Tuesday, July 3, 2012

I don't know, it's a mystery

Cancer treatment and chemotherapy is at its core a bunch of hoodoo voodoo magic, thrown at an unknown entity that we humans don't have the ability to truly understand yet. Now... this is my completely expert-less opinion, reforming a little every day. I wouldn't expect agreement but I will attempt to explain why I'm thinking this today. This great explanation of the world of theater also seems to fit: "The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster... Strangely enough it all turns out well."

Other than in cases of genetic predisposition, doctors really don't know why people get cancer or why it acts so differently in various people. Live this way, eat that way, do this and not that, exercise, moderation, avoid nuclear bombs and DDT. However, you follow all those rules and you may still get cancer. They call those cases 'sporadic.' That's what mine is; 60% of colon-rectal cancers are sporadic. A bad toss of the dice, snake eyes. And when you go in to be diagnosed/staged, it takes a multiplicity of scans and tests to tell them the whole story. Techs, nurses and doctors have all told me that medicine is not an exact science, there's a lot they just can't know or understand. So they scan the heck out of you, measure six times to cut once, ironically expose you to long-standing dosages of radiation, and poison all of you hoping to kill the stubborn cancer bits. Logic does not reign. It is a case of 'this has worked in the past, so let's do it again.'

But then there are those pesky odds beaters. The Lance Armstrong's who should have died according to their charts and calculations, but continue ticking strong as ever because of... what? A better re-roll of the dice? Sheer stubbornness or determination? That just right magic combination of treatment that they just happened to react to in the special way needed? No one I've talked to or worked with in the last six months can answer those questions. Most health professionals don't want to have that conversation with a cancer patient. They know they don't have an answer, they know it's all 'throw it at the wall and see what sticks.' That's not a very professional or confidence-building answer. But they don't have anything better yet. The best they can tell me is 'you're young and healthy,' so I've got a better chance at beating the odds. My whole medical team is very positive and focused on an aggressive treatment that will cure this. But the truth of the matter is that none of us know anything.

This is why I cop the positive attitude. I see that there are two options available to me mentally/emotionally: 1) fight, or 2) give up. Since the latter really isn't in my DNA, I guess I'm fighting with all I've got. That includes keeping my chin up and looking to the positive. And living the hell out of every good moment I get. I'm following lots of old platitudes: don't sweat the small stuff, always look on the bright side of life, if it feels good do it. My biggest struggle is trying to maintain temperance too and make decisions that are best for recovery. That, and patience... my nemesis virtue.

First batch of the 'big' chemo today. And I'm hooked to a pump with more for another 2 days. I'll catch you up on this new adventure tomorrow. Until then, Ciao and Amore!


  1. I remember having a conversation along these lines with my dad, that as an individual I am not statistically significant. The best you can do is plan for the worst and hope for the best, which you seem to have nailed down. My great uncle was a good example for that. He had seven different types of cancer, and ended up dying in his late 90's from pneumonia. He was quite the odds beater all his life, and if you'd like a good laugh I'd be happy to share some of his stories.

    Liz Hardin-Strnad is probably another good example-she collapsed at a fighter practice and found out she had a fist sized brain tumor and frankly terrible odds. She had a toddler, a divorce, and a horrific manager that tried to get rid of her because of her illness on top of all of that. You might like talking with her-her wit and humor remind me a lot of yours. She's been cancer free for several years now, is remarried, and pursuing a career at the UMTC library and photography.

    I hope you'll end up in similar happy circumstance.

  2. Speaking of platitudes, one of my favorites is "Bumps in the Road". Hit a bump, get jarred, move on.

  3. Fantastic Stoppard quote from a highly underrated film.

    Speaking of platitudes, he also wrote : "Be happy -- If you're not even happy, what's so good about surviving?”