Live each day well and wisely
My apartment has a metal door for which I’m grateful for. Why? Because it allows simple magnets to make my door into a big message board to remind me of the important things in my life. My Bernie stickers, my ‘states I’ve not/visited map’, the “Uncle Bozo” sign my nieces were holding when I returned at the airport a couple months ago, and a picture of My Mom. A few minutes though before I sat down to write this I caught myself looking at the door. I think I was just throwing away a tissue and noticed something tiny on the door I had forgotten about – the fortune from a fortune cookie I received shortly after I was diagnosed that says ‘Live each day well and wisely’ hence becoming the title of this post.
How fitting. 365 of those days later I’m still alive thanks to great doctors, nurses (both near and far), research, and the multitude of support I’ve received from family and friends. Of all those doctors by the way, three are very significant. One is my current oncologist, Dr. Latif. He makes me feel like I’m his only patient and puts all my worries to rest with humor, confidence, and professionalism. Between him and his staff (I love my NP, Katie too) I feel comfortable sharing my daily ailments, my own self-diagnoses (right or wrong), and even telling them ‘no’ when I feel they are wrong.
Even though I ‘fired’ him, my first/assigned oncologist, Dr. ‘Benga’, is significant because he delivered the numbers/statistics of my disease. He was the one who gave me a beacon of hope which led me to go ahead with treatments. Basically without treatment I had 4 months to live. With I might get 6. Really? My mom was on her deathbed and I had just seen what good treatments did for her. Why would I want to go through that for naught? But he changed my perspective by telling me 100 people have just been diagnosed with my stage of disease and my goal was to be the 100th to die. The old/feeble, and those with pre-existing conditions were going to be the first 50. I was young, and overall healthy so making it to #100 was possible. Whatever, but I guess I’ll take the treatments. One other significant decision was made in that conversation as well. A more aggressive treatment with a higher survival rate, or a less aggressive treatment with of course a lower survival rate. It was quantity v’s quality and if you know me I always take quality over quantity. I had less than a 25% chance of responding to that less aggressive treatment, but a year later I’m here to tell you about it. Benga also gets credit for the calendar I’m literally living and dying by. Between my treatment choice and my calendar I would have done expired.
Benga also wanted me to play racquetball with him and not listen to my concerns while I was freezing my ass off in the exam room. Bye bye!
The 3rd significant doctor, Dr. Lenchitz, was my primary doctor who couldn’t figure out what was wrong with me, but still reluctant to have me get a CT scan. I went and got one anyhow. The day I got the CT scan I traveled back home to spend what would be my last weekend with my mom. As I sat in the kitchen with my bro-in-law, Cy, I told him that the radiation from the CT scan increases your risk of getting cancer by like 7%. I told him it didn’t matter because “I think I have cancer already”. The following Monday, one year ago today, Dr. Lenchitz called me before lunch at work and wanted me to stop in for my CT results. His pacing and the look on his face before he came out to get me was very telling, and grim before he ever spoke a word.
We know the rest of the story, but one thing he, the Doc, concluded with was; “You never know, we could be here a year from now laughing about it”. I don’t think he nor I expected that was even possible, but though I neglected to make an appointment to make that happen today (I guess it’s still possible to drop in) and yeah we probably can chuckle about it, I’ve beat the odds. That’s what matters today. The stats say a 20% 1 year survival rate. That means 79 of those 100 have gone before me today. The 5 year survival rate is less than 5%. Though I’ve been served with some complications lately, and I’m concerned about why and how significant they are to my long term survival, I’m doing pretty well.
Of course how much time is still a guessing game at this point, but as I’ve reiterated over and over again I’m in no better place than the rest of you how long we have to live. The next decade, year, nor day is guaranteed. Make the most of it. This past year has been brutal, but man-o-man have I lived! I nearly doubled the number of states I’ve visited in my first 41 years in one year (I went from 20 to 38 states). The one off things, bands, and other events that I never done previously or experienced on a different level. Plus all the reading and writing to help me figure things out. All the Reds games even when the season was lost. All that and more and while working full-time. Holy crap no wonder I’m exhausted and cranky.
So I look at today as another 1 year lease on life. Maybe I get to live it out and get another. Maybe not. But regardless living well and wisely through continued treatments, traveling, and now hopefully resting, reading, and writing I will be able to leave behind a better legacy than if I had just given up and died.
Your continued support is still the most important thing. Whether it be a chemo visit, assisting me in my travels, helping me run an errand, or just a like on Facebook – it all has meant and will mean so much to me in my continued fight against being dealt this ugly card. Despite the card though, I still have chips on the table. You can decide what kind of chips those are, haha! 🙂
Here’s to another year, and thanks!