Saturday, August 18, 2007

Announcing Bad News

Does Hallmark make greetings cards that say, “I’m sorry but I have cancer again. Thanks for your kind thoughts”? I don’t know how to go about telling everyone about this news because, frankly, it’s SUCH a downer! It’s not the kind of news you want to run out and announce to people you haven’t spoken to or seen in weeks, months, or even years. But I don’t want people to think I’m hiding it or trying to be private about it.

So back to the greeting card. Here’s what it should say:

Hello all. I’m sorry to tell you such bad news, but it appears the cancer has returned. I will have to start chemo again next week. The doctor says this is now a “chronic” condition and I can expect to be undergoing treatment for the rest of my life. There are a number of chemo drugs we haven’t tried yet, so the idea is that we’ll try each one, with the hope that each will keep me alive for a bit longer. The goal is to find the most effective drugs with the least side effects.

For now, we’ve decided to stay in Singapore for the treatment because it would cost too much in the U.S. We might return to the U.S. at some point to participate in clinical trials, but that might be some time away, after we’ve exhausted all the drug options we have available now.

It’s not all bleak. The cancer’s still confined to the chest, neck, arm areas and hasn’t spread to the brain or liver or bones, as far as we can tell. We’re still not sure about the lungs, so we’re going to get some second opinions about that next week.

My thinking is that we’ll try one drug, it’ll work for a year or so, then the cancer will start growing again, then we’ll try the next drug on the list and that’ll work for a year or so, and so on down the list and by the time we’ve gone through all the drugs, they’ll have developed new ones that will keep me alive for another year or so and by then, it will have been ten or more years and they’ll have found a cure. That’s the scenario I’m looking at. Optimistic, but perfectly realistic, given the rate at which cancer research is advancing, especially for breast cancer.

Some of you have already heard the news and have offered all sorts of help and support and for that, we’re really grateful. We’re lucky to know so many unusually generous people. Right now, we’re just digesting the news ourselves and bracing ourselves for the big fight.

So if you’ve heard about our bad news through a third party instead of directly from us, it’s not because we didn’t want to let you know. Maybe the opportunity didn’t come up. Or maybe I just didn’t want to go around bumming everyone out all at once.

Someone asked me how I felt about the cancer coming back. I searched my extensive vocabulary for the right adjective and I came up with “annoying”. I know it might seem like an understatement, but I feel like this is a really annoying thing I have to go through and put my family and friends through, but I’ll get through it and life will go on. But for now, there’s a lot to get through that is very, very annoying.

Okay. End of Hallmark.

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