The Streak Continues

In April I had another clear scan!  My treatment will remain the same- chemo infusion once every three weeks and oral chemo daily for two weeks.  For the first time, my oncologist used the word “amazing” to describe my situation. I’ve been seeing him for over five years now and he has never described my situation that way.  At my recent visit, we reminisced about our journey together.  He told me how he remembered walking into my hospital room for the first time.  I was taken back by that because it was his weekend of rounds at the hospital and I know he saw many patients that day.  Here is a guy who has seen hundreds of patients over the past five years, and he specifically remembers meeting me for the first time and in which room.  I’m a pretty good guy, but I’m not really that impressionable of a person. It just reaffirms my belief that we were supposed to cross paths. I know I wouldn’t be where I am today if he wasn’t involved in my life.  

Hearing him say my scenario was “amazing” reaffirmed my understanding of how my experience is unique.  At my brain scan appointment in January, my brain radiation oncologist went out of his way to bring a resident in to meet me.  He told me he wanted to show her a positive story of someone who has had cancer metastasized to the brain. I knew I always wanted to inspire hope for others in my situation but I never thought of providing assurance and hope to doctors.  I know my story is rare and I thank God everyday my story has gone this way. ( In case my morning is rushed and I’m in a whirlwind, I actually have an alarm set for 8AM every morning that reminds me to praise God and thank God)  

Good news comes with some sadness.  In April, we had my grandmother’s interment.  My grandmother lived to be 94 years old and she was fortunate to have a sharp mind to the end.  My relationship with my grandmother blossomed when I moved to Maryland nine years ago. We moved in with her when we moved up from Tampa.  I thought we would be able to help her out (she was 83 years old at the time), while she helped us out with a place to stay. I quickly learned she needed no help whatsoever and she ended up helping us more than we ever helped her.  We eventually moved out and bought a house across the field from her house.

After my colonoscopy, my grandmother was the first person I told.  My parents were on vacation and I didn’t want to burden them. I felt I needed to tell someone so we stopped by her house before going home.  She was the matriarch of our family and she could tell other family members because I have a large extended family. I still remember telling her I had cancer and in the same sentence telling her not to worry because I was young and this wouldn’t be a problem.  I remember being ignorantly confident about beating cancer. I also remember having a lot of nervous energy and I was trying to act normal but I couldn’t sit still. I tried sitting down to work on a jigsaw puzzle (which I always did there), but I couldn’t sit down.  My brain was flooded with thoughts.

When my chemo treatments weren’t working and I was running out of treatment options , my grandmother and I became closer.  We had a new bond that isn’t too common in grandparent-grandchild relationships…thinking about dying. At that time, she wasn’t in poor health, but she was in her 90’s and realized she wasn’t getting any younger. We would often talk about dying and share our thoughts, feelings and beliefs on what happens to people when they die.  Talking about our feelings was a new area for us to cross.

My grandmother was a child of the Depression Era and I never knew her to talk about her own feelings.  Death is often a taboo topic because it addresses our mortality.  Death is the great unknown. We often don’t know when or how we will die, but we know it will happen to all of us. Having discussions about death helped normalize a lot of my thoughts and feelings  As a result, facing death caused my grandmother and me to reflect on our own lives. It was positive for us to talk about our appreciations of our lives and our family.   We would share stories, but I mostly listened to her stories because they were so much better than mine.  I loved hearing her stories about growing up and hearing about what is was like to live in the 30’s and 40’s.  It’s interesting reading about events that happened in history, but it’s better listening to stories of someone who was actually there and lived through it.  She witnessed so many events and changes in our world and country over her 94 years. I can’t imagine what this world will be like when I’m 50, yet alone 94. I will truly miss sitting on her porch listening to her stories and talking about life.

My grandmother was the strongest person I have ever known and she made all of my family stronger.   Her strength inspired me to get through my scary times. Her humor helped me get through the sad times.  I was blessed to have my grandmother in my life for as long as I did.  Recently, I heard this phrase in a homily and it stood out to me, “the grace to cultivate gratitude”.   I believe my grandmother lived her last years cultivating gratitude. I’m striving to live that way.


My grandmother was always the educator.  Here she is reading two books at one time to Katie as a baby.



We had a roasted pig for our annual Preakness/ Katie Bday Party



Got to hang out with my good friend Andrew AKA Team Leader of Operation Coyote.



Girls got to see some of the horses at the Fairhill races.

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