Saturday, March 17, 2012

Bigger Picture

Sad news.   I just learned that one of the people I met on-line during my cancer journey, a woman who was diagnosed with rectal cancer a few months after me, passed away.  She made it through her treatment, but recently suffered a recurrence that was pretty aggressive, and proved to be too much for her to overcome.   I always enjoyed reading her comments on my posts.  They were always positive, supportive, and encouraging.  She was young - in her mid 50s, and put up a heck of a fight.  She was an active blogger, and her blog was well read (80,000+ hits) by people around the world.  She will be missed.

Her blog is excellent.  Here's the link - http://caroleandcancer.blogspot.com/.  Others going through rectal cancer, or any kind of recurrence, or faced with the prospect of palliative, not curative, care might find it useful.

I've said it before.  Cancer sucks.  Cancer takes.  Here's a person, within a span of two years, went from leaving a normal life, minding her own business, to having cancer take every taken from her, leaving a husband a kids behind. 

(It's colo-rectal cancer awareness month kids.  Please, if you're over 50, or have symptoms (especially blood in your stool - think about it - that is NOT NORMAL), get your colonoscopy!!)

I read the "colon club" board on occasion, and notices of people passing away do not appear infrequently.  And those notices always suck, especially if that person was actively posting on the board just a little bit before.  But this, this is the first time someone I've met on-line, someone I felt I got to know a little bit, lost their battle with cancer.  So this extra sucks.

I said I had a mega-post coming, but I haven't had the time to gather all my thoughts and put them down.  One of the things I wanted to mention, and I'm bringing it up now because it goes along with the news above, is that I heard some unsettling news at last month's "poop group".  I learned that two people have had recurrences, meaning further treatment (surgery, never-ending chemo).  The thought of having to face *any* additional treatment would be a devastating blow, and to have to walk into the infusion room, and sit down in a chemo chair again ...  But really, when faced with that, what else are you going to do?

And I'll admit, all this bad news gives me a bit of survivor's guilt.  Things are going well for me -- I'm taking care of myself first on a daily basis, and I'm getting in a better shape as I train for some bike rides coming up (and to hopefully trim down a bit for the upcoming calendar photo shoot).  But I don't have a partner or kids who are depending on me, who are being put through the anguish of seeing their husband/father go through this, and wonder why fortune should have it that I've been spared of any further complications or recurrences.

Even though I'm doing well, and have little news to report at the group sessions, there's value in attending.  I don't go looking for bad news, by no means.  I would love nothing more than to have the group disband because there's no colorectal cancer to talk about.  But, regardless of the news being shared, just being in that room with all those other people who have gone through this ... It's amazing how it just whips my perspective on life back into shape.  And that's why I still go.  It just strips away all the day to day bullshit and petty concerns of real life and leaves the things that really matter -- peace, joy, love.  And it makes you ask yourself if those are things that you have enough of in your life.  One of the people at group had that tattooed in her foot -- peace, joy and love.  I initially dismissed that as a corny little saying at first, but after group, when I was just sitting in a chair in the hotel lobby, just staring into space, and processing the news I had heard in group, I thought more about that.  Peace, joy, and love.  It fits perfectly into what I'm looking for, and are things I want to have more in my life.

And that dovetails into another thing I was going to save for later.  (This does seem to happen on my blog a bit, doesn't.  I start with one topic, meaning to write one or two paragraphs, and end up writing 1,000 words.)

Work.

Work definitely does not give me "peace, joy, and love."  Mostly because it feels I do so much of it.  Work has been a recurrent topic for me on this blog, and as you all know, I've been struggling with where that post-cancer work-life balance lies.  The post-caner W/L balance is really no different than where pre-cancer or no-cancer-ever work/life balance lies, but going through cancer, you're much more attuned to the balance, and resetting it as necessary.  I've know where that balance lies, and that my balance is out of whack a bit (currently an upper case W and lower case L (W/l), and at times two upper case Ws and a lower case L (WW/l). 

I enjoy my job as an intellectual property attorney -- I find the work interesting and challenging (most of the time), I work on interesting matters for some cool clients (most of the time), I'm doing well at at (most of the time), but it just takes too much of time (most of the time).  I've been back full time for a year now, and have tried everything I know to fix my present situation.  I've looked for other jobs.  Nope.  I've looked for the same job in other cities.  Had offers, but nope, didn't want to leave Portland.  I've tried all the time management tricks in the book.  Nope.  It just still takes weekends and evenings some time for me to get the job done.  And that's not what I want.

So, I've come to the realization that I'm going to have to jump off the partner track at this law firm.  It's a tough thing to do since I've been at it for 4+ years, but I don't want want to be in my mid 60s, looking back on the past 20 years and wishing I'd worked less.  I know what I want out of life, and I'm not getting it with my current setup.  They've told me they'd allow me to work part-time (3/4 time), and I'm going to take them up on it.  Question is just when.  Maybe at the end of the summer, maybe at the end of the year, maybe a year from today.  But that's about all I plan on handling -- another year.

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Now, after all this heavy news, I'm going to go out and celebrate life a bit.  I'm going to ride my bike a bit and get the heart rate up.  That's when I feel the most alive -- when I'm outside and exercising.  Of course, it's St. Pat's too.  Might stop at the local pub for a Guinness.  Should probably do that *before* I ride, but I probably won't.  A Guinness sounds too good right now, and I'm going to go have me one.

Cheers.

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Nothing to be concerned about ... carry on

Bumped up my doctor's appointment to yesterday.  Everything seems to be fine.  We've got a plan and are treating it.  My fear was that a tumor growing in my lower abdomen, but with the clean scan in early December, and a normal CEA count in a blood test I had taken just two weeks ago, and the fact that the symptoms can be explained by various other, more typical, conditions, we're assuming it's not a recurrence.   So, all seems well, and I can relax.

Going to the Blazers game tonight.  The team donated an executive suite to Portland Providence for colorectal cancer survivors.  Very generous.  The Blazers' owner is Paul Allen, who was had his own battle with cancer (both Hodgkin's and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma), and I think that's part of the reason the organization makes these kind of efforts.

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Mild anxiety ...

It's late. Can't sleep. Mostly because my mind is still decompressing from a long day, partly because the upstairs neighbor's dog has separation anxiety, they're out drinking, and he won't stop barking, partly because the neighborbood homeless guy is having a loud, drunken, profane-laced conversation with himself in the back alley, and partly because I have some anxiety about an upcoming doctor's appointment next Tuesday. The stream of doctor's appointments, even though I'm in surveillance mode, never seems to end. I know what I'm going in for is *something*, but hope it's nothing. But it's near where I had my tumor, so I'm a bit paranoid. And if there's people who are paranoid about their health, it's people who have had cancer.

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Still really excited about the whole Colondar thing. Really. I've had a few exchanges with a few of the other "models", and have learned more about their stories. The stories are pretty amazing, scary and inspirational all at the same time. The more I learn, the more I'm looking forward to the NY weekend. I have a feeling that it could really wind up being something special.

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Stayed tuned -- megapost coming soon!