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.


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.