Monthly Archives: April 2015

Narratives Matter, Beginning to End

On the heels of a recent discussion on changing the Narrative of Cancer as a means to enable better communication and understanding with regard to the hundreds of cancer variants, I came across a very interesting article on a closely related topic: changing the Narrative of Dying. Far from being a depressing or downbeat approach, the article discusses the need for reevaluating¬†our collective understanding of the “end of life” process in order to facilitate a healthier and happier means for saying our goodbyes without forgetting that, until the last moment, we are all still living and participating in this world. It touches on some important ideas, pivoting about the notion that our system, our society, marginalizes and fears death and, more specifically, the process of dying. Yet, death is as much a part of our existence as birth.
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Things That Won’t Cure You Might Still Help

I have had several conversations lately that had me thinking about the relationship between actual medicine and the types of supportive care or complimentary therapies people I know have tried, which they are convinced play an important role in prevention or recovery. After watching the first installment of the PBS / Ken Burns produced documentary Cancer: The Emperor of all Maladies, I was in a fairly serious mindset on the subject, too. The history of cancer treatment is decidedly complex, with no shortage of conflicted emotions on how science has progressed — especially over the past 60 or so years — to the point where we are today. Coming out of essentially the Dark Ages, where little was known at all about the mechanisms of cancer cells and the prevailing belief was that all cancers were ostensibly the same, we entered a realm of promise and difficult choices that resonates to this day. And it is this difficulty that dominates so much of public perception that also opens the door toward less effective, but easier paths.

The problem is, on their own, those paths do not lead to the promised land. Easier to travel, they may be. But without the difficult choices, often there is nothing to lift the patient toward the promise.

Yet, there is a third component to this equation, hinted at centuries ago when physicians still believed the body’s ills were determined by the four humors and too much black bile was the likely cause of cancer.

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Anger May Be Cathartic, But It Is Still Bad For You

Being honest about our emotions is not always easy. Add a chronic or terminal illness into the mix and things always seem to get tougher. Sadness, self-pity (or loathing), denial, depression and, of course, our friend Anger, all come out to play.

Emotions can bubble up unexpectedly, violently, or simmer beneath the surface. They can trip a person up, derail a perfectly calm and pleasant morning, confuse everybody in the room and change just about any dynamic without a glimmer of grace or sense of appropriate timing. Emotions run counter to that thread of logic that many of us cling to for sanity, bubbling and popping and roiling all over our bodies like some adolescent’s acne. Yet, quite unlike the exquisite release of a properly ripe whitehead, venting our emotions can be done in decent company and in a healthy, scar-free manner — as long as anger does not get the upper hand.

The first thing to realize is that we are not fully in control of how we feel. We can work on our frame of mind constantly, quite successfully, and still not be 100% in charge.

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The Chemo Diaries Round Seven: Maintenance Begins

Last Wednesday I had another CT scan to see how the initial six rounds of chemotherapy played out. On Friday I finally got around to looking at the images on my computer, whisking through cross sections of my body to try and get an idea of what was going on in there. On Sunday night I finally remembered the web site to check for the imaging results so I could read the reports. Then on Monday I went in to consult with my oncologist about what the reports actually meant and to verify what the next phase was going to be for my treatment.

We had anticipated that the tumor would likely not be gone. The previous scan in February had shown a distinct reduction in the tumor size, but not an overwhelming reduction. It seemed highly unlikely to me that it would shrink away in less than two months. So seeing it present on the scans and reading in the report that it was, at best, only marginally smaller was not a huge surprise. I was happy to read, however,

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