My Science Fiction Radiation Vacation

Our “science fiction radiation vacation”; that is how my wife characterized our very short trip to see the ProCure proton therapy centre in Seattle last weekend. It was short, with a whole lot of driving; 14 out of the 36 hours in the car. We arrived just as the Cowboys defeated the Seahawks, so we walked around Pike Place Market and the piers with a lot of disappointed Seahawks fans and a very few jubilant Texans. Continue reading

Calling a proton

It’s happening. I head to Seattle in a few hours. I have a consultation on Monday morning with Dr. Yolanda Tseng, a Radiation Oncologist at the ProCure Proton Therapy Center. The center is part of the Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, the largest cancer treatment center in the Pacific Northwest, and has opened recently, making it one of about 15 in the US. There are none in Canada, which is unfortunate, but Seattle is a heck of a lot closer (about a six hour drive) than either Loma Linda (San Francisco) or Boston, which were the two options we had at the start of this. Continue reading

A quick meditation on meditating

All around me, at every turn, I am being told to meditate. Friends and strangers are recommending MBSR and sending me links to guided meditations. Every magazine I pick up or article I see mentions it. I was meditating after my surgery and then I stopped. Why? Am I too busy? No, I just stopped fitting it in, and since then I have become more stressed, more cantankerous, less focused. So, this morning I put on my headphones, got comfortable and I tried it again. Within three minutes I had lost track of the sonorous voice talking about the white light entering my feet. I was wondering about how long the body scans will take on Monday, what if they can’t treat me due to the metal in my back, how uncomfortable will the body cast be, wait, what if I’m delayed at the border and can’t get there on time? What if they don’t let me in because of this Ebola death in Texas? What if I catch Ebola and the hospital is quarantined? STOP. I stopped.

I am too wound up to meditate. I decided that I just can’t do it right now, and then a reader reminded me that it isn’t about stopping thoughts, it’s about acknowledging them and letting them go. I can’t meditate right now, and so it is probably what I need most.

I’m committing to a daily practice. I need this, now more than ever.

Waiting for Seattle to call

I am literally sitting by my phone, willing it to ring. I am stressed. If ever I needed to be present and mindful it is now, and instead I’m living entirely in the future. I am stressed about not hearing from the cancer center in Seattle, stressed that they might not be able to do this, worried about them not getting the information that they need from my surgeon, stressed that this won’t start on time, stressed about the cost and of going three more months without an income. I’m sitting here stressed over things I have no control over. When I am not worried about things I have no control over, I’m fantasizing about being done radiation, about it being over, about being cancer free. So, I’m spending all of my time either worrying about the next three months, or skipping over them to the end of 2014. I have my life “on hold” until 2015. Continue reading

Seattle

I intended for this post to be about the past; how I got to today, how my tumor was discovered, and my subsequent surgery and recovery. I will get to those, but what is important to me right now is the future, not the past. I am about to enter radiation treatment to eliminate any trace of the cancer.

The Seattle Cancer Care Alliance (SCCA) has opened a proton beam therapy clinic and I received notice on Thursday that the province will fund my treatment there. On Friday evening I received my acceptance package from SCCA, after they were closed for the weekend. I will call them first thing Monday morning and get this started. This is the last hurdle. I need to embrace this and become cancer free.

Swimming to Recovery

This post is an assignment in a writing class. We were told to open the nearest book (in my case “The Darling” by Russell Banks), turn to page 29, and write a letter to the first word that appeared. As inspiration, the assignment instructions included a link to letters that Dr. Kate Granger had written to her cancer. I found them very powerful. You can find them at http://drkategranger.wordpress.com/2014/03/16/dear-cancer-part-3/

Dear Swim,

I apologize for my absence. Dr. Fisher asked me to visit you three weeks ago. Told me to get in the pool, to start exercising, regaining some strength, making an active recovery.

But, you see, I couldn’t. The city pool was closed for two weeks, right at that time, or at least partially closed, for maintenance or something. And the pool up at Gallagher’s, well, that would have taken some planning, some effort. I really couldn’t swim, so I drifted instead.

I drifted until yesterday when I woke up crying. New meds, fatigue maybe. Not depression, I know depression well and this wasn’t it. Not despair either, I haven’t gone there, and won’t. Fear? Definitely, but also regret. Panic, I think, panic that I am just going to drift.

I will soon be cancer free. In late 2014 I’ll get home from this round of radiation, and confidently say, “I beat cancer”. That’s a victory, sure, but what will I do with this victory, this year of my life in which I have become so attuned to by body, my health? In which I have thought so much about mortality? What will I do with that burning determination I left the hospital with? How will I capture that fierce desire to start really living, to be who I know I can be?

Swim, will I abandon you? Will I return to drifting? No! I must join you. I will. I have to. I have to live life fully, be who I should be. For me. For my children. Can I write with as much humanity and grace as Dr. Kate Granger? Can I create novels like Russell Banks? That would be hubris. But I can try; I can dive into the water.

This morning I will swim. I will slip my too thin body into the pool, feel the water over my weak muscles and swim. With each stroke I will seize this victory, this opportunity to build a more authentic life. With each lap I will strengthen my physical self and build my great future.

Thank you, swim. Thank you for letting me embrace you. We are going to have a long, beautiful life together.

Yours,

Paul