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

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


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? 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 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.