Sunday, November 23, 2014

Tests and Star Throwers

I've always been an organized guy but back when the brain was that of a kid who made good grades, it was almost entirely kept in my head. Even when I worked a legal docket, I kept no reminders anywhere. One brain surgery and some memory deficits later, a lot of it has become dependent on paper and reminders etc. The things I used to run through in my head a few years ago are now performed far more formally (an example is I didn't get a smart phone till after brain surgery had
made me dumber and I used to keep no calendars up as reminders and now there are 4 in my kitchen alone all of which are also reflected on my phone).

So early each which week on Sunday or Monday, I sit and look through the next two weeks worth of commitments, plans, dreams etc. I used to do just one week but due to some oversights and some costly consequences, I look a little further out in advance (but shh officially my motto is still one day at a time, I get tired when I do two). As I sat here and looked at the next two weeks this morning, the thing that glared the most out of the calendar was the MRI a week from Friday. It got moved up a few weeks for a variety of reasons but let's just say it's times like these that I miss the world of academia where there were tests I could study for.

I've been part of the young and strong club, a young adult cancer survivor's group where compared to most people I actually feel like a geezer. There were people in there who had to drop out of college and move in friends or family to be able to take treatment seriously or handle the finances of it all. Some have gone back and even changed their focus or degree in light of the circumstances. There have been others who had to focus an intense amount on school if they were going to take treatment seriously. And still others who when they finished treatment remembered that college was easier or harder than chemo or medical tests. (Actually interestingly enough I learned that if you have cancer for academic purpose it counts as a learning disability). Still, me personally, I just wish there was someway to study for this MRI.

There are different ways of dealing with anxiety, with the things that overwhelm us because there's no possible way to have control. Last night, Austin had one of the biggest thunderstorms I've ever seen. 
Unfortunately no one was home for my puppy and unlike anything she's ever done before, she
destroyed a bedroom trying to find some comfort. She received and will receive no consequences for this but I felt bad that there was nothing I could do about the thunderstorm. But far worse, far worse I felt bad I wasn't home to be there for her. There's no rational way to explain to a dog that you care and that even if you can't stop the storm, you'll hold her through it. Let's just say she's getting a lot of love and attention today.

And so as I head to the MRI a week from Friday, I literally highlighted other things on the calendar, all the things that I believe will be positive. There is a Thanksgiving dinner at my church tonight. There are the only two races I've managed to defend the title of ever, the Turkey Trot Stroller Division and the Austin Beer Mile. (No promises that I'll threepeat on either of them but you better believe I'll be trying). There are two Cowboys games this week but those are stressful in their own way and I have about the same amount of same and a little less emotion as to how my MRI goes. Then the day after the MRI Kiana is running her own two mile race through the Austin Trail of Lights, our first nighttime race. And the day after that I am running the Decker Challenge half marathon with a stroller, the only race in Austin and certainly it's hardest half that I haven't done with Kiana since this all started.

It was a coincidence that I was training for a marathon when this all started; it began after the first time I ever   
finished fastest out of our group workout and the next day I was in an ambulance and in
the hospital. I would joke that obviously running fast causes cancer. One year to the date of the brain surgery, a few days after I'd placed in a marathon, I'd once again wake up in an ambulance this time while I was in the middle of a 10 mile run, after a few races which had been PR's at the time. Let's just say I got that joke out of my vocabulary. But coincidentally, the universe was kind enough to show me both what worked as therapy, running and what I dramatically needed to improve (sharing the emotions and the humanity rather than trying to protect everyone from it

So I'll sit and try to have some good times in running and life as the MRI gets nearer to think about it less. A doctor friend joked to me that it's one of those times where you're hoping there really isn't something in your brain; I doubt the tumor will be gone just hoping it hasn't grown so the joke I make is that I just hope I've been using it enough to where it hasn't gotten more rusty. There's quite no way to completely shake off that if it goes well, there will be no medical appointments for a while and if it doesn't there will be quite a few and if that's a multiple choice test, which one would you pick. Good friends, good people try to find their own ways to comfort you. They say they're praying for you or sending positive vibes (perhaps one of my favorite smart aleck remarks I ever made was a friend who said to me, I don't pray very often but I'm praying for you and I responded with "whoa, don't be asking strangers for favors). Anyone who knows me well that I've never once prayed to beat cancer and never will but actually the last few days I've been praying something about my MRI that probably most people who pray regularly wouldn't approve of but hey I'm not talking to them anyway. But with that said, I'm neither going to ask people to pray nor tell them not to (I get the feeling they wouldn't take the direction either way)

I sat at a church program where people shared what they were thankful for. I've said it multiple times but 2014 is the best year of my life period. And yes it has to do with medical stability and less appointments, and yes it has to do with PR's in every single distance, but those are minor elements compared to what I believe has helped cause those. It has been to me the fact that good people have been there and I hope I've been there for them. Some have been for limited moments of interaction, some were here from years ago and will be there I think as long as we have breath. Some are just
entering the picture and I dare dream we'll be painting on each other's canvases as long as we can. Sometimes it's just being there for them with things like letting my face pretend like it has a mustache in support of Movemeber... If anyone ever doubted I was a good sport about having cancer that should answer it. I was at a place where I had to nickname it and probably the end of the beer mile is the only time you could get me to share the name. Two people who said this facial hair shows why I'd never make it in porn and started then deciding what outfit I would wear if I had... I felt very awkward.

Speaking of outfits, when Kiana dressed as a ninja for Halloween, I joked with her that it's better to throw stars than wish upon them. A friend remarked the old story of the little boy who after a storm, probably like the one that scared puppy last night, that boy was walking on the beach throwing starfish back in the ocean. An old cranky man passed by and asked him if he really thought he was making a difference with hundreds if not dozens of those stars stranded on the beach. The little boy aptly replied as he threw one more in, "it made a difference to that one."

I've shared the story of Job before a while back ( While I am nowhere near the same level on either, he was a guy who had a series of great and bad events happened to him and tried to make sense of it in the construct of how the entire universe ran. When he was confused during the bad events, some friends showed up and while they have been criticized by many for saying dumb things, I give them credit (and believe Job did too) for showing up and just sitting with him in quiet some of the time and venting their views back and forth in the senselessness they perceived in each other or happenstance. But one of my favorite aspects of the story is just simply they were there perhaps more aptly put in the quote: In prosperity, our friends know us; in adversity, we know our friends”.

My holiday cards are almost done and from people who were there long before cancer to doctors to people
I met relatively recently, those are the people I've been trying to say thank you to for being there and for letting me be there. Some were there for a good walk, or a good meal, some were there during MRI's and medical appointments. The MRI is loud and obnoxious and probably feels like the thunderstorm did to puppy. Luckily I have (or hope I do) some reason to deal with it better by
running. Still, I've appreciated the people who were there for medical things and those who when they couldn't be there because of distance or scheduling found a way to still show they care (I haven't quite figured out an appropriate way to apologize to puppy for not being there during her storm last night).

And so while in simple frankness, with their presence or their prayers or their positive vibes, for me especially when they shared that with me, I don't know how much of a difference it actually makes in how those "I can't study for tests will go" but those star throwers make a difference to me.

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