Saturday, March 23, 2013

You Are Here

Friends of mine who lost their son to cancer just a few weeks before my diagnosis have been keeping tabs on me. After attending the viewing for their son, Stephen, and being a bit emotionally fragile for my own obvious reasons, I wasn’t sure how or if I would be able to hold it together when Jeff and Jane visited my hospital room. Amazingly, they were able to be honest about their own hurt and at the same time make me feel comfortable. There was no awkwardness, just a timeless friendship that was strengthened by something neither of us wanted. Before leaving, Jane left a button on my table that said, "No one fights alone." That statement of solidarity meant more than you could know. And it's true, I'm NOT alone in this battle. Without doubt, adversity has the uncanny ability to bring out the best in people. Ultimately, it makes us human. Admittedly, there are days I’d appreciate being a little less human, but I’m better equipped to handle some of those postgraduate courses of the ‘school of hard knocks.’ Jane forwarded thisYouTube video today that Stephen enjoyed.  It was a parody of the S*#& My Dad Says, but adapted for cancer patients.  It gave me a good chuckle because I could identify with so many of the common experiences. But more than a chuckle, I found that the creator of the video, Woody Roseland, had done a TED talk locally.  I watched that video and was truly inspired because, once again, someone who has clearly had it far rougher than I was upbeat, full of humor and wisdom beyond his youth.

One of the analogies he used was a simple light rail map that had the little sticker that said, “You are here.”  We’ve all seen maps that have that marking on floor plans and maps and even the cartoons that say “You are here when you should be here!” For him, those three words were loaded with meaning.  You see, he had beaten cancer five times in five years by the time he was 21 and had met fellow survivors during his many treatments who ultimately lost their battle. But he was still here. I don’t face as dire circumstances as Woody, but I bear the same responsibilities: I am here! And while I’m here, I have a responsibility to fight this cancer and to encourage others to do the same. That’s what I can do right now.  When I’m past it, I can do other things. This is my battle and many of you are fighting alongside me and I’ll be repetitive, redundant, and even superfluous in thanking you for being here with me, but there are other battles you may have where being here may be the impetus for you to engage and make that difference. I can’t tell you what that is and I won’t guilt you into doing something. You’ll know what it is you need to do.

During the night, I must have rolled over on my PICC line and one of the little caps came off.  I, being paranoid about sanitary conditions on this thing, called the hospital and they said I could come through the ER and get the cap replaced.  They also gave me some gauze to put over the whole apparatus so it doesn’t snag, so I’m good there.  While I was at the hospital, I was able to track down my ‘he-monc’ (hematology/oncology) doctor and we discussed where we are in the big scheme of things.  Monday, I’ll be admitted for about a week of consolidation chemo.  It’s more of the ceterabine that I was on the first week, but at a higher dose and it’s there to basically keep things in check.  I won’t have to do the “red devil” again and this is for four shorter stints.  As long as I’m not running a fever or having infections at the end of the week, I get to come back home.  We’ll do this every four weeks until my donor has been identified and I head up to Seattle for the transplant.  I think the big horse pill I had to swallow was that I’ll need some rather intensive monitoring for the next year or two as the new immune system kicks-in and becomes mine. The doctor in Seattle even suggested I be physically living with another as I could get very sick very quickly.  I’m working through that one in my mind.

But I am here.

And I intend on being here two years out and another two years beyond that and so on. So, we’ll work through the details. There have been an awful lot of these painful life’s lessons I wish I weren’t having to learn this way, but this postgraduate-level stuff in life isn’t intended to be easy. And I hope that you’re picking up some of the lessons as well without having to go about it this way. I can tell you that had someone tell me these things before, I might be a touch patronizing, but maybe that’s the reason I’m having to learn them in the way I am. All I can say at this point is that I’m staring at a complicated map and I see an awful lot of information to digest. I see as well a rather long road from here to the end of my encounter with the big “C.” This is not a sprint, but then again, I’ve never been fast. My strength has been endurance, whether it has been in goals or in my cycling events. The end game for me has been about finishing the race before me. Whether I finish first or last, I will complete the course and I will do it well.

So for now, I...am...here.

And as always, I’m counting on you to keep me accountable, to keep me honest, and to keep me focused…and of course to get through this whole ordeal with a smile on our collective faces. Song of the day - "I'm Still Here" by Vertical Horizon.

Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all.