Monday, December 2, 2013

Oh, the horror! I was just thinking...

I'm tired of thinking about having cancer.

I mean, I wake up thinking about it; I fall asleep thinking about, and think about it during most of the hours in between.

It wouldn't be so bad if there was some point to all that thinking. There isn't. It's not as if thinking harder will change anything; or thinking longer might lead to some new happy place. Nope. It's just good old-fashioned, wheel-spinning, energy-consuming, time-wasting thinking.

It reminds me of conjugating verbs in French class: I work, you work, he/she works, we work, you work, they work. Great. But if you don't then know how to use the verb in everyday speech, it just becomes that much more useless knowledge cluttering up your brain, like Cary Grant's real name, the 21st vice president of the United States or the seventh man to set foot on the moon.

In my case, the less I'm able to think about other things, the more I feel like that guy with cancer who writes about it, and little else. Would it have been a better decision not to write about it? Should I have chosen to go through it quietly, telling just people who needed to know only what I wanted them to know? Would I be forced to think about it less?

No. In fact, hell no. It's only when I sit down to share with you what's been going on, that the thinking seems to take any useful tack. Writing about it makes me focus on this bit, that bit, this thought, that feeling, that specific part of my treatment. The rest of the time the thinking is just so much noise: “I have cancer. I have cancer. I wish I didn't have cancer. But you do. Yes I do. How'd that happen? Don't know. Guess it doesn't matter. I have cancer, cancer, cancer. Look at that guy over there. He looks like he feels sorry for me cause I have cancer. You don't even know that guy. So? Cancer, cancer, cancer.” And on and on and on.

So what's the end result of all this thinking? Trick question; there is no end to it, but there can be an occasional revelation.

Consider this: I have never been known to exhibit responsible phone behavior. People, including our kids, know that about me. They know chances were slim that I would call them back... because I was irresponsible. You could count on my phone irresponsibility!

Now though, I have to be aware that many of the people who phone, write or text me, don't know that. They might easily interpret no reply as something bad. They might think I'm having a hard day, or feeling physically sicker, or I may have fallen and I can't get up. So, it takes time, but I try to be aware of the possibilities and respond. Responsibility man, who needs it?

I also see that spending so much time thinking about having cancer makes it harder to consider other roles I still need to fulfill.

I'm a husband, father, stepfather, grandfather, whether I have cancer or not, and Christmas is coming.

I trust I'm a friend to my friends, which requires thinking about them, considering their needs and issues. I have to find think time for them, somehow.

I'm a co-worker who, according to the cards and emails I'm receiving from them, could be counted on to lighten things up and make sure we could laugh at ourselves. How's that working out? I haven't been able to go to works for weeks because I am unable to focus on much of anything but myself.

I'm still the guy grieving over the loss of our cat Samantha. We had to put her to sleep this summer after 14 years of constant companionship. I found out I was sick about five weeks after she died. I continue to shed more tears over her loss than I do my own situation.

The one person who would have reveled in all this thinking would have been my mother. She was always after me to think more/harder/better/longer. She thought virtually any situation could be helped by extra thinking. I remember she'd quite often suggest the value of an extra thought: “If you think yerrrr goin' to do that yerrrrr own rrrrrrrrridiculous way, ye've got anotherrrrrrr think comin', so ye do.”

Oh... while I'm thinking of it (ha ha)- this Wednesday will be my first oncologist visit since we started treating my cancer. In the five weeks since we made the appointment, a lot has happened, not the least of which was my negative reaction to the chemotherapy drug at the center of the treatment, which forced us to stop using it only a couple of days into my second course.

So, the focus of our session on Wednesday will be on regrouping, and adjusting the initial treatment plan to fit the new reality of my reaction to the medication. I had thought that this would be he first time I would get some idea what, if any, impact the treatment has had on the multiple myeloma. And that may still happen, but it's also become clear that this fight is going to go the full 15 rounds. I was naive to think otherwise.

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.