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Thankful For Modern Medicine — A Cancer Update

November 29, 2019 Featured, Steve Patterson No Comments
My favorite color is orange so I’m pleased with the ribbon.

At the end of last month, which happened to be this blog’s 15th anniversary, I also shared that I have kidney cancer.  See 15th Anniversary of UrbanReviewSTL.com; Future Uncertain Due To Cancer Diagnosis. 

Since then I’ve met with my cancer team (Oncologist, nurse coordinator, research coordinator, and social worker) twice. I’ve also seen a urologist, had a number of EKGs, cat scans, and an MRI. My blood has been drawn countless times.

The good news is my future is measured in years, not months. Stage 4 of cancer means it has spread beyond the original source. Mine is continuing to spread, though it hasn’t reached the brain — a place where kidney cancer like to go for. Whew.

A “tumor board” of doctors reviewed my case and the conclusion was rather than surgically remove my left kidney now I should begin immunotherapy and see how my tumors respond to treatment, hopefully stopping them from spreading further. I’ll receive my first treatment Monday, side effects are potentially similar to chemotherapy.

I’m taking part in a clinical trial receiving immunotherapy intravenously every 3 weeks plus a daily pill. Half will take a pill that’s helped with other cancers, the other half will take a placebo. Not even my team will know which group I’m in.

Despite the advancements in cancer treatments, my oncologist doesn’t think I’ll be ever be free of tumors. They hope to get my cancer to a point where it can be considered a chronic condition, giving me years of decent life.

When I had my massive hemorrhagic stroke in February 2008 I was certain I was going to die there on my cold floor. The one thing I didn’t do was suddenly become religious — yes, there are atheists in foxholes! But I blacked out so my time thinking about death was short.

Lately I’ve spent weeks thinking about death — my death. I’ve finally completed a  healthcare power of attorney. I’ve resumed working on the will I began in 2010. It’s still years away, but the clock is ticking.

Though some have suggested it, I’m still not turning to religion. Instead, I’ve looked to more enlightened views. One is the late Carl Sagan, who died at age 62 of cancer-related pneumonia:

As an atheist I don’t believe in an afterlife, so I don’t have a fear of it like people in this video.

Words and phrases I don’t use include:

  • Rest in peace (RIP).
  • He’s in a better place.
  • Meet his maker.

No rest, just dead. That’s it, finished. In 2010 I’d arranged to have my body donated to Washington University’s School of Medicine for research, so no body to deal with. No viewing, no funeral.

For me it’s important to make the most of my remaining years. For this I frequently turn to James Taylor’s words:

The secret of life
Is enjoying the passage of time.
Any fool can do it,
There ain’t nothing to it.
Nobody knows how we got
To the top of the hill.
But since we’re on our way down,
We might as well enjoy the ride.
The secret of love
Is in opening up your heart.
It’s okay to feel afraid,
But don’t let that stand in your way.
‘Cause anyone knows
That love is the only road.
And since we’re only here for a while,
Might as well show some style.
Give us a smile.
Isn’t it a lovely ride?
Sliding down, gliding down,
Try not to try too hard,
It’s just a lovely ride.
Now the thing about time
Is that time isn’t really real.
It’s just your point of view,
How does it feel for you?
Einstein said he
Could never understand it all.
Planets spinning…
See the video here. Though my life has been different than I imagined it would be decades ago, I’ve mostly enjoyed the passage of time.  I’ve got a list of future events I’m looking forward to:
  • January 2021: the 46th president being sworn into office (hopefully)
  • August 2023: my husband’s 40th birthday
  • June 2024:  our 10th wedding anniversary
  • October 2024: this blog’s 20th anniversary
  • February 2027: my 60th birthday
At this point I’m not optimistic about anything beyond those. That’s ok, even if I were to die tomorrow I’ve been happy with my life and my accomplishments. I’ve had more time than many.
Earlier this month Broadway star Laurel Griggs died of an asthma attack at age 13. Many St. Louis youth have died this year.  These young people missed out on so many experiences.
Apple co-founder Steve Jobs was just 56 when he died of pancreatic cancer. In 1989 comedian/actress Gilda Radner lost her long battle with ovarian cancer, she was only 42. Musician Bob Marley was just 36 when he died of skin cancer in 1981.
The next update will be at the end of December. By then I’ll have had two treatments and will know the side effects.
As the headline indicates, I’m thankful for modern medicine.
— Steve Patterson
 

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