Monthly Archives: March 2015

Enemies Are Bad

In my quest to reframe the narrative on Cancer, I sometimes feel that there are few voices in the media that support my views. How refreshing, then, when a friend points me in the direction of a piece like this brief podcast. It takes the edge off the words blazing across the publications set out at the oncology waiting rooms across the nation.

The Magazine "Cure" for cancer patients, survivors and caregivers,  and a flier for Breast Cancer Survivors
Actual magazines and fliers from a waiting room

I am not saying that patients are not allowed to view themselves as survivors if that is somehow empowering to them and their particular struggle, but the term is another example of the “war metaphor” that dominates the dialogue and casts the cancer “battle” in a negative, pre-defeated light.

Like too many things in our media culture, the narrative on cancer has been driven in a lazy and convenient fashion for many years. Certainly when the War on Cancer was declared by President Nixon over 40 years ago, it was an apt analogy. Cancer research was still in its relative infancy, even after half a century of good scientific inquiry and thousands of years of anecdotal analysis, folk medicine and traditional therapies being attempted. Since 1971, the story has been changing, evolving on an almost constant basis.

Continue reading Enemies Are Bad

Changing the Narrative Through Language

In conversation with my mother, we began talking, as we often do, about politics. She related to me a story about how at a dinner party recently the topic of Ted Cruz came up and how he was receiving support from some of the more conservative members of the dinner party. One of the things that they raised as a positive issue was his opposition to gay marriage, in spite of the fact that, apparently, there were several gay or lesbian friends at this party. That alone seemed pretty uncool, but tact isn’t the point here. My mother’s response was that it isn’t the place of the government to police lifestyle options or the choice of homosexuals to publicly live that way. This is where I put the breaks on the conversation. Lifestyle options and choice are not matters that truly, empirically figure into the equation of whether homosexual, transgender or bisexual individuals are deserving of the same rights and privileges of their sexually straight counterparts, by which I mean fellow citizens. These words are linguistic tools that actually hamper the progress of our understanding by being misleading and, ultimately serve to enforce the stereotypes that the Far Right uses to suppress rights of individuals. As long as the narrative remains unchanged, progress does not occur. Continue reading Changing the Narrative Through Language

The Chemo Diaries Round Six: Cycles End, Cycles Begin

Going into the final round of what I term Phase One of my treatment, I am reflecting a bit on two coincidences that have given me plenty to ruminate on. One of these is the fact that of one of my high school friends who I have not seen in far too many years informed me recently that her spouse is also going through chemotherapy and, interestingly, was just about a week ahead of me in the treatment schedule. The other coincidence of merit this week is that my neighbor will be starting her own chemo treatments at the same time I go in to complete my initial run of this badass toxic cocktail before moving toward a kinder and gentler maintenance schedule.

Ready for my hook up, Nurse!

Neither of these coincidentally timed treatments are for the same cancer, which would have been too weird for believability anyway, and we probably won’t share identical side effects across the board or react too similarly to the drugs, but there is still a commonality of experience that cannot be denied. My friend from high school is one of those rare and thoughtful people who is cursed with the right balance of kindness and patience to really place herself in the center of care giving. It feels weird saying this, but I would not wish that upon anyone, as great a gift as it is. This goes back to my issue with patient guilt, perhaps; I feel lacking when I cannot help those suffering worse than me or I feel guilty about not suffering as much as them, and this extrapolates to me not wanting others to suffer as a result of my condition or being forced to take care of me. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries Round Six: Cycles End, Cycles Begin

Cancer Statistics Show Hope, But Statistics Are Still Bad For You

So… the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have now begun releasing survival rate statistics for patients with invasive cancer. And it appears to be pretty good news, especially for prostate, breast and colorectal cancer patients. Across the board, however, patient longevity has been on the rise and the one thing that the statistics do make clear is that what they term “survival rates” are increasing.

I am not a fan of “survival” as a description of continuing to live while dealing with cancer. Along with statistics in general, this sort of terminology paints a narrow and misleading picture Continue reading Cancer Statistics Show Hope, But Statistics Are Still Bad For You

Alternative and Complementary Cancer Treatments: Good, Bad and Ugly

An article by Victoria Stern, MA published on the Medscape website in September, 2014 details information on many complementary and alternative cancer treatments. Because not all my readers are likely to have subscriptions to Medscape, and because the article is rather long, I am going to summarize a lot of it here. The comments and opinions below are my own unless cited, and I am not a doctor; the information on studies and data comes primarily from the Medscape article and it, along with Medscape in general, is worth reading if you sign up.

The takeaway on complementary vs alternative treatments remains consistent with what I would refer to as, Continue reading Alternative and Complementary Cancer Treatments: Good, Bad and Ugly

The Chemo Diaries Round Five: Egg Counting

It’s that old adage of counting them before they are hatched. That’s probably what I should have been considering yesterday, one might suggest, because I did go out running around as though everything were back to normal. Not entirely, of course, but enough; so today, which is the fifth day of my fifth round, I woke extra wiped out. Although to say that I “woke” that way is being kind of generous. Really, I simply had not slept. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries Round Five: Egg Counting

The Chemo Diaries Round Five: Hiccups in the System

Side Effects and Annoyances

It only took about fifteen minutes for the hiccups to begin. By the time I sat in the car and turned on the ignition, I could feel them coming on. But the good news was they only lasted a few minutes and by the time I had pulled out of the parking structure after my infusion, they were all but gone. Hiccups are an odd addition to my routine over the past month or so, and they really came on strong the week after Round Four, though I had all but forgotten about them since. After returning from the infusion this time, they only popped up a few times, as though to remind me that I shouldn’t be complacent about the effects of the chemotherapy, even though I generally feel just fine on infusion days. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries Round Five: Hiccups in the System

Sitting in the chemotherapy infusion room.

The Chemo Diaries Round Five: Infusion Day

Okay, coming in for round five of six may not be quite as sexy as spending time with Seven of Nine, but it isn’t without its perks today. For one, check out today’s accommodations! I may have to squeeze in a nap, just to take advantage.


Plus, apparently I have managed to gain ten pounds over the past month or so, perplexing the medical staff who are now curious about my diet and exercise… Let’s just say, it hasn’t been my exercise, and maybe that is part of it. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries Round Five: Infusion Day