Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Where is the anger?

Ever since (shortly after) this all started, I have been wondering where my anger associated with this "tragedy" has been. I don't mean to say that anger is not among the emotions that this experience elicits. It is just not amongst the primary feelings that I am left with. At times, I've wondered whether I am suppressing it - or some of my negative feelings, in general.
I have asked "why me?" - but I haven't spent that much time wondering or feeling singled out. Because of how my body and my God and my doctors have responded to it, I am in a good place with my cancer right now. In a much different boat than, say, Patrick Swayze (in the recent Barbara Walters interview). He knows his time is limited and is angry about it. That's not me. I am not face-to-face with a pre-mature end. The merely getting sick part is not, in and of itself, angry-worthy. It seems to me that the level of anger is proportional to the imminence of death – the closer to it, the greater the anger.
So, in considering my situation, I think that my minimal anger stems from my belief that I am not going anywhere anytime soon.
Whatever anger I might have is directed thus:
Towards the cancer. Appropriately enough, it is the cancer itself – this invader of my body – that bears the brunt of my anger. I am occasionally angry towards the cancer for picking me. It seems unfair that I would have been selected from the crowd. I am angry at it for knocking the trajectory of my life off track. I am angry at it for threatening me. I am angry at it for not agreeing to go, to leave me now that it got my attention.
Towards my medical professionals. I was incredibly thankful to all of the doctors, nurses and others that contributed to addressing all of my medical needs so wonderfully. Unfortunately, I am a little less complimentary now. It may be, sadly, that the distance from a life or death situation has increased my expectations. First there was the absence of a proven adjuvant therapy for my pancreatic cancer. Basically, I have already received the most effective treatment available to me. On the one hand, that is a very good thing. Nonetheless, it does scare me that there is no demonstrably effective response that they can offer me should the cancer return. That fear leaves me angry.
Then, recently, my total number of chemo treatments has been increased from four cycles (sandwiched around radiation) to six. My doctor passed this change off as a misunderstanding between us. As if I could misunderstand something so important to me. I will, of course, do what I have to do. Still, I am angry about this seemingly arbitrary repositioning of the goal posts.
Towards my God. Anger very often springs from fear. God has stood very tangibly beside me throughout this ordeal, dispelling my fear. Because of this, I am not angry at God. There may also be a reluctance to be angry at a God who has blessed me so bountifully. If the evil were to return, I don't know just what I would do. After being set up with a near ideal life, being torn away from it and everyone I love would piss me off. I imagine that the injustice of it would leave me livid. I hope to never find out.

All in all, except for the (more tangible) threat of death, this hasn't been a particularly negative experience for me. It has been difficult and challenging – but not all bad. As I start my third month/cycle of chemo, I am doing very well. Just fatigue so far. I do recognize that this trajectory could take an ugly turn for the worse at any moment.
Ultimately, if I don't die "early" due to pancreatic cancer, I've got little to be angry about and rather lots to be thankful for.

So, between the cancer itself, the people who treat it and the God who allowed it – I am most angry at the cancer. I find that the best antidote to anger is action. I'd like to ask you to help me get over my anger at cancer. {Roll the promo music.}
Unbelievably (to me), it has been two years since I last had a good head shaving. It's St. Baldrick's time again!
On March 22nd, I'll be shaving my head in solidarity with children who have cancer and typically lose their hair during treatment, while raising critical funds for childhood cancer research! The thought of innocent children being afflicted with this dreadful disease is heartbreaking.
In the US, more children die of childhood cancer than any other disease. Please make a donation on my behalf to support childhood cancer research so that all children diagnosed with cancer will have a better chance for a cure.
Jacquelyn and I have felt the incredible support from all of you for the past several months. Thank you. Now I ask you for a little more - to bring some hope to angelic children and their parents. I couldn't imagine.
To make a donation, go to the following link –
click on "Donate Online" or "Donate by mail or phone." And, if your employer matches your donations – please don't forget to take the next step to double your donation. (For fellow Merck employees you can do that at -
I appreciate your thoughtfulness and generosity.
Thanks again.
Peace and love.