Good writing, with a strong point and with life oozing out.


October 15, 2013

I’m learning again how much of my processing is aided by writing– by telling people what I’m going through.  Using the term ‘cancer’ in public– in conversations with my child’s teacher, say, or writing it on Facebook or with the other Kettleheads on The WeberKettleClub– is not only stark, but a part of making it real.  I see the words as I write them, and then again after I post them, and it all has the effect of conjuring my new reality.  Saying things out loud has a way of making them real.

It brings responses, too, which are good and also reality-conjuring.  People say things back to me that affect my reality.

A lot of people say I need to ‘fight’.  I’ve heard people say this about cancer as long as I’ve known about cancer, and it’s always intrigued me.  How, exactly, is one supposed to fight against something that is inside of them?  I mean, it is obviously a foreign invader that needs to be resisted and removed and displaced, but the idea presents an existential quandary to me:  I want to fight, but I’m not sure how to do that, or what that might look like.  I stare down at my leg sometimes, trying to imagine me psychically pushing back the melanoma cells around the site of the tumor, hoping that they can be localized and safely removed on Wednesday morning when I have my wider surgical excision.

One thing I’ve fought for is my own advocacy, which is a little more concrete and yet only slightly more certain.  The doctors (dermatology, surgical oncology, medical oncology) have all been uniformly awesome, but when they seemed a bit lackadaisical about scheduling this next excision and sentinel lymph node biopsy, my wife and I got a bit anxious.  They assured us that waiting a couple weeks or more wouldn’t be unwise, and we didn’t disagree.  Yet at the same time, it seemed even better to act sooner, so we started to (gently) push for that.  By asking questions.  By emailing.  By leaving voicemails.  By inquiring about pre-surgical punch-lists.  By interacting with the referring dermatologist.  By contacting the surgical scheduler.  By going ahead and making arrangements for our own pre-surgical EKG and blood workups, so that these things wouldn’t impede any hasty scheduling.  All of which might have cumulatively turned us into pests or problem patients, but hopefully came up just short of that.  In any case, we got an earlier date, which was a huge relief.

Other people offer reassurances, mostly that I will be ‘fine’.  I certainly don’t think otherwise, and am not planning to leave my kids behind (or my Weber grills, either, much to the consternation of my many fellow Kettleheads on the  Even if we get really bad news on the next pathology report, I’m not about to lie back and let someone else raise my kids or teach them how to make a proper roast chicken or Swedish pancakes.  Hang up my toolbelt, leave the next book unwritten, or let someone else run my wife’s leaf-blower?  Not gonna happen.

Still, I’m a little wary about the promises of ‘being okay’ or ‘fine’ or ‘healthy’.  Who, after all, can promise such things?  I will probably be in the 80% of cases where the melanoma is localized, and I’ll be back to my life in no time (except for the rigorous 3-month skin checks).  But what if I’m not?  Percentages are only reassuring to the folks who have a good outcome– statistics aren’t helpful if you’re in the 20%.  And, as I’ve experienced at times in my life when the odds were much more in our favor, bad things do happen, and they have to happen to someone.  People offered similar assurances that our son would be ‘fine’, but I imagine those folks felt a mite peckish at his funeral.  The secret of being ‘fine’ is in dealing with the negative outcomes that can and do come up along the way.

I’ll be heading down my road tomorrow morning, under my surgeon’s capable knife and with my wife at my side.  Fighting and not fighting, fine and most decidedly not.

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7 Responses to “heard”

  1. “yes” to everything you just said.

  2. Janie Dowe says:

    Very wisely said Mike. I will keep you all in my thoughts a prayers.

  3. thankx so much for sharing Mike – really appreciate it especially because there is a lot of cancer in the world but no-one talking about it and so i imagine you being one of the few who are really acts as a huge encouragement or reference point for others who aren’t

    in terms of your question i think ‘fighting it’ refers a lot to the mental mindset – you see it when people get old – when they stop doing things and become inactive then they tend to die a lot sooner than people who just continue to live and maybe have to adjust what they do but don’t give up and do nothing – so mentally keep fighting and sometimes that may look like getting inside your leg and working it away mentally and other times it may be by choosing to go for a walk or to fire up the grill etc – just keep on which your attitude and writing seems to suggest you are doing…

    so thank you
    brett fish

  4. Sara Sheppard says:

    Mike, You all are in my prayers. I’ll be thinking of you tomorrow.

  5. Heather says:

    I’m sorry you are dealing with this cancer dilemma. You write so beautifully! I’m thinking of you and your family. I know you will keep us updated.

  6. Liz W. says:

    Thanks for writing this. I’m glad I got to read this as your friend because I love you. Your honesty and knowledge about yourself astounds me. And that you can write in times of crisis.

    But I am especially thankful I got to read this as a doctor. One thing I have learned over the years is never listen to the odds. I’m going to be optimistic because I think that’s fundamental to who we are as humans. I’m glad your imaging your cancer cells staying put.
    You don’t have to feel like a fighter right now. We’ll know what we’re dealing with soon. But you’ve run marathons and these cancer cells have no idea who they are messing with.
    Love you,

  7. Liz F. says:

    I want to leave a supportive comment, but everything I write comes out sounding wrong so please insert whatever words of support, love, and prayer that you find most helpful. We really are praying for / with you.

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