Andrew did not get released on Friday as we hoped. Nor did he get released on Saturday or Sunday. But finally today, AMC has decided that he is well enough to be discharged. It's been a bit draining for us because it was all so unexpected -- shades of Westchester days. We got a little overexcited about his revised diagnosis and forgot that cancer is ridiculously unpredictable -- anything can happen at any time. Chemo is very hard on the body -- the organs, the central nervous system, the circulatory system, everything. And the more treatments you receive, the harder it gets. Though the cancer is lessening, the body gets weaker from the toxic load -- the "cumulative effect". Andrew needed an unbelievable amount of blood support over the last week -- I've actually lost count, but i think he received 6 units of red blood cells, 4 or 5 units of platelets, and nightly injections of neupogen to stimulate the white blood cells. Plus countless bags of antibiotics, and cups full of pills every morning. It's exhausting just to watch -- I can't imagine what it must be like to actually endure it.
Many cancer sufferers and their loved ones don't actually identify with a lot of the "rah-rah" sentiments you generally see in the media. Andrew and I talk about hoping for a cure, but never about "beating" cancer. I'm also pretty sure that when this is over, I'll never describe him as a "survivor". That kind of talk has never really resonated with us -- cancer is not a competitive sport, you see. It's going to kill you if it can -- no matter how many vitamins you took, or veggies you ate, despite your resources or positive attitude.
It is an unspeakable disease that robs you of your health, your home and family life, your money, your peace, and subjects you to every fear and indignity you can imagine. If you're lucky, current therapies and protocols can stop it, slow it, or eradicate it. And hopefully, the treatment itself doesn't cause more problems, such as related infections, or leave you with a weakened heart, nervous system, or the myriad other complications that can arise. Andrew will be getting scans and blood tests, probably for the rest of his life. We are forever changed by this experience, despite good chances for "survivor" status. And when the treatment is done we won't feel like champions, only gratitude that we somehow managed to eke out a few more days and years with each other and our kids.
There are a few slogans I do like, (in case you feared that I am totally humorless). I like "Cancer Sucks", which is written on the bracelets my sister got for us. Short and to the point. Because it really does suck.
I also like "Love Kills Cancer", which I saw on a t-shirt, because while love doesn't really "kill" cancer, it absolutely makes it suck a hell of a lot less.