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, 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 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.