For years I have been writing about the “mystery” of life, a mystery that we engage with our every thought, passion, and action (the philosopher Richard McKeon’s words seemto sum it nicely here). As I get closer to the end of my particular journey I feel the truth of that chosen way of being in this world has served me and mine pretty well. There's magic in the mystery ...
But the story of mystery in our lives not always smooth, nor is the mystery-within-the-mystery of cancer easy to live with or even to figure out. One lesson is that once I recognized that I am part of a grander narrative and my assignment is to find my proper place in it, make what small contributions to this world and to its people I can make, and love and work at it with all my heart and brain and soul and hands – well, that is the storyline I’ve followed and so far it has served me quite well.
This morning I also woke up once again in the recliner but with surprisingly little back pain. Hurrah! The new steroids are working. Thank God, my oncology docs, and the pharmaceutical company that manufactured it.
Why steroids? Why now?
The short, non-technical version: We got some, well, let’s call it “mixed news” from our new radiological oncologist yesterday, but it came with a handy prescription for steroids that have already eased the back pain considerably. This is a mighty good thing for me – for us – because the pain had become quite intense and the oxyC painkillers weren’t really doing what they did so well only a week ago. In the interim our Four Winds team kicked into high gear, Dr. Robin recommended Dr. Tannehill for a consultation, and she shared with him my scans.
Turns out I have a tumor pressing against the nerves that rest against my spine and s small hairline fracture on the spine. The steroids are a short-term solution but the longer-term solution is radiation; a 15-session daily treatment of targeted burn. I can’t begin next week because I just came off a week of chemo and my body needs time to recover. That’s the good news.
But I have to admit yesterday was hell. Spent it lying down twice for over an hour (very hard on my back) to get new CT-scan and first ever MRI. Broke the end off my cane pressing down too hard when trying to stand up. Nic today will fix it. And also today – didn’t I say life is complicated? - San is doing the last touch-up on our house painting, after which she gets one week away from those cares and gets back to her dissertation. Maybe two weeks. Depends.
So today and tomorrow are days of high celebration – for our anniversary, for Father’s Day, for the humbling tribute to my life and work, for friendship and prayers and medical science; for stories and for love. As I titled my initial blog post about cancer a year ago, I am a “Lucky Man.”
This year underscores that truth. Not to put too fine a line under it, but one of the ways I have been lucky is by simply outlasting the initial predictions for life (3-6 months) and one of the things that makes even good news like that complicated is that my “longevity” is one reason this new back cancer was a surprise. Most Stage 4 Pancreatic patients don’t live long enough for that to develop. I have. And all of you have been right here with us, cheering us on.
I'm afraid that I have to now admit that my health is deteriorating in ways that remind me, that reminds all of us, that the diagnosis doesn't change but how we reach the end is at leas partially up to us. And I choose not to make getting there any easier for those rogue cancer cells, and to as live fully as I can while I still can.
Thank you for being my friends and supporting my family and me throughout all of this. I'm not done yet. We are not done yet. I promise. As Robert Frost once put it: “I have miles to go before I sleep …”