Eleven years ago I wrote an article titled, Love and Life - The Main Event. That article addressed the reality that my wife Marie had just been diagnosed with a brain tumor. I wanted to share the painful reality of that situation and then explain how precious our lives should be with our spouses, for they really are the main event of our lives.
As you might easily guess from the title of this present article, My Turn, now I am facing a very uncertain future that could indeed be bleak. I have been diagnosed with Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, and my future is anything but secure. I might live for five or more years, or, I could die in less than a year, all dependent on the stage of the disease and the effectiveness of the chemotherapy, and possibly radiation, that will be used to attempt to nullify this cancer, at least for some indeterminate future period.
Unlike my darling departed wife, Marie, who was only 58 years old when diagnosed, I am now 73. I have been very fortunate to have 15 additional years of living and doing what I want, prior to my current diagnosis. Does that seem generous? To the contrary, she was cheated out of a normal life span and even I am at high risk of not living to the average age of males dying in the USA, which is presently 79, or so we are told by our federal government. Obviously I am not happy.
To get right down to it, even though I've known perfectly well that I would perish and miss any great discoveries that will come in the future to extend human life, and ultimately make us immortal, right now I'm very unhappy. I need some time to adjust to the reality of my present situation. Realistically that means changing my entire perspective about what time I have left and how to use that time.
It is more than scary being forced to shift from feeling immortal to feeling precariously close to death. Unlike foolish moments earlier in life when my mistakes might have cost me my life in a few seconds, the reality of the moment is watching the clock ticking away my life. It is not knowing how many ticks are left, but only that they are suddenly most likely far less than what I expected. So now I am running in circles inside my head wondering how much of a future I can salvage from this unwanted and unexpected disaster. Also, and this is of key importance, of what quality will my life be, for whatever time I have left?
Yes, I am scared and not at all confident in the ability of the medical profession to provide any treatments that will both work and be bearable in terms of feeling terrible physically, not to mention psychologically. Chemotherapy is crude and ugly even when it does work. We have not advanced far at all in our ability to stop cancers from even happening ... and that is the only real goal worth persuing. The rest of this world of cancer treatments is extremely primitive in terms of effectivity, high in cost and effort, and miserable for the patient ... and secondarily for the patient's family.
One very important exception is the work being done using genetic engineering to conquer cancers, in one case using the patient's own genetically modified T-cells to attack and destroy cancer cells. Most recently Gilead® obtained FDA approval for use of their version of that technology. The caveat is that a patient must have been inadequately responsive to two other treatment modes, like chemotherapies, and even then the cost to use the Gilead approach is $373,000. I'm sure you can guess where that leaves me.
Now I want to introduce an exceptionally important and relevant aspect of the whole subject of friends and loved ones getting various varieties of cancers. I asked myself a simple but compound question ... What people important to me in my past leading to the present have developed cancers, and what happened to them in terms of success of treatments? Thus, I made a list of those people and also those who happened to have died of causes other than cancers. That list, looked at analytically, was and is appaling! To be blunt, there wasn't even one so-called "survivor" of some fifteen different friends and loved ones who perished from some six different kinds of cancer, from the early 1980's to the year 2014. I found that to be alarming and disgusting.
Are you telling me that, somehow, my list of important people just happened to include NO "survivors?" That is statistically idiotic. It shines a very bright light on a very real and ugly lie perpetuated in our society's marketed communications to the general public about real results from real people getting cancers. This "lie" comes from government as well as the larger treatment practitioners and makers of expensive chemicals used to treat cancers.
I want you to recognize the reality that nothing has changed in that regard in thousands of years regarding the cancers of which we become victims. Witch doctors offered protocols with only a bit less of a success rate than our "modern" medical practitioners. Thus, the ignorant will always be given whatever story supports the wants and needs of the leaders. Truth is a casualty in the quest to control the masses. This is true in all respects, including economic considerations, wars, irrationally created internal national fears of the panoply of crimes, and, oh yes, the world of medical ailments and longevity statistics. So now I am less than happy looking at anything published or promoted about what I need to do to "conquer" my cancer. I have a significant fear that 99% of it is pure bullshit.
Well, I should not be focusing on details obvious to anyone who studies our experiences with cancers. Instead, if this article is to have any real value to readers, I have to address the psychology of facing the end of life, even if I do beat this immediate cancer. The only reality of consequence is that something will eventually get me, for I am now old, and I will never actually prepare for that time, and I do not think we are naturally wired to do that.
I believe we are wired to ignore as much as we can of aging and the unavoidable event of our own death. We block it out until we cannot ignore it. In one way that is healthy as we focus on using our time living and doing instead of contemplating our personal death, which would tend to consume all of our thoughts, and cause us to be utterly unproductive in the use of the remaining time we have to live. However, sooner or later all of us, individually, have to face, head on, our pending death ... unless, of course, we die suddenly from whatever cause.
To be blunt, that sucks. We are left with three choices: 1) Try to believe the afterlife fairy tales of some religions, or 2) Push hard for immortality as I promote in Destiny, or 3) Hang our heads and accept oblivion. Now be honest, do you feel okay about losing conscious awareness forever, via simple oblivion? Do the religions provide anything at all meaningful in their projections of an afterlife, or is it all vague, control oriented hand waving? Can you think of a better alternative if you have a choice? We have the native capacity to create that choice, not immediately, but also not very far into our future.
I find no comfort in mindless obvious statements about everybody (and every thing) dying. Of course that is true up to now. So what? Does that make it desirable or something that must be meekly accepted? If we have the choice, do we want that reality to continue for we humans? Why? Are we incapable of facing and defeating resulting issues from creating immortality? Can we not grow up and engineer our own future?
Well, to be painfully honest, there are no guarantees regarding the future. But it was exactly my perception of our seemingly timeless stupidity in using the gift of life that caused me to write Destiny! That has not changed. The only viable, ongoing and contributive change of relevance is the world of the physical sciences and what the scientists continue to learn, expanding our knowledge, and offering alternatives to our weaknesses.
That is not a gift to be ignored or in any sense diminished. It is hard won ability to improve the human condition. It is our only proven method to overcome our weaknesses. And yes, I am pissed off that I was born a bit too early.
Okay ... This article is simply a Part One of what I propose to create to track my experiences and feelings and analyses in the next year or so as I address the reality of my cancer. My goal is to provide a chronology and breadth of topic coverage that might be useful to those who read my articles. In fact, this is a real opportunity for me to do exactly the kind of hopeful contribution to help my fellow humans to deal with life realities in rational and creative ways.
I hope you personally find my thoughts to be valuable to you in understanding, for better or for worse, the realities of the world in which we live, along with my hope and ideas that we can change that world for the better ... virtually completely through the contributions of the hard physical sciences, not via socialistic or religious bullshit, or the lying crap from bankers and corporate heads. And never, let me repeat ... Never do we allow the opinions of the truly ignorant to in any way impact what we do to engineer an advanced human society. That time worn idea is as dumb as the people who are in that very large proportion of "society." They never will be other than sheep led by their noses by bullshitters. One might as well give dogs and birds and bugs the right to vote along with our human fools.
Enough for now. I look forward to sharing my coming experiences to help all of us get a better feel for the realities of "treating our cancers." In my next article I will backtrack to address the question of, "Why does it take so long to initially diagnose cancers, such that they are already in advanced stages before they are acknowledged, leading to far lower success rates in treatments? Just what is wrong with the practice of medicine in the world of Primary Care Physicians, Urgent Care Centers and Hospital Emergency Rooms? Why is that so?