Saint Patrick’s Day brings with it my favorite meal of the year. Since childhood, I’ve been a sucker for corned beef and cabbage, my appreciation of these basic ingredients only growing as I’ve aged. And, of course, with the added appreciation of those other Irish staples, the boiled potato and a proper stout with a thick, creamy head. There is a certain luxury to these simple foods, and I await them with the sort of eagerness one might ascribe to a child who waits all year for the chance to unwrap birthday presents and blow out the candles on a cake. A year ago today, I insistently prepared this meal and looked forward to it with anticipation that was, in retrospect, somewhat ill-placed. Continue reading Cabbage, Then and Now
Once in a while, I feel like it’s appropriate to update my meager readership on what is going on that is relevant to this blog and my other work, as well as recapping incidental anecdotes about life in general. Such is the justification for this post. Plus, I thought it might be nice to write something short after that last one… And since my next planned post is already proving to be a bit on the longer side, I’m looking at this like a small snack break between meals. (Well, comparatively small, anyway — I’m actually something of a heavy snacker most days.)
Living with cancer has, of course, its own set of challenges. Even if the cancer is well maintained, even if the response to treatment is going well, it complicates life in ways both predictable and unexpected on an ongoing basis. It adds stresses that might otherwise never present themselves. For example, for the past two years, every time I have a headache, no matter how small, it makes me question whether that is a sign of a brain lesion, some new metastases that had gone unnoticed, a harbinger of (for me) yet uncharted radiotherapy treatments or a potential ticking time bomb. And time, always, is on my mind, an urgency there underlying everything that I do; time is a limited resource and there isn’t a day that I’m not reminded of this. Continue reading Looking Back at the Week Ahead
The following post is the third in the ongoing Myth of the Wellness Warrior series. The previous posts were The Myth of the Wellness Warrior and Myth of the Wellness Warrior, Part 2: Supplements, Denial and the Birthday Problem.
How do you know who to trust?
One of the great wedges used by the anti-medical and anti-science proponents of these alternative treatments is the suggestion that the mainstream medical community cannot be trusted because they are all about the profits and not about actually curing disease. The suggestion is that Big Pharma is something of a shadow organization, bribing doctors and hospitals in order to maximize their corporate wealth — and there is just enough truth to that for it to be believable. The conspiracy generally lumps in a wide range of health practitioners, insinuating that MDs are systemically part of the problem and that anyone who speaks out against potentially deadly alternatives is automatically a shill for pharmaceutical companies. I get that one leveled at me from time to time, in spite of the fact that I advocate for a well-rounded and well-researched approach to personal care.
As the alternative crowd is fond of saying, if you want to know who to trust, you should follow the money. See what any particular site has to gain for spreading its message and, when possible, look at personal motivations from the authors. I have been fairly transparent in this regard, but perhaps I could go farther with my history. I am no “True Believer” in the medical establishment, at least not insofar as I put blind faith in doctors to automatically do what is right and best for every patient. I do think that most doctors genuinely try and that they believe they offer the best solutions. But I have also witnessed patients being treated like cattle, given no real consideration, and pushed toward drugs or treatments they probably neither needed not benefited from. And I fervently believe that my own father was pushed toward an early death by being overly and improperly medicated by too many “specialists” who failed to communicate with one another or fully attempt an understanding of what was going on with his health. Continue reading The Truth About the Truth About Cancer – Myth of the Wellness Warrior Part 3
I just put about two weeks’ worth of coffee into my body, so please consider that as you read these proposed guidelines for political postings on social media.
I decided to put these down because I have noticed so many friends falling off toward these two camps: those who are tuning out completely due to political news fatigue and those who are spun up into a frenzy of posting and reposting and forwarding and generally being outraged all the time (or at least every fifteen minutes between the odd stress-reducing cute animal pic or positivity meme).
The fact is, neither approach is helpful, and probably not healthy, either. We should all remain engaged, after all, or at least aware of what is going on around us. But we should not get lost in the process, nor should we be a part of the system of misinformation that has plagued our national politics for a long, long time. (That’s right, it is almost a national treasure, this “fake news” thing, and it goes right back to the beginning of our country’s history. That it appears to have reached some new apex in the past year is something of a natural progression, albeit a sad one. The challenge now is for the media to really keep it in check as it had done, more or less, for the past 120-ish years since the Hearst-induced Spanish-American War.)
6 Really Useful Social Media Guidelines
I recently had the good fortune of interviewing a long-time friend and fellow Stage 4 cancer patient for my podcast, The Deep Breath. Usually, the podcast is just me running off at the mouth, dispensing my heavily biased advice or addressing questions that have come up in one way or another. Sometimes I just talk about my personal experience. My best (or at least my own favorite) recordings are those in which I interview someone with a different perspective than my own or from whom I can learn something interesting. This one was different, though, and required a different treatment.
When I think of Mike, I always imagine him as he was in high school. That is mostly due to the fact that I’ve only seen him a scant handful of times over the past 30 years, and none of those were particularly recent. We have stayed in contact primarily because of social media, both of us being part of a wide group of shared friends who have remained more or less civil toward one another even as we have spread apart geographically, politically and, outside of these virtual networks, socially. His story began to intertwine more tightly with my own about a year ago when he announced on Facebook that he had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was about to embark upon an uncertain course of treatment with chemotherapy. Continue reading Luck and Attention
As a cancer patient on regular rounds of chemotherapy, this is a question that I have often asked myself. When I look in the mirror and see a body that I don’t recognize and the effects of the drugs on my brain have me under a heavy fog of malaise, it is easy to drop into the trap of defeatism. I have stared into my own eyes, wondering what had become of their prior yearning or that sly glint I imagined they used to have, and asked the mirror if this is what it feels like to die. To waste away into a reflection of what I was. To effectively disappear from the world, slowly, margin by margin, breath by breath. Continue reading Is This What Dying Feels Like?
Some days I just don’t know why I have a good cry. I mean, I suspect the chemo in my system has a lot to do with it — I’m always more emotionally “available” after an infusion, which translates into a rapid response to whatever I am reading, listening to, or seeing. My switches flip readily, often without the usual filters I keep in place having any effect. Usually, I will have a tip off that a trigger is going to fire, but on days like this one I am often caught off-guard completely by something I would normally call a throw-away, an off-hand comment I’ve read before, perhaps, or a quote hidden deep in a piece of reporting. And then I find myself weeping, my head in my hands, just feeling the release of whatever emotions have been mixing it up biochemically with any lagging fears, doubts, or anxieties I haven’t otherwise already worked out.
It is on days like this that I really just want to focus on:
Fun Facts about my Unique Chemotherapy Experience!
So here is some of the good stuff I often find novel or amusing about this trip down Chemotherapy Lane. Continue reading 6 Fun Facts About My Chemotherapy Experience!
December 2014 marked the beginning of my chemotherapy, and two full years are now complete. This already puts me well beyond the “statistical expectation” for continuing to kick around, allowing me to enjoy another holiday season with my family and, for better or worse, getting me closer to my goal of actually going back to work full-time at some point in the (hopefully not too distant) future. A third year on chemotherapy may have seemed like a remote option at one point, something that was a distant hope not to be taken for granted, but now is an accepted part of my ongoing plan, the “new normal” that has been often talked about, what I have simply become quite used to in my daily existence.
So I take a moment to sit in my gratitude for what modern medical science has afforded me. As I write this, I am one day past my infusion, feeling only moderately tired because I woke at 3:30am and was unable to get back to sleep due to the way my steroids get my brain spinning in the night. Ironically, that same effect does not seem to occur during the day, when my mental capacities tend more toward fatigue and fog as the hours progress. Chalk that incongruity up to sleep deprivation, I suppose. The good news is that the steroids will have mostly worn off by tonight and, with any luck, I’ll be back to sleeping — or at least being able to go back to sleep — mostly through the night.
A month or two ago, I had a discussion with my oncologist about how I felt fewer side effects from the chemo, as though it had become progressively easier for me to tolerate over the past year, and especially over recent months. It gave him pause because, he informed me, the body does not generally “learn” to process the chemotherapy drugs more efficiently and patients do not build up a tolerance to the chemicals. If that were happening, for whatever reason, it might indicate that the drugs would no longer work due to being processed out of the system too rapidly. My most recent scan, taken last month, clearly indicated that the chemotherapy is still working the same that it had been — so obviously the infusions are effective at doing what they are supposed to be doing. The observation that I am left with, then, is that most likely I am simply used to dealing with the symptoms to a greater degree. Drilling down a bit more, however, there have been a few changes made in my routine after the infusion, specifically trying to be more active even on my more difficult days. My oncologist confirmed that this approach was most likely responsible for how I am “recovering more quickly” than I had been earlier in my treatment. Continue reading The Chemo Diaries: Year 3 Begins!
It’s hard these days to get away from the media barrage about all the perks a patient or caregiver gets out of a cancer diagnosis. Heck, with all the promised government handouts, it seems like everyone is going to want to get in on the action. But it is important to realize, in spite of all the hype to the contrary, that there is, in fact, a downside to cancer.
Why You May Want To Avoid Cancer
It’s true that easy access to handicapped parking can make life a lot easier, and a significant progression of disease is a sure-fire way to qualify for fancy license plates or those special passes you can hang from your rearview mirror. Some cancer diagnoses are practically like getting free money thanks to liberal disability benefits. But did you know that to take advantage of these special opportunities, a patient is required to spend literally hours of his or her personal time filling out paperwork? As if it weren’t bad enough dealing with the required documents and dancing through flimsy strands of red tape, the patient must also keep payroll records, IRS forms, and proof of the medical condition. Warning: if you hate paperwork and record-keeping, cancer may not be for you!
While we are on the topic of busy work, it is probably important to mention other ways in which cancer can suck your time away. Treatment is time-consuming. While this well-kept secret is the shame of the medical community, it is undeniable that doctors, clinics and pharmaceutical companies have conspired to generate lots and lots of billable hours in the form of repeated scans, surgeries that require lengthy hospital stays, and infusions that can take up to ten hours at a time — and then have to be repeated over and over again. This doesn’t even touch on going in for biopsies, radiotherapy or any of the ancillary tests that might be required to “ensure a complete understanding” of a patient’s condition. Warning: if you have other things you’d rather do with your time, cancer may not be for you! Continue reading The Downside to Cancer
This is an excerpt of my podcast, The Deep Breath. To hear the full 24 glorious minutes, including the explanation for my especially raspy voice (hint, it isn’t because of the cancer), please follow this link to my Patreon Page that hosts the podcasts. In celebration of Thanksgiving and the upcoming completion of 24 months of chemotherapy (there does seem to be a theme to the numbers here), this episode is completely free to listen to even if you are not yet one of my subscribers and patrons of this site.
If this post resonates with you, please consider supporting my work by subscribing to my feed on Patreon, or a one-time donation through PayPal. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook, Tumbler and many other fancy social sites or apps. Please share my posts to groups you are involved with on Reddit or Google+ or anywhere else that you feel it will help or enlighten or inspire another reader. (Sharing buttons are below the post!)