Well, it’s been eight months since my hard diagnosis of Stage IV Lung cancer was delivered. And at the risk of sounding Pollyannaish, which I’m not, I have to say that it has been a remarkably satisfying time of growth for me and my family.
Except for a nearly fatal encounter with a targeted cancer treatment (requiring two and a half weeks in the hospital and six weeks of recovery), I’ve been really enjoying myself! I retired from my Geriatric Care Management practice. I immediately gathered an extraordinary group of smart, dedicated and compassionate colleagues and took up the cause of developing a documentary video on my story of living with a terminal illness and living with palliative care, of which I am a deeply grateful recipient!
I meet my many friends weekly for lunch, attend interesting conferences on palliative care and related end-of-life issues, volunteer at the hospital in the palliative care department making phone calls to discharged patients to see how effective, or not, their palliative care experience has been. My children and even grandchildren, visit me more frequently than before and I would say this family journey has offered us all the opportunity to heal and patch up some aspects of the family’s dynamics all around!!
Coping with Change
BUT…there has definitely been a notable change in my physical condition. No pain, no suffering, no dire effects. And my symptoms are always extraordinarily well controlled by my internist/palliative care doctor who seems to be one step ahead of the symptoms so far! The changes are subtle but unmistakable. The cancer is advancing slowly and inevitably.
For example: At night, when I lie down, I start wheezing, even sometimes gurgling and coughing. All this controlled neatly with a cough medicine and codeine.
For example: I am a small woman and have gradually this past month or so lost my appetite (which I assure you was hearty in the past). I finally have lost the seven pounds I wished for all my life, but it is a strange, cancer weight loss. No matter how much pasta, pizza, French bread or banana splits I eat, it is difficult to maintain my weight.
For example: And this is the most upsetting to me…unpredictably and suddenly I seem to get drained of energy. This is not like sleepiness, or being tired from over-exertion or even like fatigue. It’s as if I was enjoying a lovely bubble bath and suddenly, for nor discernible reason, someone has pulled the plug and all the bubbles along with all my energy has just gone down the drain!
It leaves me feeling weak in the knees and a little spacy. Because my doctor has explained how greedy cancer is at taking up space and energy, I don’t panic, but immediately change my day’s plans, grab a bunch of carbos and head for a long nap on the couch. It works! Restores energy at least until the next time, which might not be for several days or so.
PEARL OF WISDOM
I feel like I’ve entered a new phase on this journey; a new turn of events. Originally I thought I’d live maybe until ninety but now the timeframe is much shorter. So be it. I do NOT think of myself as dying of cancer (although I know I am), but rather as a person living with it as best I can with all the medical, family, friends and inner support I can garner. So far so good!
© 2017 Joan Blumenfeld