Friday, January 14, 2011

A Milestone of sorts.

Today marks the end of one year.
One year after I took one too many steps towards the edge of life, one too many away from the oxygen I was being given and one too short to reach a nurse.
I am going to use today to reaffirm my own strength, the benefit of great doctors and nurses and the value of being loved and loving right back.
It seems strange going through this reminiscence without Leslie nearby, as she was the voice for me when I couldn't communicate and the pipeline through whom I received all of your messages of support, love and concern. Although I am currently cancer free now, I can see that my life will always be affected by the nasty disease that took me into a brief death last year, early in the morning on January 15th. This disease has changed the pattern of life that I knew, changed my direction, changed my outlook, and changed nearly everything I thought I knew.
I thought I knew what death was and I was, perhaps, frightened a bit. My experience showed me that there's nothing to worry about, and, as I experienced (or just plain old dreamed up some scenario) that it wasn't my time to go, nor was I anywhere close to my time. So I came back for my things, my friends, my family and for my love.
Take a moment to think about what you thought you knew and throw it out. Just realize that all we have is our connection to each other, our shared experiences and nothing else. The rest of the things that occupy our lives, the TV, the sports, the food, the cars, computers, all the STUFF, don't matter at all. The only thing that matters is our feelings for one another and the time we can spend while we have it. together. When it is gone, this time thing, it's gone. Repairs cannot be made at the rest stop down the road, for all of our roads don't neccesarily follow the same route. Take care in those that matter to you and leave those that don't outside of your mind and hearts.
My heart is currently working pretty well and my blood levels are cooperating with keeping me out of the hospital and away from new blood transfusions. I'm trying to get an approval from the good doctor to return me to work. Think of that; I might just return to work soon! Of course, last fall I kept hearing, "Maybe next month" from my doctor's mouth, so I'm leery of feeling too good about what might happen and I'm trying to concentrate on what is happening. And what is happening is I'm feeling really good. I'm getting sustained good moods, high levels of activity and I can think fairly well without the dreaded 'cancer-brain' swiss cheese effect. Which makes me as good as the average employee. Of course, I fear for an illness setting in and sending me back to the hospital. I have fear about chemicals and fears about hanging out near people that may or may not be sick, I can't tell. Is that a runny nose from the cold weather or a runny nose from a cold? Did they wash their hands? Before or after they shook my hand? Purell never looked so good to me. While I wait for the doctor to give me the 'okay' and while I debate over the next step in my upside-down life, I'm concentrating on making my home neater, brighter and better. This big house is going back on the market in March, as I believe I will be able to handle the weekly showings and the general upkeep that will be needed to keep the curb appeal high. I can also watch the football playoffs with interest because our beloved Bears are involved. And that means there will be group parties with the food, laughter and fun that come along with spending Sunday afternoon with your best peeps...
Now let me tell you, this is not an anniversary to be celebrated, this year after death, no, no, not at all. I could have easily have failed in my attempts to stay alive and not be here writing to you as I am. The true anniversary to be celebrated is the one on which I received my sister Jeanne's stem cells and started life with an entirely new blood system, one that is still in 'baby' mode. (Heck, I've not even gotten a measles or polio shot yet!) That is the day the medical team calls "Day Zero", and my new birthday! Whoo-Hoo, another birthday for me! I don't deserve two, but then, Guy Fiero doesn't deserve to filmed while wielding a knife. So I get two now! This April 27th will mark my new birthday, Year One. I'm thinking a baseball game might be in order. (Big surprise, yeah?) Who knows, maybe I'll have to work that day. Werd.

Monday, January 3, 2011

Happy New Year!!!

Was that a tough year or what?
A year ago today I went to the hospital to check out a severe pain in my back, thinking that at the very worst I had a broken rib. It never occurred to me that the lump under my ribs was my spleen. It never occurred to me that the pain I felt while breathing was more serious than a bone poking into my lung. Now that would be pretty serious, yes? And who among you thinks that I would go about injuring myself in such a simple way. No, I was having serious issues with organs and blood, all secretive and microscopic. In my defense, the ER doctor was going to let me go home with a handful of Vicodin. I still have my initial diagnosis and prescribed action of Physical Therapy and painkillers, ironic because two weeks later I ceased movement altogether. I would have had a tougher year if I took the first diagnosis given to me. I was saved by the insistence of Leslie, who was my angel and my love. I can never thank her enough for that persistence, but sadly we have gone our own ways now. Cancer, which I was finally diagnosed with a few days later, takes its toll on a lot of things.
Basically, I've spent the whole year fighting cancer. Sometimes more directly than others, but it has been cancer I've been fighting, even when the current diagnosis is pneumonia, the gangster behind the scenes is cancer. My current health situation is "barely healthy", but "holding serve". What this means is my blood levels (WBC, Hemoglobin, Platelets, etc.) are just above the levels to send me back into the hospital to have IVs and hourly testing and observation. It appears that my counts are not getting into normal ranges yet, but they are slowly moving there. Slower than that. Slower still. Almost at a standstill. Little bit faster now.
This year has taught me that stubborness, willpower and patience can get you through some real tough situations. Most of the physical is willpower, which surprised the hell out of me. This year, I've had to do things physically I never even thought about. I never think twice about walking, yet I had to learn to do it all over. Many more things just like that. This year had brought me more tears than I thought I could cry, more pain than I thought I could endure and more love into my heart and life than I certainly deserve and never thought existed in such quantities. This year I've made many new connections and reconnected some old ones. I've gotten so much love this year and it has buoyed me through the extremely difficult times, when darkness seemed destined to take over, always someone stood up and lifted me up.
I thank you all for your support and kindness. I will attempt to repay you with unusually good spirits and appreciation for the life we all share.
This year has given me challenges I didn't foresee and so many, many drugs I never wanted to take. There were some days that I literally told the time according to the pills I was swallowing. At least now, I use a timer to indicate my next dosage. Without work to guide my workweek, all the days seem to run together. I use the weekly pill holder to tell me the days, otherwise I couldn't keep straight if I had taken my dosage for three O'clock when I was in the middle of my 7 O'clock dosage. Very confusing. I think I've got it down now, I hope there's nothing added to my schedule now that is taken more than once a day.
Also this year, I developed a sweet tooth. I cannot recall having one before, even as a child, but now, I go through serious cravings for sweet things. Cookies, candies and chocolate. And have I figured out some of my chocolate problems from a couple of years ago! I'm trying hard to stay out of making of small chocolates, because I don't think I need the pounds added to me. I'm rather liking my weight while it remains under 200#s. I play golf better and my clothes fit better, except for my tux. Oh yeah and that blue blazer. Okay I like how t-shirts and dress shirts fit me.
I learned this year that the patient is in charge of their care. I learned how to talk to doctors, how not to talk to doctors and how to ask for better care. I also learned that nurses are truly underrated and wonderful.
This past year I'd like to place in a lucite box. I'd like to look at it from time to time, but I would rather not live through most of it again. In a lucite box, I could see which parts are loose and fall about, which parts are solid and strong, and all of it never let out again.
Let's make this new year a fantastic one, with smaller challenges and higher rewards.
Let's make this new year one that we want to live over and over again.
Let's make it a year to remember fondly and lovingly.
Let's make it a year of prosperity.
Let's make it everything we want.
Let's beat the challenges.
Who's with me?