Wednesday, March 29, 2017

What They Don't Tell You About Fighting A Disease

Cancer doctors are some of the best people in the world. Well, at least my cancer doctors are some of the best people I have ever met. They mean well, and they are incredibly intelligent people who hold your fate in their hands. Some act like they hold your fate in their hands in ways that make you cringe, while most do it with a strong air of concern in everything they do. Doctors, in general, are decent people who just want to make you feel better.

Every doctor does their best to address the side-effects of the medications they use or the potential mistakes that can occur during a delicate procedure, and those warnings are all done with good intentions. But with all of the forms I have signed regarding side-effects and the lectures my doctors have given me about what to expect, they really only cover about 40 percent of the true possibilities. There is plenty your doctor does not, and probably cannot, tell you about what will happen to you when you fight a potentially terminal disease. That is why I am here.

For one thing, most medications that save lives also drain the life right out of you. One medication that has the side-effect of fatigue is bad enough, but when the medications start piling on and they all create fatigue, you are done. You have no energy most of the time. You waste away big chunks of the day sleeping. You cannot play with your kids and grandkids like you used to, and you can forget pursuing those projects you wanted to do. Your spare time is spent sleeping, and it is a terrible way to live.

To go along with your fatigue, and part and parcel to it I guess, is your inability to focus on anything for any appreciable amount of time. I used to be able to take on multiple projects at the same time and see them through to successful conclusions. But now I have writing projects that have been lingering for months and other things I want to do by myself and with others that I cannot get my mind focused on anymore. Even this website, which is dear to my heart, has suffered. Because of that, Craig has had to suffer too by picking up the slack I seem to be physically unable to pick up myself. As you can see, this also leads to self-esteem issues, but that is a different thing.

I used to be able to play with my band for hours, chase my grandsons around, and clean the house all in the same day. But now I am lucky if I get through an hour or two of band practice. The stamina is gone, and I fear it will never come back. If I want to do something, I have to pick one thing per day and that is all I know I will be able to accomplish.

One potentially terminal condition will lead to other medical problems that no doctor can predict. The stress of worrying about your condition along with living through the first six months or so of treatment will cause a lot of other things to go wrong. Even if you had great control over your blood pressure your entire life, your blood pressure will go up. It will spike in the early days of your treatment, and it will start to create problems you never imagined you would ever have.

The other problem with terminal conditions is that people age, and terminal conditions thrive on the aging process. I have never had a dental emergency in my life, but just this week I got my first crown for a cracked tooth. Everything from your eyes to your toenails will start to go wrong as your aging body starts to run out of the things it needs to fend off something that the younger you would have beaten by now.

I don't write these things to complain, although it is therapeutic for me to publish stuff like this. I write them to warn people. Anyone can get a terminal condition, and most people do not immediately die from those conditions. Doctors never tell you that you will have serious money problems when you get sick, they are not allowed to speculate on what else could go wrong. You also never realize until you get a terminal condition just how annoying it is to have to go to a minimum of two doctor's appointments per month (most months more) for the rest of your life.

No one tells you that stuff. So I want to tell you. If you get any kind of terminal condition, you need to let your primary doctor know immediately and start getting everything monitored. An oncologist can only monitor your cancer, but your eyes, ears, teeth, and other parts are affected as well. Be prepared to be on a first name basis with the nurses and receptionists at every type of doctor you go to because, even though they never tell you when you are diagnosed, life with a terminal condition means changes that you would have never expected . . . and changes you do not want.

George N Root III is a Lockport resident who is still alive and kicking...kinda. You can follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3, or send him a message at