Yesterday was a good day. In a couple of ways. First, I actually got out and did something. Second, it took several hours. Third, I didn’t keel over from exhaustion. Fourth, I got to meet some interesting people.
But, before we get to that, I guess I “owe” an update, if not an explanation, of my two-month absence. Simply said, I’ve been busy with other stuff. Or, I didn’t know what to say. Or, I didn’t know how to say it. Yesterday offered the proverbial kick-in-the-pants to get back in front of my keyboard.
But, before we got to that…
When we last left our hero, he had made a new friend, Herb. The excitement, as there often is with new relationships, was palpable. Herb was going to help me feel better. Less pain, more sleep, better appetite.
It didn’t turn out that way. For some reason, thrice-daily get-togethers with Herb seemed to require more painkillers. Less sleep followed, and hunger just didn’t seem to come around.
Long story short, I had a blocked bile duct in my liver which required a stent (same sort of thing that is used in and around the heart) to keep it open. Without it, bilirubin levels would continue to rise and I’d become increasingly yellow, leading to more bad things. So, as my oncologist so eloquently described, a gastroenterologist performed this endoscopic procedure, which required her to “go down my throat, into my stomach, make a right turn at my duodenum, and open the blocked duct.” Easy as pie.
My oncologist subsequently changed my chemo regimen and, I’m happy to report, I’m having much less pain these days. I’m still dealing with it, as well as sleepless and sleepiness at all the wrong times, as well as appetite loss, but at least the pain isn’t excruciating.
Which brings us to last night. My wife suggested that maybe it’s time to break out the Herb again, in the hopes that I’ll sleep better and maybe eat a bit more.
Sleep didn’t really come, but at about 1:30 am, I was furiously foraging for something “good” to eat. I settled on some cold calzone, chocolate and cottage cheese. So, yeah, there is some good from the weed.
I was invited to participate in a workshop yesterday, that was meant to deal with the concept of hope and, specifically, how to possibly raise levels of hope, for people with life-threatening illnesses. Arranged by an organization called Life’s Door, approximately 15 cancer patients and former patients were taken through a variety of exercises and discussion topics, all meant to explore various aspects of hope.
It was helpful and interesting. But, most of all, being together in a room with a dozen or so people who can more directly empathize with me, was refreshing. By my estimation, I was one of the four youngest participants in the room, and appreciated the insight from peers as well as those who have traveled this path before me.
Where this will lead, I don’t know, but it was good not to be “the” guy with cancer.
Part of what we discussed was goal-setting as a driver of hope. Specifically, we discussed a The New York Times best seller, When Breath Becomes Air, by Paul Kalanithi, the true story of a budding neurosurgeon who, at the very end of his training is diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. His goals shift from wanting to become a neurosurgeon, to becoming a writer, to simply having the goal “to write.”
For me, the penny dropped when we were presented with an exercise to write down four elements or aspects of our persona. I struggled with how I would describe myself professionally. In the past, it may have been any of: PR pro, communications consultant, oil salesman, photocopier salesman, general manager. Today? I think it’s “writer.” While I don’t get paid, in the traditional sense, to write, I think it’s what best describes my metier. And I realized, damn it, I should really put a bit more into it.
So, here I am.