Update Four: Memo from the Cancer Ward

Positive news and gratitude: the ups and downs of cancer.

Posted Jan 14, 2020

Around me on the Beth Israel Oncology Ward, the sounds of infusers pumping and the muted voices of the community of cancer patients chirping dominate. I am now fully initiated into the "club" no one wants to join, though there are an estimated 22 million of us. I am certainly not alone, but ultimately it is your body, your journey, and your mortality you confront on a daily basis. It is always there, hovering like summer rain clouds and you just hope you are spared the cloud burst.

It actually has been a good two weeks. The "malaise" or nausea resolved after four days and I had minor neuropathy. However, I did experience mouth sores as the chemo attacks fast-growing cells wherever they might be. These mouth sores were painful and certainly interfered with eating. As my luck held, they resolved after three days and I exhaled a deep sigh of appreciation. During the first week post-chemo, I lost weight and not being able to eat easily could be a big deal. However, the sores resolved, my appetite returned and I regained the lost weight the next week. The cycle then starts again.

Emotionally, an angry part came up, tired of the whole ordeal and its demands, side effects, and assaults on my body. Then came the sadness. I've been through so much over the years: family traumas, losses, multiple joint replacements. And now to top it off: a healthy dose of C/R cancer. I've had enough, paid my dues so to speak, but whatever happened previously does not figure in. You don't get a pass. However, with the help of powerful psychotherapy, the never wavering strength, support, wisdom, and loving care from Felice, the loving connections, well wishes, and presence of friends, I "unblend" from those negative emotions and bounce into coping mode, taking advantage of all that I can do. I'm golfing, tennis-ing, hanging with friends, cycling, walking, swimming, and back part-time at work.

My brain is clear and my intention resolute: I will get through all of this, survive, and get my life back. I'll be forever changed and enlightened by the experience. I would have preferred a different route to self-improvement, but will learn the lessons cancer teaches. Right now the lessons are: slow down, take good care of yourself, take nothing for granted, and deeply and actively appreciate all the care and love received. I intend to return these favors in my long life ahead.

Thanks for listening and be well.