Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Because it's Tuesday

A lot of people have been asking me about This Cancer Life, which is something you would expect. Most of the questions fail to go further than "how are you feeling." I find this nice because they want to know a little bit, but not more than to simply let me know that they're thinking of me. Who can blame them? These are the folks that don't want details about the nasty stuff, just the Cliff Notes: Are you ok? Check "yes" or "no."

I appreciate these. It's not that I want to dodge giving deep thoughts to my answer; more like I don't want to relive the 145+ hours of misery that long post-chemo recoup weekends have given me. Want to know how I have such an exact number? I play too many video games that track that stuff. Just the fact that I admitted that to you should tell you that I'm serious about this topic.

The other inevitable query people get (because I can over generalize the cancer population. You can't, by the way) is something along the lines of "does this totally change your perspective?" Also fair, I suppose.

See, so far with this stuff it's been guns blazing. While there has certainly been plenty of time to stop and reflect (which I have seldom shared with you, against my original plan, Maybe that's to your benefit, though), I'm more of a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of guy. Fix the problem now and think about it later. This has gotten me into trouble plenty over the years, but I'd rather just put the thing together and stop bickering about it rather than figuring out the best method. The "change" question, then, can give you some pause.

Obviously, the quick answer to this is sure, my perspective is changed. But I guess that doesn't do the question, and therefore the person whom asked it, the justice it deserves. So by answering so quickly to something like that and not giving too much depth, I'm pretty much saying that no, my perspective on things hasn't changed much at all. I still have a wife and family that love me. I still get up and go to work. I come home and have a beer now and then (and then and then). I guess this makes me a pretty bad cancer survivor when I can finally say that I survived cancer.

Then my cousin, bless his bald heart, went and fucked it up over Christmas. After telling a group of people what the next steps are, he stops, looks at me, and says "you had fucking cancer. Cancer." Funny enough, it dawned on me that people that talk to me about this actually use "cancer" less in conversations than "fucking." That little exchange shut me up for a second, and I drove home from Toledo to Cleveland silent, brutally reminded that I have "fucking cancer. Cancer." And maybe I'm not dealing with it as well as I thought.

Two weeks ago I was watching movies with friends. One of them asked if this was it for Hodkins; if remission means that I'm just living on borrowed time before it comes back. I calmly tried to explain to him that Hodgkins is 90-100% curable and that it'll probably never come back. I could see it in his eyes that that statistic didn't phase him, because he knew that deep down, it didn't really mean that much to me, either. I could be dead right now. Someday down the road this might come back and I might be dead then.

You don't stop and think about that (I hope), but I sure as hell do. You also don't think about the time when you share an awkward cake and tell your coworkers that you wish that you knew them all better. The time you remind your parents that they did right by me and that I love them. The time when you thank your best friends for what they've done for you and how they helped you through the worst. The last time you see the your nieces or nephews and hope that they have everything they need. The last time that you ask your wife if she just wants to take a walk.

Does cancer change your perspective? Absolutely. All of that stuff I just said is a bunch of things that I'm never going to have to do.

In one week I'll have my final PET scan. A week after that I get a follow up with my oncologist -again, a kindly English gentleman- to find out if I still have cancer.

And I'm not fucking dead yet. Period.