Cancer on my mind.

Today was an interesting day. I got the opportunity to return to work again for a short shift. One of my partners was helping her husband deal with some medical issues and needed a single shift covered. So far I haven’t been overwhelmed with patients and I even think I have a moment to put some thoughts down. Today I have thought about cancer quite a bit. Tomorrow we are hoping to leave Anchorage again to go to Halibut Cove for a large gathering in honor of 30 years of the Saltry (a fabulous resturant) being around. To many a resturant which has been around that long is pretty impressive. Even more impressive given it’s location and the extended benefits they bring to those of us lucky enough to live there even part time. This alone did not get me thinking about cancer but raised the fact that we will be leaving while my dad continues to work and finish my “sabatical” (thanks AML I needed time off). Leaving means we won’t be around when he takes off back to Steamboat to resume, hopefully his pre-son with cancer, life (if that is possible). It makes me a bit sad that we won’t be here to see him off and the fact that I went to work tonight shortened my chance to say goodbye.

I am sure we will see him again. He has done such a good job and all lthe staff in town really like him so my group will have to invite him back to do some more work. I can’t beleive that he really was able to step in and do this for me. I am pretty sure not many fathers could or would take over their son’s job for 6 months. Still knowing that he is leaving and isn’t on the schedule to come back feels awkward. I know I should both thank him uncontrollably and remind him how wonderful a dad he is take him out for some classy dinner. Yet, I ran off to work. I will see him tomorrow but it won’t be enough. I am not sure anything would feel like I did enough to thank him. More than our choosen profession, cancer brought us this chance or forced it on us, I am not sure I could have convinced him without the extra push. Eitherway I am eternally grateful although I now think the nurses will think I am lazy.

Interestingly, tonight as I was admitting a very pleasant lady after a procedure I was reminded oddly of cancer again. I had done a full history and physical and was back putting all the paperwork together and getting my note arranged when I realized she had a history of breast cancer and she hadn’t mentioned it. I quickly returned to her bedside and double checked this. She was quite funny about it. Yes, she had dealt with breast cancer and it was seemingly gone and she had simply forgotten to tell me. Afterwards I sat momentarily and pondered, “would I ever be that way?” Granted her cancer was a little less dramatic but still the big C word which I always thought just never left your mind once it choose you. Although I can not wrap my mind around a time when this would happen to me I only hope as I slowly regain some normalcy that AML will be a period in my life I can forget.

As those who deal with cancer know though, it is tough. Especially as close as I am to my diagnosis and as short into the journey that I am. We think about it all the time, even those around me think of it. Just the other day I found myself debating with one of my closest supports that although I can come up with a huge number of possible causes or reasons I have leukemia we will never know the actual cause. A tough situation is created by this lack of knowing. IF I had lung cancer and I was a smoker…I should quit smoking, if I had liver cancer and I drank…I should quit drinking, if I had skin cancer…I should wear sunscreen, the list of known causes of cancer goes on. My chormasomal deletion though does not have an “aahhaaaa” cause. Not yet at least. Therefore I am left with two thought pathways. I can freak out about everything we think causes cancer and live my life in a bubble (as long as it is not a plastic bubble, or asbestos, or covered with VOC paint or…you get the idea). Or I can just be happy that I get another chance and live.

I think it is hard to understand this deliema unless you are in this predicament. I can’t be sure of what caused this so I can’t avoid what ever it was. The list is long. I may have got this from running near a road (benzene’s), or eating burnt barbeque (all I can eat now with suppressed immune), sleeping in a call room near radiology, or too much cell phone use. There is no telling. I refuse though to move into that cancer safe bubble though at the expense of life. Yes, I avoid a lot of things. Maybe not all of them but I have to live. I think about cancer enough to not worry myself constantly that what I am doing is going to give me a relapse or some new cancer. I had to tell the person questioning my actions (it was eating something sugary, not like smoking crack or lying in a tanning booth) that despite what those around me think I am more worried about my health than they can possibly be. I can’t stop thinking about cancer.

This thought came back to me today though as I was making a choice for dinner. I had to get it ready ahead of time as I was leaving for work, a babysitter would be with the boys until dinner time, Brooke was working until she had a soccer game and I couldn’t just make Jim feed the boys after his day of work. The combination though of all these thoughts and moments where Leukemia and cancer are in my mind is sometimes daunting. I really hope some day the thoughts are so prevelant. I really hope some day I am sad Jim (or anyone in my family) is leaving after a nice visit, not bailing me out. I really hope some day I forget to mention to someone I have cancer. I hope someday I just live with less debate about what robbed me of my cancer free life. Mostly I just hope that cancer in general would become something less of an issue.

Whatever, your cancer is, or your friends cancer is, support them in the struggle, support those who fight it, encourage those with cancer to live, and hope we can one day all forget what cancer does to us.

By the way talking about encouraging. I am going to Med X at Stanford in September. I wish it were free and everyone could attend, oh wait… I have just been told you can through the web. Anyone who is interested can watch me bungle a live talk in front of a bunch of med students, Stanford attendings, med techies, and other patients. You can also watch more talented and brillant speakers give wonderful thoughts about making a differnce in patient care. Check it out at I was told not to shameless rep anything when I talk but I thought I would shamelessly promote this so when I fail at my ignite talk and it becomes a youtube sensational because of my fail you all can claim you saw it first, live. IF I pass out on stage at least we will know I am not thinking about cancer. Well at least for the time it takes me to hit the ground.

Head Up, Heart Strong. I need a cure.


One thought on “Cancer on my mind.

  1. What a great read today Matt. Wow can I relate on all sides if the issue.

    I my friend will watch you at the Sanford talk. I will watch you shine! Best of luck my friend, its do exciting too see you transitioning back.

    Although we will all still be members of the cancer club. It will be great for you not too attend the club everyday!

    So happy to be reading your journey. I personally LOVE rollercoasters and have enjoyed this ride.

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