I started writing this blog last fall, with the intention of finishing it later. And then I got clobbered with Covid, spent 4 days in the hospital, and totally forgot I started this thing. Obviously the election is over, chemo didn’t work and I’m currently enrolled in a clinical trial.
I’ll be back at the end of this thing to make a few more comments. You’ll recognize me. I’ll be the one writing in italics.
October 31, 2020
During this time of chemo, I’m having some issues with keeping my mind right. So I’ve decided to write a blog with some shorter thoughts. Stringing together an essay with a lot of coherent points seems like a huge deal right now, so here goes on some smaller stuff.
Currently, I’ve completed 5 chemo treatments, which leaves 5 to go. Halfway. The way the side effects have been going is two weeks of feeling awful and one week of feeling okay. The side effects are mostly diarrhea with the occasional session of tossing my cookies. Not great, but as long as I take this one day at a time, it’s not so bad. I get depressed and feel anxious when I think about doing this until February. So I try not to think about it.
I’m also getting a shot every 3 months to keep my testosterone in check. The last shot was this wonderful stuff called Eligard, and it was administered to my stomach. Now, I’m not a big fan of needles, but after 10 years of cancer treatments, I’ve gotten pretty used to them. But that shot, IN MY STOMACH, really sucked. It was so painful I started crying. I think the tears were a reaction to the pain and also due to a little pent up frustration. My nurse Karen felt really bad for me, but I told her I wasn’t upset with her. It is what it is. Getting mad at your nurse for giving you a treatment is like getting mad at your waitress for burning your steak. It wasn’t her fault.
I do have some questions for the doc, though. Like, WHY DO I HAVE TO HAVE AN ELIGARD SHOT IN MY STOMACH? And then I’ll punch him in the face. Just kidding.
I know, I know, we’re all sick of this shit. But, this might be the last presidential election I’ll ever vote in, so I have a few words. However you decide to vote, I don’t really care. What I do care about is people saying this is the most important election ever. Cuz it’s not. Hard to not put the presidential election of 1860, or even 1864 as the most important elections in U.S. history.
I think recency bias tells us that whatever is happening right now is the most important thing ever. And maybe this election seems really important because of the issues America is currently dealing with. But here’s the thing. Every 2 years, you can vote for your congressperson. Every 4 years, you can vote for president. Every 6 years you can vote for your senator. Every May you can vote for your school board. In August there’s primary elections or city council or maybe even mayor.
My point? In America, we vote for lots of stuff. If you don’t like how this election turns out, vote for the other person next time. Democracy is not coming to an end anytime soon, regardless of what the candidates say is going to happen. This will be my 10th presidential election. So far I’ve voted for 4 winners and 5 losers. If my candidate loses this time, eh, so what. Life goes on.
All this chemo downtime has me watching a lot of baseball. Baseball was my first love when I was a kid, and the games this year have been very compelling. I would have loved to see the Rays win the series, but really, I’m just enjoying the games. Football has been great also. Lots of fun, close games.
I am currently reading “Man’s Search For Meaning” by Victor Frankl. If you want to know what it means to suffer, read an account from a Holocaust survivor. I found this passage really meaningful…
Dostoevski said once, “There is only one thing I dread: not to be worthy of my sufferings.” These words frequently came to my mind after I became acquainted with those martyrs whose behavior in camp, whose suffering and death, bore witness to the fact that the last inner freedom cannot be lost. It can be said that they were worthy of their sufferings; the way they bore their suffering was a genuine inner achievement. It is this spiritual freedom—which cannot be taken away—that makes life meaningful and purposeful.
For a cancer survivor, that sentiment is humbling. People ask me all the time how I can write about all this with honesty and a sense of humor. I think my sense of humor and the way I deal with this shit makes me worthy of my suffering. This disease can take my body, it can take my dignity, it can take my future, but it can’t touch my soul. My spiritual freedom is the way I look at life. If it’s slightly off center and a little sarcastic, well, if somebody laughs, my work is done here.
January 26, 2021
Hi, it’s me in present time again. I am currently writing this looking over a very cold Lake Michigan. I am staying at a friend’s house while they enjoy the warm weather down on the Redneck Riviera in gulf coast Alabama.
There is something very peaceful about spending winter in a summer place. 85 degrees and sunshine is how normal people like to experience the lakeshore, and I have to admit, sitting out on the deck with a boat drink and feeling the sting of a little sunburn on my face sounds pretty awesome right now. But, the quietness, the stillness of this place in the winter is pretty awesome too. It snowed last night, and Zoey and I walked down to the channel this morning. The lake is remarkably free of ice, and the sound of the waves crashing on the shore has a universal calming effect.
I realize winter isn’t for everyone, but I’m a fan. Just because it’s perfect for quiet reflection.
Later this week, I’m getting my third infusion for my clinical trial. Next month, there will be scans to see if the experimental drugs that I’m taking are actually doing anything. The hope is that the drugs will spur my own immune system to fight the tumors. We’ll see.
I haven’t written much lately because I’ve been angry and bitter. I’ve gone a few rounds with my docs on why I have to keep getting Lupron shots when they no longer work, and the shots cause lots of issues. Their answers make sense, that my cancer is fed by testosterone and the Lupron keeps my cancer from getting a lot worse, but that answer rings hollow when my life is dominated by anger and depression and a feeling of loneliness. Not to mention what it does to my relationship with Holly. It’s been a real struggle.
Which is why I’m here, looking over a stretch of snowy beach grass and rolling waves. This is a mid-winter reset, a chance to take stock and realize I have lots to be thankful for. I have a loving wife, great kids that I adore, and for the first time in a long time I feel pretty good physically. Getting off chemo and Xtandi has given me more energy, and I’ve started working out again. Maybe a spring run? I’ve gone back to work, and a lot of cancer patients can only dream of doing that. My brain is starting to clear from the chemo, and writing seems possible again. Also, “Spending Winter in a Summer Place” is just aching to be made into a song.
I hope to be, once again, worthy of my suffering.
Thanks for reading.