Four months of treatment have also given Oliver a window into modern health care from the patient's perspective. He hasn't liked all that he's seen, particularly the limited interaction between doctors and nurses. He makes sure that his caregivers are also watching his video dispatches.
"I'm in a position to be extremely critical while they're giving me treatment," Oliver said. "They consider me an advocate. They want me to help with their patient training."
Oliver, a former executive at Heartland Health System in St. Joseph, knows he can engage with his doctors on a level of familiarity that most patients cannot. That's another motivation for his videos, to help level the playing field.
"I'm not intimidated by physicians. I realize they are people like everybody else," he said. "They make mistakes like everybody else. ... This is my opportunity to talk about these flaws and disappointments."
As the disease lingers, he and his wife of 16 years, Debra Parker Oliver, must also plan for life after his death.
A few short months ago, that talk consisted mostly of retirement, visits with the grandchildren and their next ocean cruise. Now it means stressful sessions with financial advisers and making plans for his memorial service.
"I am not afraid to die," Oliver said. "I am a gerontologist. I know that none of us get out of this alive."
His wife, an associate professor and former hospice worker who also works in the family and community medicine department, is less certain.
"Maybe he's not afraid to die, but he's afraid of dying," she said, her husband by her side. "The idea of this man being confined to a bed, maybe not being able to speak, is much more scary than what you are willing to admit."
On a recent visit to the Ellis Fischel Cancer Center, the couple received some encouraging news: A scan showed no visible lesions, meaning all were less than 1 centimeter in length. He will return later this month for two final rounds of chemotherapy followed by three months of freedom from medical procedures before getting another scan.
Best of all, the good news buys him time.
Time for a long-awaited cruise to Istanbul and Rome. Maybe time to travel to the NCAA basketball tournament in March to watch his beloved Tigers as the team seeks its first-ever Final Four berth.
The cancer is "still there. It will grow back," he said. "Eventually it will grow back and kill me."
No one knows how much time remains. If it's more than a year, he added, "we can produce a lot more videos."
David's Cancer Journey, http://dbocancerjourney.blogspot.com
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