Not My Life; or, A Bad Day for Sad Songs

That is the dominant feeling in my gut today. I’m me, this is my life, but how can that be? It is the classic example, the cliche — things like this happen to other people. Other people are forced to confront their mortality, to be a professional patient, to live with this level of uncertainty. Not me.

Today’s visit with Dr. Arbaje was complicated, full of questions, almost as many answers, and a heightened sense of urgency and fear. It’s hard for me to write about it, frankly, so I’m going to do what I did in an email for family moments ago, and break it down in bullet points:

  • Tomorrow (Friday, October 3), I will have a PICC line inserted. This is a sort of perma-IV, so that they don’t have to keep sticking me like they did last year. It will also assist with some different treatment that may take place (see below).
  • On Monday (October 6), they will start me on chemotherapy, using a combination of drugs known as TIP (Taxol, Ifosfamide, and Cisplatin), as well as a fourth drug to help counteract some of the more severe side effects caused by Ifosfamide.
  • After my first cycle of chemo, I will have a CT scan and blood work done in order to evaluate if my cancer (yes, it is my cancer, I might as well take full ownership!) is responding well to the chemo.
  • IF IT IS RESPONDING WELL:
  1. Dr. Arbaje (on the advice of his partners, as well as the leading testicular cancer experts in Indianapolis) recommends a bone marrow/stem cell transplant, known as “autologous stem cell support” (in other words, using my own cells, not those of a donor) combined with high dose chemo. The high dose chemo and transplant procedures would take place not at Dean Oncology, but at UW Hospital, and will be a slightly different combination of drugs — the Cisplatin, for instance, cannot be given at high doses due to its adverse effect on the kidneys.
  2. Once the high dose chemo is complete (I am unsure on the number of cycles recommended), they will put my healthy stem cells back. If they do not take them out first, they could not survive the high dose treatment, and therefore, neither would I.
  • IF IT IS NOT RESPONDING:
  1. Dr. Arbaje recommends continuing with the scheduled four cycles of TIP chemo.
  • Surgery may still be needed post-chemo

———————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————————–

So…

Suddenly this cancer thing has taken yet another unexpected, ever more frightening turn of events.

I worry horribly about Dawn.

I can’t help but tell her that I am sorry (though she continually chastises me for doing this and has forbidden me to say it ever again), because it really kills me to watch her watch me going through this. I’ve always thought that it’s harder for those who have to stand by, lacking any kind of control, and watch the people they love go through this shit. I know my fear — it has become elevated substantially in the past few days — and know that I must deal with it on my own terms. But I cannot do much to salve Dawn’s fear (other than fight this thing with everything I’ve got).

Thank you all for being so supportive of us, and especially Dawn. She has the burden of holding our lives together, while I have the “privilege” of the cancer excuse.

I hope you all can learn from my experience what Dawn and I have learned: there are few things in life that really, truly matter. Understanding what those things are in your own life — be they love, freedom, happiness, family — is essential.

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6 Responses to “Not My Life; or, A Bad Day for Sad Songs”

  1. Dawn Lawler Says:

    I am going to be fine!

  2. Thank you for your good self, and your honest thoughts. I think you should do EXACTLY the things that feel (intuitively) right for you. I’m thinking of you daily, remembering when you really made my life pleasant in difficult circumstances. GO GO GO! BE STRONG!!!

  3. Mike and Dawn… just wanted you to know I have been holding you both in my heart and in my thoughts. Good luck with the picc line…! Love to you both!

  4. Wow! What a week. Live strong. Keep fighting. We love you Mike and Dawn!

  5. Kitty — thanks for your kind words. I had no idea I was so pleasant way back then at the Bay Street shop…

    And thank you Jamie (it makes me happy to know you are in the loop — it’s been such a long time…) and Reina (thanks for the love and the photos of cutey Miriam!).

  6. I can identify with your feeling bad for how your loved ones suffer. In the early days of my cancer diagnosis I could see how everyone around me fought to put on a brave face. It was hard to watch how my disease hurt those around me. Four months after my radiation and chemo ended I had a PET scan. I didn’t tell anyone but my wife so as to avoid everyone starting to worry again while waiting for results. That said, it was a rough week for my wife.

    One positive thing did come out of my concerns for their suffering. I found that I had to both stay strong and keep a sense of humor in order to comfort those around me. These qualities in turn aided me (at least psychologically) in my fight.

    Best of luck to you, and never forget how to smile.

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