The past 12 months started with a lot of pain, a fun time working on some professionally rewarding projects back in Ohio, and a boatload of travel. I had no idea about this "Mr Toad's Wild Ride" when I entered the hospital in Vail thinking that my ortho hip procedure would result in a quick rehab and a pain-free hip.
Oh my, Life can take unexpected, unplanned turns that challenge you to the core of your being. But it will simultaneously teach you something about yourself, your relationships, and your world.
I've got what I wished for -a pain-free(relatively speaking) hip. But my path to this point was entirely different than planned. Let's just say that the light at the end of the tunnel got pushed back "a few months". You know what? This may sound crazy to all of you who haven't had an illness similar to cancer, but the lessons life-threatening diseases teach you are awesome. As my High School track coach and science teacher Mr. Harrell used to say: A DUBYA EE ESS OH EM EE - AWESOME! AWESOME! AWESOME! Those of you who hail from Sparta have a leg up on everyone else reading the blog, because you can hear him say it, can't you?
This year has taught me the importance of looking through the 'noise' of life and looking at your true inner being. Trust me, it doesn't matter how successful you are, how important you are, how many friends you have, what degree you have, or what kind of car you drive - when you are faced with the possibility that you will die you are instantly pulled into a 'second level' consciousness where all the stuff of daily life doesn't mean anything.
You look at your family, your friends, and your faith (if you have it) - that's it. In fact, I'll bet most folks who face this will gain an understanding of faith. You've heard the old saying 'there are no athiests in foxholes?" Well guess what, there aren't any at the receiving end of a chemotherapy drug line, either.
All the trappings of the 'stuff' go away, and you realize that we are all running to the 'next thing' to avoid thinking about the 'bigger picture'. Don't get me wrong, aspiring for success in life, careers, finances, and in your recreational activities is awesome - but I can really see how many people are unfulfilled and trying to give a meaning to their life based on stuff, substances, and power. I've been given the gift of an 'early sneak peak' of the one thing we can't run from - death. Facing the possibility of the 'd' word and being given the chance to return to a 'second half' (reference my earlier Hoosiers posting) is life changing.
I now believe that the secret of life is stamping your ticket, hopping onto Mr. Toad's little car, and following the tracks through the ups, downs, twists, and turns. While you're on the ride, you're supposed to savor the gift of every minute you have, cherish the people who cross your path, be honest in your relationships, and be true to your faith.
When I think about the past year, from last Thanksgiving in Breckenridge with Amanda and my folks, to this upcoming Thanksgiving here in Denver with both of our parents, I think about the hundreds of amazing people in my life - both old relationships and new - who've been instrumental in helping me stay focused on the task of defeating Lymphoma. Some of these awesome people include:
- Dr Philippon - the world renowned hip surgeon who discovered my tumor and delivered the cancer news with compassion & care.
- Terri - Dr. P's assistant who helped us get additional tests in Vail and arrange all of the appointments at Massachusetts General
- Rev's Dent, Slejko, and Marshall - The clergy at Trinity Methodist in Denver who went out of their way to show both of us kindness and support during my treatments.
- My new blogger friends - This blog has connected me to people all over the world who have been touched by this disease. They have inspired and humbled me, as I realize many of them are not as fortunate as I, and are at a more advanced stage of the disease - you all have been amazing.
- My old friends - phone calls and messages from Craig, Josh, Urb, Dave, Ben, Jeff, Tim, Nathan, Nicky, Kootch, Mike, Keith, Cindy, Barb, Bob, Kathy, Nancy, Tag & Jan, and hundreds of others have been overwhelming - all of you have made me appreciate our experiences together, and gave me the will to fight this off
- Family - can't say enough - Amanda, my parents, Siblings, Aunts, Uncles, Cousins, In-laws, words can't express it, so I won't even try.
I've mentioned to many of you that a second version of my 'cancer soundtrack' is coming out to celebrate my apparent recovery. Instead of rolling it out all at once, I'm going to sprinkle the next volume of CCSI tunes over the next several posts - the first song on Volume II is a good 'syllabus' of what I've learned over the past year - how I've given out love in the past, and that "measure of my life" came back 10-fold in loving support from all of you during my treatment and recovery. The song is "Seasons of Love" from the 90's broadway musical "Rent."
I know that many of you reading this blog may have trouble getting past the subject matter of the show - there's all sorts of drug abuse, bohemian artists, alternative lifestyles, various people hooking up - it's pretty much a Jerry Springer artistic free for all - but the core message resonates with the lessons I've been able to learn over the past year. Check out some of the lyrics from this song, and then listen to the whole tune on the video below - it's impressive.
Five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?
In daylights, in sunsets, in midnights
In cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand
Six hundred minutes
How do you measure a year in the life?
How about love? How about love?
How about love? Measure in love.
So take a look in the mirror and ask yourself - "if my doctor told me tomorrow that there was a 50/50 chance I might die - what would I change?"
And then go do it- NOW. You never know what the next year will bring.
p.s. Don't worry, I'm not getting all "new age hippy introspective" on all of you - I'm still the same old politically incorrect person you've always known, with a bit of a 'new dose of reality' thrown in.