Writing provides outlet for Jardon, others fighting deadly illness
25 February 2007, 12:00 a.m.
Editor's Note: Kathy Jardon was diagnosed with cancer March 23, 2004. After 15 months of undergoing surgeries, chemotherapy and radiation treatments she realized that her cancer could be a big part of her life for a long time. Unlike the flu, it would not just go away. Kathy started writing this piece June 5, 2005.
I really do have cancer.
It's not the 'big C,' it's CANCER.
I used to get upset with chemotherapy patients at LMH who seemed very upset when they were getting their treatments. Some would close their doors and I could hear them sobbing. I'd think, 'get a grip, it's just cancer.' One out of every three Americans are going to have cancer. Learn to say the word. We're all survivors, its doable and as (Dr. Matthew) Stein says we're going to do everything we can, 'as God wills.'
But that was then.
I was a late bloomer in the cancer crowd, I knew it all along but it's not fun anymore. And the more tired you get the less fun it is.
I've had Cisplatin withdraw. The week after treatment (cisplatin chemotherapy) is worse than the week of treatment. Then would come the steroids which make me manic til they take it away and I crash and that's when I feel the worst.
Steroids .. I don't know why baseball players want to do this to their bodies cause I could eat the shingles off the roof. In Aspen I mountain-biked to work, I was a fit size 12. As you can see now I feel like the 'Poppin Fresh Dough Girl'.
I've seen cancer patients who refused to eat and drink or wouldn't show up for chemo and radiation. Later, I'd read their obituary.
I drink four bottles of water a day. But sometimes the mouth sores are so bad it's darned near impossible. The last two rounds, I pushed fluids and drank water but the toxicity level in my body gets so high that it overrides everything I try to do. So, I end up calling oncology saying I need a couple of bags of saline today and off we go to Lawrence.
We do it couple of times, I feel pretty good so I'm back at the coffee shop in Baldwin and walkin through the (Baker U.) campus.
It's really been a strange ride.
Doing little things, walking in and out of a store wears me out.
The last chemo treatment will be July 25 with a CT scan Aug. 4.
The last scan in April showed the 'ablated' liver tumor had been reduced to scar tissue and the mass in my stomach, the size of a pound of butter, had been reduced to scar tissue the size of half a postage stamp.
So now it's just believing that we've done everything and I can finally go back to work.
I was trying to do cancer on my own. Sometimes acceptance, acceptance, acceptance doesn't quite get it. Accept what? The list can get pretty long. When I was checking classifieds I saw the ad in the paper for LMH's writing workshop for people dealing with cancer.
My heart sister Lauri died in 1996 of breast cancer. There are times, especially now when I miss her badly.
Our writing group was diverse in age, politics, religion and background.
Caryn Mirriam-Goldberg, the group's facilitator, is soft-spoken and wonderful. She sees beauty in writing. There were few rules but one of them was no self-deprecation.
It took time to gain confidence that what we're saying was good, 'cause it was from the heart and came as a surprise.
Some of the participants were diagnosed two weeks before the start of the session, two of us were a year into cancer and one gal was 14 years out.
There were lots of conversations between writing and commenting on others' words.
We all had one common feeling - fear.
Our next CT scan, the next procedure, the next anything.
It was an eye-opener for me that we could each be in these various stages of survivorship and still have the fear that 'Oh yeah, we all survived but what's going to happen next?"
That's when it hit me ... I'm in this for life.
I can't say 'Hi, I had a bout of cancer or a touch of cancer but I'm back now so please hire me and give me benefits and insurance.'
Very enlightening to me.
I had been asked several times to participate in cancer support groups but I always came up with an excuse: I didn't feel good, didn't want to drive at night, whatever was handy.
I finally made myself get past that.
I went to the evening writing classes and it's the best thing I've done so far. I was continually surprised at how insightful everyone had gotten but I don't think we had that insight before we had cancer and going through everything it entails. If you keep your sense of humor you don't go to the dark side, but everybody does go to the dark side on certain days but that's OK.
I never could predict what I was going to write but it was so real listening to everyone else. It was a comfort zone. I could be real about my feelings, put them on paper. There were lots of tears that were very freeing. It was a wonderful, positive experience.
With all the instructions I'd been getting, it was nice to have a purpose for me. I found it was OK to be self-centered about our thoughts, our cancer, our problems, our pain and how it came out there was a gestalt, it was all of us.
It got me in the mode that it was OK to go to support groups, and cancer can lose its edge when it's a shared experience.
You find out the real stuff from the real people who went through the real deal.
Read <a href="http://www2.ljworld.com/news/2007/feb/25/kathys_long_journey/">Kathy's long journey</a>, by Bill Snead.