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February 27, 2005

Popping Cancer reflection: It doesn't take a strong person.

I got a compliment from a friend in email this week.

After I described my most recent chemotherapy treatment, she wrote back that I was such a "strong" person.

Looking back over the treatment I've done in the course of my lifetime, I would never have thought it possible that I could have survived all that, but the survival, in my mind, isn't necessarily what strength is.

Taking acts to preserve your life when the only alternative is death is not strength. Not if you want to live.

This last course of treatment added a new horror. My kidneys decided they didn't like being poisoned once and for all. They (my kidneys) said to themselves "let's get this junk out of here ASAP." And so, without even consulting me, they started a regimen of toxic drug removal. For days, I had to go to the bathroom every 15-20 minutes while I was awake, and at night I would wake up to run (yes, run) to the bathroom every 45-60 minutes.

On top of everything else, this was physically and psychologically quite a blow to me. Take three hours and just get up every 15-20 minutes, walk to the bathroom, and return. Then imagine that against your will, already weak and exhausted and ridden with other side effects. For three days.

Sleep comes only in half-hour bites and then only if you can find a comfortable position to sleep (remember, I am recovering from surgery on Monday as well).

Added to that task was the job of having to constantly be drinking water. Otherwise, the tasks above became, well, painful on top of everything else. Who would have thought that drinking water could be such a chore?

All the old familiar side effects with this one thrown in on top. And yet, what could I do? Nothing but suffer through it until it was over. Sleep when I could, avoid accidents, go back each day for more poison, which I knew would only extend it.

Because I suffered through this week of chemotherapy (I'm still in recovery, and am very, very weak still, but the worst has passed), does that make me strong? I don't think so. Maybe if I was taking it on so someone else could get well. Maybe if it was for a cause outside myself.

The way I see it, my choices are two:

1) take whatever suffering the treatment chooses to impose.
2) die.

Pretty clear to me.

Now, here's where strength comes in: What do you do with it? I try to get out when I can when I'm healthy (last time I had a cough and was mostly homebound). I even preached one post-chemotherapy week last time and I might do so again this week coming up if I get strong in a hurry. I try when I can to make poor Mrs. Popping Culture's suddenly impossible life easier. Once last time when she was sick I walked the dog. Seems like a small thing, but given my health, it was like I had cured, well, cancer.

I think strength is the ability to keep living your life as much and as well as you can despite the nonsense you HAVE to do. And we all have our own nonsense.

We all have, to put it in Christian parlance, our crosses to bear. What we do once we have those crosses on our backs is what makes us strong.

Cancer ends the lives of many more people than it kills. This is a true statement.

Posted by Dan at February 27, 2005 10:10 AM

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I think you're a pretty strong person as well. Some of us don't bear crosses all that well. It's unclear to me if I could carry those crosses.

Posted by: Ralph at February 27, 2005 06:41 PM

Never underestimate your toughness, Dan. I've known people who found it much easier to choose door number two and did so. It takes guts to choose something that you already know is purely awful over closing your eyes and drifting away.

Posted by: Kimm at February 27, 2005 07:17 PM

Not to belabor the point, but does this mean a "Cup" defense may be put off until Summer? I mean , if you can preach, surely you can swing a golf club, right?

Posted by: Doug at February 28, 2005 10:18 AM

Sounds like you and Slackbladder have a lot more in common than I thought.

Posted by: Jim at February 28, 2005 03:56 PM

Mine requires poison and goes away later. Mine is gone now, for example, while you don't know about Slackbladder's, 'cause he's in the potty at the moment.

Posted by: Dan at February 28, 2005 06:48 PM

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