To help flood survivors in Louisiana, please visit www.LouisianaDisasterResponse.com
To help tornado victims in south Louisiana, please click here.

Reflections: Cancer

September 24, 2014

I HAVE CANCER. There, for the first time I have said it out loud. When I started writing this column for Voices there were two things I was told to do: “keep it personal” and “make it a slice of life.” I have tried to do both. Little did I know that it would get so personal. It is good to have such a creative outlet. For me it has also been a good place to model my understanding of a life of faith. Humor, grace, love, peace and simple pleasures are all a part of my understanding of life and faith. The real test may well come in the days ahead as these two things collide. “Holistic” is a word I like. We shall see how holistic my life and faith have become. I’m not finished writing this column yet.

I am writing this on my mini iPad from a hospital bed. It is way too late in the evening, or way too early in the morning, depending on your perspective. However, a deadline looms ahead. Nocturnal hospital workers lurk outside my door waiting for me to fall asleep so they can awaken me for vital signs. Writing this on the iPad Mini is either dedication, or iStupidity, I will have to get back to you on that.

I’m in a hospital room because I am retaining fluid. I am not a small person to begin with. However I noticed I was having to make the decision so many unfashionable men make. You know — the ones who SAY they wear the same waist size in pants as they did in high school. Then, they sling their bellies over their belts. Dude, sling the belt on the belly, not below the belly. (Tim Gunn would be so proud of me, wouldn’t he?) Anyway, my pants were only fitting below the belt. My appetite was about half of what it usually is. Instead of losing weight I was gaining. I felt crummy for a few weeks. Then, there was the fact that I was feeling incredibly bloated after not eating my usual amount. The topper came when there was a piece of Strawn’s strawberry pie in the fridge and I was not interested in eating it. (That may have counted as an actual sin.) I was blowing up like a dead cow in an east Texas pasture in the middle of August. (OK that illustration may have been a bit graphic, but you know exactly what I mean — don’t you?) My family doc saw in an instant that something did not look right. Tests. Lab work. Ultrasounds. Admission to a hospital. More tests. Blood work. Biopsies. CT scans. All of this for a guy who is rarely sick. Go figure.

As I iWrite this not all of the lab results are in. However, the tests that are done indicate that after almost a week in the hospital I will start chemotherapy as an outpatient and hope for a good result from the process. My family and friends have rallied around me and I plan to move ahead. Tears and laughter have been pretty healing so far. I am sure that there will be plenty of both in the time ahead.

As a new cancer patient, I have already begun to realize a few things which are worth passing on.

Talk to me. Don’t whisper around me and stop talking when I am in earshot. I am the same person as always, I just have a medical issue to deal with. If you have a question ask. I’ll do my best to share with you the information I choose to share.

Don’t share horror stories with me. I need to hear encouragement not discouragement. You don’t have to make them up. Remission happens, even if it is short lived sometimes. Good news is good to hear.

Don’t fish for details. Asking for specific details by someone other than a doctor, or medical professional, seems a bit intrusive. Do I know how I got cancer? No. Speculation as to cause seems like a way to blame the victim. Sometimes illness happens for no known cause. Nobody wants cancer or tried to get cancer.

Treatments are better than they once were, but are still difficult. If I am not as patient, energetic, understanding or cheerful, please understand. I may have been in for a treatment that morning and just don’t feel good. Nausea and fatigue are major side effects of chemo. I may experience one, or the other, or both. Be patient with me as my body adjusts to these strong chemicals.
Don’t ask how long I have. The truth is, no one knows how many circles around the sun they have. I plan on living as fully as I can until I can’t. Shouldn’t we all?

Pray for me. Don’t be afraid to tell me that you are doing so. It helps me to know that the people of faith I know are keeping me in their thoughts and prayers.

I hope that this column helps others. Thanks for reading and considering these thoughts.