I chose the title because it’s 43 days since my first chemo treatment. It’s also the first day of the last cycle. On August 14th I take a PET scan and on the 21st I discuss with my wonderful doctor the results and plan of action. I wrote this blog to discuss what chemo has done to me, how I believe one should fight, my greatest fears moving forward and what goals I have to achieve.
Make no mistake, chemo is an all out assault on your body. It’s carpet bombing and it kills the good as well as the bad. However, in the bad there is some good. When I was a child I was told I could do anything. As an adult I lost that belief and drive. I accepted limitations. In short, I took another path rather than try to overcome the obstacles. All the time I didn’t feel confident that I could traverse difficult times. Then I realized that I have. Think about it, my diagnosis was a death sentence 10 years ago just as my heart surgery was 50 years ago, hundreds of years ago seizures might have landed me being burned to death for heresy, my thyroid problems wouldn’t have been possible without the invention of thyroxine in the early 1900’s, and my back problems would potentially be life long.
Chemo is carpet bombing and without it I wouldn’t have had a chance to enjoy the life changing confidence I gained. At first I wouldn’t go into public without a bandana on my head. Think about that for a minute. I was literally ashamed that I was fighting and surviving something that it’s whole purpose was to kill me. That went away after a week or two after the hair loss. Truth is I learned that key to perserverence, faith and a positive attitude. In addition I have been blessed with a wonderful support system.
My second point is about how I believe that I should fight. I use the term I for an intended purpose. This is what has worked for me and it is not a guarantee that it will work for you. Furthermore, it is not in order of importance that I discuss it. These are things that I believed could be of benefit and I felt I would share them to someone who might be able to use them.
Perserverance, faith, positiivity, and a solid support system have been the keys to success. Perserverance to me is simple: You gain ground every day. You do not sit still and you do not go backwards. If you moved a milimeter forward in a day you perservered. When life was holding you down you gained ground. Faith is belief that all will work out. It is not interjecting yourself with doubt. It is the belief that no matter how long the odds, you will succeed. I would like to point out that for me that was prayer, meditation and a lot of mirror self talk. True story, I give speeches to the mirror on the daily to remind myself that I am that strong and that if the chances are 1 in a billion, who is to say I am not that one. This leads to positivity, the term fake it until you make it has been thrown around and I believe wholeheartedly in the concept. In fact, I force myself to smile when looking at others and I force myself to smile when I do my mirror self talks. Once the smile is automatic, the glimmer shines in one’s eye, and grows through a person’s body and soul. Finally, lost but not least, a solid support system is vital. I am human, there will be moments when I cry, when I want to give up, where I lose faith. Those are the moments, where you need back up. You need the person to listen to you and feel confident that you can share your fears, to light a fire under your ass, and moments of encouragement. I have been blessed to have My wife, my children,the rest of my family and great friends who have shown genuine concern and have chosen to be there for me physically, emotionally, and financially. Without that support system this whole thing might have turned out very different. I thank them for all that they have done for me and my family along the way. I am forever endebted to you.
Next, my greatest fears that creep up. I can’t much control them but I believe it is vital to put them on paper so to speak. In my mind they are bad images but on paper they are adversaries that may or may not happen but acknowledge them so as to prepare. First, and most obvious, the treatments didn’t work. This is a fear that is rooted in the type of cancer. In the beginning consultation chemo was to be a 5 day process, done inpatient and with shorter cycles. Only through the trip to MD Anderson did I learn that we caught it early enough that standard treatment has a high probability of working. Although it is in my mind I acknowledge I have no control over it. I will find out on the 21st how successful these three rounds have been. If they are not, we simply have more or additional treatments. The second biggest fear is that I will lose my job due to my FMLA running out because I need additional treatment. Don’t get me wrong, I love my job and I believe that if there is an end in sight they will accomodate accordingly. I also understand that it would not be fair to my employer or my clients to keep them dangling. Again, I look at it in worst case scenarios and not in terms of fear. If that were to happen, we will survive. I can reapply, go back to school, get another job, etc. Point is I have a BA in Arts of Psychology with a minor in business administration and 20 years of management experience. Again this is not the desired outcome but rather a plan B that doesn’t mean I have to go down with the ship. Finally, the fear that plagues me the most is if they change the laws to remove protections from people who have pre-existing conditions(PEC) and essential health benefits. This is the one that I don’t necessarily have a plan B for. I have a heart condition that has an artificial valve and a pacemaker. Neither of these are permanent and will require surgery again to replace. Without PEC protections there is a chance that I go bankrupt or just die. I take 8 different medications a day. Without essential health benefits requiring mandatory prescription coverage this could cause me to choose home or health. Also, the cancer could return, the back pain could get worse, and the migraines, depression, anxiety, and seizures can become unmanageable. Without PEC and mandatory essential health benefits the outcome could be very grim. I don’t have a concrete solution to that answer. Some ideas would be to apply for disability, apply for donations, beg, or just ride it until I fall off the horse. My point in listing these fears are to describe the ideal and not ideal situations, what I am willing to do or not. The worst scenario, obviously, is just riding it out because I do not have the means to fight. However, even that has a worse alternative: I try to do everything and put my family in horrendous debt while living a substandard life. That is not an option I’m willing to accept.
The final thing I write about today is what I want to achieve with the gift of life that I have been given. I chose my major at PSU because I saw it as a gateway to helping people. Getting a job after graduation that allowed me to do that has been such a blessing that I wish to continue until the end of my days. I want to buy a house on the outskirts of town with some land and a little bit of water. We were working on this when I got sick. I plan on finishing the job. I want to put myself in a position that, if an emergency ever occurs again, my family is not counting on others charity to pull through. Although, I am grateful for all the help we received, I should have been better prepared. Scratch the word “plan,” these are things I will achieve and drive my focus: helping others, enjoying life, and being fiscally responsible.
For all those who read my blogs and to all who have supported my family and me during these difficult times I want to thank you. Although the blog idea began as a way for me to vent my feelings and cope with depression, I feel it has become more. You have invested your support, faith and finances in me. I felt it necessary to issue a “quarterly report” on your investment. As any good report should, I have listed my current state, a plan of focus for success, potential obstacles to success and preliminary plans to overcome, and long term goals. Make no mistake, my friends, this quarter started out rocky but we overcame, just as any future problems will be overcome.
In closing, I say this: Your support has been invaluable to my ability to keep going. Your belief in me is awe inspiring to me and my family. Normally, this is where I say “Much Love.” You have proven that much love exists in abundance and can conquer all.
May much love flow freely throughout the world and give everyone back tenfold what they’ve given.