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[cancer] Walking through the valley of the shadow of metastasis - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2010-08-07 05:59
Subject: [cancer] Walking through the valley of the shadow of metastasis
Security: Public
Tags:calendula, cancer, health, personal, work, writing
Last night, calendula_witch and I had a long, tough talk about how cancer has inflected our lives, and specifically our relationship. This of necessity touched extensively on our respective hopes and fears for the disease and my journey through it.

In simple terms, our relationship is founded on very intense communication, both overt metacommunication (ie, talking about our relationship constantly, explicitly examining our behaviors, etc.) and more holistic or indirect forms of communication (ie, paying close attention to both verbal and nonverbal cues, listening carefully, focusing on one another's needs and desires). Chemotherapy caused me to be increasingly abstracted from both these channels, due to a combination of physical and mental decline, as well as the internal emotional focus required for me to survive the process.

Our strong expectation had been that we'd emerge from chemo, re-engage the compromised processes of our relationship, and get on with something like our normal lives. This new lesion in my liver has seriously upset that expected positive transition, though somewhat differently for each of us.

calendula_witch, if I may presume to speak for her here, maintains a strong optimism that the liver lesion will prove to be something other than a second metastasis, perhaps a benign tumor, or some other less critical medical condition. Specifically, even though surgery seems to be a virtual certainty, that I won't spend another eight or nine months down in chemo hell (six months of treatment, two to three months for substantial recovery).

My view is that logically this is unlikely to be anything but a metastasis, regardless of the anomalous PET results, and as such I have the strong assumption that another course of chemotherapy is in my near future. In both obvious and non-obvious ways, this generates an enormous amount of anxiety and distraction within me. Which is turn means I'm not doing a good job of re-engaging emotionally and communications-wise, as we'd both expected and intended.

If you asked me out of the blue how I was dealing with all this, I'd say I'm handling it pretty well. calendula_witch pointed out to me last night that I've been deeply focused on this renewed cancer threat, with all the expected emotional conflict and distraction arising from that. While she's hardly objective about me, in this context her view of my behavior is much more reliable than my own self-evaluation. As I said to her, I can't see the back of my own head.

So we have some meaningful issues on the table and ahead of us. Not relationship-threatening, nothing like that, but possibly relationship-modifying as we learn to cope with this. We've spent the last nine months viewing chemo and its discontents as a transient problem. What we're grappling with now is the possibility that this is the new normal for us.

Stack that next to my fears of a continued decline, with recurrent metastases until it overwhelms my treatment options, and I have the deeply sickening thought that my current rather-compromised state might be the best health I'll ever see for the rest of my life. And concomitantly, the best relationship focus I'll have with calendula_witch for the rest of my life.

Almost none of the above is especially logical (though I think it's all quite understandable). Almost none of the above is based on current medical prognosis. This is emotion and fear and all the complex responses to the deadly game of whack-a-mole going on inside my body. But it's real, it inflects our relationship, it inflects all my friendships and relationships, even things like my writing schedule and career planning with arcaedia, things like my Day Jobbe.

I've said before that cancer is a social disease. But cancer is also a thief, a vile bastard that steals the best from my heart as well as from my body.

I hate this.

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jenntheamazon
User: jenntheamazon
Date: 2010-08-07 17:34 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
aww Jay. *hugs*
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martianmooncrab
User: martianmooncrab
Date: 2010-08-07 18:21 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Word.

Sharpen a couple of those spoons and get the bastard!
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Keikaimalu
User: keikaimalu
Date: 2010-08-07 19:40 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I wish I could say something that would help. I really am sorry you have to deal with all this crap.

FWIW, I'd bet that your honesty and forthcomingness about dealing with all this is helping other cancer patients who are dealing with similar issues. Using your communication abilities to help others is a great gift.
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alumiere
User: alumiere
Date: 2010-08-07 20:47 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I hope that calendula_witch is right, but I understand the fear and how difficult it is to face. I fail almost daily at facing similar issues, but like you, I'm lucky that those who love me are patient with my anger and varying degrees of unable to do/think/live as I used to.

I don't know if I'll ever learn to be at peace with this, but I'm doing my damnedest to find joy and happiness in the small victories. I believe that you will be able to do that as well.

And I know you'll keep fighting for fulfillment in whatever ways you can, for however long you have left. Sending hugs, positive thoughts, and wishes that today at least is a good day.
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scarlettina: Hug 2
User: scarlettina
Date: 2010-08-08 02:01 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:Hug 2
::hug::
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Kari Sperring
User: la_marquise_de_
Date: 2010-08-08 17:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
More good wishes.
Kari xx
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2010-08-08 21:02 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I'm sorry this is so tough for your right now. There are many different chemo protocols, mostly shorter and sharper than what you've been through. It's probably best to stay in the moment. Here in Michigan, it's a beautiful day.
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2010-08-09 00:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Thank you. Anent chemo protocols, I already know I'll be going on a nearly identical protocol to the last round, which is twelve biweekly infusions with a two-day takehome pump. The core drug will be tougher than it was last time.
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cathshaffer
User: cathshaffer
Date: 2010-08-09 01:54 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Ah, okay. I stand corrected. I hope you can get some answers on the new met thing, soon. Diagnostic limbo is an icky place to be. I hope you got some rest and had some fun today. I am not surprised you and CW are out of synch emotionally on this.
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