Monday, February 11, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 3

My Health

This blog within a blog will discuss cancer and all of my fears, hopes and expectations for a positive outcome—full and complete recovery. In addition, I plan to throw in some latest medical research. All cancer patients are interested, to some degree, in research and the latest medical findings; I am no exception. 

Port-A-Cath: This is the type of access port with needle attached that will be surgically implanted into my body today, inserted under my skin and connected via catheter to the superior vena cava, the large central vein.
Photo Credit: PanoromicTiger, 2009
Source: Wikipedia

Today is my appointment to insert an access port ("Port-A-Cath"), an ostensibly minor outpatient surgery (less than one hour), whose purpose is to make my chemo treatment easier, safer and more efficient. That's what the doctors and nurses at the hospital's cancer centre keep pointing out as a measure of reassurance. Yet, invasive procedures are still invasive, and cutting the human body (mine in this case) and inserting a foreign object attached to my large central vein unquestionably fits the term invasive.

There's more. Tomorrow, February 12th, is my first scheduled chemo session; of course I am nervous, although I do not want to show it to my family, or admit it too loudly to myself. The sense of nervousness comes from the unknown, not knowing what to expect. Or it might come from knowing too much about unpleasant side effects (i,e., nausea, vomiting  heat sensitivity, cold sensitivity, cold sores, etc). 

And more. On Friday, I am scheduled for a CT scan, a diagnostic procedure, of my lower body, chiefly to determine if the cancer has not spread beyond my colon. It will also act as a baseline (before picture, so to speak) on the efficacy of the chemo treatment.

Then there is the weight problem; in this case not being overweight but underweight. So, I am in the somewhat enviable position of needing to gain more weight, to return to where I was before my hospitalization and surgery. I have gained five kilograms, and am now at 66 kg, halfway to my goal, to my baseline weight of 71 kg (156 lbs). I don't gain weight easily, even in the best of times, so this will take work on my part.

It seems that a great part of the difficulty is that my appetite is not that strong at the moment. My taste buds don't seem to work that well, and the many dishes that previously made me salivate, which I awaited with anticipation, do little or nothing to open my appetite. For now, I eat because I have to, so as to better my health.

I am likely depressed; I am not taking about feeling "blue" or out of sorts; that is also true living in a city like Toronto, which has winter and where SAD is not uncommon. To sort things out, I have called the cancer centre and have requested to see a psychologist. I have an appointment for this Friday, right before the CT scan. I suspect that many people at the cancer centre are either seeing or waiting to see a psychologist. I believe that talk therapy is helpful, especially if it is with a trained and skilled therapist. At least it has helped me in the past in other situations when I felt overwhelming sadness, such as right after the death of my father.

So, yes, I will spend a great deal of time at the hospital's cancer centre. This is understandable and necessary, and I sense that I am in the hands of professionals, skilled in what they do. Their goal is to prolong my life, an admirable goal; I want to live long enough to at least dance at my youngest grandson's wedding; he's now a few months old. Equally important is to live a life in good health—that is my ultimate goal: Recovery.

What irritates me most, however, and I use this word correctly, is the few individuals who proffer unsolicited advice, which does nothing to change my situation or even my point of view. The advice (e.g., alternative therapies at expensive private clinics that I can ill afford) , even if it is well-meaning, is actually meaningless and tiring. This advice-giving is done as a reflex action, likely done more to make the giver rather than the receiver feel better.

If  I sound like a tired old grump, that's how I currently feel. I truly wish I felt differently, but I don't. How is it possible? Too much abnormal activity, too many negative changes for my body and mind to take in and accept in such a short period of time.

Do I need to apologize for it and now revert to happy talk?


  1. Complaining is important. It is good for the soul. Putting one's difficulties into words is a way to deal with them--to the extent that they can be dealt with.

  2. Perry – It is a privilege to consider these thoughts you share with such candor. Thank you.

    “If I sound like a tired old grump, that's how I currently feel.”

    Let’s put an asterisk beside this ‘grumpy’* feeling.

    Grumpiness is what you would be feeling if you had a poor attitude about life - a selfish, cavalier moodiness foisted on others, mainly those closest, without excuse.

    THAT would make you a grump.

    But what you may be experiencing subjectively as ‘grumpy’ is another thing altogether.

    I believe it is your soul wrestling with the unavoidable manifold effects, including extreme emotional distress and unfathomable mental anguish, which assail any normal person undergoing true suffering.

    It is that which even the most noble person would experience being pressed under the weight of extreme trial, such as the one you are currently enduring.

    Those of us who have not personally witnessed or endured such exquisite suffering, we are not capable of grasping this fact -
    until we have suffered in like manner similar trials, any advice we offer is a worthless currency, a catalyst to further suffering.

    I know you well enough, Perry. Kvetch or no Kvetch. You suffer well. It's your nature. It’s who you are. You shine as gold in the eyes of those who know you well. You shine.


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