Cancer and Me

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Floyd Norris, the chief financial correspondent of The New York Times and The International Herald Tribune, covers the world of finance and economics.

Regular readers of this blog and my Friday and Saturday columns no doubt have noticed that my productivity has plunged. I want to explain.

I am undergoing radiation and drug treatment for cancer. The drug is Erbitux, which at least is something I had heard about. (You may recall that was the drug involved in the Martha Stewart lying-to-the-S.E.C. case.)  It has made my face look worse than anyone’s face ever looked when I was in high school.

I know that it is not news that radiation treatment can be miserable. I did not do all the homework I could have done, so perhaps I should have been better prepared. But the pain involved is more than I have ever experienced. It is virtually impossible for me to eat. I am losing weight at an impressive rate, to the dismay of the radiation doctor. I have little energy, which is probably both because of the radiation directly and because of the lack of nutrition.

The treatment ends June 16. Until then, there are five days a week of radiation. I am at work today, but do not know how often I will be able to do much of anything.

It is not fun, but it has been inspiring. In a way, I am happier about my life than at any time I can remember.  Clint Eastwood once asked, “Do you feel lucky?”  My answer is a shouted yes.

First, the cancer itself, in my face and neck, seems to have been all removed by surgery, and I am told the odds are with me that I will not have a recurrence, particularly if I stick out the treatment.

But even if those odds do not work out, just visiting the hospital’s radiation treatment facility has shown me a world I never knew about.  A few weeks ago, when I was just beginning my six weeks of radiation, I struck up a conversation with a woman in the waiting room who I assumed was waiting for her own treatment. “How long have you been getting radiation?” I asked.  She looked healthy, if not happy, and perhaps somewhere in the back of my mind was the hope that she would tell me radiation did not have to be miserable. That was not what I heard. It was, she said, the second week for her 13-year-old son, who had suffered brain cancer.

Then today, I saw another patient I had not seen before. She was 6 or 7, and was bubbly. That is all I know about her, except that for some reason she needs radiation treatment. I am 62, and have had the honor of being a financial columnist here for more than 20 years. I have been happily married for 26 years, and last Friday saw our son graduate from high school.  He will be attending an excellent college in the fall. I hope to have a lot more years. But I’ve had a lot already, and they have been better than a lot of people have any reason to hope for. I am grateful.

 

By Floyd Norris
The New York Times
June 2, 2010