Alex (yakshaver) wrote,
Alex
yakshaver

More Reflections on Cancer, Fifteen Years On

I had a synchronicity moment today: I got in the car to run some errands, and on the radio was NPR's Talk of the Nation — and the guest was Leroy Sievers, who has been blogging his own cancer treatment on the NPR web site. I immediately did something I have never done in my life: Tried to call a call-in show*.

Cancer was still a fairly taboo topic in 1991 — people used to even avoid using the word: I remember the big C was a common euphemism. After I was treated, I decided to talk openly about it to anyone who would listen. I'd like to believe that I made some small contribution to the changes in our cultural norms that now make it entirely acceptable for Mr Sievers to blog and speak to a national audience about his treatment.

I wish I had kept a journal when I was being treated for cancer. (Indeed, that wish is a big part of why I kept my stroke blog. (Which I took some time to day to tidy up — though I'm still not ready to actually read it. But that's a topic for another day.) As it is, I have only my jumbled and somewhat chemo-addled memories. Nonetheless, some events are as clear as if they were yesterday.

Lance Armstrong had not yet contracted testicular cancer, let alone turned it into a topic of dinner-table conversation, when I was diagnosed. These days, while teaching young men about testicular self-examination is still not as pervasive as teaching young women about breast self-examination is, at least the information is readily available: It would be astounding for an educated young man to be ignorant of the topic. Fifteen years ago, I had never even heard of it.

I have been sent to see Dr. K, a surgeon; he has my scans clipped to a light box and is examining them.
Dr. K: Oh, yeah; that's gotta come out.
Me: What?
Dr. K: Wha? Oh. Your right testicle. But don't worry, it's a small one.

I told myself that with a bedside manner that bad, Dr. K must be one hell of a surgeon.

It's the day after the surgery. My first conscious thought upon waking up is I don't have a headache. I had been plagued by a constant headache — sometimes better, sometimes worse, but never gone — for at least three years. And that morning it was gone, with my tumor. That was the first of many clues to what cancer had been doing to me, and for how long, that I would eventually puzzle out.

More to come, but that's all I have time for tonight.

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