My blog, once a repository for creative ideas I wanted to save from the ravages of time, seems to have become a repository for experiences I would rather have avoided. Instead of letting my blog serve as the moderately willing audience for my fantasia, I’ve forced it into another role entirely; it has become the unwilling audience for my slow-motion, stumble-by-stumble decline into ruin. I’ve successfully restricted, for a couple of weeks, the volume of posts that delve into my emotional response to my lung cancer diagnosis. I explained that the pause in my posts was a response to the physical pain of sitting at my computer, typing. And that was true to an extent. The more complete explanation would have assigned more responsibility to the emotional pain that I tried and failed to muffle as I wrote about my experiences. There’s something decidedly unmasculine about admitting to, much less talking or writing about, emotional pain. Despite my anger that such a social/societal restraint exists (and I’ll go on record that I find the imposition of such social restraints fundamentally cruel and wrong), I opted to stop writing for a while, rather than risk revealing even more cracks in my emotional armor. That is, I succumbed to weakness and fear. But I discovered during my hiatus in posting here (though I did continue to write, though not much about cancer) some evidence that cracks in one’s emotional armor can be used by some people as targets for their pry bars; emotional “weakness” is like a magnet for the intrusive tools of the person who pretends to care but who, instead, simply craves life in a soap opera to the real world. More on that later.
This post was intended to “make up” for the lack of updates since my last post almost two week ago. I’ve let it slide, as I am wont to do, into territory unrelated to its trigger. So, back to where I intended it to go.
When my surgeon and my oncologist told me the results of the lab pathology tests revealed that excising my tumor did not excise all of the cancer, I was surprised and unhappy. But I got over it, I thought. I would just need to add radiation therapy to the treatment regimen. That’s all.
Yesterday, I visited the radiation oncologist. He reviewed my medical records and told me he had spoken to my surgeon. The results clearly indicated a need for radiation. What surprised me was the fact that radiation would not be a ‘minor’ as I expected. Instead, I will need to have thirty (30) sessions, five days a week for six weeks. They will begin just a few days in advance of my chemotherapy and will continue daily (weekdays) until February 13. He made a point that I could drive myself to and from the radiation therapy. Except that, when I’m in the midst of chemotherapy and physically drained, I will need my wife to drive me to and from those sessions. According to my calendar, my chemo sessions will be January 7, January 28, February 18, and March 11. I haven’t driven since November 19, the morning of my surgery. I drove from the motel where we stayed the night before to the hospital, where we had to show up at 5:00 a.m. Wow. A month without getting behind the wheel. That must be a record.
As I look at my calendar—at how damn much of 2019 will be devoted to dealing with cancer—I just don’t know whether I want to put myself and my wife through it. My wife suggested yesterday that we might ask people who have offered to help to follow through with their offers. She doesn’t have any more interest than I in giving over her life to an endeavor that may or may not give the results we want. She, though, tends to believe all the offers of help. I know some people whose offers are absolutely dependable. But I’ve learned during the course of my experiences so far that some people wag their tongues as a means of gathering accolades for selflessness that doesn’t exist. “I wanted to call/come see you but didn’t want to bother you” or “I wanted to spend some time with you but my calendar is crazy-full.” Uh-huh. As if email, being a twentieth century technology, no longer exists and texts are not dependable because…uh…who knows. I find it hard to be civil to those people. And not because they are treating me like I’m stupid enough to believe their artificial empathy but because I know they must have treated others the same way and the others may not so readily let lies run off their backs like water on a duck. But I guess the fact that I recognize those people for what they are makes me more likely to be cynical about people I don’t know as well. Are those other folks who seemed to want to help really genuine in their offers or are they just attempting to paint over the flaws in their compassion with a magician’s magic? On the other hand, people who are not particularly close to us and who share virtually no attitudes with us socially, politically, religiously, intellectually, etc., stopped by with food and an offer to take us grocery shopping or to chemo treatments, etc. These are people we consider distant acquaintances. But those good people, as much as I appreciate them, don’t erase the disdain I have for the others.
Yet, while I find those make-believe missionaries of good will patently offensive, there are others whose offers are as good as gold. There are the people who show up on our doorstep with food so we don’t have to worry about making a meal after visits with doctors. I can only begin to count the number of bowls of chile and soup our friends and neighbors have given us. And people have stopped by with casseroles. And they’ve brought pumpkin bread and garlic toast. Without fail, these same people have offered to go to the grocery store for us or give me a ride to the doctor or do any number of other errands for us. Those are the people I believe; they are the ones I would feel comfortable asking for rides to town for radiation treatments. But, then, they are the ones who have already done more than we have any right to expect. And there’s Maddie, who moved away some time ago but whose kindness and decency remained; she reads my blog responds, usually, directly via email. Good people the world over deserve a friend like her.
The worst of the surgery pain is behind me, I think. I still have considerable pain, especially after riding in the car for a while…hurts like hell with every bump…but I can get through the night without getting up to take painkillers now. But I’m still much more tired than I want to be. And I tired quickly. And I wheeze when I mean to breathe. And I walk so slowly that I’ve come to realize what a bastard I’ve been when stuck behind someone who walks very, very, very slowly through a grocery store. Just when the worst of the post-surgical pain dissipates, the pains associated with chemo and radiation therapy will begin. My wife suggested I get my head shaved before my first chemo appointment. I didn’t think that would bother me (I’ve often talked about getting my hair cut extremely short) but for some reason the idea of shaving me head in preparation of going in for chemo treatment derails me, emotionally, for a few minutes every time I think about it.
I said I’ve written a bit unrelated (mostly) to my cancer in the past few weeks. And I have. One day, I might finished some of these posts: Tincture of Coconut; Last Lungs; Misdeeds Goes to Washington; Crush; On Coincidence; My Blame; The Grim Season; Christmas Largess; Barrier; and In the Flesh Bloggers. The last one, In the Flesh Bloggers, was prompted by the members of a Facebook group of bloggers to which I belong. This group of people have allowed me to wallow in self-pity without being judgmental; I appreciate them more than I can adequately express. They are among the folks who, if they were closer in proximity, I think would give me rides to radiation treatments or being me food. We should all be as compassionate and caring as they are; they have the credentials for admission to the human race. That’s high praise, coming from me.
I don’t know just what I’ve written here. Like most of my posts, it has scurried through rabbit warrens and exited through lions’ dens, running from something that’s chasing me or toward something I want to catch. For some reason, this morning is hard. Maybe it’s that yesterday’s visit to the radiation oncologist surprised me with its thirty-session program of treatment. Maybe I’ve kept stuff bottled up without unloading here for too long. Or maybe I’m just melting down for no apparent reason, as usual, and it will pass.
It might have been better if I’d let this post join the drafts that haven’t seen the light of day. But I think not. I think I need to sometimes reveal the madness beneath my serenity (that’s a joke…I have no serenity) just to prove it’s me writing this blog.