Monday, May 12, 2014

Happy Cancerversay!

Two years ago yesterday, they pried open my chest with a ribspreader and hacksaw and dragged the little sucker (hopefully screaming) into the daylight. 

Since then, every three months I go in for blood work and x-rays or a CT-scan. Then about a week later I get a quick exam by a nurse followed by a consult with Dr. Robyn where she tells me that the blood work is clear, the scan looks good then we talk about our dogs for ten minutes. I think they like seeing me because when you work in oncology it must be nice to give good news.

That doesn’t mean that every time I sit in that exam room waiting for the nurse, that I’m not just little bit terrified.

But it’s now officially two years since the surgery and as a reward; I only have to get the scans and blood drawn twice a year. I’m still technically a patient for the next three years, but I guess I can call myself a survivor now.

On my last visit, Doctor Robyn also gave me a present, a disc containing one of my CT scans from back in 2012. This is a top down view of my chest; the white notch at the bottom center is my spine. The white lumpy thing in the center is my heart, the grey mass attached to it... not. 

In the movies and in books, people who have lived through this sort of thing always seem to have gained some profound insight into life. I wonder if that is true.

The physical changes are obvious. My hair came back a lot thinner for one. My hands are stiff and I have to wear gloves if the temperature drops below ten degrees centigrade (you don't want to know what it did to my already atrocious). I can’t tell if my feet are getting better or I’m just getting use it, but the idea of walking barefoot on a hard floor is akin to the idea of walking across a bed of hot coals. I’ll do it, but I’m going to do it in a hurry. Unfortunately, my attempts to wean off the pills always end in a week after I’ve been reduced to a twitching, limping, hunched-over mess.

I am feeling better enough to try to get back into regular Aikido. I am happy to announce that I can still take a fall, but I swear that that the last kotegashi (wrist-throw) shifted one of the wires holding my chest together.

I can feel those, btw. There is a nub sticking up just below the suprasternal notch (that dip at the base of your neck where the collarbones meet), and sometimes when I’ve been sitting hunched over for too long, there is a sensation like a popped knee or elbow when I stand up.

But do I have any great insights into the human condition? No more than anyone else accumulates as they go through life. Some things I’ve always believed were reinforced, while a lot of other things don’t seem as important anymore. 

One thing I will stress ... hold on to your friends and family as hard as you can. We’re all going to go through this in one form or another and there was nothing more heartbreaking than seeing those who have to go through it alone. 

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