Does Cancer Take a Vacation?

A friend recently sent me a message with an idea for this blog.  She must have been having a bad day at work and was looking forward to some vacation time and said, “… how ready I am for that week off work. And then I thought of you, and realized that even if you had a week off of work, you wouldn’t have a week off of cancer.”

It’s true.  I’ve tried to schedule it but that cancer won’t take a day off.

I’ve also been thinking about a reasonable response to the question of a blog entry on the subject.  Been thinking about it all day, and now as I start on the keyboard, I worry about my writing devolving into a long self pitying whine on how bad my life is now that I’ve got prostate cancer.

My first response to her was to reply with a long note – that bordered on the preachy – suggesting that perhaps there was more there for her to think about.  I believe in the energy of writing. If she’s motivated to write to me then perhaps it was a subject she needed to explore more.

My first reaction to myself was – “Glad I am not worried about that.”

My second reaction to myself was – “Holy crap, I don’t get a day off?!?”

Yes, when I first got diagnosed I worried that I’d never be free from this thing and that it would mark my every hour of every day for the rest of my life.  I had visions of being that annoying guy in the room that has only one subject on his brian.  You know the guy that likes cars and can only talk about cars.

I don’t want to be that guy.  I don’t want to be so obsessed with my condition/disease/cancer/thing that I’m asking all my friends, “Had your PSA test?”  My fear is that I’ll start asking women that question.

I still have great dreams of what I’d like to do and be.  A great maquetrian.  A great writer.  A famous blogger making hundreds of dollars.  What to do?  Do I give up those dreams because my body won’t let me do them? Now there are a hundred other reasons why I might not achieve these things – such as I am over 50 and am running out of time, or that I’ve got another career and am not likely spend the time. Still, whether I can achieve those or not, prostate cancer adds one more big reason why I won’t achieve those dreams.  What to do? Do I use what energy and time I have to do as much of that as I can?

Intellectually simple.  Emotionally a pain in the butt and I’ve not completely mastered it but I am getting better.

These insights and questions are not new to me as I am not completely new to medical problems.  Cancer is simply the latest problem that has impacted my life.  In my early twenties I was diagnosed with high blood pressure and gout.  Both of these conditions have affected my life and at times caused debilitating pain.  For my blood pressure I have to constantly monitor it and take my medications.  There are times when the gout flares up and my leg becomes swollen and so painful that I can’t walk.

In spite of these conditions I still have had a great life and have done a few things to be proud of.    But when I think of vacations I also have to plan for my conditions.  When Heather and I packed our bags for our trip to Hawaii I made sure that blood pressure pills and my gout pills were in my flight bag.

Yet it’s still true – I can’t take a week off from cancer.  Even when my body heals from the current treatments, cancer will always be there as the specter that could pop up at any time – just like my gout that affects me when I don’t want it to.

But for now I do what I have to.  I do the treatments and endure the side effects and gage what my body and mind can do.  I also keep this priority list in my brain of what I’d like to do – be with my wife, create things in my shop, walk in the hills, do projects around my house and be involved in my church.  At any moment in the day I can do the intellectual exercise and do what my body will allow on my list.  Some times I go into the workshop.  Sometimes I do something with my wife.  And sometimes I have to tend to the needs of my body and disease.

Still it’s hard to escape the shadow – even when I am feeling well.  I hear people at my office complain about minor things and it is so tempting to jump in and say, “That’s nothing, let me tell you about my problems.”

Not that guy – that’s not the guy I want to be, so I resist the urge.

But it’s not cancer every minute.  There are moments of respite – minutes and hours when I can get my mind into a different space.  These are my ‘vacations’ from the disease.

I watch a movie, go to a show with my wife, spend a day with the marquetry club or build something in the shop and for a few hours my problems are forgotten while I spend a little time “away from it all.”

One of the parts of prostate cancer is that it is a slow moving cancer and after I finish this round of radiation treatment it will be several months before I know if it worked.  The test will be another PSA test that I’ll get sometime in late June – four months from now.  That test will tell if the cancer is being reduced.  It could be as much as a year before the PSA falls low enough to call it as being in “remission.”  And then I’ll need regular tests and with each one I’ll get to do the “stressing over the results” routine.

But while I wait, my body will recover and my life will return to something like normal.  There will be weeks and maybe months before the doctors disturb my soul again with thoughts of gloom and doom.

Who knows I might even start writing about something other than cancer in this blog.

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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3 Responses to Does Cancer Take a Vacation?

  1. YAPCaB says:

    With time you’ll probably nearly forget the cancer. The only reminder will be the PSA tests, which in my case spun me back up for a week before and then for a few days after if the result was high.

    If the cancer recurs, as mine did, I don’t know what t tell you. Mine metasticised about 4 months ago. Since then it hasn’t taken a vacation. There are hours at a time when it’s not on my mind, but I think about it daily. Hopefully, you did get it all and you’re done.


    • Andrew says:

      I do find that the further I get from treatment the less I do think of it.

      Until I don’t feel well. Last week I wasn’t feeling well and decided to go see the doctor. Of course the first thing that came mind was, “Is the the cancer acting up?”

      Turns out that wasn’t really anything but it does pop up from time to time.

      Of course I am hopeful that one treatment knocks this out.


  2. Gisela Foster says:

    Thanks for your wise words. After my breast cancer treatment ended I found, to my surprise, that occasionally a few hours would pass without a thought about cancer. But I was still fearful of “life.” What if lifting a bag of groceries started lymph edema in my arm? What if the nerve damage never went away? It is now three months after treatment (chemo and radiation) I am planning a major trip to Europe and I walk briskly, carry what I need to carry, wake up with dreams and aspirations. Cancer will not allow me to totally forget about its existence or possible recurrence; between exercise, healthy eating, pills, side effects, I pay my dues. Sometimes I wonder if I should have gotten an airline ticket that is refundable. But overall I feel great; I enjoy my life, my daily life, and I look forward to my April trip to Salzburg, Prague, and Berlin.
    Gisela F.


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