I have always loved (and been amused by) this phrase which, according to Merriam-Webster, is “to act or talk as if one is relaxed and not afraid when one is actually afraid or nervous. He shows a confident manner, but he may just be whistling past the graveyard.”
One of the kindest compliments I receive from people these days regards my “positivity,” “optimism,” and “attitude.” It’s not an act, but it is a conscience choice at times. There are lots of ups and downs that come with cancer, especially with advanced cancer (where cancer has spread to a distant part of the body, or somewhere beyond the primary cancer site).
Thankfully, it’s been a fairly long journey so far, with 10+ years of no notable period of remission and no real break from continuous treatment. Lots of test results to await along the way. I jokingly celebrate with Diana any week that doesn’t involve poking, prodding, or a “needle stick” of some sort. Each result involves a high five, a shoulder shrug, or an “oh, ****.”
One of the things that has allowed me to maintain a largely positive attitude throughout is that I have rarely “felt sick” along the way. Even the rigors of chemotherapy were not as bad as I thought they were going to be. Radiation (six times in 10 years, no less!) has been a comparative breeze. Eight years of hormone therapy has left me with a soft, huggable, lumpy body and a respectable “B cup” (those that wear a bra will understand).
Despite the treatment-related side effects, I have rarely felt as if I have cancer in my body. I have always known it was there… the numbers and the scans tell me that, and often show it. But I have rarely felt it until recently. The constant, cancer-related, lower back pain I have experienced of late has presented a bit more of a mental challenge. But a few courses of steroids have helped get the inflammation down and have made me feel more like my old self. It makes a huge difference in your attitude when you don’t “feel” it as much. It also gives me a great appreciation for other cancer patients and people with debilitating disease that are not so fortunate.
People often confuse “palliative care” with hospice or end-of-life care, whereas it really refers to specialized care that helps mitigate pain and other symptoms resulting from serious, often incurable, disease. For the first time in my life, I am seriously considering “talking to somebody” (a Steve euphemism for talking to a “therapist”). I have done a good job of staying one step ahead of this disease from a physical standpoint, but I anticipate some treatment anxiety when it comes to starting immunotherapy, which is still a bit choppy and unpredictable when it comes to prostate cancer. I just need to find the time to do that, because the mental part of managing this disease is also important.
Until next time,