A cancer free Thanksgiving

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This cancer-free holiday weekend is coming to a close.  It has been a weekend away from cancer care, clinics, hospitals, radiation, scans and therapy.  I am immersed in cancer care, which I am thankful for on this Thanksgiving weekend.  I am thankful for the doctors, nurses, therapists, and researchers who devote their minds, their talents and their energies to ridding me of this disease. I am so thankful for all of the support I am receiving from family and friends and I am thankful for the massive cancer industry that exists to make me better.  I am, though, also very thankful to get away from it, to not spend all of my time in treatment, in transit, discussing cancer with doctors and specialists, sitting in my room listening to recordings of those meetings, reading and trying to understand research papers, explaining my progress to people, writing about cancer and living it.  Thankful for a weekend away from cancer, thanks to my brother Mark.

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We spent the weekend “away from cancer”.  We weren’t actively avoiding it, and the subject did come up a few times, but really very seldom.  We certainly weren’t “too busy” for it, we did very little; we just spent the weekend having a visit, not a cancer retreat.  What we did, was walk and eat, and not much more.  On Thanksgiving morning we walked through the city for hours, a city that was entirely shut down.  While we had planned to take in a museum or attraction, or even go for coffee and were initially disappointed that everything was closed, it was very cool to see a large city completely shut down, actually take a holiday.

We had lunch at the SCCA House on Thursday.  The staff and some volunteers put on a full Thanksgiving turkey meal for us.  It was low-key, with great food and some good company.  We did talk ‘cancer” a bit with other guests, many of whom had stayed for the holiday as a family member was either hospitalized or too sick to travel.  After I had a nap, we walked again in the afternoon and watched the city “wake up” around 5pm as some retailers started getting ready for sales and bars got ready for the Seahawks game.  We found a hotel bar open for the game and joined a crowd of tourists and locals to see the ‘hawks claim another victory and build some needed late season momentum.  The rest of the weekend we walked and ate.

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We spent a few hours at the Museum of History and Industry, we ate great seafood on one of the piers and good Italian food in a very strange restaurant in Wallingford and we walked.  I napped in the afternoons and was in bed early.  As we ate and walked we talked about Seattle, hockey, weather, restaurants, coffee, snowshoeing and skiing, why the door at the SCCA House opens so slowly and hasn’t been fixed, golf and REI, and a little about cancer.  It was awesome to have real conversations that weren’t all about “me and my cancer”, that didn’t start with “how are you really doing”, that didn’t focus on symptoms and treatment plans.  It was great to have a break.

I know this trip was costly for Mark, both in terms of expenses and time off at the end of the month during his busy sales time, and I am grateful that he made it.  He left early this morning.  I feel like I had a holiday, and I’m going to miss him.

Safe travels - I'll miss you!

Safe travels – I’ll miss you!

Now I am back to cancer, back to eliminating it.  I have a treatment booked every weekday in December other than the 25th.  Twenty-two more radiation sessions and I am done.  My last treatment is at 1245pm on the 31st followed by a “radiation graduation” ceremony at 3pm.  It will be a great way to finish 2014 and finish with chordoma, with this cancer.

Tomorrow I get a new radiation plan and a new belly board.  This board will allow my stomach and other organs to drop further, hopefully decreasing the amount of radiation to my bowels.  I am confident it will work.  If not, the only remaining option is a rectal balloon (do yourself a favour and don’t google that).  Right now my side-effects seem minimal.  I feel good, feel strong and am confident that the next month is going to be smooth and easy. I am going to trust all of the people who are working on my case, question less and surrender to them.  I stayed up last night reading about the efficacy of combining photon and proton therapy in oncology and radiation journals.  I have some questions, but I need to stop trying to understand so much and surrender to it.  It is hubris on my part to think I can maintain an intelligent dialog on this with the experts.  I need to trust them and be thankful that they are looking after me (while still being informed and engaged).

I can’t imagine how tiring, stressful and emotionally draining working in cancer care must be.  I hope that the wonderful people looking after me got a break this weekend and are back tomorrow refreshed, recharged and ready to make me healthy.

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16 thoughts on “A cancer free Thanksgiving

  1. Yay for a holiday from cancer! Hoorah for medical experts who are giving their all to eliminating your cancer!

    BTW, I got a chuckle out of the way the photographer framed your brother within the picture frame in the background in this blog.

    Tom and I are going to care for Pippa over Christmas. I know she will be so excited to have you home to cater to her every wish, as is the right of cats.

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  2. Hi Paul.

    Just want you to know I am thinking of you every day, it also reminds me how our health is so important and we have to enjoy every day. We are always so busy with things that are really not that important . Hope to see you soon again, stay positive and if Olivia needs anything done around the house let me know .
    Take care, Klaas

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  3. I’m so glad you got a break this weekend!! It helps just to shift the focus, even for only a short while. It is such a fine line between researching and trying to understand what is happening with your body, and then being overwhelmed with the sheer volume of information and statistics! Trusting those caring for you and the whole medical process is a tall order, and I think even having occasional moments of acceptance and trust would be a resounding success! Hang in there!!

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  4. Hi, Paul,

    Happy USA Thanksgivings! As you have discovered, there is a lot for which to be thankful. Glad that you could have a cancer free weekend with Mark. It’s great to have a change.

    Could brother Mark be the catalyst for you to move into a different “phase,” if we can call it that? Could acknowledging that there are negatives to all types of treatment be ok for now? Could trusting that your caring health team will take care of you, calm your worries? Could you have part cancer free days even though Mark may have gone home? … Something to ponder if you wish…

    Our Mindfulness workshop has finished but people have decided to cont. meeting at the same time & day. Darcia, who manages the gym, has given us permission to continue using the room. Isn’t that sweet of her? It will be an informal group. We are not sure how it will run, yet. A few of us can take turns facilitating. David will have another group running in the spring. Hopefully, you will be able to join our group when you get back to take David’s workshop. It will be nice to catch up with you.

    As always, I send you positive, healing energy. Remember that your guardian is looking after you. J

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  5. Paul, thank you for keeping us posted on how you are doing.

    Don’t feel obligated in any way to respond to my emails. 😄 don’t want to add any obligatory work to your time in Seattle.

    Just want to let you know that you are never far from our prayers and thoughts. We pray for wisdom, insight and strength in ‘living forward’.

    What a finale – a 3p radiation graduation on December 31. What a way to say goodbye to 2014.

    So many life lessons. So much leaning.

    Believing that the best of your life and influence is yet to come. Like the grain of sand in an oyster shell, our pain and trials often become a pearl of great price. But for now, I pray for strength for the day, for healing and for peace within.

    Upward & onward, lr

    >

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  6. I had a fantastic time with you in Seattle. The nights out each day seemed to cap off a different adventure that came and went pretty quickly. A word of advice for anyone going to visit Paul – he walks everywhere and he walks fast. There are lots of hills and puddles in that city and they are no obstacle for him. I hope the second half of the treatments go without any hitches.

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  7. Sounds like you and Mark had a great time together. That is wonderful!! The pic of you two is awesome! Thinking of you lots as you go through this process. Hopefully the rest of your treatments go well 🙂

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