Cancer - a Long, Strange Trip

being seriously ill is a singularly bizarre, intense, impersonally intimate trip. serious as in HIV. serious as in MRSAs. serious as in the Big C.

so is being with well(-ish) and spending a lot
of time with someone who is seriously that you seriously care about.

in my case, i'm well-(ish) and my brother was diagnosed with lymphoma about a year ago.


does that sound strange?

good, because it should. he had not been even well-ish for a long time. but the couple of times he was forced to go see someone about it, he went to one of those strip-mall walk-in clinics, where they told him a had a variety of ointment-level health issues and somehow missed the near-necrotic tissue issues.

that was the Cancer, which he had, as opposed
to their suggestions, which he did not...

lesson? second opinion. get one.


this is Lymphoma.

it's a cancer of the lymphatic cells of the body's immune system. there are two fundamental kinds: Hodgkins and non-Hodgkins.

it turns out if you 'lucky', you get Hodgkins.
it's easier to treat, and the treatment
is more likely to be successful.

turns out my brother Gord was not "lucky".

thus diagnosed, the trip really got under way.


at the heart of it, there is fear.

miles and miles and miles of fear. fear as far
as the i can see. the yin of it all is a frequently deadly disease. the yang is the available treatments.

the treatment process may be crude by Star Trek standards, but to someone fifty-something it is akin to a miracle. when i was a kid and the C word came up, that was generally all she wrote.

the few that survived the treatment available looked like people who had been nuked- which they had been. surviving one's own survival seemed like less of a victory and more like an extension, the validity of which was far from guaranteed in the longer term.


one of my brother's treatment options was a stem-cell transplant, which he's just completed. they basically stripped out his immune system and gave him an upgrade.

he now seems to be getting better (touch wood), and in this too, cancer is kind of digital. with the Big C, you're either getting better, or you're getting worse.

you're a one, or you're a zero.

the Big C is not into stasis.

in the longer term.


a Sick person receiving medical care is called a 'patient'. The word patient goes back to a late 14th century French word meaning 'one who suffers' and anyone who is really Sick unfortunately still does.

but over the past year, spending time with my brother, i've wondered more than once if it is just my hyper-active sense of irony that's had me wondering about the play on words...

...because it becomes very clear,
very fast that if one is going
to be a patient, one must be patient.


they are both 'states of being', but differently profound. this is how Wikipedia spells it out:

is the state of endurance under difficult circumstances, which can mean persevering in the face of delay or provocation without acting on annoyance/anger in a negative way; or exhibiting forbearance when under strain, especially when faced with longer-term difficulties. Patience is the level of endurance one's character can take before negativity. It is also used to refer to the character trait of being steadfast.


more than anything else, being Sick will teach you to wait. you will learn, sooner or later, that waiting is now a big part of  your life. as of Now, your time is worth precious little.

there's waiting to be tested in all kinds of ways, none of which are fun and most of which are either invasive, humiliating, painful and rich in side effects. maybe even all of the above.

once tested, you then wait for the test results to come back, usually matter of days or weeks. you wait for phone calls about appointments that are really more like educated guesses about when you should show up somewhere else and wait for someone to see you.

there's waiting on hold, and waiting for rides, waiting around drugstores for prescriptions to be filled and then waiting for the drugs to take effect. there's waiting for treatments to start and waiting for them to work, while you're waiting for the side effects to fade.

most of this is "institutionalized waiting". it's just the way it is, and in the current political climate, the only change one should reasonably expect
is probably waiting longer.

which is where the adjective - being patient - comes in. it is another kind of waiting. waiting on another level. waiting to feel better.

waiting to be some kind of normal again - not helpless, dependent or weak or a freak. not to be sick all the time or in pain.
waiting for it all to go away.
waiting for it to be over.

waiting for a miracle.


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