the good cancer, the husband, and roger ebert

Cactus, taken by me August 2011
at the Phipps, Pittsburgh, PA 

Even the doctors called it the best kind of cancer you could get.

That’s the common perception about papillary thyroid cancer, the kind that The Husband had.

Has, as we were reminded today, with the news of the death of beloved movie critic Roger Ebert. Because it doesn’t really leave you, you know. That goddamn radiation is still within, even now, still eating away at the thyroid tissue.

We hope.

As we came to believe during the months of MRIs and biopsies and body scans and low iodine diets and radioactive isolation, the words best and cancer had no place being in the same sentence.

Sure, the treatment protocol for The Husband wasn’t the same as that of other cancers. There wasn’t any chemotherapy, no hair loss. The radiation was different. But that didn’t mean it didn’t have its own emotional toll on the patient and the family (no one should ever, ever have to tell their child that their parent has cancer) or side effects – or significant risks.

Although thyroid cancer has a 99% cure rate, even I can do enough math to figure out there was that other 1%. There was, always in the midst, the 1% chance of eventually dying from this. Very slim, of course. Extremely rare.

I spent a lot of time during The Husband’s cancer treatment thinking about the people in the 1%.

Today we learned that Roger Ebert was among them, that he lost his battle against what started as papillary thyroid cancer, the same kind that has taken up residence in our house over the past few months.

The Husband’s Facebook status tonight:

“As Roger Ebert’s case demonstrates, just because “you got the good cancer”, papillary thyroid cancer can still kill – even after treatment. Besides loving him and thinking he was brilliant and sad over his loss, his death is a firm reminder that I haven’t beaten this “good cancer” yet. RIP Roger.”

Rest in peace, Roger.

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5 thoughts on “the good cancer, the husband, and roger ebert

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  3. Serena

    That is a true statement…there is no “good cancer” My dad can tell you that as he had thyroid cancer more than once…and the chance is still there that it could recur, but thankfully not yet.

  4. Ali

    Roger Ebert is such a huge loss to all of us, but it must really hit home for you and your husband. I’m so sorry you’ve had to deal with this horrible disease. Yes, it’s the “good” kind and the prognosis is excellent, but that doesn’t mean it’s not as scary as hell.

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