Thursday, October 14, 2010

three years

I went to see my oncologist yesterday for the second time this year for a wide smile, friendly chat and a checkup. Ironically, it was the third anniversary of when I started to lose it:

Three years ago yesterday, I’d been up for three nights straight putting together a photo exhibition (my first) in my courtyard and had stopped taking ibuprofen, taken to smoking cloves and wanting to be an artist, damn it. Here’s one of my favorites from the show:

Around two in the morning after my vernissage, I was at some club and started dropping beers. Things then went slowly from bad to worse until by Christmas, I was seeing double and could barely walk. The rest, as they say, is history: accessible from the archive to your right ->

Yesterday, my oncologist and I discussed her recent trip to Egypt, my summer and the book I was reading. She couldn’t stop smiling, as she’s not used to happy endings to stage IV melanoma with brain and lung metastasis. Being an oncologist must be the saddest job in the world. She was going to order a PET/CT for December, so I told her the following story from the last one in May:

me: Hey Doctor, it says here that one of these exams is equivalent to four years of ambient radiation. This is my eighth, that’s thirty-two years of radiation!

Radiologist: That’s right.

me: Isn’t that unhealthy?

Radiologist: Well, yes, but, let’s see… [looks at file] Wait a minute. You had radiation! That’s thousands of years of radiation!

Oh how we laughed. And so did my oncologist, but we negotiated down to an old-fashioned (less carcinogenic) CT instead, as she agreed that I needed more radiation like a hole in the head – which they also gave me. We left my next appointment until ‘sometime next spring’ and I asked her if she had many patients like me. “No, not like you,” she said and smiled anyway.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

back in blog

Well, it’s been well over a year since I’ve posted anything. There were a lot of reasons why I stopped writing, but after more than a year and a half as a full-time cancer patient, mostly I just needed a vacation. I didn’t want to be ‘that guy’ anymore. I didn’t want people constantly asking me about my health, treating me differently or even deferently. Pity and praise, thoughts and prayers prefaced pleasantries and broke the ice, but not for me, not after a year and a half of it.

Cancer was a total mindfuck. I’d spent too long with too little choice over what I wanted, despite everyone doing what I wanted, which can actually be worse. So I declared myself cured (which I actually wasn’t – not completely like now), purposely burned the rest of my cancer cards and began to do what I wanted to do (which can also actually be worse).

I also felt that this blog had deteriorated into a bit of a travelogue, with little substance in terms of cancer advice and was hoping to correct that, but didn’t believe that I had the appropriate detachment, objectivity or even proof of my own cure to preach to others about a condition that I just happen to know a lot about from terrifying, first-hand experience. 

But I think I have that detachment now (or at least as much as I ever will) and survival guilt has seriously begun to ruin my party. People are dying while I rationalize and make excuses, and although I can’t possibly understand what each goes through in their own private hell, I do understand better than most and I think I can help. So instead of rambling on about my wacky misadventures, I feel I owe something to the memory of those that have died and to those just beginning the horrible waking nightmare that is cancer.

That said, I’ll write whatever I feel like, and if wacky misadventures can somehow inspire those who think that their life is over after being told that their life is over, then I’ve done some good - because it’s only just beginning.