Tuesday, June 22, 2010

#196: When No News is Good News

It is a quiet day. Mrs P is out with a friend. Jake is fast asleep on the bed. I am trying to sync my faithful but ancient iPod to my PC instead of my dying Mac which is painful but necessary. There is just nothing going on today and it feels great.

We did our standard drill in the morning with my radiation treatment. Then a stop by the financial office to pick up some records and a trip to see the AFLAC ladies. This is the office where I used to work. Now it is my lifeline to the income that is making it possible for Mrs P to spend these days with me. Please, if you don't have AFLAC, let me know and I'll hook you up with a good agent. We'd be lost without it right now.

Stopped by the Meijer where a job is waiting for me when I'm well again. I got lots of loving from old colleagues and looked for a big floppy hat. My straw Panama has outlived its usefulness and is a bit more, shall we say organic around the sweatband than is suitable for polite company. No luck with the hat, but we did do some research on a Brita filter for the kitchen. Decided against it. We'll stick with jugs of Highbridge Spring Water for now. I also got Mrs P to finally look at the little netbook I've been thinking about to replace my iBook. That one really pains me, but we're not in Apple land financially right now. All I want is a little gizmo that will let me do facebook and write without being tied to the desk. We'll see how that works out. Right now, my Bride's good sense is outweighing my desire to type under the Maple tree in the backyard.

Then it was back home. Made a big berry, protein smoothie. Uploaded a book on tape that a friend sent to make chemo days go a little faster. All in all, it feels like summer around here.

Nice to have a drama-free day. I keep telling people that they give you three weeks between infusions so you can feel like crap for a week and a half, then feel OK for a week and a half before another chemo round. If that's the plan, it's working. I feel great. No side effects other than fatigue which I deal with by taking a little walk, usually followed by a little nap. I'm reading a good book about exercise and cancer treatment that recommends walking when you feel your worst. It makes sense. Muscle loss is the worst thing you can do during treatments. It kills your ability to heal and recover from all the crap they're doing to make you well. That's why they don't want me to lose more weight. It's also why exercise, even just a short walk, is such a good idea.

Yesterday on my walk, I met some kids from the neighborhood. If you want to know your neighbors, get a big friendly dog. There were five little ones gathered around Jake who showed his excitement by spinning in circles and peeing like a lawn sprinkler. One of the kids asked, "Why ain't you got no teeth?" What is it about me that makes kids comfortable to ask such questions? "I have cancer," I said, "and the doctors had to take my teeth so that I didn't get sicker." One child stood apart from the group, staring at me for a minute. "Lemme see your head," he asked. Puzzled, I removed my cap and showed him my bald pate. "Oh yeah," he said wisely, "you really got cancer." It made me smile, but also made me a little sad to know how familiar this little one was with the disease. I wondered whose bald head had taught him what to look for.

This disease touches so many people, so many families. I know I'm fighting for my life, but I don't really feel very heroic. Just taking each day as it comes. Enjoying a quiet afternoon. Doing crossword puzzles with my wife. Dropping a note to a friend who went out of her way to love me. That's all I'm doing. I'm no warrior. I wonder when I'm done, how will I pay all this love back? Shall I make speeches? Do plays about cancer? Visit the sick? Comfort the dying? All? None? I don't know. I know that cancer hasn't changed me, but the love people have shown me sure has. They have taught me to believe in myself in ways I never did before. They have taught me that "survive" isn't some huge epic act. It's just getting by, taking the day as it comes.

I am a survivor. That isn't my self image. It's my job. My job is to get up everyday and survive. Since April 16th, 2010, I have been a career cancer survivor. That feels better than I could ever have imagined.

Even when there's nothing in particular to do but write about it.


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