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This is one of several essays from my private cancer journal. It is not intended as anything than a record of my states of mind as I struggled with the disease and the effects of the treatment.

Sticks & Stones


I'm having trouble sleeping.

I sit up with a TV show until I'm starting to doze off but then, stretched out in bed, I sticks and stones can't go to sleep. Finally, when I do, I have dreams too strange to describe and then I am awake and it is dark and I have to get up again and it isn't even 6 am.

So this morning I sat on the front porch with coffee and watched the sky in the east lighten.

I keep telling myself this is temporary. For nearly three years, I've been through problems and black holes with this disease and it always passes. I always come out of it. That was one of the great lessons I finally gained to keep going and I need to draw from what I've learned.

But this one is different.

There is a haunting dread in this one. It permeates me like a bad dream that I can't shake. Or a cold, wet, heavy blanket that is wrapped around me as I move through the day, constantly reminding me as it drips on my legs and feet.

I'm hardly the first to feel it. I know that. I am sure it is not unique to my situation.

It is just unique to me.

I struggled if I should even write about it. Maybe I should wait until it passes. After all, this has turned into a public journal and anyone might read it and why depress other people? They want hope, not this.

Well, so do I.

Besides, this is my journal and while there are a few things in my life that I hold back, it is not from modesty. They are more like the dream last night. There are places where words cannot reach.

And besides #2, this is what I do to keep going. I write.

My Caren made an interesting observation the other day. She said that what I write is another aspect of me that I never express verbally. I hadn't thought of it in that way, but I suppose it is true. I guess I am able to reach into and express (and to remove) a part of me that I can't do any other way. Maybe that is why I write.

Well, back to the glossary. While it has been a joy, it now added to that dread. Looking up the side-effects of ketoconazole (and Taxotere -- my fun choices), I came across new words that, in a better state of mind, I would have added without a thought. But I couldn't. Not yet. They dug too deeply into my gut.

  • Asthenia: Weakness, lack of energy and strength.
  • Cachexia: Loss of body weight and muscle mass.
  • Paraneoplastic syndrome: A group of medical problems due to the production of chemical substances the cancer cells release into the bloodstream.
The list of "problems" under that last one is grisly.

What's that old children's proverb? Sticks and stones may break my bones but words will never hurt me.

Not exactly. Words hurt and we all know that. They can reach deeper than sticks and stones. I've said and written words (even yesterday) that have hurt others and now, I guess, there is a karmic balance occurring. I struggle through gut-wrenching words not only to understand so I can make a treatment decision and then I realize they were omitted from the glossary that I am working on and I need to add them and make sure they are laid out properly on the page.

Remember, paraneoplastic syndrome needs to be in 10 point Ariel bold and the definition in Times Roman!

It is a very schizophrenic process.

When I get through it, maybe I'll sleep better.

I need it for the next karmic joke.


(Illustration is a portion of a painting from a beautiful collection by Thomas Rodrigues, San Rafael, CA)

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This information is provided for educational purposes only and does not replace or amend professional medical advice. Unless otherwise stated and credited, the content of Phoenix5 (P5) is by and the opinion of and copyright © 2000 Robert Vaughn Young. All Rights Reserved. P5 is at <>. P5's policy regarding privacy and right to reprint are at <>.