Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Being Alive

This past weekend, my husband posed the question, "Aren't you glad we had kids?" Of course! That's an easy question. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest most parents are mostly happy about their status as parents. In turn, I asked, "Aren't you glad I'm not dead?" A ridiculous exchange, I know, but asking ridiculous questions with (hopefully) obvious answers is part of the fun of (our) marriage. 

Prior to my giant tumor/illness/surgery debacle, "Aren't you glad I'm not dead?" was not part of our repertoire. Again, it should go without saying that people are mostly happy about Being Alive. The status of Being Alive, however, became more important to us after we had to look pancreatic cancer in the face (in the pancreas?). In the diagnosis-limbo month, nearly everything I read was doom-and-gloom. I remember thinking that I might have a life expectancy of an additional six months, according to common pancreatic cancer statistics. Even so, I was hopeful that I did not have adenocarcinoma and had a neuroendocrine tumor instead (possibly benign!). I remember saying to Chris, "Even if it is neuroendocrine cancer, there's a good chance it'll take 5 to 10 years to kill me." I got daggers for eyes in response. The initial and post-surgical biopsies proved much more optimistic, my tumor was exceedingly rare (a good thing in this situation), surgically curable, and unlikely to return. 

I'm about 18 months post-surgery at this point, and super happy about Being Alive. My quality of life is fantastic. Most people who have had the Whipple procedure report similar quality of life to the un-Whippled, according to this study

I feel great, though undergoing a pancreaticoduodenectomy (I spelled that right on the first try!), a.k.a. Whipple procedure, has not been without consequences, physical and otherwise. I see an oncologist quarterly for an exam and blood tests, and I have a follow-up CT annually (indefinitely). While not exactly convenient, it's helpful. My surgical changes have rendered me anemic, but the answer is iron pills (no big deal!). My surgical changes have messed a bit with my digestion and given me chronic gastritis (a slightly bigger deal but still manageable). My surgical changes are what helped me remain the the "Being Alive" category, so I take the negative consequences with a pretty positive attitude, hence the "fantastic" quality of life statement. 

I recognize how trite it is to state one's appreciation for Being Alive only after a brush with not Being Alive, but it is my truth. Thanks for reading.

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