Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Out of Control

Out of control is how the life of a cancer patient often feels. I certainly know the feeling all too well. Did I do something to make my gallbladder cells travel down the mutation road? Am I somehow responsible for getting cancer? Mostly, I think the answer is no, and that I will probably never know why the cancer cells were able to develop in my gallbladder. In addition to worrying about the cause of the cancer, I worry about whether I am doing the right things to prolong my life, in fact I worry and wonder about whether or not anything I do matters with respect to the cancer again affecting the functioning of my body.

I am not alone in this wondering. On one of the (three) discussion boards for those with gallbladder cancer, Melissa just wrote to me, in response to my posting that I'd had a clean scan in September:

I am glad to hear that your scans have come back clean, I can only wish that mine would have but I am not giving up hope. What type of diet are you doing. I am willing to do what I can to kick this thing in the butt. I went 6 months of treatment and then 4 months clean and my last scan showed that it is back so i am doing the chemo thing again. so if you can tell me what it is that you did that might have helped i would love to hear....... right now I am just so tired of having people tell me how sorry they are and that they have never seen someone as young as me get this cancer..
some words of advise would be great. thanks


My heart has been aching for Melissa since reading the question on the discussion board, and I'm still working on my response. But I know that mostly I'm going to say that I am doing things to try to stay healthy, but I really feel that it is grace that has kept me free of signs of the cancer so far, since the initial surgery. Grace, a wonderful, amazing, awesome gift of ongoing life and work and time with my family and other loved ones. I don't think I did anything, really, to cause this cancer, and I don't really think that anything I'm doing has given me the clean scan results I've gotten over the past months. Don't misunderstand; I'd like to think that I'm in control, and that my actions are having an impact. Don't misunderstand either, and think I'm going to stop doing the things I'm doing, because I have hope that they may be making a difference, keeping the cancer from spreading. And at the same time, I have to admit to not feeling in control of any of this with my actions.

The day I began this blog entry, I read Leroy's blog for November 8, and I was amazed to see that Leroy was also writing about the search for meaning of the cancer, and how out of control we feel with our diagnosis. We want meaning, we want hope, we want to think that we will recover and that life will go on. When we don't have symptoms or signs, or when we are actively in remission, we are hopeful but worried. When we are active with the disease, recovering from surgery or in treatment, we want to know what we can do to get better. We want successful treatment, the right diet, good medical care, recovery. We want something to do to get better, to feel in control, even if in small ways. Leroy has written about this more than once, and Melissa's question to me so crystallizes the issue.

What helps when we feel out of control with cancer? I don't know. I know that my life feels like daily walking the line between hope and despair, between what is known and what is not known, between thinking I could be in control and letting go of the belief I can control my body, between blame and surrender, between opening to healing and recognizing the truth of the cancer still in my body, between envisioning the cancer self-destructing in the sunset and recognizing the medical reality. The lack of an answer, a clear sense of the future, of what path my life will take, is painful and challenging, but it's what is right now, for me, and for so many others with gallbladder cancer. So I'll keep doing what I'm doing in hope that it is helping, and I'll keep hoping for healing.

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