Thursday, February 11, 2010

Fighting It

When my good friend Greg was having some sort of challenge going on in his life, he’d walk in the room or give me a call and inform me he was “Fighting it”. Greg is from Alabama and stands about six foot six in his socks. With a deep baritone voice that can only come from the depth of a man that size, when he’d utter those words, it had meaning and you knew something was up. He’d state, “I’m in the middle of something I can’t quite figure out and I’m fighting it Randy”. I always thought this a very descriptive phrase as it clearly summed up a challenge one was faced with in two very succinct words. To this day I can always hear Greg’s strong voice summon up the beast.

I am a big fan of Charles M. Russell, the cowboy artist of the last century and Montana fame. Years after being enlightened to the phrase from Greg, I came across a story in Mr. Russell’s memoirs that stated when he couldn’t quite get a painting to come together, he’d be ‘Fighting it’. He was a stickler for details in his work and when he couldn’t get a charging buffalo or a cowboy’s lariat to look the way it does in life, he would state, “I’m fighting it.” Same meaning, different person but again, a catching phrase I have used many times in my life when something wasn’t going the way I expected or presented a test.

The other day I was watching the evening news when the anchor came on towards the end of his broadcast and stated that a famous movie director had died. He was seventy some years old and had lost his ‘fight’ with cancer. I have heard this announcement many times and when doing so prior to having been diagnosed with cancer, never really meant much or paid it much attention. I always thought that someone ‘lost’ the battle as many do with a terminal disease and passed on. With the shoe on the other foot and now having cancer, this analogy has brought about a different view on this terminology.

I don’t believe in fighting cancer in the way people describe and how it comes across. They like to say things like, “He’s in the fight of his life” or “He’s in the midst of a major battle to win the fight against cancer.” To ‘fight’ connotes a struggle, to wrestle, disagree, combat, brawl, go to war, come to blows, etc. None of these terms are positive in my mind and only serve to present negative thoughts in and around having a disease that strives to kill its host. Therefore, I prefer to ‘choose’ cancer over it choosing me and work with over fighting it. This might seem like semantics and perhaps so, but I believe a little reverse psychology is what’s needed to work on what those nasty little cells are attempting to do inside one’s body. I’m of the mindset to embrace and live with it opposed to fighting it and thus walk through life viewing it as a struggle. It does not require effort if you break the disease down to its lowest form. It’s in me but it’s a part of who I am and I can live with it, not be at odds against it.

This does not mean that having a good fight in one’s life is a bad thing. I love a good fight. Especially if you’re competing for business or shooting a good round of golf and tackling the course. That’s a good fight to engage in and welcomes the onslaught. But as far as a ‘fight’ for my life because a bug has entered my body doesn’t seem on par.

As I’ve stated, there are many blessings that have come with having cancer. Am I glad I got it and get to live with it? Not particularly, don’t get me wrong. But one in three people in this country are going to ‘get’ cancer in their lifetime. Those are the statistics in today’s health census. The sooner one begins to think in terms of living with opposed to fighting against, the quicker those numbers will change. At least that’s my thesis on the subject. Live life as though you have cancer and perhaps you’ll remain one of the lucky ones who don’t have to find out.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Latest and greatest

Last week I had my 3 month check. CT, Blood, etc. I'm still amongst the living and intend to be so for at least the next four months as that's the next time Renato wants to see me...that's one extra month than the last interlude so I take that as a good sign.

Renato stressed there are some new drugs on the horizon that are showing some very promising signs with patients in my stage of treatment. I say, let's keep the research coming. The longer I live the better my chances of living longer...another amazingly stupid analogy but hopefully you'll catch my drift.

More to come...mark your calendar for March 17. It'll be a night to remember. If not, I'll refund your money!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Three Trees

Once there were three trees on a hill in the woods.
They were discussing their hopes and dreams when the first tree said, 'Someday I hope to be a great treasure chest. I could be filled with gold, silver and precious gems. I could be decorated with an intricate carving and everyone would see the beauty.'

Then the second tree said, 'Someday I will be a mighty ship. I will take Kings and Queens across the waters and sail to the corners of the world. People will feel safe in me because of the strength of my hull.'

Finally the third tree said, 'I want to grow to be the tallest and straightest Tree in the forest. People will see me on top of the hill, look up to my branches, and think of the heavens and God and how close to them I am reaching. I will be the greatest tree of all time and people will always remember me.'

After a few years of praying that their dreams would come true, a group of woodsmen came upon the trees. When one came to the first tree he said, 'This looks like a strong tree, I think I should be able to sell the wood to a carpenter, and he began cutting it down. The tree was happy, because he knew the carpenter would make him into a treasure chest.

At the second tree the woodsman said, 'This looks like a strong tree. I will be able to sell it to the shipyard.' The second tree was happy because he knew he was on his way to becoming a mighty ship.

When the woodsmen came upon the third tree, the tree was frightened because he knew that if they cut him down his dreams would not come true. One of the men said, ‘I don't need anything special from my tree, I'll take this one,' and he cut it down.

When the first tree arrived at the carpenters, he was made into a feed box for animals. He was then placed in a barn and filled with hay. This was not at all what he had prayed for.

The second tree was cut and made into a small fishing boat. His dreams of being a mighty ship and carrying Kings had come to an end.

The third tree was cut into large pieces, and left alone in the dark.

The years went by, and the trees forgot about their dreams.

Then one day, a man and woman came to the barn. She gave birth and they placed the baby in the hay in the feed box that was made from the first tree. The man wished that he could have made a crib for the baby, but this manger would have to do. The tree could feel the importance of this event and knew that it had held the greatest treasure of all time.

Years later, a group of men got in the fishing boat made from the second tree. One of them was tired and went to sleep. While they were out on the water, a great storm arose and the tree didn't think it was strong enough to keep the men safe. The men woke the sleeping man, and he stood and said 'Peace' and the storm stopped. At this time, the tree knew that it had carried the King of Kings in its boat.

Finally, someone came and got the third tree. It was carried through the streets as the people mocked the man who was carrying it. When they came to a stop, the man was nailed to the tree and raised in the air to die at the top of a hill. When Sunday came, the tree came to realize that it was strong enough to stand at the top of the hill and be as close to God as was possible, because Jesus had been crucified on it.

The moral of this story is that when things don't seem to be going your way, always know that God has a plan for you. If you place your trust in Him, God will give you great gifts.

Each of the trees got what they wanted, just not in the way they had imagined...

We don't always know what God's plans are for us. We just know that His Ways are not our ways, but His ways are always best.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

No one makes the journey alone

A Parable

A Mouse looked through the crack in the wall to see the farmer and his wife opening a package.

"What food might this contain?"

He was devastated to discover it was a mousetrap.

Retreating to the farmyard, the mouse proclaimed the warning. "There is a mousetrap in the house!; there Is a mousetrap in the house!"

The chicken clucked and scratched, raised her head and said, "Mr. Mouse, I can tell this is a grave concern to you, but it is of no consequence to me. I cannot be bothered by it."

The mouse turned to the pig and told him, "There is a mousetrap in the house".
The pig sympathized but said, "I am so very sorry Mr. Mouse, But there is nothing I can do about it but pray. Be assured that you are in my prayers."

The mouse turned to the cow. She said, "Wow, Mr.. Mouse. I'm sorry for you. But it's no skin off my nose." So the mouse returned to the house, head down and dejected, to face the farmer's mousetrap alone.

That very night a sound was heard throughout the house like the sound of a mousetrap catching its prey.

The farmer's wife rushed to see what was caught. In the darkness she did not see that it was a venomous snake whose tail the trap had caught.

The snake bit the farmer's wife. The farmer rushed her to the hospital and she returned home with a fever.

Now everyone knows you treat a fever with fresh chicken soup, so the farmer took his
hatchet to the farmyard for the soup's main ingredient.

But his wife's sickness continued, so friends and neighbors came to sit with her around the clock. To feed them, the farmer butchered the pig.

The farmer's wife did not get well. She died; And so many people came for her funeral the farmer had the cow slaughtered to provide enough meat for all of them.

So next time you hear that someone is facing a problem and think that it doesn't
concern you, remember that when one of us is threatened, we are all at risk.

In the book of Genesis, Cain said about Abel his brother to our God: "Am I my brother's keeper?".

We are all involved in this journey called life. We must keep an eye out for one another and be willing to make that extra effort to encourage one another.

Nobody makes the journey alone.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

No Regrets

Life is too short to wake up with regrets.
Love the people who treat you right.
Forget about the ones who don't.
Believe everything happens for a reason.
If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.
If it changes your life, let it.
Nobody said life would be easy.
They just promised it would be worth it.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Learning from those who know

"The more I learn the less I know."

When you’re a teenager, few if anyone can tell you much. After all, there’s little in this world you don’t know. And fortunately for mankind, this knowledge is passed on from generation to generation as my two teenagers remind me weekly how much I don't 'get it'.

I recall one time when I was the ripe old age of 17 telling my dad, ‘I feel like I’ve really got a good grasp on life and know what’s what.’ He just looked at me and didn’t say a word. Looking back his response was brilliant as there was obviously no words needed at that incredibly stupid moment.

One of my favorite Mark Twain muses is the one where he states, ‘When I was 17, my dad was so dumb I could hardly stand to be in the room with him. And in four years time, I was amazed at how much he’d learned’. This certainly applied to me.

Being a teenager with hormones running a muck, fitting in is about as high on the chart as it gets. And what you wear is imperative to this all important aspect of finding your way. No matter whether its school, after school, weekend, evening, athletic, ski, basketball, etc., what’s on your back, legs and feet is not taken lightly. All must fit and be the latest that everyone else is wearing…no trail blazing here as that would be very very ‘un-cool’.

I had returned from a must shopping spree at the University Book Store and procured a pair of white cotton gym shorts with really cool blue University of Washington logo on the front lower part of the right leg. They were the bomb as all the cool guys in PE had a pair and I was not about to be left on the sidelines waiting to be picked for sides without mine. I even bought a pair of matching blue with white logo. I was cool.

They went straight in the wash to give them that 'non new' look. Then straight to the dryer. I couldn’t wait to pack these babies off to school the next day and rock in PE!

When I returned home from gadding about, my mom was busy doing her afternoon ironing. Hot on the board were MY shorts. I looked in dismay and yelled, ‘What on Earth are YOU Doing?’ Ironing my shorts! As she looked incredulously at me and a bit bewildered, she passed the steaming hot iron across the most sacred of sacred, the blue etched on University of Washington logo. What appeared on the face of those shorts after this quick pass was a blue smear splotch. I went ballistic!

The exact words that escaped my mouth are not known. Just that my rampage was such that it brought my dear mother to tears. I felt a bit raunchy for my outburst and ruining my mother’s day, but not enough to keep the verbal assault abated. I stormed off with ruined shorts in hand and the expectation of next day disappointment hanging over head.

That evening as I came in the family room, my dad was in his casual chair with accustomed Seattle Times opened across his lap. We exchanged some pleasantries and how each others day had been. He then asked what had transpired to upset my mother so much. Being filled with righteous behavior, I began to spew out my take on the disaster that had taken place a few hours earlier. I felt I had made a very good case, so much so that Perry Mason himself would have approved. The only cross examination proffered was a question to how much the shorts cost. I promptly told him, five dollars with a sense of indignant pride.

Once the diatribe concluded, my dad calmly leaned forward in his chair, reached in his back pocket, pulled out his wallet and extracted a crumpled up five dollar bill. In hand, he stretched his arm my way and said, ‘Here son, here’s five dollars. Go upstairs and make your mother cry again, and it’s yours. After all, that’s worth five bucks isn’t it?’

In this moment, I realized that even a brilliant teenager was put to the intellectual test. The feeling of being a complete schmuck permeated my adolescent self with nothing left on the table to say…I was completely outmatched and took my life’s learning punishment with shame.

Living your life every day as though you have cancer will most likely keep moments like this from ever occurring. Perhaps, but maybe not. Being all knowing at such an early age might even get in the way. But let’s hope and pray it doesn’t.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Believing in Miracles

A few years and a score ago, my family experienced a Christmas as no prior. It was to be the first Christmas without my Grandmother, Opal. My mom’s mom, she was an angel who walked the earth and Christmas wasn’t Christmas without her bigger than life presence amongst the family order.

Throughout my childhood, I could always count on her to BE the holidays. When we walked in her house, the smell of the season permeated the air; evergreen from the freshly cut tree, scented candles, pumpkin & mince pies, gingerbread, roast, biscuits, and the balance of the scents of their warm and friendly manor filled the air. It was the most glorious time of year for a youth with all the dreams of what was to come buzzing around the room and between my ears. One could barely sit still with anticipation and I would trade fifteen circus days for one Christmas at Nanny’s.

I am an extremely fortunate man as the first 25 years of my life, I never experienced a Christmas without her divine presence mingled with all the holiday fixings. None the less my 26th, was not to be the same. We had lost her earlier that year to cancer and now the magical season of the glow and magic was dark and forlorn.

Nanny wasn’t more than five foot nothing and tipped the scale damp a bit over a hundred. Pound for pound, I would put her up against anyone I knew when it came to working manual labor around a house. She was a twister on steroids. My Great uncle used to say, just put a broom in her hand and she’ll be happy. He couldn’t have been more right. The only time she set still during the day was to watch ‘her’ show, General Hospital. Audrey & Steve Hardy we’re the order of the day when three pm struck and no matter what was in the wash or on the counter, it could wait. General Hospital was sacred.

When it came to kids or wildlife, she had no peer when it came to care giving. I recall as a young child visiting Nanny & Bill’s home in Tacoma, them taking in a neighbor girl who was younger than me for the day. She was home with the ‘babysitter’ and had found her way to my grandparents home and be on the receiving end of warm milk and cookies. She then slept for the better part of the afternoon much to my grandparents dismay as the sitter never once sought her out. They were besides themselves and thought the sitter, mother, father, aunt, uncle and whoever else might remotely be in charge, should be incarcerated for neglect.

My grandmother fed the squirrels, Stellar Jays, neighbors animals, and anything else with feathers or fur that happened into the yard. She even had a pet crow for crying out loud. Fed him every day at the same time as you could set your watch by his arrival.

About the only thing that didn’t belong in this world as far as Nanny was concerned was a snake, slug or mouse. Other than that, all was part of Gods and her world and she would do whatever it took to ensure they made it to another day with a full belly.

Getting back to the holiday season and the gingerbread memories, were her special gifts. I’ve told you the aforementioned, but now I’m referring to the ones we unwrapped. There was always something no matter what the year that was so incredibly special, you couldn’t anticipate. It was always perfect and fit with every passing year as a sweater or jacket you had sought out but could never find. It was truly a special gift of hers and I never figured out exactly how she ‘knew’ exactly what would bring the ahh moment when nestled around the tree. It was truly truly a special gift on oh so many fronts.

This Christmas though would be different. There would be no smells, joy and laughter, mince and pumpkin pies, waiting anxiously by the tree for Nanny to finish up the dishes and appear, or that special gift. It was as though the air was completely sucked out of the world and I was completely alone for the first time in my life.

My parents had made other plans this year and were going to be away. My sister lived in California and was staying put. It was unspoken amongst us but it was the loudest din imaginable with a resounding scream of we can’t be together as it would just be too incredibly painful to attempt the unimaginable. A Christmas without Nanny.

To compound matters, I was travelling for work a considerable amount leading up to the holiday break. I recall vividly flying into Seattle the last few days before Christmas looking out the window at the black and lifeless city. It was the most empty feeling I had ever experienced. I prayed the plane would never land as I couldn’t bear the thought of walking in the cold and damp to my empty car and driving home to a listless and holiday free house.

Before leaving Los Angeles, I had the where with all to go to the cash machine and withdraw my Christmas gift money as I had yet to make a single purchase. Again, prolonging the inevitable and avoiding all aspects of the season to its final and unbearable moment. For this one action, I felt good as I knew with all of the emotion stirring, the fewer activities required once I got home, the better.

As I approached my dark and empty house, I stopped at the mail box and gathered a weeks worth of holiday mail. It was stuffed with every imaginable flyer to gobble up the cash I had previously garnered. An absolute mess was strewn upon my the kitchen table as well as the contents from my travel pockets. I went to bed, closed my eyes and pretended the hurt wasn’t real.

The next morning I set out to do my shopping and attempt to put myself in the holiday spirit. It was short lived. I couldn’t find the cash I had procured the day prior to streamline my shopping efforts. I literally tore the house apart looking for it. Under the cushions of every seat, every room, every pocket, the washer, dryer, I even looked in the oven. No cash, it was not to be found. I screamed at the utter top of my lungs in frustration and still, no cash fell from the sky. I was toast and only proved to add insult to injury as I headed out and shortened my list and scaled back.

For the next week I sulked. The only break in the sulking was to rampage the house one more time in a fit of rage trying my dam nest to locate my lost funds. I knew they had to be there somewhere as I didn’t lose things, let alone money and I knew I had it when I walked in the house when I came home from my trip.

I sat in the chair in the living room staring out the window when suddenly I was filled with rage. I leapt from my chair, throwing the cushion against the wall and cursing God at the top of my lungs for being so unjust! How could He not only take the most beautiful person of this world, a living angel, in the most painful and excruciating way but heap the pain and despair upon me at this most sensitive time of year. And on top, not even my special gift…‘I hate YOU God Dammit, I HATE YOU!’ I cried. My rage transcended into sorrow and I wept uncontrollably for what seemed to be forever.

A knock appeared at door and snapped me to consciousness. I walked by the window, looked out and saw a dilapidated Volkswagon Bug in the driveway. It had no front fenders, was two toned (as in primer gray & yellow) and was missing a passenger side window. It was replaced with saran wrap.

When I opened the door, before me stood a young man in his late twenties, unshaven, long dirty blonde hair, holes in his jeans and a long sleeved long underwear undershirt with the sleeves rolled up. I looked at him with disdain as I had no idea what this guy wanted from me but whatever it was, I was certain I wasn’t interested. I barked behind the screen door, “Yes, may I help you?” He looked me straight in the eye with his dark sunken lids, reached in his pocket and pulled out my cash that I had been seeking the past week. He simply stated, “Did you really want to throw this away? I’m your garbage man and I found this in your garbage. I thought you might want it.”

For the most part I was speechless but I did have the wherewithal to offer him a reward for returning it. The nameless person looked at me deeply, smiled and said, “No, my reward is being able to return this to you.” And he walked to his car, started it up, and puttered away. I never saw him again.

The next few hours I spent on my knees begging God for forgiveness. I realized in that time I had so little faith in HIM I was ashamed. I knew better but in my moment of agony forgot all the goodness that I had learned over the years. A true miracle had presented itself and I couldn’t help but believe my grandmother played a huge part in creation and lobbying with God. She had sent me my gift.

Miracles are all around us every day. All we have to do is be open to them and allow them to be recognized. According to the doctors, I’m not supposed to be here writing this story. That’s a miracle in and of itself. Living your life as though you have cancer will open your eyes to such occurrences.