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For first time readers...my journey begins here: THE VERY FIRST BLOG POST (CC1)

Meaning of life

"The meaning of life is to find your gift. The purpose of life is to give it away." ~ Pablo Picasso

Saturday, August 11, 2007

The Cancer Chronicles 6


On my way to the airport for my flight home I receive a voice mail message from Dr. Schmidt's assistant. He wanted to make sure we are still on for surgery at UCSF. I return the call only to get his voice mail. Indeed I am still interested in surgery, but need to get the biopsy pathology back from the tonsillectomy to make sure that is the right direction to take. Tag, you're it!

The next Monday I have another message, again asking the same question. Again I return the call to his voice mail. Yes! We are still on for surgery! Late Tuesday evening I find a voicemail message from Dr. Schmidt himself stating, "I'm sorry to cancel your surgery date but we have priority patients waiting." WHAT??? I called him back and I'm enraged! I get his voicemail.(See the problem here?)You gave my surgery date away? WHY? I left messages with your assistant! This is my life you're messing with! Why would you do that? Not even, "You have two days to make up you mind," just BAM, you're cancelled!?

I find on Wednesday that the pathology report on my tonsils came back negative. Now ain't that a pisser? The tonsils didn't have to come out and now I don't have a surgery date when surgery is indeed the resolve for my tongue cancer!

The phone rings, it's Dr. Schmidt, he's sorry for the mix up and insists MD Anderson will take good care of me. I'm still not happy and express it and he understands. Why do you just cancel something so important without warning? I don't even have a surgery date now!

I call Dr. Clayman's assistant and explain my dilemma and that the pain is getting to the point its unmanageable even with pain meds. He has me on the roster within weeks. A new date is dawning!

My Time Is At Hand

Well my friends, this is it!!!

Four months later I'm back in Houston. I was in a hotel for a few days while Catholic Charities looked for housing for me. Back at The Grand Plaza for that free breakfast! Remember, not just coffee and donuts! I'm talking grits, sausage gravy with biscuits, fresh fruit, hash potatoes, fresh juices, and personally made omelets! YUM!

When I went to the front desk to get my breakfast coupon, the lady asked when I was having my surgery, I told her Tuesday. She asked if it was a big or a little surgery. I told her BIG! She handed me my coupon and said, "If you need any blood, just let me know." HUH???? Pardon me? What did you say??? She repeated, "If you need any blood, just let me know." Did you say BLOOD??? She said, "Yes, I'm a universal donor and I would be happy to help you if needed." I couldn't believe my ears. A perfect stranger was offering to be my blood donor! OK the love I'm surrounded with and the people I'm meeting have gone to a whole new level!!!!

Sometimes I get the feeling I'm living in a black hole on the edge of the twilight zone. People like this really exist and they're coming out of the woodwork lately!

The people I've met on this journey and the things I have been faced with have been very inspiring. On the way to my first visit I met a flight attendant named Debbie. I've never felt so much love from a stranger.

While waiting for my flight, I sit next to two flight attendants. They began conversing about tongue cancer, an article one was reading in the newspaper. How ironic! Well...I couldn't help but butt in. I explain that I have tongue cancer. Debbie, one of the flight attendants was so interested and concerned, we began to chat. It was like I had known her all my life. We chatted until it was time to board.

Once aboard I was seated in the bulkhead in first class. Debbie was the senior flight attendant in charge of the first class cabin. I felt like I was her only passenger. The seat next to me was empty. So, she sat next to me the whole flight only taking time away to serve a meal and drinks. We chatted about her kids, her dog, my dog, my cancer, her job, my old job. We talked of my writing my book and lyrics. It was like catching up with an old friend you haven't seen for years. I can't explain how close I felt and how loving she was. It was something I've never felt from a stranger before. I had a draft copy of the first 50 pages of my book, she read through it and said, "More!" I just smiled. I read her some lyrics as she listened and smiled lovingly.

When the plane touched down, she left my side to ready the cabin and give her arrival announcement. I was the first to disembark. I held out my hand to say thank you. She grabbed it tight, pulled me in so close, and hugged me so deeply, pressing her cheek to mine and whispered in my ear some very kind and loving words along with, "You have a very special gift to share, with an amazing heart. Keep on writing." My eyes welled up. It felt like we hugged for 10 minutes, but I know it was less.

I didn’t want her embrace to end, but I felt the hot breath of the passengers behind me like cattle ready to stampede. In my mind I could hear, “Let’s go buddy, I ain’t got all day…move it!!!” As I stepped that first foot off the plane it dawned on me, this person that felt like my very best friend, I was never to see again. There was a sadness and a peace at the very same time. Something inside me said, "This is the way it's suppose to be. Embrace it and move on."

When I arrived home I was able to complete a lyric I was composing but hadn't yet finished. I thought it to be one of my best so far. It brought me great peace. Angels are with me, there is no doubt. The lyric is about angels and Debbie was one of them. I will post that lyric here soon.

On yet another flight, I was scheduled to be in coach, but was bumped to first class. Don't you just hate when that happens??? No reason was given. I planned on resting during this flight, I was exhausted, but that was not to be.

I was seated next to a man named Darrell, a Pastor of The Pilgrim Branch Bible Church in Houston. We chatted and shared stories, just like old buddies. I told him mine, he told me of his calling and how he didn't want to be a 5th generation pastor, but God would not take no for an answer. He told me I filled him with the Lord and I inspired him. We had such a wonderful conversation I didn't want the plane to land.

Within days I received this wonderful email from Darrell that I want to share. I was overwhelmed by his kind words.


You strong and Mighty Man.

I am now at the same place we first met IAH. My word of encouragement comes today from the fact that you have helped me to be stronger. I am not blowing you smoke, knowing what and how you have dealt with the issues of life helped me to see the bigger picture. The Bible tells us to be careful how we entertain strangers for some have entertained angels unaware. You have been an angel for me sharing the fact that in life we must deal with our hand. My prayer is that the new language that you will develop will allow to speak with a greater appreciation of hearing. I say this because in your moments of silence when talking would have occurred, you will be able to reflect and offer words of grace. Your time is at hand as it has been everyday every moment until now but know that if you ask God he will go with you for now and until the end of time. Thank you for sharing the words, but moreover thank you for being my angel.

Your Brother

On Tuesday they remove the cancer from the tongue. It's a big surgery, 10 1/2 hours. They will remove almost 1/2 the tongue. The cancer has grown and causes excruciating pain. Lot's of wonderful drugs help! A neck dissection will be performed to remove lymph nodes to see if the cancer has spread. They cut from the ear to the center of the throat. I also will need a tracheotomy to breath. They will then remove donor skin from either wrist or thigh to replace what they have removed from my mouth. They call this a flap and will help the remaining tongue to function more effectively.

There is a chance I might not have intelligible speech...hold your jokes! Swallowing and eating will be difficult and I will lose some arm function temporarily due to the neck dissection. The plan is to place a nasal feeding tube to help maintain my nutrition while I recover.

Two days away and my world will change forever. Am I ready? NEVER! Am I scared? HELL YES! Does this have to be done? THERE IS NO DOUBT!



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Words To Live By:

"The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in the service to others." -Mahatma Gandhi