by David Kelley
Tinnitus is the correct medical term for it. What I call it is one of my daily reminders that at least I am alive and able to, literally, live with such things as the constant, sometimes louder, sometimes quieter but always present tinnitus. It’s that ringing, buzzing, droning, no longer annoying, always there side effect of my cancer treatment last year. Actually, it’s just one of the side effects of the cancer treatment.
Thirty-five radiation treatments, three chemotherapy sessions, and one surgery were necessary before I was deemed cancer-free. Cancer-free, yes, but the side effects will always be with me. Never will I ever complain about them, for they keep my perspective on life pretty well grounded. Never again will I take anything for granted, like the simple act of being able to swallow, and my ability to eat normally. For, you see, my cancer was termed head/neck cancer. And the location itself, to some degree, dictated the nature of the side effects of treatment.
The trivial moments are the most important.
There is absolutely no way that I could have gotten through my treatment without the incredible love, support, and encouragement of my family and friends. From the seemingly trivial phone calls, emails, and text messages to check on me, to the times when my yard was mowed, there is no way to adequately express the gratitude and appreciation toward those involved.
One learns a lot when faced with such a situation. A positive attitude and emotional outlook are crucial in recovery. Lying on the radiation table while the machine circles and sends its rays into your body, sitting in the chair in the chemo room with a needle in your arm for four hours and listening to the beeping while it drips, having your dinner poured through a tube – all of these can take a toll. Yet, you keep telling yourself that each day down is another day complete. Each session down is one less to be endured. “One more day, one more day, one more day,” is the mantra repeated over and over.
Fortunately, I am able to live with the physical side effects of treatment. Some of the other side effects are more sublime and meaningful. Tailgating at Arrowhead Stadium, listening to the rain, sitting on the patio, simply living… everything has more meaning and more enjoyment. The trivial moments are the most important; the seemingly more important sometimes become the more trivial and irrelevant. Mowing the yard, fighting the gophers in my garden, grilling – it’s the little moments in life that now have more significance and value. That is perhaps the greatest side effect of all.
♦ ♦ ♦ ♦ ♦
David Kelley is a head/neck cancer survivor.
This article was originally published in Coping® with Cancer magazine, January/February 2012.