It is hard to believe that a month has passed and it is time to check on the cancer again. My labs returned today and once again, my major cancer markers are normal. This is not a cure, but a sign that the chemo is working very well. My labs also showed a jump in my renal function (eGFR going from 32 to 37 and normal being over 60). This improvement in renal function may be a fluke but it is welcomed.
I have been slowly dialing back on my chemo, dropping to 1/2 the original dose on Monday, after a 25% drop the previous 4 weeks. This has lifted me out of the terrible 12 weeks when it was a great effort to get out of bed and to stay out. Pardon my French, but I felt like dog shit 24/7. I’m not back to where I was before I started this program, but it is much better than it was. I hope as time goes on, this new lower dose will allow my energy to return.
With all of this good news, the one gray cloud in my demin sky is that I’m finding myself struggling with a serious bout of depression. Why? I can only guess. In postpartum depression, why does a woman with a beautiful new baby want to kill herself? There are biochemical guesses for her (based on research), though on the surface it appears irrational.
For me, living for three months feeling horrible didn’t help. Also, the program I’m on, with a pulse of high dose steroids once every two weeks (was weekly) can cause extreme mood swings. One of the chemotherapy drugs that I’m on has a notorious record for causing mood problems including depression. But I’m somewhat lost my will to live and that is needed to keep up this cancer fight. But I will talk more about this below, if you are interested in that back story. But, the news today is otherwise good.
Thanks for your interest and support,
Let me give my typical warning. I am a candid writer and have always have been. I talk openly about emotions and always have. My honesty in writing is not a function of having cancer. I do realize that many people do not talk openly about emotions, especially men, because it makes us look weak. I am weak. Cancer is not making me weak, as I have always been this way and I’ve made a conscious effort to speak honestly.
While I have had periods of my life of depression, like I suspect most people do, especially after a personal loss, my life has not been defined by a chronic struggle with depression. Maybe anxiety at times. I don’t know why I feel seriously depressed beyond what I’ve mentioned in the above section. lt is built around an overwhelming feeling of worthlessness. I feel deeply that I bring nothing to the table anymore. To my family, I feel that I am nothing more than barnacles on the hulls of their otherwise pristine ships. This especially applies to Denise. She will say that it is warped thinking. I try to keep my cancer and how I feel to myself as not to burden my family anymore than I have already. It may be more warped thinking, but I sense that I have worn out my support structures.
At times I’ve seriously considered quitting all my treatments and let nature take its course. But as a coward, I know that death by Multiple Myeloma is an arduous course with months of suffering. It is strange that I’m thinking this way, as I’ve had conversations recently with cancer patients who were taking this course of “suicide by cancer” and I tried to talk them out of it. And, my chemo is working. So it is irrational. Cancer-war fatigue, maybe?
I have also found my cruelty tolerance has been worn thin. That might sound strange but we all face cruelty in our everyday lives. But with so much energy fighting this dragon within my marrow, when people are cruel to me, I just can’t deal with it the way I could in a healthy state of mind. For example I have had a terrible time getting my chemo from the Walgreens’ Speciality Pharmacy. One week I was on the phone with them every day, sometimes for an hour. By the end of the week, I lost it. I cried for an hour and had suicidal thoughts. I share this not for the dramatic effect, but to explain the seriousness of the problem.
After a very difficult week in Minnesota, I have tried to renew my energy to fight this battle, the cancer battle and the emotional battle. For Denise’s sake, if not mine.
I do believe in mental health professionals, and I did have one visit with a psychiatrist early in my diagnosis, I don’t want to go that route again just yet. First of all, I do not want more medications in my body which is like a toxic waste dump already. Besides, the medicine I have to take for sleep is an old-school antidepressant (mirtazapine). Also, mindfulness therapy, which most local mental health professionals use, or spiritual mysticism, or meditation, does not appeal to me, although cognitive therapy is very helpful for me. I may look into the later if things don’t improve via my first steps.
When people talk of meditation, to think of one hand clapping in the forest might work for some people, but that does not float my boat. But I feel that every moment of my life is soaked in cognitive meditation and prayer. So it is very unnatural for me to think of either of those things as an exercise.
I was thinking/meditating on solutions for me, and I reflected on the things that have helped my mood in the past, besides interactions with other people, has been well-done classical music, other fine arts, and mathematics. I have never felt closer to God than in the middle of a great museum of fine art. I was brought to tears in the hall of Dutch Realism at the Louvre in Paris. I have never felt closer to God than in the middle of a fine piece of classical music performed by a great orchestra. The same is true of listening to a lecture on higher math, such as string theory or the Fibonacci spiral. But Protagoras suggested that music and math are the same, didn’t he?
So, today I got a good headset and later tonight I will start downloading classical music. I hope to listen to it day and night for a week or so. I love lectures on science and math and will intensify my viewing of those things. As always I will bathe my days in prayer. I will look to scripture for insights, especially the psalms. If my energy and pain improves, that would be a big help as well.
I’ve rambled long enough, but this was the rest of the story. But speaking of rambling, I want to return to making this blog back to what it was intended, about writing. I will still do health updates here, about once a month unless there are new developments. I want to avoid articles on politics or religion. However, I do have the intention of writing one long (two part) article on the problem of Young Earth Creationists. I may write other articles on the war against truth that’s going on in America right now. Again, when I say “truth” I’m not talking about a specific religious or political truth but the classical sense of that which is consistent with reality.
I think my poor mood has kept me from doing podcast for a while, but I will return to that format for my more controversial topics, to cut down on my hate mail when I post those topics as written articles here.
7 responses to “Health Update: 8/17/22”
Was glad to see you and Denise made the trip to Minnesota and family. They are good support for both of you!
Thanks for sharing Mike, sorry for your pain
Good news on the cancer front. I feel for you on the depression front= I’ve been fighting a lot of that lately. Since I hurt my hip in Dec, I have taken THREE walks. I feel like I’m living on memories, not sure if I’ll ever have more. I’ve dropped by your house a couple of times, but no one was home, would love to get together with you. Dann – 466-8792.
I’m so glad to hear your cancer markers indicate remission and pray they continue and you are able to keep lowering your doses of chemo. Battling any tenacious and serious disease is physically and mentally exhausting. Adding in the chemo cocktails and their affects is undoubtedly a double whammy on your body’s brain chemistry. You seem to be on track about knowing what to do to help yourself via prayer, music and fine art but you are definitely selling yourself short when it comes to measuring your worth and ability to contribute. Dr. Moren and I were recently commenting on what a bright, talented and kind man you are and how much we both prayed you would be able to enjoy life as you choose. It seems we focus so much on our roles in life related to our jobs and careers that we we automatically look upon our innate gifts, acquired talents, and learned skills outside of our career as something less. I only wish I had as many of these as you. You have made learning, traveling, serving and healing your life’s goals and you’re very accomplished. Keep writing, keep hiking, keep conversing, keep journaling, keep challenging yourself and most of all keep looking for the humor in your everyday. You have a large group of family and friends who benefit greatly just by you being, you!
Praying often for you,
Former patient and fellow cancer battler
I’m praying Mike! For both you and Denise.
Glad to hear the good results, but sorry that it’s been so hard on you. I really hope things improve with your mood/depression. Looking forward to your articles on young earth creationists.
Thanks Mike for your deeply honest sharing – such an extremely challenging space you’re in. I’m also sorry to hear that your trip to Minnesota was so difficult. Thinking of you and Denise and holding you in my thoughts and close to my heart. May the depth and beauty of music and nature assist in upholding and sustaining you.