For those who know me personally, including Facebook, you will know from my last post I have decided to partially ‘go off the grid’. In ding so I deactivated my personal Facebook account and have pretty much been keeping to myself for the past several days.  I will also say that this writing attempts to bring a unique and different perspective on relationships, mostly personal in nature – siblings, children, and other relatives. It will attempt to expound on a previously written piece dealing with the management of people when it comes to my cancer.  This, however, will focus on me, on how I need to manage myself and how I am able to tolerate this disease and all of its side effects.  It also attempts to give perspective for all, cancer or not, on various elements of  relationships and specifically personal responsibilities related to them.

The whole of this idea began nearly two weeks ago when I went to Hopkins for my ‘oil change’, what now has come to be my term for the stents in my ureters  For the unaware, I have stents in my ureters, keeping them open and enabling my kidneys to function.  The stents are one of several by-products of my disease, they being necessitated by metastatic disease involving them and, in the absence of the stents, effectively closes them which in turn compromises my kidney function. When going to the pre-op testing, I was my normal lighthearted self when speaking with the nurse.  When mentioning my intention to move closer to family, adding there are more people there to ‘dig the hole’ [when I die], I encountered a response I didn’t expect.

It seemed that the nurse recently lost her mother and began getting into how the decision of what to do with remains comes to the fore.  She said there was a certain importance to having a grave, a place where surviving relatives, and friends, could visit as they would the living.  She said that now that her mother had passed, the decision to decide on her final resting spot now became hers.  It was interesting to listen to the intensity with which she spoke, the gravitas she placed on the decision and, given her situation, the multitude of choices, none ideal for her situation.  She asked me about my thoughts on the matter, how, or more accurately where, I would be placed. I told her my plan of donating my body to science, to offer it to those who treated me in order to further their learnings of my disease and applied therapies. It was, in all senses, a very intense conversation and one which lingers.

For those who subscribe to NetFlix you know the company attempts, through viewing habits and how we rate what we viewed, to predict what we may like to see.  Interestingly, I share my account with my son so Netflix gets a very wide range of genres and topics.  My son tends to like indy films, ‘King of the Hill’, Futurama and other similar things.  I watch movies ranging from Rambo to ‘Sleepless in Seattle’, including everything in-between.  The net is I am offered quite the spectrum of films.

About a week ago I chose a film starring Kate Hudson titled ‘A Little Bit of Heaven’.  In picking the film I mostly chose it for Kate Hudson rather than the storyline which turned out to be much different than I had expected.  Kate played a way out, free-spirited advertising executive who avoids relationships believing they have no future. Early in the movie, she learns she has an advanced case of colon cancer.  Sad really given she was quite young [based on the movie] with little hope of being cured.  Following her typical persona, she begins flirting with her young, handsome, Mexican doctor.  They end up in a relationship with the bulk of the story focusing on how they interact and extending beyond them to her family, friends and co-workers.  I’m not really sure who wrote the film, but I often wonder if, when researching the topic, they ever really find anything close to the truth.  Perhaps it is a time thing, a compression of events such that all are very distorted in different ways.  In any case, I liked the movie and it also bore the seeds of thought.

Then, two days ago, I was offered a film called “Griffin and Phoenix’, which  I did watch for the storyline. However, when reading the preview, two major elements of the film were left out, not even referenced.  Reading the description one was lead to believe it was simply a ‘boy meets girl/boy gets girl’ storyline.  Again I liked the actress/actor, Amanda Peet and Ryan Gosling, major factors in my selecting the film.   Back to the elements left out, they were none other than the leading characters both having cancer and both terminal with projected life spans of about one year.  Here again I wondered about the writers and their research, but even though found the film entertaining.  More food for thought.

So how all of this relates to the title of this post requires some introspection along with the challenging of the normal paradigms.

Most will say the new-born is free of all worries, of all cares and of all responsibilities.  Perhaps so in an elementary sense, but are they really free; does the new-born really arrive free of all burdens?  I answer the question with a resounding no. How you may ask and the answer being that just by virtue of their existence, babies are loved and with that comes a certain responsibility.  I add that as we grow, as we evolve, most will build many relationships, many bridges with many others causing an extension of those responsibilities.  In the end, many of us have perhaps dozens of relationships each imposing its own responsibility on us.  These responsibilities bear heavier burdens on those with cancer and quite frankly, can be exceedingly tiring in their own right.  I, for one, need a break and hence my being ‘partially off the grid’.

Many look at me and see a pretty happy-go-lucky kind of guy and for all intents and purposes, I am.   A person who has, at least to this point, managed the impact of cancer on his life.  But here is where those of us who are adept in managing our disease, often do so in order to respect the relationships, each with its own responsibility, in our lives.  I, for one, am not a person who wishes to dwell on the ancillary nonsense bourne of my disease.  I am not, and neer have been, a complainer, but there are more times than not when the cancer consumes considerable energy, when all the impacts it has on our bodies bear a toll we would rather not share, more importantly, we wish do not want to explain.  However, with our relationships come that described responsibility and how does one really just say “leave me alone’ when we are consumed by the cancer?

I’ve not shared this in the past, but I can’t remember the last time I slept more than three consecutive hours, when my bladder has not ached and how, if I do much of anything the stents begin to hurt, so much so I take percecet to ‘calm’ them down.  As I write this I am experiencing that pain, but can not take another pain med for another hour or so.  It is not something I want to discuss, nor focus on, it is something I’d just rather forget.  For those who aren’t aware, I grew up working on a dairy farm, I like physical work, it makes me feel alive, but the cancer slowly consumes that capability, slowly takes life from me.  In the films I previously mentioned, the characters destined to die were to do so in relatively short time frames.  For me, in some ways a blessing, in others not so much, I’ve been dealing with it for over 7 years while it slowly advances.

I am not sure why really, but I’ve never possessed a fear of dying, it just seemed natural to me and more so, I saw it as the grand scientific experiment.  We all hear stories of the person who saw ‘lights’ having been pronounced dead, only to ‘revive’.  We hear the religious tell us of heaven and hell and all the nuances thereof.  There are the atheists who say there is nothing beyond death.  For me, I am open-minded, I wonder who is right, who, when I do die, will be proven right or maybe there will be the ‘none of the above’ option.  It is with this that I harbor a curiosity of death which effectively erases any fear of dying.

WIth all the nuances of my disease I often wonder how I will go, what will, ultimately, be the terminating factor.  I went off the Lupron for three months and found out how quickly the cancer began affecting my ureters again.  Will it be that once the Lupron stops working that I ultimately yield to kidney failure?  I also wonder to what degree this will challenge my pain tolerance, will I be put in nearly a comatose state with morphine?  All interesting questions and more so given my cancers rate of consumption.  I wonder about the idea of possibly accelerating my demise when the end is inevitable, when death is all but certain.  Interestingly, while I possess a pretty high pain tolerance and no real fear of death, I concede I am a sissy and dread the idea of my last days being intensely painful.  All things I’m presently contemplating, things I do not care to share and the reason I’ve chosen to ‘hibernate’ for the time being.  I the meantime, I’ve been able to get a ton of work done with my house, perhaps making it sufficiently attractive to sell quickly.

Happy reading, happy thoughts and happy trails.

As always, feel free to comment or you may email me at lifeabstractions@gmail.com

ciao

Lifesabstractions

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