Week 2 Book Club Discussion – The Last Lecture

Sorry for this late posting.  I had the girls early this morning then I needed to take my mother to the doctor’s office.  Once more I am helped out in our Book Club discussion by Christine Lynds, writing in her own blog The Edge of Light.

In the beginning of this section Randy has met his pancreatic cancer head-on, asking for the most difficult treatments available. He seems to be in remission. But at a follow-up visit, he discovers not only has he relapsed but has extensive metastases. If you have dealt with relapse or metastasis, how did it feel? How did you deal with it?

Christine:  I used to think that if the cancer came back that I wouldn’t be able to cope, that I would curl up in the fetal position and cease to function, that I would get stuck in what I call ‘the dark side’. And I did just that for awhile. But that gets boring and miserable after awhile, so eventually I just put one foot in front of another and continued to move forward.

Dennis:  For me relapse was like the other shoe finally dropping.  I had been told by a t-cell researcher to expect relapse despite Campath treatment.  After being cancer-free for 26 months, the news came almost as a relief from the anxiety.  We followed remission with consolidation by transplant.  I am 5 years out from that.  It’s the next relapse, if it comes, that I really fear.

In ‘The Man in the Convertible” he relates how difficult it is to judge just how well you are doing emotionally when you are in the midst of your struggle with cancer. How did you make that determination?

Christine:Sometimes I wonder why I haven’t become a basket case during this journey. (Well… I have had my days…). But for the most part I think I am dealing with it better than I have with some earlier non-life threatening crises in my life. Is age and maturity a factor? Am I in denial? I’m not sure why I am coping as well as I am and sometimes feel like I’m holding my breath, waiting for the crash.

Dennis:  In a way I was a better person during the first year of my illness.  I was more open, more accepting, more outgoing with people.  Partly from the isolation of being disabled, I have withdrawn and fallen back into old habits.  Not actively practicing nursing I am less inclined and have less opportunity to interact.  This blog has been a blessing in the sense that I have to reach out.

In “Jai” Randy relates that his wife kept her own journal and that it helped her deal with all those “little” issues that can nag a relationship. Has your partner tried a journal? or something else that helped? She also found that having conversations with other caregivers helped. Does reading other blogs help your spouse or just make it more difficult?

Christine: I don’t think my family members write journals and I’m not sure how much they have talked to others about it. I did arrange for my mother to meet with a social worker that I know at the cancer clinic and I think that was very helpful. My son tells me he doesn’t read my blog often because he finds it better to deal with it in chunks, rather than on a daily basis. Living in Europe (I’m in Ottawa and he’s in the Netherlands) has made it especially difficult for him.

I know that my mom has a hard time reading my blog at times and I’m pretty certain that my family does not read other blogs. Being relatively private people, I suspect my family is a bit mystified at why I would choose to share my feelings in such a public forum, but they support me in dealing with things in a way that is most helpful to me.
Dennis:  I hope you all had a chance to read my recent post “Rememberances of Weddings Past” in which I talk about relationship issues and cancer.
Now it’s your chance to post comments on the book ….
Next reading assignment: a short assignment this week, just 25 pages.  Part IV “Enabling the Dreams of Others”
Discussion questions: What are your general impressions of the book so far?  How did this section compare with the previous sections?  What about the emotional tone?  How did Randy impress you as a teacher and mentor?


About Dennis Pyritz

Dennis W. Pyritz, RN, BA, BSN, has been a cancer nurse since 1987 and a cancer and bone marrow transplant survivor since 2004. In December 2001 he was diagnosed with t-cell prolymphocytic leukemia (T-PLL), a rare aggressive form of chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL). Dennis was treated with the then new monoclonal antibody, alemtuzumab (Campath) as this disease has a median survival of 7.5 months. He achieved a 26 month remission but relapsed in February 2004. He was retreated with Campath and went into a second remission. In August 2004 he underwent an allogeneic peripheral blood stem cell transplant with his brother, Mark, as donor. Dennis has remained in remission since - a near miracle. Throughout his career as cancer nurse and patient, Dennis has had the opportunity to speal to both lay and professional groups. Dennis has spoken on cancer topics and survival issues across the country as well as in the United Kingdom, Norway, Austria, Portugal, Honduras, Panama, Guatemala, Trinidad, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Cyrpus, Israel, and India.


Week 2 Book Club Discussion – The Last Lecture — 2 Comments

  1. Hi Denis, Thanks for stopping by my page. I love the book club idea. I’m going to try to follow along, but this title hasn’t caught my attention. I’ll try for the groups sake. Resilence by Elizabeth Edwards and Always looking up are on my “to read” list too, just for the future.

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