Tuesday, July 14, 2009

The Difference a Year Makes

It's hard to believe that it's only been a year since my uncle Clyde passed from cancer. It's been a bit of a mixed bag as far as emotions. I went back to the caringbridge website that my aunt and her friends had set up so that everyone would know what was going on last summer as things were unfolding. It's amazing how quickly things happened, and it's amazing to read the stories and memories that people posted. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

June 2008, and my Uncle Clyde and his wife went on a wonderful trip to Italy. When they got back they noticed that my uncle had lost a bit a weight, a tall feat after a trip to Italy (having just gotten back from Italy a month ago I can say that there are so many wonderful things to eat there!!). One of my aunt's friends who is a nurse noticed that my uncle was jandus, and said that he needed to get to the hospital immediately. From there it was a whirlwind 72 hours of shock. He went into the hospital on Friday and was diagnosed. By Saturday they were calling friends and family after getting the diagnoses of pancreatic cancer, and by Monday he had been staged and was heading into surgery. He kept joking about if he came out of surgery. At the time most of us didn't know much about pancreatic cancer, and thought it he needed to be more optimistic. Apparently he knew something the rest of us didn't. I started poking around online after getting the news from my parents, and started to discover how hard this might end up being. Surgery is a mixed blessing with pancreatic cancer in my opinion. It's incredibly hard, not because they have to remove a large part of the digestive system, but because complications are very likely after such a surgery. That's what happened with my uncle. There was internal bleeding, another surgery, and finally after 3 weeks of fighting, pain, and hysterical 6am phone calls it was over. It was like living a bad dream or having all of the air knocked out of your body.

The problem with pancreatic cancer is that it's incredibly hard to diagnose. They are no specific symptoms that scream pancreatic cancer, they are all to general. The one year survival rate is 1% and the five year survival rate is 5%. It's a death sentence, which is why I walked into a Team in Training information meeting 4 days after my uncle's death. Even though they raise money for blood cancers it was still fighting cancer, and since I was already a runner, it seemed like a good fit. Running has always been a way to help cope with things. A way to help cope after my father's stroke, or taking care of my parent's. A way to cope with all of the stress of being a violinist, and staying in shape so that I don't get injured again. All I had to do was raise money and train. It was an amazing experience, and a way to have something good come out of something that wasn't good.

It's been different since Clyde's death. He was always the clown at family gatherings, A kid trapped in an adult body. I miss the crazy smile, his love of helium balloons, and his good nature. It's good to remember all of that. And it's good to fight back, which is why I'm doing another event with Team in Training this fall. It's time for cancer to go down!



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