Lucky Socks

Posted on: Sun, 04/16/2023 - 16:54 By: journeyadmin
Another watercolour sunrise


If there is one thing cancer is, it is complex. Understanding that complexity feels like the hockey player who won't change their socks. They are winning  and are afraid that changing anything might upset the delicate balance.

We were ten minutes into our usual banter before I realized that my oncologist hadn't shared the results of the latest scan. There is no change in the visible scarring from the radiation. No new tumours. The cloudiness in the spleen seen on the last scan has cleared up. All is good on the tumour front.  Then he said, "In oncology we have a rule of thumb - don't change it if it is working."  

I had ridden my bike over to the hospital lab for my blood test the day before. It was a beautiful sunny day. So there was a wee bit more rash than usual.  I got a lecture about sun screen.

Remarkably unremarkable. And that is unusual. I've had a few conversations about how many people are on this drug for this long. The answer is not many. The side effects trifecta - tumour progression, rash or diarrhea gets most folks after about two years. And the thing is that if there is progression and I have the T790M mutation (and that is a 50% chance) I get to go on a milder drug!

I'm on the same page as my oncologist when it comes to changes. Whatever it is that is working and keeping cancer at bay I want to keep doing it. But what is it? Is it my sleep habits? Is it my exercising? What about what I eat and my gut microbiome? Or is it my morning meditation practice? What about all the people praying for me? And the joy and peace of creativity, my painting and poetry.

That's where the lucky socks come in. When a hockey player is on a scoring streak they are afraid to change anything. Underwear, socks, breakfast cereal. It all stays the same. I'm a creature of habit but this is worse than that.

Let's start with running. I run three evenings a week. Five km. Actually 5.5 because the first time I ran five for time - I was a 100 meters short. Yeah that will never happen again. I change it up by running my route in reverse sometimes. That puts me on an uphill to begin but the rest is downhill until I have one last big hill to climb at the end. On other days I take a 100 meter walking break every kilometer. I try on those days to pick up the pace a bit. But my pace is stuck at around 6.5 minutes per km. My goal is to run a 30 minute 5K in June. Something has to change. But how to do it without giving myself an injury.

The real challenge though is the occasional day when I don't get my run. I wonder if my motivation is slipping. Did I sabotage myself. And is this the luck that is going to change everything?

Then there is hydration. I start my day with two sixteen oz glasses of water along with my morning coffee. But then I take two more with lunch and another one or two with supper. But I have this weird routine around my medication. I have to eat nothing for two hours prior and nothing for an hour after.

When I wake with a dry mouth between 1:30am and 3:00am, I drink a full glass of water and eat a digestive biscuit to prevent heartburn. I sleep two hours and take my medication with a swallow of water, usually around 5:00am . Then snooze another hour before beginning my day.

So is it my hydration?

What about this odd early morning medication? I take it with synthryoid which two years in I learned I wasn't supposed to do. It is another "take on an empty stomach medication. Is taking it in the morning why I don't have a lot of diarrhea or nausea? More questions.

I'm convinced my diet is important. My mantra for years has been lots of variety and moderation.  I do try and push protein a bit. I know that there is a pretty robust immune reaction going on constantly that is breaking down cells. I make jokes about my occasional  bouts of diarrhea.  If I stayed away from greasy and spicy foods I probably wouldn't have any.

When I have this "lucky socks " conversation with people,  they usually point to my positive attitude. Can I bottle that up and sell it? Probably not.  There is a lot of acceptance and I find that helping folks gives me a lot of reassurance.

Maybe it isn't positivity, but I am working hard on leading a life with vastly reduced stress. I write creatively and I paint. Is that the source? I sing in my church choir. I continue to take part in 12 step recovery programs. Where does my serenity come from? There is a deep spiritual awareness that I am not alone. But is it more than that?

And then I come to the old adage: Don't look a gift horse in the mouth. Speculating on what the magic is that is keeping me alive isn't all that productive. It is complex and perhaps beyond understanding.

As part of the Good Friday service last week, the minister asked us  to write down  a burden that I was carrying. I wrote "Learning to die."

I've been thinking a lot about Kafka's words "The meaning of life is that it ends." Some of you have heard me talk about "living while dying." Helping others, giving them someone to talk to, showing kindness. This is life and for me it has only come into focus as I contemplate the end.

Psalm 145: 21 
My mouth is filled with God’s praise.
   Let everything living bless him,
   bless his holy name from now to eternity!

This is what my Creator asks of me. In a world filled with ego and selfishness that I am loving and kind. Just as my Creator is to me.