So, really, what is in a name? Take this website for instance, why hostage, what possessed me to come up with this, and why did I choose it? To tell the truth, I don't think I really, truly, understood its nature until just the last few days. I mean, sure, it's catchy, current, up with the type of things we see in the news daily, probably most of what was going through the front of my mind when I coined it, but now? Nearly a year later? I think it has finally grown into its own, and I believe there was, and is, a certain truth...fatalistic in some ways, but one that bears the raw truth that I find myself in, and maybe a few others in my situation out there can relate? I hope so.
Back in November of 2011, there was some confusion, some deliberation, lots of tests, scans, medical assessments and some disagreements, but upon one thing, they all agreed, every Doctor, Nurse, Technician, Specialist and Medical Professional alike....I was dying. The question was simply a matter of when. Simple enough if you look at it, for we are all in the same boat on this one, just a question of when, after all, Life is a Terminal Condition.
Some 11 months later, after a successful round of 12 chemo treatments that all but the Lord & I had bets I could not finish, a brief yet welcome remission this summer, a return to treatment several weeks ago...with far less success and ease I might add, and I have come to my own conclusion as to the origin, or point of the name Hold Cancer Hostage.com. I may well die from this disease, odds are I will unless some drastic medical miracle or God's own intervention, and I really have no control over that. What I do have control over is how I approach it, how I let it effect my day to day, and with what grace and faith I face it. The one thing I can do, is to hold this insidious thing hostage, take it well beyond those learned projections from all the scholarly folks who toyed with that answer.... how long?
When I was at UTMB, the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, the place where I was first diagnosed and given a "projection", I was told I probably had between 6 to 9 months to live based upon the severity and progression the Cancer was at when they found it. I was Stage 4 Pancreatic Cancer, with severe and wide spread metastasizing throughout my Peritoneum, signs in the Liver, Lungs, Spleen etc., and the tumor that started it was in an inoperable position on the Pancreas which left me little more than a scant hope for enough time to choose where, and "no control over when", such soothing words from a Med Student who was probably delivering this type of news to a patient for her very first time. She was detached, if not cold. Unprepared, if not lacking enough education. Unwilling, if not improperly coached, and neither of us really wanted to be in either one of our shoes at that moment. But I digress, that whole transaction has already been covered here in an earlier post.
When I was sent up to Houston for further testing later that week, the Oncologist who performed the procedure was no more optimistic, definitely better equipped and trained, and at the end of it she gave me an unenthusiastic 3 to 6 month time frame upon which to work with, and sent me home. It wasn't until nearly 6 months later, during my brief remission, that my Dad finally shared with me that, back in Houston that day, as I finished dressing after the test procedure, the Doctor pulled him aside and told him "You do understand that we are talking weeks here, not months?". I still thank my Dad quietly and to myself from time to time, that he waited for an open positive window to share that with me. I'm quite sure that even with my eternal optimism, that might have been the brick falling off the cliff if he had shared it with me any sooner. Dad's have an innate way of knowing these things, thank God...and thank you Dad.
So, having no way to change the outcome in the end, and little say as to what would be the exact nature of my death...infection? organ failure? starvation? I resolved then and there to do the one thing that I knew I could do, and that was to use my faith in God, my own personal tenacity, family support and the support of friends, not to mention certain lifestyle changes such as the cessation of alcohol etc. ( I will have a full year of Sobriety on December 8th, 2012), all of these to hold the damn thing at bay as long as my body and God will allow! Hence the name, HoldCancerHostage.com, funny how things fill in after the fact.
I am no doctor, have never studied medicine, and have average knowledge of anatomy. At the same time, I am no trained scholar in Theology, have never read the Bible in its entirety (I'm honest anyway!), and have not earned any degrees in counseling etc. What I can attest to is that I am dying of Cancer, and I guess that makes me somewhat of an authority in this field, for what that is worth, and I can share some facts about that with you...facts from my point of view anyway.
Fighting Cancer is a very simple recipe as far as I am concerned, 10% medicine, and 90% mental, physical and spiritual conviction. In other words a whole lot of faith in God and the powers he has graced me with internally, and a little science he has graced us with here on earth for good measure. 100% of it is still in God's control entirely, any way you slice it. By embracing this faith, and believing in the Grace of God, I have battled this thing day to day, against the odds, beat all the original deadlines, (no pun intended!) and have held true to my one failing that I have lived with all of my life, I was never on time, so why start now?
In recent times I have come to have full clarity on why some survive for a while, fighting all the way, and why some give up and let go of the fight earlier on. Fighting Cancer is hard. It hurts. It demoralizes at times, brings out depressions, magnifies our failings, makes us separate from loved ones as well as others from time to time. Isolates us one day, then turns around and extroverts us the next. I can literally wake up in the morning, sure that today is the day I will die, fight and kick to drag myself out of bed and attempt to squeeze that last drop, and by the evening, feel rested and content, sure that if God so desires, I can go on for more and feel good about my chances. Just as easily, I can find myself waking up after laying in bed for 3 or 4 days, no food, no meds, no energy to take care of myself, and little desire to continue...in a sense, ready to resign. Why I bounce around in these extremes, I haven't a clue except that in one scene I am following what I believe is my true path and responsibility with this miracle of life that God gave to begin with, and in the other I am selfishly giving in with little regard for myself or others. As to why? I have no idea other than what I said a moment ago, fighting Cancer is hard. For this fact, you can never fault anyone in this battle for whatever path they choose to follow. It is a very personal decision, one that you will never understand until you stand at those crossroads and weigh the options. Battling on is certainly one way to go, but only if that battle is for you, if that battle is something you can embrace and find full conviction in, then fine. Damn the torpedoes, and full speed ahead! Yet if upon facing those same crossroads, you feel the battle is interfering with your ability to find peace, a little respite from the storm, then choosing this other path is just as noble and responsible as the former. There is no way you will ever know until you look at the fork in the road with your own faith, clarity and grace.
I get it all the time from others, "if I were in your shoes I would fight like hell!", "I don't know if I could go on, knowing the outcome and all", many well wishing friends and family, all with their own separate take upon the situation, all meaning to lend support, and ALL with really no earthly idea of what goes on inside, day to day, hour to hour, minute to minute. All I can really say is that if you have a loved one, a friend perhaps...sit back, let them sort it out, support them,and above all else, regardless of which fork they choose, support, support, support the life they still have before them. My good friend David R. it turned out died from this same disease almost at the same time I was diagnosed. His was a different path. He didn't feel good, and as was David's nature, he probably never even sought medical attention, What I do know, was he didn't feel good, so he took a couple of weeks off from work, went home and shortly thereafter he died. I often wonder if this wasn't a better way? Simply not to know, and to have very little time to question, just a quiet and quick drifting off, and all was done.
I will end this post with this. I choose to fight today, I want to live. I want a little more time at the least, to finish putting things in order. There are still amends to make. Bad decions to correct. Close relations gone bad to repair, and most of all, I have a burning desire to try and make sense of this, if for no other reason than to offer some hope for those in my position in finding a proper way to die. Sounds funny, " a proper way to die"? I sometimes wish I was a Klingon, like in Star Trek. Lt. Warf would always say when going into battle, "it is a good day to die". What is a good day to die? I have no clue, I do know that today, if called, I could go to God with far less remorse or "unfinished business" than say 6 months ago. But are we ever fully prepared? Are we ever really done with that one more thing? I will let you know as it goes, but for now..today...I am glad to have been given the gift of today, and I am using it to my fullest advantage and, to the best of my ability, I am looking for that peaceful moment when I can say, "it is a good day to die." For now, it is a very good day to live and I thank God for every day up to this one. If he should give me another? I'll let you know.