Tim's Cancer Blog

Inspiring Stories

Like so many members of this Blogsite, I spend hours on my laptop, often while Penny sleeps nearby, searching for information: medical journal sites, personal stories, support sources, etc. Of course, my searches tend to be more frustrating than most due to the relative rarity of gallbladder cancer, and the consequent scarcity of its discussion. Most common is the outreach from others like Penny or me, suddenly having this unwelcome presence in their lives and searching for information and comfort. However, I recently found a rare jewel, an extended blog created by Lynne and her partner, which began in 2006, two months post diagnosis of stage 4 gallbladder cancer, and continued through the last eleven months of Lynne’s life. Rather than being simply a lament of a life cut short, it is a deep, rich journal of self-discovery, love, beauty, spirituality, reflection…as well as an accurate and detailed account of the progress of the disease and its treatment. I went back to start at its beginning to follow the chronology forward.  Her first post described her mission:  "If you had only six months or a year to live, would you want to know? What would you do with the information? Would it make a difference in how you lived your life? These are questions I have been asking for the past two months. In asking them, I have also noticed how little guidance there is for this process. Who have I known personally who was able to anticipate their death? I can think of only two individuals, and I never asked them whether or not they were living differently in their awareness of their mortality.  So, those are the themes in this blog. I look forward to a dialog with those I know, and those I don't about this strange, life changing journey."

After two hours following her journey, ending at Lynne’s memorial service, I had learned to care deeply for her and the gift she shared. I also felt strangely at peace about the path that Penny and I will likely follow. I am happy to share Lynne's story: “Life Changing Cancer” http://dahlborg.blogspot.com/2007/07/

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Observations

We are now through four rounds of chemo over the 14 weeks since diagnosis. Adding to the huge impact of cancer in our lives has been the experience of being introduced into another world of health care for the very ill. Each trip to the Cancer Center is an immersion into the population of cancer-affected patients and caregivers, along with their medical providers. It is an experience of great patience, politeness, even tenderness among strangers. Doors and elevators are held open, frustrations about the wait are seldom expressed, smiles and nods are everywhere. The range of “stages” is also remarkable, and as I sit in patient company with Penny, I study our fellow travelers, guessing at the story behind their presence today. There are those who appear somberly fresh and healthy, whom I assume are recently diagnosed. At the other end of the spectrum are the scarily thin, almost skeletal, pale and shrunken, often in wheelchairs or requiring assistance to walk. I feel sad at what seems to be the last rounds of a sustained battle. The majority are in between…they know the routine, and address some of the personnel by name. For many, their illness is not obvious, and they may be in a relatively comfortable spell of remission. There are many wearing protective gear, masks or gloves. The socio-economic spectrum is also broad: elderly women, businessmen in suits, laborers with tattoos and t-shirts, young women accompanied by anxious-looking young husbands. Some patients are entirely on their own and others have a doting companion (“Is here anything else I can get you, honey?”). What is amazingly absent is the atmosphere of despair. Many of these people know that their lives are winding down. Many are now, have been, or soon will be in serious pain. Some will feel the weight of medical bills that are difficult or impossible to pay. But the mood in the rooms is calm, accepting, grateful for life today and the gift of providers who care. It is the fortuity of sharing a common experience among those indiscriminately impacted by the relentless beast of cancer.  It is calming rather than frightening.  It is a human connection that is curiously reassuring that we are not alone on this journey.

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Very well said. My Cancer Center is rather small and quiet so I'm getting to know the nurses and administrators more than any other patients. I asked and there is no-one else. going through treatment same as me to connect with but yes, as I wait everyday for Radiation you do develop a kinship with the people there at the same time everyday with you. I visited Moffit in Tampa for a second opinion and it was overwhelming to me the large numbers of patients and caregivers coming and going in all stages like you talked about. There really is something unspoken in the silence as we wait together for our turns. I hope you will continue to write about your observation.
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Vital Info

Posts

July 15, 2019

Cancer Info

Gallbladder Cancer

April 8, 2019

Stage 4

Yes

4 rounds (8 sessions) as of 7/13/19; serious weight loss and fatigue

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