Thursday, March 16, 2006


As I mentioned in past posts, I continue to look for a therapist. Monday was no different. That morning I had an appointment with Dr. Roberts, a psychologist who has his own practice in addition to his work as head of counseling at the Ronald McDonald House in Manhattan. I think our meeting went pretty well. We agreed to meet up again next Monday.

I had a couple of hours of free time between then and the meeting at Sloan-Kettering, which I was planning to attend so I went down to the West Village, where I had coffee at my favorite cafe, Cafe Dante, before picking up a sandwich at a nearby deli and eating it on a bench in Washington Square Park. It was a delightfully warm afternoon on Monday, so my time spent there in the midst of the Washington Square crowd was really enjoyable. As I walked around the area of the park, it dawned upon me that this was my first time in the Village and at Cafe Dante, since well before the transplant. I felt quite fortunate to be able to enjoy some of these simple pleasures, which I had become accustomed to and missed. Indeed, it was so wonderful to sit at a sidewalk cafe reading the paper and enjoying a cafe moka once again in such balmy weather. It was really the simplicity of the moment that made it so pleasant.

At 5:30pm, Sloan-Kettering's Post-Treatment Resource Program offered another of its interesting lectures. I learned about the Post-Treatment program from a friend about one week ago, so this was my first opportunity to check out one of the program's events, which are open to patients regardless of where they are being/were treated. The lecture was titled, "So I'm A Survivor - Now What?" and it was given by Dr. Jimmie Holland, a psychiatrist at Sloan-Kettering who is known for her book, The Human Side of Cancer, in addition to many other writings and works. From what I gathered, she's a real pioneer in creating a joint field for psychotherapy and cancer. Many months ago, someone recommended that I read The Human Side of Cancer, but I didn't. Only last week when I was reflecting upon "healing" literature that I decided to order Dr. Holland's well-known book.

Dr. Holland started with some general talking points, such as the definition of a "survivor." She said one is a survivor from the moment of diagnosis. After her introduction, she then opened up the topic to discussion. Honestly, I didn't know what to expect at this meeting. It was my very first time within the walls of this famous institution. But the dialogue that transpired was both interesting and beneficial. At the very least, it made me think about a few things (some of which I had overlooked or forgotten). Some of the issues rose by the meeting's participants were:

  • "chemo-brain": cognitive dysfunction associated with chemotherapy treatment
  • Damocles syndrome: sense of vulnerability; life can change at any moment and as a result, feelings of impermanence
  • "survivor guilt": patient feels guilty that they survived cancer and someone else (they know or don't know) did not. Many survivors question why they survived and someone else died. As a result, some patients feel a great need to give back to society.
  • post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD): feeling of acute anxiety and/or stress after experiencing or witnessing a life-threatening event. Some BMT patients, she said, are known to suffer from PTSD.
One interesting point brought up was that patients with the same diagnosis do not have the same cancer. Each individual brings different factors to the table. We each possess a different body at the time of diagnosis as well as different cells, overall health, and more. One size does not fit all despite the tendency for people to look at others, who had the same diagnosis for reference. Such a measure can be counterproductive.

After the meeting at Sloan-Kettering, Chris and I met up for dinner. After a little searching, we came upon a Mexican restaurant, where we decided to eat. I don't eat Mexican food very often, but the delicious food at this place made me question why I wasn't eating it more often. It was really tasty and was such a pleasant change from usual culinary choices. The credit goes to Chris. Excellent choice, man.


Comment Anonymous Brian said...

Good to see you back, Duane.

I think my biggest survivor issue (assuming I ever get to go into remission) is what I'm going to call "Lance Armstrong Syndrome" (you heard it hear first!). Basically, it's the feeling that once this cancer is done, I have to go out and accomplish something big. Not just enjoy all of life's precious moments that I wasn't before, but overperform on some grand stage to show people that cancer isn't the end. I was actually watching the Winter Olympics and thinking to myself "which one of these sports could I excel at in four years?"

Man, that sounds like a lot of work. In the meantime, I'll just keep writing and eating candy. Well, once the wisdom tooth thing heals, anyways. Whee!

12:50 PM  

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