The Chemo Chronicles. Chapter II
Now that I’m done with my last session of chemotherapy and I’m currently working through the last of the side effects from bag 6, there are a number of people that I need to thank for helping me get through what ended up being one of the biggest challenges of my life. The whole thing started back in March, with a biopsy, and ended on July 27, with my sixth and final session. It’s been a very long 4 month process. I couldn’t have made it without support. So, let’s start with the thank yous and I’ll try not to make this sound like a bad speech at the Academy Awards.
I know, I know, that’s a pretty general way to start this thing, but hear me out. There were times throughout this whole process when I got very sick and depressed and I was at the end of my rope. In those cases, I would get a text or a call from someone that would happen exactly when I needed it. Or, I would be listening to music and a song would play that seemed to be speaking directly to me. To me, that’s God.
Cancer can be a lonely journey, even when you have friends and family all around you. I never feel alone because of my relationship with Jesus Christ.
(A quick veer off here. While sitting around feeling awful, I watched “The War” a World War II documentary by Ken Burns. At one point one of the soldiers asked for the Almighty’s presence at the battle of Anzio, Italy.
“You come yourself,” he said. “Don’t send Jesus. This is no place for children.” I thought the same thing about chemo.
Stand down Calvinists, I know all about the Trinity.)
Social media has taken quite a beating over the years, being blamed from everything from childhood obesity to rickets. (Ok, maybe not rickets, although it could happen if you don’t get outside and get some sunshine.) But one thing social media doesn’t get enough credit for is how it can bring people together. I post my blogs on Facebook and Twitter and Instagram and I’m always amazed at the responses. I get comments and likes from people all over the world, and also hear from friends that I haven’t seen in years. It means a lot to me that people take the time to read and comment, and I am greatly encouraged that my story can possibly help someone else.
The Prostate Cancer Support Group Facebook page
The wonderful people in this group have been with me every step of the way for the last 4 years. It is a closed group, which means I can vent about anything I’m going through. They get it. They get it more than anyone else.
I told my bosses when I started this chemo journey that if I felt good enough to work I would, as long as they cut me some slack on my absences. They’ve been great about the whole thing, including praying for me when I was really sick and I missed about a week. They stepped up for me.
And now, I would like to thank certain individuals that have been invaluable during the last 4 months. You’ll probably notice a lot of them have the same last name as me.
Brother Paul has been with me on this journey for the last 8 years, and a text or call from him is always appreciated. But, during the chemo process, he stepped up in a big way by taking me to a Detroit Tigers game. It was a wonderful diversion in the middle of a trying time, and we had a blast. I don’t know which was more entertaining, the game or the drive to and from Detroit. Paul is a very good, and very fast driver. I just hung on and laughed.
My son Travis was there for me during the biopsy, a procedure that did not go smoothly, and frankly I got pretty frustrated. He saw firsthand my disgust with being a cancer patient, and how upset I can get. He was kind and understanding.
In case you didn’t know, in the middle of all this, Travis relocated to Seattle, Washington. He packed up all his stuff and moved to a city 2000 miles away, moved into a house with four people he did not know, and started a new job. He didn’t know a soul in Seattle. Do you have any idea how much guts it takes to move to a city on the other side of the country and start a new job and a new life? I am so proud of the man he has become. Love ya, buddy.
Mike is a work friend of mine who has become much more than that. When I started this blog, I considered him my beta tester. After completing and publishing a blog, he would show me what the blog looked like on his phone and made suggestions for improvements. He was invaluable in the startup of Fishrocks, including giving me the name. He is also a Sunday school leader at his church, and I know I am on their prayer list each week because of Mike.
But, most importantly, he has let me bend his ear when I am frustrated with failed treatments, or when I am sad about how this thing has effected my life. He has stepped in for me at work when I was too sick to work, letting me know that it was all good if I didn’t come in that day. He would tell me to feel better and that the work could wait another day. He gave me peace of mind.
My son Jeff was there for me for 4 of the 6 chemo treatments. When I started this thing, I didn’t really think that I needed anyone to sit with me for a couple of hours while the poison dripped into my bloodstream. I could listen to music, or write, or just sit there quietly. But Jeff quickly volunteered to be there if he could. I loved it. We talked about everything from sports to music to Seinfeld episodes. He was wonderful at getting my mind off of what was actually happening sitting in that chair in the chemo room.
It can’t be easy sitting there and seeing your old man getting hooked up to a bag of chemicals every three weeks, especially knowing what those chemicals were going to do to me over the next 10 days, but there he was, sitting next to me and talking about how bad the Tigers are, or trying to figure out who the next starting quarterback of the Wolverines will be, or laughing about something that happened at work or with Kristina. We didn’t sit there and have deep and heavy conversations about the meaning of life and death, or about the trials and tribulations of being a cancer patient. And for that, I am extremely grateful. My son Jeff has a wonderful way of lighting up any room he walks in, and he lit up my world every three weeks. Love ya buddy!
My friend Jim, who I’ve known for over 30 years, took on this chemo thing with gusto. He checked in on me everyday after a treatment, seeing how I was feeling, good or bad. He got frustrated with me on the bad days, and rejoiced with me on the good days. He also was there for me with distracting and funny stuff, like bitching about the latest bad game by the Tigers, (which is kind of a running theme here), or bringing up an appropriate quote by the greatest philosophers of all time, Bugs Bunny, Yosemite Sam, and Daffy Duck. He also kept a running tally of who was winning the chemo battle, me or the bags. According to Jim, the bags won treatments 1, 3, and 5. I won over bags 2 and 4. Bag 6 was considered a draw, because there was much throwing up and sickness at the beginning, but I rallied and shook off the side effects in the end.
This may seem kind of gross and inappropriate to some people, but it was invaluable to my getting better. I needed incentive to fight, and Jim gave me that incentive. The only reason I rallied and got back on my feet after that last treatment was because I was determined to tie the score. I wasn’t going to let it beat me. The least I could do was battle it to a standstill.
Jim, I hope you understand how important you were to me during this whole thing. You are a true friend.
I saved the wife for last on my list of thank yous basically for one reason: She is my caregiver. In the life of a cancer patient, a caregiver is the most valuable person, the MVP of surviving, if you will. She gets to see it all. From the late night bathroom sessions which involve a lot of cleanup, to the retching in the bushes before driving to a family reunion, to the crying from debilitating back pain, to the anger and frustration of dealing with a disease that is now a chronic condition and a fact of our lives, she has been there for all of it. And the chemo treatments are just the latest in a series of treatments that have been on going for the last 8 years. It can be a roller coaster from hell.
And here’s another thing that she has done. She has had to change her way of thinking. You see, my wife is a fixer. If something is wrong, she wants to fix it. What can we do, who can we see, what can we take? Let’s get going on this. Her default mode is to not sit around and feel sorry for herself, but to get on with life and get this thing fixed. And sometimes that attitude is just what I need.
But, there are other times when things just can’t be fixed. Sometimes I just need her to hold my hand when I cry. Sometimes I need her to give me a hug when I feel bad. And that is not her first instinct when dealing with this disease. She has had to learn to take the bad with the good, and she has had to learn that sometimes there is no fixing any of this. She has had to learn that there are times for crying, times for laughing, and times for just trying to live life the best you can that day. Learning to live like that has been a big challenge for her. And I love her for taking on that challenge. After 31 years, she is still the love of my life.
Well, like a bad speech at the Oscars, I have gone over my allotted time. Let me just say one more thing. I have had a bunch of friends and family that have checked up on me through this whole chemo thing, whether it was a quick text or a small get together, and I haven’t mentioned you in this blog. Believe me, it was very appreciated. I thank you all for your kindness and generosity during what was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through. Your love and compassion has convinced me of something that is sometimes hard to realize when I’m going through something bad.
I am truly blessed.
Thanks for reading.