Many of you that are also Facebook friends with my brother are aware that he’s battling cancer for the fourth time. As of this morning, he has been in the hospital with an infection for fifteen days. He will hopefully be released later today, and begin preparing for another surgery, to remove the source of the infection. Once the infection is under control, he can resume chemotherapy to handle the cancer.
I try to keep people that care well informed, but some of the things we hear are not easy to repeat. Cancer is a devious beast. It manifests wherever it can to survive. Everyone knows someone battling cancer. Some of you probably know a few people, if you think about it. While there are cancers resulting from life decisions, most people get cancer randomly. It is a faceless enemy, one that Nick has had to undergo multiple surgeries, radiotherapy and chemotherapy to conquer. His spirit is strong, even after beating cancer at age two, nine, fourteen, and now twenty-one. He keeps getting back up – a tale worthy of any boxing blockbuster. I have come to learn that a strong spirit is most of the fight.
Fundamentally, cancer treatment is not as advertised when the doctors speak to you. When you sign forms for treatment, there is a lot in there about allowing the doctors to deviate from whatever you just agreed to if they deem it necessary over the course of treatment. Those clauses exist because treating cancer is far more art than science. What worked for someone in a situation may not work for another person in the same situation, and Nick has made a name within Stanford for defying medical norms. Everyone reacts differently to drugs, and even the cancers are adapting to forms of treatment available. It’s frightening when a team of highly skilled oncologists doesn’t have the answers, and that’s where the spirit comes in.
I said before that cancer is devious. When someone gets sick, their disease makes them look inward. When you have a fever and just feel terrible, you usually want to avoid people. This effect is magnified on someone with cancer. Not only does treatment make patients look different, but also their medication significantly limits what they are able to do. The patient starts to change what they want to do, on the basis of what they can do, and begins to feel like they have nothing in common with the people around them. Therefore the person battling a life-threatening disease feels cut off from their friends, when they most need their friends and that support. That is one of the subtler, and most dangerous, side effects.
I appreciate all of the love and support, as does my brother and our family. Hopefully this sheds some light on the mental and social struggle that comes along with treatment. There is no such thing as “too much support” against cancer, and remember that it is far easier to offer help than to ask for it. Love to you all.