Monthly Archives: May 2013

Day 305 – Deep Thinking

My name is Rick and my cancer status is unknown…

The thought of dying from cancer is like a very tiny flame that is difficult to extinguish; it produces very little heat but it is still burning and thus hard to ignore.  Even when the flame goes out, the idea seems to crop up in nearly any situation.  Cancer talk seem omnipresent.  Sometimes thoughts drift there on their own but there is so much activity around cancer no autonomy is required.  It seems like over the first eight months I hadn’t had much problem purging the few cancer thoughts but over the past month it seems to be getting more difficult.  Perhaps it is the lingering side effects of the ipi or more likely, it was the realization that I am Stage IIIc and not just plain old Stage III.  I have no idea what the difference is but for some reason the little “c” is impacting my emotional state.  Nothing will change my unwavering attitude that I am going to beat this horrible disease but I will admit that negative thoughts are increasingly difficult to quel.

I spent a week in CA visiting family.  It was a great trip in all aspects.  I got to see my nephew graduate from Cal and spend quality time with my niece who is growing up wonderfully.  I logged a ton of hours with my sister and brother-in-law as well as my dad.  I even got a nice visit with my aunt, uncle and various cousins.  All-in-all, a smashing visit with family.  Beyond family, I also was able to take advantage of the bay area.  I went on multiple extended hikes, toured a few great spots in SF, walked over the Golden Gate Bridge and even got in a quick visit with a great friend.  I even managed to stay on top of some of my work projects while traveling.

This visit to CA was the first in more than 18 months.  The difference between the last time I saw my mother and now is stark as her condition is substantially worse.  Basically, she seems to be very close to death as the only thing she can really do on her own at this point is chew and swallow.  Sure, Alzheimer’s patients can hang on for a long time but it doesn’t feel like that to me.  My father continues to be an amazing caregiver by all accounts and my mother is therefore very lucky to have such a great mate.

When I see people that I haven’t seen for a while or do things that are “big” it feels like some type of a final gesture or a “swan song.”   I have not been told I am going to die but for some reason this past trip to CA felt important in a fatalistic way.  It is difficult to put my finger on it but it was both sad and joyful.  I am at peace that I was able to see everyone and experience memorable things (e.g. walking the Golden Gate Bridge).  I take great joy in life and CA always makes me feel great.  At the same time, I thought about how things might be drastically different the next time I visit or that I may not ever see some of these people or places again.  I do not believe this is the end but the thought that life has a measurable end has never really entered my consciousness until recently.  The phrase “life is short” has new meaning now.

I have been thinking a great deal about my role in the delayed detection of my cancer.  I was originally seeing a much more advanced dermatology practice but only when I had poison ivy or some other very acute issue.  I had casually asked multiple doctor’s in the practice to do a full body check and they were generally pretty lax about it; always next time.  I think I might have had one full check in the many years I saw them.  A doctor in the practice did two biopsies on my face even though it was very obvious it was not melanoma.  I was diagnosed with actinic keratosis and prescribed a chemotherapy cream to be applied on my face in November ‘11.  This same doctor also removed two sebaceous cysts on my back; also performing biopsies.  When I was scheduled to return for stitch removal, the doctor said he would provide more detailed instructions on how to use the prescribed chemo cream.  At the office visit to remove the stitches he was nowhere to be found even when asked and as a result I only saw the nurse.  I was upset that the doctor didn’t take the time to inspect the wounds post suture removal.  I was upset that he didn’t care enough to spent time to talk about the actinic keratosis treatment.  I was upset that I couldn’t get him or anyone in the practice to do a full body scan more often.  I trusted they would stay on top of it given that I should be considered a very high melanoma risk.  At the same time, they didn’t seem all that motivated to check my body.  It was for all these reasons that I was driven to look for another dermatology practice.  That other practice (doctor) certainly took the time to meet with me… He just turned out to be a lousy, perhaps fatally bad, doctor.

Not much to talk about medically.  The allergy medication (Zyrtec) has done wonders for my “cold”.  I continue to frequently feel chilled but I just layer up.  I continue to get tired more than I am used to but consider this a fabricated symptom.  I therefore just ignore it.  Sure being tired affects my quality of life but not enough to risk adding more drugs into my body.  My left shoulder is starting to give me problems as I get pain on most days.  I suspect my posture has been compromised from the surgery and radiation which is leading to muscle aches.  Because I am more tired I have a hard time consistently exercising which may also contribute to the issue.  The important thing is that my condition is at least staying the same if not marginally improving.

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