Sunday, August 24, 2014

Time and survival

Another day begins
I have been missing anniversaries on these cancer blog posts. So I’ll start by noting that this week it will be 7 months since I was diagnosed with the tumor that has taken up residence in my brain.

What I notice instead of months is the passing of the days. Each morning I wake to another one I think of myself as a cancer survivor, though you don’t survive GBM cancer anymore than you survive life. To the extent that I can put those two on equal terms, I guess I can call myself a survivor. We all get just one day at a time anyway.

Actually it’s too early to tell about today just yet. I can’t seriously complain about the quality of living, just that after a 5-day round of chemo I can look forward to several days of heavy-duty fatigue. So for most of the past two days I have run out of energy by about 7 a.m. and spend the rest of the day lying in bed, sleeping for hours at a time and reading a novel during periods of waking in between, maybe with ear beds tuned in to Tibetan bowls on YouTube. (Yesterday this followed a trip to the local animal hospital where our dog Zoe had oral surgery.)

Wall mural, Desert Hot Springs Animal Hospital
Also pretty much absent is any desire to eat. This part is hard to explain, but while I remember the taste of food, I need only remind myself that what registers now is something as bland and off-putting as library paste or wet cardboard and I lose interest in snacks or meals. 

The exceptions, sometimes, are fruit (grapes mostly), crackers, tomatoes, and salad dressing, which you could probably create a weight-loss program around as effective and trendy as the Paleo diet. It’s just weird enough. After the steroids I’ve been prescribed made my weight shoot up 20 pounds, I’m off about 4–5 again. Who knows, I may be able to squeeze into a pair of jeans again some day.

For all this pissing and moaning, I do actually have good news to report. In the past two weeks I saw both oncologists, who looked over the latest MRIs and said that what’s left of the tumor has not only stabilized but is showing signs of shrinking. The radiation oncologist was practically wringing her hands with glee, glad that treatment is buying us more time, which is what I’m calling surviving (see above). She was also happy that I continue to have strength in my left arm and that my balance remains good.

Wall mural, Desert Hot Springs Community Center
Meanwhile, the neurooncologist says the post-radiation swelling is lessening and she is cutting back on my steroid dosage. All the same, she puzzles over the numbness that affects my hand, since the effects seem random rather than predictable. The radiation oncologist seems to think I can recover more coordination in that hand if I keep up with PT, squeezing a rubber ball. As it is, watching Netflix videos at night, I can be found “working out” like this with my lump of Play Dough, and searching for chess pieces, coins, stones, etc. in my bean bin.

On the OMG front, I continue exposing myself to theological conceptions that have been entertained over the centuries by outliers of Christendom. For example, 4th-century Cappadocians, whose notions of God would not banish agnosticism for someone who embraces it as a safe haven for the rational. But they make you realize how over the centuries standard brand orthodoxies have so limited our options and imaginations for both faith and belief. And if you’re me, as Ive discovered, you need some of both to make sense of surviving cancer.

Made it to 8:00 a.m. Time to lie down again for a while…

Previously: OMG


  1. Thinking about you every day, Ron. Your writing (mental) ability is certainly intact, crystalline, lucid, perfect.

  2. Ron, you are going through all this with great fortitude, so I think you are entitled to occasional "pissing and moaning." I'm happy to hear the good news and I hope you make rapid progress towards a full recovery.

  3. So correct that the 'victory' of the common religious sects have limited us. They narrow our thinking in unfortunate and dangerous ways, I believe.

  4. The photo at the top appears to have some Palm Desert dust lending color to it as if there wasn't enough to go round. Very nice. Waking up to another day is always good.

  5. Thanks, everybody for dropping by again. Makes my day.

  6. I'm amazed you read these books so quickly despite your exhaustion. I'm reading Big Rock Candy Mountain by Stegner and I expect it to take me a few more weeks.
    You must have a favorite food you've avoided because it's fattening. Now you can indulge - like mashed potatoes and spicy gravy? Different flavors of ice cream? bacon? Oh, well, enjoy your grapes and tomatoes. Thinking of you.