Monday, November 23, 2015

I hate Cancer!

     Cancer.  A word everyone has heard in one way or another and many of us have had to deal with, either directly or through someone we know.  It is a word that strikes fear in all of us, a word we never want to hear from our doctor.  And yet, we all hear the word "cancer" so often that we can become dulled to the fear that stupid word can carry.  That is until we hear it in our personal lives.
     Two years after I was diagnosed with AIDS, in 2004, I was told that I needed to have surgery and biopsies to see if I had anal cancer.  Sure enough, lots of precancerous areas and cells were found and removed.  Since then I have had more than a dozen surgeries to remove the precancerous cells and abnormal anal tissue and to make sure the disease is not spreading or becoming invasive.  It has been painful and debilitating, especially since I also suffer from chronic diarrhea.  It is never pleasant but I deal with it.  The surgeries are always better than the alternative.  My next surgery happens to be next month.  Yippee!
     My really healthy husband has also had cancer, colon cancer.  A spot was found during a routine colonoscopy.  It was biopsied, found to be cancerous and removed.  It was caught early and all cancer was removed without any problem.  So far, his cancer has not returned.  We are the lucky ones.
     A little over a year ago, I was informed that one of my brothers, the fourth child out of five in our family, was in the hospital and was dying of lung cancer.  Even though it was not a huge surprise, he smoked much of his life and did not take great care of himself, it was still difficult to go through the loss of a sibling when he was still relatively young.  It was difficult to know he had to suffer and die from cancer.  It was also difficult to know that his children and grandchildren had to suffer the loss of their father and grandfather.  Cancer took him when he was too young to die.
     Now, I have learned that a second brother is in the hospital, again dying of cancer.  From what I understand, he has been given a couple of months to live.  The cancer has spread throughout his body and is considered "incurable".  This time it is more of a shock since this brother has taken care of his health and previous cancers have been found and been taken care of, various cancers he has fought since his childhood.  It is a shock to know that a man so full of life and energy has to go through this awful thing, has to suffer and die from cancer.  Again, it will be terribly difficult to know that his wife, son and his grandchildren (and the rest of us who know and love him) will be without him from this point on.  And of course it is difficult to know that he will probably be the second of my mother's children to pass away before she does.  How do you tell a mother with sever dementia that her middle child is dying, the second child in less than two years?   Again, cancer is taking him from us too soon, he is much too young.
     Cancer.  I hate that word and all the questions that go with it.  Will there ever be a cure?  As long as someone is making huge profits from the treatment of cancer (or HIV/AIDS, diabetes, insert disease here) will anyone ever be allowed to find a cure? Someday, will we learn we do not have to fear that word?  Someday, will there be a chance that cancer can be prevented?  Cancer.  Will the world ever forget there was such a thing?
     I am saddened and shocked by the latest cancer news in my family.  I am scared due to the fact I might have a higher risk of cancer because of HIV/AIDS.  And I am angry that cancer exists at all and that a cure seems a lifetime away.  And I am furious that cancer will take another person I have known all my life, a brother I have admired, respected and loved.  A man who is a brother, a son, a husband and father, a grandfather, a friend and a neighbor.  And I am pretty sure this will not be the last time I hear that word.  
     Cancer.  I really HATE that word!!!

Monday, November 16, 2015

End of an Era or, It was Fun While It Lasted

     From the middle of September to the middle of October, Jim and I went on another cruise adventure.  We always have enjoyed traveling on cruise ships mainly because of the fact that our room travels with us.  That way, if I am not feeling well or am exhausted, I can easily rest.  An added bonus, watching the sea pass by and change every day is always relaxing and interesting.  This last trip was different, in addition to the usual photos, memories, gifts and souvenirs, we brought home something that will probably change our travel from now on.
     The cruise we were on was a repositioning cruise that would bring the ship from Europe to the US for the winter season.  These types of cruises are favorites of ours because we not only see fantastic sights in Europe, we cross the Atlantic ocean.  This cruise we traveled around the British Isles, cruised to the Azores then across the ocean to Florida.  We saw so many wonderful things and we went to places I have always wanted to see.  The first half of the trip was perfect.
     Then things took a turn.  It started with a shingles outbreak.  I always can tell when I am about to get an outbreak of shingles, I have had enough to know.  The shingles told me that my body was under stress.  The stress turned out to be physical stress of trying to overcome an illness that was running through the passengers on the ship.  I very quickly realized that I was very sick.  I spent two sea days in bed, not eating and trying to sleep off my fever, coughing and congestion.  I tried hard to get back to my friends and family who were traveling with us.  As we crossed the ocean, I rested and took antibiotics to help me get well.  But I didn't.
     By the time we reached Florida I thought I was feeling better.  The warm sunshine seemed to re-energize me.  When we flew home, I thought I was over the bug that I caught weeks before.  Then, within a couple of days of being home, I once again began feeling awful.  I had a slight fever and no appetite.  And worse, what ever this bug was, it began to travel from my lungs to my sinuses.  After days of this, I went to a doctor who diagnosed a sinus infection and prescribed a strong course of antibiotics.  These antibiotics may have fought the bug but they also caused the worst diarrhea I have ever had (and I have had a lot).  And still I felt like crap (literally)...  After I was done with the antibiotics I thought I was getting better.  That was until my right ear plugged and I lost hearing.  I went to an ENT who diagnosed an ear infection and because of the pressure in my ear, he poked a hole in my ear drum and sent me home with antibiotic ear drops.  And still I didn't get well.  Again I went to a doctor who again put me on antibiotics.  This time, I started to feel better.
     I had emailed my sister from the cruise on October 8th saying that I was sick.  It is now over a month since that email.  The bug seems finally to be losing it's grip but I am weak and always tired.  I have lost over 10 pounds and all my energy plus I have lost the will to leave the house.
     This was not the first time I have gotten sick on a long cruise.  The stress of getting to the ship, being in a closed environment on an airplane, spending time with people who cough into their hands then refuse to wash them (proving that money does not buy class) and then the closed environment on the tour busses.  All these things contribute to the risk of getting sick.  And, because of my compromised immune system, I usually end up sick.  This time however, the illness was the worst and I finally realized that this type of travel was not good for my health. 
     So, now I am still at home recovering and I wonder if travel will ever be an option for me.  I will always be afraid of becoming ill and not being able to enjoy travel.  And, of course, illness is not a souvenir I want ever again.  I am depressed and sad, I am afraid and scared.  I really want to see more of the world with the man I love and yet, is it worth my health?  Will I spend the rest of my life at home, wishing I was traveling somewhere else?  Maybe time will ease my fears and maybe not.  For now, I have photos and memories and a wonderful man to share them with!

The politics of the day.

     As most of you may know, my political affiliation leans strongly to the left, more liberal side.  Although I do not believe in everythi...