The Washington Post: Cancer is Sunshiny!
I’m starting to think that cancer isn’t so sunshiny after all. I’d been led to believe in the frolicking lightness of this disease by the renowned Washington Post psychologist and health analyst Hank Stuever. In our culture today, with its pink-ribboned telethons and marches on various capitols, he implied, it’s almost kind of hip and “sunshiny” to have cancer. You know, that’s what I thought too. I was like the dude in the back of the bar who could still pull off wearing a fedora. Then I found out yesterday that my own cancer continues its perverse little touchdown dance in my chest, despite a vat of toxins and an impressive array of surgical knickknacks drilled into my torso over the past couple of years. My fedora turned into a sock puppet. I felt like a fool. This cancer thing actually kind of sucks.
Turns out that Steuver, whose worldly observations had guided me through my occasional moments of unsunshininess, turned out not to be a psychologist at all but a television critic. The philosopher of cancer, a mere TV hack? Well, Hank, here are a few things about cancer that I don’t find sunshiny:
- That a month out from lung surgery, I have new lung mets.
- That I have a 1.5 cm by 2.8 cm lymph node in the region of the azygoesophageal recess. Who even knows what that means? I asked Dan George, my oncologist, and he said hell if he knew but it sure didn’t sound good. Dena offered that “azygoesophageal recess” might be some kind of stellar constellation. Dan acknowledged that there are some clinical trials studying the potentiality of cosmic formations spontaneously developing in unused bodily recesses but that at this time there is no hard evidence.
- That there is a 1.8 by 1.4 cm node in the right hilar region. The phrase “hilar region” has a vaguely distasteful ring to it, like a place in Central Asia where bodies are found frozen in icy rocks in subterranean caves.
- That my thyroid is “unremarkable,” which is just rude.
- That there is an “impression” of a centimeter soft tissue nodule in my right lung. In all seriousness, none of us – me, Dena or Dan George – were entirely sure what an “impression” of a nodule was supposed to mean. Was it stand-up comedy? A watercolor? Radiologists are a strange breed of animal, evidently unschooled in the English language and unaware of the normal habits and thought processes of human beings. We are seeking a translator.
- That there is fluid in the upper right lung.
- That the centimeter met in my left lung tends to grow and shrink and grow and shrink like a pulsing fish deep in the ocean.
- That my unrelenting cough is symptomatic of all of the above. (Dena is not convinced. It’s not like we didn’t have lung mets before, she notes. Where was the cough then? Touché, my spunky bride, touché.)
There are a few other things about cancer that I don’t like — death among them. So screw you, Hank.