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Old Formidable Foe – New Challenge

The never say die tennis legend Jimmy Connors once said he never lost to an opponent because he ran out of time. Rather, he shrugged and said he merely ran out of options.

I know the feeling all too well.

With cancer, you go through a few rather grim milestones. You remember the day and place when you are first told you have it. Then the numerous appointments on how you are going to battle it. Then the long, tedious treatments. Occasionally, you get peppered with some happy news such as “we’ve eliminated some of it,” or “it’s being kept at bay.”

It pains me to write stories like this, but it’s necessary to keep everyone informed and in the loop. I don’t like surprises, and my reader base doesn’t either. With this, you’ll be more apt to understand why I might miss a column and not guess.

So guess what? After early success with chemotherapy to treat my colon cancer, in fact, a 50% reduction, it suddenly stopped working. A scan showed that it was beating the chemicals poured into me. It was supposed to be a routine exam that day, then onto treatment. Not this time.

Instead, the doctor sent me home, telling me since the chemotherapy wasn’t working, it was futile to keep doing the weekly four hour infusions. After months and months of Tuesday morning crunch sessions, it was coming to a close. I went numb as I told the nurses in the adjoining room they wouldn’t be hooking me up to anything anymore. It was a terrible sense of loss; not only was the chemo stripped from me, so was my weekly support team of Dana, Sheila, Christine, Jennie, Susan, and Tim. Gone. Unless I stop to visit.

So what was next? After a brief reprieve of nothing being put into me, I enjoyed a nice (if not wet) summer with no major pain or side effects. My energy and weight came back quickly. Before, I would come home and barely be able to undress for bed. Now, I was looking for rooms to clean and chores to tackle!

The next step was to try an oral drug called Stivarga. I was warned of the brutal backlash this could wreak. I ingested a 75% dosage (three pills) with breakfast each day. It was easier than the infusions into my port, but by day 13, I hit the wall. I developed hand-foot syndrome — could barely walk or hold a pencil. It literally crippled my daily activities, so they pulled it. Lord (and the doctor) knows I depend on my feet and hands daily, so it was back to the drawing board.

For the last three weeks, it has been consultation and paperwork and prayer. Onto option number three, or is it four, counting the chemo pump back in 2016 that put me into the hospital due to blockage from excessive scar tissue? Oh well, who’s counting?

Ready to try another oral drug called Lonsurf. I think it sounds like a California resort town. I won’t bore you with the side effects from this baby. Let’s just say it’s supposed to be much gentler on my outer extremities — the fingers and toes!

My time away from the treatment center also robbed me of comparing notes and meeting other patients. I hate that. I met George, Rose, Devon and so many others there. Like church bingo on a Saturday night. Now it’s pills in the morning and night. Pills don’t talk to me or hug me like nurses. I stare at the bottle and wonder where the hell my life has gone.

It’s better to talk about promise and hope rather than drudgery and demise. But I know all of you have a friend, a neighbor, a relative or family member with cancer. I know exactly what they are going through, and it’s not exactly a stroll in the park.

Some fortunate folks have told me they have had their last chemo treatment. That their cancer has been put into submission. I am not envious of them, but rather joyous in knowing this bad thing can be beaten. And, it gives me hope I can do it too.

Daily, I get asked by many people, “What can I do for you, anything, please let me know.” I can’t be shy at this stage of the game. There are three things I would like before the bitterness of winter (and this new pill) take a bite out of me.

1. I need garage/storage space for a few of my cars that sit outside. I can’t keep coming home on frigid nights and pulling back on covers that the wind has blown off. I treat them like children because I have no children! Cannot go to bed with frostbite and bruised knuckles any longer. Call me at 570-320-7396 if you have any space to spare. I will love you for it! And maybe shovel your walks in exchange.

2. Support in any way, shape or form. Cancer patients reach all-time lows on a constant basis. It’s disheartening. It’s backbreaking not to have cheerleaders. I still look at the old cards sent to me in 2016 when this first took place. They mean so much, as I used to sit with my mother at night and we read them to each other. 90% of the people who wrote to me were strangers. Don’t like writing? Call the above number. Like Jim Rockford, I’ll get back to ya!

3. Smile and spread cheer. If there’s anything I learned from having cancer, it’s that being positive is an asset. For those who don’t have it, be jubilant about life and aid others. For those who have it, use the positive reinforcement that others are capable of giving us.

Another quote from Mr. Connors, “Rather than viewing a brief relapse to inactivity as a failure — treat it as a challenge and try to get back on track as soon as possible.”

Hope your summer was swell, and now gearing up for another transition season. Fall offers lots of variety and color, even if we have less daylight time to enjoy it.

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