Tuesday, February 07, 2006

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0075 - Writing Therapy

I’ve got the date! Tuesday, March 28th – that’s the tentative date for my surgery.

The surgical oncologist’s office called this afternoon to tell me about the booking. The secretary was also interested in how I was responding to the treatment thus far. Well, now that we know there is plenty of evidence for radiation proctitis and I also know how to counteract the symptoms, not too bad, I guess.

Yesterday, being a Monday, most of my time was spent at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre. There was a class on relaxation techniques such as visualization, autogenics, progressive relaxation, and deep breathing. There was another blood draw with results that were substantially better than I anticipated. There was the replacement of my “baby bottle” for the second last time. There was my 21st radiation treatment. And, finally, there was my last consultation with the radiation oncologist until treatment is over.

The last appointment was the most interesting for me. The radiation oncologist concurred with my self-diagnosis about radiation proctitis. He had already narrowed the radiation field to prevent any further direct radiation of the anal tissues. He agreed with the on-call radiation oncologist I had consulted on the weekend about changes to my diet, the Anusol-HC suppositories and the regular use of Imodium for the duration of my treatment. He even did a quick physical and agreed that I was doing well, everything considered.

One of the highlights of yesterday, though, was meeting the spiritual care provider for the centre. He had just happened to see me waiting for my blood draw, so he came over to see what I was doing with my notebook computer. We got to talking about journal writing, so he invited me to attend a session in the evening with an expert (Ray McGinnis) on journal writing and spiritual therapy. I did so and was pleased to discover that my intuition about journaling was almost exactly what was recommended for the group of care givers gathered for the session (I was the only “patient”). As it turned out, one of the other session participants had already had surgery for colon cancer, not once, but twice.

There were quite a few writing exercises during the session, most of which used “sentence stems” as an aid to getting the writing spirits out of their hiding places. There was also a structured writing exercise which I found surprisingly natural. As I said to another one of the participants, I have found that structure doesn’t constrict creativity. Instead, it allows one to transcend all the tangential issues and concentrate immediately on the task at hand. For me, that is truly liberating.

We also did a guided visualization exercise, surprisingly similar to what we did earlier in the day during the relaxation exercises. I’m beginning to suspect something. Perhaps in my frantic desire to maintain life as usual, I’m ignoring the simple fact that life is anything but usual these days. I’m rushing to appointments, learning to become a better writer, taking education sessions, reading, doing my job, talking to friends and family…sometimes resting, but certainly not relaxing systematically.

Take a deep breath…

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