Friday, December 31, 2010

Not As It Seems

Just got back from visiting a friend in the hospital. A year ago this time, I hadn't met her. Then, sometime in May of this year, some other friends of mine told me about her. She had been recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer and had to have intestinal surgery that required the use of a colostomy bag for some time. She had the intestinal surgery reversed in October as a result of the success of her chemotherapy treatments. Things were looking up for her.

She has been dealing with some intestinal issues since November and is back in the hospital again awaiting her doctor's return from vacation to discuss how to move ahead.

She was in the hospital the week before Christmas and had her heart set on being home for Christmas. Her wish came true and she was home for Christmas but is now in the hospital for New Years. She is heartbroken, a bit cranky and low in spirit. She had expectations of how far along she should be right now with her recovery and reality is not in sync with her calendar. She is going through a different sort of advent experience. One that is not joyful and full of hope.

That her advent experience is closely connected to 4 holidays (she listed Halloween, Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years as holidays that have been "ruined" for her this year), is the reason that as of this writing, she is not a happy soul, emotionally. Her current mental state is counter to how I have come to know her.

The emotions of a cancer patient can be like an iceberg that even the patient can not see. There are realities that hide below the surface and when they surface and the light of day shines on them, they overwhelm the mental, and ultimately physical, well being of the patient.

With that said, I think of how the list of holidays mentioned have affected my friend. I fret about the pain and pressure that have been attached to single days that commemorate what should be a full time feeling. The fun of Halloween, the overwhelming gratefulness of Thanksgiving , the hope of Christmas and the promise of the New Year should not diminish the day after. I have heard (or perhaps have become sensitive to) "Now that Christmas is out of the way, I just want to rest," more often this year than ever. It pains me to hear it.

If we can continue the energy and shine the light of the holidays even brighter the day and days after, then maybe my friend will know she can focus on getting and being well. Then, every day that follows her recovery will be a celebration for her and for others like her.

Longing for the day that the spirit of the holidays is everlasting, is my advent experience. May we all bring it about.

"There is no ideal Christmas; only the one Christmas you decide to make as a reflection of your values, desires, affections, traditions." -- Bill McKibben

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

I Ate One Thing At A Time

As a kid, I would frustrate my family when the food was passed at supper time. I would wait for the item I wanted to eat first, put it on my plate, finish it, sometimes rinse off my plate, come back to the table and asked to be passed the next item. This was after all of the dishes had been passed and everyone else but me would put everything on their plate, finish everything and then maybe ask to be passed the dish of the item of which they wished to have seconds. It was less intrusive than my practice of interrupting the others while they were eating. I don't know how the habit started, but I know it had everything to do with not wanting to blend my food together on my plate. The statement, "What does it matter, it all ends up blended together in your stomach anyway?", didn't work for me. I have since moved beyond that practice. However, I will not put dessert on the same plate on which I ate my meal without rinsing it off first. You can't blend those two taste sensations. Turkey gravy and apple pie, do not mix! I guess I started to grow out of it when I would go to family reunions and go through the food line. Too much trouble to go back through multiple times for each item when there are multiple items of which I want to partake. That, and it's kind of rude to interrupt a conversation with a relative I haven't seen in awhile just so I can go back to the food table again and again.

And that is where I am at this writing. The last two years, I was on my "sabbatical" and an annual tradition of mine got set aside. I hesitate to speak of the tradition because I may disappoint you in that I may not get a chance to share the tradition with you this year. But....if I do disappoint you, let me know and I will do my best to make you part of it this year. Honest!

The tradition....I make apple butter from my own recipe. I've even branded it. It is called , "Angus Fraser's Applebutter." I make a couple different variations of it. One is the regular flavor, another is labeled, "Rum/Raisin," (you can figure out why) and the last one is ,"Not For The Wee Ones." Guess what that's about.

I almost did not resume the tradition this year because I'm lazy. However, one of the caregivers from my (Pause here while I listen to one of my favorite Christimas songs...by The Carpenters. If you can correctly guess what it is, you will win a free half-pint of Angus Fraser's Applebutter.) "sabbatical" told me that I needed to do so. I am proud to say that I have finished and canned one batch and another batch will probably follow over New Years. The initial reviews are that Angus Fraser is back and better than ever.

Today, I took some to the folks who were not part of the tradition prior to my "sabbatical," but were a large part of the reason I was able to resume the tradition. It felt odd to do so. I associate visiting them this time of year with going in for treatment. But now, we have a new thing to associate with this time frame.

Even though all of the dramatic stuff is over for me, it still occupies space in me. I know that it always will. However, it will not be the driver of the car. Just some stuff in the trunk that rattles around every so often that will eventually get tossed out some day. It will take time, but it will happen over time.

I reckon it's part of the process of learning to put multiple and varied items on the same plate at one time.

Behavior changes with affirmations. Stuff comes along to get your attention. Look at the title of my last post. I've was asked to read Isaiah 60:1-6 in church on January 2.

Wow.

May you not just enjoy the Holidays. May they affirm and confirm the goodness that resides in you and the rest of us.

Let it shine.

Deep peace of the running wave to you.
Deep peace of the flowing air to you.
Deep peace of the quiet earth to you.
Deep peace of the shining stars to you.
Deep peace of the infinite peace to you. 
   -Gaelic rune

Thursday, December 16, 2010

"Arise, Shine, For Your Light Has Come"

Dear Friend,

This is about you. Really. However, it's from my viewpoint. 

The writer of today's title was saying something that was about others, not himself. It was from his viewpoint about something he had seen. 

That's what I want to tell you about today. This is the first December since 2007 in which I won't be sitting in an infusion chair. Frankly, it seems a bit odd. Those times were times when others had figuratively wrapped their arms around me and provided care. Even though I've been back to "normal" for slightly over a year, sometimes....

However, their work and support got me to where I am now. Now, I need to honor their work by continuing to step out into the world and deliver to others what was given to me. 

A friend of mine posted this on her Facebook page today: "I love it when someone helps me perceive generally accepted concepts differently, revealing deeper truths . This is from Ben Campbell, Pastoral Director at Richmond Hill. 
   The Last Judgment is a teaching about heaven and hell, but it is not what you think. Jesus' parable at the end of Matthew where the sheep and the goats are divided defines heaven and hell. Heaven is a place where people live in community, taking the lives of the others in their community as seriously as they take their own. Hell is a place where people don't care about one another. 
   Heaven and hell are immediately at hand. Both are experienced in daily life. Hell is always in danger of swallowing us up. Heaven is always available, in the twinkling of an eye, in the awakening of a conscience, in the opening of a mind."
I have seen the shining light. I have glimpsed into heaven countless times in the last few years. I think that it's important to not only be open to take looks into heaven, but maybe spend some time there, learn some things, deliver them to the world, go back again and keep delivering back to the world.
 
You don't need to immediately start doing it on your own. The only thing you need to start doing is to be open to knowing that you are going to see and experience some pretty amazing moments. Then, at some point, if you decide to listen, the trumpet shall sound.

"Let the moment go...
Don't forget it for a moment, though.
Just remembering you've had an 'and',
When you're back to 'or',
Makes the 'or' mean more
Than it did before.
Now I understand-
And it's time to leave the woods."
- Stephen Sondheim

Monday, December 13, 2010

Say, Doc....

Dear Friend,

A certain guy, having just completed a meeting with his doctor in which they discussed his upcoming cancer treatments and the effect they would have on him (No, folks that know me, it's not that story), asked his doctor, "Will I be able to dance after this is all over?" She replied, "Of course you will." With relief he answered, "That's great, I've never been able to dance before!"

If I had a list of ten wishes (or so) of things that I wish I could do before I die, one of them would be to be able to dance like Danny Kaye in this video. I watched this movie the other night and remembered how this particular number blows me away every time I see it.

A common statement heard among those who have experienced major medical difficulties is that the experience does change your life. For some folks, it may be a complete 180 degree turn. For others, maybe just a couple degrees in direction. However, there is a change.

Once things get back to "normal," some of the old concerns, finances, career, retirement planning, spiritual health, etc. come back to take their "rightful" place in your life. There are those who have not been through your experience who may try to prioritize those items in your life. Don't let them. You can listen to the noise of "wise" counsel, or, alternatively, you can seek out wisdom. In the end it is you who will make the call of how to proceed.

A "gift" from your cancer experience is a more finely tuned sense of discernment. You've been in situations where you have seen great people doing great things. Whether they have been members of the medical profession or friends and family who have surrounded you, you have seen the best that people can be.

In addition, you are now challenged to continue to make it all about you; which turns into making it about others. You now know what true goodness really is. You've seen examples. You will become another member of the growing list of witnesses and deliverers of goodness to a world that hungers for that goodness.

Maybe, just maybe, you may even find yourself dancing.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

She Started It


Dear Friend,

Sorry so long since the last part of the letter, but I've been contemplating how to start this segment, and I've been a little self absorbed in other activities (including a one on one bout with my washing machine). As promised, here is the part about how to "torment" the medical professional.

The day after I was admitted the hospital for the first time, my friend Jenny showed up with what I called a "bag of fun." In it were various "items of distraction," including a gel-like bloody hand that you can adhere to a window. As my admittance date was 3 days away from Halloween, the hand was appropriate. We immediately adhered it to the window in my room and watched the reactions on the faces of all who came to visit. The medical assistants, nurses and doctors all shook their heads as if to say, "We got a unique one in this room." However, one of the other items Jenny brought came with a set of instructions. It was a bowl of candy. Her instructions were, "This is nor for you, it's for the medical staff. They need treats." Brilliant! From them on, whenever I spent time in the hospital, there was always a bowl of candy in my room for the staff. I learned it was an easy way to get everybody on the floor to come visit, whether they were assigned to you or not. I think it helped me get some extra special treatment. I even found out where the snacks for patients were located

I carried that same practice over into the clinic whenever I went for chemo treatments. I didn't do it the first time because frankly I was a little preoccupied leading up to that day. One story from that day is when I was introduced to the nurse that was assigned to me for my first treatment. She walked up to me and said, "Mr. Frazee, my name is Laurie and I'll be your nurse today." My immediate response was, "Mr. Frazee is my dad." I said that to let her know that she could call me by my first name (which she now does). However, that is not how she took it. She tells me to this day that I snapped at her when she first introduced herself to me. I've told her it was not my intent to come across that way. Since then, we've "mended fences" and share stories and much laughter.

I think once she (and the rest) saw how I was going to entertain myself during chemo treatments, they knew I was "Greg" and not "Mr. Frazee." Once again, Jenny helped me along with that. At my second treatment, Jenny and I watched the movie, "Arthur." If you don't know the movie, one of Arthur's habits was that he drank....alot. In addition to watching the movie, we had popcorn, lemonade, and.......shot glasses. As we watched the movie, every time Arthur would take a drink, we would pause the movie, pour a shot of lemonade and take a drink. We found it amusing and, frankly, were the only people laughing in the room that day. We did raise the curiosity of the other patients and the staff. We were a little worried about disturbing the others, but we didn't get too boisterous. The next day, one of the staff in the room told me, "We got the biggest kick out of watching you and your friend yesterday. That's what this room needs. She lit up the room."

Following that lead, I contributed St. Patricks Day wigs, a beanie hat with a propeller, humorous buttons from GotCancer.org (including a "special button" for my doctor that read, "My Oncologist Is My Homegirl") and music CD's to the clinic (tell me, have you ever associated salsa music with a chemo treatment room - now you can).

Again, this isn't for the purpose of saying, "How cool is Greg." It goes back to the "It's about you" statement. If you have a sense of humor, cancer doesn't take that away from you. I have yet to hear that someone has been diagnosed with humor cancer. If you are having a hard time finding your sense of humor right now, that's OK. It's in you. It will come back. However, you don't have to get it back on your own.

Maybe you have a friend like Jenny who can help you find it.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

"....And So Do His Sisters, And His Cousins, And His Aunts!...." *

Dear Friend,

I continue. The folks surrounding you that are not medical personnel may struggle with how to talk to you. It will frustrate you. It will frustrate them. Once, I was speaking to the 13 year old daughter of a 40 year old acquaintance. She said, "Dad doesn't get it. He has no clue what is going on with me." I asked her how many times in his life her father had been 40 years old with a 13 year old daughter. "Never," she replied. I then asked how many times in her life she had been 13 years old with a 40 year old father." Again, "Never."  I responded, "You both are sorting and working your way through this. Give each other a break."

There, I said it. There are no rules in front of you about the emotional and physical of all this. There are medical guidelines you need to follow as far as letting who know what when you feel pain, fever, nausea, etc. But even those are kind of hard to follow sometimes. You may feel like you need to "tough it out" with some things. Stick to the guidelines. Some physical symptoms can lead to worse symptoms and they can come on quickly. I'm not saying it will happen. Just know you have support with that and take full advantage of that. I will admit I tried to "tough out" some symptoms at various times and fortunately I was in the chemo room when they happened. Talk about attention!

Getting back to the "communication struggle." I once vocalized my concerns about how others were talking to me with my Nurse Practitioner and she explained that I was the one that needed to set the tone for how others talked to me. If they felt my anxiety, they would absorb it. If I spoke in anger, they would respond in anger. It was an early challenge from her, but a well timed one. If I could face that challenge, then it would help me step up to the physical challenge I was facing.

Another communication frustration is when others will want to connect with you by sharing stories of people they know who are going through a cancer journey and all of the bitter details involved. Bless their hearts. I'll insert an anecdote here. Not long after I started treatment, someone approached me and told me a story about how a friend of theirs had been receiving chemo for a cancer diagnosis and then developed a heart ailment. They explained that the heart ailment was attributed to the effects of chemo on their  friends' heart. I shook my head and asked, "How is your friend doing now?" Got the answer and then changed the subject.

These folks mean well and that is the only thing they know to say at the time. You may want to tell them, "If that is all you have to say to me, then don't say anything at all." But know this, they are trying to reach out to you and that is a stumble on their part. Your challenge is to be the one to catch them when they stumble. How do you do that? If you are comfortable, share a little of your new knowledge with them. If not, ask them how they are doing. I would sometimes say, "Tell me some stories about what you have been up to." Their eyes and body language will thank you.

Don't get hung up in some of the actual messages. Focus on the care and compassion that is at the root of the message. Once I really started paying attention to that, my stress level diminished and the conversation topics started changing. You can also simply say, "The door is open for ANY questions you may have." That can help take the edge off for you and others. But, only if you are comfortable with it. By being open, you will help take away some of the mystique and inaccurate information that exist about the world of cancer.

Up next, how to "torment" the medical folks and ultimately endear yourself to them.

And now....rest.

*Gilbert and Sullivan

Monday, November 29, 2010

Are You Talkin' To Me? - Part 1

Dear Newly Diagnosed Cancer Patient,


I am talking (actually writing) to you. Let's get the obvious out of the way first. Your new situation stinks. Really stinks. You are having to process the questions of "What," "How," "Why," "Where," and "When." You have no idea what to do next or who to talk to about what to do next. You've had a lot of information thrown at you in the first 24 hours but all you can retain is, "I have cancer." The fun is only starting.


I wish someone would have handed me a letter in the first 24 hours like the one I am intending to write you. If you are reading this on my blog, it may take a couple days to finish, but I will get to the point.


The very first thing I want to tell you is that you ARE NOT a cancer patient. You may hear that the word "survivor" now applies to you. It is used with the intent of letting you know that you didn't die at diagnosis. You will now have a plan to help you get rid of or keep the cancer in check. But how do you know what to do? How do you decide what to do? You will talk to lots of folks in the next few days. You will meet some great folks. I can tell you that they are in their chosen field so they can help others like yourself. That is what they knew to do when they decided this is what they wanted to do. Talk to them. If you are uncomfortable with them, that's OK. You can tell them so. The very first thing you need to do is to be comfortable with them. Even though you feel like you are placing your life in their hands, it is still your life. Even though you would like to hand over the reins to someone else for now, you can be in control of this. That is why I don't use the word "survivor." I challenge myself and throw and gentle challenge to you to use the word "aliver." With apologies to my regular blog readers, I will repeat that, to me, "aliver" means I am alive, intend to stay alive and by doing so, I can control my current circumstances.


Simply saying it, however, doesn't make it so. You will need to establish how you get there. You will also hear the phrase, "This is entirely about you." It doesn't mean you are attracting attention to yourself. It doesn't mean people now have to bow down to your requests. It simply means that all you have to focus on right now is getting well. The great thing is that you will be surrounded by a group of medical professionals who have the same focus. Your friends and family will also join in. I struggled with that phrase at the outset and some great folks explained to me what it meant. To the medical folks, it meant that if I allowed myself to show up to appointments and talk to them about what is going on with me, physically and emotionally, they would do all in their power to help me get well. To my friends and family, I simply had to tell that what was going on physically and emotionally (either verbally, or in my blog) so they would know what they could do. As the medical folks used their knowledge to treat me, friends and family used their knowledge and intuition to take care of me.


Once, when I vocalized to a friend how uncomfortable I was accepting the kindness of friends and family, she replied, "As the medical folks are treating you with medicine, we need to be able to do these things to administer our own form of medicine to help you get well. We want to be a part of it. So sit down and enjoy the ride." I did. As I look back on those days, I know there were some tough physical and emotional days in there, but the days that stand out, are the days that I knew I was being taken care of. Those were the days when I knew I was resting in the hands of God on earth. Allow yourself those same kind of days. Even though it is because of you that these actions are occurring, your gracious receipt of them makes it about the giver. A sweet Amish lady from South Central Virginia once told me, "A gift not accepted is a blessing denied."


For now, bask in the goodness that is waiting to surround you. Let it drench you. It is good medicine.


Now rest.....(see you soon).

Thursday, November 18, 2010

"Would You Be Free From...."

Had a regularly scheduled checkup with my oncologist today. All is well. Every one of those visits includes a CBC (Complete Blood Count - looking for any abnormalities in the various parts of the blood "recipe."). All of my recent CBC's (say from reaching back to August) indicated that all parts of the blood had returned to "normal." Except for them pesky platelets. They are the last thing to bounce back from extensive chemotherapy treatments. The fact that all of the other parts of my blood "recipe" had returned to normal was a good sign the platelets would follow. Today's platelet count was at the same number they were when I was donating platelets on a regular schedule over 2 years ago and beyond. As a matter of fact, the last two times I ever donated platelets (in August and September of 2008) my counts were just barely above the minimum level the blood donor would accept - significantly lower than my "best" and lower than today's count. This means....further confirmation that the body has healed from the "alien" and from the chemotherapy.

However.....at this point, for me at least, one does turn a sensitive ear to hearing the statistics about the odds  of relapse and secondary cancer potential as a result of the treatments. I shared that with my doctor today and her response was, "You are no longer defined by cancer. You were shaped by it. It is no longer part of you. You need to live your life with that knowledge. God forbid, if there is a relapse, or formation of a secondary cancer, we will deal with that when it happens. There are other options that exist if it does. For now, you are doing what you need to do to keep it away or catch it early. That is, coming to us and letting us check on you on a regular schedule. Stick to that."

I knew all of that, but it was good to hear her say it. That's what I have been doing, but only she, another caregiver, or another "aliver" can say it with credibility.

Speaking of credibility, I told her that I have been telling newly diagnosed "alivers" that they should not pay any attention to five year survival rates for their particular cancer. As the treatment options have changed dramatically over time, there is no statistic that is based on an event that occurred five years ago that should apply to someone who is newly diagnosed. She agreed.

Hah, I got that one right!

"There is power, power, wonder working power...." - Lewis E. Jones

Up next, "Saints of Cancer" and "A Letter To A New "Aliver."

Monday, November 15, 2010

Maybe This Instead....

The man had eyes that smiled. I've only known him for a few short years. When I first started attending church where I now attend, he and his wife sat in the pew in front of me. I didn't get to know them until a year or so after I started attending church there. However, I always enjoyed watching him interact with his grandson. There was an amazing bond between them. I got to know he and his wife after I started my "sabbatical." They reached out to me with kind words, cards and their prayers. Humbling. One thing about him I always noticed (and others that knew him also spoke of it) was when he talked to you, his eyes smiled at you. Last Sunday, as I visited with him in person for the last time (although I didn't know it then), there was a point in our conversation when I said something that elicited a response of "endearment" from him. I busted my gut in laughter. After I wiped the tears of laughter out of my eyes, I looked in his eyes and saw the smile. That is how I will remember him.

"There are accents in the eye which are not on the tongue..."
- Thomas Hardy


"What a wonderful phenomenon it is, carefully considered, when the human eye, that jewel of organic structures, concentrates its moist brilliance on another human creature!" - Thomas Mann 


Réquiem aetérnam dona eis Dómine;
et lux perpétua lúceat eis.
Requiéscant in pace.
Amen.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

I Like The Room


I was in this space today while visiting the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. If you have never been there, you enter this room toward the end of your procession through the museum. I have visited the museum on 2 occasions prior to today and I have always found this room to be a spot in which I spend a few lingering moments just to process what I have just seen. One thing I noticed today was there was very little talking, and if so, it was in low tones, among those in the room. 

Two inscriptions on the wall overhead spoke to me today.


Only guard yourself and guard your soul carefully, lest you forget the things your eyes saw, and lest these things depart your heart all the days of your life, and you shall make them known to your children, and to your children's children.

Source: Deuteronomy 4:9

I call heaven and earth to witness this day: I have put before you life and death, blessing and curse. Choose life -- that you and your offspring shall live.

Source: Deuteronomy 30:19

שלום

Friday, November 5, 2010

One Of The Goofy Things

I was telling someone the other day about the trip to San Diego.

One of the stories from the trip is that Ann Jillian was the mistress of ceremonies for the event. There was a group photo taken that included the three honored nurses, the writers of the essays and Ann Jillian. We were lined up facing to our right and then turning our heads to face the camera. Ann Jillian was standing behind me and I was kidding with her about how we should do a kick line dance. She put her hands on my waist and we started cutting up for a bit. Afterwards, I went up to her to get an autograph for a friend (who named her daughter "Jillian" in honor of Ann Jillian) and after she signed her autograph, she gave me a copy of one of her CD's and then gave me a peck on the cheek. I turned around and walked back to the group I was with - who had witnessed the whole thing. Got some grief from them and told them I would probably never wash that cheek again. Fussed at them because they didn't get a picture of it. Made them swear that they would validate my story if it ever needed validating.

As I tell that story to others, I tell them, "Had you told me 20-30 years ago that some evening in California I would meet Ann Jillian, she would put her hands on my waist and then kiss me, I would have asked what it would take to make that happen."

Ah, the gifts that come from the cancer thing.

I'm just sayin.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Page At The Very Beginning....

The very first page of my blog had a picture of the banana trees that I had growing in my yard in 2008. The care of them requires that you dig them up and bring them inside for the winter - otherwise, since they are comprised of a lot of water, they will freeze and die. Ironically, in 2008, I dug them up and brought them inside the day before I was diagnosed. I remember it well. I remember that I didn't feel very well and then I remember struggling with them to bring them in (if they are over 4 feet tall, they are pretty heavy).

Last year, I brought them inside the day I received the news that my scans showed I was cancer free and that I could start resuming all "normal" activities. This year, I brought them in tonight - the 2 year "anniversary" of my first bone marrow biopsy. The picture above shows the shovel I used to dig them up and it is sitting in the hole of one of the banana trees that is now "wintering" in my utility room.

Funny how those anniversaries, memories and connections to occasions work out.

I've mentioned recently about how conversations among cancer patients go and how I have struggled with what is the right thing to say. I've had the opportunity lately to speak as a Patient Honoree for the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. When I speak, I watch the faces in the crowd and how they react to me. It covers the spectrum. Although I am tempted to "cut loose" with my version of the events, I can tell by the faces that I have to learn to meet the crowd I am talking to where they are emotionally with the cancer thing. Some people may have experienced a recent loss of a friend or family member and it is still fresh in their mind, and painful as a result. They may be there seeking an outlet for their grief and want to honor their friend or family member by raising funds for research. That's awesome of them to do that.

Also in the crowd are former patients who experienced treatments, etc. much more difficult than mine. One thing I do say at every opportunity is that I don't consider myself a survivor. As I have mentioned before, I am using the term "Aliver." When I present that concept, it's pretty cool to watch the look go across the faces in the crowd. Afterwards, usually it's the former cancer patients that will come up to me and tell me that they like the new term. I ask them to continue using it and most of all, continue to live it. Last night, one of the former patients, who is running in a marathon in Vancouver sometime next year, told me she was going to put it on her t-shirt. I like it.

The point of this is not to self promote, but to show people what hope is and what it can do. It's about meeting people where they are and then bringing them to where they can be. I've experienced that from all of my caregivers in the past. 

It's a good habit to want to establish for oneself. It's one that I aspire to and have a long way to go. But I think it's a good goal on which to focus. 

Even large institutions that are focused on the mission of compassion, care and acceptance struggle with it. 

"Let us have but one end in view, the welfare of humanity; and let us put aside all selfishness in consideration of languagenationality, or religion."

(John Comenius,17th century philosopher)




Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Reminded Of This

Early this morning I voted. Interestingly enough, the last two elections in which I voted (General Election in 2008 and a Virginia Election in 2009), I was waiting to hear what was still residing in my body. Today was different. That was cool.

But, what I was reminded of today was a conversation I had with some folks from Ireland right after the General Election in 2000. As the case was going on in the Supreme Court, I asked them what their thoughts were on the current activity in America.

I thought they summed it up best.

"It's just like an election in Ireland, except you Americans aren't drinking enough whisky!"

Their words, not mine.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I'm Not Sure, But.....

I had some really good stuff in my head the other day to post on my blog, but thought I could save it there until tonight. I think I may have forgotten it, but I'll post what I have to say now.

My 2 year "anniversary" has come and gone. Not without observation or reflection. As I have mentioned in the past, the whole process was initiated by 3 coworkers who sat me down in our conference room at work and pleaded with me to go to the emergency room. I gave them all a card last year on the one year anniversary and gave them another one this year. It matters to me to do it and I think it doesn't hurt to remind them of what a magnificent thing they did. Yesterday was the two year anniversary of meeting my oncologist. Ditto. I gave her a humorous anniversary card that spoke to how she and I interact. She, too, needs to be reminded of her accomplishment. I had every intent of leaving it with the receptionist at her office, but the folks there insisted I hand it to her in person. As I spoke to her she said, "You look great!" Told her I should make a sign and hang it on my forehead that reads, "Remission by Dr. ######." She laughed.

I talked to some of the other folks there about my puzzlement about how to interact with other cancer patients in a group setting... TIME OUT! IT ALL COMES BACK TO ME NOW. THIS IS WHAT I WANTED TO SHARE....

When I started the blog, it was about keeping others posted of what was going on. A way to communicate without being on the phone all day. Now, it has become a reflection and introspection device. I'm good with that.

I look back and realize I had a relatively easy time of it physically and mentally. There were times of discomfort, physically and mentally. It blows my mind when those in the know, medically, tell me that I had a pretty aggressive chemotherapy treatment process. Some have labeled it as "the big guns." As I listen to other former patients speak, I have discovered one disconnect I have with them. The ones that react the most emotionally when they tell their stories are the ones who were married and had spouses and/or children. They had to deal with "What happens to them if I die?" I had to face some of that, but I also knew that I wouldn't be leaving anyone behind with whom I shared the same living space.

Early in the process, the Associate Pastor of my church (at the time) came to visit me in the hospital. Since I had recently joined the church, we weren't really all that well acquainted with each other. While visiting me she asked, most sincerely, "How are you doing?" I replied, "Christy, I'm going to be fine. However, if I don't make it, I have the most amazing memorial service already planned." She shook her head and replied, "I hope it doesn't come to that." Inside, I think she was wondering, "How did I draw the short straw to visit this guy?"

So maybe that's it. I didn't have the pressure that others in a different circumstance do. There are times I was grateful that there wasn't someone else who had to share the burden of my "sabbatical", day in and day out. Other times, I wished that there was someone around more often. One of those times was the first couple days after my first chemo treatment. "Should I call the hospital because my temperature seems to be spiking, or should I wait for it to pass?" Another was when I was allowed to be left alone for the first time after being released from MCV. It took a couple of days to be comfortable with it.

However, those who did come in to my life during the whole process were truly messengers and "enlighteners." Because of that experience, I have a new theological belief about how heaven will be established on earth. I like it and I'm comfortable with it.

"Don't you ever doubt it?" Davy asked. 
And in fact I have. And perhaps will again. But here is what happens. I look out the window at the red farm--for here we live, Sara and I, in a new house across the meadow, a house built by capable arms and open lungs and joyous sweat. Maybe I see our daughter, home from school, picking plums or apples for Roxanna; maybe one of our sons. reading on the grass or painting an upended canoe. Or maybe Sara comes into the room--my darling Sara--with Mr. Cassidy's beloved rolls on a steaming plate. Then I breathe deeply, and certainty enters into me like light, like a piece of science, and curious music seems to hum inside my fingers. 
Is there a single person on whom I can press belief? 
No sir. 
All I can do is say, Here's how it went. Here's what I saw. 
I've been there and am going back. 
Make of it what you will." 
 Leif Enger


Stay tuned...............

Friday, October 22, 2010

"Oh No He Didn't"

Recently, at an event I attended along with some other former cancer patients, I was asked to introduce myself and share a little of my story. I decided I would use "my version" of my story in my introduction. As I was last in the group, I heard everyone else's introduction before mine. After hearing some of the other stories, I started second guessing myself about my own introduction. I didn't want to show any disrespect to the others. I went with my original introduction anyway. Here's what I said.

"My name is Greg Frazee and I was diagnosed with Stage IV Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma 2 years ago. I went through several chemotherapy treatment protocols, including a stem cell transplantation. I have always considered cancer a nemesis because of all of the other people I have known who have been affected by it. One way I fought cancer prior to diagnosis was through the donation of blood platelets, knowing that they would be used for cancer patients. I always wondered if I was doing enough. So, I decided to get a first person experience and I proceeded to get cancer just so I could truly understand what it was like. Here I am."

Some of the folks in the room snickered, some of the others looked at me like my head just fell off my shoulders. I didn't worry about apologizing to anyone. I figure, if you are in the club, you have your own coping mechanism that is unique to you. Humor is mine. I won't apologize for it. I will show empathy to anyone who has been diagnosed with cancer and will do my best to meet them on their level.

However, I'm warning you now. Ask me about my cancer, you will get my response. Maybe not the one you are expecting, but one that is with the intent of making you comfortable.

In my book, cancer affecting others is not funny. Others affected by cancer have my compassion, concern and promise that I will do everything I physically can to help them through their journey.

My cancer...."Thank you. I'll be here all week and make sure to tip your waitress on your way out!"

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Not Sure How To Say It

workingwithothers.com

Been working through how to say something that may need to be said, but maybe I'm not the one to say, or I need to learn how to say it as not to upset anyone, or so that when it is said, it's said with empathy, compassion and encouragement. Kind of like how a certain Nurse Practitioner I know says things to help her patients move through the process.


I'm going to the Richmond Blood Cancer Conference, sponsored by the local chapter of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society,  on November 13. There will be professional caregivers and other patients/survivors/alivers there and I look forward to conversation with all of them.


What is on my mind is how those of us talk to each other when we are assembled. I've spoken to some other folks recently who are currently in treatment and have shared my assessment of the general format of the conversation when you get a bunch of cancer patients (current and former) together in a non support group type setting. That's all I'll say about that.


A friend of mine asked me the other day, "Is there ever a day that goes by that you don't think about that you ever had cancer?" I replied, "I was working on my first day without a cancer thought until you brought it up." I didn't really say that, but I could have and she would have fallen off her chair in hysterics. Wish I would have been quick enough to respond that way at the time, but I didn't.


To me, I guess it's OK to have that thought in your life on a daily basis. People seek the same desire in their spiritual life so that their actions/reactions can be affected by knowing that relationship exists in their life. The same could apply with knowing you've been affected by cancer.


However, where I struggle is with the presentation of the ministry (in both examples).


I'll work on it and get back to you.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

"FOUL EVIL SPIRIT..."

Good stuff from Chile. That news makes me happy and speaks of courage and creativity. Most of all, healing.

I was having dinner with a friend last night and she was telling me about a friend of hers who is undergoing cancer treatments. Her friend is dealing with another form of cancer that is not what she was treated for in the past. It has metastasized into areas of her body and her progress has been slow, challenging and full of setbacks. For the first time since my friend has been keeping me updated, her optimism for her friends recovery is waning.

My friend was telling me that she put a card in the mail to her friend recently, and was distressed because she couldn't think of a special message to write in the card. The only thing she could come up with was signing her name. She felt as if she had let her friend down.

Bear in mind, my friend has constantly kept up on the status of her friend, sent her meals, visited her, etc. However, this one perceived "lack of support" had my friend concerned about not being there for her friend.

Her question to me was, "What should I have done?"

I replied, "You did it."

Once, during the early stages of my experience, I was being kind of bashful about receiving all of the goodness and grace that was being directed to me. I vocalized my concerns to another friend and her response was, "Your friends are unable to supply and direct the medications that are being used for your physical recovery. However, we want to help in some way with your recovery. Please allow us to do what we can." It was such a compassionate and forceful statement, that I didn't have to think twice.

So, to my friend last night, I explained to her that I can't recall specifically what was written in every card and note I received, but I recall that I received cards and when I received them, I knew that the sender(s) of the card was(were) holding me in their thoughts and prayers. That's what mattered most. I told my friend that even though her friends outlook may not be all the positive right now, the card is a moment of healing. It may not be the ultimate cure, but it creates a moment in her friends life when her friend will receive a drenching of compassion and care. Trust me, from this side of it, it's a big deal.

I also told her, "If you don't know what to write in there, but you want to write something, find an inspirational quote, or even a joke. online. But know, when that card is received, it will never been perceived as something perfunctory."

You see, even on the medical side of my experience, there wasn't one single treatment moment or event that advanced me through the process, it was the combination of all of the moments.





Monday, October 4, 2010

Another Trip


I took this picture on Saturday somewhere near Cuzzart WV (look it up on Google Maps). Was on my way to the Preston County Buckwheat Festival in Kingwood WV. Apparently, this is the route we used to take to the Festival from our house near Friendsville MD before Interstate 68 was constructed. I wanted to take a trip down memory lane (which used to be a dirt road).

Went to the Buckwheat Festival because...why wouldn't you?....as it was the last "trip home" I made before I was diagnosed two years ago. It's good therapy to "check off" some of the things to do that I couldn't do for awhile.

What's next you ask (even if you didn't)? Some new things....going to get a portrait taken with Annette for inclusion in a book of all of the essays submitted for the Extraordinary Healer contest sponsored by CURE Magazine. Looking forward to it because the good folks at CURE Magazine have hired a professional photographer...so it should be good. Also, next week I will be attending a training session given by the local Leukemia and Lymphoma Society chapter to be trained as a "First Connection" resource. 

Thursday, September 30, 2010

On The TV Show...

..."Survivor," (which I don't watch), it's all about making it through challenges, tests, etc. to be the final one standing and to collect money.

Watched it once, I'm over it.

The word "survivor" has a different connotation to me these days. It's used to describe those who have been diagnosed, treated for cancer and are still living. It is often applied to an individual the minute they are diagnosed with cancer.

At Merriam-Webster.com, the word "survive" is defined as, "to continue to function or prosper."

I had a conversation with a breast cancer survivor a few weeks ago and she said, "I've never been real comfortable with the word 'survivor' as it applies to me. I don't think it describes me." I asked her why and she replied (and I paraphrase), "To me it implies that I'm just getting along. Nothing more."

I told her that I agreed. I told her that to me, it means that something has picked on me, was (is) in control of my actions, comings and goings, and I have to alter my life to accommodate that it was (is) in my life. NOTE: I'm putting the word "is" in parentheses because even though there are NO physical symptoms of cancer in my body at this point, I currently have to engage in certain activities (check ups, blood work, scans, etc.) for the next 4 years because there were physical realities of cancer in my body. Those activities define "is."

However, if "is" was how I defined myself, I would be a survivor. I would be "continuing to function" in spite of that what once was.

I am functioning, but there is more. That's why, when I presented at Camp Phoenix the other week, I introduced a supplement to the word survivor. To the other folks there, I suggested we call ourselves "alivers." To me it means that we are in control of that which is not normal that is residing in us. We are the ones making the choices being presented to us. It's empowering us to have the courage to engage in the difficult discussions with caregivers and those we ask to help in our decision process. It says that as a result of being in control, our discussions with our caregivers are open, complete and not over until we have accessed all of the information that is available. By being in control, our discussions with others, who are going through the process with us, are not adversarial, but are informative and productive.

Before I spoke to the two groups the other week, I asked my oncologist for her input on what I should say. She said, "Tell them your story and also tell them that if they aren't comfortable with anyone on their medical team, it's OK to speak up and say so." I respect her for many things and that statement is one of them. She gets it. She not only wants to treat and hopefully cure her patients, she wants them to be alive.

I told the folks at Camp Phoenix several stories about how I "misbehaved" during my treatments and other interactions with caregivers. I didn't consciously decide to do all of those things, they happened. The survival instinct in us says, "Show up." The "aliver" instinct says, "Show up to the party."

With that, I'll leave you with this. I saw it performed as part of a production entitled, "Blast," at The Kennedy Center several years ago. It makes me feel alive to watch it. Watch it. Be alive.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Looking Back

The reason I am posting this picture is that I am connected to this structure. It is the house (we refer to it as "the shanty") my family was living in when I was born. I took this picture about 15 years ago. I did not recall it as we moved into another house when I was pretty young sometime in the early 1960's.

When I took this picture, it was the first time I ever really "saw" this house. You can not see it from the road as it sits back in the woods about a quarter mile or so off of the road.

Thought you may find it interesting. Looks like it has had some additions built onto it during its life, so I don't really know how much of it was there when we lived there.

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

All That Coolness In One Place

Photo credit: http://www.floridabugs.com/images/spiders/daddy_long_legs_lrg.jpg

I saw one of these in my car today and was reminded of a game we used to play as kids when we would encounter one of these. Because I grew up on a farm, we would pick them up, hold them by one of their legs and ask them, "Which way are the cows?"  Miraculously, they would point to the exact location of the cows and then we would let it go. OK, sometimes, we would remove their legs - but we were kids - we were goofy that way.

Had I asked the one I saw today, "Which way is something cool going to happen?", it may have pointed in the direction of Mechanicsville VA. Saturday, is the Camp Phoenix event that I will be attending.

Here is the official press release of the event:

September 1, 2010
Hanover County, VA

Camp Phoenix is a yearly weekend retreat for adult cancer patients and their caregivers that was envisioned, developed, and organized by the members of the Richmond Chapter of the Oncology Nursing Society in 1996.  The retreat is a grassroots effort by the nurses of the ONS chapter, and was founded by Kathy Barksdale, NP, OCN, and Pam Miller, NP, AOCNP who recognized the need for respite in their patients.

Camp Phoenix is designed to be a relaxing, rejuvenating, and fun retreat that cancer patients can share together along with the ONS nurses who volunteer their time and money to keep the retreat going at minimal cost to the cancer survivors.  The camp is organized and staffed by oncology nurses.

This year, Camp Phoenix has lost much of its outside financial support due to the economic recession.  As a result, it will be a one-day event, despite efforts by the Richmond ONS nurses to raise adequate funds for a full weekend. “It really hurts the full benefit of Camp Phoenix to have only one day for the survivors to participate”, says Derryel. Johnson, RN, OCN, an oncology nurse for 24 years, and the retreat’s co-chairperson. At Camp Phoenix, cancer survivors can share their triumphs and challenges, have fun, and just relax together in a supportive environment. This is the second year that it will only be a one-day event. The date of the camp will be Saturday, September 18, from 9 AM to 6:30 PM.

The keynote speaker for this year is Mr. Greg Frazee, of Richmond, a cancer “aliver”, as he would like to be known. Tricia Cox, NP, AOCNP, will also present on the topic of survivorship. The day will be full of activities and educational presentations at its usual venue “Camp Hanover”.

Camp Phoenix has been pivotal in providing an outlet for stress and uncertainty in the lives of cancer survivors. Please help the Richmond ONS oncology nurses keep this wonderful event going!

Camp Phoenix is a 501©6 non-profit organization.
For donations and further information regarding Camp Phoenix contact Derryel Johnson at lyvonnern@aol.com or Betty McGarry RN, MSN, at bcm2b@earthlink.net, or Annette Graham at agraham@vacancer.com.


Here's something I'm also excited about in connection with Camp Phoenix. Two people, who were very instrumental in keeping my head on straight throughout the entire process, will meet for the very first time on Saturday. I'm speaking of Annette Graham and Judy Davis (who was my pre-transplant coordinator at MCV). I can't wait for them to meet. I may spend the entire day watching them interact.

I sense it is going to be a great day for everyone. 


"Had I known......"


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An Offering

I offered this excerpt, (with my "spin" put on it) from the New Testament book of Revelation 21:1-4, to the folks I talked to on Sunday.

Then I saw a new heaven and a new earth. The former heaven and the former earth had passed away, and the sea (C - as in "cancer") was no more. I also saw the holy city (an oncologist, an oncology nurse, and a medical assistant), a new Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God (coming into the exam room), prepared as a bride adorned for her husband (prepared with treatment medications and recommendations for healing). I heard a loud voice (voice of assurance) from the throne saying, "Behold, God's dwelling is with the human race (in the form of research, cures, scientists, medical professionals and caregivers). He will dwell with them and they will be his people and God himself will always be with them (as their God).He will wipe every tear from their eyes, and there shall be no more death or mourning, wailing or pain, (for) the old order has passed away."

That's what I've seen.....and continue to see.....

"Alright somethin's happening
Hold tight it might be lightning
Turn up the lights I feel like dancing
Can't sleep at night my heart keeps missing a beat"
- Peter Frampton
 

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Alternatives

I was at the University of Maryland Home and Garden Information Center on Wednesday and was "introduced" to the bug in the picture by Jon Traunfeld. The bug is a "Wheel Bug." I learned that in spite of their appearance, they are beneficial as they like to feast on agricultural pests such as Japanese Beetles. Jon told me "If you had a garden full of these, you wouldn't need to use any pesticides."

Which naturally leads me to last nights' presentation of "Stand Up To Cancer." Good concept. Great stuff. I like that they are supporting an initiative to gather together leading researchers to pool their resources and collectively find solutions to halt cancer in its' tracks. I hope it works.

However, I could have done without the drama. I wasn't crazy about the opening sequence. If you didn't see it, the opening sequence was an assortment of celebrities reciting the line, "Cancer doesn't care....." I agree. However, it was a bit dramatic for my taste. Just my opinion.

Later on, Brian Williams made the comment, "Someone once said, chemotherapy is like using a nuclear bomb on a house when you want to turn the lights off in the kitchen." I cringed when I heard that.

I agree that chemotherapy is somewhat of a "nuclear option." But at least it is an option. My perception of chemotherapy now, vs. before I received it as treatment, is different. You must know that before chemotherapy is administered as an option for treatment, the patient is tested to determine their physical ability to receive and bounce back from any form of chemotherapy treatment. It is not administered indiscriminately or randomly. As I have said before on this blog and in person, I am curious to know whether the volume of chemotherapy drugs was equal to the volume of drugs that were given to me to counteract my bodys' reaction to the chemotherapy drugs. That's how far the research has come since the first days of chemotherapy treatment. There are people alive now because of receiving chemotherapy treatments.

I asked my doctor for her insight and wisdom about what to say when I speak at the upcoming events. She replied, "Tell them they need to be comfortable with their doctors and nurses. If they aren't. then it's OK to speak up and say so." I thought those were good words from her. It points out that from day one, the individual who has been diagnosed may feel attacked and vulnerable, but ultimately, the patient is in control of the situation. The cancer doesn't own you. It may change you. But....you own it. It's in your body. It is not natural for it to be there.

Not to say there aren't better treatment options out there; such as using the bodys' natural defense system to fight cancer. I'm excited about that option and I believe it will be standard treatment someday. That is the importance of funding continuing research and that is what "Stand Up To Cancer" is about. However, there is no point in scaring people away from the current treatment methods if those methods are their best option.

Frankly, when I first saw the wheel bug the other day, I wanted to stomp on it because, based on its' appearance, I assumed it was just another worthless critter.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Benediction To Yesterday

This morning while walking, I looked at the stars through a sky that was unfiltered by humidity.

Saturday, I glimpsed at one of my favorite views of Washington DC. It is the view of the city from the crest on I-395 above the Pentagon. From that vantage, when the air is clear, you can see the entire city from well north of the National Cathedral, to beyond Fed Ex Field in the east, and "far beyond where the horizon lies" in any direction.

I recall the faces of the doctors, nurses and caregivers that I experienced over the last two years.

That is the song I sing.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Where I Am And Where I Am Going

I was talking to the pastor of my church yesterday after the service (after I walked out during the sermon.....I am dealing with some allergies and felt a coughing fit coming on that could be a bit disruptive.....so I excused myself, mid-sermon, and went outside to cough it out, get some cough drops, etc.) and was picking his brain on my upcoming talks. I asked him for some theological guidance and clarification on what I was going to talk about next Sunday. I told him I think there are things in front of us that we can see but can not see.

This is a link to what I am talking about. I am grateful that I have been led to a church that is a significant part of this.

This, however, is not what I see. I pray it is one of those things that the design of the universe will overcome. A friend of mine uses the term "religious bigotry" to describe these type of organizations.

Friday, September 3, 2010

The Translation Is This...

Several readers contacted me about the anxiety mentioned the other day. The source of that anxiety is gone. I brought the source into my life and I dealt with it. When I brought the source of anxiety into my life, I knew then I was taking a risk, but I put protections in place to allow myself to push it away and remove it from my life if needed. Even though it was overwhelming at times, I was in control of it. I knew that it was an unnatural event in my life and I knew that by the design of nature, it would be gone eventually. I was right.

That's what I learned from the cancer experience. You are in control at all times. That capacity exists within the human form. I once heard a pastor say, " God will complete his work through us and in spite of us." I have been critiqued for not being more out there about my spiritual beliefs and how they served me while going through the cancer experience. The source of my anxiety, mentioned in the previous paragraph, was very vocal and demonstrative in the practice of his spirituality. He is permitted to be. However, he did it in a way that turned people away. I once told him, "Sometimes, the demonstration of your faith needs to be experienced by others, rather than shouting it at them." In the end, I knew from experience that all would be well. I am at peace with my understanding of the order of the universe. I'm not saying that all things will turn out how you want them because you have a strong belief system. I'm saying that something ain't right, it won't continue to exist. That's my belief. Cancer ain't right. It still exists.  Because others in the past believed cancer was not natural, they chose treatment, they chose to administer treatment, they chose to research treatment and we benefit from their decisions. I like to think that because of my decisions regarding treatment, others in the future will benefit from even more advanced treatment options.

In relation to yesterdays excerpt from "Peace Like A River," by Leif Enger, what I will be going back to is my cancer experience. I have been invited by a church in Harrisonburg VA, of which I was a former member, to speak to their combined Sunday School Class next week on September 12. They have asked me to share my experience and I will also tell them specifically how my faith background played a part in my reaction and actions. Some of them may not agree with some things I share. That's OK. That's the point of community gatherings; to exchange and share ideas.

In addition, I will be speaking at an event sponsored by the Richmond VA Oncology Nursing Society on September 18. The group will be made up of cancer patients, survivors (stay tuned for my take on the use of that word) and their caregivers. It will be a lighthearted romp through my cancer experience and what conclusions I have arrived at as a result of my approach to my diagnosis and course of treatment.

I will continually go back to my cancer experience (and other life experiences) as I sculpt my responses to future life experiences. I won't need to apologize to anyone if I make an incorrect decision that doesn't harm anyone but myself. I won't listen to unsolicited advice, but I will welcome your input if I engage you in a conversation. 

I will continually give thanks for you because you read the blog and because you are most sincere in your demonstration of care for and about me. Because you are reading this, you are part of the group whose care I experienced.

To reconstruct a phrase often recited by Daniel Lawrence Whitney , "I don't care who you are, that's good stuff right there."

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Second Act

“I breathe deeply, and certainty enters into me like light, like a piece of science, and curious music seems to hum inside my fingers.


Is there a single person on whom I can press belief?


No sir.


All I can do is say, Here’s how it went. Here’s what I saw.


I’ve been there and am going back.


Make of it what you will.” - Leif Enger, "Peace Like A River"
 
Stay Tuned.............(but don't fret)

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Now That's Odd


 Photo: http://www.sitcomsonline.com/photopost/showphoto.php/photo/134011/cat/779

I was reading a friend's blog just now and for no apparent reason while I was reading their blog, I recalled the smell of horse breath. It's not a smell that puts me off, rather, it's a smell that has excitement associated with it. When I've smelled it in the past, it meant that I was about to get on a horse and ride. The last horse I rode was in a snow covered woods in the Poconos sometime in the late 80's. The last time I was around a horse and actually touched it was a few years ago in North Carolina.

How to connect that recollection with my experiences shared in this blog, may seem to be a bit of a stretch. Not really. It's not as obvious as "You need to get back on the horse again, Greg," or anything like that. I think it's about knowing there is excitement ahead. What that excitement is, I have no clue.

It hasn't been all  blissful days since the diagnosis, treatment and receiving the "all clear." It wouldn't be even if there hadn't been a life changing event in my recent history. However, I think that once you get the all clear, there can be an assumption that all is well and will be well after you come out the other side. Not true.

I've shared some of my challenges with folks in person and I don't feel like posting them here. I will tell you, the challenges have been unique, sometimes frightening, but never, I say never, have I felt like they can't be overcome. Once you've been through the biggest challenge you will ever have to face, your perspective on lesser challenges changes.

What if I have to face an even larger challenge later on? I have no clue how I'll react. That includes the decision I would have to make if there was a relapse, or another form of cancer that develops from the result of having the treatments I had.

That will be my decision to make. I may approach others for their input, but I will have the final say on the matter. I may make a mistake in doing so.

None of what I share with you is with the intent of bracing you for some pending medical news. I have been open with my diagnosis, treatments, etc. to now and will remain so. There are people in this world with whom I will not share details if they are not smart enough to find or haven't been directed to this blog.

Nope, what this post about is purging some anxiety that has been building. I will tell you that a huge part of that anxiety will be gone today. Those who have spoken directly to me know of what I speak. If you don't know me personally, trust me, it's not that important and it's not cancer related, even though it is a cancer of sorts.

Giddyup

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Waiting For The Weight Of The World

Bo's scans came back clear today, so he is good to go. One year cancer free for him! If you have a moment, read the post from today. Some good information in there about banking umbilical cord stem cells.

Skippy is home from Iraq and on Commonwealth of Virginia soil. Thanks to Skippy and all like him that represent our country well in a tough environment.

Got the final stamp of OK from the MCV folks yesterday. Actually met with the head of the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit. Great guy. We had a good discussion about my health and about what I've been up to. Funny story, in his follow up questioning, he went through a check list of symptoms and actually blindsided me with a question I hadn't heard before in the course of this process. I was proud that I had a snappy reply. I won't share any of it here. May not share it in polite company...ever. But, I thought it was funny and I'm sure he told the story of it to his colleagues. If he didn't, I'm disappointed in him. He shared some what he called "dark cancer humor" with me. I was flattered he was comfortable enough to do that.

Told him about my speaking gigs coming up and asked for his thoughts. I told him the direction I wanted to head with it and he thought it was a good concept. Told him I have a new take on the use of the word "survivor" in relation to being diagnosed with cancer.

He shared these thoughts with me, and I paraphrase...."Cancer patients do like to tell war stories and we recognize that. That's why the waiting room can be an anxious place for new patients. They sit there and hear other patients sharing some of the tougher things they went through and the new patient gets concerned as a result. We have to figure out a way to keep that minimized or to keep it from happening at all."

As I started to type this paragraph, I just came up with an idea in relation to the previous paragraph. I'll get back to you on it. I want to ask some folks what they think.

Maybe what we are looking and waiting for is already here, and it is us.