Monday, February 28, 2011

Living with It

The Huffington Post featured a column last week by a man named Paul Stoller, an anthropology professor and Follicular NHL survivor, called "Living with Cancer."  Stoller was diagnosed with fNHL 10 years ago and went through chemo, and has been in remission since then.

He writes about how he feels when people say he "beat it."  I don't think any cancer patient ever feels like it's been totally beaten -- there's always that danger that it will come back. For someone like Stoller (and like me), it's even harder to say that, given the nature of Follicular NHL -- it keeps coming back. Stoller wrote a book about his experience, relating it to his anthropological research in Africa, where he worked with a traditional healer. The experience taught him how to live with his cancer. I'd never heard of the book before, but it sounds fascinating. (See his column for a link to the book on Amazon.)

In the Huffington article, Stoller says that being in remission is like being "a defendant in court, waiting for what seems like a life or death verdict -- not an easy place to be." Interesting metaphor. I've felt at times like someone in a bar, having a good time, but noticing someone in the corner who has had a few too many and is looking for a fight. In most bars, you can just get up and leave, but in this bar, you're stuck -- you can't leave. You know the fight is coming, and you know your friends aren't far away if you need them to come and help, but you're not sure they'll get there in time. If you've ever been in that situation in a bar (and I'll bet lots of people have, or something like it), you know how uncomfortable it feels.

Stoller says he was asked once if he thought often about having cancer, and he said "Every day." I'm with him there. Like Stoller, I don't dwell on it every day, but I do think about it -- planning or researching or writing a bog entry, checking in with the support group -- it's hard not to think about it every day. I don't know if that's a Follicular thing, or a cancer thing, but I don't think it's a bad thing (something else I share with Stoller). Why not? Read what Stoller has to say and you'll find out.

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