Despite going to and having fun at a couple of big parties this past weekend, I wasn't feeling good. Saturday night in particular was unpleasant. I had an ache on the left side of my back reminiscent of a similar pain I felt last year, which by all accounts was probably a relatively minor intestinal problem. Unlike a year ago, however, sitting up in bed didn't help, and I slept very little. By Sunday morning, when I took some Advil and ate some food, the pain subsided and I was able to nap in our hammock for an hour and a half, which kept me going for the rest of the day. And last night was better, though I still have a bit of an upset stomach this morning.
These are complaints, part of the territory of having cancer and getting a bit older. But I know that eventually I'll develop one of those pains and it won't go away, because it won't be something simple or minor. It's strange to say, but I've been relatively lucky because, since my major cancer surgery in 2007, the pain and discomfort and nausea and other symptoms I've suffered have been mostly from my treatments, not from my disease.
However, I'll be heading into yet another round of throw-it-against-the-wall-and-see-if-it-sticks chemotherapy in September. That's happening because my previous chemo wasn't working anymore, just like the treatment before that wasn't, and the one before that, and so on. (There have now been so many I've lost track of them.) Even if this new regimen is effective, given my experience over the past three and a half years, it's not likely to stay that way in the long term. And as far as I know, there aren't many other options beyond it.
The cancer I have, spread through both of my lungs, doesn't tend to go away. It's too widespread for surgery or radiation, and chemotherapy and other systemic treatments have merely slowed it down or shrunk the tumours temporarily. It's possible, though rather unlikely, that some upcoming treatment will really beat my cancer back. But success in a case like mine is almost always measured in extra years of life, not extra decades.
So I've been packing in the fun this summer: Disneyland, Whistler, the beach, weddings, parties, geek conferences, and more. That's because someday—likely not especially far off—I'll develop symptoms that are from the cancer, that won't subside, and that will need management. For at least a couple of years now, whenever I feel pain of any kind (unless it's from something obvious like whacking my shin on a table), I wonder if it will be that one, the one telling me something in my body is failing. I wondered that on Saturday night, but the pain went away, so perhaps it wasn't one to worry about that way, not yet.
Am I okay with this situation? No, I'm not. It's fucking stressful. It sucks for me, for my wife, for my daughters, for the rest of my family, and for my friends. But I think I have come to accept it. More accurately, I have had to come to accept it.
So today, I can still walk the dog and buy some groceries, enjoy some food and the hot summer weather. I can move, and laugh, and appreciate the day. It's enough for now.