Two score days and five

Two score days and five is the King James way of counting and the way I am marking the days between when I found the swollen lymph node and when they officially diagnosed me as having two different cancers. (I wanted to set these days apart because of what they meant to us.)

“Two score days and five” begins on November 4th. At the 45 day mark I will commemorate the successive phone calls I received that explained I had Renal Cell Carcinoma and Hodgkin’s disease (lymphoma) on December 19th.

It’s a strange time of year for me. This year is 4 years removed and it is getting easier to get through now, but it’s starts the “recall” clock which ultimately runs until July 3rd which is the date of my last infusion.

I was told I was cancer free on May 18th so that date counts as Remission Day for me, also known as  NED (No Evidence of Disease) so for the next 9 months (November until July) counts as my cancer year if you will. A cancer season may be a better way of putting it. Regardless I relive this period of my life every day, the only saving grace is that each year I mark an anniversary is another year farther away from “IT”…

In between all of this nifty remembrance are our traditional holidays which were then tainted with the news of cancer. Suspicions were there from November 4th so that date is cemented in my life as the day that our lives unraveled.

Try enjoying Thanksgiving and Christmas in the midst of all that uncertainty and fear. It’s not easy.

I want to emphasize something at this point in the post, I may write this in the first person and note all my experiences as “I” but cancer affected more than just me. It fucked up my whole house. My wife and my kids lives were just as interrupted. Cancer isn’t a lonely disease, it drags family and friends into it as well.

My wife was immediately thrust into a care giver role she didn’t ask for. We both knew this was “in sickness” rather than just “in health”, this was serious shit going down. My odds were decent. The dr’s had to remove the kidney and give me some recovery time before starting chemo. They only gave me three weeks before my first infusion.

From January until July our lives found a new pattern to follow. The outside world had its own clock and we were had ours. My 6 cycles of chemo ran six months, every two weeks with blood work taken on the in between weeks. My wife became the head of the house, she basically ran the house with me down and out, she maintained school schedules and homework, she made dinner, and she took me to treatments and sat by my side through every single one (even though I said she didn’t have to) …

She sat diligently in waiting rooms while I was in surgery, she sat beside me as the chemo was dripped into my veins, she reminded me of drugs I had to take, she understood when I couldn’t sleep and ended up on the couch instead of in our bed. She let me nap as my body called for it. She put up with my crankiness and my bitching about how miserable I felt when I had my bad days. Through it all she kept her sanity and sometimes her sense of humor.

I don’t remember if I thanked her or not.

For better or for worse, in sickness and in health became a HUGE event in our house and it obviously affected our partnership as husband and wife, it strained my relationship with my extended family who chose to hide behind their Christianity and “faith believe” I was already healed all the while every two weeks chemo nurses would access the port-a-cath and hook me up for my life saving poison. This was real for us and it affected my kids too on some level. Cancer involved my entire house but when it comes down to sharing these stories and/or marking anniversaries of my survivorship people seem to only recognize my part of the ordeal…

Certainly because I HAD THE CANCER.

But that isn’t the least bit fair to my wife. This perspective isn’t fair to anyone who has had to be that caregiver, especially if that caregiver (like my father) lost a loved one to this disease.  

Cancer touches everyone in the house and the unsung heroes not recognized at all are the spouses or significant others or family members who shared in the fight. These people need to be acknowledged as well.

It was their fight too. Cancer isn’t a singular disease.

Certainly by rights, yes…only I received the chemo in my body. Only I had surgery to remove my kidney. Only I felt like shit on the drugs…but my wife put up with it for as long as I did, and she did so looking in from the outside unable to help me feel better, feeling helpless as I was wheeled off into the OR to disappear for 4 hours when they removed my diseased left kidney. She had to maintain strength when I couldn’t and sometimes, she couldn’t either. She broke down, she had bad days and had to consider the alternative like I did…

“What if the chemo didn’t work?” and even earlier than that “What if the kidney cancer had metastasized already?”

My mortality was close enough at hand, close enough to keep perspective and focus. It adjusted our point of view for the rest of our lives, Cancer was a wake up call to how fleeting this life is and how many things in this life just are not worth the time and energy most people spend on them.

More importantly during “Four score days and five” I would ask anyone reading this to think of some one they know who was or is a care giver to someone with cancer or any disease or illness and acknowledge them and what they went through (or what they are going through right now).

It’s important to me as a survivor that my wife know that her friends and family know she suffered along with me. She suffered differently but she suffered nonetheless. Think of the widows and/or widowers left alone because while they fought alongside their mates as their care givers, cancer won and instead of just “in sickness” parted them “in death.” 

I have long thought something needs to be done to recognize and acknowledge caregivers and maybe insist they get their own day on the calendar. They need something.

If nothing else, they need a hug to start with.

Please don’t assume cancer only affects the afflicted. Think about everyone involved. Look past who has the cancer and acknowledge the care giver as well.

Thanks and be well.


Published in: on November 6, 2010 at 9:14 am  Leave a Comment  
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