Monthly Archives: June 2007

Rant I (My Aching Back)

I apologize again that it’s been so long.

Believe me when I say it grieves me that I cannot write more these days. There is much to tell. For so many people, blogging serves as some sort of therapy. It is no less for me.

As a dude with a poetic bent, writing is almost as primal as breathing. I do it to live.

shades.jpgRegardless of the medium, the act of writing is always a conversation – with myself, an audience, or God. And as such, I always come away with a deeper understanding of something.

These days of limited strength and mobility – especially in my hands – I miss it like a fish might miss the water.

I can only tap out about a sentence or two at a time. It is painful, and it wears me out.

So I cannot take the time to follow this worthy tangent any further. This makes me sad.

This past month has been a hard one. Released from the predictable routine of weekly chemo crashes and monthly prednisone hits, I anticipated a slow but progressive regaining of strength, and a gradual diminishing of the pain.

It has been anything but this.

I began regular trips to the Y therapy pool. I’m not exactly swimming. What I do is more like floating, but it is helpful nonetheless. I’ve been told this is what I need to do to get my joints and muscles working again.

I stretch and I breathe. I do arm circles. I’ve been doing this for an hour a day, four days a week, for three weeks now. Is that over doing it? Is that not enough? It’s really about all I can do if I still want to walk to my car when I’m done. My back is so stiff and swollen. And hot. And it hurts. Did I mention that it hurts?

If this is the pain I must push through to get stronger, to get better, so be it. Like the two weeks of conditioning practice at the beginning of the football season. Coach says it’s good for me, so I do it. Even though it feels like I’m breaking. If this is that, then I’m glad I’m getting better.

But I remember that kind of pain. And sometimes I’m not so sure this is it. This feels more like injury. Like a sunburn in the sun at eleven in the morning, with six hours of UV to go, and no shade or sunscreen in sight.

cennlake2.jpgI have to ration my steps. Like I only have so many per day. One Saturday night we took the boys to the park. We walked too far one way and I barely made it back. Two days later I thought I was going to pull muscles in both ankles walking to the kitchen for Tylenol.

It is very hard doing life right now. I understand the process of healing from the cure can be a long one. My oncologist and friend said it may be August before I begin to feel significantly better. But both he and another doctor I recently saw shrugged their shoulders at the apparent worsening of my pain and the lessening of my strength.

It’s not just my back. It’s my shoulders, wrists, hip, legs, and neck. I get muscle cramps and spasms when I sit or stand for too long. All this while still on 24/7 narcotic pain meds.

So I began seeing a chiropractic doctor last week. Longtime friend and neighbor Joel Fugleberg is a doctor now. He’s got a clinic in Chanhassen and a home here in Bloomtown. I called him up on a Wednesday in a fog of pain, and asked him if he could take a look at my back.

My first adjustments were, plain and simple, out of this world. Two cracks in my neck released a rush of life down through my chest as though blood started flowing to the rest of my body for the first time in two years. Just incredible. And after a week of this, muscles around my spine have ditched some inflammation. I’ll be seeing him regularly now for the next several months, and look forward to describing all this in greater detail when I can.

I am simultaneously seeing a physical therapist who is not frowning upon my chiropractic affair. Rather, she seeks to works with what Joel is doing to rebuild strength, stamina, and proper function in my back and the rest of my body.

As to what exactly is wrong with my back (and subsequently the rest of my body), there is no one thing that can account for it all. We know I have spinal stenosis and several compressed and mildly herniated discs in my lumbar region. I have an abnormal curvature in my spine. A bone spur and several slightly pinched nerves in my neck. There’s an aberration in my left hip joint and minor osteopenia in my bones. And for years now, I’ve had seasonal inflammation around joints all over my body.

Major muscle groups in my trunk and limbs have either atrophied or stopped firing when or in the way that they’re supposed to.

How this is related to the cancer is loosely assumed. Except that I spent much time in bed these past two years. And when I was up and around, chronic fatigue didn’t allow me the liberty to spend extra calories on correct posture, so little muscles along my spine have been working overtime. My medical records show a cumulative height loss of at least half an inch (some as much as three-quarters) since I was initially admitted in May of 2005.

I am shorter now than I was in seventh grade.

So this is what we have to work with. I’ll say this briefly to end this entry on a positive (albeit staccato) final chord: I feel very cared for by the handful of health professionals that are contributing to my recovery right now (Naomi, Joel, Trisha, Randy, Roy, Lucy, etc…).

I am very appreciative of the fact that each of them recognizes and respects the worth of the other, acknowledging the intricate integration of each of their fields (massage, chiropractic, occupational, oncological, cranial-facial, dental). And that they understand collectively that health is multi-faceted and modern science is young.

It may take work on account of the patient to bring both alternative and widely accepted therapies to the same table, but it also takes willingness on the part of the practitioners to work together. I am in the care of such people.

tinfish.jpgMy hands have done too much. This is the work of several days of writing. Again when I can I will post a lament about chemo brain, fatigue, toxins, finances, or the adverse effect of all these things on family life. In the meantime, please be praying for me and mine.

Still His,
Jeremy

PS. Thanks to those of you who let me know you’re out there. Some surprises, to be sure. I wish I had the time and all else to write a little something to each of you in return. I hope that this will suffice. Oddly, there are still at least another thousand regular readers who remain nameless to me. Perhaps this is something I must get used to. Regardless, warm welcome to all of you who find yourselves here from time to time.

PPS. Keep in prayer my good friends Kanoa Boroos and her husband, Jason. Kanoa was diagnosed last week with a brain tumor that is to be treated with 6 weeks of radiation. Her prognosis is good, but radiation is unpleasant, nonetheless. She currently has 35 staples in her skull and a beautiful head of hair. Not to mention a gracious spirit. God bless you, Kanoa.

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Categories: Cancer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 11 Comments

With Your Permission

jeremys.jpgI can assure you that my inactivity on this blog this past month has not been directly related to the end of my treatment. In many ways there has been more to tell about these weeks than there was during a good part of the last two years.

It’s just this:

A) I can’t type for long. I manage a sentence or two every five minutes, and maybe two or three paragraphs per day. Then my wrists pretty much quit.

B) What I’m writing these days reeks to me of self pity. I wonder whether it is anything more than an unecessary and altogether negative rant. I personally don’t mind being really honest about pain, so long as I can see some way that honesty will bring forth some good thing. Right now, being I can’t quite put any path to goodness together in my head (and I feel it even less in my heart), I seriously question the value of my going into great detail about the nature of these present trials.

If I were to describe well how things hurt, and what is so hard, I will have little left to extrapolate the good. But if I give the cliffs notes on the pain and go straight to the good, I will have misrepresented our reality, and what good there is might lose some of its context and therefore some of its weight.

cennlake.jpgAnd being I must now so carefully budget my words, and yet don’t have the mind or the physical strength to sit at the keyboard long enough to make timely and appropriate edits, anything I write, if it is to be thorough about anything, is necessarily going to read like an uncensored journal entry. Limited in its perspective, and raw in its content.

If I am to be honest about anything these days, individual entries will leave loose ends untied. They cannot be stand alone representations of the big picture. They will need weeks of context to be understood.

I really do enjoy writing for anyone who will read. And I want badly to offer words that are ultimately beneficial for anyone who happens upon them. But right now I am needing to give my time and strength to things more physical in nature, and will have just enough left to write, but not necessarily to write well.

So I’m not sure exactly why I feel I must ask your permission, but would you give me the grace to give what I’ve got? I can write a little bit every couple of days, but it’ll most likely be the complaint without context; the despair without a devotional at the end; a snapshot of reality without redemption; the tension without the resolve. (Ever read Psalm 88 and said Amen?)
Are you okay with that?

jnjtrees.jpgWould you promise to keep in the back of your mind that I do believe God is good and strong and present? That we receive his goodness daily and are thankful for it? That we do really still hope that things will get better? And if they don’t, that Jesus is still our Lord?

Ah, the mind games we play…

Thank you, friends.

Still His,

Jeremy

Categories: Cancer | Tags: , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

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