Monday, February 26, 2018

Walking With Attitude Through Cancer Survivors Park

I had left the bright sunshine and blue sky that often follows a Minnesota snowstorm and entered the shadow of a corporate building.

I walked past a snow shovel propped up at the entrance to a park in front of the corporate building. A worker had shoveled the entire path through the park. This was 9:00 a.m. on a Sunday: this is a well-managed place; a major overnight snowstorm had only let up a few hours earlier.

I was walking through the Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Park. I could have been in any of the 25 North American cities which have Richard & Annette Bloch Cancer Survivors Parks. Each park has the same themes and sculptures.
"There are three factors present in each Park. First is a positive mental attitude walk with 14 bronze plaques, four inspirational and 10 instructional. Second is a sculpture of eight life-size bronze figures passing through a maze representing cancer treatment. The five before the maze show fear, hope and determination in their faces while the three after are laughing and happy, representing successful treatment. Third is a “Road to Recovery” consisting of seven plaques explaining what cancer is and basic actions to successfully overcome the disease." [Source.]
But the snow kept me firmly rooted in Minneapolis.

The parks are privately owned and maintained, but they are open to the public. Richard Bloch was the "R" in H&R Block, the tax preparation services company. He lived with cancer for many years; these parks reflect his philosophy and wealth.

The entrance path zigs and zags past 14 bronze plaques.
I tried brushing off the fresh snow that covered each sign, only to reveal ice laminated to the surface: snow from two days earlier had melted then refrozen.
The park would not speak to me today.
The park would not speak to me today.

Earlier that morning, I had failed the Richard & Annette Bloch Family Foundation's attitude quiz so I confess I was walking through this park with attitude. I don't need platitudes or truisms. I'm more than OK: life is good, I try to live in the present and am naturally an optimist. I'm grateful for each day.

I wanted to walk up to the "sculpture of eight life-size bronze figures passing through a maze representing cancer treatment" but the snow was too deep. The journey depicted in this sculpture is not my journey. A trio emerges from successful treatment with no further mazes ahead.

This is not me, and I'm OK with that. It was time to head back into the bright sunshine.
The Attitude Quiz

The authors of the Richard & Annette Bloch Family Foundation's attitude quiz explain it "is not scientifically proven accurate. It is strictly a personal opinion after talking with many cancer patients as well as professionals." It sure sounds important, though.

I provided true, false, or unsure responses to the 23 statements. I got a score of 19 out of 23; I had failed the test.
What I hear: "...[I] should consider help."
I wondered how I could possibly have failed the test. I'm happy with life, and I don't waste time worrying about my cancer. If I wake in the night, cancer is not something I generally think about. But, according to the Richard & Annette Bloch Family Foundation's attitude quiz I "should consider help."

"Should" is a word that invites stress; it's a word I try to avoid using.

I revisited the four statements that led to failing the test. (In each case a red X denotes my answer.)

"I began treatment less than 30 days after I was diagnosed" (My answer: False.)
What I hear: "[I am] not recognizing the critical nature of cancer."
I delayed initial surgery (prostatectomy) because I first wanted to travel with family, including my two young nephews, to England where I grew up. One reason for my optimism is I love to create adventures in travel. There is no way I would not have gone on that trip with the diagnosis I had at the time.

I own my cancer, my cancer does not own me.

A subsequent statement only underlined my foolish choice to put living life ahead of treatment.

"If I had a trip ... planned, I would postpone a doctor's appointment or treatment" (My answer: True.)
What I hear: "[I] do not want to give it [my] best shot."
The "correct" answer to the next question required magical thinking.

"I believe the treatment I am receiving will successfully treat me" (My answer: Unsure.)
What I hear: "[I am] probably taking the lazy way out... ."
My oncologist, Dwight (my partner), my best friend from childhood, and a New England Journal of Medicine article have convinced me to take a two-year course of an extraordinarily expensive drug, Abiraterone.
I will take Abiraterone in addition to my current two-year course of Androgen Deprivation Therapy (ADT).

The two treatments are not cures. They can put some or all of the tumor in my body "to sleep" for a period of time. The graph shows that Abiraterone improves the survival odds for a group of patients with similarities to my cancer and my treatment history.

A statistical analysis shows I can improve my odds, but it is magical thinking to believe the treatments are sure to work in my case. I choose to be optimistic, but I have the mind of an engineer, not an accountant.

The fourth question I answered "incorrectly" was particularly troubling.

"There are certain treatments I would refuse even if the doctor said it was necessary." (My answer: True.)
What I hear: "[I] definitely won't give recovery [my] best effort."
This "correct" answer ignores personal values: I don't want aggressive treatment in my last weeks of life.
"Aggressive life-prolonging care comes at a cost, however, in terms of both dollars and human suffering. Medicare, the government’s health plan for the elderly, spends about one-third of its budget on people who are in the last year of life, and much of that on patients at the very end of life.
Aggressive end-of-life care can lead to a more painful process of dying, researchers have found, and greater shock and grief for the family members left behind."
[New York Times, Religious Belief Linked to Desire for Aggressive Treatment in Terminal Patients.]


  1. Love you! We love to travel with you, too!

    1. I love you too, and looking forward to many more trips with you and your's.