Things I've Learned While I Was Dying:
This is my spot. For many years people were paid and had to listen to me ramble on about things do to my position. When I was disabled and forced into retirement from lung cancer, I lost my built in audience most of whom, that given a choice, might prefer a lengthy meeting to physical labor. Others were all too glad when I finally stopped talking. The key to speaking about anything in public, is to know a little something regarding your topic.
I know lung cancer. Unfortunately we are on a first name basis. I know about cancer treatment. I know the after effects. I understand the fear. I've seen that fear in the eyes of my wife and children. I've watched those same family members rally around me and hold me up when I could no longer do it for myself.
I have learned more practical survival tips over the past couple of years then I learned in my entire pre-cancer life.So I'm going to share some of these things with you over time. Here's the first thing.
1) It's ok to be afraid(it's not ok to stay afraid)
When you are first diagnosed with lung cancer the shock of it, just hearing a trained competent human being say to you,"you have lung cancer", takes the wind out of you quickly. I would imagine that I gave one of the top two most common responses;"how bad is it?" or in my case, I'm an all or nothing kind of guy"Am I going to die?" After that my mind went to how am I going to tell my wife? I pondered this question and braced myself as I heard her coming up the stairs. I was sure the news was going to devastate her, I pictured her collapsing in front of me, falling into hysterics. What was I going to say and how. As she rounded the top of the stairs I met her and it came bubbling out of my mouth like a five year old with a secret."I have lung cancer", I proclaimed. My wife said the exact right thing to me and I'll never forget it, she said " we'll get through this the same way we get through everything else, we'll figure out what we need to do and do it".She added,"There is no sense panicking until we know exactly what's going on". I'm sure Lynn felt the same fear I did, but somehow she overcame it and placed her full attention to calming me down.
I think it's ok to be afraid as they are running you through all the tests and you are spending what seems to be countless hours waiting for various results. It's ok to be afraid when they are sending you in for the small " blue badge of courage" tattoo which is the dot that you will have to mark the spot where the radiation is to be focused.
Let alone the fears and concerns regarding the well being of your loved ones, and the people in your life that you feel responsible for. And ultimately your own mortality that constantly flows in and out of your thoughts. Afraid of needles? Thats ok. Afraid of hospital food? Thats ok. IT"S NATURAL TO BE AFRAID. BUT.....................
You need to get over it, get through it, get around it, get your hands on it and then get on with it. Your recovery depends on you making decisions and not being afraid to make those decisions and sometimes ask the hard questions to make sure that you are going to have to be a part of making. You have to actively pursue your survival and that takes bravery not fear. By the way, this is a good place to point out that it's ok and natural to feel sorry for yourself, but that also can cripple your ability to fight if you let it go on too long so once again my friend, get over it and the sooner the better.
To be diagnosed with lung cancer and proceed into treatment which the doctors tell you up front will be no walk in the park, is scary.
To be diagnosed with lung cancer and not proceed with treatment because maybe it will be hard,maybe it won't work, is unacceptable. I've heard of people who have refused treatment for their own various reasons and that ultimately is your decision. As for me, I want to fight, not only fight I want to win. Am I afraid, yes from time to time it all finds its way back to the surface, especially around the three month mark when I go in for my check up. But I get over it, I get through it, I get around it, wrap my hands around it's ugly little throat and I resume the fight.
2) Sometimes it's the little things that mean the most.
One day I came into work after my morning radiation session feeling week and tired. Worst of all was the knowledge that I would be leaving again in a few hours to catch my afternoon radiation session. Upon entering my office,I noticed a coin sitting on my desk
It was a piece of metal roughly the size of a half dollar, on one side is stamped the faint image of a man with a halo over his head and the name SAINT PEREGRINE over the top. On the other side encircling the coin it says "PATRON SAINT OF CANCER PATIENTS" and in the center this prayer:
In this fight,
Give me courage,
I have no idea who left this for me, I never sought the person out for it wasn't a gift that needed an acknowledgment. I could tell by the wear on the coin that it had been held frequently, I imagined it being rubbed back and forth in someones hand as they were waiting or worrying for someone they loved. I sat and wondered who would give this item that obviously had meaning to them...to me.I felt very undeserving and so profoundly touched that i just sat and stared at it for awhile running my finger tips over the once rough now smooth surface of the coin.
As my phone rang, I placed the coin in my pocket, answered the phone and then left my office to respond to whatever it was that needed responding to.
Later that afternoon, I found myself back in the waiting room at the University of Wisconsin radiology dept awaiting my turn to go under one of the big machines that attacks your cancer with doses of radiation that you can't see or feel at the time but eventually take their toll.
It was only when they called my name and I stood up to go in that I realized that I had been clutching the coin, working it back and forth between my fingers,continuing the job of wearing down the coin that it's predecessor had begun. Seeking comfort in the feel of it and rubbing my fears and worries onto it.
To this day, I carry that coin.
To this day, I do not know how It came into my possession.
It has spent many hours clutched tightly in my hand, being worked through my fingers keeping me calm, focused, reminding me that it takes help and guidance, courage and strength to survive.
My hope is that one day I will no longer need this wonderful gift that was bestowed upon me and that I will, in turn, quietly and anonymously leave it for another who will find comfort in the feel of the smooth surface between their fingers and ponder for hours as I
have over the journey this coin has taken and lives it has and will touch before it's journey ends.
" WHAT WOULD YOU DO IF I SANG OUT OF TUNE, WOULD YOU STAND UP AND WALK OUT ON ME?"
Answer... YES unless it's a free concert then my friend, you got what you paid for.
Let's talk about patience for a minute. Got a minute? Perhaps three words that could make me cringe before the final syllable was out of the persons mouth. I had been known to say, in the past mind you,( I don't really know if this is true, all the radiation to my brain erased certain things that I choose not to remember I think because of the radiation to my brain). Get it, you can use that one for chemo head also if you would like. Anyway as I was saying, it has been alleged that things such as "No, but I have 20 seconds for you," or "Sure at 3:36p.m. that is exactly 4 hours from now I will have a minute for you, don't be late it's all you get."
I struggle with patience constantly, I always have. "I need it now." "what do you mean your going to miss your deadline" Now that I no longer have a full staff to bark and growl at I snap at my ever-slower moving computer that I really do not know how to operate anyway.
I think truth be told, I am worse now then I ever was.
So the question becomes why, why am I A) so impatient at times, I annoy myself and B) refuse to wear one of the beautiful wrist watches that my wife has purchased for me over the years.
First things first.
What exactly is my issue with time?
It's simple, from the time we are born to the 4:00a.m. feeding to "time to wake up for school." Time is fleeting, times a wasting, time to get going, time to get back,time keeps on slipping slipping slipping, time is on my side,I can't find the time, I found the time, I've got a ten a.m. appointment, I had a nooner, (hit another web site for full explanation of that term) I have 5 clock shadow, I need a time out, if I could turn back time, and so on and so on it goes. We are all pushed,pulled and prodded by time deadlines and restraints our entire lives and when its all said and done who the hell really cares.
One of my favorite sayings is "Who the hell's going to remember 500 years from now". And if your that worried about it, you've got some issues my friend.
I do not recall (could be the chemo talking) at anytime in any history book reading about George Washington being a great General, Father of our Country but seven minutes late for his wig fitting on April 12th.
"Sorry sir we can not allow you in, St.Peter has checked your permanent record and you have exceeded your tardy allotment ".
HERE LIES BOB
FINALLY ON TIME
Here's something that cancer taught me:
In the Grand scheme of things folks, it's really about making time and spending time. If you truly want to be one of lifes' great entrepreneurs, make your own time and spend it the way you see fit. It's too short, It travels way too fast.
AHHH to my point at last.
When I was told I had lung cancer and that the end was probably near, time for me accelerated to a speed that I could not cope with. I felt that everything had to be now,today because tomorrow was coming quick and I wasn't sure how many of those were left. Time at first became my mortal enemy until I realized that I needed to buy as much time as I possibly could if I was going to stay alive. I had to have time to fight,I needed all the time I could get and I want all the time I can have.
I remember the day I took my watch off of my wrist and placed it on the dresser. I told my wife that it was irritating my skin that's why I took it off. That had a small pinch of truth. To confess my thoughts would not be very Sicilian of me at this point in the game but I will tell you this,I spent allot of time looking at the face of a watch wondering how much time I had. A watch is a reminder to me of a time where I felt out of control and more than that, out of time. I doubt I will ever wear a watch again.
Hey, Ringo, sing it in key or I'm out of here!
I'm going to vent for a second so please bear with me. If you have lung cancer you are going to understand this and be able to answer this question in 30 seconds.
If you meet someone for the first time and you tell them that you have lung cancer, what is the first question asked by 7 out of 10 people in the first five minutes of conversation?
Did you smoke! Do you still?
You have lung cancer so you must have smoked, what they are really wanting to say is "I don't smoke so therefore I'm not worried about it, but so sorry for you and the decisions you made in life."
Ok, maybe that's a little harsh, but sometimes you can't help but get that "It's your own damn fault," feeling from some people.
Well my friends I have a little news for you, there are many causes for lung cancer, smoking being one of them, but not the only culprit.
Look at the food we eat, the air we breath the chemicals that surround us the drugs prescribed to us. When I was a kid I don't remember every third person I met being effected in one way or another by cancer. Is it safer for us as a group to put our collective heads in the sand and say it's all big tobacco? In my opinion (have your own, their free of charge) tobacco companies,pharmaceutical companies, lax controls in our own food standards all lend a hand in it everyday. Choose your villain but choose wisely, the smoking gun is the obvious choice, but not the only one.
Just my opinion, I wouldn't blow smoke at ya, at least not anymore.
On to better things,
I made a friend the other day, my new friend is recovering from colon cancer so we exchanged the secret handshake and acknowledged each others accomplishments, breathing, standing upright etc. My new friend reminded me of something that I learned while I was dying and it is really directed at lung cancer patients. As a patient, you must have patience with the people around you.
You have a very defined job as far as being a lung cancer patient. Seek treatment, go through treatment,do everything necessary to survive. pretty cut and dry. The people around us our family and friends the people we work with our neighbors struggling for the right thing to say over the hedge their roles are non-discript and therefore sometimes difficult and stressful.
The toll that cancer takes on your relationships can be as damaging as cancer is to your body. It took awhile for me to realize that it wasn't all about me, that everyone that I surrounded myself with was struggling to find a purpose, a way to help to show how much they care. It was hard for me to let anyone outside of my wife in. I felt vulnerable. My kids who I love dearly, we kept not necessarily in the dark, but defiantly in the shade. I will never know how they worried, I only know my own worries as a child of a lung cancer victim. I hope I will never know my wife's fear for she is by far much stronger than I.
After the initial "I have lung cancer, Holy crap," phase started to wear off, I became aware of everyone's efforts to say the right thing, and how hard people worked not to say the wrong thing. If my friends or co-workers struggled, I tried to find them a purpose, to help define their roles and ease their stress a little so that I was easier to be around. While I was at work I tried to make time to listen, to ask questions to talk about them and not myself. I believe that I was able to build some of the strongest work relationships I've ever enjoyed, not because people felt sorry for me, I'm sure there was some of that, but more do to the fact that I needed everyone around me, People would pass my office and stick their head in to check on me, that was their purpose in my illness. Someone would bring me a glass of water, make sure I didn't drink too much coffee etc. People found ways to have a purpose in my illness and treatment and I let them in and tried to give a little back.
My new friend has a sibling who's life long friend has just been diagnosed with some pretty serious stuff. He asked for advice on what to tell both people. My advice is this, to everyone;
If you yourself are faced with Lung cancer or anything that is threatening to take your life, Define your role to yourself. "I'm going to find the best treatment given by the best medical staff that I can find. I'm going to take the steps I need to to survive. I'm going to take all the care and help I can get to do so. I'm going to live." I said a few times"I'm going to live or die trying." I only said it a few times because evidentially I was the only one who found it amusing.
Help define the roles of the people around you, let them in, let them help. Let them off the hook when they don't know what to say. The people close to you not only want they need to be involved. Let them be.
To all the family, friends, co workers, health providers that go through a major illness in a supporting role, your purpose is simple, you provide the reason for us to fight everyday and night for life. To get up and go through one more treatment when we'd just as soon curl up in a little ball and call it a day. You my friends are the light at the end of the very dark tunnel.
Is there a greater purpose then that?
I have never been an overly religious man. I am Catholic but not what you would call a "practicing" Catholic by any means. I spent a large portion of my life not exactly sure what to believe. God, creation, afterlife, life after death,(maybe the same I don't know) reincarnation and on and on. Then into my somewhat God fearing life came cancer.Baby, I found God, I found the heads of all religions,I looked for anyone "up there" that I thought might listen, Saint Peter,Saint Paul giving them all a call.The next thing I knew I was playing the" price is right "with God himself. "Ok God, it's me." "You seem to have me at a slight disadvantage here and I think we need to renegotiate our contract." Now, if I remember correctly, " I've only promised to never do something if you got me out of trouble on six or seven occasions, so I think we still have some play there." "So I'm thinkin' maybe you could get me out of this one and I'll go to church six times a year and maybe donate some money." ( I know better then to lay it all on the table without looking at all the options first.) "So what do ya think?" Or maybe you would be interested in what's behind door number two"? Somewhere in a hospital room one dark lonely night at the University of Wisconsin hospital, where i received the majority of my treatments, God and I came to an agreement of terms. We settled our negotiations as gentlemen and parted company awhile to get some rest,at least I did. I have this vision of God heading straight up to heaven to have his lawyers review the contract while someone washed his feet after a hard day of dealing with me. I on the other hand solicited a sponge bath, took some pills and called it a day. As I said earlier,"I'm not a rocket scientist, but I do know my way around.
"It was not only God that I would enter into negotiations with, I came to the realization that I am constantly in some form of negotiations with someone.Let me give you some examples. When the fine folks at the U of W cancer center first began their tests to determine the type of cancer and plot the course of attack to fight it, they all became apart of the negotiation pool. Let's start with the young man who I seem to remember being an anesthesiologist. I don't know his name but it holds no bearing on the story. So here's this young guy probably an intern of some sort and his job is to calm me down and I believe knock me out prior to them shoving something up my nose, down my throat and into my lung to get a sample of the tumor that had taken up residency there.Anyway, sometime before I lost conscience , the negotiations began. "Alright,"I remember saying."Here's what I need from you." "I need five years." He looked at me puzzled."what?" he asked. "Five years", I said a little more forcibly now."My son is graduating from high school next year and I've got some other things that I need to get in order, so I need you to get me at least five more years". (Please bare in mind that this conversation was prior to my negotiations with the Big Guy that would supersede any prior arrangements.) Even with my plees and what I thought to be a reasonable explanation on why I needed an extension on my time, he simply walked out of my view and turned up what ever micky he was slipping me and I quickly drifted away without sealing the deal. never the less the dye was cast and from that point on everything was negotiable.The one thing I could not negotiate or con my way out of were the endless blood tests. All the time someone with a needle coming to poke me.I opted not to get a port or pick line as they call them and therefore paid the price of getting poked in the arm so often that I again found myself re-negotiating with God for a better deal even though the ink wasn't dry on the last one. "Oh God, please just let this young lady get the iv in on the first time". "I'm thinking eight times a year in church and I'll try and do that whole name in vain thing".During the main part of my treatment, I received radiation treatments twice a day.This also became a point of constant negotiations. I'm going to sidebar at this point for a moment so please bare with me. I had read somewhere a long time ago about a man fighting cancer and his use of visualization to help him heal. Every time he received a treatment, he would visualize a jet fighter attacking his cancer cells. For me it was a swordsman who fought with the dragon that was living in my lung.He never killed the dragon, but everyday,twice a day he weakened it, wounded it in some fashion. Find something that works for you, every advantage you can find and use adds strength to you.Anyway back to the story, I was lucky enough to go through something called tomotherepy which is a version of radiation that narrows the field so that you are less likely to kill innocent tissue surrounding a tumor. Part of that system is that you basically have a ct scan after every session. So the basic negotiation went like this. First I had to talk one of the nurses into showing me the scan. That was the easy part. Next, it was back to God to negotiate a favorable result. "Alright I'm going to throw in a promise for commitment to a couple more commandments if this one is better then the last one." Anyway those are the basics of negotiation for life.All kidding aside, some day we all are going to have to ante up for the compromises we've made in life, if that is what you choose to believe.
Which brings me to a lesson I learned while I was dying."It seems to me that it really doesn't matter what you choose to believe in as long as you find piece within that belief and the passion to honor it".
There's more to come, we haven't even touched on sponge baths, embarrassing hospital moments, and a whole host of things I've learned on my journey..... stay tuned.
So I'm back again which is great for me, You have to breath to write so if I'm writing, I'm breathing and that's what it's all about as far as I'm concerned.
I want to start out with something I learned along the way and it's one of those things that are very difficult for some and comes naturally for others. It can be taught as well as learned. Are you ready,
"If you want something,sometimes you have to express yourself.Sometimes, you even have to ask."
Mick and the boys tried explain it to us"You can't always get what you want, but if you try sometimes, you get what you need.
They could have went a step farther and said "chances are you'll never get anything if you don't ask or at least make your needs clearly understood." But how do you rhyme that verse? This is something that I struggled with off and on depending on the circumstances and what it was that I was after. Many times in life, I've taken the" what's meant to be will be," approach and found myself with a result that fell short of my expectations. Had I taken a more direct approach and made my needs known maybe the results would have been more favorable.
It's funny, Sometimes I feel like I've slid through a good portion of my life on a somewhat tolerable personality, good timing and dumb luck. My family, as well as the people who have worked with me and for me might have a different view of my personality, and can certainly testify to the uncompromising, overbearing and ridiculously demanding side of my nature. I learned over the years that to ask for someones help on a project and explaining what I expected instead of demanding it strengthened relationships and usually garnered a better result.
It's not easy to develop "people skills " on any level. Compromise, patience, trust, tolerance are all some of the fine points of the art that again,some have naturally, others develop over time. Also in this mix is the fine art of asking for what you want. I've always felt pretty self sufficient, but when i started working my way through treatment, I found myself asking for help more and more frequently. At first it bothered the hell out of me, it made me feel weak for lack of a better term. As time went by I realized that Not only did I need help, I needed serious help and I had to be smart enough to ask for it, since breath was at short supply for me at the time, asking for things in a direct manner was the best way to go about it. Little did I know at the time that everyone around me knew I needed help , it seems I was the last to know or maybe I was just a little stubborn in admitting it. Not only did they all know, they were all willing to spring into action simply by me asking.Holy crap what a concept, I needed help, I asked for help, I received help. And guess what here's some good news for all you non-sickly folks that are tagging along on our journey, it can work for you too. Yes it's true any one can ask for help or make their needs known on any subject matter at anytime all for the low low price of learning how to communicate in a rational, intelligent manner.
Now a days if I want something from someone I simply ask. Sometimes I don't get what I want.( I have to sidebar with a quick story here so hang on were going for a ride).
While I was going through treatment and had gotten the fine art of asking for everything down to a science, I was giving my family grief by singing the "golden ticket" song from willy wonka and the chocolate factory. I was teasing them because I knew that do to my condition they were pretty much on call to bring me things, fluff my pillows etc. therefore I had the" golden ticket. " this was a running bit for us, I'd ask my daughter for something from upstairs and she'd give me a look which was the equivalent of "are you freakin kidding me?" and I would simply reply to this look with "Golden ticket", which would send her on her way.
Sometime after I had survived my first year I remember asking her for something, she looked over at me and asked"how ya feeling Dad". "Pretty good", I replied. "Good" she said, "Your golden ticket has just been revoked".
Every once in awhile, I will just randomly say," Do you remember when I had the golden ticket?.....Those were the good ol days."
Anyway, I think dying has taught me how to communicate my needs without fear of feeling undeserving. I realize that I still need plenty of help and I'll probably have to ask and make myself clear.
I've learned that you still can't always get what you want, and you will continue to open yourself up for disappointment if you don't explain what it is you want.
Let me give you a few examples.
Hi everyone I need your help on a few things let me explain what they are and what I'm looking for:
First of all, I need you to make some donations because I have long term goals that I intend on meeting or in the event that I am not able to see them through, that my family will.
Second of all, we need a few corporate sponsors or grants from foundations. So if you fall into this category,I'm asking for your help in this matter.
Third, I need a publisher. If you are one or know one send me an e-mail.
Most importantly, we need your continued support.
See look how easy, now you all know what I need today, clear, concise to the point. Go ahead, after you make your donation, try it out yourself.
More to come.
Here's just a little side note for you.
Maybe we would all have a much easier time discussing death if we kept it in the right perspective, here's mine:
Death is what it is, the end result of an inevitable journey.
Everyone takes the trip, some pass through in the blink of an eye, some stay a short while but have a long lasting impact on the rest of us. Some stay way too long, do way too little and in the end squander their chance. Some spend their time looking for answers to things that have no questions. Death scares us, it sneaks in and snatches you if your ready or not. Death is the ultimate villain in so many people's eyes. The Darth Vader of life.
The truth of the matter is that I do not recall of anyone dying from death.
Disease,war,famine,foul play, self inflicted, old age all leading to Death but Death never being the true culprit. Death is the victim of a really bad publicist.
In 1934, death took a little time off, posed as Fredric March and tried to make serious time with Evelyn Venable. They even made a movie out of it "Death takes a holiday." And for a short period of time people liked death well maybe not liked, but felt they understood him a little.
Death then went underground for quite awhile to try and shake off it's bad reputation and wasn't seen again until his agent brainstormed one of the greatest comebacks of all time and in 1998 cast him as Brad Pitt in "Meet Joe Black". They simply took his earlier vacation movie modernized it a little bit a
couple of script changes a new leading lady, bada boom, bada bing death is back on the charts, more popular then ever and in this new Brad Pitt role, Well just let me remind you of something you still here allot of today and you tell me where it came from, "That Brad Pitt, isn't he to die for". See what i"m saying, are ya smellin' what I'm steppin' in?
I know, I know death is no laughing matter and I have to tell you the thought of the grim reaper scared me for quite sometime. Then I realized that I had nothing to fear from death he was coming to the party sooner or later. The things I don't want to deal with are the things that keep trying to make me leave the party early. Lung cancer is my arch nemesis, not death, my fight is with lung cancer. I wish to avoid death for as long as possible and in order to do so I have to focus my energy on Living and fighting. We all do, everyone of us fights our own demons sooner or later and when your time comes to stand and fight, make sure your looking at the right adversary and not death who is actually just the ring announcer at lifes boxing ring.
My goal is to live, I've met death on a couple of occasions and he really doesn't care what I do one way or the other. He'll sit idly by and watch cancer have it's way with me or it will sit and watch while I kick the crap out of cancer. Impartial, non-committal, non-judgmental. Winner take all is fine by him. On the other hand I don't think that Death would care if I stuck around for another forty years and helped others do the same. Even death loves an underdog.
Anyway, if this conversation was a bit too much for you I apologize. Focus your efforts on fighting the true evils of life and I would encourage you to live your life in a manner that both allows you to stay around for a long time and also touches and influences people around you to want the same. Wouldn't it be great if you could live long enough to help end the disease that was trying to kill you? Or inspire and help a future group of doctors and scientists find a cure that would protect your children from your fate?
Besides there is no reason to fear death, remember, I've met him,and I'll let you in on a little secret......................................... He looks like Brad Pitt and tastes like chicken.
until next time.
" Don't give up. Don't ever give up."
A quote from legendary college basketball coach Jim Valvano
spoken even as he was losing his fight with cancer. Which brings this thought to me.
The saying is "everyone loves a winner." I suppose that's true, we'd all like to be associated with the winning side the winning team the winner of the debate. I don't want to talk about the winner, some people will love him some will hate him. I want to talk about the true hero in my eyes, the fighter.The guy who won't stop, who will continue to get up off the canvas time and time again. We secretly route for that guy. Bruce Willis in the Die Hard movies. Even if he's the bad guy in the movie. I'm the guy screaming in his head at the movie theater "look out theres a guy behind you with a shotgun" to the screen as Tony Montana(Al Pachino) stands at the top of the stairs and prepares to come to an abrupt ending in scarface. Tonys the bad guy but he's fighting it out and therefore I find myself routing for a drugged out homicidal murderer.Michael Myers from Halloween, there's some sticktuitiveness for ya. We want Rocky Balboa to get off the canvas(at least the first few movies) Then I would have been fine with Mr.T punching him into incoherency. I'm a life long Chicago sports fan so I know of what I speak. I loved to watch Michael Jordan win it all, but I would watch the bears fight through winning three games a season with heart and determination and be proud. I won't go into cubs or sox, I just don't have that much fight in me.
I respect the fighter, the person who is going to do what they have to do irregardless of the outcome. The person who stands up and stands firm when everyone else is telling them to stay down. That person with so much tenacity and spunk that you find yourself routing for them weather they are the good the bad or the ugly.
No matter who you were yesterday, today you woke up and they told you that you have lung cancer. You are now the action hero of your own life, if you weren't starring in the leading role yesterday, you are today. I've known many people who have cast themselves in supporting roles in their own life stories and first of all, you should want more for yourself then that and second of all, that was yesterday this is today, you have cancer, only you can fight it only you can beat it. What? you say your not a fighter, your too old, your too weak,your afraid, your alone, you just don't want to go through it, for some it might be you just don't want to go through it again.
I understand, Here's something that I learned while I was dying that I'm going to give out as a bonus just for reading this far down. Are you ready? The inspiration and strength to fight is all around you.
I am not sure if it's like this for all diseases all I know is cancer and I can only speak for myself. But once I began treatment, it kinda becomes like the guys that ride cycles and when they pass by each other on the highway give the super secret fist down signal which means " hey buddy we both ride motorcycles, it's all good."
Just like those leather clad dudes, we start to relate to each other. Our highway is one of countless hallways and waiting rooms in the hospital,the hand gesture is replaced by a glance across a waiting room then tomorrow solid eye contact. This evolves into nods, polite conversations, acts of kindness,"hey I'm getting some water do you need anything" The next thing you know you can see how a persons day is going by the exchange of looks. Once you start treatment a type of vulnerability and empathy the likes that you have never experienced settles over you in regards to your fellow patients. No matter who you are, you start to become concerned for this family of strangers.The look that was awkward at first now reaches into your soul until it finds the answer it seeks which is usually "how are you feeling, really, not the crap we tell everyone, how are you really feeling? You come to realize that here we are all in the same boat just given different sized oars to row with.
There is an untold strength and comfort in it all. Being around people that share your affliction and are all fighting it in their own ways, we have allot in common, there are days when we all feel too old,too weak too afraid and are wondering why the hell were going through this and for many it's not the first time. But when a small smile from a pale, tired, face, wearing a bandanna where a week ago a full head of hair used to be, catches your eye and then you look into their eyes to see that look of defiance that you see in the boxers eyes just before he pulls himself up again from the ring floor. That burning fight that determination is enough to make you say to yourself," I can do this, I can fight this thing."and in answer to the coach," I won't give up." I'll never give up."
Fight like your life depends on it because it does. Be open to the suggestions of professionals because they are trained to help you. Be kind and understanding with your family and friends, because they care. Search the eyes in the waiting rooms for strength because there is so much of it there. Be the source of strength for someone around you.
Put up the fight that would impress the one person we should all try to impress in this instance.
By all means Live or die trying.
until we meet again, happy trails my friends.
I have a question, then I'll move on to other things.
When did corporations and businesses sell their integrity?
Ok if it wasn't sold, it was traded away for a barrel of incompetence, two goats and an 8th round draft pick to be named later.
I am deeply concerned for the lack of thoroughness, competency and personal integrity that I have been running into lately and on more than one occasion recently it seems that ignoring the problem (me) is easier than dealing with the problem(again me). When did it become an acceptable practice?
Someone just has to say it (I guess me). I hope you are paying attention corporate America.
We as consumers have lost a tremendous amount of faith in who you are, what you represent and the way you go about your business. From insurance companies to pharmaceutical companies, from the guy who says "no problem, you'll have it by Tuesday," who knows as he's saying it that he can't deliver. To the used car salesmen looking to empty their lots of liabilities, who will say anything and deny everything. Investment companies who are investing your funds into their futures.
I voted for a President who also seems to be struggling to deliver on his sales pitch.Mr. President, a little health care if you please. They'll be ok, they'll still figure a way to make a buck off of our misery. If your an insurance company, tell us upfront about the "sub pump" clause don't wait til our house is floating away to then tell us were not covered. Sorry, your car insurance would have been cheaper if your credit score would have been just a bit higher. How my credit score correlates with my driving ability is still a mystery.Don't tell us we are no longer covered because our doctor didn't sign the form that you requested therefore the information was not received by our deadline, gee sorry bout that. Don't tell us the water truck is in New York not New Orleans( they both started with N's) Nothing says competency like honesty. Here's a fun exercise,
Let's all be up front. Insurance companies tell us up front that you are going to continue to bleed us dry and drop us quick if we file a claim. Pharmaceutical companies when your done trying to give us all four hour erections, tell us the truth,"what we are really trying to do here is make you Dependent on as many pills and lotions as we can irregardless of the fact that it is slowly killing you," Tell me up front ," thanks for your business, we really aren't interested in your needs just your cash, if you have a problem call 1-800 who cares." I would love that. Let me know up front that you are going to make some type of billing error which is going to overdraw my bank account on four different occasions and that you are then going to deny it ever happened.
Not everyplace is like this and in everyplace of business you will find hard working dedicated people who truly care about the job they do.
All I'm asking (and I'll try to be specific here so I don't confuse any executives) Be up front with your intentions, treat us with respect, act with integrity in all your dealings.
If you can't do that, then keep your ponsy scheming, claim denying, lemon selling, incompetent,uncaring,un-qualified, ill tempered,bad mannered flunkies off of my phone, out of my business and frankly out of my life because heres a little something that I learned a long time before I was dying, but was just reminded of recently.....I have no time for a business or the representative of a business who lacks integrity.
Every once in awhile I just get a little crazy, back on course very soon. (I'm sure there is a pill to help me stay on course but I'm not sure my insurance will cover it.) And the side effects... irritability, cramping, dizziness,vomiting,rash,boils,rectal bleeding,blindness,deafness,loss of smell and four out of five laboratory rats tails were stiff for more that four hours oh and by the way, in certain people may result in death.This product is non rated and more importantly,non-refundable.
Just when I thought I had it all figured out, the very next morning
I dealt with a young lady named Stacy who took care of my problem on the phone in a very professional and competent manner, and was pleasant to deal with.
Maybe there's still hope for corporate America after all.
October ...Love Halloween, not too crazy about the other thirty days.
With the exception of my oldest sons birthday, not too many good things happen for my family in October,
We start off the month with the anniversary of my wife's fathers death from cancer and right around this time frame in 2007,the exact date escapes me now, (chemohead). I too was literally a breath away from becoming a cancer casualty and statistic.
Settle in kids, I'm going to tell you a little story.
For those of you that have never been to Wisconsin, October provides you with a never ending variety of weather. The days are now getting shorter,the temperatures consistently falling. You can see a snow shower, freezing rain or beautiful sunny autumn days. stick around eventually you'll see all the above.
I remember this day in October, it was gray,chilly and damp. I had been finished by this point with my cancer treatments since July with the exception of the radiation to the brain that I received in August so I was trying to work as much as I could which really only amounted to three to four hours a day. It was all I could do, and I was really starting to realize that I wasn't the same person I was a year earlier.
I had a cough, worse then usual,and was struggling with my breathing,and was running a fever sitting in my office evidently not looking too good from the "go home" or "Go to the Doctor", comments that had been steadily coming my way.
After a couple hours of stubbornly, and stupidly hanging around for no reason what so ever. I called my wife and to tell her I was heading home.Lynn was out , I caught up with her on her cell phone, she was lunching and visiting with her Mother who has since passed on and who's fiestyness and tenacity I miss in my life. I told my wife the truth in a way,"I'm not feeling well," "I think I'll head home for a nap'". "Should I come home", she asked? "No, I'll be Fine."
I remember two things distinctly at this point, first was how the October air was cutting right through my body and I was actually shaking by the time I reached my car. The second is one of those things where you are going to want to reach through the computer screen and smack me in the head for when I tell you. My Doctor, was based(here it comes) in the clinic located in the parking lot at my store. 100 yards away. They generally dropped everything for me so had I made the decision to drive the 100 yards, and walk the 10 feet into the clinic, I probably could have avoided the rest of this story.But as I sat in my car waiting for it to warm up, staring across the parking lot, I decided that I just wanted to go home.
I arrived home to an empty house, my wife out with her mother, Katy in Madison attending school and Tony in his senior year of high school. I pulled what I could of my clothes off,climbed into bed and was out like a light. My wife awoke me late in the afternoon, I don't believe my son was home from school yet. I was having a difficult time catching my breath and Lynn began to ask me" Do you want to go to the clinic"? "Yeah maybe", I replied. She made the call but it was too late they were closed.
She asked about the hospital" I said "yes" She asked" do you want me to call an ambulance" I replied "no". "You sit up and get dressed and we'll go."
When I sat up, I realized for the first time that I was in trouble. I couldn't catch my breath and immediately toppled back over onto the bed. I then gave the best shout I could and said " Call the ambulance", I found out later that she had already done so prior to me asking.
I was laying on the bed, panting like a dog who had spent the entire day in the hot sun and now was desperately seeking water. It wasn't water I was seeking,it was air, and I couldn't find any.
Tony was home from school and Lynn sent him in by me while she waited for the ambulance to arrive. I remember grabbing his hand and saying" I'm not going out like this". I saw the desperation in his eyes and thought for the first time "I could be wrong about that".I could hear the sirens in the distance and I was really hoping that they were for me and after what seems to be an eternity they were there. It was actually a little shocking when they showed up in my bedroom, I couldn't quite figure out how they got in there and was at a loss for what was going on around me.The lack of oxygen starting to take it's toll.I don't remember how they got me into the ambulance but they did, and away we went.Lynn following behind in the trailblazer.
As things go for me, this next part was all par for the course... So I'm on my back in the ambulance with the oxygen mask on, heres a guy who can't find his breath let alone catch it and every time I did ,they would ask me another question and I would lose it again. We played this game for quite awhile, then I felt the ambulance stop, back up, turn around drive about a half mile and do the same thing again this time going in the opposite direction. We were lost, I could hear them talking about it, finally I took the mask off and asked them if they wanted me to drive. This is all true and could only happen to me. So we find our way out of the woods and somehow Lynn tracks us down an is following us again. Sirens screaming our approach as we raced down the highway. I don't remember this but Lynn told me that half way to the hospital they shut off the lights and sirens and she thought for sure that I was dead.
So I survived the ambulance ride and now found myself on a table playing the 'let's let Tim catch his breath and then ask him questions game 'again. Each time this happened it took longer for me to find a breathing rhythm again. They took an xray and my left lung had collapsed completely the right one containing the tumor was already swiss cheese so no air. The Doctor, said well "were going to have to place a tube into your chest to get your lung re inflated, If a fish out of water could talk it would make a garbled "yes ok" sound like the one that spilled from my mouth.
Somehow during this waiting time where they must have been sharpening things and boiling hot water, my boss and close friend showed up out of nowhere and was standing next to me in the emergency room. I was amazed and tried to talk to him but lost my breath right away. The Doctor reappeared and began to tell me about the procedure that was going to take place great guy but it felt like he was talking forever, meantime I'm thinking "procedure" root "to proceed'. I finally said "please just do it or give me the knife,and I'll do it". He did it.
I guess the hold up had been the fact that there was not an anesthesiologist on duty so I was going to be awake during it, trust me I did not care. Somehow , someone that was leaving work for the day happened to be wandering through the emergency room and "boom boom" out went the lights.
When I awoke in my room, I had a large tube sticking out of my side, but I could breath.
Breathing is one of those things that we take for granite until we can't do it.
I met the Doctor that saved me and thanked him to no end. He's the one that told me that I was very close to checking out. I think if Lindsy had waited for me to say "call the ambulance" instead of taking the initiative herself , I would not be writing this. It was that close.
I'm going to stop here for now, I'll finish the rest of the story soon, it involves a months stay in a hospital room, sponge baths, special guest stars, countless showings of Halloween two, caprese and a big finally.(what?You don't know what caprese is, you are not allowed back til you find out and try it)lifes too short not to know about caprese.
I'll continue this story soon
So before we get to part two of our story, A note to my friend Joanne; There must be a reason that your path has been so steep and filled with rocks that not many would have been able to climb, to find that reason or where that path will lead you is reason enough to walk one more mile and fight for one more day.
Meanwhile, back on the ranch...
I awoke in a hospital room breathing somewhat normally and was truly amazed that I was breathing at all. The last thing I knew I was fighting for air and contemplating self-surgery. The concerned faces of my family could now be seen at the foot of my bed,including my brother-in -law who drove up from Chicago,which at first struck me as odd until I was later told that the call went out in an effort to reach my oldest son in Chicago and someone had raised the "one" if he might not make it lantern instead of the "two" if by sea. So collectively we were all breathing again, sighs of relief from them and for me, just air. I became aware of the huge tube sticking out of my back leading down to a machine on the floor but it didn't quite dawn on me that this little machine was keeping air flowing into my left lung that I can only imagine looked like the Snoopy balloon after a storm at the Macy's Thanksgiving parade.
So there I was laying on my back, in my hospital room feeling fortunate to be there and incredibly stupid for not listening to the people around me and doing the things that might have prevented this little field trip. Looking back now I have a better understanding of the long term effects of what my stubbornness led too and how through my own stupidity I might have prolonged my own life, despite myself. You'll understand more as the story moves on.
My first week in the hospital was an adjustment period where the entire medical staff was forced to adjust to me. I always try to have a memorable impact wherever I go,it's just that sometimes it's not always a positive impact. I think I eluded earlier to the fact that not everyone finds me as amusing or charming as I find myself.
It was on the second day of my stay that one of the most truly horrifying,and completely embarrassing things that I have ever experienced happened to me. A moment in my life that truly humbled me and as stupid as it sounds, haunts me. It haunts me not because it caused any harm or damage, and I'm sure it was probably just another day at office for everyone else involved but for me it was mortifying.
I was laying in bed minding my own business when two young ladies came to collect me and take me down for an xray. I made it know to all that I was not feeling well and that I felt that it had something to do with the morphine that I had been given ample doses of to get me through my first night. But turn about being fair play ,just as I never listen when I should, I was not listened to when I should have been. So down the hall I go in my wheel chair one nurse pushing me the other toting my little breathing machine. They dropped me off at xray where two or three young ladies began to get things set up for my xray. I also told these ladies that I was not feeling all that good and expressed my disinterest in standing up and walking to the wall so they could get the pictures they needed. To no avail, they helped me up and led me to the wall, set me up and then scattered so I was left alone. My head was swimming, I couldn't focus,I was having a hard time standing. They got their photos and upon entering the room, I explained that I was sinking fast, one of them brought me a small plastic dish shaped like a kidney bean and no bigger than a soda can " in case I felt sick", they both began to walk me to my chair.
What I wanted to say was"I really don't feel well", what came out instead when I opened my mouth was an uncontrollable stream of vomit that would have sent Lind Blair running in terror. I couldn't stop, I covered both nurses and a portion of the room and still there was more. For the first time in a very,very long time, I was completely out of control and could not regain my composure. I remember trying to apologize and instead vomiting on yet another innocent bystander who had simply wandered into the fray to see what the commotion was about. When I had nothing left to offer, they cleaned me up the best they could and sent me back to my room. I gained a whole new level of respect for people in the medical profession that day, I was ashamed of myself that I lost control, they in turn, took care of me with understanding and compassion that was amazing.
I wish to remind you all that this was my second day in. My stay lasted over one month.
Needless to say, I was quickly removed from morphine and actually experimented with different pain killers for the next week until we found one that worked and didn't leave my room looking like a frat party gone bad.
Something I learned while I was dying,
It takes the right kind of person to be a caregiver, whether it's a Doctor or Nurse or Nurses aid or family member, you have to be truly dedicated to helping people to be effective and willing to overlook their weaknesses and not exploit their vulnerabilities. I admire these people, but I don't believe I could ever be one.
I'll stop here for now, but think about this, you only get so many tv stations in a hospital room, I think I watched Jamie Lee Curtice being chased around a hospital by Michael Myers (Halloween 2) 29 times in 19 days. Fun to watch unless your all alone, in the hospital, in the dark, on Halloween.
until next time.
Let's pick up our hospital saga where we left off.
So after the morphine debacle I was strangely liberated. I lost my hospital inhibitions
and actually relaxed. During my previous stays at the hospital or even during treatments,I kept my guard up and in place, never giving out too much information about how I was feeling or what was hurting, I didn't want to give anyone an excuse to keep me locked up for long. After vomiting on half the hospital staff you figure the world has now seen you at your worst so who cares? I enjoyed my visits with my wife which included homemade food, cheese and cracker parties and days of just hanging out. I enjoyed the nurses who were very pleasant and offered such great things such as sponge baths, back rubs,medications, non of which should be turned down at any time. Most of all they provided me with constant distraction which is very important if you are going to be laid up for awhile. No matter how upset you are with the circumstances. Never take it out on the staff.
I even went as far as to let my guard down with my doctors to the point where I felt like I was Whining.
Not all fun and games, I still had a large tube sticking out of my side. I still had a lung that would not inflate. Somewhere I developed some type of rhythmic abnormality with my heart that would send my monitors into a frenzy in the middle of the night, summonsing a troop of crash cart pushing nurses to wake me from a sound sleep. My worst and best friend was my own mind. Being in the hospital for that long leaves you with way too much time to think. I spent time coming to terms with the death of my Father who lost the same struggle with cancer that I am currently fighting. I remember how desperately he wanted to go home from the hospital when he knew the days were growing shorter.I remembered the stories he told me of his Father and his final days as he lost his fight with the same monster. I sprung my Father from the hospital, he passed away a short time later, at home on the couch which was what he wanted. It was terrible for my mother and younger brother and I only justify it by the fact that it was the dying wish of my Father and my obligation as the first born son to see that it was done. I will tell you with no remorse that if his final wish had been for me to destroy something or hurt someone I would have performed the task without question or regret as he would have for his Father and as my son would in turn do for me. It is the blessing and curse of a Sicilian son.
As I spent time walking down some of the dark alleyways of my life, a reoccurring thought kept creeping into my mind. What if I can't get out? What if there is no way to repair my lungs enough to allow me to walk out the doors? Once again I thought of my Father and gained a clearer understanding of his thoughts and the despair that can so easily creep into your heart. I started to get edgy, every day I was all over the Doctor asking if my lung was inflated and holding, everyday the xray would show a partially collapsed lung with fluid and every day I would wait and try to will my body to heal itself. My wife and children kept my hopes alive with daily visits but I was getting desperate for anything that looked like a way out. I wanted no part of the young lady who was responsible for me exercising my lungs by breathing into a little plastic device. I would make the excuse that I was tired or give a mild attempt and tell her that was it. The truth is that I had it in my mind that I was very close to making my lung refill and stay inflated and that blowing into that silly little thing might somehow cause my lung to deflate keeping me trapped even longer. Crazy when I think of it now but at the time, very logical and a very real threat in my head.
I am going to stop the story here for now, next time I'll tell you all about my great escape and we'll move on to other things.
Weeks have now passed in our hospital drama since they hauled me in, in the lost and found ambulance. At least three weeks have passed. I spent Halloween night in the skeleton t-shirt my wife had purchased for me and now,a week after Halloween I am still laying in the same bed watching snow flakes fall outside my window wondering if I will ever go home again.
After another x ray reveled a general lack of concern on my left lungs part to play nicely with the rest of the body, I finally found the courage to ask the doctor the big question. What if? What if my lung never re-inflates? What happens to me, am I trapped in the hospital until I just ....die? He then proceeded to give me options. He told me that I could just continue waiting and eventually he felt my lung would get itself together,maybe. The next option I found interesting and once again, I swear as sure as I'm still sitting here that this is true,a procedure in which he would cut me open, wait let's do this like were baking a cake;
cut holes( notice the plural)into body large enough to insert other sharp,pointy things.
insert sharp pointy things into hole and cut lung along make believe dotted line until lung is in two pieces.
Remove uncooperative piece of lung to show rest of body that no one is indispensable on this team baby.
Reattach remaining lung parts using staples.
seal all leaks using super glue.
Stitch all open holes large enough to insert sharp pointy things before exiting the body.
Side note, leave large tube in place for the time being to re inflate new half lung and well, just in case.
So there are my options wait it out or cut out the bad stuff and fix it using staples and glue.
I have suffered through a collapsed lung before on a few occasions but they always worked themselves out in a few days a week at the most.
For those of you that don't exactly know what a collapsed lung is, I'll try to explain. Basically your lung is attached to your chest cavities by things that I will just describe as tiny suction cups. Sometimes the lung can pull away from the chest cavity wall leaving a gap where air can become trapped therefore not allowing the lung to fully inflate. air trapped in the lung cavity will eventually dissipate on it's own if the lung is healthy or in cases like mine the air is removed manually by inserting a hose. Not being a doctor, that's the best I can give you, feel free and look it up. if I'm wrong in my explanation, quickly shoot me an e-mail that I can immediately delete because frankly I don't care why and I hate being corrected but if it would make you feel better then by all means do so.
Anyway, I thought it would work itself out, and it didn't nor did it look like it was going to anytime soon. So I opted for option two the Betty Crocker build a better lung option.
We consulted with my Doctor's at the U of W medical center. They wanted me to be transported to Madison to have the procedure done there but if there is one thing you should be picking up about me by now, it's that I have this thing about loyalty and in this case as well as all others, I chose to "dance with the one that brought me to the party."
another cliff hanger, welcome to my life. until next time
So as I was saying, I had a choice to make regarding my future breathing arrangements and opted for option 2, slice,dice,staple and glue.
The day arrived I went under the knife and for a couple of hours, I left my life and lung in the hands of a very competent Doctor who did an outstanding job in my book.
The thing about a surgery like this is that you don't have immediate results, so it wasn't like I woke up and was ready to leave the hospital, the operation was to get rid of the problem tissue in my "healthy" lung and give it a fighting chance to reattach itself to my chest cavity and go about it's business. It would be another five days or so until we were ready to pull the tube out of my side and take the lung out for a test drive.
Strange the thought of someone cutting into me and removing a large portion of my lung didn't concern me half as much as them removing the tube in my side which had become my safety net, very similar to Linus clinging to be his blanket. We went through the normal daily xrays and waited and watched until it was finally time. My lung was ready to stand on it's own. The day the Doctor removed that tube was one of the scariest days of my life, I actually sent a nurse to find him before he could leave the hospital after he removed the tube because I was starting to drive myself into a minor panic attack being left on my own with nothing holding my lung up except air. I asked for sedatives and thankfully received them and calmly drifted off to sleep. When I awoke, I was still breathing, I was careful not to move around too much, I was so close now to getting out that I could almost taste it and I didn't want to make any sudden move that would let the "air out of my balloon", as it were. Over the course of the next few days, I learned how to breath again without panicking and soon after I was released from the hospital. It took quite awhile not to panic every time I sneezed or coughed, and even now if a sneeze catches me off guard I get a sudden twinge of anxiety.I can joke around a little about it now and tell people not to make me laugh too much or I might shoot a staple out of my nose or become "unglued" altogether.Overall my hospital experience in October of 07 was a twist in my already altered path and taught me so many things about myself and life in general that I don't know where to begin. When I look back at that particular time filled with fear, anger and anxiety, looming like huge trees in a medevil forest the only sunlight seeping through being the care I received from a dedicated group of Doctors and nurses and of course my Family who always shine even in the darkest of skies. Somewhere in that dark woods, I stumbled blindly off and then back onto the path that I currently walk.On a quest to live and die with grace,honor and dignity. So what did I learn while I was dying? "We might all be on our own paths in life, but the reality is that most of us are traveling through the same woods and some of our paths cross each other and sometimes merge together for a period of time helping us to stay on or find our path again when we get lost. Always when paths cross the directions are altered in some way some life altering and some so slight that the impact is not truly felt.
When I look back over the course of my life, I wonder how many paths I have crossed, how many times I had an opportunity to help or make an impact and failed to do so.More importantly as I move forward can I help clear the path for others so they don't have to stumble alone in the sometimes very dark woods? In a perfect world we would all help to light each others paths.
Until next time.
So I'm waiting in line at my friendly neighborhood grocery store the other day, and I do mean waiting, I was number 4 in line which doesn't sound too bad except when you take into account that a manager came by every 5 minutes and placed a mirror under my cashiers nose to make sure she was still with us.We were moving ssssllllooooowwww.
Anyway that aside, I looked over at my favorite tabloid covers and there mixed in with the alien/bigfoot abductions,octomom running off with Tom Cruise and Kate putting her 8 kids in a balloon headlines I saw it , I was shocked, I was stunned and frankly a little ashamed of myself for my part in the whole ugly ordeal. The cover read, "Oprah calling it quits."
I've spent many a long night since pondering the decision I had to make and I feel that I have made the right one. It's time I confess my part in this whole Oprah leaving thing, please bear with me for a moment while I gather myself......... Ok, so here's how it all went down.
Back in October I was looking for ways to get the word out regarding November being Lung Cancer Awareness Month. We sent out E-mails to politicians, Hospitals, clinics, various newspapers etc. Then someone came up with the idea that I should sit down and draft an e-mail to Oprah and ask for her support in talking about Lung Cancer maybe even doing a show about lung cancer in November. I thought it was a brilliant idea and that Oprah would probably send me a new car or a new make up kit or a new something just for presenting the idea. I pictured myself nestled there all cozy on the stage between the great tv goddess and her hand created henchman Dr.Phil, convincing the world that supporting lung cancer research was their civic duty. I would be king of the world, and then be asked to do Dos Equis beer commercials do to the fact that I was now the most interesting man on the face of the earth. All this from one simple e-mail.
But something went wrong, something went horribly wrong.
I waited every day by my computer, kept my telephone close by my side. I sat and waited,and waited,and waited. I even practiced my own little "You've Got Mail" voice from the old AOL days, so when the response came back I could announce it properly. Days turned into weeks, finally a group of friends and family showed up in my office and began an intervention that lasted for hours but might have saved my life. I thank them for that. I was crushed, no response from the Grand Lady, not even a tough love get over it speech from Dr.Phil. Rejection turned to anger as I stood on the roof of my house and yelled to the world "I Will NOT BE YOUR STEDMAN,I WILL NOT BE IGNORED"! I felt much better, until the police arrived at the neighbors request, you know a taser gun not only hurts it leaves marks.
Slowly I got over it, the hurt, the frustration, the rejection. I was fine until that faithful day in the checkout line when I saw what damage I had done.
Immediately it all became clear. One of Oprahs evil minions deliberately withheld my e-mail from her, maybe even that Dr. Phil (if that truly is his name) guy who frankly, I never trusted. Maybe he was concerned that I might expose him on national tv, we'll probably never know his true motives. When news of the whole cover up reached that poor womans ears, what was she to do. Oprah, feeling that it was too late to contact me now to make amends for all that had transpired opted to give it all up instead and go into exile. I salute her on this noble choice and yet must live with the knowledge that I drove her away for the rest of my life.
I since have sent an email to Elton John asking him if he would write a ballad to commemorate the whole event. He hasn't responded, so I wait, and wait and wait...........
All right for all you Oprah/Dr.Phil loving folks out there who are now outraged and sitting down to write me a nasty e-mail, and I know you're out there. I really did not cause Oprah to leave as far as I know. On the other hand if I could figure out a way to replace Dr.Phil with more relevant programing say like Dr.Who, I would do it in a heartbeat.
Ok time to clear a few things up so you can stop e-mailing me about it,
1)Yes it's true, I finally gave into the pressure and opened up a page on facebook. The people around me are trying to explain to me how it all works and who is actually talking to me and who isn't and most importantly that when I write things it posts on my wall,your wall,all over the place so I have to keep that in mind. I was flattered that the woman on the right hand side of the screen was looking me up on google until my son told me that she really wasn't which was both disappointing and a relief. I've only been on facebook for a day and I seem to have all these people who have signed up to be my friends, who have conversations that don't really involve me and I'm not real sure about this but I might have just joined the Russian mafia and the U.S. Navy. I'm a little confused. Anyway you can now find me on Facebook also.
2) You can stop the e-mails about Oprah and Dr.Phil. It is true that I did send an E-mail to her show, it is also true that she did not answer it, I can neither confirm or deny my part on her leaving so please let it go my friends,let it go.
3) I have nothing against Brad Pitt, my earlier reference to him looking like death was all in fun. (Brad, please ask Angie to stop calling me, and as far as her screaming out my name in the middle of the night....it is what it is,live with it)
If there are any other concerns you have, go ahead and send the e-mails I do appreciate hearing from you.
Talk to you soon, I have a couple of stories to tell you.
Now that the holidays have come and gone, I am back to writing like it or not. I have a few old stories to tell a few new thoughts to share.
Everyday that I wake up is a pretty, pretty good day. I try to listen a little more than I speak and learn a little more in the process of becoming a better listener. I take the time to read the information that I might have once breezed over and then tried to bluff my way through. I look for ways to understand people without passing judgment. I haven't changed all that much, I am still willing to pass judgment, but I will listen and try to understand your point of view first.
I wish to share a couple of quick stories with you, one regarding a man I met the other a story I read.
I flew back into Chicago with my wife last week where she is
assisting my brother in law at his office and where I also share some office space. In the early afternoon the other day, a client and friend of my brother in law came to the office for a scheduled appointment. He brought with him a friend of his and we all met in one of the offices. The clients friend a big hulking fellow with a charming disposition who referred to my wife as ma'am out of courtesy showed us a photo album of a large portion of his life the places he had been the people he had known. After this initial meeting broke neither he or I had any further business in the office and adjourned ourselves to the waiting room. We sat on the small couches in the waiting room and began to talk and continued to talk for the next hour solid.
He spoke of his time in Vietnam during the war, the bronze star he was awarded and how fortunate he was to survive. I spoke about lung cancer and the treatments and how fortunate I was to be alive.
He told me stories of his life as a personal bodyguard for some very large names in very difficult times.
We shared stories, thoughts and ideas. We talked about everything from cancer research to homeland security and I think we could have started the revolution right then and there with the energy we generated. Our lives are very different but our feelings were very similar on a great deal of topics and we found common ground to meet upon and did so as men with the same mindset. To sum it up as simply as possible, we both have done some things in the past, and as people, it has helped to make us who we are, but the people we were in the past are not necessarily the people we are today. The common ground we found was the wanting to help people in need. We spoke about ways that we could help each other help others. He spoke of people in his neighborhood who had survived various cancers or diseases but who now might be struggling with day to day life and seem to be a little lost with the direction of their lives. I spoke of the paths of life that change after you survive a life altering experience and then felt a little foolish for saying so in regards to the company I was in and the things that he had done and seen during the course of his lifetime. Like the true gentleman he is he listened and agreed as I spoke of being lost in the woods and sometimes having to be helped back to a path so you can find your way back to an active life. We decided together that we could do some good for people in general.
During the course of our conversation his cell phone rang, it was a call from a vet at the hospital looking for assistance from my new friend. Again I found myself in aw of this man, as he stood and asked me how he could become more involved in my cause when clearly he was already out there in his community taking care of people
When it was time for him to go, we promised each other that we would stay in touch and find ways to help each other to help others and I believe that together we will make a difference for someone somewhere and that's how it must be one person at a time.
I promised a second story and it shall be yours very, very soon.
Hey Dave, life moves too fast on it's own, no sense speeding it up any. I recommend quitting.
So I was thinking, this might be a great time to lighten things up a little by telling you about the most painful thing I ever experienced in my life.
Grab a drink, a pillow for your back or bottom or both and make yourself comfortable for the yarn I am about to weave for you is unpleasant at best but as always as close to the truth as my radiated memory will allow.
Somewhere during the course of my treatments I developed an additional problem, one that I didn't expect and was a little embarrassed of. Don't jump to any conclusions my friends it's not what you were thinking just now. No some type of sexual dysfunction might of been a relief compared to what I was facing.
I had developed a small cyst under the surface of my left nipple. If you pushed on it I would literally jump from the sharpness of the pain, sometimes just brushing up against something would be enough to make me cringe. I don't know how I ended up with it at that point in my life it was a small discomfort and annoyance in the shadow of the big picture.
Finally I had had enough of dealing with this thing and went to see my Doctor, my Friend, the woman who had first diagnosed me and had stuck with me through the course of my treatments. I brought this situation to her attention and she said,"Sure Tim, that will be no problem we can take care of that right here in the clinic with local anesthetic". I said "Great, let's do it as soon as possible." As soon as possible I believe was the next day.My wife and I went to the clinic for my 'procedure'. I went into the little room, took my shirt off and climbed on the table. Because it was a minor procedure my wife remained in the room and visited with the Doctor as well as her nurse/assistant. They were having a great time the three of them laughing and chatting with each other, they hardly noticed me flop into the air like a fresh caught fish on the deck of a boat as my good friend the Doctor poked a needle the size of a turkey baster into,around, next to and under my left nipple to 'deaden the pain'. So we wait and they chat and they giggle and this is an all female office so now there are nurses and nurses assistants coming in and out of the room like umpa loompas in the chocolate factory all of them taking the time to do the stop and chat with my wife as the left side of my chest slipped into numbness. A few test squeezes and pushes and questions like"can you feel this, can you feel that," and it was determined that it was time to begin. So it did.
" I hadn't really thought this thing through," I remember thinking to myself. But with all things being equal, I just went through some of the worst things you could put your body through, this should be a piece of cake. a small incision,remove the cyst, put a stitch in, go home. Piece of cake. A couple of things I did not anticipate, first, being fully awake with just a local anesthetic while this was occurring. Second, sharp knife,nipple never a good pair. Third, assumed little cyst not so little once we get going.
Now let me back up a second,I wouldn't trust just anyone to handle my left nipple, in fact two of the only three people in the world were in the room, my wife, and my doctor the third was a young lady who made her living juggling small animals while drinking flaming liquor from a blue suede slipper but she had been deported back to Beijing years prior (another story for another time.) So here are the two people I trust and a handful of wandering nurses who moved in and out of the room. I didn't mind. I know you will find this hard to believe, but being the center of attention is ok with me.
So the good Doctor started cutting and the ladies went on chatting and the blood was starting to flow a little but I didn't feel a thing thanks to the turkey baster worth of pain killer I received. She was cutting and pulling and I looked down once to see my nipple flipped up like the hood of a car and decided that I had no business looking in that direction again. Somewhere in the middle of all the chattering and girl talk going on around me I heard something you don't want to here under these circumstances. "Wow, this is a little bigger and deeper then I thought it was going to be." Worse then that statement,because this had been going on for awhile now, I was starting to feel a little of what was taking place under the hood. Because I was told that she was almost done, I closed my eyes, gritted my teeth and had the vision of one of those cartoon dentists who climbs up on their cartoon patient and goes to work pulling a tooth with an insanely large pair of pliers.
Before I knew it, it had ending.A couple of nipple stitches and a cloth "wick" placed into the cavity caused from the removal of the cyst. The wick was placed there to keep the cavity from closing and forming a abscess which could lead to an infection.
No problem, went fine, The clinic would send the tissue they removed to the University to ensure it wasn't cancer, and I was to come back in four days to have my bandages changed.
All and all I was pretty pleased with myself. Held my own in such a situation. Joined in on some of the ladies social conversation that was going on. Manned up in front of my wife as well as the rest of the ladies of the clinic. That's right, "Who's the man". I was, for four days.
On the fourth day I called my wife from my office to inform her that I was going back to the clinic for my follow up. She asked if I wanted her to come meet me at the clinic. I said, "No, don't be silly, I'm gonna pop in and then go back to work for awhile".
I strolled into the clinic greeted everyone and patiently waited for my turn in one of the rooms. The good Doctor, my friend,one of the three people in the world I trust with my left nipple, met me back in the exam room and carefully began removing bandages and commented on how well the nipple was healing. For the first time since the hood up incident I took a good look. I was swollen and there were a couple of stitches holding my nipple in place and there was a little piece of cotton stuck just to the left of the center of the nipple. We chatted as she examined things and lt didn't even dawn on me that she had picked up a pair of tweezers. I can only describe what happened next as this, The single most intense moment of sheer pain that I had ever experienced in my life, no if's ands or buts about it this was the worst.We were still chatting as she grasped the end of the wick with the tweezers and pulled it out from the cavity that once was my nipple. The wick was roughly an inch and a half long and let me assure you it felt like a quarter of a mile. I think I actually cried out in pain like a 4 year old girl who skinned her knee. I'm not sure if it was the look of complete unexplainable pain on my face or the unpredictable sound of unexplainable pain in my voice which caused the good Doctor, my friend, one of the three people in the world I would trust with my left nipple, to look at me both puzzled and astonished and say" I guess I didn't think about the fact that a man's nipple would be just as sensitive as a woman's." Let me assure you sister, it is! Two nurses stormed the room I think because they thought maybe the scream came from the Good Doctor and not the manly patient, If I had not been standing there in a cold sweat from the pain and been able to think clearly, I would have grabbed the good Doctor, shook her a little and in a deep manly voice would have said," Don't make me make you scream like that again,see." Instead the good Doctor looked at the two and busted out laughing which caused me to bust out laughing. Once we got ourselves under control she apologized two or three times allowing me the opportunity to regain some of my manhood by shrugging off he apologies and explaining how it just caught me a little off guard. She downplayed it enough to remind me why she is the Good Doctor, My Friend, one of only three people in the World that I would trust with my left nipple.
We had been laughing, enjoying the moment when her composure changed noticeably. "What's wrong," I foolishly asked.
"I have some bad news," she replied. "Please," I said."What could be worse then that?" She looked me dead in the eye and lifted a clean, inch and a half piece of fabric that resembled a lantern wick and said, " I have to replace the one I took out."
I left her office after she had finished replacing the fabric. I was still in a state of almost shock from the pain that putting it back in so it could continue to heal caused.I grimaced slightly with her parting words still ringing in my brain. "Tim," she said in her soothing Good Doctor way. "I'll see you in four days."
I called work and told them I wouldn't be back in today. I called my wife and told her I was on my way home.
To end the tale properly there are a few things you should know. The sample came back as non cancer tissue which was a good thing. I was much better prepared for my next visit taking the liberty to self-medicate to a level appropriate to the task at hand. And finally I had a half a nipple on my left side to match the half a lung I was given during my previous "procedure".
Call it accessorizing with cancer.
until next time
A little time has passed since last I wrote. After an extended stay in the Northern part of the country, I have returned to the Florida sunshine to re-group and re-coup.
I have a few old stories for you, a few new ones, and some thoughts about the things I've learned as of late. As well as some new friends I've made in my recent travels.
For now I will leave you with a couple of quick thoughts and then I will go back to getting myself reorganized here in the Southern Office of the GFLCCO.
Recent events in my life have reminded me of one of the most important things that I have learned along the way.
What does it mean to be an honorable person.
An honorable man;
KEEPS HIS WORD
TREATS HIS PARTNERS FAIRLY
TREATS BUSINESS AFFAIRS REASONABLY.
HANDLES PERSONAL MATTERS DISCREETLY.
TREATS FRIENDS COURTEOUSLY.
PROTECTS HIS FAMILY.
PROTECTS HIS FAMILY NAME.
PROTECTS HIS PERSONAL REPUTATION.
MANAGES HIS EMOTIONS PROPERLY.
RESPECTS AND CONSIDERS THE ADVICE OF THOSE WHO KNOW.
MAKES HIS OWN DECISIONS.
STANDS BY HIS DECISIONS.
DEPENDABLE IN BOTH THOUGHT AND ACTION.
ASKS NO MORE FROM OTHERS THEN HE DEMANDS FROM HIMSELF.
EXCEPTS NO LESS FROM OTHERS THEN HE IS WILLING TO GIVE.
We could keep going on but I think you understand the concept, you have nothing without your honor.There is no higher accolade that can be bestowed upon you in life then to be considered an honorable man by the people who know you or know of you. It's never too late to make the changes necessary to be remembered as an honorable man.
More to come
Hello to all of you, I wish I could translate a simple hello to everyone who has visited our site from the places you call home. Because the GFLCCO is not a site that sells things, or shows you funny videos, I have to assume that you are signing on for a reason and that reason is probably out of neccesity. I write in a light hearted tone most of the time because the seriousness of our subject would otherwise become overwhelming. I want you all to understand that for each one of you that comes here and finds an answer or feels a little less alone or smiles for a moment, the meaning of my own survival becomes a little more apparent. We receive visits from every corner of the World and that I find amazing. To all of you, everywhere, my thoughts and prayers are with you. If you came to us with a question or a concern and you couldn't find an answer here, send me an e-mail and I will find it for you. If you have any ideas on additional things you would find beneficial let us know and we will make it available. At the end of the day, when it's all said and done, we are here to help you the lung cancer patient, your family, your friends find answers and understanding and eventually to find a cure.
I've been away for awhile, but I'm back at the keyboard. We have another new article coming soon and I have some thoughts to share with you. talk to you soon.
Hello my friends, last week I wrote for quite awhile here at the things I've learned page. I wrote all about the past few months where I spent way too much time wondering if I was doing anything for anyone or if I was just wasting time. I told you all about how I had lost my way, lost enthusiasm and was in some sort of strange funk. I went into great detail about my thoughts and feelings and how at the end of it I came to a realization that I tend to get this way when it gets closer to my lung cancer checkup. I told you all about how it makes me allot more nervous then I care to admit.
I wrote for hours into the early morning when finally I felt I had written enough. I then closed down the computer and crawled off to bed. I was very pleased with what i had wrote as I re read my words in my mind. I would make a couple of small changes to what I had saved before I published it in the morning. It was then that it hit me and I sprung out of bed like a child on Christmas morning. I went straight to the computer which lay quiet in my office and brought it back to life with a push of the button. As I watched the monitor begin to glow I became more apprehensive until I finally had my answer. I had wrote for roughly four hours and failed to save any of it before I shut down my computer. Idiot. All was lost. I was so angry with myself that I vowed to never write again (as you can see I got over it).
I did get over it and have since published a couple of articles and have done a few other things. But for you my friends, I am sorry because all that is left of my epic tale of emotions, fears and triumphs is forever lost and replaced with this lame duck explanation on why you'll never read it. Everything happens for a reason. If this story has a morale I guess that's it.
Until we meet again.