That’s a fair response Buzz. I have found myself not reaching out very much, for not wanting to be yet another burdensome call or text message to deal with. It’s interesting how different it is for me to manage my own feelings about your situation. When I was in my 20s I lived with my grandmother while she underwent chemotherapy. I took her to her infusions and appointments, and had the pleasure of spending that quality time with her throughout a vulnerable period, from which she thankfully recovered and lived to be almost 98. Yet, this feels astonishingly different, as we are the same age, we are both fathers, both medically trained, and the list of affinities goes on. I haven’t found the right groove for reaching out that doesn’t feel intrusive and awkward. I realize that I am being hyper self conscious, which is just another way of saying neurotically self-absorbed. So, I am just going to shoot you a message when I feel like it, and as for the ‘moving target’ of life, I think I can handle that. After all, there isn’t much certainty in life anyway, so if we aren’t able to flow with the go at any given moment then we aren’t very well adapted to life.

And at that I will share with you the “Dad joke” that Mika (my 17yo daughter) just shared with me (she’s sadly a staunch adversary of the Dad-Joke guild).

“Did you hear about the new movie called ‘Constipation’? It never came out.”

💩 bathroom humor never gets old to dads.

So with that, I either made you laugh or I may not ever hear from you again. But “go” big or go home, right?

Footnote: Permission to delete this message will be subject to the prestigious dad-joke review board (DJRB).

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I have been enjoying you column for some time. Regret to learn of this unfortunate diagnosis. How are you holding up, what can we your readers do to help?

Best wishes!

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Dec 22, 2022·edited Dec 23, 2022

Not an expected comparison at all. Totally see the parallels though. While marriage is one of the major life events that not everyone is fortunate to experience, we can’t put death into that category. Right? After reading your article I’m no longer sure. Like you said, we are all going to die, we just don’t know when, which is what makes cancer a game changer. If we were to die abruptly, such as from sudden cardiac arrest, a stroke, an accident, then it would presumably be easier on us but much harder on our loved ones. So yes, I concur with the conclusions drawn in your article. But I’m still unsure what to tell a loved one with a cancer diagnosis? I mean, a congratulations is NOT in order. Should we wish them good luck, in the most appropriate manner possible, like “hey, go break an IV” or “go open can of kick-ass on that cancer?"

My question for the author: Is it better to keep things distractingly light and even a little humorous, or to just be authentically concerned and supportive? Is it possible to be both?

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Justin- I’ve been perseverating on how to answer this sensitively phrased question. Of course, the obvious thing to say is that “everyone is different;” I’m sure there are many people entertaining new cancer diagnoses who enjoy a victim role more than I do, and welcome your pity, sorrow, anger-at-the-fates, etc. That’s just not me. On the other hand, much as I am a believer in the value of humor, there are times where that doesn’t feel right to me, either — this just isn’t very funny or light as processes go, so humor can feel insincere. That said, sharing laughs, especially about other things, can be so therapeutic in this setting, a reminder that life is still funny even when it’s rougher than a cat’s tongue. So… I would say the authenticity is really the most important thing for me. The hours feel too precious for bullshit. And, when in doubt, ask. My mood can go from dire to bright in an hour (“I just finished that whole smoothie! Do you believe it? 600 calories!”) so the “right” approach is a moving target, and I doubt I am unique among cancer patients in this regard.

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Jan 14, 2023·edited Jan 14, 2023Liked by Buzz Hollander MD

You have just entered Cancer World.

As someone who has been going through treatment for Stage 4 colon cancer for over a year, I will suggest to you that you also will occasionally want/need sympathy in the coming months. It doesn’t mean one is “enjoying” the “victim role.” It’s rather a human response to what is, indeed, a difficult, and sometimes sad or painful, situation.

P.S. I did enjoy your article and your analogy of cancer treatment to a wedding. I have actually had some great gifts from cancer, including a depending understanding of life and a renewed relationship with a sibling. Cancer also can be funny and one certainly needs to maintain a sense of humor.

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Beautiful wordplay, engaging piece, and such courage and humor in the face of much uncertainty. I truly appreciate you and am in deep gratitude that you have the wherewithal to share your journey with such intensity and intelligence. Hope to see you soon!!

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Much luck and good wishes!

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Buzz - Good luck and Godspeed.

This was a hard read - I must have read 3 other articles amongst trying to complete reading your post - it was just so human, so humane, so personal, so overwhelming, so just gotta get this out and I don't know why, but..... Thank you for writing it. Thank you for the light-hearted wedding analogy. Thank you for the other posts from you I've read. Thank you for making me appreciate my life, my challenges, my perspectives just a little bit more. Nothing more that I can write other than to say thank you, good luck, and Godspeed.

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I’m reminded of the words from another song from a slightly earlier era: Sixteen Tons. I’ve found listening to music from my youth helps calm or invigorate me, depending on the song. I’m glad you’re able to so clearly express Your vivid emotions. Hang in there!

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I've lived with mCRPC for 4 years, also have stage ii bladder and stage ii colorectal, and BRCA2, surprise suprise. Didn't die. NED. So many recent advances in protocols yanked me from the brink but I went through the whole surgery/chemo/radiation/wait trip. It worked. What I learned: just because the odds might even be astronomically against you does not mean you will die. Things are improving so much and so rapidly despair is never warranted. Going through even a truncated process of dying feels mainly cold and lonely and you spend most of your time not valiantly fighting but sitting alone waiting, and the cold radiates from the inside, from your bones. Warm can become something more than warm. Exercise as much as you can, follow the protocols with 100% compliance, give yourself the best shot you can. I survived in equal measures by 1/3 doing my homework and advocating, 1/3 pure luck, and 1/3 being an absolute ruthless, shameless prick whenever warranted. Everyone else in this club is your brother and sister, take what help they offer, they know.

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