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December 15, 2004

Popping Cancer, 12/15: Bad news still way out in front, good news gets on the board.

I am taking this to be superb news: with the exception of the area we already knew was cancerous, nothing of interest appeared my latest CAT scan.

This most likely means that the cancer itself is contained to the area on my upper left back, near my lung. Since surgery removed most of the offending lump, the issue now becomes treatment.

I did all the radiation you're supposed to do in a lifetime when I was a teenager struggling with Hodgkin's Disease. So radiation, the preferred course of treatment in the case of a soft-tissue sarcoma, is out. I also did years of chemotherapy with a drug that damaged the muscles in my heart. The tradeoff was that I got to live, but now my heart beats out about 35-40 percent of the blood in it with each beat, compared to a typical human heart at about 60-65 percent per beat. So to do more chemotherapy with that drug (the second choice of treatment) also seems like a risky venture.

For this reason, my oncologist has suggested I see another specialist (as a second opinion) to discuss treatment options. On Monday, December 20, I'll be heading to Cleveland for just that purpose. Following that meeting, my oncologist and I will hammer out what promises to be a dangerous course of action.

Until then, it's pretty much back into the holding pattern. The worst parts of cancer have always been the slow times: waiting for test results, long afternoons in the hospitals, etc. Ah, another Christmas with cancer. I'm getting up near double-figures now!

Still, it was a huge deal to have the CAT scan come back clean. If the cancer had spread, baseline survival rates would have been about 10 percent. As it is, since the disease is more localized, the survival baseline is closer to 90 percent.

I had a feeling the CAT scan would come back with good news, but you never know until you KNOW. I was due for some good news after that three-week long streak of nothing but bad.

Also on the positive front, my job approval rating is now up to about 100 percent at the church. My theory of pastoring is that there will be about 2.5 percent of the congregation who think you can do no wrong and will love you no matter what boneheaded pastoral decisions you make. Another 2.5 are against you from day one, for whatever reason, and nothing short of your dismissal will ever make them happy no matter how ideal a pastor you are. The majority, that other 95 percent, tend to drift with circumstance.

With the cancer working, my sermons are certainly better and more real, and any act of compassion I commit comes with the unspoken "He should be in bed himself and look at the good he's doing!" caveat. Even if someone out there wished me dead, they still have to give grudging props to the pastor who keeps pastoring with cancer.

My theory, and I share this with cancer patients everywhere, is take advantage of every opportunity. Take all the chocolate and flowers and sympathy and whatever else while you still can. Sure it seems selfish, but dying a slow, painful death (especially without chocolate) is no bed of roses, either.

Posted by Dan at December 15, 2004 10:26 AM

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Comments

Great news! As old Yogi used to say, it ain't over till it's over. Fight the good fight and hang in there. I'm pulling for you.

Posted by: Ralph at December 15, 2004 10:59 AM

Holy cow. You're a pastor? My sympathies, man. I grew up a preacher's kid.

Heh.

Seriously, good news on the cancer thing. I breathed a sigh of relief when I read this.

Posted by: Ara Rubyan at December 15, 2004 03:56 PM

Just please don't post any pictures with kittens hanging on branches, saying "Hang in there, baby!"

Those things make cancer seem like a real alternative.

Posted by: Big Dan at December 15, 2004 04:20 PM

LOL! I was going to email you one. Drats!

Posted by: Ralph at December 16, 2004 09:25 AM

Ralph,

If you can find one with Kirsten Dunst hanging from a tree branch, that will be fine.

Posted by: Big Dan at December 16, 2004 09:29 AM

Dan,

For many years I was ill with a form of Muscular Dystrophy as well as several other health problems. 95% of my time was spent in the walls of my home while the other 5% was spent inside hospitals. I was 30 at the time and found that most people really didn't have a clue how to talk to someone my age who had to use a cane, walker, or a wheelchair in order to get around. Oh sure everyone would really rally around during the 15 times I was in the hospital in 3 years but as soon I was out, it was like I was forgotten. Except for those rare family/friends who stepped up to plate and were/are there in the good times as well as bad. I had "friends" who walked away saying they simply couldn't handle being around someone was so ill. That it was just too tough on them. There were times when I screamed inside when someone would say, "Oh dear, you just need to pray more!" or my all time favorite, "If you pray to be healed you will be!" It was only then when I had to decide for myself that I wasn't going to live life on their terms or frankly the doctors' either. I wasn't going to lay in bed thinking, "Today is the day! Must not get out of bed!" It was only when I finally just said, "Whatever will be will be! But I'm going to live each day to the fullest that I can given my circumstances!" I was told there was NO HOPE! NONE! NADA!

My youngest son had never known me well. So when I started doing things that he had never seen me do before, he started pointing them out. The medicine that most people had been giving the credit to for my having any mobility at all was due to come via mail. After 72 hours, still no medicine... The insurance company swearing it was "in the mail". I noticed that I was still getting around just the same as I had been! Not one single thing negative was happening to my body... Not one! I took it as a sign that I was NEVER to take that medicine again. I also took it that I was going to be completely healed. I went cold turkey off all my other medicines as well. I was completely healed! I AM HEALED! When I went back to my critical care doctor, he couldn't believe his eyes. He couldn't believe the test results. He said clearly it had to be a miracle for it had nothing to do with him or any of the treatments he had prescribed! And you know how big egos most doctors have..... Anyhow.... Today I am able to climb trees with my youngest son and chase him and his other two brothers! I can run and not grow weary. Some of those "friends" have returned while others are gone. A few have told me that they had learned more by watching my family and I during that time than they could ever say or explain. I have also made some of the most amazing friends during that last part of my illness through this day. One of those dear friends is Ralph. We met via a website and have been close ever since. Today I can look back on those times with peace. I can say I was blessed to have had those experiences as odd as that may sound. It has made me more keenly aware of my daily living. For how can someone who has been healed not share the miracle that has taken place and not reach out to those who are where they had been with an understanding that only one could have? Just as how can someone who is in the pit of the fire not be a steadfast reminder that just because you have cancer... it does not define every aspect of you!

I haven't seen a doctor in over a year and a half now. But I know without a doubt who the Great Physciain is! And I know who carried me then and still does.... My hubby is now a preacher/pastor.... Although some might say I just gave a sermon! ;)

Posted by: Cam at December 16, 2004 09:43 AM

Cam,

Thank you for the expression of your faith!

Just as you posted your own story, I am also hoping my story of overcoming dark days will help others who are suffering.

Christian or not, it helps to hear of folks who survived what we're in the middle of, even if the illness itself isn't identical. Thank you and welcome to Popping Culture!

Posted by: Big Dan at December 16, 2004 11:03 AM

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