Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Gratitude – Family and Friends

I think it’s fair to say that a stare-down with your impending demise will bring out some stark honesty in facing who you are. I’d like to think that the disparity in who I think I am and this brutally high-res reflection in the eyes of death isn’t too far off, but who am I to gage? What I can tell you is that the kinds of things that have come out of my mouth when I’ve been at my weakest and most vulnerable haven’t been too terribly embarrassing or compromising, at least from what people have told me. It has been mostly ordinary and routine stuff. with an occasional venture into the non sequitur thanks to the lovely pharmacopeia coursing through my wasted veins. Not too terribly surprising. It’s good to know there’s nothing to hide, no deathbed confessions to get off my chest, and no buried treasure to pursue...nor any money hidden between the mattresses (sorry, kiddos!).
 
If anything, I’ve found myself tearing up a lot in gratitude to people, about reaffirming my deep-seated values and letting people know how much they mean to me, whether it has been someone taking care of me in scrubs or in civvies or simply keeping the fires of friendship and kinship alive.  Perhaps I talk about things, maybe a touch more freely and personal that I probably would otherwise, but I hope it's not uncomfortable for others. It’s like a brick to the back of the head. I never feel the tears coming. I’m smiling and talking about something perfectly ordinary and the next thing I know I get that catch in my throat and the waterworks come on like one of those programmed sprinkler systems. No rhyme or reason. It just happens. It’s probably a bit therapeutic for this staid former naval officer who was taught to compartmentalize feelings to the point of being called, your seriousness.
 
Things are obviously and thankfully different these days!
 
I’ve learned how to let the watertight compartments inside communicate some so I can become the class clown I was in high school. Yes, believe it. Deep down, I’m a cut-up. But in reality, that kind of thing doesn’t happen without people who believe in you, who give you a safe place to be yourself, and who protect you when that weak underbelly is showing. I think that’s why nurses have found their way into my heart as firmly as they have. There’s an innate level of trust based on their profession, but even more so as they do their job and I get to know them on a personal level. What is more to the point on this post are the countless other people – family, friends, and acquaintances who have been rooting in my corner from the time I found out I was part of an exclusive survivor’s club for which I didn’t apply. It's because of you all that I'm more than surviving, I'm thriving and now amount of thanks can really account for the difference. It really is no small thing.
 

Using Facebook as a gage, I have just over 450 ‘friends,’ 21 of which are family. I don’t typically ‘friend’ people I haven’t had some history with, so you can add a bunch of high school and college classmates, cycling buddies and professional colleagues and acquaintances that I actually know and I find my network actually pretty big.  It took the advent of social networking to prove that to me. But it took a life crisis to prove that the phenomenon that includes Facebook, LinkedIn, and other networks of choice actually have some teeth to them. I’ve been amazed by the outpouring of support and actual hands-on care I’ve received, literally from across the globe. It’s nothing short of humbling. Unless you’ve been there, you have no idea how much a kind word or cheer of support goes when you’re laid up in bed feeling as awful as I have. It’s huge. It really is.
 
People that have actually visited me in the hospital or at home when I’ve been convalescing have raised my spirits and kept me upbeat when my energy and enthusiasm have lagged and trust me, as much as I try to keep the humor and smiles, the big "C" has a way of just beating you down and depleting every bit of emotional and physical reserve you have. Again, you make the difference there.

Then there's the element of the human touch. It is totally underestimated. I joked about my first week home in March when I was bundled up, complete with surgical mask. It scared off parents with small children and it protected me in my immuno-suppressed state from getting an unwanted trip to the ER, but being the guy no one wants to touch is wearing. People see the tell-tale bald pate and assume the obvious, but tend to keep away even though cancer is not communicable. Hugs come across as pretty ordinary these days, but they impart so much when people otherwise will keep their distance. Cancer patients may be frail at times, but the ones I come across are pretty damned strong. That said, we all still need you ... and please, yes, we need a hug from time to time. We may be temporarily broken, but we won't break.
 
This has been a roundabout way of thanking you for being you – to give you a little context and for giving in whatever capacity you have. There were a few weeks for me where things were truly touch-and-go and I know a lot of you were sending your close air support as I used to call it (prayer, positive energy, best wishes, etc.). I’m on the mend and getting stronger each day. Even the stairs are coming along…never fast enough for me, but I can’t push this. And as you well know, this is quite the marathon rather than any sprint, so I thank you all the more for sticking with me over the months.
 
Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all.
 
Classic music from the Beatles today - With a Little Help From My Friends
 
 
 
What would you think if I sang out of tune
Would you stand up and walk out on me?
Lend me your ears and I'll sing you a song
And I'll try not to sing out of key

 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, I get high with a little help from my friends
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

 
What do I do when my love is away
Does it worry you to be alone?
How do I feel by the end of the day
Are you sad because you're on your own?

 
No, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, get high with a little help from my friends
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends

 
Do you need anybody?
I need somebody to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

 
Would you believe in a love at first sight?
Yes, I'm certain that it happens all the time
What do you see when you turn out the light?
I can't tell you but I know it's mine

 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, get high with a little help from my friends
Oh, I'm gonna try with a little help from my friends

 
Do you need anybody?
I just need someone to love
Could it be anybody?
I want somebody to love

 
Oh, I get by with a little help from my friends
Mmm, gonna try with a little help from my friends
Oh, I get high with a little help from my friends
Yes, I get by with a little help from my friends
With a little help from my friends