Friday, June 28, 2013

The Incredible Shrinking Man

Greetings, everyone.  Well, this week brought the calendar up to my oncology appointment, an impending date that has caused a lot of worry, stress and heartfelt discussion with those closest to me.  I am here to report that the news is not what I had hoped for. Not terrible news, but not great either.  It seems my pancreatic tumor marker has risen, and the spots in my lungs have grown measurably.  It would appear that there is active cancer in my body. On the upside, there appears to be nothing wrong with my liver and my other bloodwork came back just about perfect.  In other words, except for the small detail of cancer, I'm in pretty good health! I am currently asymptomatic, with no pain, shortness of breath, etc. I am for now deciding to forego treatment, which at this point is limited to chemotherapy.
I have been losing weight, however. This is problematic for a couple of reasons. One, weight loss is often a sign of active cancer; patients of this disease are told to monitor their weight. But in my case, the weight loss is more likely caused by the digestive problems due to the surgery I had (known as the Whipple procedure).
I will spare you the grisly details, but let's just say that diet and digestion have been a challenge for me ever since.  These last few months were particularly bad, and my weight has dropped to just below what it was in high school!  So if I were to try chemotherapy, with the attending nausea, I just don't see how I could get enough nutrition to keep from wasting away. This is very problematic.
It is an interesting dilemma, trying to put on weight instead of lose it, which I thought would be the issue at this time of my life. I cannot eat large meals; it makes me ill. Several small meals a day are what I can handle, and that is surprisingly inconvenient. I also get cold so much easier, being so lean. The warm summer weather is welcomed. And I am quite tired of buying new, smaller clothes, especially pants.  I am, in fact, the incredible shrinking man, a strange sensation indeed.  Amy has been a great source of help and insight on this.  She has tirelessly scoured the internet for information on post-Whipple diets and supplements, and has found me a potent hydrochloric acid supplement to replace what my partial stomach doesn't make, and some super pro-biotics that are used by the pros.  These two supplements, along with OTC digestive enzymes, have helped noticeably. I am being referred to a gastroenterologist, and I hope he/she can provide some more insight.

When one receives news such as this, it is like an invisible cudgel has whacked you upside the head. The stress of the tests and waiting for the results is quite intense. And as we all know, stress is not good for you! So there is a constant attempt at "staying in the moment" and not letting your mind get carried away. Being around my wife and kids seems to be very helpful with this.  In fact, every moment seems so very precious, when one is made aware of the finite nature of one's life. But of course, all our lives are finite; no one gets out of here alive, if you will.  So shouldn't every moment be precious? For all of us? It sure seems that way this week.

But also is the reality that life goes on, oblivious to your own personal drama. There are cars that won't start, rats to be trapped, runs to and from the airport, emails to return, meetings to keep, memorials to attend, basically all the minutiae of life that parades our way on a daily basis. Perhaps this is a good thing, keeping one from dwelling too much on the the ominous diagnosis. My son Myles' return to our home after graduating college has been a godsend, and buoyed my spirits. And another strong back around Rancho Pollo Gordo has been fantastic, and with his help, many delayed projects are getting completed. This, and the sweet and wonderful weddings I officiate keep me smiling.

Yet, like the tongue that cannot stay away from the rotten tooth, one's mind will find that "worst case scenario" whether you want to or not. I really cannot share all the intricate and even morbid thoughts that pass through me on occasion. This, I am sure, is part of the challenge and part of the process. If I can express on overriding idea I hold dear, it is that I choose quality of life over quantity. I do not really fear death, rather, I fear living with disease and debility. Like I said, quality over quantity.  Perhaps it is easier to say this whist I am still asymptomatic.  Time will tell.
What is obviously and painfully true is that my dance with this disease is not over, not by a longshot. I am still fighting for my health and healing.  Perhaps the new paradigm is "living with cancer" rather than "dying of cancer." I hope to wrestle this disease to a draw. Only time will tell.
I would like to thank all you that have been so supportive over this journey. The kindness that has come my way has often taken my breath away and moved me to tears. Strangely, it would seem we live in a Universe that is simultaneously utterly impersonal and full of love.  Go figure.
I send you this message with love and kind wishes.
Until next time,
Swami bruce


  1. Well dang it. I am so sorry to hear about your report. The waiting must have been awful . I so admire your attitude. I would have to agree with quality of life. I hope you do all your favorite things.If I can cook for your family. Let me know. I am a cook cook. Hugs Bev

  2. I love what you said..."quality over quantity"...and you are a shining example of someone who lives a life in a way that is, in my opinion, the way we should all be living: surrounded by happy people, in a wonderful community, striving toward environmental sustainability, and full of love.

  3. Thank you for the eloquent update. It was great to see you last weekend. Your spirits seemed to be as high as anyone and it certainly made me happy to be a witness to your joy. If a draw is the best we can hope for then a draw it is. I know I'm always hoping for a draw when I watch USA soccer compete with a world power and I am overjoyed when it happens. Best wishes and love for all of us in the flats.

  4. Bruce and Amy. Nice to see you and talk with you today. Not too long after I got home, the thought struck me that you're wrong about one thing, Bruce. You're not shrinking.

  5. So loved seeing you and your beautiful wife Amy! You look good Bruce! Really good, and my family sends healing prayers to you and your family to keep you that way! Much love Lori

  6. My dear cousin. So glad to hear that your recent trip to Costa Rica was a good one. Sue tells me that you were able to spend some time with Tommy and his wife. Positive thoughts and lots of prayers coming your way from West Covina!