Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Breathe In, Breathe Out - A Cancer Recovery Journal

Ema update: Ema's surgery was Monday and it went as planned. The orthopedic oncologist and plastic surgeon worked to perform a radical resection of the tumor site. There's more details here, but they aren't for the squeamish, so I'll leave it at that. She is still in the hospital, but should be coming home tomorrow or Friday. Also, the two latest CT scan results came back negative for cancer - all clear - yay! I saw her today (Wednesday). She looks good, her spirits are up, and her leg hurts like an SOB.
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Like Ema said in episode 48, “. . .these are the only two things you do alone in life – be born and die. And when death looks at you it’s terrifying. But if you’re not alone, it makes a big difference.” This is why I’m writing this ‘cancer recovery journal.’ I was going to call it a ‘cancer journal,’ but it’s really about the process of recovery, not the disease itself. Ema is so right - a huge part of recovery comes from knowing that you are not alone. So many friends, some of whom we haven’t talked to in years, have come to our side and offered prayers, babysitting, running errands, and so much more. Sharing Ema’s recovery and our journey helps us stay connected to everyone who has offered help and sent well-wishes for a speedy recovery. There’s no reason to go through this alone as long as we have friends and family who are willing to be part of this battle.

Like many life-threatening diseases, cancer sweeps through a family like a cyclone – upending a normal life and challenging the very substance of our resolve. While the disease is destructive by itself, the treatments can leave the patient sick, weak, and vulnerable to other ailments. Where we stand today, we’ve eradicated the tumor, removed the tissue surrounding the tumor site, and are now healing those wounds before radiation and chemotherapy can begin. Both of these treatments are radical, potentially destructive measures that seem almost archaic in practice, but which are the most modern, effective ways to annihilate such a tenacious disease.

I wrote the first several entries of the journal without any expectations of publishing it in a blog. It’s a personal account of how I made it through each day knowing my wife, the person I had expected to spend the rest of my life with, may be dying. The journal starts on the third day after the news of Ema’s cancer.

Day 3: It’s 7:00 AM right now, and we somehow made it through the weekend. Ema is going to call her doctor in one hour to schedule an appointment. In the meantime, I wait, try to keep busy by doing even the most mundane things, and concentrate on my breathing which seems to soothe me a little.

Breathe in, breathe out. That’s about all I can do right now. For the past 36 hours I have been in a near dissociative state of panic. I feel at once restless, helpless, anxious, and angry. I want to lash out, blame someone, but I haven’t had the energy to do more than place one foot in front of the other, raise my hands to the keyboard and, against better judgment, sit behind the wheel of my car and steer absent mindlessly toward places I really don’t want to go.

Idle time is the worst. The moments between walking, driving, writing, working. The smallest interim of inactivity causes my mind to start spinning, thinking and rethinking worst-case scenarios. With so little information so far to go by, I’m forced to concoct possible outcomes, trying to sort out my feelings in each circumstance. What if the doctor tells us she has six months to live? What if this rare form of cancer has proven to have a 100% mortality rate? It’s exhausting and frustrating to think of these things. Although writing this down forces me to think about it all, I know that it will somehow help me in the long run.