Friday, October 04, 2013

What I want to say about cancer

I don't talk much on this blog about my personal life for two reasons: 1.) I like my personal life to remain just that, personal, and 2.) This is mainly meant to be a blog about writing in general but my own writing in specific.

However, cancer always seems to be in the news, and sometimes it hits home for the speculative fiction crowd.

Just a few days ago, the fabulous Eugie Foster announced over at her site that she has been diagnosed with cancer. I'll let Eugie tell her story over there.

I'll tell what I've got to tell here.

That I know of, no, I do not have cancer. I have enough health problems of my own without cancer, some quite serious health problems. I live with congestive heart disease, gout, a heel spur, and all the various ailments that go along with all that stuff. Unfortunately, I have not aged well, and the last few years my body has gone down hill on me quite a bit.

Still, I do not have cancer.

That being said, like millions of people in the U.S. and across the globe, cancer has had an effect upon my life.

Three of my four grandparents died of cancer. And because you'll probably be asking yourself at this point, the fourth died of slipping on some ice and cracking his skull.

Stop laughing.

Seriously.

Done yet?

Okay, back to cancer.

I also lost an uncle to cancer about 25 years ago, and he was only three years older than I am now.

More recently, about five years ago my mother was diagnosed with Stage I breast cancer. She had a tough time of it for a year or so, including having a breast removed, but she pulled through. She was declared cancer free last year, and now her chances of having cancer again are about the same as anybody's.

Most recently, my better half was diagnosed with Stage IV breast cancer this past January.

Stage IV.

That means the cancer has spread beyond the breast(s) to other parts of the body. In this case, the lungs, the spine and other bones. So far.

The first thing anyone asks whenever I or my loved one tells them about this is, "How long do you have?"

It's almost become a joke. Really, we laugh about it sometimes. How long do you have? Nobody knows. That's the truth. Even all the doctors, the specialists and oncologists, can't give a good estimation.

She could have a few months or a few years. Some small number of cases live ten to twenty years.

But the chances of long-term survival are much better nowadays than they were just five years ago. And back then, things were better than they were five years before that. And so on back through time.

You might be nodding, thinking, "Well, of course. Medical treatments have come a long way."

Yes, they have. But the reality is my better half's survival rate is much, much higher now than it was just five years ago.

Think about that.

I'm sure logically you realize the importance of this, but I'm not sure you can emotionally, not unless you've been through something similar.

As recently as March of this year, the woman I love was practically comatose. Even the nurses and doctors did not believe she had more than a few days left. I went home from the hospital every night expecting a 3 a.m. phone call telling me the worst.

But then, slowly, through various treatments and movements from one hospital to a facility and then to another hospital, she got better.

Now she can walk some, with the help of a walker. She has pain, but it is manageable. More importantly, she is conscious and aware. Sometimes her memory slips a little, but that can happen to all of us. Some days are better than others.

But she is home, and relatively healthy. This after she had been hospitalized for nearly six months.

Some would call that a miracle. I'm not necessarily saying it is a miracle, but others would.

Okay, I've rambled on about cancer, but I've not really imparted any wisdom. What is it I really want to say here?

I want to let others know there is hope. There is survival.

Cancer has not been beaten, but much of it can be treated now, especially breast cancer, which has been studied more than any other type of cancer. Long term survival rates are improving all the time, and today's cancer patient might possibly live long enough to actually be around when a cure is discovered, if one ever is.

I don't wish to give false hope, nor do I want to get all spiritual. Cancer is still deadly.

But again, we laugh when someone asks, "How long do you have?"

Why? Because we don't know, and we don't think that way. We don't think, "Oh, she's only got a few months or a few years." We go on with life, we live life, however long we've got.

With my heart condition, it's not impossible I'll go before her. Or I could get hit by a train or struck by lightning. I could even slip on some ice and crack my skull.

It happens.

Now stop laughing, and go live your life.

4 comments:

Charles Gramlich said...

I'm very glad she's doing better. As you know, we had a taste of this, but not the full course you two have had to deal with. There's not much to say, of course, that can make any difference. But I am glad you both have today. As I am the same for Lana and me.

Keith West said...

Thank you for this. I've wondered since you announced your wife's condition earlier this year how things were going. I'm glad to hear there's been improvement and she's back home. You both still remain in my prayers.

The Wasp said...

I'm so sorry to read this but I'm also heartened by your words and attitude.

Greg Moore said...

I am glad that I went looking at all of your writings tonight man. I am happy that your wife is doing better. And remember man I am here for you if you need me.

Greg Moore