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[cancer] The ties that unbind us

Yesterday afternoon I posted an update on yesterday morning’s oncology consult. [ jlake.com | LiveJournal ] That’s all the facts there are, for now. Oncology is a matter of statistics and post facto analysis. The situation is rarely clear in advance or while in progress.

I’m pretty sure we’re at a turning point here. If things play out as the odds suggest and I expect, my life expectancy has dropped again, to probably a year or two. Not much less, because even if I went terminal right now, it would take me about a year to die. This is also barring something approaching a miracle. Which is, of course, the point of genetic testing I’m seeking. I’m miracle shopping within the realm of allopathic medicine. I don’t plan to bust out the alternative remedies even in desperation, because I can’t shake my conviction that the universe operates on evidence-based principles. Same reason I’m not a political conservative or a religious faith-holder — except for occasional intellectual errors on my own part, dogma of any kind never trumps objective reality for me.

Still, this metastasis is different from the others. Even if Ashcroft is a false alarm, the simple fact that I’ve progressed to multifocal tumors in an already-ravaged organ is bad enough. Monday was the first time my doctor and I had spoken seriously about when to turn to Long Term Disability. i.e., that point where I stop working and expect never to be able to go back.

Horror, I think, is a function of surprise. The human mind can routinize anything. Objectively speaking, my life is a horror every day. If I’d woken up ten years ago to be where I am today with no transition, I’d run screaming into the night. As it is, I wake up every day feeling so out of sorts and ill that ten years ago I’d have presented at the Emergency Room. Nowadays, I’m just profoundly thankful when my GI isn’t out of control.

The ties that make up my life — anyone’s life — keep being loosened by this disease. My family is paying a terrible price for my illness. I am increasingly likely to be paying the ultimate price for it. No discounts here. Trying to maintain some grace and dignity and love along the way is my job now as much as anything. That, and still watching for the possibility of that miracle. Or since I don’t believe in miracles, that statistical outlier.

Unbound, I am nothing but a man whose heart is exposed to the elements. This is what cancer continues to do to me and everyone who loves me. It strips our hearts bare and leaves us with nothing but what we can conjure from our own depths.

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