Friday, June 18, 2010

THE BATTLE (Epilogue) - 6. The overall impact

Michael W. Davis

“The Battle” is a series of articles related to my real life trip through a minefield to survive cancer. My purpose is to share my thoughts in the hope others may find counsel in the journey.

I began this series 6 months ago in the hope it would provide counsel to others forced to take a similar journey. If one person found it helpful, it was worth it. In this, my final post, I will attempt to encapsulate the impact cancer has made on my world.

Emotions – Forget for the moment the physical pain, or the side affects from the treatments (below). The impact to our emotions was extreme. I would expect all families suffer that same chaos once the word Cancer enters their daily vocabulary. During the first three weeks, before we knew the extent of the cancer, neither my wife nor I sleep through an uninterrupted night. We likely got 3 or 4 hours of sleep a day. After we learned the truth, and before the painful treatments begin, all we did, other than spend several hours a day in medical facilities was to sleep, especially my wife. As a writer, I openly express how I feel without reservation, yet that is not her way. She held things inside, until finally it consumed all her energy and she crashed every hour we were at home. We’ve discussed this with close friends who have also experienced such medical difficulties. They too would crash when they got home each day after treatments. Course, it could meant we’re just a bunch of wussies (g). We also revealed to each other the headaches we had been experiencing that magically disappeared after we learned it was solvable (wonder why).

Frustration – Once we knew the truth, that there was a demon eating away at my throat, week after week without treatments frustrated the hell out of us, but especially me. We realized the radiation firing into my flesh would gradually build to a mind blowing level of pain. Problem is, until they started, the cure could not begin. Yet each time I visited one doctor, another specialist or test or preventive measure was added to the list I had to see or do or take before the treatments could start. Again, my nights became sleepless. Finally, four weeks after I was diagnosed, the treatments began.

Taste – As a result of the radiation treatments that close to my face, the glands that produce saliva were damaged, and I knew that would be a side affect going in. By month two of radiation I had no taste from food, at all, zero. They say that by month six, some will return but by 12 months it will level off and always remain at some diminished level.

Teeth – The radiation reaps big time damage on your teeth. The dental structure in your jaw is weakened because the blood network is destroyed and you become extremely susceptible to tooth/gum problems. For the rest of my life, I have to wear a double mouth piece dipped with fluoride solution for 15 minutes each day.

Voice – At this moment, my voice is roughly 20% of its capacity, say a year ago. In fact, if you go to my website ( and click on the “Video Trailer” button, you can play one of my video’s that was created just as I was beginning to experience an affect from the tumor on my vocal cords. That gravelly echo sound is the result of the cancer, only I didn’t know it. Will this improve? We have to wait and see.

Financial – There will be a lifetime cost from the cancer seeing that I am now forced to re-enter the halls of the medical profession about four times a year forever. Considering that prior to this event, I saw the doctor about once every three years, that’s at least a ten fold increase for maintenance of my health. In terms of out of pocket cost, I have maintained records of our personal expenditures and in this year I estimate we will have spend about 20 grand out of pocket. I estimate the insurance company will spend about 100 to 120 grand.

Outlook – I’ve always been an upbeat guy with positive perspective. Yet I’ll admit the political events in the last year, the gradual decline of out nation, the manipulation of our democracy by progressive elements, the pushing of our country into financial collapse by the arrogance of our leaders; all had taken a toll on my attitude. My appreciation of life, the opportunities given to me by the real big guy had turned dark. After this mind blowing last four months, all those shadows have been vanquished from my spirit and I don’t think they will return. I have stopped procrastination of all the things I had planned to do. Some may see this awakening as contrived or temporary, but I doubt those that have shared a similar experience would adapt that interpretation. You truly do gain a refreshed perspective of your life. The things I wanted to do for others are in the works and will be done. The trips with friends and family are in place and will be done. Should it have taken such an event to wake me up? Hell no, but it did and I am thankful to the real big guy for the wake up call. I just don’t have time in my day for negative vibes anymore.

The chains - I’ve also noticed a strange urge I never experienced before. Each time I see a young man or woman smoking, I fight the instinct to grab them around the collar and scream in their face, “STOP before it’s too late! Do you realize what you’re doing to your body, what you’re going to experience downstream? Stop assuming you’re immune, that you’re the one it won’t get.” But I fight it and just shake my head. No one will listen until it happens to them or someone they truly love. It’s funny how you can dip a rose in a vat of liquid nitrogen, whack it on the counter and see it shatter into a dozen pieces, then warn a person, “Don’t stick you hand in there” and they won’t. Yet, you can show people pictures, put warnings on cigarettes, but they ignore it. Maybe hospitals should offer day tours through the Oncology treatment and testing centers. Let smokers see how damn many people are in there, suffering, because they ignored the truth. Problem is, I doubt anyone would take the tour. I know I was overwhelmed with the massive numbers of people in the facility being treated for smoker’s cancer. People just don’t want to deal with that ugly reality until it’s too late. Like many things in human nature, we tend to ignore what we don’t want to see, including me. I guess that’s another part of my penitence for ignoring the warnings myself. Like Jacob Marley, those that survive smokers’ cancer must carry the chains of watching others turn a blind eye and knowing there is nothing you can do to stop their self destructive behavior.

The mindset – As I mentioned earlier, once the word comes forth, you stagger through each day like you’ve been hit by a bat. Even after you learn the “treatability,” your mind still operates in a fog. Your entire world, all your thoughts center on the flurry of medical stuff transpiring around you. This is not good. For your health and recovery, you must maintain some semblance of a normal existence or you will become depressed and those emotions feed on themselves. But how can you push out all those negative images, and fears, and pain? You can’t totally. What you can do is lay out in you’re mind a schedule from start to finish. Each day you cross off one more increment of time. I also became effective in most situations at detaching from my surroundings. Each treatment or test or prod session, I would send my thoughts elsewhere. As a writer, I created scenes for a new story, or theorized a new blog post, or a new article to this series. If not a writer, find something you enjoy in your life and mentally focus on that image above all else. I found this very helpful. If you do this “refocusing” away from what’s happening to your body, you will get through it, because you have too. To survive, you will endure the momentary hell for you family, your children, your mate and yourself. This refocusing did not work for me when the “burn pain” became so damn acute, no amount of mental power could redirect my imaging. At those points, I tried to sleep every minute I could, take some pain killers, and live on protein drinks, but near the last ten days I just curled on the couch, closed my eyes and disappeared I know not where. One final thought – in suffering, always look, not where you are, but where you will be after the treatments subside.

I have enjoyed sharing this series of articles and hope that some have found them helpful. Anyone wishing to interact on the topic, or share your experience, you can contact me at and I leave one final thought. Virtually all the cancer patients I meant in the center were at advanced stage 3 or stage 4. Why? Because of the human tendency of denial. Each waited a year or more (including me) before having a recurring pain, headache, hoarse throat, etc checked out. In each case, it extended the level of suffering they had to endure, and the likelihood of success. Please don't repeat our mistake.


Big Mike said...

One post note to my article - My voice is back to 90%, and I am loving it. What a lucky guy I am.