Stephen Butterman with his niece and nephew Curt and Cherie

Stephen Butterman with his niece and nephew, Curt and Cherie

March 22, 2014

Hi Marie,

Well, here an essay finally is for your blog, if you want it for that.  Either way, hope you enjoy it!

All the best,
Stephen

 

Curve Ball

Two months ago my oncologist smilingly advised me that I had beaten my cancer, and only briefly had I believed that I might live forever.  Before long, I was once again comfortably mortal and cursing my luck for catching the common cold.
Cancer had never caused me much of a problem other than those caused by my weapon against it, chemo.  Still, the nausea, chemo-taste, exhaustion and constipation all have seemed safely in my past, have seemed reasonable prices to have paid.  Only my hair-loss lingers, insofar as it only slowly grows back.
Given to always emphasizing the positive side, even regarding chemo side-effects, I also tell myself that the non-severe weight loss was a blessing—that I had needed to lose those 25 pounds anyway.  Additionally, my most recent book, That’s So Funny, My Hair Fell Out, I can classify as a wholly positive side-effect of my cancer experience.
One potential negative side-effect of my particular chemo-cocktail that I had tried to ignore is that it weakens heart muscles.  When told of this at the start of my treatment, I judged it as less concerning than my sudden baldness.  After all, I had been born with a strong heart; a little bit of “weakened” would yet leave it relatively strong, I reckoned.  Besides, at the time that had seemed like a concern of the future, and I was then deeply involved in making sure that I even had a future.
Well, the future arrived today as chemo clearly tried for the last laugh.  It had handled my cancer, but now it charges me with heart trouble.  Yes, a routine EKG showed that my heart muscles had indeed been weakened, had deteriorated to the point of congestive heart failure.  Unlike with my cancer, this is not something that I can battle and vanquish. Cancer is a defendable invasion; heart failure is an irreversible occupation. It is here to stay, and I must daily deal with it the rest of my life, meaning I hope to deal with it for a long time—again, unlike my cancer.
Yes, this makes me long for the time when rapid hair-loss was my most dreaded chemo side-effect.
Yet, it also brings to mind this lesson learned in the school of hard knocks while pursuing my degrees in cancerology and chemology: cherish each day; if it’s a bad one, make it better; if it’s a good one, smile and enjoy.
So, even though it’s been a bad day, I am at least thankful that heart meds do not cause cancer, do not even cause hair loss!