The Three F’s: Fear, Fitness, Facts – Living with Lymphoma Week 16

I will face my fear, I will allow it to pass over me and through me... (for you Dune fans)

I will face my fear, I will allow it to pass over me and through me… (for you Dune fans)

Sheesh – has it really been four months along this road already?  Some days it feels like it’s been four years, and other days I look back and wonder how the heck I got to this point.  Sixteen Weeks.

I want to discuss three issues I’m dealing with lately.

1. Fitness – I think it’s important for me to stay fit during the chemotherapy process.  I remember how weak my body was after the recovery from my brain surgery for my Acoustic Neuroma.  It took about a year after my surgery for me to feel anything like myself.  So I’m trying to mitigate that this time.  It’s difficult, though, because I basically feel like crap for almost a week.  So imagine your fitness training calendar being a “week on/week off” kind of thing.  Man, let me tell you – that first day back is pretty brutal.  Getting on the bike on Friday or Saturday when you’ve had chemo the previous Monday has me tracking my heart-rate very closely, along with my effort levels.

My advice?  Take it slow, but keep doing.

2. Facts – My regular Dr. was kind enough to send me a copy of the radiology report from my PET Scan that I had last week.  It said that the absorption of the radioactive sugar they use to target the cancer stuff was normal in most of my lymph nodes, and was consistent with background levels in my liver and skeleton (where there had previously shown cancer).  Translation?  Yeah, pretty much all the cancer is gone.  WHEW!  Having not seen the scan or had access to the report previously, I was still a little worried about it even though Dr. Dreyfuss had said that the scan “looked great”.  That’s a pretty subjective term in my mind.  But seeing the report today has really set my nerves at ease.  I guess I’ve just got a little bit of Joe Friday in me – I like facts.

3. Fear – This is the biggie of the three… One of the hardest parts about having cancer for me is dealing with the fear.  If you’ve read the brain tumor book, you know I’m really good at “compartmentalizing”.  I can bury the fear and the worry in different little boxes deep in the scary reaches of my mind – and deal with it later if I need to.

Am I scared of dying of the cancer?  Yeah, a little.  But not as much as you’d think.  First off – I’m “lucky” that the survival rates for Stage IV Lymphoma are very high in comparison to other types of cancer at around 60% (though the next person that tells me how I’ve got “the cancer to have if you have to have cancer” is going to get their teeth knocked out).  Then?  There’s not a damned thing I can do about it – if the cancer is going to be stronger than my body and the medical treatments, well – we gave it a good try, right?

So what scares me?  Two things.

The Ventilator haunts my dreams.

The Ventilator haunts my dreams.

1. Getting sick.  Getting sick scares the living shit out of me.  I ended up with a nasty case of Meningitis after my brain surgery.  That experience encompasses the very worst pain I’ve ever encountered in my life (headaches), getting a spinal tap on my F’ing birthday, and that stupid PICC line I hated so much.  Along with a week’s stay in the hospital.  If I get sick this time?  Yeesh.  My white blood cell counts are pretty low at this point – I wouldn’t be able to fight off the common cold.

So realistically – given the relatively “good” odds of survival that I’m dealing with on the cancer deal?  I’m more likely to die of a simple illness than the stupid cancer.  Fun.

I have this scene in my head – I wake up and I’m lying in a hospital bed hooked to a ventilator (I hate having tubes down my throat while I’m conscious – and there is no way anybody is poking a damned hole in my throat).  My Oncologists are explaining to me how getting sick has screwed up my chemo schedule and how, should I survive the pneumonia?  I’ll have to have an additional six months of chemo afterward.

Is that at all realistic?  I have no idea.  It could be the furthest thing from the truth.  But that doesn’t keep it from scaring the crap out of me – which is what’s important to me.

How do I deal with it?  Just keep compartmentalizing.  Bury it deep.  Let it out once in a while to ease some pressure, then pack that sucker back in its box and shove it down the hole.

Then slather myself in hand sanitizer…

2. Having them tell me chemo didn’t work.  So let’s say we go through all this and finish up with my six months of chemo.  We wait a couple of weeks (or months) and do another scan just to be sure.  And the cancer is back… What then?  The decisions that need to be made at that point are really scary to me.  Depending on what options are given by my Dr’s – we might be talking: more chemo, bone marrow transplant, different drugs or treatments.

Yikes!  That all sounds bad!

How am I dealing with that?  Not well.  Not well at all.  I’m not even putting that fear in boxes.  I’m just ignoring it.  Screw it.

Best way to deal with it?  Probably not.  Don’t care.

So those are my Three F’s for this week.  Hope you all are well.  Welcome to all the new Facebook Page friends.  And I’ll see you all next week!


For next time: I’m working on some good bike video from the rides I’ve been taking, and a discussion of a very special gift given with wishes of good health and speedy recovery.

And don’t forget to…

pass it on

3 Responses to The Three F’s: Fear, Fitness, Facts – Living with Lymphoma Week 16

  1. sandy naglowsky June 19, 2014 at 2:18 pm #

    So glad you are heading in the right direction,keep doing what you are doing and stay positive. Hope you are able to work on your book, will look forward to it. Blessings

  2. Kelly Travers June 20, 2014 at 11:59 am #

    Hey Chris –
    Just wanted to let you know that both you and K. are in my thoughts. What a crazy journey you have been on and I find comfort knowing you are getting the best care. Thanks for the blog and keeping us posted on your status. Even though we are not close please let us know if we can do anything at any time.

    • cmichaelmiller June 23, 2014 at 8:31 am #

      Thanks Kelly,
      We really appreciate it. We’re doing our best to work our way through this!

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