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.

Speaking of Cancer…

So… Why didn’t I bring up my cancer sooner?

It’s a fair question.  After all, many people with cancer are quick to announce their diagnosis to the entire world. I was not one of those people.

Why not? It’s not that I was afraid to say “the C word” aloud. I wasn’t in denial, and I wasn’t feeling any shame or stigma.

First, I guess I just didn’t want to talk about my cancer or think about it any more than necessary. I just didn’t want to give cancer any extra room in my head.

(I mean that figuratively, of course. Literally, if you count those tumors I had in my brain back then, the cancer actually was taking up room in my head. Too much room.)

Second, I suppose I wasn’t eager to share the news with everyone. Not yet. Just because. And even when I did, briefly sharing the news in a matter-of-fact sort of way is different from blogging about it regularly.

That’s a step I’m only now considering. These posts might help me process my experiences, but they might also help others better understand and process theirs—and also the new experiences that might be just around the corner.

And finally, the number one reason why I haven’t been been blogging or even tweeting much about this or anything else? Cancer makes people tired. Cancer made me tired. Too tired.

What energy I could spare went toward other priorities. I kept working a little, but mostly I focused on getting better. Part of that was getting a little exercise and a lot of rest. Sometimes there wasn’t much choice about the rest part. Sometimes there still isn’t.

Officially, I’m now retired. Unofficially, I’m still tired. But less tired.

So here I am.