Monday, November 23, 2009

Death Row

That's pretty much what it feels like. Someone whom I hadn't spoken to for a little bit asked me today if I "was any better or still doing treatment?". Before I really even thought about it I scoffed and blurted back "I'll never get any better, I'm on death row, man."
That's when it hit me.
It's essentially how it has felt to me being sentenced to unending chemotherapy just to maintain or manage the cancer that they cannot cut out of me. I am aware that the quote on the back of my Cancer Sucks shirts says "Cancer is a word, Not a Sentence" but it's moreso the idea that regardless of being diagnosed with Cancer, no matter how "well" you take THAT awesome have to endure the same crap-ass treatments from there on out. Without much end in sight.
Before ever knowing cancer as intimately as I do now, I had a certain...expectation, if you will. Not that I ever expected to get cancer, mind you. But from what I knew about people who got cancer, you found out about it, got chemotherapy (honestly had no clue as to what that actually meant) and/or radiation (my preconception of this was you sat in a room and got blasted with laser beams for days on end. theoretically, I guess I wasn't far off). Than, you got some kind of surgery to cut it all out. And after all that is said and're given the all clear, you're now respected and admired more b/c you were brave/inspirational/strong, and you got to call yourself by a new title of Survivor. That's how it's supposed to happen. It still actually happens to people in that way sometimes. Or, the expectation is you've found it way too late, its so far gone, you instantly just die. Note that in either of these crassly over-generalized views, do you get an ambiguous "well, you have cancer, we can't really get it out of you, or even see it, but it's there, so we're going to give you alot of drugs, lock you in to a regimen that will cement you into your current location/hospital, and really, we don't know what to expect or what will happen because of all this." That isn't how the story is supposed to go!! Damnit.
I'm not exactly sure what my motivation is. What is the impetus for walking myself into my doctors office once or twice a week, sit down in that awesome vinyl "recliner", having a needle plunged into my chest and waiting around a few hours while my body is infused with drugs that set out to destroy cells that seem to keep outsmarting us?? I ask that simply because, the more I think about all the time I spend getting treated for cancer, all I can see is all the things that get taken away from me because of it.
I can't work a full time job.
I can't have children.
I am not even entirely sure I can have sex.
I can't pay my own expenses.
I can't even have a bank account in my name.
I can't really move off to a new city.
I can't take a vacation thats longer than a week.
I can't fart.
I can't drink an iced tea.
I can't go for a full day without a few half hour visits to a bathroom.
I can't eat a salad.
I can't go to college.
I can't, I can't, I can't.

I'm sick to death of shit I can't do. I'm sick of all the trivial restrictions this b.s. has put on me. And even though I describe it as trivial, it really isn't. I may never have really wanted children. But the sheer fact that I CAN' a ramification of things done to me in order to preserve my life...that human right was just blatantly taken away. And to some of the other examples I've given some may argue "oh, you's just a challenge". Yes. You are correct. There are things I could do that may just be an extra challenge...I could fart....through a tube inserted into my stomach. I could eat a salad. Slowly. Chewing to mush. With a chaser of grape juice and an extremely loooooooonnnggg and frustratingly exasperating day in the bathroom later....yes.
I look at my examples and I see whining. But so flippin' what!! I think I've earned the right to whine.
Even though ultimately, its not really whining. It's just honesty. I've been living with this long enough to know that just like I will never be President of the United States...I will never be able to do or have some of the things I touched on.
And it's all cancers fault.
So basically, I'm just sentenced to the rest of my days, however many they be, being stagnantly resigned to this form of death row. It's morbid, yes. It's twisted, true. But it is.
And do not mistake this for gloom and doom. I'm simply being bluntly honest.
I am not seeking sympathy. Or fishing for inspirational words. Trust me, at one point I was THE Queen at "reframing" the situation. (who else could come up with rationalizations like: "well, radiation isn't so's laser hair removal, I get a great bikini line from it." or "being infertile and sterile isn't that awful, it's like built in birth control! I can go slut it up with no fear of babies!")
But even the Queen of it gets tired of hearing it sometimes.


  1. I TOTALLY know how you feel. Sometimes you've just gotta say all the crap that's on your mind without worrying if it comes across as whiny, defeatist or something else.
    And I know people look at me the same way they look at you- The QUEEN of Reframing, "Handling this so well." But YES Even the Queen needs a break. And take a break as often as you need to.

  2. Nothing wrong with whinning. Or screaming, or yelling, or telling the world to go get fucked because your having a really horrible day in a long line of really horrible days. Letting it out is better than keeping it in.


  3. You know I love your honesty, and love you for that.

  4. Wow, Becca, this was a great post. Heartbreaking but well written. Thank you for sharing.

  5. My world was shaken when my Dad was diagnosed this October. Having been labelled my entire life as the girl with heart disease - I did not want my Dad to be labelled as the guy with cancer. I repeated the word over and over and over and came to the conclusion it's just a disease - a really horrid and evil disease - but for me that's what gives me hope that we can fight it. Keep speaking with your heart and know you are so brave.

    I found your blog via another blog via the colon cancer alliance site. Just wanted to show my support. My Dad and I have been working together to decide his treatment options and sometimes, it feels pretty lonely.

    Best wishes to you - Erinne

  6. I know how you feel. My initial reaction at my diagnosis was the same: cut it out, poison it, move on. Now I'm learning to live with short hair (or no hair) and the specter of recurrence visiting every six to nine months. (Ovarian.) So don't feel bad for being honest. Sometimes I'm sick of people trying to find the silver lining, too. That's my job. And just like a little black humor is okay, sometimes a good grump gets you through it. Power, sister.

    -The Carcinista

  7. You express yourself and what you feel so much better than I can! I was in my late 20s when I was diagnosed - late stage III rectal cancer. Because of the tumor location, the only surgical option given to me was an APR. I wish I'd never had that surgery, it completely destroyed my life and it didn't cure me anyway. So not only do I still have cancer, I no longer have the opportunity to get any enjoyment out of my remaining days. I get so furious about this f*ed up situation sometimes, I feel like smacking my head into a wall. How does someone who was fit, active, slim, previously perfectly healthy, never smoked, only drank on occasion and ate healthily end up with colorectal cancer? I don't even have any genetic predisposition that explains it either.

    I know it's not P.C. to say but I really resent all the fat, lazy bastards out there who stuff whatever they want in their mouths, drive a block rather than walk, drink, smoke and do whatever they want without any consequence. It's just so DAMN UNFAIR!!!

    Hope you're doing ok...

    ps if you change your account settings so that all those who comment have to type a random word and you moderate comments before they get posted, it should avoid those annoying chinesey spam comments...

  8. You not the expert, casually?

  9. Hey there from a fellow Chicagoan!

    I literally found your blog today, New Year's Eve, 2009, and I have been reading every entry.

    I do not know what it is like to have cancer, so I cannot say I know how you feel.

    I used to work in a really busy surgical oncology practice for almost seven years (during and after college), so I can say that I agree that it's not f-ing fair, and that you have every right to look at it from your own unique (removed) perspective. Too often the whole cancer world requires people to either be victims or heroes....not just people. Who happen to have a disease. You don't always have to be playing some role for someone, you know?

    And I don't know if this helps or not, but Rush University Medical Center (where my Mom works as a nurse!) always posts signs everywhere about how they offer discounts to their patients without insurance and/or to those in tougher financial straits. I'm not sure if this still applies to you, but they say they discount up to 100% of the bills based on income. I only wish I had found your blog 2 1/2 years ago....

    Hope this helps and happy new year!

  10. Hello, are you still there? Hello? blog more, please?

    dan (

  11. I'd feel the same way if I'd been diagnosed in my 20's or 30's. As it is, I received the diagnosis about a month ago and even though I'm 53, I have a lot of living left in me.

    Keep posting. I'm finding that writing all my feelings really does help.

  12. I read your ENTIRE blog a few months ago when my son Scott told me about it. I kept thinking about you for days. Your blog is powerful.
    I was amazed at your fabulous way of expressing how you feel and what your life has been/and is like. Such creative honesty.
    I know a few people with cancer and have lost some friends to it. I don't know how you feel. My problems are different. One common denominator we have is pain. Mental and physical pain is with me every day.
    I hope to meet you next time I visit Scott in Chicago. Chicago is my "vacation" spot and Scotts apt. is my cheap hotel!!

  13. Great writing and thanks for being so honest, and not whinny. I have just read this entry but will be going back and reading more of your posts.
    Keep putting it out there.

  14. Hi - just stumbled on your blog via a reference to you on Facebook.

    I have nothing to say about your cancer. I have cancer, but so far I have been the "model scenario" you painted in this post: surgery, chemo, radiation. Weight loss, feeding tube, diability - then recovery and hoping it doesn't recur.

    My experience (of which I blogged about on MY blog extensively) is nothing at all like yours and I can't offer any platitudes that would mean anything to you.

    What I WILL say is this: you are not defined by your cancer. You are more than than sum of your cancer. As exhibited by what really impressed me in your posts - your incredible writing skills.

    As a writer/poet myself I turned to my blog for cathartic release when I was nose-deep in my cancer battle - and I still blog through my recovery. You have an incredible writing style, amazing creativity, and it is a pleasure to read what you write.

    Not many people have the skill you possess with the written word. And that has nothing to do with your cancer.

    I know, for me, I hated being identified (still) as the "guy with cancer." I am so much more - I wanted you to know that I, at least, see that.

    Good luck. I'll keep following your blog!

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