Y’know who talks about “bravery” in the “battle” against cancer? People who’ve never had cancer.
I’m now a member of an exclusive club, albeit one that no sane person would want to join. I’m a cancer guy. That’s who I am now and who I’ll be for the rest of my life.
As such, I can speak on this topic with some modest authority. Last night it occurred to me as I sat on the edge of the bed and rambled, The Loved One listening to my pleas — again, that there is absolutely nothing I can do about this cancer. It is a master over me not only because it can rob me of life but because, during this treatment, nothing else exists for me. I am cancer right now.
If I want to stretch and yawn, I’ll feel a little tug and maybe a bit of a sting in my belly where my feeding tube hole is.
If I have an urge for a midnight snack, I’ll have to think about what food and what beverage to take so I won’t get sick to my stomach. The pistachio pudding pie with graham cracker crust I made a couple of days ago will hit the garbage today. It’s that sickening. A glass of water will taste like a swig of liquid stainless steel.
If I decide to call a friend, the first thing she or he will ask is how I’m doing — not in the small talk, empty chatter, space filler way we all ask each other but in the Tell me you’re getting better, tell me you’re gonna make it, please way.
I told The Loved One these things and she said “Why don’t you think about what we can do this weekend to take your mind off it?”
The truth is, I explained, nothing can take my mind off this cancer. It is all of me now.
Something always reminds me, be it deep nausea, the sting of the oral thrush I’ve developed within the last couple of days, the weakness in my legs, the severe sunburn like a pair of strangler’s hands around my neck. I could go to the Grand Canyon tomorrow and it’ll be just as magnificent and awe-inspiring as I’ve ever imagined it, but I’ll still be standing on the rim with cancer.
There’s no mind trick I can play on myself, no distraction or pastime, nothing that can make this cancer go away, save for the everyday dose of X-ray millirems and the three bags of cisplatin poison, the lot of which will be finished March 21st.
The radiation burns my neck skin. It has shut down most of my saliva production. It will turn my throat into an inferno.
The chemotherapy makes me weak, sick, spacey, profoundly constipated.
“I wish,” I told The Loved One, “I could go to sleep and wake up in four weeks.”
It hit me: I’ve made conscious decisions to allow other humans to visit all these tortures and more upon me. Am I mad?
Or am I getting there?
That’s when I concluded this isn’t a fight. There’s no war going on, no battles being won, no glorious triumphs. I have simply surrendered. Poison me. Burn me. Bring all your pain down on me.
It doesn’t take valor to come to this decision, only a genuflection before the fascism of reality. There is no choice, no grand step forward to take the hill for the good of the platoon. The brave only distinguish themselves from the cowardly when they’re free to choose. Cancer is a tyrant, dividing the world into the living and the dead. I am alive, therefore I submit.
I’m not brave, not one bit. If Satan himself appeared to me and offered to transfer all my pain and discomfort to, say, you, I’d think long and hard about the deal. Better you than me.
I’d like to think I’d make the right choice in the end, that I’d be the admirable soldier, that I’d say Go fuck yourself, Devil, I would never visit this upon my fellow human. Yet I’ve visited it upon myself.
Don’t talk about “courage” in the “struggle” when it comes to cancer. He died this morning after a lengthy, courageous fight against cancer.
He — whoever he is — wasn’t courageous. He was scared. He wept. He moaned. He mewled. He wailed. He bargained with his god. He wished this had happened to anyone else — even everyone else — just so long as he wouldn’t have to endure it.
Lung cancer, breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, brain cancer, cervical cancer, all the cancers there are, that ever have been and ever will be, are too big, too mean, too ugly to fight. They are all too… you.
Your own cells are plotting against you, reproducing at a deranged rate, stealing resources, blocking and hindering and interfering and — if left untouched — killing. How does one fight against one’s self?
I think I’ve neglected to mention, at a certain point in The Loved One’s and my bedside chat, I brought the fingers of my left hand up to the location on the side of my neck where My Olive Pit™ has resided lo these many months — and I could hardly feel the damned thing any more!
I whooped and brayed and squealed in pure unadulterated joy.
I clearly remember a conversation I had with my son one day about something that might “distract” him. He said, “Mom. I’m being poisoned. There’s poison all through my body. And I have to go and let them poison me some more. There is no distraction from that.”
Hi Linda, That’s exact what Mike said to me last night. 🙁
You aren’t wrong often but this is one time. To keep going in the face of fear is the very definition of bravery.
I think from our other discussions that you know that I agree with most of what you are saying wholeheartedly. People who haven’t gone thru it are clumsy and they don’t know what to say. One thing they would say that would drive me nuts is “It’s all be ok.” I wanted to scream and on occasion did scream — “HOW THE HELL DO YOU KNOW?!” . People would say to me “you are so brave” and I’d say “No, I’m not –I want to LIVE” However having said that I think it’s VITAL for you to feel some control over what is happening. I do know someone who did refuse these treatments you are doing now and he died. YOU made the decision to kill this cancer .It does require courage and control to make that decision.
-Yes in order to go thru this horrendous experience, it helps to accept and surrender you are going thru it. (that’s four stages thing again) There is no taking your mind off of it.
I want to have a discussion about something that I think is important to your survival. It may seem I am talking about semantics- but much more–it’s a shift of thinking. Please also accept my apologies if I am incorrect or seem lecturing–Believe me–.I think it is incredible with all you are enduring that you are still able to write a cogent thought -coherent thought.
Be AWARE of your thoughts and how you talk to yourself. Guard yourself from these ” that there is absolutely nothing I can do about this cancer. It is a master over me” “I AM MY CANCER” –Try to feel and think and remember “I am Michael Glab. I want these immature cells in my body (called Cancer) to grow up and act like an adult.” ” I want them to stop being antisocial and respect their neighbors” ” I are a human being going thru cancer treatment. I choose to LIVE. I am enduring pain and deprivation in order to LIVE.” YOU are NOT YOUR CANCER. The cancer is a part of you you are going to leave behind. They are being killed and flushed OUT of your body.
Here’s what I discovered. Although it was damned difficult for me to believe when going thru my treatments what I am saying above–I FORCED myself to entertain those thoughts by chanting verses –that I was strong and the cancer was being killed –even when I wasn’t really feeling “it” Maybe you are already. I don’t know. Did you see the verse I put on FB that I used? Make up your own–Say them in your head if you can’t talk–and use a drum–pound your feet–even a few seconds in rhythm. Have you chosen a way to visualize those cancer cells dying? I wouldn’t have given up the allopathic cancer treatments I went thru to kill my advanced cancer but I think these things are important as well. Maybe imagine the pain from the sunburn on your throat is radiating to the cells of the cancer bursting them into bits and the chemo drowning them. I visualized them in a prison cell and if one escaped my kitty kat pouncing on them and killing them.
This was my chant and I rhymatically pounded/patted my chest on the breast bone…gently when in pain…I would do when I went to bed at night
“I AM HEALTHY I AM STRONG,
CANCER CELLS DO NOT BELONG,
KILL THEM FAST, THEY DON’T LAST
KILL THEM NOW WITH A MIGHTY POW.”
I forgot to mention that the thymus is just below the breast bone–believed to be crucial to the immune system-(-that might be where they are radiating and it’s too painful.)..but a gentle pat…to stimulate it –is why I suggested it. Part of the “Energy Healing” based on Chinese Medicine as well. and just the other news that you can barely feel the “pit”..that’s great:-)
About nine years ago, I was taking night classes in medical coding. I resigned from a job & continued my health insurance via COBRA. About 10 weeks later, I found out that I had breast cancer. I finished my coursework, then told my instructors about my diagnosis.
I was in disbelief…then pissed…then resigned myself to the fact that I would have to undergo surgery, chemo & radiation before putting myself back out on the job market. My priorities changed….deal with the health issues first, then deal with the job market. The latter was tough because of the stock market crash/economic downturn in Sept. 2008.
You think your life is moving in one direction, then you wind up getting derailed thanks to Mother Nature, the economy, or whatever….The time will come when you will get to feeling better. You will look back on this time in your life and think,”I can’t believe I ever went through all that crap.” People who haven’t walked in your (our) shoes can’t relate to what we’ve gone through.
When my hair was starting to grow back in the form of tiny pin curls, a customer at the credit union said that she really liked my hair. I wasn’t terribly open about telling strangers that I had undergone cancer treatments….but I did reveal to the lady that my new hairdo was the result of such treatments. She said,”Let me give you a hug.” And, she did. That meant the world to me.
Brace yourself, young man. The next time you see me, there’ll be a big hug coming your way. 🙂