October 12, 2011

Overheard: Survivor

It was warm and sunny the other day, and I was driving my convertible with the roof down. (Sophie was enjoying the ride harnessed in the back seat.) I had on a simple scarf as I waited with other cars at a red light. Somewhere to my right, I heard someone speak out.

"Excuse me!"

I looked around and saw a man about my age at the wheel of a huge six-wheel pickup truck, looking at me.

"Are you a survivor?"

It took me a second. "I'm still fighting!"

"You'll make it. I'm a survivor." He smiled and gave me a thumbs up.

"Thank you!" I smiled. The light changed and we moved onward on our separate ways.

October 10, 2011

Great Update!

I am finishing my fourth course of chemo, which will bring a new wave of cluelessness. But that's okay, because today's exam showed NO MEASURABLE TUMOR in my breast—and the last exam said the same about the node tumor. The large tumor measured six by seven centimeters at the start of chemotherapy, and the node was three centimeters. The kind of cancer I have (triple negative) is not always responsive to chemo, so we didn't know what to expect.

Ladies and gentlemen, it's working. I am so thankful and full of hope for my future. Hope is the stuff of life.

October 8, 2011

Tabula Rasa

It’s three days before my fourth and last A/C chemo. (After that I will start a 12-week regimen of weekly Taxol infusions.) As I reported briefly on Facebook, the chemo and your prayers are continuing to work! The node tumor is undetectable and the large tumor continues to shrink about a centimeter per infusion. Can’t wait to see the progress in Monday’s exam.

I’m feeling okay today. My energy came back yesterday and will last until Monday afternoon. The energy drain is due to my very low hemoglobin: I’m quite anemic. It’s like climbing at 10,000 feet every day with no acclimation. That was no surprise, but I didn’t think about the cost of low oxygen on the brain. I’m slower but okay in the moment, and today’s energy is giving me enough brain cells to string some sentences together. But when I try to look back to the past or forward to the future—anything in the “not now”—it’s difficult. Here’s a picture to show you what I see:

Yeah, I don’t see anything either. And I’m not kidding. If I don’t have a picture to wrap around an idea, it’s just not there right now. And I get another dose on Monday of the stuff that takes it away. As long as it’s taking away the cancer with it, I can certainly live with that. I’m spending long stretches of time with literally nothing on my mind. So this is what it’s like to be a guy. ;)

My colleagues and volunteers continue to be wonderfully patient. I have instantly forgotten a question just asked and had to have it repeated. At least I could answer—although now I could not tell you what that question was for the life of me. I am thankful that pretty much all of my responsibilities are for events I’ve done for years, so my mental faculties aren’t being tested too much.

My greatest concern—after my health—is for the presentation I’m supposed to make in February at the national convention for Presbyterian educators. It’s a big deal, the first of its kind, addressing children and sexual orientation and gender identity. I need to be there. But this month was supposed to be the time I spent writing an elementary curriculum to be used in November at my church—with my bosses’ blessing. And today was the first day in weeks I could think long enough to put two sentences together. It all fades away in three days with my next dose.

I’m so afraid it’s not going to happen. I won’t cancel yet, and I might still get a slot for 2013; but this is the year for this subject in our denomination! Dammit, I need to do this, and I will be upset if I can’t. Yeah, I know I have a good reason. I don’t care. This is important. Someone needs to be talking to our church’s educators on this issue, and this year it was to have been me.

Cancer sucks.