My Patriots’ Day

 

For several years my cousin has been trying to get me to go to the Red Sox game on Patriots’ Day.  Each year I would say no because of work.  Since my diagnosis, I realize that spending time with family and friends is important.  I feel a sense of urgency to spend time with them because I don’t know how many times I have left.  Plus, it didn’t hurt that the Boston Red Sox were playing my favorite team, the Tampa Bay Rays.  In Boston, Patriots’ Day is a state holiday and the city is filled with people that watch the marathon, attend the baseball game and just party.  I drove up to Boston with my brother and sister-in-law.  We decided to drive into the city instead of taking the “T”, the subway line, because using public transportation exposes me to more germs.

my view of the game

my view of the game

 

The day was beautiful and sunny.  I thought the Rays were going to pull out a late win until the Red Sox won on a walk-off.  I could feel the spectators’ excitement and joy upon leaving the stadium.  After the game, my cousin and his friends celebrated the win at a bar.  Tim, Andrea and I went to watch the race.  Our plan was to watch the marathon, make our way to the finish line, then take a cab back to our car.  We were just past the mile 25 mark when we stopped to get drinks at 7-Eleven.  A spot along the route opened up and we were able to squeeze in to watch the runners.  I’ve never been to a marathon and I thought it would be boring to watch people run, especially without knowing them.  The race was surprisingly inspirational.  Many of the runners had their own names written on their shirts or arms.  We cheered them on as they ran.  I noticed several people running for cancer.  I recall seeing a man named Matt whose shirt said “I Beat Cancer”.  In that moment I wanted to be Matt.  It was beautiful and inspiring to see a person beat cancer and run a marathon.  I pictured myself running a marathon and wearing that shirt.  Running a marathon is an amazing accomplishment.  After seeing Matt go by, I became emotional and began cheering on every runner.  At mile 25 I saw the toll the marathon had taken on their bodies and how cheering them on helped.  Another runner stood out, a mother running and pushing her daughter in a jogging wheelchair.  The daughter was disabled and they were running for the Boston Children’s Hospital.

my view of the marathon

my view of the marathon

 

As we finished our drinks, we began walking to the finish line to catch a cab.  We were five blocks from the finish line when the bombs went off.  To me, it sounded like a car backfired.  I didn’t think it was a bomb.  Three girls came towards us crying and holding each other.  They told us there had been a bombing.  Immediately we heard sirens echoing throughout the city.  The sound of sirens continued for hours.

As we walked around the city, we didn’t know how horrific the bombings were.  We heard reports that 12 people were hurt but information was difficult to come by.  No one was able tell us what was going on.  I saw many runners, families and tourists walking around aimlessly not knowing where to go or what to do.  Despite the constant sound of sirens, the city was not in chaos.  The city streets seemed eerily calm.  People weren’t running around frightened.  I look back at that moment and see the city as a city in shock.

We safely made it to our car and learned about how horrendous the incident truly was.  We started thinking of the “what ifs”…what if we didn’t go to 7-Eleven and wait in line for five minutes to buy a drink?  What if we didn’t stay and watch the race for 20 minutes at the 25.5 mile mark?  What if we decided to go to the party at the finish line?  We had invitations to a party at a building in front of where the first bomb went off.  Life is full of “what if” scenarios and I’m very fortunate and grateful that it was just a “what if” scenario for me.  My heart and prayers go out to all of those affected by this senseless act.  I pray for strength and healing for the victims, their families, and the city of Boston.

I’ve learned to appreciate experiences in the moment and not take things for granted.  I can’t guarantee these moments will happen again.  I am never “going through the motions” when I give my wife and kids a hug and kiss.  Instead, I hold onto and cherish those moments.

*The woman and daughter I refer to in this post can be seen in the news video of the race at the site of the first bomb.  They can be seen running on the left side of the screen, almost parallel to the 78 year old man.  It’s surreal to think that I was cheering for them 15 minutes prior.

 

Advertisements

Rocky vs. Drago

After my diagnosis I would Google cancer and kept encountering the word “fight” over and over again.  When I was told I had cancer, I wanted to “fight” from the start but was not ready.  How do you fight something you don’t see or feel?  I first needed to grieve my life as I knew it.  On some mornings I would wake from a dream feeling normal, then my new reality would overcome me and I would experience physical pain.  The pain wasn’t from my cancer, but from an overwhelming sadness.  Then the sadness led to anger.  Anger led to understanding.  Cancer took away my normalcy.  Through my pain, sadness, and anger I learned what to fight for.  I’m fighting to get my life back, and one that’s even better than before.  I’m fighting to be a better husband, father, son, brother and friend.

I saw myself as an underdog in a fight and began to think of an alter ego to channel for inspiration.  Then it hit me…Rocky Balboa, specifically Rocky IV Rocky Balboa.  I remember in second grade going to the movie theater with my neighbor Geoff and his dad.  I sat down in my seat with Whoppers and a Coke.  I thought the movie was awesome.  C’mon you gotta love the scenes with James Brown singing “Living in America” and with Rocky training in the mountains.  Ivan Drago was physically bigger and had all the latest advances in technology and medicine to help him defeat Rocky.  Rocky had the support of his friends and family and a strong will.  My friend Matt began sending me quotes from Rocky IV like this one:

“You’re gonna have to go through hell, worse than any nightmare you’ve ever dreamed.  But when it’s over, I know you’ll be the one standing. You know what you have to do.  Do it.”

And this one:

“So what we’ll be calling on is good ole’ fashion blunt force trauma. Horsepower.  Heavy-duty, cast-iron, pile driving punches that will have to hurt so much they’ll rattle his ancestors.  Every time you hit him with a shot, its gotta feel like he tried kissing the express train.  Yeah!  Let’s start building some hurtin’ bombs!”

Who knew dialogue from Rocky IV was so inspirational?  I gave Matt the nickname Duke after Rocky’s trainer.  Of course Rocky got knocked around pretty good and the numbers predicted that outcome.  But in the end, Rocky was the last one standing…and I will be too.

While I was in the hospital, a priest came into my room.  The priest introduced himself as Father Roque (pronounced Rocky).  I instantly began laughing and crying.  He had a confused expression on his face and I explained how Rocky was my inspiration.  We talked and prayed together.  Once he left, Janie joined me and I told her and we laughed and talked about how we are witnessing so many blessings and positive signs.  To this day I still keep in touch with Father Roque.

A Sunny Day in Baltimore

 

Last time I met with this oncologist she explained that my cancerous nodules, or tumors, could possibly be like snowflakes in a blizzard and that we wouldn’t know if I had a cancer blizzard going on inside me until my two-month scan.  That scan was today.

The hardest part of a scan is lying in bed the night before with racing thoughts about the next day.  All week I was feeling positive about the scan but last night I began having thoughts like…is my life going to be turned upside down again…is the chemo working.  All of those thoughts were questioning things outside of my control.  That is the most frustrating thing about all of this…I have no control.  What I can control are my thoughts, behaviors/actions, and feelings…and right now I’m feeling pretty good.

I learned the tumors are shrinking.  The three in my right lung have shrunk by roughly 25% and the one in my left lung was not detectable by the CT scan.  This is excellent news, but I’m far from being out of the woods.  I still don’t know if I’m able to have surgery to remove the nodules in my lungs because they are spread throughout and not clustered together.  And even though the nodule in my left lung was not detected, the area where it originally was would still need to be surgically removed.  So it comes down to the question of how much…how much of my lungs could be removed and still be able to function.  If I can’t have surgery on my lungs then I will be on chemo for the rest of my life.  But today is a good day.

My family and I are so grateful to all of you for your constant prayers and positive thoughts.  They make each day easier.

my doctor and I after the good news

my doctor and I after the good news

Good Memories, Better Friends

my medical entourage

my medical entourage

The best pain to experience is chest pain from laughing so hard that you can’t catch your breath. I recently spent a weekend with old friends reminiscing about the past and laughing. I think retelling stories with friends is better than the actual event itself. It seems the stories become funnier over time no matter how many retellings. After spending time with my friends, Gerrit Benson, Joe Young, and Matt Leslie, and reliving stories of our past, I appreciate the memories more than the moments. Most of the stories weren’t shining moments of my life (my daughter Katie needed to cover her ears most of the weekend), however, they were definitely memorable and definitely funny. One of the best things about spending the weekend with them is seeing that they have not changed since junior high. Gerrit is Gerrit, Joe is Joe, and Matt is Matt. With my life ever changing, I love it that they are constant and dependable. I rely on my friends being who they are because that’s what made us friends in the first place. Tough times aren’t so tough when they’re around.

%d bloggers like this: