In a recent post, writer and stage IV non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma survivor Robert Kessler wrote in his blog a remarkable piece in which he took a stand in defense of blogging and took issue with a rather insensitive assault on stage IV breast cancer survivor and blogger Lisa Bonchek Adams by Guardian writer Emma Keller and her husband Bill, a former New York Times editor as they accused her of over sharing. This got my chemo-infused blood boiling in defense of my fellow blogging cancer brothers and sisters.
We all manage challenge differently. Some see it as an opportunity for growth, some retreat, some paint, compose, perform, some suffer greatly, some just “roll with it,” some take up arms, some just want to party like it’s 1999. Some try to check off their “bucket list ( if they have the time, resources and health to do so) as they acknowledge something has moved the clock forward prematurely. It’s not daylight savings time anymore. It’s just savings time. And some write. Publically and privately.
The piece by Robert incited me back to the keyboard. After my initial diagnosis of stage III mixed glioma brain cancer in the summer of 2011 and the subsequent five craniotomies, radiation, shunt installation, ongoing chemo regimen of Avastin/Carboplatin and seizure management, living with cancer is more or less just a fact of life. Eventually the Carbo will need to be stopped because over time the kidneys become overtaxed. The bills from co-pays and deductibles keep coming, the headaches and fatigue change like the weather, and as long as I keep giving something back to the amazing institutions which have helped and continue to save my life, the waters are steady. The tumor is still there, lurking. It has not shrunk nor has it grown. We are keeping the needle in the middle, the dam fortified, the waters at bay. My younger daughter and I had the good fortune to Nordic ski in Quebec as we have every year (she, skiing an average of 20 miles a day, I much, much less so) while my older daughter raised over $11,000 for The Norris Cotton Cancer Center through a fundraising climb up Kilimanjaro. Proud poppa am I.
One aspect of my own coping strategy is to tap more readily into the elements which provide nutrition to my heart, body and soul. Music. Food. Friends. Family. Laughter. My work.
I have music on throughout the house on at all times, usually Vermont Public Radio’s classical station. ( Yes I am a proud sustaining member!)
I love food. I love it more. I want to travel. I want to travel more. I do truly want to live each moment in the moment, as best I can for as long as I am physically and mentally able.
Friends far and wide, close and merely acquainted give me wind in my sails. My community, from the post office to the local café to the pub to the brain cancer community, offer a lift.
A walk, a ski, a snowshoe in the woods, fill me. And, when I remember, just being silent, maybe watching intently the birds at the feeders.
One of the elements of my living a happy life is avoiding stress and finding humor in between the crags of the day-to-day as well as that which vexes. I am fascinated by the science of laughter: the healthy chemical changes happening within the body when laughter takes hold. Example? A few weeks ago, during a particularly icy and snowy time, I got in my car, my dear black VW Jetta Sportwagen, started up and began to back out. There were some crunching noises I assumed to be chunks of ice built up in the wheel wells. I continued my exit rearward thinking if I simply powered out of the garage I would break free of whatever was causing resistance. The sounds became louder until I heard what I thought was a torrent of glass raining upon the roof. It was exactly that. I had driven backwards through the multi-paneled garage door, shattering every pane of glass, destroying every wooden panel, ripping the whole damned thing right off the tracks.
I had no idea what I had done nor the extent of the damage until further inspection. I winced and let out a “what the?” Then I started laughing. The whole scene was absurd. What else could I do? It was the healthiest response I could muster and it helped calm me down. “Whatever,”I said to myself. “Whatever.”
“Today we fight. Tomorrow we fight. The day after, we fight. And if this disease plans on whipping us, it better bring a lunch, ’cause it’s gonna have a long day doing it.”
― Jim Beaver, Life’s That Way: A Memoir