Triple Whammy or How to Cope with Multiple Cancers – Part VIIII – What If? – by HD
In the past chapters I wrote about all the treatments I received for my multiple cancers. The skin cancer and my thyroid cancer treatment I discussed in more detail in last week’s installment, Glowing in the Dark.
When I got that third cancer diagnosis, the nasty skin cancer, I really thought, oh shit, this is it! — There seems to be a pattern here, and my entire body is riddled with these damn growths. Especially when I learned how aggressively spreading that merkel cell carcinoma can be, – you can imagine that I was rather devastated.
Waiting for the lymph node test was the hardest; – if the new cancer had spread to the nodes, survival rate would go down considerably. – I hate to wait for results, especially from pathology. (If you read the previous installment, you already know that luckily the cancer did not spread to my lymph nodes.)
But – what if it had, and all the treatments I received so far were not taking hold? What if there are more? Or one of them is spreading to other parts of my body? —- Or in other words, what if I am going to die?
I think this is the most difficult chapter to write about, but on the other hand it is something that cancer sufferers, especially multiple cancer patients, have to come to grips with.
Late at night you really, really wish to be so very positive and up-beat about all this, but these morbid thought are creeping into your conscience from way back of your head. – You try to shake them, you push back, you try to drown them out, and you struggle very gallantly; – but sometimes these feelings are just too darn powerful, especially in your current, multiple cancer fighting, state. – Needless to say, these thoughts of dying are mightily scary; though we all know, that some day will be our last. – Only difference for a person like me, with multiple cancers, – is that you intellectually know, that very clearly your are now at a much heightened risk of not making it.
Some doctors (the ones that lack good bed side manners entirely) tell their cancer patients to “bring your affairs in order”. (True story, told to me by a fellow throat cancer sufferer). – Well, my doctors never were that callous, they always emphasized the treatment success statistics, and generally gave a positive prognosis, with the caveat that one can indeed die from these cancers.
Now, statistics can be double sided swords; on the one hand they are important to generate awareness, and get funds for research etc., but if you are the patient already, any percentage number is rather meaningless, because to you it is already 100% up close and uncomfortably personal. Some people are extremely frightened when they read the survival statistics of their particular cancers.
How did I deal with the prospect of possibly not making it? What could I do? What would make it easier on myself and on those around me?
Well, please keep in mind, every person is different and will have a different approach (or none at all); – but I started to make some preparations should the worst outcome approach. Knowing that I was fighting the third cancer within six months, I figured I better “bring my affairs in order” indeed.
What do I mean by that? – Well, we all have “things” in our lives that ONLY we have knowledge of, and which should be communicated to our spouses or the people that might be left behind.
Take for instance the address book on your computer: there may be people that you want to be contacted, but that your wife or family does not know, or wouldn’t think of, when the time comes. No, I am not talking about the proverbial “little black book” with your secret girl friends and lovers. Not that I have one those, but if I did, that would also be worth a consideration. I am rather talking about those old school or work buddies, or the aunts/uncles or cousins you didn’t have contacts with in so many years. – So, one of the practical things I did was to copy my address book, and then go through it, and only left in tact those addresses and emails of people I wanted notified. Simple thing to do, but for my wife it would have been impossible, because she doesn’t know half the people I was thinking about. I printed the list out and put it in an envelope.
Of course there are also the various access passwords that ones spouse or family should know about. My wife is not very computer literate, and I am the one who has the knowledge (and the passwords) for our website for instance. – For all these various passwords, I use commercial computer software to consolidate them into what is called a “computer vault”; – meaning a program that is secure (via encryption and a password), and contains all relevant account numbers, addresses, and password for various things, important or otherwise. I happen to use a program called “SplashID Desktop”, but there are many others on the market. – Of course it is always a real good idea to have files or programs like this, whether you are fighting cancers, or are healthy as a bull.
Financial matters are another thing one should carefully think about. Don’t forget any pension plans, or social security info, etc. – Most younger folks think life never ends, but having had so many cancers, inevitably will steer your thoughts into the direction of the end. – So, it is good to be prepared. – Of course having, or updating, a will or living trust is also a real good idea at a time like this.
Having cancers, in this respect, has a positive side. You have time to prepare some of the things I described; it is not like a heart attack, where “boom” all of a sudden the lights go out, and you’re done.
So, I collected and printed all the information and stuffed it in an envelope with a letter addressed to my wife, and put it into the drawer of my night stand. (If I have to do it again, I probably will dump the info onto a memory stick or a CD instead.) – I did not discuss what I did with her (I didn’t want to alarm and hurt her, and I figured, if the cancers got worse, I would have time to tell her about it at a later date). Luckily – it never came to that point. Hurrah !!!
Besides writing down any important information, there was one other thought on my mind during that time when I considered the possible consequences of my illnesses. – It was the notion of a legacy. – See, I am nearly 62 years old, and we don’t have children on our own; so what was there that I would be proud of? What had I accomplished? What could I leave behind? – Very interesting thoughts indeed!
Actually after a while of pondering, I felt rather OK about the idea that our house is full of pieces of art, both painting, drawings, and sculpture works, all were produced by me. – I also wrote a number of trip reports over the years, and there is our website which has much personal info on travels and other activities. – Not so bad. – I began feeling a little better about this already.
I know this segments wasn’t an easy read, but I hope it gave a few helpful tips should you find yourself in a similar situation (which I sincerely hope you never will!)
My cancers were all within six months in 2007, as you can see, I am still around and able to write about it. And though I did indeed do all the things I describe in this chapter, I am really glad that my envelope was never used.
In the next, and last installment of my “Triple Whammy” essay, I will talk about what it means being a survivor of three cancers, remissions, lasting effects, and follow-up scans; and the fear that one day I’ll hear the dreaded “C-Word” again.
Come back next week.
Here is to life and to your health!
HD in Oregon
To read previous installations of this series, check out: Coping with Multiple Cancers, Learning to Ride the Dragon, Dearly Beloved, I Think I Can, Smell the Roses, Beam Me up, Scotty (Radiation), Witches Brew (Chemotherapy), Glowing in the Dark
Tags: coping with multiple cancers, living with multiple cancers, managing multiple cancer diagnoses, multiple thyroid cancers, skin cancer, strategies for multiple cancers, throat cancer, thyroid cancer, treating multiple cancers, What If by HD in Oregon