Jay Lake: Writer

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[cancer] Dipping from the wells of disappointment

Some more semirandom observations about cancer and its discontents.

This morning in Link Salad I included a link to a Roger Ebert essay about Christopher Hitchens and cancer. Ebert says a number of interesting things about dying, religion and self. As I highlighted this morning, he comments that being sick is worse than dying, at least in some ways. That was the point of my jeremiad yesterday about my cancer fears.

I also rather like the comments on prayer. As anyone who pays attention to me for more than a few moments probably knows, I am a staunch atheist. This has been a frequent topic of discussion on the blog in the past, my view of religion as such falling somewhere between the Pink Unicorn fallacy and Last Thursdayism. On the other hand, my view of human nature and the human spirit requires that I acknowledge both logos and mythos. That duality for many people is best expressed through faith.

I have one acquaintance who’s a committed Evangelical Christian, and has been pressing me hard to “get right with God.” It strikes me as moral cowardice of the worst sort for to me surrender my intellectual principles now in the face of fear of death. If I’m willing to live with my beliefs (or lack thereof, in the religious sense), I should certainly be willing to die with them. Otherwise I’m guilty of the same hypocrisy I so constantly rail against.

That being said, for all my quarrels with the formal worldly incarnations of mythos, I do have an immense respect for it, and for the value of spiritual truth. When someone says they are praying for me, I hear love and respect and caring, because I understand the importance of that prayer for them. Likewise, when people light a candle or send me energy, or whatever their spiritual practice suggests to them. That is a focus of goodwill on me that I would not dare deny for simple civility if nothing else, and far more than that, something I welcome and appreciate and for which I am profoundly grateful.

Coming at this from another angle, I find the response of my doctors to the latest round of cancer to be a bit unsettling. My medical oncologist was visibly upset about the new metastasis, which is decidedly not her usual modus operandi. The surgical oncologist also found this new round quite surprising. This continues to suggest to me what I’ve thought for a while, that the progress of my disease is pretty far out on the edges of what is expected for this type of cancer, and pushing the boundaries what the treatment protocols indicate.

I was discussing this with my therapist yesterday. He asked if at some point I would need to leave my current hospital and seek treatment elsewhere, at a dedicated cancer center. Since my cancer is arguably aggressive and almost certainly chemo-resistant (at least to the FOLFOX cocktail), this is not a bad question. I have a great deal of confidence in my current oncology team and in the treatments to date, but obviously the progress of my disease is ahead of the effectiveness of those treatments.

So, I don’t know. Some research on my part (or possibly on my behalf) is required. I cannot see any reason not to proceed with the current plan, but if it comes back again, especially with a repeat of the swift intensity of this most recent metastasis, I am going to have to rethink. One thing I will be asking for is a 3-month CT scan during the chemo cycle. Had we done this on the last go-round, we would have discovered far sooner the ineffectiveness of the chemo regime I spent the first six months of this year enduring for what turns out to be no good at all.

In the mean while, we await the results of Wednesday’s CT scan to determine whether calendula_witch and I get to go traveling, or just dive back into the medical system that much sooner. Not that I’ve really left it…

I say to you again that I do not recommend cancer as a hobby.

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