[cancer] Wishing for a different future

Several folks have pointed me towards the most current xkcd, which talks about cancer and survival rates in that inimitable xkcd fashion.

I know exactly what he’s on about.

In April of 2008 I was diagnosed with primary colon cancer. In May of 2008 my colon was resected, and I was told we’d gotten it. They were so confident that I wasn’t even prescribed chemotherapy to follow up.

In April of 2009, my lung metastasis was first detected. After months of testing, argument and second opinions, my left lung was resected in November of 2009. I was told we’d gotten it, and prescribed a course of chemotherapy that ran from January to June of 2010.

In the post-chemo scans of July 2010 a liver metastasis was detected. My liver was resected in September of 2010, and we discovered that the metastasis was diagnosed in error. I was told we’d gotten it.

In the routine scans of April, 2011, another liver metastasis was detected. I was prescribed a second course of chemotherapy, which was interrupted after four infusions so that my liver could be resected again in July of 2011. In my post-operative consultation with the surgeon this past week, I was told we’d gotten it.

I pointed out to him that I had repeatedly heard that before, yet like a B-movie zombie, the cancer keeps returning. His face fell, and he commented that of course we hadn’t surgically addressed the systemic disease, but we’d met our surgical goals.

It. Just. Keeps. Coming. Back.

I’m a fairly optimistic person by nature, but these past few days I’ve been struggling emotionally. I recognize this for what it is — post-operative depression compounded by the enforced idleness of my surgical recovery — but the roots are real. I only have a 30% chance of surviving the next five years. That’s a real statistic that really applies to me, and to this damned disease that will not quit.

This most distresses me in two ways.

One, [info]the_child is five years from graduating high school. I very much want to be a presence in her life, with enough health to be engaged, at least until she launches into young adulthood. Chemo strips my ability to engage, so while it’s 30% likely I’ll live to see her graduate high school, it’s also quite likely I’ll spend much of that time debilitated and disabled. Not much of a dad for her.

Two, if I just keep getting sick over and over, I despair of ever building a strong life partnership. Since [info]calendula_witch left me, I’ve lost an enormous amount of my emotional self-confidence, and no longer trust my relationship judgment. What I thought I had with her was so misaligned with the reality, especially under the distortions of chemotherapy. Combine this with the fact that since April of 2009, I’ve had about six weeks of time when I wasn’t under either severe mental/emotional stress or severe medical stress from the cancer (specifically the weeks before last April’s scan that pushed me back down this road again). I’ve simply not been myself, not been emotionally or physically able to date, make social, emotional and sexual connections.

I don’t mean that I feel lonely and socially isolated. Far from it. But I have neither the confidence nor the energy to work toward finding another core relationship. And if the cancer keeps coming back as it has so relentlessly year after year, I may never have those things again.

Is it any wonder I’m depressed?

I know once I get back to writing and Day Jobbery, probably early next week, this mood will lift. When I am engaged in my busy-ness, I don’t have time to be maudlin. But right now I’m looking at the years of my life and realizing there’s a very good chance I’ll never really get back what I am, who I am, and what I want most.

That’s just hard to accept with peace, grace and dignity.

18 thoughts on “[cancer] Wishing for a different future

  1. Jan says:

    All I can say is my heart goes out to you Jay.

  2. God, I wish I had words that could lift your spirits right now. I’m not sure that I’m talented or insightful or spiritually minded enough to do that. All I know is that life can be really, really sucky sometimes. Sucky and unfair. No stopping that. But then it can really be beautiful, too. The bonds that we share with the people we love can bring us deep satisfying joy. Those are the moments to treasure. Wealth or power are nothing compared with a single treasured moment of happiness with someone you love. You clearly love your child. Hold onto that. That’s beauty. That’s hope. That’s joy. Everyone’s body will fail eventually. That’s just a fact. We live with the delusion that it won’t happen until it finally does. So with the time that we have, is the time to remember to love.

    Sorry if this sounds over the top. I didn’t mean it to be. These are just the sincere thoughts from a stranger who has been observing your struggle rather distantly via the Internet. I truly wish you and your family well.

  3. Cora says:

    Hang in there, Jay. We’re all thinking of you.

  4. When I saw the comic early this morning, I immediately thought of you.

    Best Wishes

  5. creativeKayt says:

    Completely reasonable and understandable. I pray your magical self not only survives, but that your story of complete recovery proves to be the hope others can look to in dark times. You are such an incredible force, Jay.

    –Great big virtual hug.–

    Thank you for being so darned awesome.

  6. Robin says:

    Jay,
    I’m too wrapped up in my own stupid shit to have anything insightful or remotely brilliant to say other than you are amazing and resilient and my heart aches to read this. But, I can at least give you an offer of sympathy and if you ever need a friend for lunch, coffee or just a ride somewhere, you know where to find me.

  7. WarriorofWorry says:

    I’m sorry as well. Jay, for what it’s worth, your courage and your willingness to live while you live (for lack of a better way to put it) has truly inspired me during a very dark time in my own life.
    I also believe that your wonderful and talented daughter can differentiate between *you* and the debilitation and disability, and treasure your contributions to her life.
    And you are loved, as you know and acknowledge. If someone comes along for relationship, it’s not like they wouldn’t know what comes with it.
    ((Hugs))

  8. Christine Evelyn Squires says:

    I had a friend who, at the age of 65, got the cancer that attacks all the blood cells (can’t remember its name), that he was too old for any medical treatment to have any effect on it, and that he should prepare to be dead within 2 years.

    So he quit his job (which he loved), cashed in all his monetary assets, sold his house, said his good-byes (his wife was already dead), and started traveling around the world. And you know what? He didn’t die for 6 years, and he lived life to the fullest during those years, enjoying every minute.

    Yes, it’s understandable that you feel as you do. but remember – you’re alive! it beats the alternative.

    (and I, too, am still alive after cancer surgery 30 years ago)

  9. Ruthie says:

    All you need is a mustard seed size bit of faith. Then it grows into a tree and then a forest. Half the battle is fighting and sometimes resting and letting others fight for you. I’m glad you’re staying positive. Stay in the moment. You’re right. A lot of it is probably due to post-op depression. See if you can stay busy. You have your child now. Don’t worry about choices you’ll make or have made or the future or the past or you’ll miss now. I pray you have great doctors. That always helps! Know that you have a lot of people out here who care, ((Jay)). Stay strong.

  10. Hugs. You do have many friends out here in the wild who think good thoughts your way. It’s not much, but hopefully it helps in small ways.

  11. Kathe Dean says:

    Jay, you may like to consider the Gerson Therapy, just check it out…it can’t hurt!

  12. Depression sucks. I don’t know if this will help, but when I find myself down I try Mary Robinette Kowal’s trick of thinking of about happy things. Now that I think about it, it’s Maria Von Trapp’s trick as well. (If it helps further, you have my permission to imagine me in Nun Drag singing “My Favorite Things” Bollywood Style.)

    Uh, or not.

  13. Tim Keating says:

    On the bright side, there are new therapies maturing all the time, and it seems to me that many of them are extremely promising.

  14. Karen Anderson says:

    Well, based on this post, you’ve got the dignity part down. Peace and grace? Tougher, and maybe not necessary.

  15. Canny Weems says:

    Hey old friend. So very sorry to read this. Grown up life seems more complicated than it should be.

    I’m thinkin about you from your old home of Austin.

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