2015-11-17

Just living...

This is yet another naval gazing post in some ways I suppose, except I am writing for someone else this time, not just for me.  A person (who I know by name only really) has cancer.  It is serious and life threatening, just like mine is.  And that is what I want to examine from my own perspective for that person with the hope that they and those who support that person find some value in what, and more importantly how, I think about my good buddy - Multiple Myeloma.

First of all, it is a bitch.  I sometimes feel sorry for myself to the point of sitting down and weeping.  I don't care if that makes me a weak-assed wimp.  It happens.  I have taken pride in my ability to face adversity in my life, and I know damn well that there are those who have faced a lot more of it than I have.  Never-the-less, cancer is the unexpected challenge for which I was totally unprepared.  And yeah, it kicks my ass some days.  I hurt, I often can't sleep, I look in the mirror and don't recognize the reflection.  For 51 years, on the rare occasion that I looked in a mirror I pretty much knew what to expect.  I still expect it, and am still surprised at the contrast between the reflection and the expectation.  It goes deeper than that....

I have seldom been one who recalls dreams, or even that I had dreams.  I just didn't connect with that part of my conscious on a regular basis.  Now however, I dream and I remember them.  In my dreams, I am what I was before cancer.  I work, I run, I am strong and agile and reasonably coordinated with good balance, ...and I am a fighter.  Not in a physical sense, but in the sense that I have fought all my life with concepts and ideas and values and principles.  I am not a good fighter, but I am persistent....

.... and then I wake up, and for those first few milliseconds of dream recall - I am what I used to be - .  It is a real shock in the following milliseconds to recognize that my reality and my conscious perceptions are substantially and drastically different than my subconscious perceptions.  I am sure this sounds like a bunch of hacker psycho-babble, and maybe it is.  However, at the same time, this is my truth.  I am a self image overlaid with reality.  The two do not mesh.  And that is difficult.

Like the person I am thinking about and writing for, my cancer is advanced.  I have outlived my statistical life expectancy twice now.  My cancer is comparatively rare.  The only thing I have going for me is that I got it at an younger age than most.  I am twenty months into a 28 month life expectancy.  Yeah, those are just statistics.  I may live 20 years, who knows?

Like the person I am thinking about, I am sometimes frustrated, sometimes angry, sometimes just bummed, and sometimes all of them. Every time I go to the oncologist I wonder what the blood work will look like.  Will the test show an increase in the ratio of kappa and lambda light chains that indicate the cancer is re-activating?  Will we have to increase the chemo again... take the mind-bending steroids?

This is part of my life..... and in those few words comes the reprieve....  .  To the person I am thinking about..... you got some information today that is disappointing.  But remember, it is only information.  Information is good.  It informs one of what options one might have.  It provides a path forward.  I would rather know.... and I hope you would too.

Another observation:  We talk about fighting cancer, beating cancer, eradicating cancer.  We talk about fighting to live, of doing everything we can to hang on to life.  Life is a beautiful thing, from which we all will exit at some point.  i did a lot of fighting to stay alive, I still do a bit of that fighting, but not so much anymore.  I found that fighting to stay alive took so much time that I didn't have time to live life.  I was so busy fighting for it that I was not living it.  I don't know how much life I have left.  Some days I suspect it is a lot, some days i know it won't be much more.  The bottom line is that I just don't know.  So I am just like everyone else, ignorant of when I will go.  I like not knowing.  I didn't know before I got cancer, and I really don't know now.  Same shit, different day....
I am not saying don't fight: I am saying don't spend all your time fighting.  Spend all you can living, just like you would if you didn't have cancer....

Those of us that have cancer are different from those that don't have cancer in a lot fewer ways than we think.  Cancer has become a label, sort of like leprosy was a long time ago.  There are the physical impacts of course.  The time spent with medical professionals, insurance companies, etc... .  That is sort of differentiating of course...   But that label also affects our self image... more than it should I think.   My dreams are true...that is me in those images, strong, agile, cantankerous... .  I have not changed really.  Inside, where it counts, I am still me.  Outside....well, does it really matter that I am a cancerous hunchback?  I don't think so, not as much as we let on.
I hope that person that I am thinking about remembers that we are living, not dying.  That person, I have learned, is open, interesting, engaged and, I hope, proud of themselves.  I hope that when it is time to cry, you are strong enough to cry, and then when you are done crying, you laugh.  You laugh at yourself, at the craziness in the world you see around you. I hope that you do those things that you simply want to do.  Just do them as if you will never stop doing them.

I hope that you understand that even though I don't really know you, I give a damn.  We share similar challenges, and more importantly to me, you share it openly.  Because of you, I know I am not alone.  We are not the same of course, but we are similar.  I find that comforting and intriguing.  I hope you know that your sharing openly is one of your unique strengths, and that it is valuable.  I like that about you.  I hope that this is in some way helpful ... maybe you know all this and I am being presumptions(it would not be the first time! ).  At any rate, helpful or otherwise, I wish you laughter and joy and peace of mind...  from those things comes strength I think.
 
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