My name is Jonathon Thompson Beyond the dots in the title of this blog should lie the words "... and as long as I am noticing the Wren sing, I will not have cause to notice the cancer I fight every day.
This is my life as a cancer patient.
Friday, September 28, 2012
My thoughts were morbid yesterday as the string of traffic I was flowing with was stopped by a funeral precession. I gladly paused - stopped to show respect for the people in the precession. The beautiful Hurst came by and my thoughts immediately began to wonder (about what, I'd rather you guess than actually tell you).
Friends, Family and people I don't even know come at me from every direction offering me hope and prayers for peace and well being. I am often overcome at the outpouring of good will from every direction I look. And for that, there isn't enough gratitude in the universe to express my appreciation.
I think a small percentage of you are becoming frustrated with me because I have seemed, in fact been unable to let go completely and "be healed". I am healed at the moment, and for that, all praise be to God. It truly is a miracle in my heart and mind. Without my experience in Pittsburgh I would be dead by now, or not far from it. Instead, I am cancer-free (in terms of what can be seen on scans). I think it is fair to say that when Dr. Bartlett (Pittsburgh surgical oncologist) physically got into my abdomen, I was consumed by cancer. To have received a clean scan just three months later, well, how else can you say it? A divine intervention.
Which isn’t to say I will ultimately survive this illness in the long run. Please forgive me for my seeming lack of faith; I actually have more faith than ever before so I feel good about it. However, bear with me another moment.
Finding out I had cancer 13 months ago was like this: Very few symptoms, so mild that they were over looked by many doctors and myself as well. So when I went for a routine colonoscopy, and was woken with the news, it was like this….
Imagine your horrifying surprise, pulling into a street you had just looked both ways, convinced yourself the way was safe, only to find a Mac Truck about to impact you in your side window, barreling at you at speed, just a second or less from impact. A path just moments before you had determined or believed was safe, was not at all, and now you are staring at almost certain doom - a grim reaper who will reap within a second, and there is little you can do about it. The shock for me at that time was no less.
For months, in fact, nearly a year, my doctors told me that there was no cure for my condition. It had simply progressed to far and I could expect to live from 30 to 40 months. Get on the Internet and search for survival statistics for colon cancer, and it will give you actual number, periods of time for typical survival for stages 1 through 3. For stage 4, the official ACS statistics report "Patients rarely survive".
The first few months of my cancer experience, I made peace with the "fact" that I was probably going to die a young man. It took a great while and with a lot of depression and anxiety. But I actually accepted it, and became genuinely unafraid of death. In order to live out what time I had left, If I were going to live in a reasonably happy way, I had to accept it.
Now enter Doctor Bartlett three-quarters of a year later, the HIPEC methods for treating colon cancer and my pursuit of this treatment. Having undergone this new treatment, I am, I would say, exactly on the fence about my chances of ultimate survival. Dr. Bartlett and I have not discussed mortality and that is perfect. I haven't asked and he hasn’t offered. I think we have an unspoken understanding that the ultimate outcome simply doesn't matter at this point, and these matters are left for each of us (my current Dr. and I) to decide privately.
Would it help if I pinned Dr. Bartlett down and discussed the possible outcomes for me, with statistics? Probably not. And the risk that it may make things worse for me, emotionally is not worth the risk of asking him. So I prefer to leave it where it is; unspoken between us. If I ask, and the response is not favorable, I would never leave the fence. Without any knollege that my chances are still not very good, I would never leave the fence. At least, I may decide embark on long term goals and projects dispite the cancer.
Being undecided, or "on the fence" as I have said, has its advantages and disadvantages. When I got sick, I was communicating with the University of Kentucky about receiving a master's degree in mathematics. I was training on my bicycle to make a serious attempt at a high placement at national championships someday. I had plans to be the best grandfather ever. And now, with some of this, I am not sure I see the need to pursue these things. I know this may seem like a bad attitude, but first of all, my energy is greatly and vastly reduced. It isn't that I will not get stronger and stronger, but for now, it would be impossible to endure the rigors of a master program or a training program. I can still be the best grandfather. My friends and family tell me to pursue my plans through faith and hope; they state that they are certain that I will live a normal longevity. But how do they know that? This is not what I have been told and it is not what I have come to accept about my illness. I feel afraid to advance into unknown or new territories and I am not sure why. I mean, what would it matter if I proceed with "my current dreams", and then get sick again. That would be okay too.
Almost everyone I greet and speak to say that none of us have a guarantee for tomorrow. And while that is true, a person who has never had cancer has a much much better chance of living a normal life span. Comments such as these are well-meaning, and are well received. And while THEY ARE TRUE, it is not the same.
To say that I am in a rut is true. I busy myself with simple things with short-term goals, unafraid, and at times physically unable to embark upon projects which have longer term outcomes. Not in a sense of "poor me", seeking sympathy, rather in a sense of what is a true and accurate assessment of where I currently find myself; I am often sick (or don't feel well). My stomach hurts a lot, and I have a lot of nausea. I am weak. Because I am missing a large portion of my diaphragm, I can not breath very deeply without pain, or even yawn without pain. I am far weaker than I have ever been in my life despite the fact that I am breaking records in the speed of regaining the strength that I now have. When I over do it, which is often, I end up bedridden for at least a day, and I am still faced with the distinct possibility that the cancer will return and that I may not have the same amount of "fight" left in me as I did before.
These things fasten me to my place on the fence. I look around me. I watch other people conduct their lives; I watch them pursue college degrees and other life changing educations and projects. I look at them, physically look at them writing down a math problem, or trainng in some other way, and for a moment I wonder what it would be like to not have had this happen to me… I wonder what it would be like to be like them - preceding with no reason to question their mortality.
I would like nothing better than to be cured. I would like nothing better than to be able to move off this fence. But it is doubtful anything from outside my own heart and soul will come along and allow me to jump down. The medical technology simply isn't there. If I do in fact make it off the fence, it will have to come from within me. And groping around inside my heart, head and soul, I simply cannot come up with what ever it is I need in order to precede with anything with long-term finishing points. I do believe that I can eventually do it.
In the end, it is not a bad place to be - here on the fence. Living from day to day allows me to be happy (for the most part), and it is beautiful. It is beautiful in that I am seeking out beautiful places in my photography pursuits. I am pleased with my art and crafts projects and I am so very happy to be a grandfather. My personal history contains some things I am proud to have accomplished.
If I am able to seek out a beautiful place on Gods Earth on any given day, I am blessed. If I am too weak or sick to leave my home on any given day, I must know that will change within a day or two. Ultimate, long term good health and strength may not find me again; yet because of the spiritual and emotional work I have done earlier in the year, I have accepted that as well.
If I let go, and believe that I am healed forever, I am afraid I would loose the acceptance that I worked so hard to achieve. I don't think I could survive, emotionally another slam of that magnitude.
Honestly, for better or worse, for now, I prefer to remain in a state of acceptance, rather than risk another heartbreak of that magnitude.