Monday, June 4, 2012

The love of a good woman

Ellen and I had another one of those difficult conversations about my health that we both dread. I’d put off mentioning it for weeks, but in a quiet house yesterday over a glass of wine I found a moment that I couldn’t let pass.

While the appearance of another metastasis always comes as a shock it doesn’t come as a surprise—to either one of us, it seems. We’ve been married for almost 27 years and can read each other pretty well. Ellen claims to know without being told when I’ve discovered a new met. She says my countenance changes. It amazes and humbles me to think she picks up on this stuff. My poker face is apparently no match for her intuition.
Best buddies
It’s been said in a different context that there's nothing like the love of a good woman. Amen to that. I try to protect Ellen’s privacy and rarely mention her on this blog, but I’ll make an exception on this occasion. The love we have for one another and the commitment we share to our marriage has made it possible to bear heartache that might have crushed either of us individually. I refer not only to my cancer journey but to several other medical emergencies we’ve experienced in our family over the years. Together, we’re usually able to find a healthy balance of empathy, logical thinking and hope when a crisis hits. I’ve never had a moment’s doubt that I could count on her for the support and encouragement I’ve needed on several occasions. She’s my rock, and I trust she would say the same of me.

I will add that there are others in my life, most notably my son and daughter, who have also extended their love and concern when I’ve needed it most. Anyone who has been seriously ill knows how crucial it is to have a strong support network, even when the illness is a slow-motion train wreck like indolent melanoma. Ellen is merely the first among many to whom I owe a debt of gratitude. At this time of repose, let me just say to you all that I love you and appreciate your kindness more than you know. Thanks for being with me in both sickness and in health. I hope I can be as generous of spirit should you need my support some day.

As for that met—it’s actually two. They’re small and located side-by-side near my navel, which is a first. Every other subcutaneous nodule I’ve found has either been on an extremity or my neck. I’m not especially worried, as I’ve kept a close watch on them and they seem to be very slow-growing. They’re also a little unusual in that they’re only lightly pigmented. Every other sub-q met I’ve had has been blackish. This pair is palpable, but they’re not visible to the eye.
Of course, if I’ve learned anything about melanoma it’s that there is no such thing as a typical presentation. Every person I’ve known with mel has a story to tell about some oddball aspect of the disease. This is all endlessly fascinating to me, but I will understand if you don’t share my morbid interest in melanoma. Tracking all aspects of this disease is a hobby of mine. There is no end to its extraordinary complexity.

I intend to see my oncologist soon to ask his opinion, and will likely have the mets removed sometime this summer; you know the drill if you’ve followed The Ogler for a while. Occasional outpatient surgery is a simpler, easier form of treatment than what many patients endure. I also want to catch up with Dr. Curti on the latest in systemic therapies for advanced melanoma. He’s an investigator for a couple of new immunotherapy agents in clinical trials at Providence Cancer Center, so he’s sure to have opinions on where things are headed.

It takes more than the love of a good woman and the care of a good doctor to survive melanoma, but they make for a very good start. I’m blessed to have both.


Unknown said...

Thank you Ellen for being there for my big brother. He is so lucky to have you in his life! Love you both

Nancy said...

Aw now Peter, now you've gone and made me cry. Your words are simultaneously powerful and tender in describing what I have witnessed over the 45+ years I have known you, and then you and Ellen as the wonderful couple you are. It has been such a joy to see your love for each other and your family and friends (in an ever-widening circle) grow over the years.
Buds - best buds. As I recall, you even call each other Bud sometimes. No poker face for you where Ellen's concerned. You two are one, and you are blessed to have each other.

Steve said...

Peter, thanks for the update. I was telling someone recently that although I've written about cancer for 20 years, I've learned more about it from your journey than through any other channel. We'll keep you in prayer, as always.