Cancer Survivor

I’ve been had!


November 18, 2009

“I’ve been had” is a phrase from the 1800’s that means to get someone under one’s power or to place another person at a disadvantage. The expression employs the verb “to have” in the past tense. Dictionary.com says it means to be outwitted, cheated, or deceived. Perhaps some of you made a bad investment…maybe not the likes of Bernie Madoff’s ponzi scheme. But, you put your precious nest egg in the hands of someone who took full advantage of you. When the dividends didn’t come pouring in, you knew you’d “been had.”

Another phrase that merely swaps the words and tense “has been” means something a little different. A “has been” describes someone who has outlived their fame. The slang version suggests that someone’s light has “burned out.” During the 80’s Paul Ruebens, aka Pee Wee Herman became a big hit through his T.V. show Pee Wee’s Playhouse and his movie Pee Wee’s Big Adventure. But in July 1991, after deciding to take a couple of years’ sabbatical from showbiz Pee-wee, Reubens, was arrested for indecent exposure in an adult theater in Sarasota, Florida. From that moment on Paul Rueben became a “has been.” He’s yet recovered the fame and fortune of his past.

These terms don’t apply to me, technically. But I feel like a victim of the verb “have” as it shifted into past tense. I take umbrage with word “had.” Today, in my treatment of cancer, I passed the Rubicon of “I have cancer” to “I had cancer.” For the last six months, I’ve been thrust into the “cancer club.” You don’t join it voluntarily. But once you’re diagnosed something profound happens. Almost immediately you flip into the “fight or flight” mode. Me, I landed into fight making crazy moves the likes of Trinity from the Matrix. I threw all my physical fortitude, mental metal, and spiritual underpinnings to meet cancer head-on. And I was playing to win. All of my internal mechanisms shifted into high alert. Because I was “on guard” I really didn’t take the time or energy to emote, wallow, whine, or worry. I saved that energy for the battle.

At 9:00 on November 17th 2009, I had my last chemo. My CA-125 cancer marker is ridiculously low and everything other indicator has risen to the challenge. While the nurse was prepping my port, I began to weep. To Skip and Sherry it probably looked like a teary response to the injection of lidocaine, the awful tasting saline flush, the insertion of the port connection, or IV of poison beginning to drip in my veins. But it wasn’t any of those. I was ready to seriously sob because I couldn’t believe that this was the end. It felt so surreal. Somewhere along the journey I had adapted. Cancer treatment became my “new normal” But after today I would have to learn to live in wellness once again. I pondered, “Can I really let my guard down? “Is this really the end?” “Will another shoe drop?” “What now?”

I confided in the nurse about my feelings. She said, “You’re response is very common. Most people struggle with putting cancer behind them or in the past. It’s a real paradigm shift. Also, we’ve been your safety net. You could face this disease because you had a team fighting with you. Today you go home to finish the healing on your own.” What a weird sensation. She was right. The very thing I dreaded 6 months ago…walking into a chemo treatment center…was now a thing that had brought comfort and healing. I suppose the sensation is similar to soldiers in battle. They learn to live at the “code red” alertness level. They must run on adrenaline for their entire tour of duty. They develop and enjoy comrades in arms with whom they sympathize, draw strength, and derive comfort. But when it’s time to go home they are expected to shift seamlessly back into a calm civilian life. Come on, it has to tweak with their minds and emotions…just like me.

This week a good friend, author and speaker Ken Mansfield, told Skip something that really comforted me. Ken joined the cancer club right as I did. Although he fought a more virulent colon cancer with radiation as his treatment. He said, “Tell Lenya that cancer is the little “c,” but Christ is the big “C.” How profound. Believe me, that’s where I will throw my energy, my transition, my future! Jesus Christ was my comrade in arms and now He’ll be the comforting arms I will find my rest. He walked with me through the hospital. Now He will now walk me safely back to my home sweet home.

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Cancer Survivor

Long Time, No Chat


It’s been a couple a weeks since my last update. The colonoscopy confirmed that I have two cysts, about the size of a walnut, growing in my abdomen near the incision site. At first the doctors thought that another major surgery was inevitable. Admittedly, the news shocked our family. I remember, with acute detail, the pain and recovery that the first surgery entailed (just months ago). The Heitzig household geared up for round two. Nate, Janae, and Skip all offered to take turns at the hospital and for home convalescing. I’m blessed to have such support. But my radiologist and surgeon conferred and determined that a less invasive procedure could remedy the situation. A long thing needle will be inserted through my hip region to aspirate the cysts. Thankfully, they’re located in an accessible area. Hopefully, this will relieve all my symptoms and allow the docs to do a biopsy without an incision. Whew!