Cancer Around the Holidays

With the holiday season bearing down on us too soon yet again, those of us fighting cancer face the unenviable proposition of having countless uncomfortable discussions with well-meaning, but often completely tone-deaf, friends and, worse still, relatives about our health – or lack thereof.  In light of these dreaded encounters, the following list of basics about my cancer is mandatory reading for anyone who may be breaking a wishbone with me or thinking of offering me anything with pumpkin in it.

1. Appearances are deceiving. 

Cancer is not a disease most readily identified by cursory inspection. Particularly cancers such as mine, which is primarily hanging out in my blood, are not apparent unless I accidentally cut myself while carving the bird (a distinct possibility) and someone nearby happens to have an electron microscope at the ready. (Given some people I know, this is also a distinct possibility.) But just because absent an impaling I look quite healthy does not mean that I am. To quote my oncologist prior to commencing chemo, “You had no idea how sick you were.”

2. No second guessing.

Few things are more frustrating after living with — and worrying about — my cancer for over six years than to have someone suggest that I had been going about it all wrong.  Besides the fact that this information would have been more timely if given to me prior to deciding upon treatments, the reality that such a view is coming out because “a friend of a friend knows a doctor” tends to carry little weight with me.

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Don’t Squeeze the Charmin!

As I have observed in past postings, when one has cancer there is far too much doctoring that takes place.  In addition to the regular visits to the oncologist, I must also see certain other members of the medical establishment to make sure that none of the secondary problems that can arise from my cancer – such as, for example, other types of cancer – are brewing.  And then, just like those not burdened with cancer, I still must maintain my other doctors’ appointments:  PCPs, dentists, optometrists, urologists and so it goes. 

Given that my medical dance card is already quite full, I am most reluctant to have to try and work in yet another examination of any type.  Unfortunately, however, there are two irrepressible forces at work:  First, I am aging.  This should not be news as, I believe, most others are also in this boat.  When that reality is coupled with the second force – cancer and its mysterious manifestations – it becomes harder and harder to just rely on an apple a day (notwithstanding that there seem to be way more types of apples available today than are necessary). 

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Love Bites

a mosquito biting a person

Note: This post is excerpted from a longer piece on’s website and may be read in its entirety at

In the more than six years that I have been uneasily co-habitating the same body as chronic lymphocytic leukemia, I have learned – most involuntarily – a great deal about this cancer and its manifestations. For example, I learned relatively early on that CLL-compromised cells often like to hang out in one’s lingual tonsils, a part of my body that I did not know I even possessed. (I, like I daresay many my age or older, knew only of the more notorious tonsils – the ones removed after a sore-throat too many and that are extracted in the dubious exchange for “all the ice cream you can eat!”, which is truly misleading as no one feels like eating anything after having their tonsils removed – lingual or other.) . . . And these strange transfigurations of my body were before I underwent six months of chemotherapy. Now the list of problems, issues, maladies and general oddities has grown beyond that which I can list in 500 words or less. . . . But none of these strikes me as odd – or more immediately annoying – as a result of my cancer about which I just learned the other day. 

I Could’ve Had a V-8!

I truly dislike conflict.  I will often go to substantial lengths to avoid arguments, debates and other forms of controversy.  This may come as a surprise to some as I am both highly opinionated, in my opinion, and a lawyer.  With respect to the former, I do espouse a lot of views – but only to those whom I know will agree with me.  A profile in courage I am not.  As to the law gig, I am merely a corporate lawyer.  I have not been in a courtroom since the day I was admitted to the bar nearly two decades ago (save for the one time I was called for jury duty but was promptly “excused” after calling the plaintiff’s attorney an ambulance chaser). 

And having cancer has done nothing to make me wish to become embroiled in more conflict.  Although I am as a result of it generally more irritable and, because I tend to forget many things compliments of the chemo brain, more likely to be accused (rightly) of not doing something I said I would, I am even more careful to try and avoid any kind of a “situation.”  As I see it, getting through the adversities that cancer has so generously bestowed upon me is more than enough struggle in my life.  Why add to it?

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