It was almost four years ago when I was diagnosed with advanced, stage 4 metastatic melanoma. Having never had cancer before, I had questions. So many questions.
Every time I met with my oncologist, usually right before my infusion appointment (that’s when you sit in a chair for a while with an IV in your arm and get your scheduled chemo dose), I’d pull out my list. Some were actionable “what should I do” questions, but many were just “what the hell is happening to my body” or “how does all this work” kind of questions.
One was this: “If the cancer has already spread all over my body, then does that mean I can’t donate my blood or organs?” The answer to this question will vary for every patient. For me, the answer was: “Yes it does. No, you can’t. No blood donations, and no organ donations. Ever.”
Although it’s extremely rare, even a few cancer survivors who were thought to be totally cancer-free have transmitted their cancer to an organ recipient. Blood donations can also be problematic, esppecially for blood cancers like luekemia or lymphoma. If you have those type of cancers, you probably won’t be donating blood again. But an early-stage cancer that hasn’t spread might only mean a month-long waiting period, and other cancers might mean a twelve-month waiting period with no cancer treatments and no recurrence.
Every patient’s case is different. If your cancer is mostly behind you and you want to know more about these questions, talk with your doctor.
My wife and I have two cars, and mine hasn’t been driven much the past four years. At times I went for months without driving. I was too tired, and often the drugs I was taking for various side effects were undermining my sleep or preventing it altogether. Other drugs affected my concentration more directly; those pill bottles carried the “do not drive or operate heavy machinery” warning.
So for a while my car sat in a darkened garage, all by itself. It became quite lonely.
My wife’s car, although a year newer, soon had more miles on its odometer than mine did. That’s partly because it logged so many extra miles hauling me back and forth for my oncology visits. The round trip was over a hundred miles, and there were a few stretches of radiation treatments when that route became our daily cancer commute.
If any of this sounds familiar, keep track of those miles and include them with your other medical expenses. Ask your accountant; there’s a possibility that all those miles could have tax implications.
And if you have another car that’s now sitting idle, start it up and let it run for a while every week or two. It’s good for the engine, and if you don’t do it regularly you may eventually learn that your battery has died. Don’t ask me how I know.
Finally, when you do return to regular driving after a long pause, be extra attentive the first few hundred miles. You’re out of practice.
I’m one of the most positive people you’ll ever meet. Most days, anyway.
For months I spent at least 16 hours a day in bed, either sleeping or wishing I was sleeping. I was exhausted, and I wasn’t happy about it. But at least, I figured, I wasn’t wearing out shoes as fast. At least my shoes were lasting longer. That was something.
It’s possible, however, that you may experience, as I did, swelling and edema that makes it hard to squeeze into shoes that used to fit just fine. If so, you may need to buy a couple pair of shoes that fit your new feet. But don’t go wild at the shoe store; with luck, this side effect will be temporary.
You may also, however, lose some padding from the soles of your feet. That’s especially true for the fat pad under your heel. This doesn’t happen to everyone. But either way, consider shoes with plenty of cushioning.
And later, as your health improves and your feet begin returning to normal, you may decide to buy some new walking shoes—or even running shoes. Don’t be afraid to wear them out. Exercise may help prevent cancer, and the latest medical guidelines from organizations like the American Cancer Society and the American College of Sports Medicine suggest that it may also help cancer patients during their recovery—and even improve their odds of survival.
To sum all this up: cancer may not be a great way to save money on shoes. You may even decide to spend more. Because later, wearing out more walking or running shoes may quite literally help you walk away from cancer.