Wednesday, June 28, 2006

A Cancer Word Caravan

Some years back, perhaps during relapse three, my doctor said I had "indolent" tumors. "That can't be a medical term," I murmured. It could. My tumors stayed lazy eighteen months, then suddenly, sadly, began to reproduce with ambition. Too bad for me.

So let's look today at cancer words. Perhaps those chemists who called the Prednisone-Etoposide-Procarbazine-Cyclophosphamide cocktail "PEP-C," had a good laugh, imagining patients would think cola ran through their I.V.'s. And I always hoped the CHOP regimen (Cyclophosphamide, Hydroxydaunorubicin, Oncovin (R) and Prednisone) would slice my tumors as with cleavers or axes. Chop chop! The name DICE (Dexamethasone, Ifosfamide,Ciplastin and Etoposide) highlights the Las Vegas angle of all cancer treatments. As in "Dicey" or in "No dice." And ICE (Ifosfamide, Carboplatin and Etoposide) besides being an Italian dessert and iceberg ingredient, is also gangster slang for murder. The hope is that the chemo switchblades the disease.

The root of "bedridden" literally comes from words for "bed rider"--more fun than I ever had on a hospital matress--and is located between "bedrock" (as in my "lowest point") and "bedraggled" (as in "made wet and limp as if by rain') in the dictionary. A fair description of me during my sixteen months of chemo. And there's the offensive term "invalid." As if ills make anyone invalid.

A "patient" "bears pains or trials calmly or without complaint." I've tried, but I am often impatient. (Though I read an article once that stated obnoxious patients live longer, so maybe I have the right idea.) At Midwestern Regional Medical Center, they always preferred "cancer fighter" to the more passive "patient." And one was never a cancer "victim." I like these distinctions, though sometimes I just feel like putting down my dukes. But being raised on John Wayne movies I always put them back up again.

I have to admit, I am tired of all this. I am not bearing this relapse calmly and without complaint. John Wayne was a big six-foot something, hard-living and, in movies, quick with his fists. I remember seeing clips of him at that last Academy Award's show before he died--all thin and sickly looking. This is, this can be a wasting disease. As in "something that gradually destroys or diminishes you."

There are "partial remissions" (an oxymoron if I ever saw one.) And my doctor would be remiss, if he said I was in remission right now.

But I am ready to go back into battle, at least I am tonight, at Arian's coffee shop. Look at me, with my shoulder pads and helmet and jersey on. I am part of the NHL--the National Hockey League. Oops, that's my hockey playing husband's dream. (Forty-five and he can keep up with the twenty-year-olds.) No, I am part of the Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma League. But still, I've got my hockey stick out, and, if I don't have to actually skate, I could do some damage with it. Chop chop!

Best, Jumblie Girl


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