"Let Age Be Age"
INTERESTING STUFF – 6 January 2018

Early January Cancer Update

When I began chemotherapy in September, six months of treatment sounded like an eternity, not something I needed to think about for a long time.

Instead, I reasoned, just show up once a week for the infusion, take the oral chemo at home daily as prescribed and find out in March 2018 what good, if any, it had done.

Like some other new experiences I have encountered since the June diagnosis of pancreatic cancer, things are not necessarily as easy or as obvious as they were BD (before diagnosis).

First, there was no forgetting. During the day or two leading up to each weekly visit to the chemo clinic, the questions rolled around in my head: Is this working? What will be the outcome in March? Is pancreatic cancer painful toward the end? Will I still be here at the end of 2018? Or not? And so on.

Generally, I have been able to, as they say, hold my shit together when I am with other people. Alone, however, I've been known to pull off the road or street I'm driving on to wipe away the tears at my unknown future.

According to different sources, between five and nine percent of people diagnosed with pancreatic cancer are still alive five years later.

(I am not unaware that at my age, 76, I could be dead of all sorts of other things by 2022, but pancreatic adenocarcinoma – the type I and about 85 percent of all pancreatic patients have – is one of the top four or five deadliest cancers so I cannot go around fooling myself about my predicament.)

But there have been questions I haven't asked, places I have not wanted to go or, more truthfully, have not be able to make myself face. One of those, through these three months of chemo so far, is to ask what is the range of possible outcomes from the surgery and now, chemo?

What is there, I have wondered between “Congratulations, no detectible cancer” and “Sorry, it didn't work”? I have not been able to say those words yet.

Until Wednesday this week.

It wasn't on my written list of topics for the medical oncologist. It just popped out toward the end after she had given my other four or five questions positive reponses.

As I felt tears welling up, I also managed to mention that I have a growing terror of what she will tell me in March, and I had only half jokingly been considering asking to keep up the weekly chemo sessions into an indefinite future so the question would never come up.

But my mouth had got ahead my fear and there was the question floating in large letters in the air between us.

The doctor repeated what she said a few minutes earlier, that even with my huge drop in red blood cells last month requiring an overnight stay in hospital to transfuse four units of blood, I am doing well with the treatment.

She believes, she said, based on knowledge and clinical experience, that there is an 85-to-90 percent chance of not finding detectible cancer in March.

Then my tears broke through. Tears of relief.

One of the things they don't teach you in life is what to do when, for example, you are presented with a terrible diagnosis and death looms. After many months of suffering uncomfortable sitting, I finally decided a few weeks ago to buy a new desk chair. But then, wondered I, what difference does it make if I'm not going to live much longer.

I wavered for a few weeks – go head and buy. No, don't bother. But my neck hurt at the end of each day at the desk so I reluctantly bought the chair.

Yesterday morning, after having slept happily on the doctor's prediction, I easily bought a pair of silk pants I've been putting off for months for the same reason as the desk chair. Now I know differently: so what if I die before wearing them more than once; it's not like the price broke my bank.

Yes, I know. Statistics cannot reveal individual outcome, and even the best professionals' predictions can be wrong for all kinds of reasons.

Nevertheless, I was cheered by her answer and more importantly, understood finally that I must go on living - in all ways - until I can't any more from whatever cause, and if that means a new pair of white silk pants, go for it.

After my meeting with the doctor, as the nurse was preparing my infusion, she told me the story of another patient, a man in his 70s, who was in the chemo clinic for treatment of lung cancer.

He told her that 10 years previously he had been successfully treated for melanoma and that 35 years ago he had had the Whipple Procedure. The nurse told me she couldn't figure out if he was lucky or incredibly unlucky.

To me, however, the man's 35-year-old Whipple is what stuck in my mind. I wonder if, even through fear and tears, we are all supreme optimists until the very end.

It was a magnificently clear day Wednesday so I could see Mt. Hood out the windows of my treatment room. That doesn't happen much in winter so I took it as an omen. Whether of good fortune or the black cat variety, we'll need to wait until March.

Mt.Hood2018_01_03fromChemoClinic


Comments

Good Post! I needed this as much as you:)

You should be dancing, yeahhhhhhhhh!

Fantastic progress, Ronni!

Enjoy your new chair, silk pants and that beautiful view from your window.

"I can see clearly now the rain is gone."

Your Montreal Fan in Tennessee.

Hang in there Ronni & celebrate & treat yourself well. The white pants sound wonderful & I love your doctor. Dee:)

You, saying what you needed to, out loud, reminds me of the scene in "Beasts of the Southern Wild," where the little girl, Hushpuppy, stands and faces down a huge warthog-like animal that has been terrorizing her, and representing the end of the world. It's a good movie and one which might help strengthen one's confidence in dealing with what ever boogeyman looms in one's life. I'm so proud of you for confronting your fear this week, and that the outcome was so good for you, too.

I'm also glad that you went for the desk chair and silk pants. Investing in comfort and pleasure, today, while you can experience those things, is the time to do that. And more than that, they will surely send out the signs to your body and the rest of the universe, that you have Hope for the Future.

So, Ronni, I can visualize you in your desk chair with white silk pants, staring down the Beast of the Pancreatic Cancer, with a glint in your eye and a wicked little smile on your face. May you have a wonderful, restful, peaceful weekend!

Good to hear! What comfort for you, Ronni, that others you rely on will bring thoughts that smooth over those times that bring on the blues and the frights.

You're a very brave woman, going through times of mental collapsing and learning to get back up.

Enjoy that chair, those silk pants and have a helluva time good time whenever you feel up for it.

Now how about some luxurious pajamas? Or sheets!

Dear Ronni. My mother had pancreatic cancer -- and yes, she died of it; it was in the early 1990s and treatments have advanced a lot since then. I was living 3000 miles away at the time. But reading about your experiences along the way has been such a window for me into what she must have been thinking and feeling that I am immensely grateful.

So happy for you. The terror of the unknown can almost drive a person crazy. Knowledge is relief. Be gentle with yourself and enjoy every moment and every pair of silk pants that is out there for you. Love is what matters. Love yourself.

Such good new.

Thanks, Ronni! This update gave us all a whoosh of relief and bolstered hope, but I am sure it was nothing compared to the rush it gives you each time you replay your doctor’s words. May those words lift you back up after each bump in the road over the last half of your treatments and give you renewed determination to follow all the tedious routines involved to get through it.

Feed your optimism and relish it. Enjoy the new chair and pants!

Thank you for asking the question, Ronni. It makes us, your friends, appreciate the relief you felt at the answer. As to white silk pants? OMG. Even when I was skinny and young I would not have dared such - wearing white pants of any sort. Good on you! More fortunate (in at least the aspect of health under discussion) than you, even I ask myself what I'm waiting for when I make a choice in buying something. Thank you for deciding to "treat" yourself, for once (or twice!)

Hi Ronnie, Yesterday I had 14 breast biopsies done. I am doing the best that I can to deal with the overwhelming fear that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Your grace in dealing with all of this has been an inspiration. I really appreciate your sharing your journey. I am thrilled at your Dr's positive news and I look forward to every post.

“One of the things they don't teach you in life is what to do when, for example, you are presented with a terrible diagnosis and death looms.” You are teaching us, Ronni, you are teaching us.

That view of Mount Hood is indeed a good omen! Relish in the good news and enjoy everyone of these many, many days ahead.

Now . . . We've all got to see a picture of that new chair and those awesome silk pants.

Jim and Gail Hood

Wow, relief must have washed through you like the warm swarm of a potent potable. Buy whatever you can afford from now on -- not worrying about how much use it will get, but how good having it will feel every single day. Your encouraging news has made our day.

Fantastic news! We are all relieved and happy for you. And buying the chair and the silk pants are icing on the cake. Go girl!

Ronni, I am not facing what you are facing, but I've had a couple close encounters. Live. Live every day doing something that makes you smile. Do for yourself what you would do for others. Most importantly, keep dreaming. Love the blog.

Congratulations! I am so glad to hear this. I read your blog every time you publish and you are making me think more deeply about so many things.
A suggestion for your happiness - thoroughly savor those new pants and comfy chair. Give it maybe 5 minutes and just absorb how nice they feel. And, as Simone suggested, maybe try some luxurious pajamas or sheets.

Ronni-Thank you. Thank you for sharing your journey in such an intimate way. Reading your blog feels like you and I are sitting at the same table, sipping tea together, and talking as dear friends. My heart is grateful.

Yay for good news. Buy the pants. Buy the chair. Make some plans. It's all good for the soul.

Wise philosophy for daily living for every individual. Thank you for your personal insights and your gifted writing.

Wonderful news. So happy for you.

Rock those white silk pants, Ronni!

Thrilled with your news, Ronni. And impressed, as ever, by the masterful way you present it. I held my breath as I read of your thoughts and feelings up to "popping the question" (gives that expression a whole new meaning!) , I had that pit of the stomach angst as I waited for the answer, and felt the rush of jubilation when I heard it. I lived through it all with you. Your writing is magic.
Your desk chair, a good idea White silk pants , inspired!

You, your column, your readers never fail to give me hope for the world..
Deepest thanks and wishes for a 2018 of good health and good cheer to all. Ann Burack-Weiss

You are a true inspiration with your persistent optimism and ability to keep looking forward. I wish you much happiness in the New Year!

Vats a Whiddle? Is it like a that? 🌈🌷🌸🌹

Geez, Ronni, everyone has said it all!

I really like what Ann Burack-Weiss said, among other things: "...You, your column, your readers never fail to give me hope for the world..."

Thank you for sharing your story.

Fear of the unknown is the worst. I'm so glad you talked to your doctor about it and delighted that her response was so positive. Rock on, Ronni.

Sure sounds good to me.

Beth said exactly what I was thinking…everyone has said it all. You share so openly and willingly and spread light to so many. Not only now but I’m hoping all of your blog posts will be archived for returning to when our own hard times come…and they will come. Thanks for being you and for being willing to share yourself with us. I will be always and forever grateful!
Carol

Good for you Ronni. Treat yourself as well as you can, you deserve those creature comforts. Mt. Hood in all its glory is always a good sign.

Great news! I applaud the new chair and silk pants. Do whatever will bring you hope and sustain it. Live each day as if it is your last. - a wise man once said.

Happy for you! You know I think there is so much in life that we are not taught but can only be learned through living. Life is our teacher! Peace!

Kudos for your words coming out of your wise self, for pulling off the road to have a cry and telling us about it.......I have a lot of faith in you showing up for yourself no matter what. And I'm rooting (and including you in prayers) for the 35 good years.

Thank you, Ronni, for this very uplifting post. It does give new meaning to a quote I heard a long time ago: See life as though it is the first day; Do life as though it were the last.
I send you a hug across the air waves!

Yay!

I still buy green bananas and try to live as if there are a lot of tomorrows ahead. If that includes buying something that will make life easier I now do that if it's affordable. There was a time not long ago when I saved my best clothes for a special event. I woke up to the fact that this was a very stupid way to live. I now wear the special clothes even though no one will see me. It makes me feel better and I decided that I am entitled to do anything now that brings me pleasure. If not now, when?

Enjoy the new white silk pants, the new desk and chair and start looking for something else to buy that will make life more enjoyable. What else is money for? As a bumper sticker once proclaimed, " Being of sound mind and body I spent it all (my inheritance)."

To have something to look forward to is one way to have a positive attitude about the future.

You are one wise and courageous lady. Overcoming the dark thoughts is a brave thing to do so keep on being who you are and when a fear creeps in give in to it, have a good therapeutic cry and then go eat an ice cream cone or some other treat.

You don't need my advice because you are already doing one heck of a job of getting through a very bad patch, so I will stop with the "do's and dont's.

Thank you for another articulate and honest discussion, Ronni.

You are using your gift with words, carefully honed over the years, to describe this difficult time. Many, if not all of us, can relate to this situation in one way or another. So by giving it a good airing you take some of the scariness out of it.

Enjoyed your pic of Mt Hood. Just think by March, there will be a big surge of green on all those foreground trees.

Yesyesyes!

And

Brava!

And

XXOO

Dear Ronni,

Darlene has always written much better comments than I do, so please reread her note and double it.

I love that you are still buying things. If you get a chance reread the very first story I ever sent you called "Aunt Sue and The Electric Typewriter" It is on this same subject and gives you very good news about what happened to another cancer patient I loved.

Nancy

Such good news. I doubt that I could summon up your equanimity in a similar situation, occasional tears notwithstanding. At 81 (tomorrow), my body informs me daily in many ways that it's not a fan of longevity for its own sake. Not that I necessarily accept the prospect of death gracefully, but I don't think I'm afraid of it--just of what I might have to go through to get there.

Enjoy the silk pants and new chair. I agree about spending money to increase your comfort and pleasure. As I've reminded our financial advisor, we don't need to worry about making our resources last 30 years anymore. On the other hand, since we aren't at all wealthy, we'd better not spend frivolously since we don't know whether we have 1, 3, 5 or even 10 years left!

Now how about a red satin top to go with those silk pants? Smashing!

Hey Ronni! I haven't been blogging at all for awhile, so I am catching up on your news. So happy to read what your Doctor said. We have all the reason in the world to be optimistic. Big cyber hugs to you..we're all in your corner :)

Reading your post got me to thinking about how most of us are 'waiting'.... waiting to take that trip until it's more convenient, waiting to buy that purse until maybe we had a bit more money, waiting to use a special dish until special company came over, waiting until tomorrow or next week or next month....... I am slowly realizing that all my life I have been guilty of this. I will be 65 years old on Jan 15 and my health is slowly declining and some things I probably have left until it is too late. It's too late to take a walking holiday in England as the arthritis in my back, hips and knees prevents me from walking more than just a short distance and so on and so forth. I have decided to live for and in the moment. It will be hard to break a pattern of a lifetime but definitely going to try! Hugs, Diane

All of the many people that post such wise and wonderful comments are (along with your insightful post)s a true and very valuable joy to read.

They offer me inspiration, perspective, and gentle reminders that today is really all we have so don't waste with it with minor irritations, annoyances, complaints, & negativity. Thank you. We will never meet in life but never doubt that you and others have made an impact in my life.

Take care.

Congrats on your good news!

Thank you for your post. There are many of us who are ill, not necessarily, cancer but seriously ill. We need to live as well as we can for as long as we can. Life will go on with us or without us so let's live the best we can!

Remission is the word I hope to read.

You are amazing to share your personal feelings and experiences as you go through this part of the journey. It is a courageous act of love and gentle caring for all of us who follow your blog. I’m currently going through testing for abnormal symptoms and have felt the roller coaster of emotions due to the unknown. It is a wearing stress and yet the beauty of enjoying today is the gift of living today and not being stuck with waiting. Thank you for the gift of your post.

Love the picture of Mt. Hood -- and your good news. Be well.

Glad to hear the response you received from your doctor to your question. Your thoughts prompt much to think about. It is possible to allow ourselves to experience the full range of feelings circumstances present at any given moment and yet to have a default positive view for living in the present......trust you’ll continue doing so.

Happy New Year Ronni. My late partner and I went through the 'dare we ask for a prognosis' question after his diagnosis with PSP which is always terminal with no treatment known. Eventually I asked; Chris died in denial. Clearly you are not in denial which I think is a very good thing. You should buy anything that takes your fancy. You're doing a wonderful job and long may it continue.

+++1 to the comments above, Posted by: Darlene | Friday, 05 January 2018 at 10:48 AM

Anne

Good to hear this!

I'd comment that within our budgets (and maybe a bit out of them if necessary at times) we all at these ages make that "luxury" purchase (chair, luxury undies, etc.) occasionally. If we constantly use the excuse that "well I might not get the [full] use of them so why bother" to avoid something that will add at least some joy to our lives it will be a pretty bleak life.

One example - I have started to pay that relatively small extra for better seats on planes and when going to the theater. I'll be frugal in other places if necessary.

Dear Ronni, thank you so much for this. In a way, we all have a diagnosis. In my 60s now, I've been grappling with a feeling of what does anything matter, since I'm not going to be around that much longer. What you wrote today, "Nevertheless, I was cheered by her answer and more importantly, understood finally that I must go on living - in all ways - until I can't any more from whatever cause, and if that means a new pair of white silk pants, go for it." was very helpful.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Working...
Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.

Working...

Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)