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Cancer – Up Close and Personal, Part 2

May 26, 2016

It has been a while since I last blogged about dealing with cancer and there has been a lot that has happened since.   After Jean had her third round of chemo, the oncologist had a scan done.  It showed that the cancer had pretty well been knocked back but he still wanted to do the additional three rounds in the hope that it would result in a longer time before things reactivated.  After the fourth treatment she started really feeling badly and developed a persistent cough and shortness of breath.  Since one of the side effects during her third cycle of treatment had been blood clots in her lungs with some of the same symptoms, she finally decided that she needed to go to the ER.  It turned out that it was a good thing that she did and that she was a whole lot sicker than even she thought.

Within the first 48 hours in the hospital she saw at least 6 doctors and specialists and had a whole battery of tests run.  This time there were no blood clots, but there was pneumonia and pleurisy in her lungs.  They ran tests to see if the problems were caused by infection, bacteria, or possibly even fungus.  As I had expected none of these were found.  The problems in her lungs were entirely caused by chemo toxicity.  Remember what I said in my first cancer blog about chemo coming as close to killing you as possible without crossing that line?  This time they came real close.  

Jean wound up in the hospital for eight days.  Not much that can really be done in the way of treatment except for giving her steroids to try to enhance the healing process.  Just a matter of time, but no one can say how much time.  The final two treatments for the cycle were cancelled.  But there are numerous questions that remain.  How much recovery can be expected?  Will she get back to feeling as well as she did say a year ago?  Apparently no one can predict that.  The next time that the cancer gets active does this take away what seems to be the only real viable treatment option?  We can always hope and pray that there is some new treatment on the horizon that becomes available between now and then.  One of the effects of this treatment and complications has been a significant cognitive decline.  Is that also one of the things that will recover over time and how much?

Jean has begun to recover.  She is feeling a little better and she is able to do some more things.  I know longer feel that I need to wait outside the bathroom door when she takes a shower.  But she still does have balance issues.  When we have substantive conversations, I need to try to remember to let her finish a thought without interrupting her because she may have problems regaining that thought.  I am still not very good at this.  As the physical problems improve, she reminded me this week that the emotional side of things is progressing more slowly.  While I have been aware of this, I have not yet figured out how I need to respond in this realm.  As a result I have not provided the support that she really needs.

We have come to some other realizations and conclusions over the past weeks.  Other people still don’t get it and they don’t know how to respond, so mostly they don’t.  As I have said before, we have been dealing with this now for over 11 years.  I know that this seems harsh, but sometimes we feel like other people have tired of our issues and they just wish that Jean would get better or go ahead and die.  I know that is not completely true but that is the feeling that we get at times.  If other people have grown tired of hearing about this, imagine how tired Jean must be of dealing with it.  There are some people who talk about the “new normal” that people who deal with cancer must adapt to and accept.  I cannot accept the idea of “new normal”.  The “new normal” is NOT normal.  It may well be a new reality, but that reality is not normal.

Jean is a woman of tremendous faith, character, strength, and intelligence.  She has been to all outside appearances a rock through all of this.  But, she is also human.  She does suffer the emotional blows that come with all that she has gone through and those are not quantifiable of visible on scans or X-rays.  She would love for there to be more support from more people who care and for those closest to her, especially me, to respond better.  And she gets tired of the fight.

I also get tired.  I fail far too often to do what I should or I do it with a bad attitude that shows.  I am in this for the long haul.  The commitment is there even when it doesn’t show.  I still need to learn how to be a better support person.  Jean needs that and she deserves that.




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