I had an interesting interpersonal interaction this week. Given that I am rather the aspiring misanthrope, I of course do not have very many interactions. As a result, merely the fact that I had an interaction at all is something of interest. No one was better suited for a stay-at home order than yours truly: I was already at home. Happily.
Given this preference to avoid most people, the fact that I experienced some type of exchange with another of our species is usually due to something unpleasant. Most of my contacts are either people who come to the house to fix something, the occasional cashier (I don’t know who invented the self-scanning registers but thank you!) or, of course, members of the medical profession. It is with this last group that the interaction to which I first referred above transpired.
As it turns out, I have developed plantar fasciitis as a direct consequence of trying to stay healthy during the stay-home orders. Finally having had enough of the discomfort, I saw an orthopedist who, atypically for a surgeon, did not immediately suggest a surgical solution to this problem. Rather, I was given a prescription for physical therapy and a suggestion to get some Epsom salts. I am no doubter of science in the least, but when have Epsom salts ever solved any problem? It sounds like an old wives’ tale that we just can’t fully eradicate, much like the notion that exercise will help one lose weight.
Finally, after what seems eons of waiting, I think it is finally safe to say that the results are in and we know where things stand. It was an anxiety-ridden period, one of the most ever, which helps explain the lack of inventory left in my liquor cabinet. But finally, it seems at least, the waiting is over and a reprieve of some length is on the horizon. It was arguably the longest four months of my life.
Before I get some allegedly helpful texts or emails pointing out my use of the word “months” in the immediately foregoing sentence, I want to cut you off and affirm that this was indeed the right choice of time periods. Although I imagine many of you were expecting me to say this was the longest four years of my life – which may or may not have been true as well – I was instead of course talking about the four months from my last oncology visit and the anticipation (read: hyper-anxiety) about tomorrow’s appointment.
Some might say that rejoicing over my numbers at this stage is slightly premature. And as a person of the Jewish faith and heritage, by which I mean two-plus millennia of somewhat suboptimal events befalling my ancestors, I am certainly one who is susceptible to superstitions of most every type. (My beloved childhood rabbi once tried to tell me, as he probably should have, that Jews are not particularly superstitious people. Far be it for me to disagree with some as wise and learned a man, but I am not totally convinced. Besides for the fact that my own very large family had more superstitious behaviors than I could even begin to catalogue – I mean, why can’t you put a hat on a bed? – the Jewish vernacular, by which I mean the exuberantly colorful language of Yiddish has its own term for this type of thinking: kinehora. It basically means to jinx oneself (or others) by counting one’s kosher chickens before they hatch. I don’t think I have met a fellow member of my tribe who doesn’t immediately follow any positive statement with, “I hope I didn’t just give myself a kinehora.”)
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.