Archive | May, 2011

My Cancer Hobby

Days after my prostate cancer diagnosis on March 26, 2007, my wife presented me with a copy of Newsweek dated April 9, the one with the cover story, “My Life with Cancer,” by Jonathan Alter. I didn’t read it then, and I haven’t read it now. I remember the exact words that ricocheted through my mind the moment she handed me the magazine: “Cancer is not my new hobby.”

This was, of course, back in the days when I lived under the presumption that  a prostatectomy would “cure” my cancer, and I had an 80 per cent chance of it. So, no, cancer was not going to be my new hobby: I’d have surgery, be done with it, and get on with my real life enjoyments — travel, photography and cooking.

But my first cancer did not go away, as was my plan, and this blog exists not because I had cancer back then; it exists because I have cancer right now.

And cancer has become my new hobby.

How did this happen, I ask? My treatments certainly have not taken up that much of a retiree’s time. So…?

It started with annual prostate cancer symposiums and then general cancer gatherings, where researchers, survivors and families would share the latest. (A woman in a wheelchair at one of these conferences talked about being sent to hospice to die — three times! She just refuses to.) Next I added informal monthly presentations on cancer and nutrition, and my kitchen hobby morphed into a cancer-fighting cooking interest.

And all along the way, there became this increasing need to get current on the latest developments in treatments of my advanced (or Stage IV) prostate cancer. (I had skipped that chapter in the book I read in March 2007.) Ever so gradually, gathering by gathering, article by article, test result by test result, cancer was expanding its place in my life, just as it was expanding its presence in my body.

Then this blog. I started it to keep family and friends in the loop on something that’s become more than a fleeting wisp of a health matter. It’s fun, I enjoy it, and it helps me work through how I feel about cancer things.

But — and how did I not foresee this? — the blog, and similar postings on my high school class website, have prompted extraordinary conversations with others about their cancers. Long-time veterans with courageous war stories. Serial survivors on their second and third diagnoses. Super people who challenge me and, in the process, help me distill my thoughts and decisions. Some long email exchanges, and often. You’ve seen some of their names here; you’ll see others in the future. It’s no longer about me; it’s a bit about us, the cancer community, and each other, and those who care about us.

And now, on May 25, I’m to give a presentation at the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance on Blogging about Cancer. So I’ve been somewhat in overdrive to get ready to stand and deliver next week. I even found research saying that people who have meaningful conversations and who blog about their cancers “better cope” with their health conditions.

It’s been so mind-expanding — and the notion that I might be able to give back just a little, just a teeny bit, to others dealing with their cancers — well,  we’ll see how it goes.

I am, after all, early on in my cancer hobby.

It’s a go.

Three doctors, three opinions — and unanimity: I’m going to proceed with radiation, combined with more hormone therapy, in yet another effort to manage my first cancer. I’m not kidding myself that this will “cure” me,  that this will be the silver bullet, that all will be jim-dandy after a go of radiation.

The likelihood is that we’ll only be putting out microscopic brushfires, and that, down the road, some further treatment will be needed. Fair enough. And the docs all agree — and I understand — that there’s no way of knowing for sure that my recalcitrant prostate cancer is in my pelvis and/or abdomen. But there’s a likelihood that at least some of it’s there, and that’s enough for me: To re-quote Lora, let’s kick its ass. (Just writing that makes me feel like I got a kick in.)

I’ve some travels and important life experiences on the calendar, like my 50th high school class reunion, but the docs say, OK. So under current planning, I’ll re-start hormone therapy in late July, be on it for the requisite minimum of two months, and begin radiation the end of  September or soon after. It feels good just to get this stuff on the calendar, like I’ve already pushed back once more.

Most important is doing everything I can. I’ve been aggressive in pushing back at cancer at each stage — an experimental drug before surgery; surgery; hormone therapy after surgery; and diet, exercise and nutrition from the get-go. Ever since my diagnosis, I’ve wielded every weapon extended to me.

And I’m not quitting now.