If you know me, I'm not the kind of man that sits around and lets time pass without doing something. I would much rather be creating something or boarding a plane, flying off to somewhere. I have things to do, but even if I do not, I still hop on a plane.
My first week of chemotherapy and radiation this week have challenged me in so many different ways, but in general, receiving chemotherapy is like intentionally getting the flu. I recommend against it. Vehemently. The best way to describe it is like how you would feel the morning after losing a title fight. Lead bags of weight hanging from every muscle, every limb. Every movement feels restrictive and heavy.
The good news is, I have now completed the first of my three heavy chemo doses and the first five of my thirty radiation doses.
Radiation is a lot like laying in the sun. You do not notice anything while you are "baking" in the rays, but you notice the effects later. My anterior neck is already stiffening in defiance against being attacked.
Yesterday was my fifth treatment at RadiantCare in Lacey, Washington. I handed my iPhone in camera mode to the tech and asked her if she could document my treatment for you all. She smiled and started snapping photos right away.
Once I take my shirt and glasses off and lay onto the narrow table, they "snap" my hard-plastic mesh face/shoulder mold down, bolting me into position. Once it is fastened, you cannot really move.
I think daily about the many blessings I have in my life, even when it is hard. These past few days, I've been frustrated that my morning coffee tastes bad from the chemo, I feel queezy most of the time and my food tastes like flavored cardboard. And then I met "Tony" yesterday in the waiting room.
Tony is a strong, athletic man in his late thirties. He's got a big smile, when he unleashes it, but it has been a hard road for him as he is was about to receive his 38th out of 40 radiation treatments. Tony had his right leg removed at the hip and has to hop with a walker. Like myself, he has Group Health for his insurance company. I need to be careful here because this blog is read by many people, including health professionals, but Tony's story made me realize how blessed I am.
Months ago, Tony was diagnosed with a tumor, about an inch in diameter, in his right leg. It literally took 3-months for the insurance company to provide approval for his surgery. When he was finally allowed to have it removed, it had grown to 10lbs in size. It was so invasive, his leg had to be amputated to save his life. I'm complaining about "cardboard" food and a tongue that doesn't work the way I want it to. Tony lost a leg. I am a blessed man.
I ache for Tony and the path he is on. The months of recovery and therapy that lie ahead for him. The anger he has to process that came about as a result of bureaucracy that is out of his control. It wasn't Tony's plan to lose a leg. This time last year, he was active, enjoying life. Today, his options have shifted significantly. It reminds me of that poem that reads, "I was sad because I had no shoes until I met a man that had no feet." I went out for a walk this morning to help get the chemo out of my body. Tony doesn't have that luxury anymore, at least not as he once did.
I'm not saying it is easy, but regardless of what is happening in your life, the needs that are not being met, the shortcomings of what you had hoped for, unmet expectations, you are still blessed. I think it is when we are thankful in our hearts for what we have that change is able to flow and our hearts melt for others rather than harden.
The Bible verse I learned as a child in Sunday school, Philippians 4:6, didn't mean much to me back then. But it does now. We always seem to "ask for" and "want more", stressing about our lack before we count the blessings that we do have...
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God."
I am thankful. For so very much.
~Robert B. Haase,
A Blessed Man