Saturday, November 26, 2011

And Yet Another Cancer Comrade

Man, is there something in the water? I talked about Amy and breast cancer last time. This past week, I got a punch in the gut when I learned that my friend Bill not only has colon cancer, but that it has metastasized to his liver. And he was doing everything he should, including regular colonoscopies - in fact, he got his latest one, the one that showed he had a problem and needed surgery, a year early!

Early stage colon cancer - cancer that has not left the intestinal wall - is highly curable. Late stage colon cancer - in the liver or lungs for example - has a really bad prognosis, like as low as a 5% or 10% five year survival rate. I know that Bill is in shock right now, especially since his wife (and our friend) Judy died from multiple myeloma not even 11 months ago. He is weak from the surgery to remove the 10 inches of his colon, confused by all the tests, and scared about what the future holds for him. He really hadn't even finished grieving for his deceased wife yet, and now he has to face this. We all really feel for him. And we are worried about what the future holds for him. As he said the other day to me, "I was just getting to the point where I hoped I could have a few years to relax and rebuild my life."

I sent Bill this photo I had taken in June 2006 at the Cancer Survivors' Park in San Diego, California. I was there to walk the San Diego Marathon with Team in Training, just a couple of days after my four year anniversary of starting chemotherapy. So it meant a lot to me to visit this park, funded by a cancer survivor and dedicated to cancer survivors everywhere. The words on the plaque are words of wisdom for anyone diagnosed with cancer.We just finished Thanksgiving, a reminder to count our blessings. All of us whine and complain about silly things now and then, some more than others. But I tell you, if you are healthy or even relatively so, there is no greater gift than you can ask for. If I could have five million dollars, but have to face what Bill is going to have to go through, I'd tell you to keep your money. It is a terrible thing.

In less than a year, I've lost a friend and my sister to cancer. My sister's death this past year hit me really hard, even though I could see it coming. My friend's death was totally unexpected - she was diagnosed with myeloma in December and was dead four weeks later. Then I heard Amy's news, but was relieved about a great prognosis for her. Now, Bill's news - with a much more uncertain prognosis. Three friends diagnosed with cancer in less than a year. One of the dead. My sister dead. What's next? Amy, Bill, ... I hope we are not going to start working our way through the alphabet. Man, I hate cancer, I really do. We've made so much progress, but not enough. Not nearly enough.

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