Cancer Always Comes Back

Zine from the CancerGram 16 of 18, related to the research I started doing about my specific cancer in the spring of 2017.

I never knew that solid mass cancers are incurable. It was my radiation oncologist who explained this to me. Surgeries can remove discrete cancer tumors, but mine had already spread to the lymph nodes. They couldn’t be cut out. Radiation kills tumors and cells, but some of the cancer cells aren’t in the areas that get irradiated, and others are in places that can’t be sufficiently irradiated. Chemotherapy poisons your body, disrupting the cancer’s reproductive ability. Hormone therapy deprives the cancer cells of their food and fuel. All these methods try to buy you enough time to die of something else before your cancer comes back and kills you.

Friends and acquaintances started to call to offer their bon mots. I’d never been told before that I had a lot to live for, but I quickly got sick of it. When cancer changed my life it also changed my body. It removed from my possible futures many hopes, dreams and goals — things I was living for.

The first information I found on the American Cancer Society website showed the survival rate for stage 4 prostate cancer to be 29%. At first it was a shocking unreality. It was hard for me to imagine dying, or what that would look like, but my chances didn’t look good.

My whole idea of my future changed. My long term goals were wiped off the table. Even if I lived, I knew that some things were over for me. I always figured I’d live about as long as my parents, both of whom were still alive at 76. I thought I was a little bit over half way through an 80 year life.

As the new reality set in, it changed the shape of my life. Instead of being half way through a longer life, I was near the end of a much shorter one. It made sense. There would be no happy ending. I’d lived a life of principle not for a reward, but for the experience.