’m just wanting to be heard, and yes, maybe even babied.

Agree with me, please, so that I can move on. Put your emotional arms around me and say "Awww...
Sometimes, it DOES suck!”
OK, I feel better now.

Linda Miss Sunshine