Saturday, February 23, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 0820 - Reminders, Celebrations, Aggravations

Surviving colorectal cancer is certainly worth celebrating. Today, I received an email from a friend at the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. Another survivor (in her case a Stage IV cancer; in my case an advanced Stage III cancer) was celebrating a birthday, something which most prognoses would have suggested probably wouldn't happen for her again. My friend was forwarding the celebratory note accompanied by a group of colonoscopy "quotes". I'd seen them all before, most of which are quite humorous (you can find them here, if you're interested).

Despite the good news, yesterday provided reminders about the legacy of treatment and the tightrope of survival. All day long, I felt queasy and affected by intestinal upset, the origin of which appeared to be nothing more serious than eating leftovers from a take-out Chinese meal the night before. But whereas before treatment the upset would have been minor, now it's an event that disrupts my equilibrium and creates substantial anxiety. Disruptive sleep (three nights in a row now), constant bio breaks from work and meetings, difficulty walking and getting about, extra precautions about food and drink - they're becoming typical elements of my post-cancer world.

Sometimes I find myself swearing under my breath as I walk with difficulty to my car or anxiously make my way to the closest washroom, remembering how easy it was before cancer, before treatment; recalling how much I had taken for granted about physical health before the diagnosis. Survival is not, for me at least, just an onwards and upwards progressive path. It's a struggle. There are days when you mercifully forget, but then there are days when everything you do reminds you that you are a survivor, but with the scars and after-effects there to remind you constantly that things are not the same.

And then you turn on the radio, dial in to 89.9, the local signal for CBC Radio 1 from Toronto, and hear the news about cancer deaths linked to problematic hormone receptor tests conducted in Newfoundland and Labrador between 1997 and 2005. 322 of 1,013 patients dead of breast cancer, perhaps owing at least in part to the bad test results.

I find myself turning off the radio as I pull in to a local health food store to purchase some hemp hearts. Too much bad news, too many aches and pains, too many reminders, too many aggravations. And as I write this blog after finding myself awake and uncomfortable for half the night, I'm glad it's the weekend when I can rest, relax, catch a few naps, and generally recuperate. Not to mention, reading and re-reading that celebratory email about my fellow survivor.

Yes, it's a mixed bag, this journey of recovery.

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