Friday, May 18, 2007


Today's CNN home page features the headline Cancer Fears Self-Fulfilling, and I was immediately curious. I was wondering whether it would say that people like me, who have had cancer and now have a recurring dread or even terror of its return, might actually hasten bad news through our fears. Of course, the article isn't about that--it discusses how there are so overwhelmingly many things that can give us cancer that many people don't bother to take any preventive steps.

Well, that first, then: Immediately after ending chemo, I addressed my biggest remaining risk factor by losing 30 pounds. I was hoping to lose 36, and haven't yet, but I've kept off the 30 with really no trouble. As for other changes, I've started taking curcumin, after Judy alerted me to a study that showed it prevented later metastasis in mice. I know that the internet story about microwaving plastic is a hoax, but I still avoid microwaving plastic these days--what the heck. And I do try to buy organic and avoid any of those chemicals that I can--but I still breathe the air in Los Angeles. I hope everyone does these kinds of things. And doesn't smoke. And if any of that doesn't describe you, I hope you'll change.

But back to fear. There really is an ongoing fear that comes with this disease. I am so happy now, being healthy and strong and in better shape physically than I have for years. My brain is back, my body is more than back, my scar is fading, I'm going to Europe for a dream vacation, and basically my life is just incredibly precious and wonderful. I can feel the intense enjoyment of just living (even on a sad or irritable day) so much more readily now. There is a kind of insane joy just in seeing my hair get longer.

And that same awareness can make it very frightening to think that I could go to the doctor in July and be told I have metastatic cancer that can't be cured, and have to go back on chemo and get weak and blurry and bald, and know that forward momentum is for other people's lives and not mine. There is often a fairly active fear that the rug will be pulled from under me.

The kind of cancer I had is most risky for the first 2 years. This is constant knowledge. Each check-up is more portentous than the next, which is great when they are "all clear." Even after the 2 years, the declining slope of the risk graph is still pretty high until 5 years, and then it drops way down. So I will still have some time to worry.

And to wonder how to live. This may seem easy, but here's a puzzle for you. You are me. You still want to have kids, and you don't have a lot of time left for that. But the cancer community advises waiting at least 2 years after treatment before you start to try, in case you do get a recurrence and won't be able to be around for your kids. OK, now I'm 41. Then add in my own personal risk profile, which says that I probably have to worry for 5 years post-treatment, and now I'm 44. What do you do? Do you have a kid? How sure do you have to be that you'll live in order to have them? How sure are you that you will?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

IRS yet IVPOY on the 30-pound tip and other physical and mental achievements. It (they?) show(s?) on the court, believe me! Looking forward to enjoying Europe with you, for which TYTB, as well as ILYMTYLM. Hopefully we won't come back 30 pounds heavier with all the gelato eating I have planned for us. Adesso, buona sera.