Saturday, January 1, 2011

Where the sun don't shine

I've thought for years about starting a blog. The thing that has stopped me is that so much of my bemusement tends to be dark or cynical. I'm pretty much a Dilbert. Some of my favorite little one liners:

They said, "Smile. Things could be worse." So, I smiled, and sure enough, things got worse.

The key to happiness is low expectations.

I'm thinking that bringing you down is not going to keep you coming back eager to read more. As all politicians know, to sell yourself, you have to tell people what they want to hear.

So, what did you want to hear? The wisdom that comes with experience? The meaning of life? A more optimistic key to happiness? Funny pet antics?

Anyway, I'm just gonna start writing. Here goes:

My wife has cancer. There. I said it. I don't like to put it that way, because it has such a awful ring to it: A connotation of incurability. The doctor (one of many doctors on her "team") says he can surgically remove it, after chemo and radiation, with more chemo afterwards, and lots of other unattractive junk along the way. But just saying: "She has cancer" is just too daunting. It seems better to just call it a tumor. Yes, it is a "malignant" tumor. Still, I just don't like using the word cancer.

This particular cancer is in a particularly un-nice place, a place sometimes referred to as "where the sun don't shine." OK, have you heard the song about the colorectal surgeon? If not, ask me to send it to you. That's about as funny as anything having the word "colorectal" in it could be.

I don't feel real jokey about this at all. I'm trying to decide the best strategy among denial, ignorance, prayer, or the "one-day-at-a-time" philosophy recommended by her "Colorectal Team." Only thing about the one-day-at-a-time thing is, are they saying that because there's no use worrying about things you can't control, or are they saying that because there may not be a whole lot more days to worry about? I'm going to trust that it's the former.

If you ever wanted to be a member of a "team" I'll bet it sure wasn't this kind of a team. Softball team, volleyball, soccer, bowling, something like that, yes. Colorectal cancer team, no. If I'd known this team was choosing up sides, I'd have hid in the locker room longer that day. I'm not really all that much into team sports anyway.

The Colorectal Team includes a GP, a gastroenterologist, a surgeon, an oncologist, a radiaton oncologist, a nutritionist, various nursing specialists, a "navigator" to try to help us maneuver among all those, and potentially even an acupuncturist. I would never have guessed that my needle-paranoid wife would voluntarily pay to get stuck with needles, but she does.

The information on colorectal cancer gives a list of "risk factors," of which she basically has none. They also say that something like 75% of people with colorectal cancer have none of the risk factors, which means that really, they haven't got a clue what the real risk factors are. I don't like trusting people to predict the future who were demonstrably unable to predict the past - it's like all these economists who totally missed the signs of the "recession" we are now in giving their predictions of the what the economy is likely to do over the next few years. If they were that far off on the last recession, they probably haven't a clue what's going to happen next either. But I digress.

We met the various Colorectal Team members this week. All were really nice and helpful, but to be perfectly honest, I'd rather not have had the need to meet them. We had three hours of meetings with them on Monday, and it was exhausting. The doctors were very reassuring, and seemingly confident that (no pun intended) in the end they will put Lyn back together functioning nearly as before. I hope that is not just telling us what we want to hear. If the truth were different would they tell us? Again, I'm going to trust their reassurances.

The big problem with their recommended one-day-at-a-time philosophy is that it is pretty unemotional. The advantage to it also is that it is pretty unemotional. You just do what you have to do, one step at a time; one day at a time; you don't stop to get worried, afraid, upset, angry, depressed, whatever. Don't ruminate too much. Just keep plugging along. But in the back of my mind, there's this lurking feeling. I guess there's no use going there, but it is there.

My inherent bemusement and indecisiveness may be a good thing, as it tends to work well with one-day-at-a-time. In the main, my feeling is that the word "cancer" is too inherently loaded with emotion. It tends to define your life. Lance Armstrong is defined by it, as much as he is defined by winning the Tour de France. But he has defined himself by it as a survivor of it, not as patient in current treatment. I'm not sure I want our life to be defined by Lyn's cancer. I think not. I think it is better to have a life aside from the disease. On the other hand, I don't want to be in denial about the extent to which it does affect us both.

I don't really know what to think about all of this. I can't sort out my feelings. So, I thought, well, maybe I could write it down. Maybe even someone else might find my bewildered ramblings helpful in their situation (not sure how, but who knows?). Or, maybe it's just a way of venting, of unloading the junk that's running around in my head.

So, this may or may not be a good reason to start a blog, but it's the reason I happen to have, so I'm going with it. Take it or leave it. I think my thoughts are going to be more scattered and dis-jointed than usual, but that's what you get reading free stuff on the internet.


  1. You put the uncertainty just right. And I worry about you just as much as I worry about mom. But as you said one day at a time so I think I'll worry about whether or not I am getting Starbucks this morning for a little bit.

  2. I'm a friend of Sarah's and will be keeping your family in my prayers.

  3. The lyrics to a song that sums up what I call my "realistic" view of life goes like this: "Hoping for the best, but expecting the worst." Like father, like son, right?

  4. When I had cancer, it awoke a strong fighting spirit in me. Not just to survive it, which of course, I wanted to do, but to finally after many years of spiritual "study" get to that place where no matter what happened, the one day I had would be what mattered. And every morning since, I have said a prayer of gratitude for another beautiful day and for all the blessings in my life.

    Lyn and you will of course have to find your own way. I will follow you and leave my comments for what they are worth as I do.--Inger