Attitude Indicator

I’ve always been interested in flight and planes. Some of my earliest memories are going out to the Kent County Airport with my family and watching planes land and take off from the observation area.

I love the look of any aircraft. A few years ago, I spent the better part of two days at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum just marveling at everything from the Wright brothers original Kitty Hawk flyer to the Space Shuttle Discovery.

The space shuttle Discovery, located in the Udvar-Hazy Center of the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum.

I have flown in a small Cessna and a massive Boeing 747. I love the feel of flight. I love the feeling of my body getting pressed into the seat as the plane lifts off the ground. I haven’t flown enough in my life to be numb to the experience. It’s still a thrill for me. I love being in the cockpit of a friends plane and looking at all the gages on the instrument panel. I ask a lot of questions and I’m fascinated with all of it.

Flying over West Olive, Michigan, looking west towards the lake. Thanks for the memories, Bez!

One thing that every plane has on its instrument panel is a little gage that shows if the plane is flying level. This artificial horizon lets the pilot know if the wings are level with the ground, which is especially important to know when flying in bad weather. This gage is important because when you can’t see what’s in front of you, your eyes and body can play tricks on you. Pilots talk about flying through clouds and feeling straight and level, only to look at the instruments and realize they’re veering off to the right or left or maybe even losing altitude. Pilots are taught to trust their instruments, because your body can betray you.

The name of the instrument that tells if you are maintaining level flight is the attitude indicator. I love the name, because it can also correlate to everyday life, and especially a cancer journey. When your traveling through the skies of a cancer life, it’s a good idea to keep your eye on the attitude indicator.

One of the most difficult parts of having cancer is everything that used to be normal feels strange, like looking at life through thick clouds. Birthdays and vacations become a big deal, because you don’t know how many you have left. Good news becomes great, amazing news, and bad news becomes soul crushing, awful news. A good scan, good numbers…wow, yes, let’s celebrate! A bad scan, bad numbers…damn it, no, how long do I have?!

My recent scans and numbers have revealed very good news indeed. The clinical trial I’m participating in is working. My PSA has dropped from 29 to 3.5. My tumors have shrunk a little. Time to celebrate, right? Well, yes. But not too much.

Over the past 11 years since I was first diagnosed, I’ve had many good reports. I’ve also had many bad ones. I’ve learned not to get too excited about the good, or too depressed about the bad. My latest good results could very easily be wiped out by a bad scan in 6 months. I don’t mean to sound like a Debbie Downer here, but experience with this disease had taught me not to get too high or too low.

That being said, I’m very happy with this latest development. After my last appointment, I sat in my car in the parking lot, lowered my head to the steering wheel, and let the tears flow. The emotions overwhelmed me for about 5 minutes, partly from the joy of good news and partly from the relief that all the work we’re doing is actually effective. And then I started the car and got a coffee.

I’m pleased with the latest results, but I’m not popping champagne. Experience has taught me to enjoy the moment, but not to get too carried away. I’ll keep an eye on the attitude indicator, keeping things as level as possible, knowing that storms may still be on the horizon. Because when flying through the clouds, it’s best to trust your instruments.

Steady as she goes, Mr. Sulu.

Thanks for reading.


5 thoughts on “Attitude Indicator

  1. Hi Dan
    Very pleased to hear you are feeling better and may your recovery continue.
    Are you able to reveal which clinical trial and drug you are on.
    All the best

    Liked by 1 person

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