a finished product

My brother Greg called me last week. He said, “I check your blog everyday, and you haven’t posted in a while, so I thought I’d call…” Yesterday Dawn said, “Mike, you really need to post on your blog because people are starting to email me with questions.”

I know, I’ve been bad about writing here — life has gotten busy again, since I started back full time with CTM at the beginning of March. It’s a struggle to not simply relax back into the comfort of the day to day life I used to lead. I don’t want to do that. I want to find new ways of living that support what I’ve learned through all of this cancer shit. I’m trying.

As part of my trying I have been meeting with a woman that initially got to know through my work on the Cancer Stories Project. She has helped me determine some of the positive actions I can take to help my body (and mind) heal from what it has been through over the last several months. One of the first steps is something called Ortho-Bionomy. It is a form of massage that can be applied to major scars to help them heal better. I had no idea what an incision like mine would feel like once it had “healed” into a massive scar. Having a scar like mine is like having some kind of knotted rope fused into your body — you know it shouldn’t be there, and so does your body. I will be having my first session of “scar work” next week, and am curious to see how it helps.

I’m also planning on taking up Yoga in a structured environment soon — although at the moment I don’t think my body is really ready for it. I’m wary of pushing myself too much. I’ve also been (for now) talked into trying acupuncture. Oy vey. Really? Yes. I’ll keep you posted on that as well.

In the meantime, here’s the latest: I will not be taking the oral VP-16. My white blood count tested low for three weeks in a row, and while my local oncologist was encouraging me to continue to have it tested, Dr. Einhorn advised that I not continue and that I not take the oral chemo. I was already leaning in this direction — and so was Dawn. We felt that my body was simply not prepared to endure more toxic chemicals, and that it was time to stop. Considering how the two rounds of high dose chemotherapy and the RPLND have changed me, affected me, it was a bit scary to think of taking yet more chemo anyway. I’m relieved.

In a recent email from Dr. Einhorn’s nurse, Jackie, she said, “Congratulations! You’re a finished product!” I said to Dawn, “that’s a strange way to say it, don’t you think?” Dawn said, “Not really, considering that’s how they think about people in the medical world.” It was telling, even though I know that is not how Jackie meant it — she is a very caring and competent nurse. It’s also a strangely ambiguous phrase: you’re finished. It has two opposing meanings, and they are purely contextual; that is, I could say to you with identical tone and inflection, “you’re finished,” and without knowing what was inside my head (let’s pretend I’m a doctor), you could either think I was saying, “you’re a dead man,” or, “you never have to come back to my office again.”

So, I’m finished. Like a fully restored piece of antique furniture — not quite the same, but in pretty good shape. I’m still having some residual trouble in my abdomen, mostly in the form of pain that sometime radiates into my back, and a still occasional uncomfortable emptying of the bladder. Considering that (from at least one account I’ve read) an RPLND involves the lifting and setting aside of one’s intestines, I guess that goes with the post-RPLND territory. Recently, I asked Dr. [name withheld] via email about these continuing side effects, and he replied simply: “Both of these issues will resolve over time.” Isn’t that reassuring?

Greg also asked that I post a picture, because he didn’t realize that I was looking back to normal with hair. Here is one that was taken shortly after my surgery. I’ll post a more recent one soon.

Self-portrait, February 2009

Self-portrait, February 2009

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One Response to “a finished product”

  1. It’s good to hear that, all things considered, you are doing very well indeed. You do not look like our “baby” Mike anymore, but you look good and you are still Possumhijo.

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