A damned fine year


I’ve been rolling a thought around in my mind ever since a conversation I had yesterday with my pal Christi.

Christi was kind enough to go with me to the doctor’s office to hear the results of my latest endoscopy. This is always a difficult moment for me, made more difficult by the fact that my doctor told us a week ago that there were “irregularities” that he needed to biopsy.

I spent a week convinced that my cancer was worse. After the first time around when I “had no cancer”, and then it returned, I’ve tried to hope for the best yet expect the worst. What could it be this time? This thought weighed pretty heavily on my mind for the past week.

“Sock it to me,” I said, the second my gastrointestinal doctor entered the exam room.

“No sign of lymphoma,” he said in his totally deadpan voice. I was expecting such bad news that I made him repeat it.

“I no longer see the signs of growing lymphoma that I saw four months ago.”

How can I describe the feeling I had then? It’s as though someone took me to the top of a mountain with a box on my head, and then suddenly removed the box. I felt like I could see for miles, into the future and the past, and I was light as a feather.

This diagnosis means that the treatment works! I’m going to keep up the Rituximab therapy, just in case any lingering “lazy” cancer cells haven’t woken up yet (Rituximab only kills dividing cells). I’ll continue to get chemotherapy every few months for a year-ish, but I know that when I do, it’s doing good things!

After the doctor, Christi and I went to get lunch at a diner. We dug into eggs, and I said, “If I’ve had cancer for a reason, it’s to kick my ass into doing all the things I want to do, because I’m a lazy procrastinator.”

“I’d rather not think of illness as ‘for a reason,'” Christi said, “Because then I get into the habit of thinking that if I do certain things, illness will go away. Illness can’t be controlled like that.”

This thought was interesting, because I cannot count the number of people who asked me how I figured out that I had cancer, along with the next question, “Do you know how you got it?” In the case of lung cancer, the victim blaming can be immediate: “Ah, it’s because they smoked.” In my case, it’s much harder to figure out how cancer snuck down into that one little section of my body. Believe me, the “how the hell did that happen?” has been on my mind too.

This blog has sometimes been about my search for natural means to help my body combat cancer. Much like Kris Carr (whom I critiqued a little in this article I wrote for XOJane), I believe that it’s a good idea to live healthily and avoid animal proteins as much as possible because they feed cancer cells. But cancer is not a tame disease. One excellent critique of the “be as healthy as possible” method comes from a woman named Abigale. She has a variation of Kris Carr’s cancer, and essentially says, this technique is great but it doesn’t actually combat cancer. In fact, she began to blame herself when it didn’t work for her, thinking she wasn’t strict enough or good enough with her diet, right up until she realized that Kris Carr’s cancer was a rare type that metastasizes more slowly than hers.

I was discouraged too when I realized that my cancer returned. The first time through, I did it the healthy way (without even knowing about Kris Carr). I avoided meat, meditated, and exercised hard, and the cancer STILL returned. The second time, I kept to my normal routine. I didn’t avoid meat or animal protein (in the form of my Starbucks addiction), I skated but didn’t increase my weekly amount of yoga, and I took my scheduled Rituximab. The cancer was equally treated.

What does this prove? That we don’t know much of anything yet about cancer. It’s great to be healthy for the sake of being healthy, but there are no miracle cures, and even keeping to the strictest of exercise, diet, and meditation regimes might or might not be useful to combat cancer (although strengthening the body is never bad).

I think it comes back to the idea that I’d somehow “earned” or “deserved” cancer, or that I had it “for a reason.” If all of these are true and it came back, then surely I was still “on the wrong path” and needed to be on the right one.

I reject all of this now. Cancer is just cancer, and I’ll deal with it in whatever way necessary, but (thanks to the words from Christi) I no longer feel the need to blame myself for it, or think, “If only I did __, I wouldn’t have cancer.”

The sad thing about our world is that we’re making it more cancerous every day. Perhaps in the end, the only true way to eliminate cancer is to help the world be toxin free, in whatever ways we can.

But after I got back to work from my meeting with the doctor, I felt so good that I didn’t wanna stay. The weather was beautiful and with my boss’s approval (thanks!) I was soon speeding down the highway, singing at the top of my lungs.

I was feeling sick, I was losing my mind
I heard about these treatments from a good friend of mine
He was always happy, smile on his face
He said he had a great time at the place…

Peace and love is here to stay and now I can wake up and face the day
Happy happy happy all the time, shock treatment, I’m doing fine

Gimme gimme shock treatment, Gimme gimme shock treatment
Gimme gimme shock treatment, I wanna, wanna shock treatment