Wednesday, July 11, 2007

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0594 - Breakthroughs and Bad News

No, for family and friends reading this, the bad news isn't about me.

Actually, things on the personal side of the battle against cancer seem to be improving. The neuropathy in my feet is slowly dissipating. As well, I've had three nights in the past week in which I have had at least 6 continuous hours without a trip to the washroom. That's a milestone of great significance for me personally!

The bad news is about other people. Leroy Sievers is finding that the recurrence of his cancer has infected his spine, which means that he will gradually lose more mobility and muscle tone. A recent correspondent, only 38 years old, is going into surgery tomorrow for a low anterior resection and has come to me for a counterpoint to what appears to be an overly optimistic prognosis from his doctors. And a friend has just called to talk about another acquaintance who has just been informed he probably has colorectal cancer.

And so it goes. The bad news with cancer is something that you never seem to escape, even though each day also seems punctuated with breakthroughs promising so much hope for the future.

This week, for instance, Canadian doctors spoke of a genetic marker for colorectal cancer which may become a blood test soon, thereby enabling virtually everyone to assess their risk profile. Another genetically altered cold sore virus promises to target colorectal cancer, according to an article in Forbes magazine. Omega-3 fatty acids look like they can help reduce colorectal cancer risk, something which pleases me as I ingest 2 tablespoons of Udo's blend each morning with my vitamins and metamucil. And, finally, PET scans have been identified as very useful in determining colorectal cancer recurrence.

As I said, half jokingly, to a colleague at a study group last night when we commiserated about the state of our health and about cancer in particular, "The trick in beating cancer is staying alive." Duh. But it's actually true. With medical advances, technological innovations, and scientific discoveries, as long as you can stay alive long enough to benefit from those treatment regimens, your chances keep getting better.

But it's really the personal breakthroughs that matter the most. As another friend told me yesterday - I think this was really his attempt to help me get over myself - those who survived best in concentration camps during the war or in the gulags of the Soviet Union were those who didn't concentrate on what they had lost. The ones who survived were the ones who accepted their current condition, forgot the past, and looked towards the future, gauging what they could do, not bemoaning what they might have been able to do in better days.

The breakthroughs and the bad news, just like the poor of which Jesus spoke - they're going to be with us always. Get used to it.

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