Monthly Archives: March 2016

Talking About Life While Facing Death

One of my more popular contributions to the web site deals briefly with how we approach loss and watching a loved one die from cancer. This is a subset of one of the most important topics of my blog, the need to redefine the narrative of cancer. Stories that we hear and those we tell ourselves are very important in terms of how we approach and understand the world. For most of history, the narrative of cancer has been relayed in a fairly dreadful manner — and often rightfully so, because the story of the times was perhaps simply accurate. But the time we are living in now requires a reboot of that narrative, one with more optimism and hope and, more importantly than even that, a good, solid dose of actual science. Another thing that needs to be adjusted, I believe, is more of a societal approach to the empathy of death and dying and how that can be embraced as a natural, even welcome, component of life.

I am clearly not above the occasional inspirational bracelet.
I am clearly not above the occasional inspirational bracelet.

While this is a more complex issue than I can adequately address in this post, I am going to include a short answer I wrote on Quora about a year after my own diagnosis with lung cancer — at which time I had just about reached my “statistical” expectation for life expectancy with a Stage 4 diagnosis. You see, according to the abstract numbers you get through pretty much any Internet search on survival rates, Stage 4 lung cancer does not fair very well. If you believe the numbers, you’re just supposed to die. Quickly. So I did some “soul searching,” and came to terms with what dying might mean to me. Then I moved along because, for one thing, I know a little bit about reading statistics and it was clear that they did not apply to me. (My demographic, for one thing, was not properly represented, nor was the collection of treatments that had been introduced in the previous five to ten years, which is about how out of date most survival rate statistics are when you get them.) Besides, even if cancer was going to negatively impact my longevity, I still had a lot of living to do. And the plan remains to live long enough to die of something else. After all, there is no shortage of ways to exit this existence. The real question, ultimately, becomes not how or why we go, but what we do with our time here that matters. Continue reading Talking About Life While Facing Death

A Day of Chemotherapy

It’s late in the evening and the hiccups have begun just as I lay my head on the pillow. Aside from that nefarious turn of events, the predictions for the remainder of my day were fairly accurate in my video diary, as hastily assembled as it was this afternoon. Journey with me, if you are curious and have roughly 20 minutes to spare, to see just what it is like to go in for my tri-weekly chemotherapy infusion.

Infusion Time!

Yes, I look a little tired; I was. And yes, there may be some sound issues; I was using a new app on my phone and rushed the whole process, and per the last sentence, I was also tired. Still, the record stands, more or less, and you can see just the extent that chemo has worn me down and crushed my spirit over the past year and three months that it has dominated my social calendar. In the spirit of this blog, I have tried to remain honest and straightforward in my appraisal of how the chemotherapy process works. While the video is clearly edited for time, it still drags at times, just like my poor, poor feet… Maybe one day I will trim a few minutes off and spice it up with music and flashy cuts. For now, this is the story of my day, more or less like it really happened.

[Edit: the original video has been replaced by one that really ought to be better quality. Also, follow up videos for the week will be posted below, so this post really should be called “A Week of Chemotherapy.”]


More videos follow.
Continue reading A Day of Chemotherapy

Negative Comments, Positive Response

I’ll admit that I was a little perplexed this morning when I received a pair of (presumably) unrelated negative responses on one of my older blog posts, The Myth of the Wellness Warrior. Although I wrote that post about eight months ago, it continues to bring in a fair amount of traffic, including about 150 views today that appear to be mostly sourced off of Facebook and a few Google searches. While I expected that piece to illicit some reactions, I felt that the information I presented spoke for itself fairly well, and irrefutably so. I only criticized claims that are demonstrably false and I included links to vetted sources to support my statements. Still, I am no stranger to quasi-anonymous Internet attacks.

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Cat pics simply bring people together, creating order out of chaos, joining everyone in blissful unity.

For a long time, I moderated a political forum that had civility as one of its prime directives. My job, in no small part, was to ensure that conversations stayed focused and did not degenerate into name calling or worse. One way that we ensured this possibility was to remove anonymity as much as we could through a registration process. The other way was through constant moderation and guidance. Because of that experience, I had initially required specific site registration here in order for anyone to comment. The system in place, however, was not entirely functional and several people let me know that they could not log in to leave comments. At the behest of a friend, I relaxed the comment restrictions and readied myself for an onslaught of SPAM and Internet Trolls. Continue reading Negative Comments, Positive Response