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Things I Do Not Know

One of the most important things for a blogger to do, is to know his limitations. Like all people enabled to speak in public, we tend to print out our opinion on all sorts of things, some of which we know well and some where we frankly are less than fully informed. For myself, I do try to gather as much relevant and useful information as possible before posting an article, but I admit to all the conditions of humanity, including a propensity to err at times. It is, however, still useful to blog, even when I do not know the whole of the matter. Partly it is to discover through discussion, or to draw out commentary which illuminates the subject, but sometimes it is also worthwhile to provoke thought and remind us of people and perspectives outside our routine. And so, this morning I am writing about the possibility that I have cancer.

Cancer is a scary word, which is unfortunate because emotion clouds judgment. I admit that when I first heard my surgeon say that half my colon needed to be removed in hopes of stopping the spread of a growth in my abdomen, it took some time to process the information. My adventure started with a night of abdominal pain, which has turned into its own little drama - first kidney stones, then my appendix burst, and now the questions about a mass growing around my appendix.

The thing is, I cannot honestly say I have cancer, nor (despite his insistence) can my surgeon. My white blood cell count is fine, the surgeon found no polyps on my colon while he was in there to take out the appendix, and that mass, whatever it is, came up "potentially malignant", not out & out malignant for sure. OK, so that sounds a bit like denial, but I am not jumping into anything until I get a second opinion. That should happen later this week, but until then I am sort of in a wasteland, not able to say how I even fell. Hearing the 'C' word makes a person wonder about every ache and pain, even though I am still recovering from my appendectomy, and so I would expect to still feel little things as my body heals. It's very frustrating, wondering if I can trust my own judgment about whether I am OK or not.

That's enough about me; one way or the other I will find out what is going on and decide what to do. What I want to write about here is how this situation has affected my family, and my perspective on people who have to fight cancer. A lot of people have reacted to the news that I may have cancer, especially my wife Mikki. All sorts of relatives have asked how I feel and how I am doing. It is both touching and frustrating, because while everyone understands my need to get a second opinion, there is real concern, and I feel like I may be scaring them needlessly, just because one doctor thinks it's something. I would really like to be able to assure Mikki that everything will be fixed soon, without undue stress, cost, or risk. But I would be lying to pretend that it's going to just go away because I want it to do so.

And that makes me appreciate how hard it is for families to go through a fight with cancer. And be sure of that, cancer attacks families, not just individuals. And because even surgery is no sure fix, even if the cancer is cut or burned out or goes into remission, there is that worry that it can come back again, which never really goes away.

Ever.

I'm lucky on that count, because even if I do have cancer, it's likely to be something which grows slowly so I have time to consider my options, and if it's colon cancer it's very early and so my survival chances are excellent. On the darker side of things, I did some reading over the past week on the different types of cancer, from people with lung, cervical, and pancreatic cancers. The pain, anguish, and cost are sometimes excruciating, and cancer strikes kids as often as it does adults. So I would ask you all to consider one additional gift this Christmas season. Ask your pastor, rabbi, or spiritual leader who in your congregation is fighting cancer, and try to do something for the family. It doesn't have to be expensive or a really big deal, but even just a card letting them know you are thinking about them counts, and for people in the fight of their lives, having more family and friends on their side is more important than any material thing.

And thanks for reading. I feel better knowing I can vent.


Comments (26)

DJ, you will be in my praye... (Below threshold)
Lorie Byrd:

DJ, you will be in my prayers, of course, but slso please let us know if there is anything you or your family need.

My mom is a two time cancer survivor. She has been cancer free since I was in college -- almost 20 years now. Do get a second opinion, but then do what you need to do to get better.

Take the stuff on the internet with a grain of salt. It is great for helping to know what to ask the doctor, and if necessary, even to push for tests for certain things, but it will make you crazy reading that stuff. I read up anytime me or my kids or husband have any kind of symptoms and I swear there are always at least a couple of horrible diseases that fit the symptoms perfectly, no matter what they are.

Most of all, concentrate on getting well.

DJ, you will be in my praye... (Below threshold)
Joe LaMont:

DJ, you will be in my prayers also. Keep us all up to date on your prognosis.

My brother had colon cancer... (Below threshold)
ron:

My brother had colon cancer and fought it for several years before it go the best of him!

Praying for you right now.<... (Below threshold)
SurfinKC:

Praying for you right now.

May God bless you.... (Below threshold)
jhow66:

May God bless you.

Don't know you, but your ho... (Below threshold)
observer 5:

Don't know you, but your honesty in writing leads me to hope for the best for you. Find strength where you can, in the stories of others who have gone though things like this.

You have my prayers.<... (Below threshold)
jim:

You have my prayers.

One note, my F-i-L had a large mass removed from his abdomen that had entwinned part of his GI tract. That was 25 years ago and he's still fine and whole. In his case, the doctors theorized that he had had (years earlier) a minor tear or some other breach from his gut into his abdomenal cavity and the resulting mass (partly calcified) had been the body's defensive response (and saved his life from potential peritonitis).

I add this to illustrate that not all strange anomalous abdomenal masses mean C.

Well stated in all respects... (Below threshold)

Well stated in all respects. I can only offer what I have experienced over the last year in being told that I have a type of cancer that just does not have a real cure, is so rare that it is often missed or not diagnosed before it is far to late, and only seen in about 400-600 individuals.

I am a survivor of merkel cell cancer. Started a group to locate any other survivors. Have found 90 in the last year, world-wide. We have lost half a dozen members in the last three months. We are a diverse group, different than the so called profile for this cancer, located from Australia to Italy, Hungry, the UK, Canada, and the USA. The majority of our members are in the US.

What distinguishes our members is that each of us is fighting a battle that will only be won by as many as you can count on your two hands. Yet, none have given up hope, are ready to discuss their daily survivorship, have the need to get as much information out as possible that those that will follow will not be alone in their journey and have the resources needed to make sound choices are their continuing care.

George
Group Admin & MCC Survivor
Google Groups Merkel Cell Cancer

http://groups-beta.google.com/group/merkelcell?hl=en

May God bless you and your ... (Below threshold)
kevino:

May God bless you and your family. Take care.

Thoughts and prayers for yo... (Below threshold)
jeff:

Thoughts and prayers for you and your health. The 'c' word is a scary thing.

DJ...I'm in your intellectu... (Below threshold)
Dallas:

DJ...I'm in your intellectual fan club...now I am in your human family fan club....

I was 9 years old when I was diagnosed with osteosarcoma...I am 60 today.

Obviously, it didn't get me or my leg!! Many during that time survived through amputation. I had a young pediatrician from Duke Med School who treated my cancer like a dog with a bone...and she isolated and got it early with help from Bowman Gray School of Medicine. Sounds like you are experiencing a similar scenario. You're ahead of the curve.

Cancer is not a death sentence.

You are on God's timing. In my humble mind, your gifts are so strong that you will be here for a long long time to help the rest of us understand this complicated world.

I have vauluable research from Southwestern Medical School, Baylor and others that may be of interest to you.

If you would like to read about it let me know.

Though I don't know you, I feel tremendous respect and love for you.

Dallas

DJ, I'm a survivor myself -... (Below threshold)
texaskatey:

DJ, I'm a survivor myself -- 25 years -- and working for a surgeon who treats colon and breast cancers. We see a lot of survivors -- it's not an automatic death sentence.

Get your 2nd opinion. Try to find someone Board Certified in Colo-Rectal Surgery (www.abms.org). Ask your doctor about your CEA results -- thats a marker for colon cancer. If he hasn't run that yet, ask why not, and if it's not a good reason, find a new doc.

I'm praying for you -- but if there's any other concrete suggestions I can offer you, please don't hesitate to ask.

katey

You're in my family's praye... (Below threshold)
Amy:

You're in my family's prayers, DJ.

Please accept my best wishe... (Below threshold)
John:

Please accept my best wishes for a full recovery.

John

I will pray for you.<... (Below threshold)
Suzi:

I will pray for you.

And your post reminded me of the McCords. Keith has cancer and is dying. They have a baby.

It does attack families.

May the God of all comfort ... (Below threshold)
Wethal:

May the God of all comfort be with you and your family.

D.J.My wife is a p... (Below threshold)

D.J.

My wife is a patient at the City of Hope cancer treatment center just East of Los Angeles. Yes, the "C" word is scary, for the family members of cancer patients as well as for cancer patients. Yet, cancer is survivable. The person who is currently the most famous cancer survivor is White House press secretary Tony Snow. He had colon cancer.

Thank you for your suggestion about how to help cancer patients. Much of my wife's support comes in the form of prayer. You and Mikki will be receiving that same support.

Where are Lee and company? ... (Below threshold)
RYan:

Where are Lee and company? If they can't say somethign nasty, they won't say anything at all?

DJ - While I haven't had any form, my father has had prostate cancer, and while it was small, and they think they treated it completely, you can see that gnawing worry every time a test result is about to come in. I pray you don't have to deal with this, and that your second opinion brings good news.

Godspeed, DJ.... (Below threshold)
drjohn:

Godspeed, DJ.

I will add you to my prayer... (Below threshold)
Sharon:

I will add you to my prayer list this morning.

I was diagnosed with breast cancer in March 05. My surgeon told me that I had likely had the cancer for 6-8 years yet I had mammograms every year including a clear mammogram one month before my diagnosis. The absolute low point is worrying about the unknown. I studied everything I could get my hands on about my cancer and that knowledge gave me a measure of control. I felt so much better when I engaged the beast in battle. I plan to win.

Wishing you and your family well.

Sharon

My husband was diagnosed wi... (Below threshold)
Peggy:

My husband was diagnosed with colon cancer 3 1/2 years ago when he had pain in his right side that we mistakenly thought was appendicitis. He is doing fine now....after surgery, chemo and radiation. It was a long road and scary but there is hope. If you do end up with the diagnosis of colon cancer, there is a tremendous online support group that I can highly recommend - http://health.groups.yahoo.com/group/colon_cancer_support/

You will find a very knowledgable group of patients and caregivers who have been through what you may be facing. In addition, there is a ton of information for researching the treatment options.

This is the first time I've read your blog, so I know nothing about you at all but I had to comment. I remember how meaninful it was for us when people who had been down the road and survived took a moment to let us know that cancer was not necessarily a death sentence. God bless and best wishes.

One more prayer added to th... (Below threshold)
audrey:

One more prayer added to the list.

DJ,Please know tha... (Below threshold)

DJ,

Please know that my family and I are praying for you. You are right to get a second opinion, but I know that with your fighting attitude, you'll beat this cancer.

Don't hesitate to ask if there is anything I can do.

Prayers and all best wishes... (Below threshold)
The Exposer:

Prayers and all best wishes for a full and speedy recovery!

I pray that you do not have... (Below threshold)
Ana:

I pray that you do not have the "C" word. I can tell you from personal experience, it is life changing. The cure rate is so much higher today than it was even 10 years ago, and for that you must remain positive. That is the best advice I can provide -- be positive.

DJ,You most more tha... (Below threshold)
Marcom:

DJ,
You most more than likely will be diagnosed with PMP (pseudomixoma peritonei), that is if your MD is a good one. This cancer is treatable and curable when caught early. PLEASE LISTEN TO ME. I am a normal person who had a normal father. My father lost his life to this cancer because his numb-skull oncologist treated him like it was colon cancer. When you get this email, please email me back and I will give you intruction on how you can SAVE YOUR LIFE! You need the appropriate oncologist. PMP is rare, occurring in only 1 in 1,000,000 people. This cancer ALWAYS begins in the appendix. PLEASE EMAIL ME! My name is Marcom Majors, and I live in San Antonio, Texas [email protected]




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