Things I didn't know about having cancer

I'm posting this in the hopes that anyone who is either diagnosed with cancer or has someone who is diagnosed with cancer will have a little bit more to go on than what we had. I'll admit that when I was diagnosed with cancer it felt like someone had pulled the rug out from under me. I felt rudderless and wondered what the future held. I've had eight rounds of chemo thus far and I have a few things that might be helpful for anyone who is undergoing treatment or wants to know more about cancer and treatment.

(Before I go too far into the weeds if you have any questions about my treatment or just want to talk in general I have a contact page, including a link to schedule a meeting with me. I'm happy to talk more about this and be as open and honest about what's going on. Like the page says I promise to read it, but I make no guarantees about responding.)

  1. Cancer isn't a death sentence. Granted, many folks that I have admired have passed on from cancer (RIP Neil Peart and Bill Rieflin) , but everyone's cancer is different. No two paths are alike, and everyone has their own path to take.

  2. Chemo is tiring. What happens with chemotherapy is pretty amazing. in general terms what it's trying to do is keep cancer cells from multiplying. In my case it does this by making it so the DNA in my body can't replicate. That's pretty amazing stuff. Unfortunately it's not as selective so things like hair follicles, nerves, and colon cells get a bit of a shock when things go from "slow everything down" to "OK, we're back!". This can be exhausting. Early on I didn't find it quite as tiresome but now I have specifically scheduled around my chemo pump removal. I schedule the afternoon off for getting cleaned up and taking a nap. Yesterday I was pretty much out-of-commission until around 9pm, and that precluded my normal nap. At least Pixel was OK with being around me while I napped. I also managed to tire myself out while doing something like vacuuming and dusting. So yeah, chemo can be exhausting.

  3. Your tastes may vary. When I started chemo I thought for sure that I wouldn't want anything spicy. I gave away my salsas (which, next to coffee, are a staple of my diet. Ask anyone who knows me about how I can decimate chips and salsa.) I realized that I was still able to have spicy foods. This was a relief, and I slowly brought my salsas back into my diet. I've also been able to eat as well. Again, each treatment is different. Not everyone can handle this.

  4. Braining is hard. One side-effect that I'm not too thrilled about is concentration. It takes me longer to get focused than before. I find myself wanting lots of comfort distractions. Before my diagnosis I was all about solo RPGs. Now I'm not as enthused with them because it takes a lot of effort to get started with them. I've been working my way back to considering them and my own game designs but it's been a struggle to get enthused in the same way.

  5. Comfort. I find myself looking for more comfort. This could be in part because I'm just looking for distractions, but it's also in-part because I'm going through things that I hadn't expected. I've been gentle with myself about this, but I've noticed my mind drifting to things that are comforting to me (music, retro computers, etc.)

  6. Support. I've been very blessed with not only supportive family and friends (you're all amazing) but also supportive folks at Cancer Care Associates. Everyone there is supportive and kind, which is a big help. I feel comfortable being there. I feel like I've been welcomed into a large family of folks that are going through similar struggles. I hope others can find that kind of environment as well.

  7. You're not alone. It's sobering to realize how many folks are either dealing with cancer themselves or know of someone in their life who is dealing with cancer. The number of folks that are in the waiting area of Cancer Care Associates is sobering. The number of folks that came forward to me to offer support is also an indicator of the number of folks that are working through cancer.

I hope this his helpful for you or someone you know that is dealing with cancer. When I started down this path I felt alone, isolated, and afraid. What I found along this journey was support, friendship, and care. I couldn't ask for a better group of folks supporting not only myself but all of those folks who are working through their own cancers. It's also amazing to see how far we have come in the past 10-20 years of research.

I know that cancer will be part of me for the rest of my life. But it doesn't have to rule my life. And again, if you need someone to talk to about cancer or want to know more about what I've gone through I'm happy to discuss. The more we take the fear out of cancer the better we'll all be able to work through and treat this disease.