Who Am I?

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A nobody; a nitwit; a pilot; a motorcyclist; a raconteur; a lover...of life - who loves to laugh, who tries to not take myself (or anything) too seriously...just a normal guy who knows his place in the universe by being in touch with my spiritual side. What more is there?

01 November 2008

The C - Word: Life's Funny Like That

Rule #1: Doctors don’t know shit about cancer. You can take that to the bank. It is an absolute truth.

In the 1980’s, my dad’s voice started becoming raspy. Doctors diagnosed him with non-cancerous “nodes” on his larynx. It was the years of smoking, they said, adding that he’d better quit that. Periodically he would go in and have the nodes removed. The doctors always assured him they were benign. “Not a cancer cell in your body, Mr. Barbanes!” they told him time and again.

Right up until the day they removed his larynx. Because, you know, it was cancer after all.

After the operation, the doctors were again confident. “Not a cancer cell in your body, Mr. Barbanes,” they assured him.

And then soon he had his prostate removed. Bang, just like that. In for a checkup today…“Oops, gotta schedule you for surgery, like, um, tomorrow.” I learned about it after the fact, it was done so quickly.

Well that wasn’t the end of it, of course. The surgeons had their way with him, cutting off bits that no man should ever lose...bits *I* hope never to lose, please, dear God!

The oncologists kept him coming back and back and back for more torture. Test after test was done – always on an outpatient basis. Many of them were severely debilitating, bordering on barbaric. Dad’s cancer got worse and worse. It was hard to watch, and I’m sure it must have been harder for him to go through it. But dad never complained. He gritted his teeth and soldiered on. It’s what men of his generation did.

None of their tests or procedures did anything positive. After a while, I got the impression that the doctors really were merely experimenting on him just to see what “might” work in his case. It was then that I realized that doctors don’t know shit about cancer. They don’t know what causes it, don’t know how it spreads, and obviously don’t know how to cure it. Worse, they don’t even know how to treat it.

I’ll spare you the details. Eventually they gave him six months, max. They suggested a short-term terminal care facility. We took him home, arranged for hospice care. Their prediction was just about right.

I bring this up because of a fellow blogger named Debby. The link to her blog, Life’s Funny Like That is over on the right. She is a wonderful writer, very funny and warm. She has an upbeat way of conveying things in such an intimate way that it’s almost like reading an email from a friend. Even better, she updates often – more often than me for sure. Definitely a blog worth subscribing to. If you do nothing else, read this hilarious story about how she found the family cat dead in the street. Someone who can make a story like that funny is a very, very good writer indeed.


Well it turns out that Debby has cancer. It started when she discovered a lump in her breast. Things happened very quickly from that point on. She’s had surgery and will endure a regimen of chemo and radiation therapy. Oh what fun.

There are already certain similarities in Debby’s journey and my father’s. After her initial operation and a PET/CT scan, the doctors told Debby that she was cancer-free. She was confident enough to blog, “I had cancer!” Had, as in past-tense. Reading those words made me wince. Remember rule number one. Privately, I wondered why they were putting her through chemo and radiation therapy if indeed she had - past tense - cancer?

Well of course there’s now another lump in the other breast. The cancer is not beaten after all. The visits to the various doctors continue, as will the various treatments with more urgency now. The doctors confer and conflict and consult and advise and hedge and do all the bullshit that doctors do when they’re pretending they actually understand what’s happening inside a human body on a cellular level or deeper. What she is going through right now is awful to read about. To get the full story, you should start reading around the beginning of September and read “up.” It’s enough to make you want to scream.

Debby is a strong woman with an equally strong faith. I know that ultimately she'll be okay, whatever the prognosis. She knows the score: We're all going to die some day - we'd all just like to put that off as long as we can if possible. I wish her the best. Nobody needs this kind of stress and upset in their life and the lives of their family members. But I fear the worst. Because like I said - all together now...


Doctors don’t know shit about cancer.

7 comments:

Redlefty said...

Cancer don't know shit about Debby yet, either!

I agree with your opinion about her blog -- it's one of my favorites.

Bob said...

Me too -- love Debby's blog. I get teary eyed laughing AND crying. And our friend Michael is right; if anyone can beat it, she can.

My dad had throat cancer similar to your dad, but had a better result. Was able to have only 1/2 his voice box removed and lived 30 years afterward.

Mom, however, had a different result with breast cancer. She died six months after her diagnosis. The treatment was tons worse than the disease and in retrospect I think she probably would have lived longer without the chemo. I wonder sometimes why the docs didn't level with us from the start but you have said it eloquently . . . they don't know shit.

Hal Johnson said...

It pays to remember that fifty percent of M.D.'s graduate in the bottom half of the class.

DAVID said...

And, they are only "Practicing Medicine"!

The only thing they know *Shit* about billing you to death.

As a child I watched my father go through it all as a young man. He died at 32 years old.

I made up my mind then, not going through it.

Guanaja Sharon said...

Cancer is vicious, cancer is ugly and Cancer, sometimes, can be beat. But anyone who has had it knows you must be "cancer free" for 5 years before they will say you have licked it. Heck, even then it reappears. So, it's not just the doctors. They try hard but they are dealing with something that has been around for a long, long time and has fooled everyone.
My daughter died at 35 of cancer but she made the mistake of stopping her yearly visits to the doctor for her PAP smear. Five years later - she had cancer but so progressed there was nothing to be done for her - as far as surgery.
I do give a lot of good votes for the people at Hospice - what an organization. The people that work with them are fantastic and some of the most caring people there are.
So, while doctors may not know everything about cancer, they are still plugging away trying their best to help people. I mean, they aren't out to kill your family, they are doing what they can with what they've got so give them a break. It is an ugly disease which causes pain for everyone and since you can't scream at a disease - hey, scream at your doctor.

Bob Barbanes said...

Sharon, I absolutely agree with you. The trouble is, doctors pretend that they know "something" about cancer, when in reality they know NOTHING. It is this arrogance that pisses me off. Then, if you even *try* to question them, they act like THEY are the expert and you just need to listen to them.

I make this vow: Should it ever come to it (God forbid!), I will never go through what they put my dad through.

Debby said...

Bob - well. Now you've made me cry. Again. It is what it is. I always find that it's best to stare straight into the eyes of the thing, and take stock of your enemy. What I've discovered is that I don't know shit about cancer either, and I'm learning as fast as I can. I have a bad, bad feeling as well, but you can only go from where you are. I wish that I'd have argued. I wish that I'd have picked my gowned self up from the table, backed away from the surgeon and his dye and said, "Oh, no, until we've got this one fucking detail agreed on, there will be no surgery!" I'm sick about it too. Every time I think about it, there is this fearful rush that all of this chemo is for nothing, and that I'll have to turn around and repeat the whole sequence. AND IT IS MY OWN FAULT!