Monday, September 5, 2011

Fighting Words

I’ve been home for a few days now and I’m feeling very much alive.  The new t-cells must be working as there has been 'sensitivity' around the areas of my metastasis, and some have visually shrunk already.  I’m pretty restricted in pain medication options because of the sensitivity of my immune system and the antibiotics I’m taking, so I’m toughing it out old school.  I know that a few bad days will help me appreciate the good ones.
     Mentally it has been a few good days at home.  When I left the hospital last Thursday I felt something transformational, like a weight off my shoulders or some line crossed underneath my feet.  My confidence level ticked up a notch and I now feel really good about my chances from here on out.  Statistically I have moved into a select subset of those fighting late-stage melanoma of which a majority expects positive long-term response.  It’s the first time since this fight started that I’m on the business side of 50% - and it feels very good to be here.
     Although "here" can be a bit lonely as I do not have many friends who are battling cancer.  This is probably because of the distance I am traveling to receive my treatment, or more honestly, my reluctance to reach out to other survivors.  One friend I do have is a young woman with three small children, a job and stage 4 melanoma very much like mine.  Her blog inspired mine and, although we've never met, we e-mail at length about the many tough and the sometimes humorous sides of facing cancer.  We wrestle with many of the same treatment decisions, sometimes with the same medical teams.  We also confide some darker thoughts to each other about dealing with oblivious healthy people and self-centered care givers, cancer insider stuff.  On Thursday, as I skipped out of the front doors of MD Anderson resplendent in my newfound confidence, on the other side of Texas my friend lost her battle with melanoma.  Irrespective of my oft-quoted Mr. Churchill, failure is indeed sometimes fatal.
This blow - and it is a surprisingly painful one - serves to underscore the seriousness of my endeavor, our battle.  And I choose those militant terms quite deliberately.  The NY Times on Sunday examined the debated use of militant terms to describe dealing with cancer.  People such as Dr. Andrew Weill suggest it is more healthy to see cancer as part of the natural process, a problem that needs to be solved rationally.  That calling cancer an "enemy" is more self victimizing and less calming.  They also suggest that militant speak makes “losers” out of, well, losers.  Dr. Weill and his type can kiss my tumor-riddled ass.  My friend did not die and leave her family behind because of a health issue poorly considered.  She is not a “loser” in that she lost what she saw was a battle for her life.  Cancer is evil, it is an enemy that wants to take the ultimate property away from us, our bodies.  What it may lack in obvious intelligence it makes up for in deadly persistence.  And like any horrible foe, it is ultimately conquerable and hopefully it will be eradicated in my time.  In that time, like my friend, I am going to fight and fight and fight.   I am not going to honor cancer by calling it a natural process.  I am not going to limit my response to the rational.  I am not going to thank God for the bluebird singing outside my hospital room window.  I am going to force cancer into a corner and then I’m going to strangle the life out of it.  I’ll be thinking of my friend when I do.

1 comment:

  1. We are happy to hear that the t-cell treatment seems to be working for you. We are in awe of you and your spirit, and you will defeat this enemy. Also, you are blazing a trail for others that face this disease.

    Keep it up. You truly are our hero.
    Pam & Al