These Are Not All The Possible Side Effects

One of my few bad habits is that sometimes, even if I haven’t had a glass of wine before dinner, I tend to yell at the TV during the evening news. Especially when the pharmaceutical ads come on.

Many of these ads, of course, are for cancer medications. Not to brag or anything, but … During my brief cancer journey, I’m afraid I’ve had the opportunity to enjoy several of these fine products. So for me, the nightly news is always a fun trip down memory lane.

Here are just a few of the things I may or may not have yelled at the TV:

“Damn right those are not all the possible side effects!”

“Hey, you forgot to mention the liver damage!”

May live longer? Yeah, well, how much longer?”

“What do you mean, up to? What the hell does that mean?”

“So instead, maybe ask your doctor about eating more fruits and vegetables.”

Those are just a few of the things I yell at the TV during these ads.

One thing that never fails to impress: the number of highly technical oncology terms I hear in these ads aimed at a popular audience. Apparently, members of these advertisers’ narrowly defined target market will already know what they need to know. 

So please… ask your doctor about eating more fruits and vegetables.

When do I get to call myself a cancer survivor?

This was one thing that confused me about cancer and cancer culture.

And yes, there is such a thing as cancer culture. I missed out on a lot of it by living so far out in the woods, and also by being diagnosed with cancer just months before covid arrived. But cancer culture is a real thing. (Quite often it’s a pink thing, but not always.)

Anyway, this question first popped into my mind a few years back when I was in the oncology waiting room and saw photos from a recent event called the “Cancer Survivors Hoedown.”

Now, I’m generally not into the sort of music and dancing associated with the term “hoedown.” Still, I hoped to someday become an official member of the elite “cancer survivor” club. I didn’t know what the entry requirements were, but sign me up!

I had many questions. How long must I survive before I was officially a “survivor?” What tests or scan results would I need to become certified? What key words or numbers must I hear from my oncologist before it was official?

It was only much later I learned that the only requirement for membership in the “survivor” club is that you not yet be dead. It’s a great example of the positive thinking that’s an integral part of cancer culture. Technically, then, the moment you’re diagnosed is also the moment you become a cancer survivor.

But there’s nothing wrong with a little positive thinking, especially if your cancer is Stage III or IV. Because here’s the thing: If you decide to survive, you might. If you don’t, you won’t.

Although I may have overstated that for dramatic effect, there’s a grain of truth here. Many variables will be beyond your control. This one isn’t. So please decide to survive.

In the future I may blog more what variables are under your control.  I may also blog more about other aspects of cancer culture. But this is enough for today. That’s one thing about being a “cancer survivor.” You may at times experience a slightly reduced attention span. And also… Just plain fatigue.

That’s my blog. By and for the short attention-span cancer survivor. And also for anyone else, no matter what your attention span or energy level. Bye for now. I’ll be back.

When you have cancer, save your pants. Mostly.

Cancer is not a diet program I’d recommend to anyone. But you will lose weight.

When you do, save those pants. OK, maybe not the very biggest ones. But after that, hang onto them. You may regain some weight as your health improves. When you do, you’ll grow back into your previous pants.

And if you’re taking certain medications, you may experience swelling, edema, and temporary water retention. You may lose weight, regain it, and then lose it again.

Although shirts and blouses can still work over a wider range of sizes, you may need to make some adjustments there, too. But pants are definitely the most problematic.

I know little about women’s pant sizes and how they change as one loses weight. But unfortunate experience tells me that a men’s size 40 can cover a wide range of weights—probably around 200 to 240. This is due to something I call the Variable Cantilevered Overhang Effect (VCOE). I’m not going back there, and I’d rather not discuss it further.

But once you get below that range, you’ll need new pants more frequently. When they arrive on your doorstep, save the old ones. Just in case.