Monday, May 7, 2007

Living With It

I'd heard the advertisements. I watched Ted Koppel's interview on "The Daily Show." I made a mental note to avoid the Discovery Channel at 7 pm Sunday night, when the three-hour special "Living With Cancer" was scheduled to air.

I don't need to watch a television program on what I already know about.

But last night, when I turned on the television, planning to watch "The Simpsons"... my fingers instead went to Channel 47, and for the next three hours, I watched.

The documentary was a very personal project for Koppel, as it involved his friend Leroy Sievers' journey after being diagnosed with tumors on his brain and lungs, four years after a bout with colorectal cancer in 2002. According to the documentary website, Sievers learned of his recurrence right about the same time I found out about my TC diagnosis.

His case is difficult to watch. Case in point: Koppel shows Sievers undergoing chemo... which is presented in its all its clinical glory. The boredom is the worst part of the actual experience... as for five hours at a time, once every three weeks, Sievers is hooked to the machine dispensing drugs into his system. He maintains his strength throughout the process; the debilitating weakness and nausea comes later. The cameras don't show that.

Sievers was given a death sentence. His doctor flatly says Sievers' cancer will kill him... and later receives some criticism for doing so, although the patient sticks up for his doctor, and his honestly.

Through a combination of chemo and radiation, as well as an untested procedure that involves literally burning off lung tumors, Sievers is tumor-free today. He is not cancer free, as his doctors believe cancer cells are still floating through his system, waiting to attach themselves to another part of his body, and start spreading.

Still, a win is a win... and Sievers realizes it. He is at once incredibly upbeat at his good fortune... and also respectful of the fact it is likely a stall, at best.

I cried three times watching this show... as every fear I've had, every emotion I've experienced since January 24, 2006, was explained and presented, with very little attempt to cover up the insidiousness of this disease. But, at the same time... the program is very hopeful, and is beautifully produced and edited (I know, that's an odd term to use in this context. Watch the program. You'll see what I mean.)

As I watched it, I experienced a sense of well-being and hope very similar to my experience meeting another TC survivor last year. After all, the program is called "Living With Cancer," not "Dying" from it.

I'll probably write about this more... but for now, I encourage everyone to watch this program. Consider it a personal request. It repeats Monday night on Discovery Health, and I imagine Discovery will repeat it quite a bit after that.

It literally shook me to my core, and today I'm still in awe of the emotions it forced me to confront. And that's a good thing.

(Photo by Tyrone Turner)

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