When you were first diagnosed, or when the person for whom you are a caregiver was diagnosed, did you have the faintest inkling what was ahead?
I had no idea myself. I had an elderly and much-loved uncle by marriage die of cancer, probably colon cancer, when I was a child, maybe ten years old. Back then, cancer was mentioned in whispers, and once he became very ill I did not see him. Then my brother had malignant melanoma about thirty years ago or so, a complete surprise to everyone. His experience was unusually easy: he had the lesion excised; the margins were clear; nothing else has ever appeared. Besides, he refused to talk about it, at least with me, so I have no idea what he went through at any point.
My ex-brother-in-law had pancreatic cancer about ten years ago, which took him down quickly. He was still close to his ex, my sister, and to their four sons, and they were devastated as soon as he had a diagnosis. But it didn't affect me directly; they all lived in another state, I didn't like him much, and we encountered each other only once while he was ill. It was of course very hard for my sister and all the kids, and their grief was on my mind when I broke the news to my family. But my sister, bless her heart, did not hesitate to launch into action early on, even when things were looking pretty grim.
Fortunately for me, I guess, I had had no close friends affected by cancer--that is, until I met bunches of people through the Cancer Support Community, and you-all here. But all of that is another story for another day.
I suppose it's a mixed bag to have had some previous experience with friends or family who had to deal with cancer. Such experience can give you insight, but it might also give you the willies, sometimes for no good reason. No one's course is like anyone else's, even with the same kind of cancer, same grade, same stage. That's one of the more baffling aspects of the disease, as far as I am concerned. And then, too, no course of treatment is ever exactly the same. How often I wish I had a clone or two on which to experiment!
Our dear ZenTrainer had the idea that we should create some sort of template we could use to interview each other about our experiences, especially for those of us who are a little shy about producing an independent diary. So this is our first go-round: to put out a question without much narrative and to see what you have to say in response.
There's a poll, as you see, but of course polls, like diaries, are truly only prompts for discussion. Feel free to go on in detail if you like, or to write about something else altogether. We are here to be of support to each other.
Monday Night Cancer Club is a Daily Kos group focused on dealing with cancer, primarily for cancer survivors and caregivers, though clinicians, researchers, and others with a special interest are also welcome. Volunteer diarists post Monday evenings between 7-8 PM ET on topics related to living with cancer, which is very broadly defined to include physical, spiritual, emotional and cognitive aspects. Mindful of the controversies endemic to cancer prevention and treatment, we ask that both diarists and commenters keep an open mind regarding strategies for surviving cancer, whether based in traditional, Eastern, Western, allopathic or other medical practices. This is a club no one wants to join, in truth, and compassion will help us make it through the challenge together.