Sunday, May 03, 2009

An Unwanted Journey: Day 1259 – Frightened and Fascinated


It’s a phrase I heard this week on CBC Radio One’s The Current. They were discussing the so-called “narrative arc” of the world’s most recent health scare, the swine flu, just upgraded by the World Health Organization to a level 5 on a scale of 6 (see the CBC article here). For the narrative to work according to expectation, there must be a moment when the reader or viewer is confronted with an ambivalent feeling of being both frightened and fascinated.

The narrative arc of my own unwanted journey has delivered fear and fascination repeatedly. Given the anatomy of colorectal cancer, maybe it’s more accurate to speak of a narrative arse. That’s an approach used to good effect by Neil Crone and others responsible for the 5th annual Crack a Smile Comedy Night to benefit the Colorectal Cancer Association of Canada. Like anyone else who enjoys laughter as the world’s best medicine, I’m more than happy to set aside discussions of the life-threatening nature of the disease, and to step away, even if only momentarily, from my terminal condition prognosis.

But eventually, one must return inevitably to the frightened and fascinated person dealing with this particular narrative arc. Again, because palliative home hospice care doesn’t have much to do with medical technology, I don’t have CT scans and MRI images to consult telling me that the liver lesions are growing or diminishing. I don’t have regular CEA blood tests indicating the changes of antigens indicating the progress of cancer in the body. All I have to go on is how I feel.

In other words, despite my fascination and curiosity, my daily life proceeds much like anyone else’s. Like most other people, except for the prescriptions, the Monday-Wednesday-Friday nurse visits (now with the nurse calling and going through a phone triage for the swine flu scare while sitting in her car in the driveway; depending on my answers, she either comes inside or notifies medical authorities about possible flu concerns), and the visit from the hospice doctor every couple of weeks…except for those things, I’m like most other people.

That’s where the fear, depression and anxiety surface. I keep surviving – that’s the good news. This month will see a few more milestones crossed off my list, including our 36th wedding anniversary tomorrow, M’s birthday the following week, my birthday the week after that, and then my eldest son’s birthday in early June. Back in late December, thinking such thoughts was a bit of a stretch. Now, I see no reason why I will not only survive, but be doing well enough to celebrate - quietly, to be sure, but with as much gusto as I can muster.

The bad news is that I have no idea how much longer I’ll continue like this before the inevitable decline occurs.

But I fully intend to enjoy all the moments and milestones I can. I’m going to get up, do some more reading and writing, enjoy the spring weather, take some photographs, purchase Starbucks coffee, talk with friends on the phone and during visits to our home…in other words, push the worries aside as much as possible.


Brie said...

Hello there! Glad to see you've been enjoying the nice weather a bit.

My thoughts are with you, especially in mssing your mom. I think I've said it before, but she is a lucky woman to have a son who loves her and misses her deeply. That is not a gift that all receive on their journey.

So very glad to hear that you are enjoying a cup of coffee, a book, a moment, and are able to push the worries aside for a time ..... it's always a reminder to me when I'm feeling stressed and a little crazy, that those are really the moments that matter to me too. Thanks you for your gift.

Happy anniversary and birthdays!


Anita Mix said...

Yes! Each milestone reached causes a genuine stir of celebration. It is so heartening. Know that each good report sent out spread real joy across the miles.


Episcopaliann said...

Many, many rich and wonderful blessings to you and M on your anniversary! I will add a special prayer of thanksgiving tomorrow. ~Ann

katherine siebert said...

wishing you a wonderful anniversary tomorrow! congrats to both of you and for showing us how it can be done.

much love.


brie said...

Don, I just have one very important question for you ....

How CAN you drink that Starbuck's liquid tar? :-)


Just Curious LOL

Lorna Scott said...

Belated Happy Anniversary!

thank you for so eloquently talk of fear, depression and anxiety of the future - I echo those sentiments. And the fine line in balancing those feelings with hope, optimism and excitement for the future. It can make one dizzy some days!

Don Spencer said...

Thanks to each of you commenting...even that low blow on Starbucks coffee, Brie!


mar said...

Hugs to you & Marg! Just thought I would catch up on your blog as am out of town quite a bit right now & wanted to see how you were doing. My condolences once again on the loss of your mom Don. You have been carrying a heavy load all this time and I know this must have been very difficult for you. Good for you for being gentle with yourself yet taking advantage of the good days as much as you can. Can envision you outside with your book now that the weather is finally improving! I must say I find myself nodding my head every time someone thanks you for sharing your journey - because I think we all see what a truly unique, amazingly gifted, generous human being you are - and we know that you are sharing not only what is in your head but in your heart -and that is something we all cherish. So much to ponder and what a wonderful gift - causing people to really think about what's important in life!So, I am sending multiple congrats for all of these wonderful milestones - and just wondering if yummy desserts go along with each of them?? Mar

Brie said...

Hi Don,

Thinking about you. Hope the pain you mentioned a couple of days ago has improved, at least somewhat, and that you were able to enjoy a little of the beautiful weather today.


Anonymous said...

Hey hey hey.

Happy Birthday and Happy Anniversary!!!

You are now half way to 112!

Regards, M. said...

Happy Birthday Don.
Today is also our daughter Elaine's Birthday. She turns 24 today. Say Hi to Marg for me and Peter. We have worked together for a long time and remember what a good sense of humour Marg always has.Some people remain in your memory forever and Marg is one of those people. You are a very lucky man and we wish you all the best on your anniversary. We think of you often and hope your life journey brings you much happiness and hope for a better tomorrow!

Brie said...

Happy birthday Don! Wow! Halfway to 112! Pretty good!

Hope the pain lightens ....


brie said...

Thinking of you.