Thursday, April 21, 2016

Progress/Regress Report

Let me begin by saying that this is my 100th post. I'm so grateful for what has happened with this journal so far, and I'm just getting started. Thanks to everyone who reads this blog. You've made a world of difference in my life.

When I began writing about my cancer, it was in the form of a CaringBridge journal. That's why, if you read older posts, you'll see that I use the word journal more than blog. Back then, it was more about my day-to-day process and progress. Medical updates and issues related to my change of life. I kept my readers updated on our financial situation, application for disability, and what we did over the holidays. My readers were mainly family and friends, so I got pretty intimate.

Since moving to this blog, my audience and focus has expanded. I'm happy that more people are reading this, of course, and I want as many people reading this blog as possible. I think it's important to get this out. It seems to be helping people. My last post, What Not To Say To A Prostate Cancer Patient, has sort of taken on a life of its own, which I'm very grateful for. I feel like that's the sort of posts I should be writing, the kind intended to be applicable to the most people.

Because of that, I'm now going through my older posts and removing some of the more personal stuff, especially names of individuals, unless they're needed for the post. I have many strangers reading this blog now, which is great, but it also makes it necessary to protect myself and those closest to me, especially my wife.

But at the same time, I realize that my original CaringBridge readers still want to know how I'm doing. I don't want to forget that. I haven't done that since All Things New. So that's what this post is about.

My weight is good. My nutritionist's program, which began on March 31st, seems to be working. When I began, my weight was down to 120. This morning, I weighed 128. At my meeting with the nutritionist a few weeks ago, I told her about my world famous homemade dark chocolate ice cream. Come on over and have a bowl. It'll change your life. She thought it sounded really good, so I decided that, if I can maintain at 127-128 by following her program, I'm gonna take some ice cream over to her office. I might be able to do that in just a week or two, depending on how things go. That's encouraging.

My next appointment with my oncologist is not until June 7th. That's when I'll find out if my PSA is lower than before, or higher, or the same. If it's lower or the same, so far so good. If it's higher, we need a new strategy. But that's down the road a ways.

My main struggle right now is with my emotions. It's not just the mood swings. I seem to have some anger issues. I get angry at very small things, mostly just from frustration or a feeling of helplessness when I start to lose energy and hit a wall. When I can feel rubber legs coming on, it's easy for me to lose composure.

It would be easy for me to blame all of this on Lupron. But Lupron doesn't create emotions, it just magnifies them. It brings them to the surface. It removes filters. So that makes me realize that something deep down is bothering me, and it's coming out in outbursts of either yelling or crying. Or one followed by the other.

I had my first session with my new therapist yesterday. I like her, and I'm comfortable with her, so I'm very much hoping that this will help me. I told her about my feeling that I must be angry about something, but I'm not sure what it is. I can't seem to put my finger on it.

As you know if you've been reading this blog, my original purpose for seeking counseling was to remove "blockage" that's making it difficult to focus on anything other than my cancer. As I said a couple of posts ago, I feel like all I am right now is a cancer patient. Many cancer patients I know of refuse to be defined by their cancer, but not me. I've practically hung a sign on the front of my house. It's my identity now. So that has proved a problem in getting music work done. I just don't feel like that much of a musician these days. I feel like a page has been turned, but I still have to go back and read the previous page again, over and over, before I can move on to the next chapter.

While that remains a problem that must be addressed, my anger has pushed itself to the forefront. I've got to figure out what's bothering me. The peace I had not so long ago is being smothered by this feeling that there's something inside me that's not right. I have to figure out what it is.

It's hard for me to believe that there's some suppressed childhood memory that's going to reveal everything and set me free. I'm not Sybil. So what could it be? Am I really angry about something I can't identify, or is it something else that I'm refusing to acknowledge?

There are a couple of possibilities that occur to me, but I'm not sure if it's either of those things or something else. It wouldn't be ethical for me to go into details that I should only share with my therapist, and of course, I will betray no confidences shared with her. But in general, I think it's one of two things. Anger or unforgiveness. I can't think of anything I'm really angry about, but I can think of people I need to forgive right away. Could that be it? It has been in the past for me. It seems all too likely that it's the case now.

A new friend in the online support group that I basically stole my last post from posted the above meme on forgiveness today. I've always believed and preached what it says. I asked him immediately if he had me in mind when he posted it. I asked because I know he read my last post, where I admit that I have cut people off because of what I perceived to be their neglect in my time of need. My attitude has been that if these people who should have been right there with me the way I have been for them want to get back to friend status with me, the door is open, but they have some work to do.

Is that the right attitude for me to have? Probably not. If I could get past that, forgive them, and go back to the way things were with them, would that solve my problem? Maybe not, but it would certainly help.

I just reread my old post on forgiveness from last December, and while I still agree with everything I said, it's really hard for me to get my head there now. I'm sure that God is working on me in that area, and that may very well be what's been bothering me. But it probably isn't what's keeping me from getting work done. I think that has to do with feeling like I have a new identity and calling, and just as I don't want to go back to being the old Mark, I'm also having difficulty thinking of myself in my old career terms.

So if you've been thinking that I don't talk about my treatment as much as I used to, that's my update. My progress/regress report. Physically, I'm doing well. Emotionally, I'm a mess. I don't know how I'm going to get from point A to point B in either of those areas. But I have to. My ability to focus on work is a psychological issue. But unforgiveness is a spiritual issue. I can't deny that. I have to face it. Holding on to past hurts and resentments = bondage. Forgiveness = freedom. That's what I said last December, and what I've always said. I just have to put it into practice. Maybe if I can get to forgiveness, I won't be so angry. It's worth a try.

When I asked my friend if he had me in mind when he posted the meme, he replied that he was not thinking about me when he posted it. But God intended for me to see it.

Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. (Matthew 5:7)

For if you forgive other people when they sin against you, your heavenly Father will also forgive you. But if you do not forgive others their sins, your Father will not forgive your sins. (Matthew 6:14-15)


  1. The joy of forgiveness. There was a time in my life when I was filled with anger and I attended a revival in forgiveness. I took the next few months reaching and asking for forgiveness. God's Joy and rest. Your Brother in Christ, Tom

  2. Your post struck a chord in me, Mark. I understand all too well, the emotional side of living with cancer and the anger that it seems to uncover in us. I am confused that my days can begin with renewed appreciation for the beauty of a sunrise and the hope it brings me, and then end short-tempered and out-of-sorts. Exhaustion plays a part, but it's not an excuse. Cancer peels back the onion that is our life and exposes those parts that need healing. One of the gifts of cancer.

  3. Replies
    1. You only say that because it's true, Brad.

    2. I second that, Brad! Mark definitely knows how to make so pretty darned good ice cream.