Friday, July 3, 2009

12 - The End, I Hope


Overall, this was the lightest case of cancer and lightest case of shingles I have ever heard of. I dodged two huge bullets. Not because I was smart or a good person or anything like that. Just luck.

Every time I walk into the chemo room, I look around at all the other people there who are so much worse off than I am. Thin, wan, wasted, bald, weak and shivering under blankets for hours at a time, being injected with poisons. My God, I was so lucky. Yes, it was a bad thing, a really bad thing, but the least bad bad thing possible. Well, ignoring the non-metastasizing basal cell carcinoma skin cancer I had a few years ago, which almost doesn't count as cancer because it won't spread inside and kill you like all the others. Sure I was out of order for about four months. That doesn't even compare with being on disabling chemo for endless months with the chemicals killing you little by little for a year, two years. There but for the grace of God….

There but for the grace of a couple months, too. Incredibly, I paid attention to relatively minor symptoms. Twice. If I hadn't, and if my sweetie had not kept on my case to do something about it, to see a doctor, I would be in this group. Dead minus two years. A lesson for all others, particularly macho men who don't want to think about problems in sensitive areas, don't want to go through examinations, don't want to go through the procedures, don't want to risk the side effects, just don't want to think about it.

By February, I'm feeling fine, back to baseline. I'm working, I'm exercising, I'm sleeping, I'm functional.

A year after the diagnosis, the CAT scan still looks good. The collective opinion of the doctors involved is that, if it doesn't recur in two years, then it never will. ("Whatever kills you, won't be this.") How can you know if you got every one of those little buggers? All it takes to start again is a few cells who survive the chemicals and the rays and what's left of the immune system.

I want to finish with another important thought. That vow, the one about "in sickness and in health," is more important than I could ever have imagined when I was young, or when I spoke it and heard it in the chapel one day long ago. That level of commitment really defines a life together. I can't express what it means to me. I can't imagine what I would have done if I were alone, or abandoned, during this ordeal. Sure, I helped her through knee surgery and shoulder surgery, big deal. Minor. A life-threatening illness that goes on and on for months is another order of problem. I hope we are never again tested with such a burden.

May you all be luckier than I.

Copyright © 2006, 2007 by Richard Landau. All rights reserved.

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