I had pancreatic cancer. I have written about it before, and I will probably write more about it in the future. It was a significant event in my life; not the kind of thing one can simply say, “I had pancreatic cancer. I’m over it now. The end.”
After my surgery, which is now two years in the past, I was assigned to an oncologist who immediately wanted me to have chemotherapy and radiation as a preventative treatment. The thing was, all the cancer was gone. The tumor had never metastasized, and no cancer ever entered my lymph nodes. I came out of it clean as a whistle—sharp as a thistle.
The closest thing to a concern that the oncologist used to try to convince me to go the chemo and radiation route was that there was a perineural invasion; meaning that the cancer cells had spread to the space surrounding a nerve. I can never be sure, but this sounds like double-speak to me. First, he says that my margins were clean and nothing had spread, and then he says that I had a perineural invasion. So, which is it, Doc?
Either way, I am not worried about it. I have taken my own health into my own hands. I eat foods that I know will heal my body, and I do Bikram Yoga, which I believe also heals the body. I see my oncologist four times a year just to make sure that nothing is stewing inside of me, otherwise, my health is in my own hands. When I see my oncologist, I have a blood panel done before each visit, and I have a CT scan twice a year. I have a CT scan scheduled for tomorrow, even though my next appointment with the doctor is not until the end of next month.
After my last CT scan in September, the scan showed a strange spot on what is left of the head of my pancreas. The oncologist was unclear as to the nature of that mysterious spot. It could be a new tumor growing, or it could be a thumbprint. Who knows? Even though my blood work came back perfect, the oncologist decided that I should have a full PET scan right away to double check. That scan still showed the mystery spot, but also showed no signs of any malignant hot spots. In other words, everything was still inconclusive. Aside from the mystery spot, I was still clean.
And now it is time to do it all over again. I will do my blood work next week, I guess, even though I had not planned to do it until next month closer to my appointment date.
I am not at all worried about the results. I feel great. The main reason for my healthy state right now is my diet. Even though I am not as careful about my diet as I was in the first year after the surgery, I still eat healthier than most Americans (I know that does not say much). My meals are healthy, but I have been eating a lot of sugary sweets of late, and refined sugar and high fructose corn syrup are big no-no’s when you want to keep the cancer away. I even had a couple cocktails on New Years Eve (gasp!). Alcohol is another big no-no. If I were to go get a Latte right now, I could have the Hat Trick.
The other factor to my sustained health is Bikram Yoga, but I have not been able to go as often as I want lately. I firmly believe that the Bikram Yoga is one of the key elements to my recovery after surgery and in my overall health. All that sweating and detoxifying makes me feel clean inside and out. I know that it helped me to clean-out all the harsh drugs that stayed in my body after the surgery (anesthesia, morphine, vicodin, etc…), and it made my compromised body feel so much better.
I will definitely need to do some Yoga this week after the CT scan since I have to take the dreaded Prednisone for the scan; not to mention the radiation from the scan itself. After my very first CT scan, even before the surgery, I developed a horrible itching that began about four days after the scan, and lasted for two days. I scratched until I bled; it was that uncontrollable. Although no doctor or lab tech can tell me why this happened, we believe it may be a reaction to the iodine that is injected as part of the scan. Since that one reaction, I take Prednisone as a precautionary measure. I only take a small amount, two 40 mg tablets twelve hours before the scan. That is not enough to cause any of the side effects associated with long-term Prednisone use (risk of infection, liver damage, cataracts, thinning of bones and/or skin, etc…), but I still do not want that poison in my body! The Yoga will help to sweat that crap away.
I have grown complacent about my health recently. I have gone maverick and decided that I am indestructible, and that the cancer will never return. It is almost as if I am challenging it to come back. I do not know if that is common amongst survivors, but I literally have no fear of its return. I think that since my surgery and recovery were so easy, and I became healthier than ever afterward, I do not associate any dread to having the cancer at all.
I also believe in the human body’s amazing powers of healing. I know that the Living Foods diet that I adopted after the surgery helped to restore my body’s cells to a healthier state than they ever were before. I also believe that by refusing chemotherapy and radiation that I helped to prolong my life by not destroying my organs and cells in the process. I mentioned this in my last essay about pancreatic cancer, and I will iterate what I said then: My campaign against chemotherapy and radiation is the subject of its own essay, and I will not go too deeply into it here. Nevertheless, I do believe that chemo and radiation does more to harm people than it does to help them. Ask any oncologist if they would recommend it to themselves or their children if they had cancer.
I say that having pancreatic cancer was a significant event in my life, and I suppose that is true, but I guess that I have never taken it too seriously. Even when I was sick, with no idea whether the tumor was malignant or not, I did not worry about it. I wanted results, and I wanted to get past it, but I did not worry about dying. Call it pragmatism, or perhaps you can call it naiveté, but I always saw it as a hassle beyond which I needed to move.
I think that is still my mentality. I got past it too easily, and if it does come back, I will just do that again. I still live with the faint notion that it could come back, but I have a much stronger sense that it will not. And maybe the power of my positive thinking is keeping it all at bay.
So, I go through the motions. I do my CT scans and my blood work, and I visit my oncologist. Actually, the oncology visits are a pleasure for me since I am still so healthy even without the chemo and radiation that my doctor insisted was necessary. Before he realized that I was never going to see the radiologist that he referred, my oncology appointments were tedious and thorough. After the first three check-ups, when I was still healthy in spite of his warnings, my oncologist became cold and the appointments barely last ten minutes. I get great satisfaction in that!
Perhaps, though, this time will be different, there will be a new tumor, and I will get sick again. Perhaps my lapse in healthy eating and lack of Yoga classes will catch up with me and I will no longer be able to ward off the Specter of Death. Perhaps even now, there is a malignancy eating away at my once healthy body and it is too late to reverse it.
However, that would mean that I would shuffle off this mortal coil too soon, and leave my son without his Papa. And that is something that simply cannot happen.
But, I think that is the subject of another essay.