Time on Fire – last book club disucssion

Sorry for the late post – too many things piling up including working on my 18 page presentation for the drug company meeting in Las Vegas.  On the positive side I thought of a fix for my Cancer Blogs page just as I was falling alseep on Friday.  I tried it in the morning and it worked!  I have added about 20 more blogs over the weekend.  Readership was way up today.

I continue to be impressed with Evan Handler’s writing ability, especially at dissecting his own reponses to his illness.  The more I read the book, the more I tend to believe the author when he wrote me that he did not exaggerate his experience for effect.  I am glad that he found his experience at Johns Hopkins to be an enlightened one.  Because of Johns Hopkins and their transplant program, he is able to put the Sloan-Kettering experience in perspective.  I think that he catalogues familiar experiences for all us cancer survivors.  What seemed particular true was his experience of being put on wards that are unfamiliar with the kinds of precautions that transplant patients require if they are too survive.

It is sad that he needed to be so vigilant about his own care.  Even when he is on the unit at the cancer hospital, one that should be knowledgable about neutrapenic precautions, he must be on guard.  Staff vigilance has been compromised by poor training and unreasonable work loads.  And the staff does not like to be second-guessed.  The idea that some overworked staff members think that 30 seconds is enough to get an accurate reading with a glass mercury thermometer is downright scarey.

I think another area where the book excells is being able to recognise the cost of his illness in terms of social relationships, personal development, and the struggle to reenter the world.  His new oncologist talks to him about that “loss of innocence.”

His treatment of his new-born’s immune system is instructive and remonds me of the difficulty I still have fending off viral infections fully five years after my transplant.  The ongoing, periodic ritual of having “counts drawn” will also find sympathy among this blog’s readers.

It was gratifying to read that he and his former girfriend, Jackie, are still close.  One gets the sense that their relationship would have either not gotten as deep or else would have thrived more fully were it not for the struggle that they both endured in battling his disease.  But we are sure that the relationship had no other course to follow than the one it did.

The perils of survivorship are nicely drawn out.  The particular aversion to funerals and even news of the untimely deaths of friends that fill one with both dread and a sense of guilt reminds us of our own too-close brush with death.  His conversation with a friend who has a rapidly accelerating case of cancer, suddenly thrusting him into the role of sympathetic friend, makes us squirm with empathy and recognition.

Next Month’s SelectionLisa’s Story: the other shoe by Tom Batiuk – a graphic memoir


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.

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