Memento mori

The cancer diagnosis has had a number of different impacts on me, my beloved, and my family. There is the practical impact, mostly felt by me and der Fisch, of having to get to appointments, take in information, decide between treatment alternatives, and do the practical things required (pay bills, get prescriptions and other supplies, read online forums and so on). This also involves changing my behaviour in various practical ways, like always having spare pads to change into when I go out.

There is also an emotional impact of realising that I probably won’t be around as long as I had thought. I am mostly conscious of this for me and my beloved, but others may feel this too. When I first walked into Jeremy’s office I had a life expectancy of maybe 25 years. (My mother died at 94.) This wasn’t just a big cushion of years between me and my death; it influenced all sorts of practical choices I had to make, like how to set up my super at retirement. Knowing now that my life is likely to be quite a bit shorter than I had expected was quite a big thing to get used to. I think I went through a grief process for the years I now knew I wouldn’t have. At this time, my emotions were close to the surface. I know my beloved has also had periods of anxiety and stress, particularly after my initial diagnosis. (I think she keeps these mostly to herself so as not to burden me; one more reason for me to be profoundly thankful that she’s around.)

How long am I likely to get? I haven’t been offered a prognosis, and don’t feel the need for one. Even if I did have a specific figure, I know that life expectancy of prostate cancer patients can vary tremendously. So any figure would be a statistical estimate, based on many variables, the type of cancer and treatment modalities being two. So it is a number, plus or minus X. I have made my own investigations, and feel that I have a range of years to which, all going well, it is reasonable to look forward. Surprisingly,  I feel I have adjusted to these horizons.

It is a bit Magic mountain at present; I know rationally I am sick, but I feel perfectly well. This knowledge, however, forms a background against which everything else is seen. A lot of the things we obsess about seem quite trivial. I used to obsess about them until quite recently, so I am not judging people for doing this. But I do feel more detached, and have to remind myself that not everyone is feeling or can feel this way. Knowing that there are fewer years to go somehow makes life more vivid, like colours which have become twice as concentrated.

Postscript: The Prostate Cancer Treatment Research Foundation summarises the effects of different treatment on low, high or medium risk cancers in graphical form at their web site. The graph applicable to me is this one .

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