Thursday, April 11, 2013

Bravery | Bravado

If you’ve read any of my previous postings, you’ve no doubt picked up that my outlook is pretty positive.  I try not to sugar coat things. After all, especially since becoming an unwilling member of the leukemia club, I have had some pretty challenging days, but in spite of them, I still tend to be one of those infernal glass-half-full kinda guys.  It’s just how I’m wired. It’s how I roll, even off a bicycle!

As an unapologetic optimist, there are a lot of things I won’t do:
  • I won’t hide the fact that I have leukemia. It’s a type of cancer and while I won’t intentionally play on people’s sympathy because of this particularly bad hand I’ve been dealt, neither will I not say the word, “cancer” as if it doesn’t exist. I will face this thing head on and deal with it.
  • I won’t pretend to be happy when I’m not. There are days I just feel lousy, sick, tired (and yes, sick and tired of this whole experience), frustrated, impatient, and weepy for no reason. I think after all these years, I understand PMS! I will do my best to stay optimistic, friendly, and keep the puns, jokes, and an edge of attitude coming.
  • I won’t be evasive because a procedure is uncomfortable or downright painful; nor will I not disclose a symptom that it could land me in the hospital instead of my own comfy bed. I’m positively paranoid about my health now and I’d rather have a contest of TMI with the doctor than end up in the ER for being stoopid!
  • I won’t forget to show genuine gratitude to the people who have been there from the moment of my diagnosis to tucking me in with a warm blanket during a particularly emotional meltdown, to the ones that bring me my meals or empty my trash, to the one that helps me in through my front door when this is all done.
This roller coaster of a journey is damned hard, it’s scary, and it’s not something that can be done alone.

The common thread in all this is simply one of being honest – honest with the medical staff, honest with those who are taking care of me (especially when I cannot care for myself), and of course, honest with myself. Being honest at this level is more than not rounding up on your 1040 or selectively telling the truth where it might be a bit uncomfortable, nor is it something that is that annoying kind that demands driving 30 minutes back to the store to return the pack of gum your kid innocently walked out with. This is something that is authentic and requires something most people don’t understand in today’s culture. It requires bravery.

I don’t want to confuse bravery with bravado.  Bravado is something we all see and find rather amusing on the surface, but really at its heart, distasteful. It’s just a show and it’s loud and abrasive. It’s the trash talk before the fight. It’s the self-righteous sound bite from an uninformed citizen who clearly isn’t thinking and is just repeating someone else’s drivel. Bravado is essentially another form of dishonesty. Bravery, on the other hand is, more often than not, subtle and quiet, yet incredibly potent and has the potential to make big changes. It’s like the picture that takes your breath away, worth several thousand words! When you see bravery, you know it even if you didn’t think it was ever there. It’s the kind of thing martyrs don’t realize they have until they are looking into the whites of death’s eyes.

And bravery is something I feel I sorely need as I prepare for this bone marrow transplant. I’ve spoken to a lot of people about this and I’m going in with eyes wide open, so it’s not so much the fear of the unknown as much as it’s now getting very, very real.

I received the official approval letter from the VA in Seattle along with a phone call from the transplant coordinator there. The search for the donor is underway and the next phase of my treatment could happen in a few weeks or a few months. Because of my good physical condition, I will be getting a full transplant or what the very intimidating literature calls a “matched, unrelated myeloblative transplant.” The web site is very thorough as is the book that I received in the mail in explaining things.  It’s actually a bit overwhelming. Up to this point, I’ve been told things piece-meal as new developments in my condition arise. Thankfully, my face-to-face meetings with people to discuss the transplant procedure have been far less daunting and just like the VA here in Salt Lake City, the only thing I’ve heard about the people in Seattle is the incredible level of expertise and once again their level of compassion. I don’t think you could ask for a better combination when it comes to the people who will work their medical magic and vanquish the leukemia from my mortal shell!

That said, it’s still a pretty damned scary prospect and while I’m not necessarily looking at the whites of death’s eyes, the abbreviation TRM (treatment-related mortality) has become part of my reading and of course, that drives the point home, doesn’t it. I’ve said before that I have no plans on checking out and the odds really are against me losing this battle, but repeating what I said above in this post, I am facing this and dealing with it head-on…even if my hands are shaking and my voice is quavering. Others have defeated the cancer monster and I’m going to be one of them. I just have to follow in their footsteps…and I have to be brave.

So, appropriately enough, this is today’s music from Josh Groban - Brave
You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can’t be so.
You wanna run away, run away and you say that it can’t be so.
When you stand up and hold out your hand
In the face of what I don’t understand
My reason to be brave.
Be well, stay strong and much love to you all!