Balanced Living with Cancer

One young family’s quest to find balance while living with cancer

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Only when They Look Past Me

April 24, 2012 | 11 Comments

“How is the woman in room 312 doing?” “Good. I thought that might be the case.”  “No! No! No! I told them Friday morning.  She’s having surgery on Friday morning.”  The dialog was familiar from a not so distant past.  “How are her secretin levels holding? Good! Conference was great.  Yeah, I saw Mangela there.  He’s doing well.”

Despite the other chatter around me as I waited for my plane, I could only focus on my neighbor’s phone conversation.  A young man, most assuredly a GI doctor from what I was hearing.  He spoke not with arrogance, but distinct self-importance.

My mind wandered to a time when my husband was a practicing gastroenterologist and then I pictured the young doctor in front of me in a wheel chair, hunched over, skin weathered, no hair, and looking aged from chemotherapy.  Once again the all too familiar words crossed my mind.  Cancer is such a waste of time.

My mind continued to wander thinking about my husband’s treatments, side effects, surgeries, coma, isolation, his medical practice dissolution, and his patients.  I am reminded of a time sitting with him at a major university hospital.  As he sat in his wheel chair and we waited for him to be admitted to pre-op for his seventh surgery on his leg, I asked him how hard was it to watch these young doctors walking by engaged in medical speak and looking so important in their white lab coats.  He looked at me and stoically replied, “Only when they look past me.”  “Look past you?  What do you mean look past you?”  He went on, a bit choked, which caught my full attention.  He spoke hesitantly, “As I was wheeling into the elevator, while you were parking the car, three doctors got on with me – an attending and two younger doctors. I think a fellow and an intern.” He paused.  “It was obvious I was slowing them down and it irritated them.”  “How do you know?” “The attending pushed passed me to get on the elevator and when I said I’m sorry for being in the way, he didn’t even acknowledge I was there.”  “Did you say something to them?”  “No. But I wanted to tell them I am one of you.  I am a physician.  And but for the grace of God, you could be in this chair.  Don’t’ ever forget that.”

“Good, Friday morning.  I’ll check on her after surgery.”

Copyright © 2012 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.


Am I So Different

August 19, 2011 | 3 Comments

My husband’s appearance has changed dramatically since his stem cell transplant. The donor’s cells he received to replace his cancer ridden immune cells and “cure” his cancer see his body as a foreign body and attack, in his case, his skin. The donor’s cells are on a search and destroy mission and any organ such as his liver, eyes, intestines, or kidneys are fair game. The donor’s cells are just doing their job, after all, they are in a foreign place, somebody else’s body. This process is known as graft vs. host disease and one of the major risks of a bone marrow or stem cell transplant. When the target is the skin it can be particularly devastating both physically and emotionally. Doctors try at all cost to avoid graft vs. host disease, but for some transplant recipients and their families it becomes an inevitable part of their lives.

I came across this poem the other day. I have witnessed the stares, over heard the comments, and explained more times than I can count why my husband looks so different than before. After all the explaining, I’ve come to realize that no matter the reason what really matters is not the “why” but as the poem’s author writes, “give me your smile that’s true and bright, walk with me through each tomorrow, don’t shun me out of fright.”

I wish I could give the author credit, but they signed their poem Anonymous.

Am I So Different

Am I so different because I’ve lost my hair,
is that the reason you feel a need to stare,
am I so different because of things I cannot do,
does that really make me less normal than you,

Am I so different, so different from you,
is making me uncomfortable a pleasure for you,
if my looks are upsetting to one and all,
just try and remember that my life is no fun at all,

You see me like this and wince as I pass by,
never once do you notice the tear in my eye,
it’s not illness or pain that makes me cry,
it’s your stares and snide comments as I walk by,

So, please, I implore you, take this to heart,
I am truly human, not a species apart,
this illness is my burden, a heavy one too,
if not for a misfortune, this me could be you,

My life is now a battle,
this cancer I must fight,
your cruel and hurtful prattle,
pains me day and night,
instead of pain and sorrow,
give me your smile that’s true and bright,
walk with me through each tomorrow,
don’t shun me out of fright.



Copyright © 2011 Jeannie Moloo. All Rights Reserved.