Book Club: Mom’s Marijuana, pages 125-148

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Welcome to the comments and discussion of the Young Adult Cancer Book Club!  We are reading Mom’s Marijuana by Dr. Dan Shapiro! Catch up on pages 1-20, pages 20-40pages 41-59, pages 60-80pages 80-106, and pages 106-125.

Let’s get started!

pages 125-148.

Jacob’s Exit – Dan talks about returning to working with patients after his treatments and one patient in particular named Jacob who he related with. He mentions his fear of bringing in his own experiences with cancer to the patients. He then talks about the loss he felt when Jacob passed away and how he still had to continue on. As a healthcare professional myself I relayed to this chapter as I am about to return to work and am also worried about how my experiences as a patient will affect how I practice. I feel like Dan though I will hopefully be able to use it to better relate to the people I treat.

Mixed Blessings – A short excerpt about feelings and dreams and how he perceives life and experiences around him.

A Roller Coaster – Dan talks about his relationship with Terry and her love of roller coasters. He talks about trips they took and rides they went on. It was on a roller coaster in Tampa Florida where he came to the realization that he had another recurrence. This made the dreams he had in the previous section make more sense to him.

Jennings – Dan talks about a clinical professor he studied under the name Dr. Jennings. He learned a lot from him including the fact that his own reactions to the clients say a lot about himself. When a client missed the appointment Dan was mad and subsequently missed his meeting with Dr. Jennings to discuss the appointment. It was interesting how the client missing the appointment ended up being a way for the client to take back control after an emotional previous visit and how Jennings got to that resolution.  Dan was then diagnosed with his second relapse and Dr. Jennings made Dan resign from the program. Dan took what he learned from Jennings and analyzed his reaction realizing that it was likely Jennings own fear of losing his own health that started the reaction.  I related to this as some people in my life shut me out originally when diagnosed. As some have slowly been returning and I have talked with them I have found out the reaction was a protective one for themselves. I was always the active and healthy lifestyle person so if I got cancer they could too.

Satchel’s Boomerang – Dan talks about choosing to fight again or traveling and enjoying the time he has left since it recurred after the bone marrow transplant.

Saul – Dan talks about doctors and the way many treat patients. About how they forget we aren’t just the disease and only treat that and not the whole person. How doctors and oncologists in particular see many patients pass away and how this must cause them to build a wall up to protect themselves. How death is their enemy and yet they still face it.  Dr. Saul is a specialist Dan goes to see about treatment options for his recurrence. Saul tells dan honestly “I don’t think I can cure you, but I’m going to try”  Dr. Saul reminds me a lot of my specialist. Like him my surgeon is one of the top and one other doctors recommend seeing when no one else knows what to do. He is also honest with me like Dr. Saul is with Dan and I respect that in him.

Against Advice – Dan and Terry get married and Dan talks about the lead up to the rushed wedding and the happy day.

A Last Will – Dan goes to a lawyer to talk about drafting a will to leave is saved sperm to Terry so she can have children. He discusses his thoughts on if he wanted her to have children on her own if he were to pass and does research on the psychological impacts that would have on children. In the end he decides to do it as Terry would make a good mother and research shows it would be fine for the children.

– Sarah H

I can’t imagine going through all Dan did, and then becoming a therapist to those going through the same things.

In this passage, Dan connects with Jacob. Jacob, who loves sports, who knows all about them, who has posters. But as Jacob puts it, he is down in the fourth. Dan comes on day to visit him and the room is empty – everything is gone. Not a trace of Jacob. Dan wants to write something on the wall.

I’ve been there before too. Not in a hospital, but losing someone you love to spend time with, losing some one you care about. And you just want to scream at the world to pause because A VERY TRAGIC THING HAS HAPPENED! But my tragedy is not yours. And Dan’s tragedy is not mine. Yet, when we are grieving, don’t we wish that somehow everyone could suddenly know this person we are missing?

Later, we read about Shapiro’s relapse – which he figures out on a roller coaster. That had to be one literal and figurative ride. But when news spreads, his clinical director calls him and tells him to resign from his program. Confused and upset about this, Shapiro comes to realize it’s because the director has had cancer before as well. And seeing Shapiro with it back, that’s scary.

I’ve been there. Several friends have had relapses, recurrences, and in the rare case a new primary diagnosis. And while I want to be there for them, sometimes my brain focuses on me instead. It’s not that I’m selfish, but it is a scary reminder of what could happen. An in your face reminder that hearing you are NED one day doesn’t mean you will be NED the next. I see where his director is coming from in wanting to create that space – I’ve pulled back from people before as well.

But then, then I get sad and I start to miss my friends. Grief is hard. Anxiety is hard. But life is hard. We can try to avoid bad things, but eventually something will happen. I’ve come to a point where I’ve decided I’d rather have the friendship than the distance from cancer. I am there for my friends, but I also take some time to work on me too. I do give myself space to grieve and work out my anxiety. That way I can be at peace with my feelings, but still be there for my friends to help them in any way I can.

I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t scary and hard. I’d be lying if I sometimes picture myself in their place and have trouble being present for them. But my friends are worth it. Even when it’s hard.

Amidst all of this, Dan and his (now wife) Terry must picture a world without Dan in it. What a load of you know what that must be. When we are young, we are supposed to be healthy. We are supposed to have fun years at college, have time to find ourselves, get married, have kids, and live to a nice healthy age. Right? Isn’t that the way it should be? We all know life does not do what it should. Sometimes the reality of this hits us harder than we can ever imagine. Marriage? Kids? All of that can get muddled with cancer. Are we still desirable? The vows say in sickness and health, but too many of us don’t understand the implication of the “in sickness” side of things. Kids after that? Do we have energy for it? Do we have our fertility intact? Are kids an option? And how does all of this get handled when we step close to the “till death do us part”? I don’t know. But I can’t imagine how it felt to Shapiro to sign his sperm over to his wife. To leave that in the will. To acknowledge some day he might be a father even after he’s gone. I don’t know about anyone else, but I didn’t finish this section with a dry eye.

– Brandie L

Join in next Monday for comments and discussion on the next 20 pages of the book!

Thanks for joining us for pages 125-148 of Mom’s Marijuana by Dr. Dan Shapiro!  Join in next Monday for the next 20 pages of the book!

If you’re just joining us, here are some logistics:

The chapters and sections of this book are organized differently than in a book we’ve read together before.  So instead of going chapter by chapter, we’ll go about 20 pages at a time each Monday. We’ll use one more Monday to talk about general feelings from the book and anything else you’d like to discuss.  Join in, in the comments every week!  At the end, we’ll have a book club discussion via video chat!  Also, there will probably be spoilers.  Read along with us!

How are you enjoying our young adult cancer book club?