Where I Am, Part 2

Where I Am, Part 2

Written by Dan Schwartz

Picking up the story from Issue 87: a lot of water has gone by the bridge in the meantime. But someone in the forum asked for prayers, which motivated me to acknowledge where I am.

Continuing the story: for the next 15 years, all was well. (Well, not really — I had a heart attack the next year brought on by the nephrectomy, and a mild stroke in 2013.) But my daughter, now 25, was 9 at the first bout, so in the broad sense, all was well.

But then, a year and a half ago my wrist started to hurt, and then it hurt quite a bit. All through last summer I wore a brace, and thought it was tendinitis. Sometime last July, I started to occasionally see blood in my urine. I visited a urologist, who gave me a clean bill of health — and an infection.

In late August, I accompanied a friend on a mushroom adventure. She hoped that the psilocybin would help reset her brain, and I felt flattered to be asked to be a part of the “set and setting”. We were sitting under an oak tree, and when I got up — lifting with my legs, but using the arm in the brace to help with my balance — I felt a sharp pain in my forearm and heard a somewhat loud snap. I grinned through the pain, not wanting to “harsh her mellow”, for the next 6 hours.

At home, I told my wife that I had sprained my wrist. I started wearing a heavier-duty brace.

I also started feeling pretty ill. This was the infection. So I went to my nearest ER and got antibiotics. I told them, “Hey, as long as I’m here, why don’t you take a picture of my wrist, because I’m pretty sure it’s sprained.” And the X-ray revealed that my arm was broken, not sprained. The doctor said it looked like a pathological, metastatic break. I knew right away what it was.

I entered on a medical path, once again.

On the 19th of September I had my arm repaired, and a biopsy taken. Renal cell carcinoma. Kidney cancer. Yet again.


For this past year:

I’ve battled my insurance company, who put my case to a death panel, which wrote me off;

Gotten treatment anyway at Norris Cancer Center, where I’m a patient of the medical director;

Changed to a very expensive form of insurance;

Gotten a couple doses of immunotherapy (which didn’t even exist last time I had cancer), and had pretty horrendous side effects and been hospitalized for a week —twice;

My arm is mostly better; virtually no trace of cancer. So I wrote Part 1, as I thought my story would have a happy ending. But literally, on the day I was set to begin writing this, and the day after I had another X-ray of my arm, I had more thorough scans. And my doctor called: the cancer has spread.

I had a Gamma Knife procedure to my cerebellum, and the following day began taking a targeted-therapy pill. That was July 24th. Now I’m fully immersed in the effects of the pill, and we’ll know in a few weeks whether or not it’s working.

Why write about it now?

There was that request for prayer. I wanted the author to know that he wasn’t alone. And though I’ve generally lived my life as an open book (the few secrets I have are to protect others, not me), this is no one’s business but my family’s and mine. But I have a different reason for wanting this to be quiet, until now.

Everyone is different, but I can’t stand the kind of things many people feel an obligation to say, things like, “Fuck Cancer!” and “Keep fighting!”

I’m not fighting, at least not literally. But I’m fully engaged in the treatment process.

I WILL die. I know this. Sooner, probably — but maybe later. Either way is okay.

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