By Mike Snyder
The thoughts start kicking in about a week before I leave for MD Anderson. Once I've finished all the practical preparations, I struggle to stay optimistic and hopeful about my chondrosarcoma treatment.I push those thoughts to the back of my mind, but as my travel date gets closer, they become more insistent. During my drive to the airport, they squeeze in close, like fellow passengers on an overcrowded bus. What will my scans show? Are my tumors bigger? Have they changed shape? Are there any new tumors?
Coping with doubt during chondrosarcoma treatment
The idea of new tumors makes the really morbid thoughts kick in: Will I be able to stay on my clinical trial? What if there isn't another trial I qualify for? Is this the time when my doctor will tell me there isn't anything else they can do for me? Will he send me home to face whatever the future holds for me without medication or treatment? Without hope?
At that point, I mentally slap myself for letting the bad thoughts in. I can't let them win. Then I realize I'm not letting the bad thoughts in, I'm confronting them. I'm learning about my own fears. And that allows me to confront them.
That doesn't mean I'm not nervous about my results. I am. And it doesn't mean I'm suddenly immune to scanxiety because I'm not. It does mean I'm learning everything I can about my cancer, my treatment options and what's available to me to make dealing with all of it easier, even if the news isn't good.Fighting back against cancer
The clichés that ignorance is fear and knowledge is power are truer for cancer patients than many other people. The more we know about cancer and what it will do, the more we can prepare ourselves to deal with it. The more we know about our treatments and what they involve, the easier it is to deal with them because they are familiar. And if something is familiar, we can find ways to deal with it.
Don't get me wrong. I'm not talking about looking through rose-colored glasses or being optimistic to the point of hiding your head in the sand. We're dealing with cancer. We have to be realistic about what we're dealing with. But that doesn't mean we have to quit laughing, stop living or give up. It means making our own choices and living our life on our terms.
Does this approach always work? The honest answer is no, it doesn't. Despite my best efforts, I've gone to appointments feeling lost and have come out of those same appointments scared and fighting back tears. Sometimes being hopeful and optimistic takes everything I have.
But I know I shouldn't be afraid of those times or feelings. It's okay to be worried, confused or scared. I write about those feelings, and I know that there is always someone at MD Anderson who can help me through them. But I don't hold those doubts in. I don't let it overpower me. I don't let it win.
Chondrosarcoma has taken my left leg, the use of my right arm and much of my mobility. It doesn't get to take my dignity, my love for family and friends or my outlook on life.
Part of why cancer can't take those things is because I know it will try. I know it will hit hard when I'm down, try to overpower me when I'm weak and tell me bad things when I'm scared. Because I know cancer will do these things, I can do something it doesn't expect: I can fight back.
Mike Snyder's cancer journey began with a sore left knee in the mid-1990s. After a variety of tests and minor surgery to correct the problem, he was diagnosed with a type of bone cancer called chondrosarcoma. In spring 2011, his doctor recommended that he switch to a hospice-type care because his tumors were growing too fast. This was an answer he refused to accept.