Don Edwards Literary Memorial

July 28, 2010

Maps and Experiments

It never occurred to me that I would be traveling without a map.

I wish I had met Al Adrisi.  Maybe he could have helped.  Roger II, the Norman king of Sicily in the mid-eleventh century, invited him to his court to produce an up-to-date “world map”.  He made a huge planisphere in silver for the king, and described the geographical world he had compiled in a comprehensive encyclopedia of the time, containing information not only on Asia and Africa, but also Western countries (and worlds unknown at that time).  It is said that Columbus himself used a map derived from the ancient Al Adrisi’s when he sailed Westward.

I have never been sick.  Not seriously.  I have no prior experience with recovery from disease.  Maybe that says something good about my immune system, but nevertheless it is true.  Once I had a serious occurrence of ulcerative colitis that cleared up eventually,  Perhaps that does say something, in fact positive, about my immune system since this disease is chronic and I’ve never had a recurrence.  But I have been attacked recently…virtually without symptoms…by a comparatively rare form of cancer.  Now what?  Who should I believe?  What is the map for beating this monster?

Unlike most women, for example, I have no real knowledge of how my body works when under attack.  I could only participate vicariously when my wife, Valerie, had babies  She had her gall bladder attack and surgery many years ago.  The after effects were so powerfully painful and debilitating she was afraid she had cancer.  When her body eventually healed, she tried unsuccessfully to describe what had happened to her.  The other night at dinner we discussed these events and I was able to contribute examples from my recent disease that resonated with her.  The same was true with my daughter, Leslie, as she described the radical hysterectomy she had when they discovered her entire uterus needed to be removed because of uterine fibrosis and a large tumor.  I began to relate even though I am an unlikely candidate for either giving birth or having my uterus removed.  Nobody can really understand an illness or giving birth unless you have traveled that road…but the process of healing can be shared.

One way to look at this dilemma is that I have no map to help me when my body is assaulted by disease.  While every sickness has its own peculiarities and attributes, my wife and daughter seem to sense what to do…as if they had been there before.  I, on the other hand, am more like Christopher Columbus…his map was what he looked at over his shoulder.  His map was where he had been. The world map he took with him was certainly wrong, but he started his journey with energy and assurance based on his journeys behind him .  Every day I add to my knowledge of how my body is working for me.  I am beginning to develop instincts of how to meander with these tumors, what to eat and what not to eat, what vitamins to take, when to sleep.  I imagine my body telling me, “Shut up and sleep.  Let me do the work.”

Another way to view this journey is as a lab experiment.  In a way, since this is uncharted territory and my particular form of cancer they think it started in my bile duct and the “mother” is no longer alive, the children (metastasized) are in charge…even the chemotherapy is an experiment.  After two more treatments they will give me a CAT Scan to see the progress and adjust the mixture to more specific objectives.

Of all these observations, the splendid dialogue I had with my wife and daughter was a most amazing discovery.  I am, no doubt, in a small way closer to them now than I was.

Filed under: DON POSTS — Don @ 2:52 pm

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