2019

This past year I haven’t written as many blog posts because I feel that I’ve been doing well and I think people will get tired of reading about the same thing.  I don’t consider myself a writer. Actually, English class and any writing class were my worst subjects in school. I created this blog to get information out to everyone about my health and to receive support during my cancer journey.  I know that in order to get support, I need to be open and vulnerable, so I try to put my thoughts and feelings out to the world. At some point along the way, this blog became therapeutic for me. I do plan on writing more this year. It is a good format for journaling that I also use for reflection. So on to my update.

I’m doing well and I’m feeling thankful.  My recent brain MRI and body CT scan came back clear of cancer.  I will be having a colonoscopy later this month and I will need to be off chemo for a total of 8 weeks (6 weeks prior to the procedure and 2 weeks after the procedure).  I’m feeling thankful for another round of clear scans. Part of me is looking forward to being off of chemo for 8 weeks because my hands and feet need a break. However, there will probably be a spike in my scan-xiety for the next round of scans due to being off chemo.

I’m healthy and feeling good, but I have experienced some loss.  Recently, Frank Gibson Jr., the owner of the practice where I work, passed away from cancer.  He had been suffering for awhile and I am relieved he is no longer suffering. Almost six years ago I left my job at Hopkins and joined his private practice.  During that time, he became one of the most important people in my life.

When job searching, I happened to come across and apply to this rinky-dink two-sentence ad on some job website.  I applied out of frustration after my salary negotiation with Hopkins wasn’t what I expected it to be. The act of applying was more of a reaction than actually seeking a new job.  I faxed my resume and I didn’t think anything of it. I didn’t send out any other resumes because I enjoyed who I worked with at Hopkins and didn’t want to leave my clinic. I don’t remember when I heard back from him, but I remember going to the interview to learn about the job.  Most of the job interviews I’ve experienced have been cold and focused on information gathering with both sides judging one another. This one was different. Early on in the interview, I noticed Frank stopped judging me, at which point, I knew he liked me. I accepted the position right then and there.  I knew it would be a good match.

I planned on working with Frank for 3-5 years, learning the ropes of the private side, and then moving on to start my own practice.  It took some time to adjust to private practice. There is a big difference between working for yourself in a private clinic versus working for an academia/hospital clinics, which had been my experience up to now.  I was excited to be there and I wanted to work as many hours as I could. I felt very comfortable working there. My caseload was full, Frank and I would badger each other over our baseball teams. He loved the Baltimore Orioles and I am a Tampa Bay Rays fan.  Oftentimes, we would commiserate on our distaste for the Yankees and Red Sox. About three months into my time working there, I vividly remember talking to Frank in our kitchen area about an upcoming colonoscopy. I was sure it was nothing, but I recall his facial expression was of concern.  

You know the results of my colonoscopy.  This is when our friendship became even stronger and I knew he cared about me as a person.  I don’t know how many work days I missed, but I know it was more than the FMLA-allotted 12 weeks.  If I were still at Hopkins, I would have been let go because of absences from work due to my disease.  As a result, I would have had to go on disability, which would have been difficult because I find tremendous personal value in my work.  Fortunately, I worked for Frank and he allowed me to manage my treatment and work when I could. For example, during those first two years, I was going to the hospital at least three times a week.  Additionally, I had numerous surgeries and procedures that kept me out of work for weeks at a time. During this time, despite contributing less to the practice, Frank gave me a pay raise. I have never heard of any instance when a person gets a raise because of cancer.  I believe he saved me because his actions allowed me to continue to do what I love. My family and I are forever grateful for his generosity.

I always told him I appreciated him and what he did for me and my family.  This would always make him feel uncomfortable. He was the type of individual who couldn’t take compliments.  With each compliment I gave, he would remind me he wasn’t nice and that he was a “son of a bitch”. This was our catchphrase and from then on, we would always end our conversations by calling him an S.O.B.

Frank was the one who connected me to Cardinal Stafford.  Frank was raised Catholic but had stopped going to church.  Growing up, he attended Catholic school and would often get into trouble at school.  He once told me, during a visit to the principal’s office, he and his father met with the principal and a priest named James Francis Stafford.  When I was diagnosed, he contacted Cardinal Stafford and told him about me.

At some point, Frank told me he began to pray again.  He said he would pray for God to take away my cancer and give it to him.  He said he lived a good life and was able to see his children grow up and be parents themselves.  On the day of my first clear scan, I called Frank and told him of my miracle. He was elated. I was going on a trip and I told him we would catch up and celebrate when I returned.  I spoke with Frank on the way back from the airport to discuss a plan to celebrate. He then told me, on the day I learned my scan was clear, he was diagnosed with Stage IV lymphoma. I was in shock.  I didn’t know what to say.

Then a new connection and bond began, having Stage IV cancer.  We would talk about treatments and we would flex our arm muscles in gesture to show cancer we were strong S.O.Bs.  His cancer was aggressive and his treatment was exhausting. He would say, “I just want to make it to my 70th birthday.”  And that became the goal. He accomplished that goal and continued to push through with his treatments. The more treatments he received, the less I saw him.  He told me he started going to church more, and I joked with him about lightning striking him when he walked in the door. He made it to his 71st and 72nd birthday.  He made it through this most recent Christmas and passed away peacefully on December 27th, surrounded by his family and friends.

When I say things happen for a reason.  I do not know why they do. But it is clear to me everything in my life lined-up for a reason.  I was supposed to apply to this ridiculous ad on some job posting site to connect me to Frank. He took care of me when I needed it the most in my life and he connected me to the Cardinal, who helped me open my eyes to Christ.   

Enjoy playing golf with your dad with Penny by your side.  

Thank you and I love you…you son of a bitch.

 

 

Over Christmas break we went to Florida to visit Janie’s mom, brother and Aunt.  On the way back we stopped by Disney and my aunt and uncle in Georgia.  We had a great break.

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Katie and Anabel at the Magic Kingdom

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Janie and I… and photo bombers.  Yes, there is some gray in the beard.  

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Oma and the girls.  Happy birthday Oma.

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Girls enjoying the beach at sunset.

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