The many aspects of cancer

In some ways having cancer is very simple: It is a serious disease that invades your body and, in most instances, will end your life if not treated effectively.  In that sense it is very simple.  But in other ways having cancer is a very complex and daunting series of factors, many of which are interrelated and most of which are continually changing.  When viewed from this prespective, cancer can potentially become overwhelming.  How each patient deals with his or her own situation is a totally individual approach.

At the present time there are five main aspects of my disease that I tend to focus on.  Everything else is either not a current issue in my case, or it is beyond my ability to impact, in which case I simply give it to The Lord God Almighty to deal with.

My first aspect is the cancer itself.  I am being treated with a chemo drug called Romidepsin,  which I trust is doing a good job of eradicating all the cancer cells in my body.  Unfortunately it takes time for progress to be detectable, so I will not receive any reassessment testing/scans for 8 weeks.  Depending on the reassessment results, I expect to receive this treatment for probably the next 6 months.  In the meantime I just need to trust that my team is winning.  Unfortunately, this drug is causing certain side effects that were not present with some of my earlier drugs.  The main ones are cold chills at night and my sense of taste is getting all beaten up.

The second aspect is my lower back and spine area, which is where the initial tumor was detected.  While the tumor itself has been effectively dealt with, and is no longer a direct factor, the residual damage it caused is taking time to heal and rehab.  We were making good progress up until my treatment last Tuesday when a small but ill-timed movement of the exam table caused me to strain and reinjure some muscles, and set me back a few weeks in that area.  But I can already tell that the recovery has started, so I just need to be sure to avoid small and ill-timed movements.

The third aspect is the strength and flexibility of my right leg.  The tumor caused spinal nerve pressure in my right leg and the resulting pain and lack of use are still impacting my movement and mobility.  I am being treated by a Physical Therapist who really seems to know what he is doing and progress is definitely being made, although it was put on hold temporarily after last Tuesday's back problem.

I would say without question that the biggest factor currently affecting my daily life is fatigue.  During my first round of cancer treatments, fatigue was my constant companion from day one, and seemed fairly consistent, rated most of the time as a 4 on a 10 scale (1 being no fatigue and 10 being extreme).  This time around it seems to be at about a 7 or 8.  Getting dressed in the morning is exhausting.  Fixing a sandwich in the kitchen for lunch is taxing.  The fatigue is a natural side effect of cancer, and results from many chemotherapy drugs.  Romidepsin in particular can cause extreme fatigue in some patients.

The final aspect would be my mental outlook.  I am a fairly positive glass-half-full kind of guy to start with.  And I tend to apply about 110% effort to whatever tasks I undertake.  Because of the implications of this battle I may have jacked up the bar to about 125%.  That coupled with my strong faith in my Heavenly Father, and I am not too concerned with the long term outcome of my present battle.  But I find that this second set of treatments are requiring more effort to stay positive.  My pain and discomfort, extreme fatigue and some added side effects, all being present 24/7 since before Christmas, are adding to my mental challenge.  But I also believe that the back and leg pain, and the mobility issues will be resolved in the next several weeks.  That should provide an added big boost.


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