The Inconvenience of Cancer

I should be in Ireland right now. Those were the plans Tish and I had made late in the summer. We would drive to Boston to visit with my oldest, Nathan and Coppelia, dropping off a truck-load of presents from the baby shower. From there we would fly to Paris, connecting to Shannon. But Life had other plans. An attack of H1N1 influenza left my immature immune system in disarray.

So if you count the 4-5 days of increasing lethargy and coughing before my temperature spiked, add the four days of fevered hospitalization, then consider the full week of slowly regaining strength and energy, I lost almost two and a half weeks during an atypically active period of my otherwise deliberate and plodding lifestyle.

What an inconvenience! My trip cancelled. Work on the blog interrupted. The garden calls out to be put to bed for winter. The outdoor playset we bought for the girls at a garage sale lies disassembled and only half restored. I have been too tired to read or do anything else constructive. The inconvenience of illness, of putting life on hold, leads all too easily to feelings of depression.

And yet this small though potentially serious illness was just a minor detour in the trajectory of my life. When I consider the audience that I am writing for, when I consider the depth and scope of the struggles and suffering that we, as survivors of cancer, have endured, then complaining about this minor H1N1 detour seems a weak and superficial exercise. But my fever was real, my delirium, my coughing spells, my fatigue, my nausea all impinged dramatically if only briefly on the past three weeks.

The episode serves are a reminder of what illness and disease can do to a life. If such a brief, acute episode of disease can throw us such a curve, then remember back (not so long ago for some) to that first, second or third bout with the Beast. It occurs to me that “inconvenience” is an understatement when applied to cancer. The word simply does not have enough power to convey the bulldozer effect of a diagnosis of cancer. Cancer, when it happens, is not a mere detour to inconvenience the forward progress of our lives. The road is closed. It may never open again.

All that I suffered and was despondent about the past few weeks represents but a kernel of what I went though in 2001 and again in 2004.  H1N1 was a shadow.  Leukemia was shock and awe.

Suffering is suffering, however great the degree.  You readers identified.  And I appreciate all the messages of encouragement and sympathy.  We are a community afterall.


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.


The Inconvenience of Cancer — 5 Comments

  1. Interesting post and very true. I was born with an illness. Cancer came later though someone with an hangnail might suffer as much.
    I hope you get to feeling better soon and can get on with some things you want to do that don’t involve illness.

  2. Sorry you didn’t get to make it to Ireland this time! As someone who lives 30 mins from Shannon airport, that would have been quite something to have you almost on my doorstep 🙂

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