Friday, March 20, 2009
Pushin' too hard
I ran into a co-worker who hadn't seen me for a while on Thursday, and she said "Paul, I don't even recognize you."
I wasn't able to respond to her. But even if I had a voice I would not have known what to say.
I don't look the way I looked even a few months ago. It's been only two months and a few days since I learned that I have cancer, but this disease has changed me and is changing me still.
Now that I'm in the home stretch for my radiation treatments and chemotherapy, I hope that I won't get even more difficult for my co-worker to recognize. I have a radiation session today, and three more on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday of next week. My third and final chemo session will be on Monday.
Even as these sessions wind down, I know that the outcome of this odyssey is far from clear.
The New York Times recently published a piece titled "Time is a Trickster When Cancer Runs the Clock," written by a 50-year-old man living with prostate cancer.
Like me, this writer was blindsided by his cancer diagnosis and also like me, he has been reluctant to yield ground to this disease. But almost a year of living with cancer has given this man perspective that I lack.
"[Cancer] doesn't know from deadlines and Blackberries, from Twittering and overnight delivery," he writes. "Cancer is analog in a digital world. If you have a Type A personality, you will need to adjust to Type C – for cancer. Each phase of the disease –diagnosis, surgery, radiation and other treatment– carries its own distinct sense of stepping outside traditional time, its own bitter flavor of dislocation."
I like to focus on the first three letters of the word. It's can-cer, not can't-cer.
Yeah, I have cancer, but I can continue to work, I can take care of myself, I can use my brain as I wait for the rest of my body to snap back to normal.
Last night, as winter shifted into spring, I prepared about 50 letters asking friends and family members to support me in AIDS/LifeCycle 8. Part of me –the can-cer part– believes that in 10 weeks I'll be ready to ride my bicycle 561 miles from San Francisco to Los Angeles.
Going from not riding my bike at all to riding up to 107 miles for seven consecutive days in such a short period of time would be a huge leap for me. That match I may have little choice but to concede to can't-cer.
I'll let the prostate cancer patient writing in The New York Times have the last word today:
"[H]ealing, too, comes in its own time," he writes. "No matter how hard you push –and pushing isn't necessarily bad– you have to understand that cancer and its treatment will push back."
Time Is a Trickster When Cancer Runs the Clock by Dana Jennings