Monday, August 5, 2013

Ten Years After

I've blogged about cancer before here. I'll try not to repeat myself and the careful reader should go back there and see whether I have repeated myself then yell at me about it.

Except for this:
When you have cancer you cannot control what they'll cut out of you. You cannot control what poisons they'll pump into you. Or when. Or how long. You cannot control the course of the disease, but you can control your attitude. I chose to appear to be optimistic despite knowing better. I had everyone fooled.
I said it again because I figure that's important enough for you to not miss. If anything I can write will save a life, this is it.

Here's something else to think about the disease: The victim isn't the victim. If you look back a decade, you'll see that my kids' grades went down. Nobody had a tearful meltdown. It was just a burden: dad is sick. Anybody who's suffering from cancer or any slow coast down the exit ramp has people around who are going to be hurting.

If you feel inclined to pray for the sick, pray for those close to the sick. Cancer isn't contagious, but sadness and grief are a burden to those closest to it. Don't overlook them.

When I went in for cancer surgery, I let everyone know. I encouraged prayer on my behalf. I was quite ecumenical in that regard. I have always been actively involved in various online communities and two local writers groups. As a result I have several non-Baptist friends: My name was mentioned in the local Synagogue. An Atheist thought positive thoughts. A New Age Pagan threw a stick in the ocean on my behalf. My surgeon said a Hail Mary for me. And others in other non-Christian and Christian traditions offered intercessory expressions on my behalf.

We might argue about the nature of deity being addressed.
We might doubt the existence of anything beyond the empirical.

I cannot doubt that all those folks cared.

The Baptist in me admits that maybe God didn't hear prayers addressed to someone else, but He overheard them. And He answered. When I was coming out of surgery it felt as if anything I asked for God would deliver. Because he was very direct and immediate about answering everything I prayed for. I joke that I should have asked for a winning Lotto ticket.

The thought occurred, along with an unbidden, "Don't abuse this."

There's a scene in the movie Shadowlands where the snarky Atheist taunts C. S. Lewis about prayer: You won't tell an omniscient being something he doesn't already know. You won't change the mind of an immutable (unchanging) being. And Lewis replied, "That's not the point. Prayer changes me."

Chemotherapy has an effect on your nervous system. On the second round of themo the poison gave me a peculiar reaction to the cold. One time when I got out of the car, some freezing rain hit the side of my face and it was instantly numb. Another time I didn't think and put my hand under running cold water, it felt like an electrical shock. I found this fascinating. I figured eating ice cream would be a Very Bad Idea.

Chemo also caused neuropathy in my extremities and that has taken years to heal. So long that I no longer find it amusing.

Chemo had an effect on my taste buds. Things didn't taste the same. I love spicy-hot food, but under chemo it was intolerably painful. I couldn't even use black pepper. This was a direct assault on my identity.

If you ever undergo chemotherapy, avoid all your favorite foods. You don't want unpleasant associations. I quit eating steak. I started eating a lot of black cherries and drinking a lot of sour cherry juice. Everything tasted like shit. You don't want to finish chemo and afterwards remember the awful way your favorite foods tasted like when your taste buds were poisoned.

Ten years ago today I had my last chemotherapy treatment. I made it and I'm grateful. If you're doing chemo, I hope you found this useful.

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