Diverging from the Croak Point

Today’s a day when I wax philosophic, I’m afraid. Hubby and I were just talking about the croak point. That is the point where the probability of dying from cancer just about consumes you, yet, you have no real knowledge you’re going to die that instant. When I first got diagnosed last year, judging by the looks in the doctor’s faces, and the immense amount of cancer in my body, somewhere in my subconscious I found my “croak point” meme. Actions after that were centered somewhat — I was preparing to die. I got some jewelry to my cousin, for example, reconnected with family that I hadn’t seen in years. My will’s been done for years.

What makes the difference now, a year later? I have responded to meds. Chemo and radiation have proven their worth, and while not clear of cancer, am obviously a lot better off than I was. In fact, since radiation, mentally I have been sharper. I have the croak point meme still but it no longer controls what I’m doing during the day.

I still experience a bit of anxiety however, I think that’s natural with this disease — it usually takes the form of “why am I doing this (fill in project here)” I’m going to die anyway. Fact is, we’re all going to die, eventually. Usually, if I wake up feeling pretty good, like most mornings here lately, I most likely won’t be dying that day. It brings to mind the speech Aragorn made to the Sons of Gondor and the Riders of Rohan in Lord of the Rings (The Return of the King, 2003):

“Hold your ground, hold your ground! Sons of Gondor, of Rohan, my brothers! I see in your eyes the same fear that would take the heart of me. A day may come when the courage of men fails, when we forsake our friends and break all bonds of fellowship, but it is not this day. An hour of woes and shattered shields, when the age of men comes crashing down! But it is not this day! This day we fight! By all that you hold dear on this good Earth, I bid you *stand, Men of the West!*” (IMDb http://www.imdb.com/search/text?realm=title&field=quotes&q=Sons%20of%20Gondor)

A great youtube edit of this done here:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7-iFDyVb2c

I think this has to apply to any sufferer of advanced cancer, because until you get a handle on how the treatment is going to treat you there is a lot of opportunity for failed courage, etc. The Croak Point looms large. And you’ll still have days when you’ll be running for the anxiety meds or pain pills. But over here, it’s “This day we fight”, I’m just not into giving up that easily when friends report that offshore research indicates some 40 to 60 percent of advanced breast cancer patients get cleared, at least of some of this, through chemo (I’ll have to write my friend for the exact reference, but in searching myself I’m finding a lot of people who are surviving years with a disease where it was assumed they would be dead within months).  Cancer is a shibboleth, a balron, something that has blown up so large and looms so ugly in our world society that people are making millions off its treatment, doctors are protecting themselves by couching their statements in general terms, patients are trusting in things when they should be researching and being their own advocates, hospitals are maneuvering along with insurance companies — you know the drill.

Now, what do I believe that makes me diverge from my croak point?

Do I believe treatments exist that are not being pushed by research companies? Yes, I do.

Do I believe that genetic targets will transform treatment of various cancers? Yes, I do.

Do I believe vaccine therapy will finally get a chance at development? Yep, if the FDA can get itself wrapped around cancer-specific targets. Big Pharma and small biotech have got to get off the stick here and find a way to fight this monster.

In the meantime, it’s okay to diverge from the croak point a bit and stretch reality. Buying into death memes, hopelessness memes, and so forth does no one any good. It doesn’t hurt either, if you’re a person of faith, or you meditate, or whatever, to include that back into your life as well. No one lives forever. And I’m not sure what exactly constitutes a normal life span either.  My mother-in-law died last February (2009) at the age of 94. Only now I’m realizing how difficult it must have been for her but how desperately she wanted to stay in her house with “her things” until the last possible moment. Respecting her wishes was very hard, especially since I was very sick and didn’t know it. However now, I’m seeing it all very clearly. She kept her distance from her croak point, and remained in control, the way she wanted, until her body just gave it up. They found her at home in her chair. At that time, moving was difficult for her, it turned out, yet, she still wrote, each day, in her little diary. My brother-in-law found it, with an entry for that day, apparently. In her memory, I’ve created some computer avatars of her on several game accounts — sounds silly but its a way to keep her memory, what she was all about, alive — at least until we get a family website going.

My own mother died in 1967, and I barely remember her. Some cousins and aunts do however, and reconnecting with them has been invaluable.

Myself, I don’t know when I will die. At this point, I’m not sure I care. The important thing now is to live the days I have left the best I can, which I should have been doing anyway, but like most people at retirement I really wasn’t thinking about it. At 61, some conditions you have just aren’t necessarily due to cancer. Take this constipation I referred to in my last blog piece. A week’s worth of Senekot and I have a sparkly, clear colon, I feel better, and I’m planning on taking my onc’s advice and just staying on it. I suspect, since these kinds of difficulties (constipation, appetite, et al.) have been with me almost all my life, that cancer meds or no cancer meds I’d have been in that situation.  I still get allergy attacks as well, so occasional allergy meds are also part of my regimen.

The med I take that most helps the anxiety is called Lorazepam. I have the 0.5 mg variety and only need one tab per day to keep level. This med is an incredible little compound that does a variety of things, all helpful to me.

So, if you’re a cancer patient, find your way back from your croak point. My next tests will be in May — so maintaining the status quo is the order of the day for now.

Joule Watt

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