Today I awoke convinced that I had lung cancer. Now, as regular readers of this blog are aware, I have never been diagnosed with lung cancer. Instead, I have focused my overabundance of white cells on the genre of cancer commonly referred to as blood cancers and, to be more specific, the sub-topic of leukemia. So having lung cancer would be a new venture for me. Although this is the first morning I have awoken with such a horrible thought, it is not, sadly, the first time I have had similar concerns. Allow me a brief review:
In my last posting, The Party’s Over (https://itsinmyblood.blog/2020/09/16/the-partys-over/#more-1066), I expressed my relentless concern that I may be suffering from esophageal cancer or, if that was too exotic for me, then just everyday throat cancer, which I did not really realize was yet another type of cancer. This concern, which was precipitated by an intermittent supine cough that has been with me for many years, was brought to the attention of my oncologist some time ago. She was not, however, overly concerned, in large part because CLL sufferers such as myself get, as a bonus to the cancer itself, exacerbated allergy problems. Thus, I finally determined that I had had enough of the nighttime hacking and went to see an allergist. As ass-backwards as this may seem, I was crestfallen to learn that I was not really allergic to anything. Thus, I reasoned, something else is afoot.
I have been quite troubled over the last several months – now nearly a full year – that I have had so little to say about cancer and my life with it. Without giving away the cliff-hanging resolution to this post prematurely, I think my unexplained silence has basically been the result of having had enough with all things cancer for a while.
Of course, it is a luxury to be able to just decide that one has had enough with cancer. (Perhaps “luxury” is a bit too strong of a word – it doesn’t provide the same level of enjoyment as would a fancy purchase or a tropical vacation. At best, it’s the absence of anything, which is kind of hard to get excited about on a sustained basis.) Compared to many others with similar diagnoses, I am fortunate in that I had been able to more or less turn off thoughts about cancer for an extended time.
Yet we must define our terms. “Turning off thoughts about cancer” is really a euphemism. A more precise depiction would be that I was able to stop incessantly worrying about it for a spell. It is really the difference between agonizing over it for no identifiable reason and worrying about it for a reason that is probably unrelated. (Hopefully.)
And that’s really the best that I think one can do when diagnosed with cancer. Cancer is not a disease that is treated, goes away and that is the end of the story. What no one bothers to tell you when you become saddled with a cancer diagnosis is that your life as you knew it, in some very meaningful ways, ceases to exist.
As anyone who has read even one of my blog posts or other writings is most certainly aware, I do not peddle in optimism. Although some would find my high level of cynicism to be at least partially unwarranted, I find that facts (remember those?) tend to generally support my worldview. Thus it should come as no surprise to the reader when I say that I have very little confidence in the abilities of our fellow human beings. Very little.
This is not to say, however, that I think most people are innately “bad”, whatever that might mean. In what may pass for my one scintilla of optimism, I do generally believe that most people are well-intentioned. It is just in the execution where the trouble comes in. To that end, I am of course greatly dubious about our ability, as a society and even as a species, to overcome the current pandemic. Stated rather plainly, I just do not believe that the average person has the mental faculties or internal fortitude to do what it takes to overcome what is, admittedly, probably the largest single challenge we have faced in generations (with the possible exception of the threat-that-wasn’t known as Y2K).
My defeatism is not even factoring in the significant portion of the population that is sometimes referred to as “anti-maskers.” These people are, near as I can tell, beyond redemption when it comes to this issue – and likely many others. I will add, while taking my cheap though justified shots, that I do find it ironic that many of these same people who refuse to don a mask are the same ones who never miss an opportunity to voice their purported patriotism and yet refuse to take such a simple and, at worst, mildly annoying, step to save their fellow countrymen and women.
I am very honored and excited (and even a bit relieved) to be included in Nancyspoint.com’s 2020 Summer Blogging Challenge (https://nancyspoint.com/are-you-ready-for-my-2020-summer-blogging-challenge/). The main reason for these positive feelings is that Nancy is a wonderful writer, blogger and human being. So if I can in any way be associated with Nancy and her work, then bully for me. Plus, since we now seem to be doing everything virtually these days, hopping from blog to blog seems a great – and COVID-free! – way to share with and learn from others. Thanks for organizing this again, Nancy. You truly are the best.
Now, to this year’s interrogatories:
Who are you? Tell us whatever you want about you and your blog. I commend Nancy for starting with the existentialist questions first – so that hopefully they allow us to focus (and get the hardest over with at the outset). I remain largely who I was at this time and event last year – luckily the father of two still terrific sons (who are each, however, a year older) and so fortunate to be married to a wonderful and beautiful woman. A doctor, of all things! My mother is so proud. And, in a bit of a constant from last year, I still have cancer. Leukemia to be more precise. But, in another bit of continuity, I am also still alive. So I will take the good with the bad. I continue to blog – although not as much as I would like (this is foreshadowing of an answer to another question so read ahead only if you generally like spoiler-alerts) – because, to be blunt, cancer always gives one more nonsense to have to deal with. And I can only complain so much to my family and friends about it, particularly when I can’t even be within six feet of most of them.
What has been your biggest blogging challenge during this pandemic, and how have you been tackling it (or trying to)? This one is pretty easy – the biggest challenge to my blogging has been being able to find a computer that was not being preempted by anyone’s “virtual classes”, homework or gaming. The way in which I have coped with this challenge is by not coping with this challenge. I just watch endless coverage of the pandemic. (I like to see how many doctors’ predictions come true. Bad news (and another spoiler alert): The epidemiologists are usually pretty much correct.)
What is something you’ve accomplished with your blog that you’re most proud of? This one is a bit tricky, but I think I will go with being able to connect with others who are both afflicted by cancer and who have access to a computer. Having cancer can so often be such an isolating experience. It is thus beyond reassuring to know that that which I am enduring is not unique.
Share two of your best blogging tips. (1) Keep blogging, even if you don’t feel like you have much to say. (2) Find someone better at blogging than you to inspire and guide you. I recommend Nancy.
What is one of your blogging goals this year? I would really like to be more consistent with my blogging schedule this coming year. I started off well, but then I got ill, and then there were the holidays, Super Bowl, a family cruise (which in retrospect seems pretty risky) and then this whole pandemic thing. Excuses, excuses.
When things get hard, what keeps you blogging, even if not regularly? I wish I had some morally compelling response to offer here, but really when things get hard I often throw in the towel. I figure I already have cancer and in-laws, so there are only so many fights I am willing to wage simultaneously. But usually what gets me motivated finally is getting frustrated with someone or something. Or both. Plus people, myself included, do many, many dumb things and someone just has to comment on them. So that usually makes me feel better if I can publicize these failings.
What is a dream you have for your blog? I really would like to be able to connect with more people. I never set out to be a blogger, but I do have many things to say, regardless of the worthiness of saying them. So I would like to be able to infiltrate the minds of many others.
Share a link to a favorite post you’ve written that you want more people to read. I have so many profound blog postings it is almost cruel of Nancy to make me chose. But chose I must, so I have selected the following: https://itsinmyblood.blog/2019/09/17/thats-a-lot-of-cancer/. In a fit of unprincipled cheating, this post also includes a link to another of my posts so I thought I could squeeze in two posts without anyone noticing.
In all seriousness, Nancy, thanks for organizing this. I have struggled to write this year – quite a bit, actually – but this gave me inspiration and, dare I say it, even excitement, about writing for the first time in too long. Thank you.