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INTERESTING STUFF – 2 March 2019

Cancer Update – 1 March 2019

I wrote about some of this last week, but I'm coming at it from a different direction today.

It was November 2018 the last time I wrote a cancer update. The good thing is that not much has changed in terms of the disease since then – but my behavior and attitude drift from here to there and back again.

Some of that is a result of chemo side effects. A difficult one is loss of appetite. It's important for my continuing health to keep up my weight but for several days after a chemo infusion, I can barely put a bite in my mouth without retching and in four or five days, I can lose that same number of pounds.

When my appetite returns I spend the next week stuffing myself with all the high calorie food I can eat to increase my weight before the next infusion. And then I start over again.

More difficult than the weight loss and gain, however, is fatigue. I feel fine for two days or so following the infusion; then I'm exhausted for two or three days, sometimes needing two naps and early bed each day for that period of time. After that, I feel like a normal, healthy person until the next infusion.

The most difficult thing that comes with loss of appetite and fatigue is a really bad mood. Terrible mood for two days or so during which it feels like it's time to bring this to an end as I run scenarios of my final day.

It doesn't matter that I've experienced this often enough now to know that it lifts entirely within two days. Knowing that doesn't make getting through it easier.

And yet. And yet.

With all that, what a remarkable series of events I'm living through, especially for a short-timer whose life is unwinding now during a period I had expected to become slower and quieter until time to go.

Instead, some of the most extraordinary events of my life have been taking place:

Meeting the son (and his family) I gave up for adoption 56 years ago

Fulfilling my long-held intention to have a magic mushroom experience in the face of impending death

And, a near dispensation from chemotherapy side effects

No, I didn't forget the appetite problem, fatigue and horrible mood. But compared to the long list of those and other potential side effects I was given to expect when I began this chemotherapy (some of them quite icky), I been lucky beyond measure.

The side effects I have are short-lived – about three days every two weeks – and astonishingly, they have become lighter and easier to tolerate with each infusion.

No one can tell me how much time I have left. It depends on how long this chemo is effective and how the cancer develops from here. My stamina and energy are down; it takes about twice as long to do almost anything I once did faster but I don't dislike the slower pace.

I seem to want more time alone than before and spend some of it digging around for a deeper understanding of myself and of the meaning of life. Fat chance I'll get anywhere with that second one but why not try.

This blog is important to me. I write it as least as much for myself – to figure out what I think and believe – as for you, dear readers.

Living is easier now without ambition, worldly goals and urges to compete. The worst that can happen (“you have incurable cancer”) has happened now and I've become accustomed to knowing that. It's all right.

In fact, this simple, little life I have may be the most contented I have known in my near 78 years. How did I get so lucky.

I know there are a goodly number of TGB readers who have and/or are living through similar circumstances. Does any of this resonate with you?



Comments

As I re-read your words (slowly and several times) about "living without ambition, worldly goals and urges to compete"-I became aware of a stillness inside me. This is something I wish to explore further...

Great post!

It resonates in SO many ways. Thank you for continuing to share your experience.
From your words, a fleeting moment of what it must really be like is shared.

Hi Ronni.

Most of what you write resonates with me.

I was rereading old posts looking for a specific one as a reference for another website post I was writing and thought ..what a wealth of information about living life as an elder you have compiled.

It needs to be a book, or at least an e-book.

A book we’ll know the ending to and share with you in each persons own way.

Thank you for being you, Ronni.

God bless you dear one!

Is there any of it that doesn't resonate? Honestly, I don't think so. Exhaustion equals depression, check. Wanting more time alone, check. Sometimes being relieved that death is not too far in the future, yes. Oh, it all resonates, Ronnie, though probably more intensely for you, having a closer time relationship with death than I. Though who knows? I might beat you to the finish line! "This simple little life that I have," yes to that too, though it's also a big life, because you're curious, continuing to learn, trying to understand. You haven't packed it in, you're staying with it, I admire that. And to top it off, you're sharing it with a whole bunch of people, you're shedding light. Wow, shedding light for other beings, that's huge, Ronni, you are deeply blessed in that, as are we. Thank you, blessings, always.

Amazing post, thank you so much for sharing your insights and always, always telling it like it is - you are the Queen of No Bullshit. Virtual hugs, blessings, and Shabbat Shalom from Israel.

Your words about depression are ones I hope to remember, if I or a loved one have to go through this (and the odds are, one of us will.)
I am reminded of a memoir I just read, about the author’s declining mother, who wonders if she’s lived too long, and she says”I waver, I waver, because it’s beautiful outside.”
I hope you find beautiful days, Ronni.

This sentence grabbed me, "Living is easier now without ambition, worldly goals and urges to complete". Thank you once again Ronni for sharing and giving us so much. You have been an angel to so many of us. Thank you thank you thank you!

Thank you for this, Ronni. I sat for awhile with your words, and realized what a blessing it is for all of us that you are willing to write, contemplate, share, all in what is an incredibly strange time for you.

On the other hand, one of the benefits for me has been the realization that you -- who, I remember from when I joined your list, prided herself on being healthy, who went through that period of losing weight and were justifiably proud of your self, your clear mind -- have somehow managed to create a new balance. While somehow teaching us along the way.

I think what has been most valuable for me in your ongoing account have been the changes I have noted in you: the thing I would most expect, your initial despair, fear, sadness, panic, seems recognizable, expected to me. But the transformation in you, your thankfulness for such blessings as the magic mushroom experience and, perhaps most of all, now having the unexpected but totally delighted introduction to your son and his family -- will stick with me. I sense a transformed you, one that is coming to grips not so much in terms of a giving-up, but almost as if you have expanded, accepted, willing to mourn but also to continue to feel joy. AND sadness. AND accomplishment. And maybe mostly something that is allowing you to share it all with us.

And for those of us who are privileged to partake in that sharing, you have given us a window on what it means to be suddenly transformed through this terrible reminder of your (our) mortality -- telling us all, with candor and an amazing sense of balance, of humor! -- and with a generous willingness to be open and honest with us . Educating us all the while.

This is such an amazing gift. Thank you.

Ruth-Ellen

In my father's final days (20 years ago) we talked about his life and his contentment. What a gift to have...contentment! A good place to be.

I find myself, with less energy than I had 10 years ago, wondering what (besides ego) leads a person in their early or late 70s to even consider a high stress job like President. I have heard that the only antidote for political ambition is embalming fluid.

Sounds very familiar Ronnie. I call old age the best and the worst of times. Strange minor miracles happen often - like hearing from your son although that is a major miracle - at the same time as there are those mornings when I wake up and say "what for"? An hour later I am appreciating my great dark roast coffee!
Respite also comes when watching [now I have to search my 85 year old mind for MICHAEL COHEN's name!!!]. Michael Cohen testify and the republicans show their true colours.
I am so glad your side effects have become lighter and easier to tolerate with each infusion. May that continue. xxx

A friend of mine just recently had her first chemo treatment so reading your posts have led me to have a better understanding of what she is going through. I'm glad you are writing for yourself---all blogger understand that I think---but I'm also glad you are writing for your readers that we might have a better appreciation of life at this stage.

These observations apply at any point of our lives. Funny, that..

Be sure to drink a lot while you're trying to eat a lot. Dehydration landed me in the hospital one night during my chemo. But it's wonderful to hear you're doing so well.

A book compiling a lot of your posts sounds like a great idea. Find yourself a willing editor and arrange for it to be done at some point.

Have a good weekend!

I visited my brother. who was also given a terminal diagnosis, a number of times at his home in Florida. My visits often coincided with his chemo treatment schedule so I was able to observe him immediately afterwards. And, while he exhibited the same appetite loss and fatigue that you described, he always was in a good mood, at least as long as I was present. Now that I know that he might have been keeping his misery to himself in deference to me, I respect him even more. His grace and dignity at the end will be an inspiration to me for ever.

From Ruth-Ellen's comment--somehow managed to create a new balance

I think we are all trying to do that as we age and figure out this life as an elder. The balance of life, whether in our youth, or now in age, must be reset at various times. You, Ronni, are balancing well.

Your blog over the years has been an invaluable resource for so many things and for so many people.
I do agree a book would be an excellent idea as it would reach even more.

You are not only an inspiration, but so full of wisdom that comes with age and unfortunately, serious illness.

I have saved many of your posts so I can refer back to them. So many have hit home for me.

Thank you.

Yes

Yes! None of us, after all, really know how we'll end, but at this stage of life, we all know it's drawing closer. We also know we're not really "supposed" to talk about it, but what a relief when we can.

Re: "Does any of this resonate with you?"
Yes,Ronni, you are singing my song, same melody, different lyricist.

I want to comment on what seems to be, for me at least, the cyclical nature of fatigue and depression, regardless of the cause.

February has been a difficult month of unsettling events. With the deaths of my older brother and 2 of my closest and most loyal friends of nearly 60 years in one week, I get real close to just saying "I don't want do this any more". It feels like I am truly the 'last one standing' in my small circle of age mates.

What I have learned is when I'm at the lowest, even though my medical situation is unchanged, my attitude begins to improve and I start feeling around for some ''bootstraps'' to pull up on. At this end of life, EVERYTHING seems more fragile to me, and worse, takes longer to recover. When I broke my right arm and cracked 3 ribs in the process soon after coming to Portland, I was surprised at how long it took the ribs to quit complaining about how I treated them. Didn't get arrested for elder abuse though. :-) Pernicious anemia and half a dozen collapsed vertebrae due to egg shell bones are the new Nemesis....losing 4'' in height in 2 years. Strange experience indeed.

In these times I just hole up and don't want to communicate with anyone. I hate to just be complaining about stuff no one (including me) can help, and I'm simply too tired and unfocused to make something up. I have dropped beneath the radar of most old friends where I used live, "Out of sight, out of mind" is an old, yet true, axiom. While I understand it, I will scratch on someone's window just so long before I give up and it becomes a spiral down.

Still...it is MY problem and the search is on for "taller" boots with long straps, as bending over comes with its own risks as many of us here already know.

Ronni, thank you for the really noble work of sharing your experience. I do not have cancer. But I am going to be 82 in August, and I have any number of piffling, unremarkable age-related changes that, dammit!!, nobody told me about beforehand. You've discussed this before, yourself. I think it's so important to have trail markers, and to leave them. The more we know, the less we're going to feel like freak, "medically interesting" cases. And if I do turn up with cancer later on, I have a guidebook. So--this is heroic work you're doing. Thank you again. <3

I have been very quiet on this list. It has been a bad six months for me--first, a laryngectomy in November, and now, my eldest daughter is dying of metastatic pancreatic cancer. It came down on her in an avalanche of pain and misery. Now, she is in hospice care and is slipping away peacefully. Your post is so valuable to me. I am a month shy of 79. I have thought that if I'd had the good sense to die a bit younger, I might be spared this current loss. But here I am, and your posts enable me to take it a day at a time. My girl is 57. She had a lot of life ahead of her. I will spend the rest of mine coming to terms with this. Thank you Ronni. Thank you.

Ronni, thanks so much for sharing your journey with us. I am a retired RN of four years, a cancer survivor and a Care taker of many years. I listened to your podcast with Alex and it reminded how many times I would hear how people couldn't do my job. Empathy is something we all have in us. The simple fact that you both share yourselves with us proves that. We are here to serve each other. You in your way and me in mine.
So thank you I treasure your journey, stamina and love.

It all resonates, Ronni.

Anne, I am sending you a hug, and your daughter some relief from her suffering. Terrible situation, heart rending. Bless you both.

No goals, no ambition, no stress, just being. Seems like your cancer is a blessing in disguise. I'm sure that death brings peace.

We may not all experience things in the same way, but mostly, we experience the same things., dressed up in different details, and it all resonates.

Yesterday afternoon I sat in my car listening to Terry Gross interview Mary Pipher. They were discussing Pipher's newest book, "Women Rowing North,"which is about women transitioning from middle into old age. At 71 Pipher says she's now experiencing some of the same things that frustrated both her and her mother as her mother was aging. Her advice, based on hundreds of interviews for the book, decades of working as a therapist, and personal experience is to keep in mind that older women represent the happiest demographic in the U. S.

I sat there and listened, mostly in agreement with the words she spoke. In those moments, one of her statements particularly resonated with me -- the capacity to appreciate things more deeply is one of the primary componenets of the happiness that comes with age. Pipher's description of the sun illuminating the prairie grasses right outside her home was simple but profound. Unexpected and mostly simple gifts that come out of nowhere, sometimes enjoyed in solitude, and sometimes shared, are exquisite at this time of my life. The venue that you've created here Ronni is a sacred space, where we've shared some of our most intimate thoughts and feelings. You've opened up a land many of us may never have visited otherwise. You deserve to feel very pleased with your work, and I hope that you do. I have very much appreciated it for seven years now. Thank you for all you've done.

Thank you for all you write! Your sharing is a tremendous help in navigating this sometimes difficult life
You give me hope

I agree with Cathy J that this has become a 'sacred space'. I've been searching for an adequate phrase for the last several posts and couldn't quite put my finger on it. How many places have we been able to go to discuss the topics you've covered over the years? Only one. And now, you share even your final journey with us, which is profoundly moving.
Thank you, and I hope you have an extra good day tomorrow.

Hi Ronni. As you know, I drop in here every week or so and read your more personal posts, and click around through the reader offerings , the Alex and Ronni show, the week's list of interesting links and often enjoy learning more about music from Peter's column. A few months ago cancer came to our house, and it's still pretty personal and underdiagnosed and under treated so I don't have much to share except for what a slog it is... first to hear the news and be shocked, then to go through that period of further diagnostic treatments, some surgical stuff, follow-up more diagnostic stuff around another concern, the minutiae of customer service complaints, annoyance, gratitude, and a continuing unknown of what will come next, what will be the outcomes, how hurtful will be the treatments... anyway, our concerns have a share of fear associated with them, and that powerlessness one expects in the face of the unknown. I remain grateful for your narrative. In a few weeks after some follow-up and further diagnostic stuff, with Beth's permission I'll share more with you about where we've been and where we think we are going. Suffice it to say that we're probably not facing a fatal outcome. At least I hope that's true. Doctor Google would confirm that guess, but the guys with the diplomas on the wall haven't weighed in with any finality yet. More later: I hope you can stick around to hear the story as it develops! Love.

Yes, most of us understand. Sometimes the downhill slog seems to take such a long time tho.

It seems that each time I read TGB I think, "this is the best one, yet!" Just as I did today. The differece is that the reader comments blew me away. You bring out the best in those you serve. Beautiful work, Lady!

As is often the case, anything I might say has already been said, better than I could say it. Not sure how much of the "downward slog" I would elect to endure. . .it's such an individual thing.

It's not goulish, but your insights are fascinating to me. As long as your blog is
still a "voice" for you, I will be listening. Your statement concerning the end of
life goals is interesting, the result seeming like a second freedom much
like your original retirement. Suddenly, society has released the butterfly.

Just a suggestion, on those requisite down days: re-read the blog you wrote
today. It may help to drag you through this swamp.

Simply blew me away - Ronni and the wonderful comments!

I think Bernie has a good suggestion for anyone needing a boost. Thanks, Cathy J, I listened to PBS interview today and going to library tomorrow.

Everyone here going through difficult times (those worse than the "Drump dailies,".... til 2020) know you're being held by many of us at TGB and are not alone. What each of you has to say is valuable and worth a treasure for all of us.

Ronni, enormous gratitude to you for this community and all you do.

Sharing your journey continues to be more valuable than diamonds. Keeping my heart nearby.

I used to plan the same fairy tale ending to my old age as you did. The changes I’ve gone through after being told I won’t see that “Ripe old age” are also similar. I think initially I went through stages of grief after the death of a loved one only I was the loved one. I mourned the things I could no longer do and felt so tired and sick instead of full of life and eagerness to live it. Thank goodness that stage was short lived because I just don’t like being unhappy. Now, I too, am used to and enjoy the slower pace. Now I don’t have anyone to keep up with. Now I am totally free to do what I want without obligation to societal pressures. And, surprisingly I now vision myself another 10 or 15 years down the road and still enjoying my life. My prognosis says one thing but phooey on it. I hardly think of that at all anymore. I buy into “as time goes by”. Let it. It is all an adventure. It’s good to get old with you. Keep on keeping on!

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