R words

r words

Wednesday, December 11, 2013 was the day of my last radiation treatment. I had my final chemotherapy treatment the week before, on Tuesday, December 3.



I am done with treatment. I am now in Recovery.



Recovery would be lovely if it took place in a day, or maybe two. It does not. As one waggish commentator said online: “The radiation doesn’t stop cooking you all at once. It keeps simmering for a while.”






Also, there are the naggingly minor side effects, like the sore throat that makes it almost impossible to swallow, and the bizarrely twisted sense of taste. (I long for real tastes, and for solid food. I was reading the biography of Muriel Spark the other day and found a mention of Muriel having drinks with Edith Sitwell – “iced gin with grapefruit juice” – that almost made me burst into tears.)



My energy is returning, which is not necessarily a good thing. I have lots of get-up-and-go, but very little to do. Christmas is useful, because I can use my time making lists, checking them twice, etc. I can organize books on my bookshelves. I can write little feuilletons like this one, when I can summon up enough brain cells to do so.



And I can day by day think about my improvement. I needed less pain medication today. My throat was less obstructed today. I slept a straight four hours last night!



So much for recovery.



There’s another R word that I don’t even want to think about right now, for fear of jinxing myself: Remission.



Remission is the absence of cancer. My radiation oncologist (who is not normally the soul of Christmas good cheer) tells me, with his gargoyle’s grin, that he cannot see any sign of the original tumor in my throat when he looks down inside. (That is, of course, with the naked eye. He is not Superman and does not have X-ray vision.) This is excellent news, and I will be having several more tests over the next few weeks and months to confirm this. Back in September, when this whole cavalcade began, I had a Stage IV tumor (“roughly the size of a Meyer lemon,” according to another clever little Internet source) under or beside my left tonsil, along with an assortment of nastily swollen lymph nodes. Now – who knows? The whole kit and caboodle appear to be gone.



I say again: they appear to be gone.



We Reassure ourselves with the good cheer of our doctors that the treatments Really Really worked. We don’t ever want to go through that kind of treatment again. (The first month or so was nothing at all. The last few weeks were Repulsive.)



So here’s to the future, and to another day of Recovery.



And you know what? The new season of Ru Paul’s Drag Race begins in a month or so.



So I have something to look forward to after all.



(Also: doesn’t the rhino in the illustration above look like a hippo to you?)


About Loren Williams
Gay, partnered, living in Providence, working at a local university. Loves: books, movies, TV. Comments and recriminations can be sent to futureworld@cox.net.

10 Responses to R words

  1. Oh, Loren, I hope you continue to feel better a bit each day.
    I’ve been away from Facebook for what seems like months, but is really only a couple weeks. I went to Montana to be with my mother as she failed and died; a grueling, beautiful, painful, bonding experience for all.
    Just got back tonight to the big storm; want to sleep. Probs will sleep and cry a lot this week.
    Stay in touch.

    • I am so sorry, Joanne. I read in your Xmas letter about the app that let you see what your mother could see outside her window, and I was very moved by that; I would have liked something like that too, with Mom still back in Washington.

      Please accept my condolences.

      I am feeling a little better, and hope to improve day by day; the big goal for me is eating normally. I’m almost back to writing on a once-in-a-while basis, and maybe within a month or two I’ll be back on an every-day basis.

      Best to you and your family –

      Loren (and Bill)

  2. So glad you had your last treatment.

    I know many long term cancer survivors so I have the best expectations for you.

    That darn radiation; I know from a friend that Recovery depends on the Radiation sort of receding and giving you a rest.

    Been thinking of you.

    • Thank you. I seem to be perking along okay; I wish the recovery were going faster, but there are small changes from day to day that give me some hope.

      I love reading your blogs and looking at the photos; they are among the things that give me the most hope. I would so much like to revisit the Peninsula one day (I was just drafting a blog entry about it last night), and reading about it / looking at pictures of it does my heart good.

      • Good to hear. I am taking a wee break while on staycation but I do have some winter blog entries in mind including a walk down the “meander line” between port and town in Ilwaco. Allan got some gorgeous photos of crab boats yesterday that I posted to the Discover Ilwaco page.

        A friend who had very painful radiation about three years ago for a cancer at t’other end from yours (leading to a whole different pain problem from swallowing) is thriving and cancer free. Two weeks after the end of the radiation is when she really started a faster recovery.

      • That’s excellent news. I know it will improve; it’s just a matter of waiting, and trying to do everything I can to keep the process running.

        Love all the photos and the blogs. I have such funny black-and-white memories of the Peninsula back in the 1960s – it was very basic and almost grubby, but very beautiful. Every time I go back I’m a little disappointed that the original town isn’t there – and then I find it again, and it’s just glorious. 2001 was my first time back in over 20 years, and I just stood on the beach approach in Long Beach and cried, and Partner didn’t know what to do.

  3. starproms says:

    I’m happy to hear that the treatment has ended, for now. Recovery is always a long process, whatever we are suffering with so take it easy. Don’t go too fast. Each day at a time. Keep thinking about that iced gin 🙂

  4. Tam says:

    Thanks for sharing your Reflections during this process. It’s a thing that most of us don’t bother to do on a good day, and a gift. As for the rhino, maybe the tusk grows in at puberty!

    • I just kind of figured that if I keep writing about odds and ends, people will wonder, “What the hell? I thought he was really sick.” Also, I’m really tired most of the time, though the fatigue is beginning to get better.

      Also, I have another friend who believes all kinds of abnormal things about rhinos and their horns. I will copy her on this message.

      xo –


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