A Message from Craig
August 18, 2006
For the past several years, I've written a bit about my ongoing battle with colon cancer on the "Welcome" page of this site, but I decided to move that sort of stuff to its own page (which you're reading right now), since I know that casual visitors to the site couldn't care less about all that -- but I'm very lucky to have made many great friends at DS conventions and through this site, and a lot of you have said you do want to know how I'm doing -- so, here we go. :)
A couple of months ago I had a bit of a setback--and in a "soap opera" kind of way, it sounds worse than it was. A CAT scan showed that the cancer has spread to my brain. A brain tumor sounds pretty scary, but in fact it was small and self-contained; I had surgery to have it removed and I was out of bed the next day, and out of the hospital in four days. Since then, I've been recovering quietly at home, with my boyfriend Joe and our two adorable cats, Buster and Dusty. I wish I could say the recovery has gone totally smoothly, but it hasn't really. It's been very slow going, and there've been a couple of speed bumps, including some problems with my pituitary gland that were probably caused by the surgery. ("Head trauma" can lead to trouble with that gland, and I can't imagine that there's anything much more traumatic than having your skull cut into.) And for reasons the doctors can't figure out, I'm battling extreme fatigue. Just walking a couple of blocks makes me feel like I've run a marathon, so I'm a little unsure how I'm going to handle the upcoming DS Festival. I definitely want to go, and since it's an easy cab ride from our apartment, I'm sure I'll be able spend at least some time there, but it won't be like past years. Oy, when it rains, it pours. :)
I feel pretty good, but my energy level is in the cellar... I haven't even had the strength to finish up the new edition of my book Barnabas and Company, though I have turned my attention back to that this week, and I'm getting really close to completion. Now I've decided to include some photos from the 40th anniversary Festival, since it's the 40th Anniversary Edition of B&Co -- seems fitting. :) So, the publication date looks like it will be October 15. I'll make an announcement here on DSO when that's firmed up.
A bit of background
Unfortunately, by the time my cancer was discovered, it had spread to my liver and lungs, so the chances that it will be permanently expelled or even totally controlled are next-to-none. I'm extremely lucky that if this disease had to strike me, I live in one of the best places in the world to be treated for it (New York City). I've been treated at St. Vincent's Cancer Center and Sloan Kettering Memorial Cancer Center, two of the most advanced cancer facilities anywhere. And in the past five years or so, there have been enormous advancements made in the treatment of colon cancer specifically, so again, I feel fortunate about that. I once asked one of my doctors why so much progress had been made in such a relatively short time, and she said two words: Katie Couric. Katie's husband died of colon cancer, and she took on the disease in a very public arena. She talked about it often on The Today Show (and even let a camera crew attend her first colonoscopy), and she has raised millions of dollars to help get powerful new drugs developed and approved. I truly believe that I owe most of these past four years to that perky little newswoman. (I did see Katie once in New York a few years ago, and I thought about telling her that, but she probably hears it all the time. There was of course a Dark Shadows element to that moment as well: I was with Diana Millay at the time, in a camera shop across the street from her Fifth Avenue apartment.)
One reason that I've chosen to speak (and write) openly about my illness is that it's extremely important for people to be aware of the signs of colon cancer -- because it can be beaten. Colon cancer is deadly if it's not caught soon enough -- but it's one form of cancer that can be controlled or even totally removed if it's detected at an early stage. If you have a family history of colon cancer, or have irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), or if you have a feeling that something just isn't right in your colon and intestines, don't ignore what your body is trying to tell you. (That's a mistake I made.) Get a colonoscopy. I know a lot of people are intimidated by that test, but I swear it's painless. In fact, I've slept through all three of mine (thanks to good drugs, of course). The first time, I asked a nurse when we were going to get started and she said we were already done. If an early stage of cancer is discovered during the colonoscopy, it can be removed right then. So, don't let your fear of a silly little test kill you -- if you're a candidate for this disease, get tested! For more information, visit the Colon Cancer Alliance website by clicking here. And please help spread the word. I was 36 years old and in excellent health when I was diagnosed. Colon cancer can strike anyone.
As always, I want to sincerely thank all the DSO readers who have emailed me with wonderfully supportive messages about my health and about the site. It means a lot to me to hear from you, and I know that your positive energy and prayers are a big part of why I'm still around.
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Dark Shadows Online © 2005 Craig Hamrick.