Cancer commentary #3

March 17, 2008

Patient “B.D.”

When you get to be older everything that happens to you physically makes you worry more, like, “Is this the big one?” kind of thing. I thought I was having or had a heart attack, but then after going to the doctor they ran a bunch of tests and told me that everything was fine. Their idea of fine is a little different from mine, though, because not long after I’d been declared “fine” I passed out and was carted off in an ambulance and then the doctors gave me a very thorough look-over and said yes, they were right all along, I was fine.

They were so sure I was fine that they wanted me to go to the City, where someone else would probably also find out I was fine, but NYC is a long haul from my home and our car is on its last legs and the only thing worse than being afraid you’re going to die from some mystery disease is knowing you’ll die if you break down on the Turnpike. Plus, the doctors just send you around from hospital to hospital like you don’t have a job, like it doesn’t cost a fortune to stay in a hotel and eat at restaurants when you’re out of town, so we just gave up.

I finally got in to see a local doc who said that I wasn’t fine at all, in fact, I would die from acute leukemia without immediate treatment. The only thing that will save me is a stem cell transplant, and there’s exactly one perfect match for me, that’s my brother, and he’s in prison. If you think fighting cancer is hard, if you think fighting insurance companies is hard, if you think fighting the medical system is hard, wait til you have to fight the prison system. They have the word “No” down to an art form.

It has all worked out though because this week I will get the transplant. My little brother may be in jail, but he’s a hero in my book, maybe he made bad choices and is paying for them, but he is there for me, he has accomplished more as a giving and generous person than lots of people on the outside ever will.

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Cancer commentary #2

March 14, 2008

Patient “S.G.”

You can’t believe it’s happening to you, really you can’t. First they cut out my colon and then radiated me twenty-five times each time was like being put in a microwave and then I had ten chemo treatments and each one of those made me sick beyond belief, then more surgery for blockages and things you just can’t even bear to know what they are, they’re so bad.

And all the time you can’t believe it’s you and your body, the one you’ve had all your life that’s just failing on you. You want to know about faith in God? That’s my rock. God, my family, and my doctors, in that order, faith like a rock and the will to live. Your will to live has to be more tenacious than the cancer. Take it one day at a time, beat back the depression that’s dogging you at every turn, beat it back with with a smile, an iron smile that refuses to bend.


Cancer commentary #1

March 14, 2008

Patient “M.N.”

Do not accept the first thing you’re told if something inside you rebels. I went to my family doctor in 2006 only to have my complaints ignored. “You’re stressed out,” and “Take some time off,” was the best I could get. Excuse me, Mr. MD, but my cancer wasn’t taking any time off. It was spreading like wildfire.

You have to listen to your inner voice, and I didn’t listen to mine. I listened to the words of an expert, who it turns out wasn’t an expert at all. He’d never seen a case of mesothelioma in 25 years. Because I was only 32 nobody pushed to get real answers.

But nothing in life is all good or all bad. It varies depending on your mood, your situation, and the ebb and flow of the illness itself. My cancer brought me closer to my family. I learned who my friends were, and I cherish them now. I have changed my approach to life, because there’s so much less of it left. The minutes, the seconds, really do matter, and the funny thing is, they mattered all along—it just took a terrible disease to show me. The me that used to hold grudges is gone, or rather the grudges are gone, replaced with a funny kind of clearness.