http://www.today.com/video/today/53581524#53581524 and for people who ask, no Kiana doesn’t get to watch those things, they talk about things she doesn’t know and while I suppose there will be things she learns from TV, my prognosis is not going to be one of them).
But on Veteran’s day, while it was a student holiday, it was a teacher in service day and so when we were going opposite ways, a voice came over the loudspeaker that said “A man with a gun is on the campus, please lock all doors and follow appropriate protocol.” And that moment to get to Kiana who was almost the further point possible from the track was the fastest I ever ran and then just picked up Kiana and started walking backwards off the campus. Kiana asked why we were leaving the water bottles and why we were walking backwards, let’s just say she didn’t get well thought out answers. Our house is only one block away but the track makes it more like 4 or 5 since it’s on the back end of the school. Since it sits on a cul de sac there was no way to not go around the school if you can't go through the campus. Once we were off campus, it felt like we were walking very slowly as I was keeping an eye on the school with Kiana behind me. Then what apparently was only a few minutes later but felt like an eternity, the loudspeaker once again announced “The drill is complete, staff please come to the library for our discussion of this protocol.” I sit on the citizens advisory council and at the next meeting they would talk to us about that drill and how they had purposely done it on a day where students weren’t there because they were still trying to figure out if and how they would implement this drill. It’s a sad thing that this has to be considered but in the modern age, it shows wisdom on the school’s part that they are doing so. Kiana and I would go back and get our water and I’d talk to her about drills a lot more calmly and we stayed on the playground for a while just so that she realized her school was still a safe place.
The adrenaline/fear/thoughts would stay with me for quite a while that day. When we got home (free free to judge my parental wisdom on doing this all on the same day), after a good lunch, as we kept talking about a drill, I decided to add another drill. Kiana and I do this once in a while but honestly it had been too long. She has fortunately never seen me have a grand mal seizure but has watched videos of them with me and we have our own practice drill. It really is her finding me shaking or on the floor and looking for my phone. Luckily we also own an ipad and we’ve even practiced using the “Find my phone” app and then her “pretend” calling 911 and letting them know our address etc. I hope she never ever has to through with that but when you’re a single dad raising a young child and have woken up in ambulances… Sitting through both of those drills was not pleasant and it’s probably fairly arguable which one of us is less of a fan of those experiences. Still I remember fire drills in my school days and talking to friends from other times and places, they talk about drills where they had to practice for a tornado or some of my friends from the cold war where they had to duck underneath their desks in case of a bomb (did anyone really think that would work?). In any of those drills, school shooting, our seizure one, a fire one, a tornado or cold war one, people who think ahead are guaranteed nothing but improve their odds of surviving or if nothing else being prepared when it’s time to go out.
That’s what the last 48 hours felt like with the medical stuff going on again. Good intentioned people question why I start thinking about the Grand Canyon etc when the MRI’s, medical things begin again. They tell me I should just assume the best and not think about it. To quote a poor movie, fear is a choice but the danger is real. The fire alarm may just be a drill but if there is an actual fire and you don’t know whether or not there is, again those who treat it as such will have higher chances of “success” however you want to define it.
So while sitting in the MRI itself is not a problem for me, some people apparently have to be sedated (I‘ve managed to fall asleep with my head strapped into something that keeps it from moving), and while even my doctors wonder how I just don’t care about the vomiting (as I’ve said to them if it happens enough you kind of start taking it as “normal”) and in fact the only medical “part” that bothers me is the needles cause I’m a total wuss about body fluids but the last tech was the best I’ve ever gotten and so I barely felt it. The tough part is, no pun intended, mental. You hope for the best and prepare for the worst. And while I sit there and wait for results, I wonder if we’re going to have to do any more treatment, or if there will even be that choice. But if there’s a certain mistake I made was obsessing too much about this when it all started (I can’t say I’ve fully turned it off, I always still bring an MRI CD home and look through as it if I know how to read it; I also show it to Kiana who just thinks it's kind of cool) so I schedule things before, after during the days to feel normal so that there’s someone to share the worry with, someone to share the appointment with, someone to share possible disappointment and/or celebration with. I think even some of the people who I am a gigantic fan of, the people who in the moments I’m with them feeling overwhelmed, somehow being in their presence is when I remember to breathe, would tell you that some of the things I say and don’t say in person or electronically show a rather stressed out dude. But I am lucky enough to have good people who can see through that.
I sit there and try to think happy thoughts but when I’m wearing a medical outfit waiting the only one I could think of was well at least I’ll win the ugly sweater party. And as I ran home Monday from the MRI, intending for 2 miles and ended up with 4, I stuck my ipod where they’d gone in with a needle. The day, like any day, had some speed bumps that weren't on my radar that had nothing to do with cancer. Luckily, most of the day was time with good people, and decorating a Christmas tree with Kiana, and using the winnings to go to Thundercloud for a “we won the turkey trot” dinner. And Tuesday, there was lumosity to do, and a kitchen to clean and laundry to do while waiting to go to the doctor.
At the doctor’s, everything was stable. The brain cancer tumor’s still there it hasn’t grown; in the world I live in that’s as good as the news gets. We talked about the Spartan races, the turkey trot and even the beer mile. My resting heart he said was very low (47) but that’s normal for athletes (he used some fancy word for it). He showed me the scans of my brain and pointed at different sections (again he used some fancy words). We talked about the seizures and how because they still aren’t fully controlled that driving won’t happen at least not for a while if not till next summer but we’re going to play with a dosage increase of the current medication (I have a half marathon Sunday so of course I asked if we could start that on Monday. I’m not sure if it was with a smile or a roll of his eyes but he said yes). He always comes across as a pretty calm brave guy, thus appropriately named Valiant. Unsurprisingly, the least pleasant part of seeing my doctor was talking about the legal order that is now in place that within 7 days of an MRI I need to let Kiana’s mother know and that she gets a summary of my treatment, medication changes etc at her expense. I sent her an email after an appointment to make sure I fulfilled the legal requirements and let’s just leave it at that her response appearingly focused mostly on getting information without fulfilling her end of the bargain shows less than appropriate humanity.
Cancer has been too big a factor in my life for too long. And if you think hope is the only 4 letter word I use, you can read about the first month I didn’t have an appointment (http://pickingupahitchhiker.blogspot.com/2012/11/thank-god-and-fuck-yeah.html) in November of 2012. But assuming nothing drastic happens soon, the appointments keep getting further apart. The first time it was 2 months, then 3 months and now the next one isn’t scheduled until April so while it’s really 3 months without appointments it’s 4 months between them. Appropriately enough in the middle of the celebration, I got some cool pictures of the New York Voices Against Brain Cancer race Kiana and I went to, the privilege of the only race we’ve ever done outside of the Lone Star State.
So I went home, and hung out with a friend, and walked the dog, and took Kiana to the school book fair, and did a track workout, and went to a holiday party for a place I volunteer at, and was amused at the huge range of facebook responses about the fact that everything was stable and that we’d be increasing medications (they ranged from praises to God to that I should start dating to asking about my next race to eating different to lower my blood pressure, all of which were thought about and considered).
Maybe the last two days was just a drill that we’ll have to do occasionally until/unless the shooter of electricity in my head shows up, or till the fire grows. Drills aren’t fun; they’re not meant to be. But I hope that with each of these drills, I’ve gotten at least a little better at handling it. And I dream that if there comes a time when it’s not a drill anymore and the tests are the emergency that the way I deal with the days before the medical stuff, the days of, and the days after are worthy of something good. Because good things, good people are the values that I hope Kiana and I have drilled into each the best and most often