One comrade lost in battle while another stands at the front lines again.
I've always been so stoic, so why now do I swell with tears, reflecting on these events? I began reading a couple of blogs a year ago, when first diagnosed, one called Cancer News Watch, and the other by that author's wife, called Too Sexy for my Hair. Both blogs were basically about a woman named Lori.
I've mostly lurked on the blogs, as Lori's posts were relatively few and far between. But between the two (blogs) I've formed a picture of the 5 year struggle she's had since being diagnosed with cancer of an unknown origin, 7 weeks after their wedding. Her primary tumors were in her lungs and liver, and she'd tried many chemo regimens, including Navelbine, 5FU, Adriamycin, Cytoxan, Tarceva, Avastin—drugs I'm either familiar with or may someday have to take. Now and then she'd take a trip—to Bali and Hawaii. She went in May, accompanied by an oxygen tank, and when she got back, she was in partial remission. She attributed it, in part, to the Brunswig diet she'd been on, containing cottage cheese and flax oil. That was her last post, in July, and it was optimistic.
Lori died on October 27th, at the age of 31, after a 3 month blog silence. I wish I knew how it unfolded, but I know I won't be writing about my own death when it's imminent. And it's much too much for her husband Cary, at any time soon, anyway, to share with the world the last few months of his beloved's life. It's overwhelming.
Concurrent to this is an event even closer to home. A friend in much the same situation as I fights for her life, and she too is incredibly young. The drug Tarceva became ineffective for her after 9 months. She's now on chemo, similar to what I had on the 1st round, except the main agent is the one I'm on now. Will she live to finish grad school, go back to traveling and running marathons, live more of life?
I am reminded of my mortality, yes, but what is intensified is the unfairness, especially of those who view our disease, cancer in the lungs, as something we brought on ourselves. November is Lung Cancer Awareness month, and there are no grocery checkers incessantly bugging for donations to Lung Cancer research, there isn't mass merchandising of products whose proceeds will go towards it, and people who smoke just continue to do so, even in the presence of those made ill by their actions. Yet Lung Cancer kills more women than Breast Cancer, and even if it's detected early enough to be removed by surgery, the 5-year survival rate is still only 14%, or less. This makes me bitter and sad, and reluctant to discuss the topic, as it probably bores the daylights out of everyone.
Cancer is so abstract, even those who know me and think I'm doing well occasionally offend by insinuating that I'm well enough to travel and spend more energy and time maintaining relationships because of my illness. I can barely sit up, some days, much less deal with the myriad slings and arrows of impending financial doom. (One never knows) But my purpose is not to rant.
If I'm amazed at my 15-month survival, I'm awed by Lori's 5-year fight. I know N's will to live is strong. Let her body be as strong as her will might forge it. And let her spit in the face of those who say she brought it upon herself, or she's lucky she doesn't have some other kind of cancer. Cancer is not lucky.