Friday, September 17, 2010

A Different Kind Of Glow

It's been almost three years ago to the day that I started radiation for the tumor on the right side of my jaw.

I know. It doesn't seem like that long ago. Yet sometimes it feels as if it never happened--and also like it was just yesterday I started treatments. I still have daily reminders that are visible, as well as visible only to me. Like what? I have a nice smooth neck with a facial hairline that magically doesn't need a trim. (If you call radiation "magic"). I don't have to shave every day--the facial hair has become somewhat glacial in growing. If you read this blog often, you know the deal with my saliva. And because of the glands being compromised, I now have acid reflux--which is the only thing I take medication for, I'm proud to write. And I'm extremely proud of the fact that with so many radiation treatments--35, to be exact--that my skin and whole body isn't glowing like a Homer Simpson-induced, nuclear reaction.

Three years IS a long time when you're faced with death. I often think how we humans would act if we knew when we were going to die. Or at least knew we didn't have much time. Because the fact of the matter is, we all cheat, abuse and waste time. We don't take enough time to live in the moment. Yeah, I know. Our world is all about the clock, the weekend, the good times we are going to have. The time we count until we're over the current project deadline. The time it takes to get to and from work. (OK, enough about time. Seems to be my favorite subject matter for this blog).

I had lunch with a friend the other day whom I hadn't seen in years. They commented on how well I looked but also on how they could see what the cancer did to me. It aged me. Made me look like someone else, not Greg--at least to me. I especially see it in pictures, which I break down into "bc and ac" which is before cancer and after cancer. But lately, I've also seen something else that hasn't been there for a while--a smile in my eyes, in my soul and in my heart.

A glow.

Monday, September 13, 2010

What To Eat

Three years (almost) after chemo, radiation and surgeries, I'm not having to worry about my weight. Or should I say, "other" people can stop worrying about my weight.

In talking with my friend, Stephanie, the subject of eating after head & neck cancer has come up--which it quite often does with people I talk to nowadays. And that's more than cool by me. Because while eating can still be a chore, I actually look forward to having something to eat without having to dissect the food before it goes into my mouth. You see, it's like this in the simplest way I can put it: I had head & neck cancer, which is NOT throat cancer but is still in the same region. The radiation was adjusted each and every time--35 times but who's counting--so that the damage to my insides was somewhat mitigated. Which means I have about 25-30% of my normal capacity to produce saliva since the radiation AND chemo did some damage. I can't gulp down a 40 anymore. Opening wide is not an option, as my jaw still hurts. My taste buds have been compromised as well, so things to this day still taste different and can change from meal to meal--for example, I can now taste the ingredients of ketchup--and often do. Add to that the total change in my eating habits--no red meat, no white bread/flour (when I can help it), no pork, no acidic foods--and I pretty much need to know the menu before I eat anything. That's the short story.

Long term? Today is the long term. That's all we really have. I lost sight of that MAIN point at my last job so I left for another job. I'm taking control of my life back because after all, I'm the one who had to live with a feeding tube in my stomach, go through the pure hell of treatments and push through the lack of energy, lack of strength and constant attacks on my body these last 3 years. So what I put into my body is taking care of me today and hopefully into a long lifetime of tomorrows. And will allow Teresa and I to be just ourselves after all these years of being Mom & Dad.(Which, of course, we love and always will). So now what?

It's almost lunchtime. Time to figure out what I'm going to eat.