Up until this past week, I had never said any of the phrases below:
- No, I don’t want any ice cream.
- Oh cool, the hair on my tongue fell off. (*explanation below)
- I can’t wait until the feeding tube gets put in.
Cancer can make you do, say, and feel things you never had imagined.
*So hair on the tongue is a real thing (I know, gross). The right side of my tongue and the floor of my mouth is made from parts of my left arm….that had hair on it. About 3 weeks after the surgery I started to notice hair popping up where the new tissue was transplanted. I couldn’t feel it but I could definitely see it. The radiation has taken care of all that now.
I’ve now been through 16 treatments of radiation and going back to what I said before, it feels like someone lit a blow torch in my mouth and throat. The sores on the insides of my cheeks, along my gums, and on my tongue have made it really difficult to eat and pretty difficult to talk. I’ve got several remedies to help me manage — pebble ice, pain meds, and 3 different mouth rinses. The cruelest part of it all is that my go to comfort food has always been ice cream, but anything with sugar in it burns the sores so badly that I won’t even touch it. A sugarless Jarem…can you imagine?
I had a lot of bravado 4 weeks ago when I popped off to my radiation oncologist that I would not need a feeding tube. That’s how I would show my toughness — eating. Here’s how tough I am…tonight our neighbor brought over a peanut butter chocolate cookie dessert that I love and because I couldn’t eat it I started to tear up. Grown man. Crying over some cookies. Real life.
Tomorrow I will have a “g-tube” placed into my stomach so that I can feed myself without wrecking my mouth and throat. I am ready for it! I’ve felt the impact of not getting proper nutrition and losing weight. I was about 190 pounds in December and I’m now down to 168 pounds. I need to get back up to my fighting weight.
One of the things that I am gaining an appreciation for is UNCERTAINTY. As someone with cancer, uncertainty becomes as much of a part of your life as the actual cancer. The uncertainty is endless.
One of my favorite books is called “The Happiness Advantage” which presents the case that happiness breads success (and not the other way around). One characteristic of happy people is that they tend to believe that their actions effect their outcomes. While I’m still a believer in that idea, cancer is such a puzzling and illogical experience that it replaces any sense of control or belief in cause & effect relationships with uncertainty.
As far as I can tell, uncertainty isn’t malignant by nature, but it can become so. Does the uncertainty metastasize within us and make us bitter or scared or paralyzed from doing what can make today great? Or can we live life today in a way that is joyous and productive and right before God, while having no guarantees of what tomorrow or the next month or next year holds?