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Wednesday, January 27, 2016

I wasn’t going to write any more columns about my cancer fight, but I felt like I had to write just one more. I am overwhelmed at the number of people who have wished me well, and I honestly did not realize that my friends cared that much. But that is just me. Low self-esteem can be a barrier that is almost impossible to get through.

I am also really pleased that some people have decided to email me about their own fights with cancer. Please keep doing that and I will offer all of the encouragement I can. Remember, being able to confront cancer one-on-one with the will to not let it define your life is what I consider to be an important part of winning your battle.

When people talk to me now, and they know about my stage IV kidney cancer, they always ask how I feel. Before I got cancer, I would do the same thing to the few people I knew who had some form of cancer. I would ask them how they felt, and then they would get this exasperated look on their faces and say they felt fine. I didn’t understand their frustration, but I do now.

Every day, one of my relatives calls and asks me how I feel. I have people who will, on occasion, ask me through Facebook or some other Internet communication vehicle how I feel. It happens every single day, and I always appreciate the concern. But the frustrating part is, at this early phase of my battle, nothing changes from day to day. I have this wicked cold I am trying to get rid of, and with that I feel pretty terrible. But whenever I tell people that I feel fine when it comes to cancer, some seem almost disappointed.

I don’t think they are disappointed that I feel fine; I think they just expected something different. It is the stigma that cancer carries with it that causes people to associate cancer with sick people. While cancer does claim lives and does create very sick people, there are also a lot of people who manage cancer and even beat it. But the media loves death and destruction, which is why the idea that all cancer patients are sickly people dominates the collective psyche. I was part of that, so I understand where everyone is coming from.

In my experience, you either feel fine, you feel a little tired, or you are on a downward spiral. If you ask someone with cancer how they feel and they are on their downward spiral, they will probably not want to answer you. I know I wouldn’t. If someone is fatigued or sick from chemo, then that is also something that the person concerned will be happy to explain, just so that you know that the fatigue comes from the chemo and nothing else. I apparently have a lot of people who care about what happens to me, and I want them all to have accurate information. So clarifying the effects of chemo is important to me and them. I understand that.

I’m not sure what kind of answer people expect from me when they ask how I feel, but it almost seems like they don’t believe me when I say I feel fine. Just for the record, I feel fine. Cancer is a deadly disease, but it takes time for it to take over. With the right medication, I should be feeling fine for years. But cancer does not automatically make you feel a certain way. And if it did make you feel a certain way, that feeling probably would not change much from day to day.

Like I have said in the past, I have been on the other side of this equation asking questions and offering encouragement. I know the helpless feeling that comes with watching someone suffer with this disease. But after a few weeks on the business side of cancer, I can tell you that the feeling from the patient is just as helpless. When people constantly ask how I feel or say that they are praying for me, it makes things worse. Positive vibes sent my way are always appreciated, but prayers make me feel like people are already holding a vigil. It is a bit unnerving, to be honest.

Right now I am fighting cancer, not dying from it. How do I feel? I feel the same today as I felt last week. If I take a turn for the worse, I am probably not going to want to talk about it. If I take a turn for the worse that is suddenly delayed by medication, THEN I can tell you that I feel better.

All of the positive thoughts and words of encouragement are appreciated very much, and I am always in the mood to hear those. But when people ask how I feel, it makes me pause. How do you think I am supposed to feel? Because that is probably not how I am feeling. I feel great. I have felt great since the day after my surgery (minus the screaming pain from the incision and my bad back which seems to have gotten exponentially worse).

So when we talk to each other, I am always ready to accept words of encouragement and positive thoughts. If prayer is your thing, then I understand where your intentions are at and I appreciate that as well. But if you ask how I am feeling, then all you will get for an answer is “Great!”. The day I can no longer give that answer, is the day that I won’t answer that question anymore. But that day is many, many years away.

For now, I feel great, and I do appreciate you asking. I’m just not sure what type of answer you expect. The thing is that you probably don’t know what type of answer you expect either, and I completely understand that. So let’s just leave it at the fact that I feel fine, and move on to something else.

+George N Root III is a Lockport resident who feels just fine. Follow him on Twitter @georgenroot3 or send him a message at Don’t forget to listen to Shenanigans every Wednesday night at 8 p.m. on for your weekly dose of – something.

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