Wednesday, 16 May 2012


August 2010 - another lifetime

On Monday, I surrender my title as Cheeriest Cancer Patient Ever. It is the third day out of five of waking up with a pounding headache and only the barest grip on where my body is located in space. The thought of food is nauseating. I take to my bed, where I alternate reading for an hour and sleeping for two or three. Monday night, I sleep a full eight hours.

Tuesday, it's an encore – with a worse headache. Getting up to walk two or three feet is downright perilous.  Going from sitting to standing, I pitch forward or stumble sideways. Once again, I am clinging to walls and furniture to get around. And worst of all, the Raven begins his gloomy croaking. I think about putting a wig on and burst into tears.  I will never brush my hair again, never get up to go for a long walk, never wake up with a sense of purpose, with things to do. Goddess only knows if I’ll ever see the real shape of my face again.

I am afraid the headaches and loss of balance mean the tumors are back. Already. I recite to myself the predictable side-effects of radiation and quitting steroids – exhaustion, headaches, upset stomach and so on. I refrain from calling The Dave. Waiting it out. Hoping it diminishes.

Lately, I’ve been reminded of my lack of longevity. A dear friend has cancer – a shocking recurrence and unexpected – at least by me. After I hear the news, I can’t stop thinking about it – how vicious, how tenacious a disease it is. I’m devastated for my friend. And I’m reminded of my own prognosis.

During my last consultation with The Dave, I ask if there will be follow-up tests. He is quiet for a moment and then says it is up to me whether I wanted tests scheduled now – or whether I want to wait until I have a symptom and just go about living my life in the meantime. It is the pause before he answers that conveys the message. Dave is kind and empathetic, but he’s never dishonest, never creates false expectations. If it crops up again, there’s not likely to be treatment. When. When it crops up again.

Somehow, I changed lanes during the radiation sessions. Like most cancer patients, I expected that the side-effects wouldn’t be that bad. I expected, truth be told, to feel a lot better. I wasn’t going to be one of those people who spend the days sleeping and lethargic. It’s a hard landing when you fall off those kind of high expectations. When you realize that you may, in fact, be plagued by any number of disabilities until you die. That remission may be short – and not at all what you imagined.

So, I’ve been silent for a while, not wanting to spread the pity-party around.

Today, I’m happy to report, I’m up and dressed. No headache. Less disorientation.

One day at a time.


Marsha Wiest-Hines said...

High happiness for you good day! May it lead to another. Thank you for sharing your journey.

Cynthia Newcomer Daniel said...

More than anything, I wish there was a way to take you out of this and give you more good days. It's a horrid, horrid disease and I hate it. but I love you and I wish you a good day today.

Marcia DeCoster said...

Wishing you some joy in each day. It is a privilege to read your thoughts.

Glen said...

I am so pleased today has started well for you. I am constantly amazed at the dignity, humour and honesty you show through your writing in such very difficult circumstances. Please never underestimate what a wonderful gift this is to people who care about you. As a beader, I realized you were an amazing artist, but I now also realise you are an extraordinary human being. Glen