Saturday, September 27, 2008

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1039 - Comfort for my Colorectal Cancer Cohort

Our numbers are growing. That's not necessarily a good thing. But it is a consequence of blogging about metastatic colorectal cancer.

I'm referring here to those who are joining me in discussing our experiences with MCRC, with treatment, with our hopes, dreams, anxieties, and laughter. In the past few weeks, I have received email and Facebook messages from others dealing with metastatic colorectal cancer themselves, some of them receiving treatment at the Grand River Regional Cancer Centre, some of them elsewhere in Canada, some of them simply commiserating with me about the ravages and blessings of a journey with cancer.

As we talk privately, I know we'll find comfort together in both the good and the bad of our situation.

Playing the Cancer Card

One thing I'm hoping to talk about with this growing cohort of co-patients and caregivers is how to play the cancer card. I think there is opportunity here for some fun. In Leroy Sievers' Celebration of Life video, for instance, there is a recorded segment in which Leroy joked about calling up a fancy restaurant in the hopes of making a last-minute reservation. When he is told that there are no openings, he wanted to say, "But I have cancer!" just to see what the response would be.

There is another similar story from Randy Pausch who talked about being pulled over by a patrolman for speeding. Randy took a chance and explained that his excuse for speeding was that he had cancer. When the patrolman said he didn't look like he was sick, Randy lifted his shirt to display the surgical scars. Whatever the patrolman was thinking, he simply put away his ticket pad and told Randy not to speed anymore.

Yesterday, I told some visitors about using the cancer card to get rid of annoying telemarketing calls and requests for donations to admittedly other good causes. "I've just been diagnosed with metastatic colorectal cancer and have to be very careful of my finances right now." True, a bit nasty, but it gets rid of the caller.

A couple days ago, my eldest son played the cancer card so that he could get a weekend off work for a planned family trip to Niagara Falls. "I need the time to spend with my father before he begins his palliative chemotherapy the following week." Smart guy! Who's going to argue with him about that?

Crying Together

But there will undoubtedly be other circumstances in which laughter gives way to tears. We will share music, photos, quotes, and blog entries that are meaningful to us. Here is just one, again from Leroy Sievers, in answer to a question many people ask us:

"Does cancer hurt? You bet. It hurts in ways that transcend physical pain. That first diagnosis is like a knife into your heart. That first bleak prognosis? That's a punch to your stomach. Waiting for the results of a scan? Water torture - slow, agonizing, excruciating. It hurts in the dark hours of the night, when you're alone with your thoughts, and you have to confront the idea of your own death. It hurts when something simple reminds you that you may not be around in six months, a year, whatever. It hurts when you think about the things you are going to miss.

But that's not the worst of it. Cancer spreads the pain around. You see it in the tears of a friend when you tell them. You see it in the eyes of your doctor who knows that in a few seconds, he has to give you bad news. You see it in the eyes of your loved ones, friends and family, who want so much to help, but can't, and who are so scared for you and scared for the loss that your death will bring.

So to answer the questions, "does cancer hurt?" I haven't felt a thing - except for when it hurts so badly you can barely stand it." - Leroy Sievers, Does Cancer Hurt? 9-18-2006

If you are a patient, a care-giver, a friend, a family member, or someone simply interested in this strange journey, feel free. Write, send a photo, a hyperlink to some good music, a video, or some thoughts. We can get through this together.


Lorna Scott said...

Hi Don - we have had a bit of a crazy week. I thought I would share this wish is that it bring you a moment of joy and calmness:

"This is my wish for you: Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes, rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips, sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag, beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being, faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt, courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth, Love to complete your life.”

I'll be in touch soon.

Anita M said...

Comedy and tragedy, laughter and tears, hate and love always seem to run side by side. It is gutsy to choose laughter and love. I salute your sense of humour. It is one of the best weapons we have! And I think the telemarketeers deserve you laying it on thick! Play that card!

We continue to hope you beat the odds.

Don Spencer said...

Lorna and Anita,

Thank you both for your words of comfort and cheer.

I'm finding these days that so many little things are helpful. We watched the sun break through the cloud cover on Saturday while we were all in our hotel room overlooking the Horseshoe Falls. The sunlight created a perfect rainbow through the mist rising from the falls. Then, early Sunday morning, I caught a sunrise over the falls - again, miraculous.

Then, too, we found many occasions in the past few days to tell jokes, laugh, and have fun. Ordinary things that mean so much more as you realize they cannot be taken for granted.

Thanks again,