Archive for April, 2010

Support Groups

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I don’t join groups.  At work, I thrive on grouping, but in social situations,  I fare much better one-on-one.  So when I got cancer, I didn’t go looking for a support group, I reached out instinctively to my friend.

I found the tumor myself, in the shower.  I dried off and reached for the phone, at the same time.  There was no question in my mind, the only person I wanted to talk to was Lisa.  I’ve looked up to her and loved her since I was 15 years old, and she’s never not been there for me.  That’s the support I needed.  That’s the degree of love and commitment all of us need when we’re looking death in the teeth.

Maybe I’m wrong, but I believe everybody has at least one Lisa in his or her life.  It’s the first person we think of, in an emergency.  It’s not the person we’re supposed to reach out to, it’s the one we can’t stop ourselves from reaching for.

I envy anyone who can plunge into a group and get sustenance, with all those people looking on.  It’s so intimate an experience that I’m not comfortable with an audience.  So I support the all the support groups out there, with all my heart.  But from a distance.

Bet you didn’t see this one coming

Monday, April 12th, 2010

I had another life, and music was a big part of it.  Over the weekend, I watched the entire 25th Anniversary Rock and Roll Hall of Fame show on HBO.  (I think that’s the name, but y’know how things can get muddled.)  Most of my friends from that era are either dead, like Clarence Paul, or like Harvey Fuqua, they mysteriously vanish for periods of time, then reappear and say something like “What’s the big deal, I was right here.  Where were You?!!”  Since none of the people I would ordinarily have called are still “with us”, I’m throwing this out there.  If anyone has any comments, bring it:

Kuddos to Jann Wenner.  He’s not one of my favorite people – I watched him make a complete ass of himself backstage at the R&R Hall of Fame induction in 2000, when a guard wouldn’t let him through without a pass. (“Do you know who I am?”) But apparently he’s a very talented ass.

Wenner’s is the first name you see on the credits at the end of the show, and since the buck stops at the top, he gets a disproportionate amount of the credit — mainly because the list of names after Wenner went by too fast for me to read.  But I bet it contained every music maven in the the business.

The whole freakin’ show, including the way it was put together, was great.  And everybody looked thin, even Stevie.  (Okay, he wasn’t thin, but he wasn’t huge.)

I’m hitting just the highlights here:

Bonnie Raitt.  She killed!  She gets better as she gets older.  Would that that was true for everyone…

Stevie.  Here’s some background: in the old days of Motown, nobody wanted to follow Stevie on the stage, because he was just too powerful.  He left the audience drained, but in a good way.  And he took great pleasure in kicking ass onstage, partly to please the folks, but also to  dare anyone who followed him to upstage him.  So when Stevie’s segment started, I kind of expected him to phone it in, like he generally does these days.  Not this time.  He was fanTAStic!  And then he handed the mike to Smokey, with a big grin on his face that said, “Follow that!”  Smokey was good, but I bet he was thinking that was the last time he’d get on a stage after Stevie.

I’m not a fan of some of the acts on the show, but they fit the occasion.  Mick was great, as usual.  And who was that woman who sang the duet with him on “Gimmie Shelter?”  Someone thought it was Alicia Keyes.  Whoever she was, she was smokin’.

Jerry Lee Lewis, still amazing.  Sam Moore, nice to see him still hitting those notes.  Springsteen.  That man gives 150% to everything he does.  I didn’t listen to much rock and roll in the past, but now that rhythm and blues has been pulled under the R&R umbrella, I’m newly appreciating a lot of the music I never really got to hear before.  Better late than never.

The best thing was that everybody on the show could actually sing.  I wonder how much of the singing was cleaned up in the studio, because there were no mistakes, no bad notes, and that doesn’t usually happen in a show.  But those singers have chops.  Not like the so-called singers that come out of the studios these day, extruded like sausages, unable to do a live show if their career depended on it.

If anybody out there saw the show and has something to say, say it here.

Denial ain’t so bad…

Wednesday, April 7th, 2010

Kathy LaTour, an editor at Cure Magazine, blogged recently about a story in The New York Times about a doctor who headed up a palliative care unit at a major healthcare facility, advising patients about their options, when they’re at the end of their options.  When the doctor in her realized she was dying, she went into complete denial.  I think I remember reading that she even knew she was doing it, and that was fine with her.

Reading that story was an “Aha!” moment for me.  That same degree of denial is, to a great extent, the reason I’m doing so well.  It’ll be five years in July that while taking a shower, I noticed my breast had a big dent in it; I knew I had cancer.  I was Stage 4, metastatic, with REALLY bad odds attached.  But I never had a single doubt that I was going to beat The Bastard.  I was so mad I didn’t have room for any other emotion.

Anger seems to have served me well.  I took a PET/CT this week, and I’m clean.

And I don’t think it’s coming back, either.  That’s what’s known as classic denial in the world of medicine, where statistics forecast how long we’re scheduled to live after diagnosis.

What that doctor did when The Bastard really put the grab on her, has given me a template for my future.  She showed me it can be done, you can keep going all the way until you can’t go another step.  You know on some level you’re dying, but you refuse to stop living, even adding more and more into your life — and all the while, fighting the fight of your life.

She drained every drop she could from life, before she let go.  I don’t know if you can consider a dead person a mentor, but I bow to her.  I’ve only known one person like that.  His name was Neil, and he was the love of my life.

Facebook and MySpace

Friday, April 2nd, 2010

I’m a marketing person, I know the value of the social sites.  They connect people and, occasionally, ideas.  Still, it’s a personal choice of mine to spend as little time there, as possible.  Not saying they’re bad or good, this isn’t a value judgment.  I’m just very easily bored.  (Good thing there was no ADHD diagnosis when I was growing up, or I’d have been on every activity-moderating drug known to medicine.)

It bores me to know what everybody’s doing.  It requires reading really bad writing, to find out things I don’t really want to know.  And since I love to read good writing and my life is interesting enough, spending time in front of a screen has to have a pay-off.

If this turns into a universe for patients to get information about, or related to chemo, that they need – if everyone who blogs here with me starts adding their experiences and widening the range of information, that’s the payoff, the satisfaction I’ll get for helping people get through a difficult time in their lives.

I’m linking the blog with my Facebook and MySpace accounts in hopes that something will come of it that ISN’T boring.  Something that advances patients’ ability the access to information, for example.  You guys out there bringing your experiences to the table – that’s interesting.  This isn’t about me, it’s about us.

Meanwhile, if you want to find me, I’m here, not there…

Test time

Thursday, April 1st, 2010

The anxiety hasn’t kicked in yet, but I am thinking about it.  Next week, at pretty much exactly this time, the Pet/CT will be done and the results will have been sent to my oncologist.  (Funny, the bi-monthly blood tests don’t elicit the smallest measure of concern – even though cancer, mine anyway, probably shows it’s symptoms in the blood before the PET/CT picks it up.)  

The anxiety is still a few days away.  And from what I understand, it never, NEVER goes away completely.  My ex-sister-in-law had thyroid cancer 38 years ago.  It was treated successfully, there was never a reoccurrence.  And yet, every year when she goes to her doctor for the thyroid checkup, she thinks “What if?…”

It would be an act of total denial of the whole experience, if we didn’t get at least a little nervous.  From the time we hear “You’ve got…”, we know beyond a shadow of a doubt that life really does end.  Death isn’t theoretical anymore, it flashed it’s presence in real time – and we can avoid the issue all we want, but we can’t deny we saw it.

We lived to see it, is the point.  It’s still far enough down the road that we can push it to the back burner of our lives.  I’ve done that.  So on the almost-fifth-anniversary of my stage 4 diagnosis, I can’t help smile as I write this, because I have never felt better in my life.

And I’m old, to boot.  Go figure.