By Dom Cioffi
My last column was nearly four months ago. That was October and at the time, I could barely focus enough to write a single sentence. While the powerful drugs I was taking were alleviating the excruciating pain that was growing inside of me, they were also making reality a bit harder to navigate. I knew then that it was time to halt production of “The Movie Diary” until I was feeling better.
But after a long, arduous battle, I’m finally ready to write again.
The Stage 4 cancer (located in my throat) that I went to Florida to treat was not going to go away without a fight. I was informed by my doctors that of all cancer treatments, this was one of the worst to get through. It would also come with a number of side effects that would make life on the other side challenging. The more they talked, the more I felt like I won the reverse lottery.
As such, I suffered through 35 radiation treatments and six sessions of chemotherapy between September and November. As the weeks during this time passed, I relied more and more on my mother and mother-in-law (who abruptly halted their own lives to relocate to Florida to take care of me).
My wife coordinated everything and traveled to and from Florida to lend assistance while holding down her job and caring for our son. I also received massive written and verbal support from my colleagues at work, my family, friends (both new and old), and readers of this column who took the time to write me some wonderful notes of encouragement.
I remember very little once I hit the second half of my treatments. I returned home just prior to Thanksgiving but the drug-induced haze continued until Christmas. My doctors told me that my lack of memory was the brain’s way of dealing with immense pain. I do, however, remember small snippets like the despondent look on my mother’s face as she tried to comfort me from the pain, or the smell of the rug on the bathroom floor of our rental as I was crawling around at 3 a.m. trying to come to terms with my situation.
Once back home, my mother was the one who finally got me out walking just prior to Christmas, insisting that it was time to start working at my recovery. The first day I barely made it to the end of my street.
The beginning of my daily walks also marked my decision to start weaning myself off the pain medication. This would turn out to be a six-and-a-half-week process. However, unlike my radiation and chemo treatments, which remained a cloudy memory, I remember every moment of withdrawing from my medication. In a word, it was “hell.”
The human body, once accustomed to a powerful narcotic, does not take lightly to letting go. I have a newfound respect for anyone who has every fought and won a battle over addiction. Never have I been so sick in so many varied ways for so long.
However, on Jan. 17 (the date will forever be marked in my brain) I woke up and wasn’t sick. I had put on the last pain patch a week earlier and now I was free, the last remaining bit of medication having finally exited my body. I went out for my walk later that day and literally teared up as the sun beamed down on my face. Every inch of my consciousness was aware that I didn’t feel sick anymore. I have done nothing but improve since that date.
In the process of healing, I have had to relearn how to eat and swallow food. Initially everything tasted like cardboard. It didn’t matter what food I put into my mouth, the same flavor and sensation of paste overwhelmed my taste buds. Needless to say, eating food became a necessary chore. However, over time this has improved significantly, which thrills me since I was told some people never fully regain their sense of taste.
But while I have improved in so many areas and am feeling better than I have in months, the real question remains: Am I now cancer-free? That question will be answered in two weeks when I travel back to Florida for two days of tests to confirm my status.
Stay tuned for the big reveal…
This past week was special in that it was the first time I returned to the theater in months. I wanted to see a positive, uplifting film so I chose “The Arrival,” starring Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner (I also thought the name was appropriate given my return).
“The Arrival” was released several months ago, but saw slow sales at the box office. However, word of mouth and exceptional ratings from critics drove this film back into the theaters recently.
The premise is very “Twilight Zone,” with the world dealing with a sudden alien presence in various locations around the globe. The question is whether the visitors are friend or foe.
Check this one out if you love intelligent science fiction. It’s slow brewing as far as action is concerned but the underlying story is well worth the admission price.
An out-there “B+” for “The Arrival.”
Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at [email protected]