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[cancer] Status check - Lakeshore
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Jay Lake
Date: 2011-02-02 05:43
Subject: [cancer] Status check
Security: Public
Tags:cancer, child, health, personal, work, writing
I have another oncology follow-up today, this one with the surgical oncologist who handled my hepatic resectioning of last September, in order to close out the case. This should be my final visit with him, barring future scanning artefacts on my liver. This of course follows on last week's oncology visit with my medical oncologist, who has a permanently open case on me until death do us part or my return to full health after five clean years. (I also have a longer baseline of continuing visits to my colorectal guy to monitor for any possible recurrence of my primary cancer.)

After today, my next activity on the oncology front will be a CT scan currently scheduled for Thursday, April 14th. I then see my medical oncologist the following Monday, April 18th for the results. I know from experience that my anxiety and upset will peak at the CT scan itself. This isn't particularly logical, as the information doesn't arrive until the post-scan consult, but that's where my brain fixates.

At this point, I have about a 40% chance of seeing a new metastasis at the April scan. Were that to happen, I would expect surgery in May (assuming a surgical cure is reasonable — if the metastasis were a bloom, or in my lymphatic system, that would not be the case) followed by another six months of a more difficult chemotherapy than I experienced this past year. Of course, the converse is that I have a 60% chance of enjoying continued good health for another six months, until the October scan.

If I stay clean, those odds drop year-over-year. In 2015 or so, I'll be released to the general population with a roughly 2-3% chance of metastasis as my long-term baseline risk. Still rather higher than the average bear, but not the current order of magnitude higher. At that point I would have beaten the 50% mortality odds currently on the book for me.

It's hard to look into the future with this in front of me. I've been much taken by short-term thinking lately. This is true with respect to my writing, my Day Jobbe, my personal life, my financial planning, and so forth.

Yet this doesn't keep me lying awake at night in a sweat. The blunt reality of my health is horrifying, but the days go by just the same, with parenting and writing and work and laundry and morning showers and so forth. At the moment, I would say I'm pretty overwhelmed in a philosophical or spiritual sense (yes, I am an atheist with a well-developed sense of spirituality), but mostly I just keep living my life.

We all have a bullet coming. Most people my age don't see the one with their name on it. I do. Whether it hits me or not is an open question, but boy howdy do I see it coming.

So I live as well as I can right now. April might be the end of my tomorrows, or it might be just another day at the oncology unit.

I don't know how my doctor does it.

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User: joycemocha
Date: 2011-02-02 13:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
My friend the cancer doctor in New England (the purse-holder writer) vents to us on the private e-list. She nags us about cancer checks. And, at home, she lives for the day.

She has very tough days at times.
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threeoutside
User: threeoutside
Date: 2011-02-02 14:41 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
*Dude* I'm keeping in my thoughts, daily. You've done great so far - may that trend continue!!!
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Bruce E. Durocher II
User: bedii
Date: 2011-02-02 14:45 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
I ran into an oncologist I know to say hello to this evening who was happier than normal--he's in the top 100 rated doctors in town each year, which usually means he sees so many bad cases that some days he seems stuck on "morose." He told me he was getting to tell a patient that a combination of chemo and a good surgeon meant that the patient's odds had improved so much that another chemo series scheduled a month later had changed from definite to perhaps. He was clearly so happy about giving non-bad news for a change that it became clearer for me why he stuck with the job--that sometimes he could help the Lady Sybil unofficial motto happen.

Did you see the report in Science News about a preliminary study that found lesser amounts of colon cancer reoccurance in those who increased consumption of fruits with lots of flavanoids, like black raspberries? (Blueberries did O.K., but black raspberries gave the best results.) Obviously further research is needed, but as I remember it Oregon is Black Raspberry central. You might want to keep an eye out this summer and if you and The Child find a good U-Pick stand get a couple of quarts. (I just did a search. Kosher Freeze-dried black raspberries for over $300 a pound? We're in the wrong business...)
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zxhrue: please do not put the bones
User: zxhrue
Date: 2011-02-02 15:53 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:please do not put the bones

We all have a bullet coming. Most people my age don't see the one with their name on it. I do. Whether it hits me or not is an open question, but boy howdy do I see it coming.

word. but your response to your experience is nothing short of awe inspiring. just saying.
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Tom
User: voidampersand
Date: 2011-02-02 16:57 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
The bullet that keeps buzzing around your head like a bee. That's gotta be annoying.
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That Which Fights Entropy: me with kitton
User: amberite
Date: 2011-02-02 22:19 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Keyword:me with kitton
I think - from the glimpses into that worldview I've seen, from the decision I made to hand-raise an abandoned kitten whose chances weren't good, and my subsequent and related decision to go back to school for healthcare work - that your doctor does it the same way you do.

Many of us hide persistently in fallacies about "losing battles" being not worth fighting, because we don't want to put our emotions on the line. The kitten (pictured here on my shoulder) jolted me out of mine, because when I realized that my options were to take on a "losing battle" or to allow the kitten to die before it had lived, the battle suddenly seemed worth it. And many of the other struggles I'd dismissed as impossible suddenly seemed worthwhile, too.
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emmainfiniti
User: emmainfiniti
Date: 2011-02-03 02:51 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Hugs.

"At the moment, I would say I'm pretty overwhelmed in a philosophical or spiritual sense (yes, I am an atheist with a well-developed sense of spirituality), but mostly I just keep living my life."
Q: Is an athiest chaplain an oxymoron? If not, would you appreciate having someone to talk to as a listener/ advisor on spiritual matters who did not believe in a god?
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Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-02-03 04:06 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Is an athiest chaplain an oxymoron?

An interesting question, to be sure. And yes, a lovely offer.
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emmainfiniti
User: emmainfiniti
Date: 2011-02-04 13:15 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
lol - I wasn't necessarily offering my services as such. It would be an interesting avocation to try, though.

My boyfriend and I started discussing this issue walking past the "chaplain parking" section of the hospital parking lot after his infusion session.

The boyfriend and the husband both contend that an atheist chaplain is an oxymoron, but they are just focusing on the technical definition of "chaplain" (which, I admit, favors their argument). They aren't really commenting on whether an atheist could/ should fulfill that role.
After reading some of your posts on resisting the "illness should bring you to Jesus" philosophy, I would think that someone who could support atheists in their beliefs, yet offer the same kind of spiritual and human comfort that a religious chaplain would, could fill a real need in hospitals.
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(no subject) - (Anonymous)
Jay Lake
User: jaylake
Date: 2011-02-03 04:05 (UTC)
Subject: (no subject)
Am in regular talk therapy now. And I sleep pretty well. But, still...
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