Thursday, March 29, 2007


Yesterday I was waiting in my oncologist's office for my bi-weekly pre-chemo appointment when a serendipitous thing happened. I had a 10:15 appt. but, as usual, things were running about 20 min late. A man walked up to the counter and asked if he would be able to get out of the office by 11 am (he had a 10:30 appt.) to catch a bus back home to Sacramento ( About 2-3 hours from the hospital). He said the next bus wasn't for 5 hours. Yuck!

As soon as he sat down I asked if he'd like to switch appointment times with me. He enthusiastically said "yes!' and I went to the check-in nurse to tell her what I wanted to do.

I think this is one of those "gifts" from cancer. I most probably would have done the same thing pre-cancer, but I would have stopped to consider what I had to do that day, if it would make me late for other appointments, etc. Now, I don't even blink an eye. If I can help another sick person, it is a Mitzvah (for you non-jews out there, a Mitzvah is like a blessing - it's a covenant you make to do good in the world whenever you can). I think that compassion can only lead to a better world, and if I've gained compassion from this experience, then I am thankful for it.

One day someone I know will get cancer or AIDS or some other dreaded disease. I now know how to be a better Mitzvah for them.

Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Chemo is finally kicking my ass

I was told that the chemo effects are cumulative, that I would feel worse as the treatment progressed. But for some reason, I chose not to believe it. "I will be the one who feels just the same all the way through chemo." Well, I hereby evoke my right to be wrong.

Usually, I get one week of feeling crappy, then one week of feeling ok, then they dose me again. This time I pretty much felt crappy for the entire 2 weeks. It felt slightly less crappy than last week. But by last night (day 13 of my cycle) I was still chained to the couch, only able to get up and get myself the occasional glass of juice or gum.

It makes it really hard to get up and drive myself to chemo on Wednesdays knowing that I'm signing up for a worse 2 weeks than the last. My rational brain tells me that it's for my own good, it's potentially saving my life, etc. My hind brain screams "Noooooooooooooooooo! No Likey!" And I end up feeling like Olive Oyl being pulled upon by Popeye in one direction and Bluto in the other. (I'll leave it up too you, dear readers, to decide which part of my brain is Popeye and which Bluto.)

I just have to keep in mind that it's temporary. That, ultimately, this experience is going to light many fires under my ass. (Hey - no jokes about how my big ass can hold many fires! I was being metaphorical!) And that I am surrounded by many people who care a lot about me. That part is the best.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Do we get to choose?

I wonder if we get to choose, to some degree, the course of our cancer. I have been doing all sorts of additional types of medicines to the Western surgery and chemo combo since I was diagnosed. Acupuncture, massage, body talk and meditation both during and after chemo. As a caveat, I should mention that I'm from San Francisco and these things are a lot more standard here than they would be in other parts of the US.

So here's what I'm wondering - do my intentions, my choices, affect my outcome? So far the evidence says yes. It's difficult, if not impossible, to empirically prove (I'm a bioscience gal, so I know my variables, controls and placebos) that any of this additional treatments are doing anything, but along the way I have had small bits of proof that are making me believe more and more that intention, qi and whatever else I'm doing seems to positively affect my prognosis. For example, all of the measurable things that I was asked to envision in my "Preparing for Surgery" meditation actually happened. And according to all my surgeons, nurses and my oncologist I'm doing remarkably well with my treatments.

So, my question to you, the cancer community (and anyone else who may be reading this) is this: Do our intentions affect us on a cellular level? Can we meditate on making new blood cells and have it happen? Can we will away the cancer by asking, telling or shouting at it that we don't need it anymore? If our minds/brains are controlled to some degree by thoughts and thoughts signal our brains to send all sorts of cascading messengers to our cells, then why not? Maybe it's a practice we have to do daily. Like exercise - if you only go to the gym once a month nothing significant will change, but if you do several times a week, your body will respond.

So, let's all imagine this:

Your body is at its best. Your immune system is working like the well oiled machine that it should, finding cells that are no longer needed and destroying them while recycling the good parts for future use. Your heart is pumping way, happy in its task. It's delivering oxygen rich blood to our cells so they can make more energy to do all the tasks your cells need, while pumping away carbon dioxide and other toxins that our healthy body no longer has need for. All of your other organs are operating at peak health, doing their individual jobs to help make you a whole, complete, healthy and well-balanced body and mind.

Take that, cancer! Ha!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Cold hands, Warm heart

There is an expression "cold hands, warm heart" that my chronically cold-handed friend Matt used to say. I think this means that an icy exterior does not mean there isn't a kind person underneath. But since the oxaliplatin that I am taking has given me cold hands, I wonder what it has done to my heart?

I know that physiologically this stuff is horrible for my heart and there can be permanent damage, blah blah blah, but what does it mean for my metaphorical heart? Has the cancer, surgery and chemo made me a kinder person? In some ways, I think it has. I am more sensitive to people with a serious illness now - I know how to respond better to people telling me their bad news. I now know more clearly than ever that not I, nor anyone I know, will live forever and that makes my time on earth more precious.

In other ways it has made me meaner. I am more angry than ever at politicians and the stereotypical rich, white American. I wish I could have them all trade bodies with parent in India who is slowly watching their child die of starvation. I get mad at people for *not* being kinder. What kind of an oxymoron is that? I am mad at them for not seeing the light? That makes no sense. Maybe I'm just grumpy from feeling like ass for the last 9 months or maybe all that stuff about being universally kind is a crock.

There are so many kind people in my life that I just want to shower with happiness if I can. I know how good a heart can be. But since my diagnosis I am angrier than ever with the meanies. I used to think that an unkind person was just anxious or confused or hadn't grown into the wisdom that is kindness. But cancer has lowered my tolerance for this type of person.

Can it be that cancer has made my heart more unkind? Or is it that time seems short now and I don't have time for the selfish pricks of he world?

Saturday, March 10, 2007


When I was a kid there was a company that would make a life-size doll in your likeness if you sent them photos. It was very expensive and I don't actually know anyone that did it, but it got me thinking.

Sometimes I feel like there is a life-sized Megan walking around who has cancer. I suppose this could just be an extreme version of "this can't be happening" but I think it's more than that. My life changed so dramatically and so quickly that I just haven't had enough time to incorporate the new me into the old me. So the new me feels like a fake, a representation of what Megan was. The new Megan is sick, can't have children and will always be anxiously looking over her shoulder to see if Cancer is back. That's not me. I am healthy and optimistic and have spent much time and money trying to be *rid* of anxiety.

How does life-size Megan get incorporated into real Megan? Is it just a matter of time? Do I become life-size Megan and leave old Megan behind? I like old Megan. She was familiar and I love her for all her quirks. And yet, here I am, talking about myself in the third person like a king or schizophrenic. Ah well, I suppose my unconscious is working this all out. I just have to ride the wave and see where it takes me.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

I am going to outlive my cat

When I was in my mid-twenties, I got my cat, Gatsby, as a kitten. He's 10 now. As a general rule, cats live about 10-15 years, then they die and you cry a lot. I had the thought today, "What if I don't outlive my cat?" When you get your first cat, you are supposed to outlive them. You are supposed to grieve, wait a bit, get another cat. Then repeat. Several times.

So, I decided that I am definitely going to outlive my cat. I am going to live long enough to outlive several cats. It will be sad, but at least I will be there.

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Hit by a bus tomorrow

I know that you all know that saying, "I could be hit by a bus tomorrow." But how many of you actually believe it? One thing cancer has done is made that idiom all too real. I could be hit by the cancer bus at anytime. I could finish chemo and they could find another tumor with the routine CT scans. Or, I could live to be 60 and find out I have another tumor. The syndrome I have (Lynch Syndrome) predicts that there is a 50% chance that I will get another colon cancer in my lifetime. I have always lived by the theory that 80% of statistics are wrong, math is just our best estimate. But now it feels like the bus *could* hit me tomorrow, the bus has me in its sights.

This leaves me profoundly torn. On one hand, I have learned from this that I have to value every day. That friends and family are actually there for you. That someone can love you equally at your absolute best and your absolute worst. And that things like cherry blossoms and ocean waves are really fucking beautiful. On the other hand, I am scared. What if I never live to do the things I want to do? What if they find another tumor and I spend my remaining few years in and out of chemo feeling like crap, then I die? When will the next tumor come? A year? Five years? Never? I live now with an unending uncertainty that I don't think I will ever be rid of.

So now I oscillate wildly from one extreme to another. Being so thankful I am alive to being filled with terror about tomorrow. How do I cope with emotions so extreme all in my one tiny head? Is this like grief, will it wane with time? Or will I have this forever and it will just become like background noise to whatever else I'm feeling?

This blog entry has more question marks than any previous ones. Feel free to post answers, guidance, your own questions or whatever you feel is appropriate. Or inappropriate.

Friday, March 2, 2007

Colo-rectal cancer awareness month!

I just want to point out that March is colo-rectal cancer awareness month. So if you know someone out there who is over 50 or has colon or stomach cancer in their family, tell them to go get a colonoscopy! It's not fun, but not as bad as you think either. They give you lots of great drugs and you don't remember a thing. So go find out what's up your butt!

Have been in a pretty good mood lately. Getting half way through has helped, I think. I'm visualizing the day a year from now when my CT cans and colonoscopy are all clear and I can stop being cancer girl and start thinking about making it to 60 or 70 or 90 yrs. old again.

BTW- Thanks to Scout and Inger for their secret plan to get me coffee today. It was soooo worth it and you two are da bomb. It's the little things that make me able to get through all this, ya know?