Tuesday, November 25, 2008

10 Lessons from a Cancer Survivor

New York Times Editor Dana Jennings shares his lessons. Among them:

2) Doctors forget to share the gory details. After my prostate was removed, my testicles swelled to the size of shot-puts — bright, red shot-puts — and stayed that way for days. Nobody told me to expect this condition, and only ice brought relief. (Conversely, now that I’m undergoing hormonal therapy, my testicles are shrinking.)

3) Insurance can cause more stress than cancer. The goal of your insurer — no matter how singular or complex your case is — is to try to turn you into a statistical cliché, a cipher, in the face of your very human flesh-and-blood disease. In the months after my diagnosis, as my wife and I struggled to find the right pair of highly-skilled hands to perform my potentially difficult surgery, wrestling with my insurer caused me more grief, stress and depression than my cancer did. In our modern health-care-industrial-complex — and I’m talking about the bureaucrats who try to herd you into the cheapest cattle car available, not the nurses and doctors who are on the front lines — the emphasis is neither on health nor care, but on the bottom line. It’s our job, as patients, to resist with all our strength.

7) Cancer can be a punch line. I learned pretty quickly, with my wife and sons, that the phrase, “I’ve got cancer,” wasn’t a bad punch line — as in: “You take out the dog. I’ve got cancer” or “You answer the phone. I’ve got cancer” or “I ‘call’ the TV to watch ‘Monday Night Football.’ I’ve got cancer.” They’d all roll their eyes, laugh … then go do what I asked.

8) Home remedies are essential to cancer recovery. There is no better post-op therapy on a sweltering July day than a cold glass of lemonade, a transcendent oldie on the CD player — say, “Doggin’ Around” by Jackie Wilson — a stack of comic books at hand (“The Incredible Hulk,” “The Mighty Thor”) and the grace of a funny and compassionate visitor.

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