Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Wednesday, July 29th: Top Ten things about being given the sh*t sandwich of Cancer

As a former student of the "Harvard of the Midwest" (Ball State University), and in the spirit of our most famous alum, David Letterman, I figure it's about time I give you a "top ten list" about this disease.
#10 - Miralax
Sure, there's all sorts of side effects that are supposed to happen because of the chemotherapy drugs (a.k.a. poison). Mouth sores, vomiting, constipation, dizzyness, numbness, etc. I've been pretty lucky to have minimal effects on my body considering they are pumping somewhere between $15-$25k worth of poison into me every 3 weeks. YES, IT IS THAT EXPENSIVE. But let me tell you, without the brilliance of the people at Schering-Plough HealthCare Products, Inc you ALL would be hearing screams wafting in on the jet stream from out here in Denver. Sometimes it's like trying to crap a pile of sandpaper. You get the drift.
#9 - Chemo brain
Per above, there is an incredible amount of pharmaceutical genius being pumped into my body right now, not only the THOUSANDS for chemo, but the dozens of pill bottles strewn throughout the house and neatly labeled by my lovely wife so I don't get stoned on the wrong drug at the wrong time. Unlike my time at the RKE house at Ball State (those of you who know, know), this is the first time in my adult life where I really am all whacked in the brain. But since I'm a little puffy cheeked and am bald, I can use the 'chemo brain' excuse for whenever my body has decided to catch up for the brain cell burnout circa 1990-1995 in Muncie. Chemo brain - try it cancer friends.
#8 - The Economy doesn't matter
All of us in the Architecture, Construction, & Design profession are seeing the worst economic conditions since the Great Depression. You know it, I know it, and the empty desks scattered throughout our respective work environments show it. Frankly, I'm incredibly appreciative of my employer for having a job and health insurance (note the THOUSANDS listed above). But really, in the grand scheme of things - the economy doesn't matter. Turn off the cable news, MSNBC, and stop reading the magazines - it'll work itself out. I'm fortunate enough to drive into work looking at the beauty of the Rockies (when the smog isn't out), it puts it in perspective. Until the Great Depression, the United States had a financial crash & panic every 10-15 years - look it up. As it says in Ecclesiastes "There is nothing new under the sun"
#7 - No inhibitions
There's nothing more humbling than sitting in a room at the Yawkey Outpatient Center of Massachusetts General Hospital with more Harvard Faculty MD's than you can shake a stick at looking at you and saying "Cancer" and "Mr. Baker" in the same sentence. Seriously, after that conversation you can do whatever the hell you want, when you want. Nothing is more serious than that. I love having the freedom now to say my piece - what are you gonna do, give me cancer?
#6 - Friendship & Family
I have been truly blessed through this experience for my friends and family - which are now becoming one and the same. The phone calls from far and wide, the errand running, the hugs for Amanda, the hand on the shoulder, the facebook notes, the text messages, the cards, the snacks, the wraps & smoothies - everything. Even my best childhood friend Craig sending me the Family Guy "Peanut Butter Jelly Time" youtube video (seriously, great stuff) - it all is precious. This has been one of the best experiences of my life. I wouldn't trade this for anything.
#5 - The Funeral Contingency
I did it. I mapped out my funeral. Where it was going to happen, who speaks & the order, what scripture texts are read, the hymns, what minister, and even the list of my pallbearers. It may sound morbid, but was an ongoing effort for several nights which was incredibly rewarding. I thought about past funerals I'd attended, and the feelings & emotions associated with each person. This was a great chance to 'send a message' about the life I've lived, and the emotions I wanted to people to feel when they walked out of that church. It's a great self-retrospective experience, and I don't regret doing it, even though I'm not going to need that roadmap for another 63 years or so.
#4 - Music
The thought of your mortality heightens the senses. While many of you know I'm passionate about all types of music - ever since my diagnosis I've appreciated even more the intricacy and beauty of musical notes and compositions. From choral concerts to jamming on the radio - I can't describe how much richer all music has become to me since May 20, 2009.
#3 - The Morning
The fresh smell and glow of the sunrise means even more, because I've had a taste of reality that it won't last forever for me. There is nothing better than the light breeze and earthy smell of the prairie on a cool, sunny morning in Denver. Since we live on the east side, that's all I've got. If we were up in the foothills I could espouse about the wonder of the ponderosa pines. Sorry, in Stapleton we've only got construction dust, tumbleweed, and Prairie Dogs.
#2 - Beauty
A carved sandstone detail at the entry of our church in Denver, a branch of a ponderosa pine in Evergreen, the shadows of the snowmelt at Mount Evans in the morning, the design of Denver Central Park, a genuine smile of joy on a person - it rocks. Beauty is beauty, and I'm appreciating it even more now. OK perverts, the 'no strip club' rule still holds true - NOT that kind of beauty.
#1 - Love
Amanda. Thanks Tony G - I can't imagine if I hadn't listened to you and ended it with my (now) wife some 14+ years ago. You are one wise sonofabitch.
By the way, my father in law says I now look like Paul Shaffer of Letterman - how appropriate.
Carpe diem.