Monday, July 22, 2013

The Cancer Blog: Week 26

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. 
        Today is Day 217 living with cancer; today chemo session no. 11 has been scheduled, but I have decided to not continue with the last two chemos, chiefly because the side-effects, most notably chemotherapy-induced peripheral neuropathy (CIPN), have become too hard to bear and are affecting my quality of life, my well-being.


How Do You Feel?

“The goal is to live a full, productive life even with all that ambiguity. No matter what happens, whether the cancer never flares up again or whether you die, the important thing is that the days that you have had you will have lived.”
Gilda Radner

It is said that appearances are often deceiving; this is often true when it comes to the appearance of individuals who have cancer.  Many people who have cancer do not have the wasted, hollow or emaciated facial look that some have come to expect; in many cases you would not be able to tell who has cancer. That is, the cancer patient is indistinguishable from the rest of society in the way he appears.

And, yet, how he feels is another matter altogether; the treatment regime of chemo drugs, although becoming better in its targeted accuracy, still results in many side-effects, most notably in my case general fatigue, nausea, loss of appetite, loss of taste buds, loss of sensitivity of both fingers and toes, mood swings and a shift in sleeping patterns. The combined effect is what many cancer patients call the “new normal.”

Now, this state of health leaves me wondering whether I will ever return to my “old self.” In truth, I have forgotten what this old self is, having become in many ways a person who has become someone else—a direct result of having been diagnosed with colon cancer and the treatment to eradicate said cancer.

I am thankful for all the efforts made on my behalf by the medical and health-care team at Sunnybrook’s Odette Cancer Centre. In particular, I hold to high-esteem the chemo nurses who have been with me since my first treatment on February 12th, a day that seems so long ago. The highest regard is for my medical oncologist, Dr. Kelvin Chan, a doctor’s doctor and a man who has all the necessary qualities that one would expect in a doctor, including a high degree of medical competence and intelligence, sensitivity and compassion.  I am fortunate to have him as my oncologist.

As to my over-all general appearance, my expectation is that my interior physical health will eventually catch up with my exterior projections, to a full and complete recovery, that is, that I will become in some sense a wholly integrated human being. After all, such is what many human beings desire, and in some ways cancer and its treatment has challenged me to view myself and the world in which I move and operate in new ways, challenging some long-held beliefs and truths.  This is a good thing and forms a great part of my recovery.

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