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Sorry, ladies, but this needs to be said - Flourish and Blotts

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October 5th, 2014

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01:02 am - Sorry, ladies, but this needs to be said
I've been thinking about writing this for some time now, and after a conversation on Friday I've decided I don't wish to put it off any longer. Before I start, however, I want to state a few caveats.

First, I'm going to describe a repeating situation that does NOT apply to my internet friends. It does apply, however, to almost every other social interaction I've experienced.

Second, unlike the hashtag #notallmen, this is not a disguised diatribe against all people of the opposite sex with just some sort of weak-kneed denial that's that case. This has been, in my personal experience, completely uniform amongst the women present where I have been engaged in this conversation. You may take that as you wish, but I speak here from my personal experience and that's not something I will debate with anyone. I know! I've been there...every time!

So...let's move on. Remember that first caveat!

I have cancer. I've never really kept that a secret. By the same token I haven't played that as a pity poor me card either. If I think it's relevant I'll tell you. If you ask I'll tell you. That's just the way it is.

Cancer is a unique disease, despite the fact that it comes in many different forms. The most important thing about it is that you never are cured. You may have the cancer removed, or you may have it treated chemically or radiologically until it seems to have disappeared, but you are not cured. The proper term is that your cancer is in remission. It may never return, but it's more likely that some day it will show up again. It's a forever disease, even if it doesn't come back and kill you. Sorry...that's just the truth.

All cancer patients know that. We when talk amongst ourselves we never pretend we're cured. We don't need to say anything, but we all know we're just one test away from confronting the dragon again. Unless we're actually terminal we can live with that. Somedays we don't even think about it. We try hard to move on and not let that threat consume us. Some days that doesn't work, and those can be really rough.

Now, more specifically, I have prostate cancer. It's usually a rather slow growing cancer. Not always. If caught early...and mine was...the treatment options are actually fairly good. But...they're not cures. 7 years ago I elected to go through a program of radiation...both external and then surgically inserted radioactive seeds. My prostate was completely irradiated. It's now nothing but a lump of scar tissue.

But...and there's always a but, apparently some cancer cells escaped. Such is life with cancer.

So...6 years later they showed up as a couple of sizable tumors in my lymph nodes. One is about the size of a lemon. The other is more the size of a grapefruit. They can't be removed surgically. Well, actually they could be, but it likely wouldn't make any difference. There are probably more, hiding elsewhere, and they'd just start growing too. So...there is actually only one course of treatment available, and all it will do is buy me some time.

I should digress for a moment to explain that finding it in the lymph nodes isn't the worst possible outcome. Prostate cancer actually likes to migrate to the bones, and according to just about everybody bone cancer is a really nasty way to go. It is not only severely debilitating, but it's really really painful and it drags on for a long time. So...I'm not complaining too much about the lymph nodes.

Now...back to the issue at hand. The treatment program is called hormonal therapy, and it involves taking drugs that completely eliminate the body's production of a couple hormones, most noticeably testosterone. Since that's a guy thing, most women legitimately struggle to understand what all that means. More on that thought in a minute

Taking these drugs creates a big number of effects. For the most part they kill off the ability of the cancer to grow and spread. However, that's not a 100% thing since a small number of cancer cells won't be effected by the lack of hormones. Eventually they will grow to the point they overwhelm the treatment and then it's time for classic chemo and the end game.

The drugs also create a condition commonly known as male menopause...and therein is the problem I'm actually writing about. The drugs create a bunch of body changes, but externally the most noticeable is hot flashes. Yeah...those hot flashes.

So...when this comes up in a conversation, without exception, women, especially those who have experienced menopause think it's really funny. Without exception...and I'm talking 100%...the comment is always something like "Ha! Now you know what we go through."

That comment really pisses me off!

Women experience some things that men never do. We really know nothing about what a menstrual period feels like, although we know they can be really painful and unpleasant. We know a little bit about what childbirth is about, but again, it's not something we can ever experience personally. We, as a gender, may be rather crass about our response to those things, although some of us do try to understand. We equate them to being kicked in the groin, a feeling that no woman will ever understand for the same reasons. If you don't have "balls" you'll never know what that feels like, but I don't blame you for not knowing.

Men, at least some men, know a little bit about normal female menopause. It's not something we can experience so it's entirely possible that most of us are not as sympathetic as we could/should be when it arrives. There are a couple things about it that I think are worth mentioning though.

First, every woman knows that sooner or later it's coming, so it's not really a surprise. That doesn't make it any less disagreeable, and I'm not suggesting it does.

Second, there are some treatments available to mitigate the worst symptoms and the extremes that can arise. I don't really know how much they help, but I've been told they make things better.

Lastly, I would point out that there are very few recorded cases of normal female menopause resulting in death. Unpleasant? Sure. Something you wouldn't seek out? Absolutely. A killer? Nope.

So, here's how I see it. When I speak of the side effects of my treatment, and a woman responds by laughing and saying "Now you know what we go through" I actually hear something else. I hear "Haha. I think it's really funny that you're suffering and you're going to die."

That's not funny. Let me say that again. THAT'S NOT FUNNY!

If a woman found hot flashes unpleasant, there is no possible justification for enjoying that same suffering inflicted upon somebody else, especially when it's connect with "you're going to die" conditions.

I've never once pointed this out to the woman reacting that way, but I could. I could really make them feel really really bad about laughing about my cancer. I could play the pity card, and it trumps every other card in the deck. It's the ultimate trick-taking card. I refuse to play it...but, damn it, it hurts to watch somebody laughing at you because you're going to die. There is nothing funny about cancer, and I don't think there's much of anything funny about dying either.

So...this is just a suggestion, and as I have said, my internet friends have never said those words to me. If you see someone "suffering" from a situation that you yourself have experienced, even if it's a male having hot flashes, don't find that funny. They're not looking for pity. They are sharing their pain. They are only looking for understanding. Don't pity them...understand them.

That's the end of my rant. It's not the end of my cancer. Statistically I might have another couple of years. Maybe less. Possibly more. We'll see. Don't pity me...I don't want that. I'm just trying to make the most of the time I have left.

(9 comments | Leave a comment)


[User Picture]
Date:October 5th, 2014 01:03 pm (UTC)
I don't think there's much of any way i can respond to that, but wanted to still express that i read and I feel ya.
[User Picture]
Date:October 5th, 2014 03:47 pm (UTC)
Thanks, Frank. Maybe I just needed to get it off my chest (and mind) but I appreciate your thoughts.
Date:October 5th, 2014 04:39 pm (UTC)
I am a friend of Craig.
we have much in common, more in common then I knew before.
I have nothing negative to add.
My wife found a lump on, in her neck and we are going through
Test. So , I do look at things a bit different then others.

Bill Newcomb------------------------>
[User Picture]
Date:October 6th, 2014 12:44 am (UTC)
I hope for the best for both of you Bill. It's never fun waiting, even if the news is eventually good. Cancer isn't the dead end curse it once was, and progress is made every day. Unless it's entwined with the spine, a tumor in the neck isn't necessarily untreatable, but I'm sure you've heard that already. Hand in there, and let me know if I can help in any way.
Date:October 7th, 2014 02:39 pm (UTC)

Things People Say to People With Cancer...

I've shared your "rant" with my readers, Craig. Thank you for your righteous anger.

[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2014 05:26 am (UTC)

I was going to say that I can't imagine someone saying such a thing, but then I thought about me, fifteen or twenty years ago, and I realized I might have said such a thing.

I learned. I learned the weight of words, and their power. And I learned that I rarely if ever want to hurt another, least of all carelessly.

So I know I (the I of today) would not say such a thing to you, but I know many who would. For that, I am sorry.

I suspect that some of the depths of the depression I'm fighting right now is due to hormonal idiocy, and I would never, ever wish that on anyone else.

{{hugs Craig}}
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2014 06:05 am (UTC)
Thanks. It's really kind of odd, but I guess it's simply that they don't think of relating it to something far more serious. I'm sure that some of them didn't get much support when they confronted it, but that's hardly my fault.

Thoughtless words sometimes really bite. It's not so much that they actually intend what they say to be hurtful, in fact I'm pretty sure they don't. But...the words still contain that sting.

It's no different, as I am sure you know, than somebody telling a person in depression to simply "snap out of it" or "you just need to stop feeling sorry for yourself" or whatever. Were that it was that easy. Back about a year ago I actually started writing a whole series of short stories about depression, using my own feelings at the time as the glue to pull them together. At times I'd like to go back and finish them...and some of them are really Dark. I will, if I can get other things done first. I think a couple of them may be the best writing I've ever done.

Feel free to hollar at any time if you need to vent, to just discuss something, or just another person to help you through a bad time.
[User Picture]
Date:October 10th, 2014 09:38 pm (UTC)
Working in the specialty area of endocrinology has taught me a lot - a whole lot - about hormones, both in the male and female population. You're not the first person I've heard make such a remark about how callous others, especially women, can be when it comes to symptoms like yours. I think if any of my female patients who have to shave their faces every day ever had a man tell them "now you know what we go through" and LAUGH about it, well...let's just say suicide or homicide might actually be an outcome of that situation. And that's practically a cosmetic issue only, not one that could potentially take their life. Anyway. I'm glad you shared this rant. Awareness is always a good thing :)
[User Picture]
Date:October 11th, 2014 03:44 am (UTC)
Although people don't generally go to the doctor, hospital, or emergency room for help, the fact is that words can cause wounds deeper than any knife, gun, or fist. They don't cause pulmonary failure, circulatory collapse, or even open fractures. Worse yet, they damage the heart, leaving a functional body devoid of spirit and hope.

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