Are you guys kidding? It says something about the state of the science in regard to almost all cancers that it is just about the scariest diagnosis anyone can get. Not that there aren't other diseases of age that are equally fraught but we are culturally conditioned to more or less freak out when cancer is mentioned.
I recall thinking when I was quite young, in my twenties I suppose, that I wouldn't need to worry about cancer because it mostly affects old people and by the time I got there, surely science would have learned how to prevent or cure it.
Yes. Well. It didn't work out that way. But I wonder if people of our age expected it to have been so because science was so successful in the 20th century creating vaccines for most of the diseases of childhood: measles, mumps, chicken pox, small pox, diphtheria, whooping cough, polio, etc.
That happened in our lifetimes and is an astonishing achievement – moreso for those of us old enough to remember quarantine signs on homes of neighbors afflicted with one of those diseases before the vaccine was created.
My point, however, is that no one's life-threatening disease is better or worse than another person's. Besides the disease and the (sometimes awful) treatment, we bring our personal histories to these frightening events, our hopes and fears, our spiritual beliefs or lack thereof.
All these and more affect how we face frightening events which therefore cannot, nor should not be compared one to another.
CHEMOTHERAPY AND SOCIAL WORKERS
A social worker connected with the clinic where I will receive my chemotherapy treatments telephoned to discuss what her department can do for me.
She said that they are there to help with just about any practical or emotional issues that come up – that over the years, they have seen pretty much everything from something as simple (to them) as arranging transportation to prescriptions, often anti-anxiety medications.
Until she mentioned that last item, I hadn't realized how important it is to me to feel what I feel and how adamant I am about it.
As I mentioned last week, I have good days and bad days but I see both as learning opportunities and it has been my experience throughout my life that almost always the bad times, painful as they can be, are more enlightening than good times, as enjoyable and important as the latter kind are.
POST-WHIPPLE PROCEDURE DIET
Healthy eating is deeply embedded in my daily life. Not that I don't indulge in ice cream now and then but generally, I eat mounds of vegetables and fruit along with fish, seafood and very occasionally, lamb – my favorite of the red meats; I don't miss the others.
Then, along came the Whipple Procedure during which they removed a good portion of my pancreas. Since then, my pancreas does not create enough of the enzymes that are required to digest food properly and I must take a pill to replace those enzymes with every meal.
As it turns out, that's the easy part.
Almost all vegetables – at least for the time being – are verboten for their high fiber content. I'm making sandwiches with white bread now, no whole grains allowed.
I'd been worried about the lack of green things in my diet until I discovered that certain lettuces, cucumbers and zucchini among a few others are low fiber although I need to peel the latter two to keep the fiber content as low as possible.
Most fruit is okay as long as they are peeled too, except, as a nurse noted to me, for grapes and cherries (in high season now and at their best) should be avoided because they are damned hard to peel.
Protein is important so that foods I ate sparingly in the past because of their high calorie count are now essential: peanut butter, cheeses, pasta – but the white kind, not whole grain.
A danger with cancer and the Whipple is weight loss so I am also encouraged to eat anything that is high in calories – ice cream is no longer a no-no but here's the rub: I'm hardly ever hungry and have to force feed every meal. By the time I get to dessert, two or three spoons of ice cream is all I can handle. (This from a woman who, until two months ago, believed a serving of ice cream is a pint.)
There is more but you get the idea.
My entire way of eating has been upended. It is more important right now to allow foods high in calories and avoid those that are hard to digest. I'm still learning how to cook this new way and have not ventured out to a restaurant yet.