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 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).
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?
week, upon realizing that it had been a full year since the successful
completion of my chemo, I decided I should take a bit of a self-assessment and review
how that year had passed. (To clarify,
when I say “successful completion” of chemo I mean merely that I endured all of
the strongly recommended installments thereof, put the cancer into remission
for at least the present and had fewer occasions than anticipated where I had
to use the bed pan – which is not even a bed pan these days but rather an
inappropriately-colored sky blue slinky-like device with an awkwardly sized
opening that forces the cookie tosser to surround not only the mouth but also the
nose thereby only increasing the need for such a device once the show begins). Granted, it has now been more than a year
since the chemo ended as another week has passed, but, as also noted in last
week’s post, I am of the Jewish faith and consistent with that we like to drag
out the celebration of any holiday for days, New Years included. See, for example, Hanukkah – eight days. Sukkot – eight days. Passover – eight days. So this may – or may not – be the last installment
in this series.
ended last week’s review post with what passes for me as optimism – “not all
has been negative, so far.” The one
non-negative element that I touched upon, albeit briefly, was that writing this
blog – and similar articles and other pieces for various media outlets – has been
a source of great comfort to me. In
fact, as one of the members of my cancer tribe so insightfully pointed out just
this morning, many of us with cancer just need a place to articulate that which
we are experiencing and to have a means to connect with others who are, sadly,
sharing similar trials. And, as he
pointed out, often it is just not possible to have these frank and frequently
painful discourses with our loved ones.
They are just too close to the subject matter – i.e., us. It is painful for them and for us, and we
already are enduring enough pain as it is.
I have never heard of anyone with cancer complaining that the pain – in whatever
form – was “surprisingly manageable” much less inconsequential. Cancer is not a flu shot.
marks one year since I finished chemotherapy and, despite knowing that I was
not cured, ringing the anti-cancer bell to much unwanted hoopla and
fanfare. Never have I felt less happy at
an allegedly celebratory moment than that one.
For those who have not had the misfortune of this experience, you can
perhaps liken it to celebrating most any birthday starting with your 40th: Sure, you made it – and there is cake – but
it is also a sobering reminder of the passage of time and its inevitable
conclusion. Except that when it’s the
chemo bell, there is no cake, and even if there were you would be too nauseous
to eat it.
I have taken a full trip around the sun since I completed chemo, however, I
thought I would do a sort of Year in Review.
This also happens to nicely coincide with my spiritual new year – Rosh
Hashanah – although I am unclear whether I should be marking the passage of
cancer time on a solar or lunar calendar.
I guess whichever will give me the most time until the cancer’s return would
be my preference, but I realize one does not get a choice in these things. Cancer, in my experience, is not subject to
the rules of time and science that pertain to the rest of the universe. Cancer has its own calendar.