Saturday, May 9, 2009

Relay for Life

Ron and I went shopping a few weeks ago for some dress pants for him to wear to work. We were looking for just 1 pair: grey, wool, no pleats.

Back in January, we went to Macy's and had luck finding a great suit (brown pin-striped... love it!), a couple of shirts, a couple of ties. All set. Done. Great. The man helping us pick out the ties was a little pushy but he was at least pleasant, and he did have a good eye for patterns.

So when we went back for pants, I was not surprised to see him there. However, he wasn't quite as pleasant. In fact, he was downright grumpy, snapping at me for pulling out a pair in the wrong length at one point (wrong in his opinion; turns out I was right). While Ron tried them on, this salesman said, "I just started working again after 6 months in the Mayo Clinic for cancer. I had everything on my left side removed. My leg isn't even real." Wide-eyed, I asked, "Really? What kind of cancer does that?" He said it was brain cancer that had metastisized.

Then he hurried off on his fake leg, which he appears to be getting around on very well, to help a customer looking for a tux.

I told Ron about the cancer. We ended up buying 2 pairs of wool slacks, 3 shirts, and 4 ties.

Everything on the left side. We'll assume we don't have to include the heart on this list. That gives us the gallbladder, pancreas, spleen, a lung, a ureter, a kidney, a testicle. And then there's part of the intestines, part of the bladder, and a good portion of the stomach. All on the left.

Doesn't leave a guy with much, does it?

Before we left, Ron said, "I remember you waiting on us back in January." The salesman said, "Oh, I was back from the Mayo Clinic briefly over the holidays and got in some hours."

Hm. Okay.

I'm not saying I don't believe the man. I'm just shocked at the miracle of him walking, talking, and functioning extremely well from what I could tell.

There's nothing funny about cancer. I don't think there's even anything funny about a man saying he had severe enough cancer to require removal of all organs (and a leg) on his left side. I admit I was a little amused initially, wondering if he was using his cancer to get the bigger sale. But I got over the humor in it.
My father died on June 5, 2004 from cancer of the duodenum. It's an extremely rare cancer and difficult to diagnose because of its rarity and its rather vague symptoms, virtually all of which can simply be associated with growing old: heartburn, diarrhea, loss of appetite. Dad was an extremely healthy 71-year-old man when he was diagnosed. Ten months later, he was gone. The first line of treatment had been a pancreaticoduodenectomy at Johns Hopkins. Here's what it involves (taken from Wikipedia): "It consists of removal of the distal half of the stomach , the gall bladder , the distal portion of the common bile duct ), the head of the pancreas, duodenum, proximal jejunum, and regional lymph nodes . Reconstruction consists of attaching the pancreas to the jejunum and attaching the common bile duct to the jejunum to allow digestive juices and bile to flow into the gastrointestinal tract and attaching the stomach to the jejunum to allow food to pass through."

After the surgery, doctors gave him a few weeks to get some of his strength back, because you obviously don't bounce right back after surgery that major. Then he started radiation and chemotherapy. For a little while there, Dad thought he would be a miracle. Believing he would be is what kept him going, impelled him to keep writing, to keep reading, to keep moving ahead, to get his teeth fixed when he broke one on a piece of peanut brittle. It's also what kept him from making any plans for my mother after he died. He didn't instruct her on what he wanted done with his books or his antiques or his rare document collection. To say she was completely at her wit's end after he died is an understatement.

No, cancer isn't funny at all. It's awful.

Simon is on a Relay for Life team this year with nine other kids in his school. There are about 100 teams in our school district participating this year. Relay for Life is organized by The American Cancer Society. On June 12, Simon's team, C.I.A. (Cancer Is Awful/Cure in Action), is spending the night at the local rec center, walking the track, keeping each other awake, celebrating survivors (one of whom is a 6th grader on his team who, on his final day of chemo, found out his mom had cancer; another of whom is a 6th grader who lost his mother to lung cancer last year--she wasn't a smoker and never had been), and raising money for cancer research. I'm proud of him. I'm proud of all of these kids and of all the survivors and all the survivors' families and of the families of thoses who didn't survive but want others to.

If you want to contribute to Simon's team, go to this website and type in his name.

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