Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Turn on Da News, Bring on Da Funk (with apologies to Savion Glover)

Today, another unexpected reminder of the really bad parts of my life popped up out of nowhere. Some days, these memory triggers don’t do too much emotional damage. Other days, they’re more than enough to bring on a deep funk. Today was one of those days.

It was the announcement by Elizabeth Edwards, the lawyer married to presidential candidate John Edwards (D-SC), that her breast cancer had returned as Stage IV, and had invaded her bones and possibly her lungs. The announcement itself saddened me, as do all discoveries of recurring cancers. But my breaking point came with Ms. Edwards comment that “having that pain occur in your side or other new symptom triggers panic mode in every cancer survivor, not just [her].” So true, and not just for cancer survivors – anyone with a progressive disease faces that fear every day.

I’m one of those rare “lucky” few who have learned to really live with multiple incurable diseases, including several conditions that are progressive and degenerative. Every single day begins with me doing an inventory of what functionality I still have and what pain I do (or better yet, don’t) have to deal with. And any teeny tiny little change begins a twofold drama: fearing what might be coming, and replaying bitter and vivid memories of how so much has already been lost.

The sound heard around the nation after Elizabeth Edwards spoke was the millions of heads of survivors nodding in understanding. I was one of them.

(Written on March 21, 2007)

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Musings on the X-Files

Last night I saw the episode of the X-Files in which Scully gets cancer and undergoes radiation and chemo therapy. I was really surprised at how deeply I was affected by watching the radiation treatment. Brought up too many memories of my own six weeks getting blasted by gamma radiation in the hopes that it kill off any cancer cells that remained in my cervical spinal cord (it didn’t – the tumor was back the next year). It’s not that the treatments were that bad overall beyond losing my voice for a month and having a chronically sore throat for ten weeks or so. The memories of that period in my life forced me to take a look at everything I’ve been through because of that cancer, and it was one of those nights when reliving all that makes me sad and so very tired.

One other bit from that episode brought the tears flowing. My mom died about two years ago. She was the driving force in my life, the person who got me through all of the medical crap and other challenges I faced, like the six month battle to get my insurance company to buy me my first wheelchair. (They didn’t, but that’s a rant for another time. When I was 15, she talked me out giving up the fight to carry on the night I lay in the hospital completely paralyzed from the neck down after my second surgery to remove the cancerous tumor that had now moved up and invaded my brainstem. I miss my mom in ways that words cannot describe. It was very, very hard watching Dana Scully’s mom come to her hospital room and give Scully a big hug. My mom died before I could get a flight to Michigan when she was taken to the hospital for the last time, so the last time I got to hug my mom was October 9, 2003, when she visited me and the hubby in our Virgin Islands home.

On a happier X-Files note, I just adore the Lone Gunmen. Sure, they weren’t strong enough to carry an hour show on their own, but their interaction and relationship with Fox Mulder – not to mention they’re the ultimate techno-geeks – was solid gold TV viewing.

Final note on the X-Files. It’s bothered my for a long time that somehow the character formerly known as Cancer Man became known as Cigarette Smoking Man. For a while I was beginning to think that maybe Cancer Man was just a nickname that I had made up but never actually appeared in the show. I finally found some other folks who also remember the name, and saw proof in the show that Cancer Man was the original character name (e.g. tonight’s episode referred to Cancer Man even though the audio from Mulder didn’t say anything more than “our friend”), so instead of thinking I made it up, I’m now pondering about the dramatic change. As is appropriate for a files junkie, I believe the conspiracy theory that says the tobacco industry strong-armed Chris Carter and Fox network execs, possibly even paying the network a bucketful of cash, to make the change so that the show would stop telling the truth about the direct link between cigarettes and cancer. Ironic for a show whose tagline is, “The truth is out there”, dontcha think?

(Written on March 10, 2007)