Wednesday, October 2, 2013

It’ll Kill Ya


One of the many things that I’ve experienced thanks to my stint in the hospital during this year is a major disruption to what was a solid sleep schedule. Shoot, within a few minutes after pulling the covers up, I was out like a log and woke up a few minutes before my alarm would ever make a peep. It was a beautiful thing. With all the pharmacopeia swimming in my blood now, it’s anyone’s guess when and if I’m going to sleep, so I’ve spent a lot of time staring at the ceiling, reading, dorking around on Facebook, and just plain ruminating in the wee hours of the morning.
Suffice it to say, when you’ve been diagnosed with a fatal illness, your thoughts tend to wander off into territory that was otherwise uncharted before and considered the purview of people like clergy and philosophers. Well, just like foxhole conversions, these kinds of situations turn everyone into metaphysical novitiates of sorts. We all have opinions and I’m no different. It’s just that my opinions were now flavored by real possibility instead of just conjecture and casual conversation or actual study.
I really didn’t even want to go down this street.  I mean, who wants to talk about death seriously? There are a lot of people who talk about death and dying for a lot of different reasons. You obviously have the funeral and end-of-life industry folk who make their living off of this transition and then there are the people who actually are serious in their metaphysical and spiritual in their discussions, and then the people who talk about it as some sort of intellectual topic or ideal. Me? I dunno. I’ve not come to any real conclusion except that I’m at peace with the whole thing. It’s not like I’m ready to go as I’ve written before, but in a sense, I’m OK with it in that I’m not afraid. There is no fear because I was so close to it and didn’t realize it. Maybe there’s the ‘ignorance is bliss’ element to it. I will say up front, the process kind of unnerves me still. I’m really over the pain and discomfort thing as you might imagine.
It’s funny, in a sense, that as we age, there seems to be barely any cognizance of even the concept of death. We’re immortal as youths! Nothing can touch us. The rise of so-called extreme sports is more technological than anything else, but that attitude has been around forever. It’s exhilarating, it’s awesome, it’s amazing…and it challenges death in the face. The degree of difficulty, the bungee jumping, the Red Bull jump from the edge of space and so on thrill us and we see death pushed farther away from us.
And then we get older.
Our hair lines recede, the six-pack ab is relegated to our younger brothers, and the guy we see in the mirror looks more like our dad than ourselves. And…then there are the softball games, nights out steamin’ with the boys, and other things we used to do without thinking that now take a while longer to catch up. That bungee jump is looking more like a mid-life challenge to overcome the mini-van than adrenaline rush now.
You know the drill. We all have our list of things. The real irony for me is that over the past few years, my endurance has shot through the ceiling. I’ve participated in some very long bicycle rides for charity that I don’t think I would have been able to complete as a younger man. And it was at my apex of participating that I was faced with my own mortality: you, son, have acute myeloid leukemia.  You have 90 days to live unless we treat this aggressively.  Yeah, that’ll kill ya.
It wasn’t the short thing I had for cigarettes as an 18 year-old.
It wasn’t the hazardous career I had as a navy pilot.
It wasn’t the high-stress job I had on the road with less-than-optimum nutrition.
It wasn’t the possibility of getting taken out while cycling by some distracted teenager texting on her new iPhone.
It was a totally-out-of-the-blue diagnosis unrelated to anything I could have imagined – leukemia.
So, it’s back to laying in a motorized hospital bed thinking. There are a lot of complications in treating this rather nasty cancer I’ve got. It’s not like I have a tumor that you can feel and that causes pain, but it’s in my blood and is every bit as insidious as a physical tumor – perhaps more so. The chemicals do their job and then there are the side effects to these chemicals that make me feel oh-so-lovely, so I get more chemicals to offset them. I have the mother of all pillboxes to manage them plus a written grid/guide to keep them all well-organized and on-schedule. And I now get to give myself subcutaneous injections to keep my blood sugar leveled out (another side effect) each night. So, between the massive weight gain/loss and the injections, I will be extra sensitive to women who suffer PMS and diabetics…but whether it’s this cancer or either of these conditions would make me want to die outright.
You know, there are just too many things the media would try to scare you about. But life is too good, and at the sound of being cliché, too precious to ignore or to pass of as for granted, regardless of one’s age. As we age, even though it may seem so, life isn’t ethical, it just is. I’m 50 years old and while I’m more at peace with my own mortality, it’s no less a precious thing to me than when I was in my 20s.
A lot of what I find myself writing has to do with different perspectives on similar elements. I come again to mortality not because I’m morbid or that I even face it in a real way, but rather find myself full of gratitude for the little things and hope that you don’t have to go through what I have in order to come to some of the things I’ve seen and felt. I won’t suggest being a hedonist, but rather making the most of what you have. Live your life without regret, without fear, without ulterior motive. You just don’t know what might happen tomorrow. After all…it’ll kill ya.
Be well, stay strong, and much love to you all!
Music for today from Phil Collins – True Colors

You with the sad eyes
Don't be discouraged
Oh, I realize
It's hard to take courage
In a world full of people
You can lose sight of it all
And the darkness inside you
Can make you feel so small
But I see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow
Show me a smile then
Don't be unhappy
Can't remember when
I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
And you've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there
And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
Your true colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow
Can't remember when I last saw you laughing
If this world makes you crazy
You've taken all you can bear
You call me up
Because you know I'll be there
And I'll see your true colors
Shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
True colors are shining through
I see your true colors
And that's why I love you
So don't be afraid to let them show
Your true colors
True colors
Are beautiful like a rainbow