Monday, November 27, 2006

Things I Do Not Know

One of the most important things for a blogger to do, is to know his limitations. Like all people enabled to speak in public, we tend to print out our opinion on all sorts of things, some of which we know well and some where we frankly are less than fully informed. For myself, I do try to gather as much relevant and useful information as possible before posting an article, but I admit to all the conditions of humanity, including a propensity to err at times. It is, however, still useful to blog, even when I do not know the whole of the matter. Partly it is to discover through discussion, or to draw out commentary which illuminates the subject, but sometimes it is also worthwhile to provoke thought and remind us of people and perspectives outside our routine. And so, this morning I am writing about the possibility that I have cancer.

Cancer is a scary word, which is unfortunate because emotion clouds judgment. I admit that when I first heard my surgeon say that half my colon needed to be removed in hopes of stopping the spread of a growth in my abdomen, it took some time to process the information. My adventure started with a night of abdominal pain, which has turned into its own little drama – first kidney stones, then my appendix burst, and now the questions about a mass growing around my appendix.

The thing is, I cannot honestly say I have cancer, nor (despite his insistence) can my surgeon. My white blood cell count is fine, the surgeon found no polyps on my colon while he was in there to take out the appendix, and that mass, whatever it is, came up “potentially malignant”, not out & out malignant for sure. OK, so that sounds a bit like denial, but I am not jumping into anything until I get a second opinion. That should happen later this week, but until then I am sort of in a wasteland, not able to say how I even fell. Hearing the ‘C’ word makes a person wonder about every ache and pain, even though I am still recovering from my appendectomy, and so I would expect to still feel little things as my body heals. It’s very frustrating, wondering if I can trust my own judgment about whether I am OK or not.

That’s enough about me; one way or the other I will find out what is going on and decide what to do. What I want to write about here is how this situation has affected my family, and my perspective on people who have to fight cancer. A lot of people have reacted to the news that I may have cancer, especially my wife Mikki. All sorts of relatives have asked how I feel and how I am doing. It is both touching and frustrating, because while everyone understands my need to get a second opinion, there is real concern, and I feel like I may be scaring them needlessly, just because one doctor thinks it’s something. I would really like to be able to assure Mikki that everything will be fixed soon, without undue stress, cost, or risk. But I would be lying to pretend that it’s going to just go away because I want it to do so.

And that makes me appreciate how hard it is for families to go through a fight with cancer. And be sure of that, cancer attacks families, not just individuals. And because even surgery is no sure fix, even if the cancer is cut or burned out or goes into remission, there is that worry that it can come back again, which never really goes away.

Ever.

I’m lucky on that count, because even if I do have cancer, it’s likely to be something which grows slowly so I have time to consider my options, and if it’s colon cancer it’s very early and so my survival chances are excellent. On the darker side of things, I did some reading over the past week on the different types of cancer, from people with lung, cervical, and pancreatic cancers. The pain, anguish, and cost are sometimes excruciating, and cancer strikes kids as often as it does adults. So I would ask you all to consider one additional gift this Christmas season. Ask your pastor, rabbi, or spiritual leader who in your congregation is fighting cancer, and try to do something for the family. It doesn’t have to be expensive or a really big deal, but even just a card letting them know you are thinking about them counts, and for people in the fight of their lives, having more family and friends on their side is more important than any material thing.

And thanks for reading. I feel better knowing I can vent.

7 comments:

smh10 said...

DJ:

Having gone through the cancer death of my Mom and the diagnosis of my husband with Prostate cancer all within the same month, your piece struck very close to home. You are absolutely correct, cancer is a family affair and one which never leaves your mind. My hope for you is your second opinion yields a diagnosis which can be dealt with quickly and completely.

Please know that you and your family will be in the prayers and thoughts of many.

Dan said...

You know, I went through a few days this year when I was convinced (wrongly) that I had cancer. The emotional impact was astounding, especially since I tend to be a typical guy and ignore health problems until they become unmanageable. This time, though, I practically called friends to serve as pall bearers!

It's a scary thing, and my thoughts and best wishes are with you.

Ruth H said...

DJ,
My daughter-in-law is having her first chemo for breast cancer on Dec 4th. Sometimes cancer can be an unseen blessing. In her medical workups they noticed her mother had died of an aneurysm at age 45 so ordered an MRI of her brain. She has three aneurysms. The cancer is stage one, she had a double mastectomy to be sure , and chemo will give an even greater chance it will never recur. But the aneurysms could have killed her. She knows they will keep until chemo is over and then she knows they can be taken care of and she will live to raise her beautiful daughters.
While we are very sorry she has to go through so much we are relieved to know what the cancer revealed. God does work in mysterious ways.

Big V said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you as you move forward with this DJ. I was diagnosed with testicular cancer back in early 2005 and I throughly understand your thoughts and feelings and as our buddy Dan says, the emotional part of it can be crushing.

I kept myself as positive as possible and would not tolerate people who insisted on being negative around me. I was alive and I was determined to stay that way. If I lost the fight, then they could bury me but until that point, I wasn't going to allow ANYONE to throw dirt on me. My faith, my wife and family, and my doctors brought me through some real hard times but I never, EVER quit, not even for a moment. I was afraid if I slowed down, something might catch me so I went headlong into my treatment.

I know you are a strong person and I hope you can find the same support I found. I've read your faith professed here and I believe you have a good bedrock already. God bless you my friend.
V

Mark L said...

D. J.

My father had colon cancer when I was in college -- back in the mid-70s. He was treated and never had a reoccurance. He is still around, in his eighties, and still in good health. He even works two days a week when he feels like working. (He spends a lot of time traveling.)

So, put your faith in God, and don't sweat it. The odds that you will still be around 30 years from now -- in good health -- are pretty good.

Anna said...

DJ, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I really pray that you have a good news after your second opinion.

My Mom was diagnosed in '99 with late stage ovarian cancer and she fought it for four years. In the beginning she felt it was much harder for us to deal with than it was for her. It is something that truly effects the whole family. The one thing that she longed for later on, was normalcy. She wanted someone to treat her as they would anyone else instead of as a cancer patient.

I really pray that it is not a cancer diagnosis for you, DJ. It is just so hard...

Anna said...

DJ, my thoughts and prayers are with you. I really pray that you have a good news after your second opinion.

My Mom was diagnosed in '99 with late stage ovarian cancer and she fought it for four years. In the beginning she felt it was much harder for us to deal with than it was for her. It is something that truly effects the whole family. The one thing that she longed for later on, was normalcy. She wanted someone to treat her as they would anyone else instead of as a cancer patient.

I really pray that it is not a cancer diagnosis for you, DJ. It is just so hard...