[cancer] Field notes from Cancerland, calm before the storm edition

Getting out in the world

Yesterday I went into an audio studio and spent about 75 minutes recording intros from the Audible.com edition of my short story collection The Sky That Wraps. That was fun to do, and it reminded me briefly of the feeling of being a working creative. Damn, I miss that. Sometime later this year, you’ll be able to hear my sonorous tones for your very own self.

Pre-Operative Hypochondria

As previously mentioned, my vulnerability to respiratory infection is critical right now. It’s not that I am immunocompromised (yet), it’s that if I fall ill, I’ll miss my surgery date. Which could literally be a life-or-death issue for me. This means that my usual oncological hypochondria has been epically trumped by pre-operative hypochondria. Hypervigilance, as it were. I have become incredibly sensitive to even the most minute shifts in my somatic self and my sense of well-being. It’s making me freaking paranoid.

Oncological Hypochondria

Don’t worry, the oncological hypochondria is alive and well. I haven’t had a cold flash yet this week, but they still occur. Blood tests for thyroid function and testosterone levels show no evidence of problems there, so we’re still on the “evil humors of the cancer” theory proposed by my palliative care doctor. And the low-grade pain in my right side has grown unceasing in the last two weeks. It used to be mostly related to stress or fatigue, but now it is always present. One of the NIH doctors suggested I might be feeling discomfort in the liver capsule from the tumor growth. Given the general timeline my body is on, this seems highly likely. So, yeah, I’m feeling it every day now. Another milestone on that final journey.

The next stages of my health

I hope on a plane next Tuesday and fly back to the DC area for admitting to the NIH hospital that evening. Next Thursday, one of my lungs will be resected. I will flow from post-operative recovery into the three week (or longer) hospitalization for the immunotherapy process. That in turn will require at least a month of recovery, characterized by, at a minimum, extreme fatigue and some lassitude. So I’ll be home in late February or early March, quite ill from the treatments. By then my terminal decline should be progressing nicely, and I will also be ill from that process. In other words, I’m back at a point I’ve faced a number of times these past few years, of realizing I will never again be as healthy as I am today. That is sobering and painful.

The emotions

The emotions, they are difficult. I’ve actually held my shit together pretty well on a minute-by-minute, day-by-day basis lately. No meltdowns, no tantrums, at least not to speak of. But my sense of fear and desperation grows. It’s a cancer of the soul which mirrors the cancers of my body. Lisa Costello and I had a moderately strange discussion over dinner last night about this process, and where acceptance falls in play. This specifically touched on how well the Kübler-Ross model applies to someone who is dying. As I said to her, “We’re about to have a relationship spat over epistemology.” Let’s just say that Lisa and I have very different ideas about what acceptance means. At any rate, this is the hardest thing I have ever done. There is never any respite.