New Clothes, New Shoes

A shiny pair of black shoes.


I finally did go shopping this past weekend. The first time since my diagnosis in December. I bought a couple of things, and yes, for all of you who wrote in, I did buy a pair of pants. And I bought a pair of shoes. It was funny; I looked at them, walked away, went back a while later, walked away again.

I was trying to decide if it was worth it to buy them. Which would wear out first? Me or the shoes? That sounds silly, but for cancer patients, it's a real question. Is it worth it? Did I need them? No, I have plenty of clothes and shoes. Did I want them? Yeah, I did, and partly to just stick my finger in the cancer's eye.

I've begun to feel a little more optimistic at times; I'm hoping that maybe the Avastin, the new drug, may actually be doing something. Many people wrote in saying that they had good results from it. But I'm worried about getting my hopes up, of counting on something that is far from guaranteed. I'm trying to prepare myself for another of those discussions. "We're sorry, it just didn't perform the way we hoped. We need to try something else."

But in the meantime, we all face the same issues as my shoe purchase. Several of you wrote in last week talking about agonizing over long-term warranties. Are they worth it? Do you buy a five-year, or two-year warranty on something, when your doctors have given you a life expectancy shorter than the warranty? Warranties usually include a phrase something like "for the life of the product." What about "for the life of the purchaser?"

I guess maybe I'm tired of being completely conservative on this front — not buying anything. I mean, what the heck, right? So I'm going to put on my new clothes and my new shoes, and tell myself I look good. And maybe that small act of optimism will do as much damage to the tumors as the drugs. I hope so.

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Sometimes hope is all you have. Once you stop hoping it will no longer matter what drugs that you are given because at that point you have decided your fate. (Glad you bought the clothes; you gave the cancer a good kick in the butt by doing that).

Sent by Phillip Walton | 12:15 PM | 9-19-2006

I remember during treatment that I wanted a new suit. It had been years since I bought one and I finally decided waiting until I lost weight was lingering too long. When I went to pick it up, while I looked in the mirror, I noticed one leg was slightly shorter than the other. In the back of mind I felt I was buying my funeral suit that nobody would even notice if one leg was shorter by an inch.

By the time the wild ride had subsided, I lost about 60 pounds and it has taken three years to grow back into the suit. Now when I wear it I only grin at the shorter leg, thinking of all the things to spend money on — that sure isn't one of the priorities in my life.

Sent by Ed Brown | 12:17 PM | 9-19-2006

You're not dead yet... that is all you need to know. As long as I'm alive and able to go about my daily business, that is exactly what I plan to do whether I want to buy pretty shoes or a car, I'm not dead yet. As long as I'm able to wander around I might as well do it comfortably and with some style. The opposite of dead is living and getting a nice pair of pants is part of that if you ask me. Enjoy them, for however long you have.

Sent by Chris | 12:18 PM | 9-19-2006

Leroy,

This topic about planning ahead brings to mind a story too good not share about my father. I lost him at the age of 76 in February of this year due to complications from bladder cancer. However, before he passed away — in January — he and my mother decided to sell their home and purchase a condo in the same neighborhood where they had lived since the early 1950's.

As my dad was starting to organize the sale of the house and coming up with a down payment for the condo, he got in the mail one of those unsolicited offers from a bank for immediate access to up to $30,000 in the form of a home equity line of credit. Apparently, he opted to take advantage of one of these offers and used one of the "ready to use" checks that come with the offer to write a check for $20,000 towards the down payment of the condo.

About three weeks after he passed away, my mother and my brother are going through the bills that have arrived since his passing. In the stack of bills is the statement from the bank with respect to the $20,000 loan/check my dad wrote for the condo's down payment. But also on the statement is a charge of $60 for something called "payment protection." My brother calls the bank and asks what this $60 charge is for and they tell him my dad purchased a small insurance policy with the loan such that if he passed away, any loan up to $20,000 would be forgiven.

Bingo! The loan is wiped clean and my mom is off the hook for $20,000.

Right up to the end, my dad was thinking. Moreover, I believe that he probably was looking for just the right moment and just the right circumstances to collectively to say to all the banks and lenders and creditors he fought with over the years — "GOTCHA!"

Sent by Joel Widder | 12:21 PM | 9-19-2006

Hi, Leroy,

I've been going through the latest Blair catalog, looking over the fall clothes and colors. My husband has urged me to "buy something," as he knows I love color in the clothes line. I don't try to keep up on the latest styles, but also try not to look frumpy! It's a breath of fresh air to put on something that's vibrant (I don't wear neon colors), especially any time I've been in the hospital in gowns or the infusion room with prodding and poking of needles in my port.

When it comes to warrantees, I don't know, as my husband and I aren't presently dealing with that. But, he's asked if I'm interested in accompanying him to a library conference next June (he's a librarian), as we've done several times in the past 16 years we've been married. The flat-out prognosis of my cancer (stage IV melanoma) is 10 months. Who knows? Live now and enjoy some new duds and plan for the future!

Sent by Eunice | 12:23 PM | 9-19-2006

You're doing better than me. Right after I renewed Columbia Journalism Review for two years, I was told my cancer had recurred. I faulted myself for over-optimism. So when my comfortable Clarke shoes started scraping bottom for the second time, I asked my shoe repairman to put on an otherwise improbable second set of new heels. Following your lead, if I'm around when they wear out again, I'll buy a new pair.

Sent by Allen | 12:24 PM | 9-19-2006

My father died years ago after a long bout with Hepatitis C, liver failure, a liver transplant and too much medical grief to tell about.

Before he'd gotten really ill, he and my mom and some friends of theirs took a trip out west for several weeks. I still have the pictures of them smiling in front of the Rockies. My dad was bald, and was also known to be frugal. Well, downright cheap at times, truth be told. I'll never forget the post card that he'd sent me from that trip. Apparently, he'd been agonizing over cheap straw versions of cowboy hats to cover his shortcomings in the hair dept. He wrote to me "There comes a time in a man's life when he has to say the hell with the $4, and BUY the damned cowboy hat!" I think that I fell off of the chair laughing at that. He was right. I'm glad that you got the pants and the shoes. Enjoy them for many more years than your oncologist can believe!

Sent by Nancy K. Clark | 4:06 PM | 9-19-2006

My mom placed this Ann Landers clipping in the graduation card that she and my dad gave me in 1981. Finding this clipping was profound for me. Maybe there is a message for you -? a reason why you should continue buying new shoes and clothing.

Take Time to Smell the Roses

(from the Columbus Dispatch, Sunday, May 17, 1981)

Dear Ann Landers:

I wrote a little essay that appeared in the Illinois Baptist and I am sending it to you with permission to share it with your readers if you wish. ? Robert J. Hastings, Editor.

Dear Robert Hastings: It's a beauty. Thank you for sending it on.

The Station

Tucked away in our subconscious minds is an idyllic vision. We see ourselves on a long, long trip that almost spans the continent. Were traveling by passenger train, and out the windows we drink in the passing scene of cars on nearby highways, of children waving at a crossing, of cattle grazing on a distant hillside, of smoke pouring from a power plant, of row upon row of corn and wheat, of flatlands and valleys, of mountains and rolling hillsides, of city skylines and village halls, of biting winter and blazing summer and cavorting spring and docile fall.

But uppermost in our minds is the final destination. On a certain day at a certain hour we will pull into the station. There will be bands playing and flags waving. And once we get there so many wonderful dreams will come true. So many wishes will be fulfilled and so many pieces of our lives finally will be neatly fitted together like a completed jigsaw puzzle. How restlessly we pace the aisles, damning the minutes for loitering?waiting, waiting, waiting for the station?

However, sooner or later we must realize thee is no one station, no one place to arrive at once and for all. The true joy of life is the trip. The station is only a dream. It constantly outdistances us.

"When we reach the station that will be it!" We cry. Translated it means, "When I'm 18 that will be it! When I buy a new 450 SL Mercedes Benz, that will be it! When I put the last kid through college that will be it! When I have paid off the mortgage that will be it! When I win a promotion that will be it! When I reach the age of retirement that will be it! I shall live happily ever after!"

Unfortunately, once we get "it," then "it" disappears. The station somehow hides itself at the end of an endless track.

"Relish the moment" is a good motto, especially when coupled with Psalm 118:24: "This is the day which the Lord hath made, we will rejoice and be glad in it." It isn't the burdens of today that drive men mad. Rather, it is regret over yesterday or fear of tomorrow. Regret and fear are twin thieves who would rob us of today.

So, stop pacing the aisles and counting the miles. Instead, climb more mountains, eat more ice cream, go barefoot oftener, swim more rivers, watch more sunsets, laugh more and cry less. Life must be lived as we go along. The station will come soon enough.

I found this clipping two weeks to the day my mom died of secondary breast cancer. In the message were the same words my dear husband spoke to me the year he died of pancreatic cancer, "Cheryl, you need to learn when to stop and smell the roses." Okay Greg, okay mom — I will try my best!

Sent by Cheryl | 4:15 PM | 9-19-2006

Hello everyone, my name is Moe and this is my second entry since I was diagnosed with colon cancer about eight weeks ago. I started the radiation treatments and chemo last week. I'm being given pills instead of the intravenously method for the cancer and B6 for any side effects. At the present time I still have no symptoms or side effects. Everything seems so unreal I feel like there isn't anything wrong but sometimes late at night after I say my rosary I know one day I will be in an operating room. I think that will be that day that my life will change. As for now I'm living and doing everything I've always done. My girl friend and I still hang out and enjoy each other's company. Right now my thoughts are that I just ignore the fact I have an illness and I'll deal with what ever the surgeon leaves behind at that time. I've given a lot of the worry to the lord and I'm going to a cancer support group tonight just to see how it goes. But in the mean time I buy cloths i.e. jeans, dress shirts, dress slacks. I'm still ticking and still living.

Sent by Morris Trujillo | 4:41 PM | 9-19-2006

I've been reading your blog and I just want to tell you to wear your new clothes and shoes and you do look good. Those things are good for the spirit and what is good for the spirit is good for you in so many other ways. Thanks for sharing.

Sent by Leah Forst | 4:50 PM | 9-19-2006

Good for you! I know exactly what you mean. I have gone through that for years now. Why buy new clothes, just so my survivors will find it in the closet and lament that I didn't get a chance to wear it, or that I hadn't worn it often. I've got lots of clothes I can wear out, but they are all so big for me now. I've lost about 65 pounds, and they hang on me. I did buy a new dress for my daughter's wedding, and my daughters have bought me new clothes. So I've done all right. And I do believe that optimism is a good cancer fighter, or any illness fighter. Keep fighting!!

Sent by Juanita Helms | 3:25 PM | 9-20-2006

Your comment about agonizing over your purchases reminded me of the purchases I made and have recently made. My logical mind told me I needed to purchase all of those new clothes because of the weight I had lost — I certainly did need those clothes for use in my work. Then months later I found myself purchasing additional clothes as well as shoes (which I really, really did not need and for me that was quite excessive). Recently I have been purchasing gemstones (and I am definitely not a jewelry person). Now I question my reasoning behind those purchases and wonder if it isn't my subconscious way of making a statement to myself indicative of the fact that I have survived the cancer and will be here in the future to enjoy the items I have purchased.

Isn't it amazing, we get diagnosed with something, we think were the only one who reacts the way we do, then we find out there are numerous individuals out there just like ourselves. Amazing, isn't it!

Sent by Renee | 3:28 PM | 9-20-2006

Leroy,

Buy the freakin' shoes, you deserve them and more. My partner is battling lung cancer, and so far he has amazed his oncologist and pulmonologist with his slow but significant progress. It will be ten months now that we were told of his diagnosis. He's a small manufacturer in HO scale and extremely gifted. He just bought some expensive Southern Pacific Railroad reference books. And, he's now talking about buying a powerful new computer for the business. As his partner and caregiver, my heart sinks. I see the daily routine. However, I must admit that he is better today compared to a week ago, a month ago and months ago. I can't see the forest for the trees. Your blog confirms that! We too are looking at Avastin if his current chemo does not prove to be the silver bullet that I pray for. I am not in your shoes or his, however, my heart and support goes out to the both of you and, to everyone fighting the battle. Wear your shoes, and go ahead, wear them OUT!

Sent by Ron and Gordon | 10:54 AM | 9-21-2006

First I paid off my bill because I didn't want to leave them for anyone else... I then began to realize... "wait a minute, I'm still here!"

Do I pay my bills, go shopping, and live in the present... isn't that all we got?

Sent by Meredith | 11:00 AM | 9-21-2006

As I continue my treatment for breast cancer, I am planning for a six-week trip to Europe to celebrate whatever I am able to enjoy when the time comes. It will be in the spring of 2007 and friends from all over the country will join me for parts of the trip. My only daughter is expecting my first grandchild and I am planning many camping trips with him. Yes, I am optimistic. I believe that I have treatment—not cancer. With treatment you have life. And I'm going to live it to the end. Oh and I must feel really optimistic because I have just started my doctoral program.

Sent by Robin | 11:01 AM | 9-21-2006

Dear Leroy — virtually everything you say in your blog touches my heart (I am a 7.5 year breast cancer survivor), but these posts about spending money, worrying about extended warranties ring especially true. A couple of examples:

My husband and I married when I was 36 and he was 40. Each of us had formerly paid our own bills and neither of us wanted to give that "control" up when we got married. So we compromised — I paid the bills, he balanced the checkbook, so we each knew where every penny was going. Well, after my diagnosis, I simply stopped paying the bills — and didn't even realize it or say anything. All of a sudden I guess it seemed incredibly unimportant. It took my husband a few months (and a couple of collection notices) for him, and for me, to realize that I wasn't paying the bills any longer, and didn't really even care. Now he pays the bills and I am thrilled.

I used to spend hours balancing my checkbook and agonizing if the bank and I disagreed by more than a penny. Now I figure if were within $100 of each other, that's good enough for me, and it's not worth my time to reconcile it to the penny. I told this to a friend of mine who knew me "BC" (before cancer) and she nearly fainted, given her prior knowledge of my obsession with money.

I grew up in a VERY frugal household. One did not spend money on something unless it was a NECESSITY — merely liking something, or wanting it, was an insufficient justification for buying it. So "BC" that's the way I lived as well. I had a reputation among my friends for being incredibly "cheap." Now, "AC" (after cancer), while I have not gone hog-wild spending money, I don't hesitate to buy something that gives me pleasure, or I think it will give someone else pleasure, if I know I can afford it. While I am still "saving for retirement," in the back of my mind I always wonder whether I will live to enjoy that retirement, and whether it really makes sense to save for it.

*a former boss used to ask me why I never had any accrued vacation time in the "bank." I told him, in all seriousness, that I did not want to die with any unused vacation days. He looked at me like I was from Mars. He was not a cancer survivor — but I think that all cancer survivors can understand where I was coming from!

Sent by Suzanne | 11:14 AM | 9-21-2006

I don't buy magazine subscriptions with more than a one year term.

Sent by Phil Norton | 11:45 AM | 9-21-2006

My husband Joe was diagnosed with brain and lung cancer the first week in June. We were absolutely shocked. Joe quit smoking 17 years ago. He lost a kidney from cancer about 15 years ago. He exercises every day, eats low fat food, and blueberries every night for dessert! So what has this taught us? As Joe's aunt use to say, when God creates us, there is a time we will be born and he writes a time, we will leave this earth. We do our best to relish each day, to thank God, each day we have to be together. The odds are not great that the doctors give us, however, we are betting on the 30% chance of remission for Joe's lungs. We will not receive the results of the brain radiation until next month. However, we were not born with a life time guarantee, so we laugh as much as we can and we will plan on a party to celebrate Joe's life with friends and relatives and follow with a vacation after the chemo. We have been married 43 years and we are planning on dancing at our 50th anniversary! Joe is coping unbelievably well. He gives me strenght. He feels he has lived a good life, we have wonderful children, a great marriage, and we have many vacation memories. My son sent this website to me, I am so thankful to him. Your stories are powerful and filled with hope. Thank you. Camille Auci

Sent by Camille Auci | 12:15 PM | 7-26-2007

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