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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

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Cancer Chronicles 34

Part 2

Before I came to Michigan, I mentioned to Craig, if possible, I would love to spend a weekend at the family cottage in Harrisville to decompress and forget the world for a few days. It’s one of those small towns where everybody knows each other and you hope the rest of the world doesn’t find your hidden little gem.

Craig and the family were headed up for the holiday weekend. Craig’s father, Tom was a big Barbershopper and every Labor Day weekend the little town of Harrisville, Michigan (population 514) is taken over by thousands of people participating in a National Jamboree known as Harmony Weekend. There is a grand parade, craft shows, and Barbershop Quartets singing harmonious tags. The event is sponsored by the Society for the Preservation and Encouragement of Barber Shop Quartet Singing in America. I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but I thought it would be a great get away with family/friends.

My mother was stable, but sleeping a lot. She wasn’t eating much, but that’s always part of our struggle. My biggest concern was all the pain medicines she was taking. She LOVES her pain meds, but what they had her taking was criminal in my opinion! Her menu: a Fentanyl patch, 10mg Vicodin, Ultram, Dilaudid, plus Tylenol 4’s for desert! And her doctors wonder why she can’t walk or get out of bed! Can you say, “I’ve fallen and I can’t get up…I can't feel anything…nor do I care!” HOLY SHIT BATMAN! She couldn’t complain if she wanted to!

I had so many people I wanted to see, but very little time to do so. As my week progressed, I found myself at another dinner table. Longtime friends Michael and Deborah invited me for dinner. Deb and I grew up together. She has always been like a sister to me. When I moved to California, Mike and Deb soon followed. Mike’s job relocated him to San Jose. Long story short, Deborah went to work for me as my PA/Office Manager. For over 5 years she helped me manage and grow my business. Without her, my business success would have been minimized. Out of 3 children, their youngest son, Nathaniel was still at home and joined us for the feast.

I was so excited to see them. We talk on the phone often, but nothing beats hugs from true friends. Deb made me some homemade soup, but when I saw she had cooked some pork in a pressure cooker, I just had to try some!

The flavor was awesome, it was tender, but alas the meat was dryer than the venison and more difficult to chew. I began to wonder if I would have trouble with some foods more than others. Maybe it wasn’t going to be as simple as I thought. I know that my salivary glands are not producing a normal amount, which could be a big part of the problem. I finished my homemade cream of broccoli soup and enjoyed the conversation late into the evening. Relearning to prepare foods differently and eat all over again is going to be a dreadful task.

As the weekend drew nearer, I called Craig to see if his family was still headed up North. Indeed they were. Craig was taking his mother, Gloria up to the cottage the weekend before Labor Day. Aaron was also going, but Jill and Wayne would not arrive until next Labor Day Weekend, so I would miss them.

With Gloria now going, I wanted to go all the more. Gloria is in the midst of her own battle with breast cancer (again) and I wanted to see her and give her a big hug! I hadn’t seen her in years, so this was a must. As sad as it sounds, I thought... given that we both have cancer, it might be the last opportunity we'd have together. The last time we vacationed together, I was in college and Gloria, Tom, Craig, and I traveled to Los Angles and Vegas. (Some of that trip is relived in the archives under “The Book”)

I wasn’t sure if I could make it, but the more I thought about it… I had to do it. My Aunt Jay and Uncle Tom live an hour from Harrisville, so I could also visit them. I called Craig Friday to confirm and make plans to drive up together, but he was taking his mom for a round of chemo that morning and driving up after with a full car. He didn’t think I’d make it, so if I wanted to go, I’d have to drive up alone.

I hadn’t driven alone that far since my surgery. I guess there was no reason why I couldn’t do it, but the thought made me a bit uneasy. Four hours alone in the car. What if I get too tired? What if I get sick? What the hell…DO IT! I won’t tell my Aunt and Uncle I’m coming. I’ll surprise them on my return home.

I talked it over with mom to make sure she’d be OK while I was gone for the weekend. After all, I was only going for two days…what could go wrong???

I packed a weekend bag, loaded the car up with nutritional supplies, readied the CD player with traveling music, set the GPS for Harrisville, USA and off I went! The drive was grueling. I was exhausted, so I stopped for gas and coffee hoping for a second wind. Maybe this wasn’t the wisest idea, but it just had to be. Something was pushing me saying, “This is something you must to do.”

When I arrived in Harrisville, I noticed nothing had changed all these years. I could see Gloria in the upstairs window as I approached. I rang the bell and heard the familiar bark of the family dog. Craig had made some modifications to the cottage, but it still felt the same as it did 20 years before, warm, peaceful, and calming.

I made my way up the steep staircase with Gloria cheerfully greeting me at the landing, decked out in her turban, typically warn by those who lose their hair during chemo. I was exhausted, but all I could think of was Gloria. This woman had a dose of chemo that morning, drove four hours in a car with a dog, made her way up these steep stairs, and still managed a radiant smile as I gave her a big hug! This was going to be a great weekend! That night we all relaxed and chatted long, catching up on life before pouring ourselves into bed.

Morning soon came, Craig and Aaron took off to the park where the barber shoppers where beginning to congregate, readying for next weekend’s festivities. I was too tired to go and this gave me the opportunity to catch up more with Gloria. We always seem to get very personal when we have private time together. She’s a very open and caring woman, warm, smart, very opinionated, but considerate.

That afternoon, with Craig and Aaron away, Gloria took a nap while I took advantage of the private sand beach with the family dog. It was amazing! I set up a beach chair against the waters edge, nestled myself into the chair, pressed my toes deep into the cool wet sand as the gentle waves of Lake Huron softly licked my feet. The dog played ball as I threw it into the water and he waited until it was washed ashore.

The sun was warm, 80’s with a meandering breeze. It didn’t take me long to realize I was totally alone. Not a soul, just the dog and I on the beach for as far as I could see. It was so surreal. As each wave massaged my feet with its cool wetness, I felt as if I hadn’t a care in the world. For one brief afternoon, I was alone, no traffic, no doctors, no people, not a care. I felt stronger, somehow revived. I was literally alone in the world with nothing more than my thoughts and a dog with a penchant for playing fetch.

Each breath brought me a deeper sense of peace. The real world drifted away as I began to realize how special this day was. Such a rare moment and I relished every drop of it. So relaxed, I drifted off peacefully for a brief nap.

With an alarming screech of a seagull soaring above, I awoke. A calming smile graced my cancer battled face as I endeavored to explore the waters edge more thoroughly. I began a slow walk. Footprints in the sand, one sinking step after another, I carefully placed each foot as I made my way down the crooked edge of the great lake. This day was given to me as a small gift and I knew it.

Blissfully, I walked for what felt like miles, examining my surroundings with slow motion, childlike enthusiasm. The sky a vivid blue, devoid of clouds. The lake making itself known with calming sounds as playful waves kissed the sun drenched shoreline. Tall grasses of emerald green danced rhythmically back and forth, playfully exchanging hues in the warm loving breeze. Small shells and rocks of granite buried within the golden grains of sand glistened in the afternoon sunlight as I drew deep cleansing breaths of this elixir of life. With each breath more energized, intricately connected to the surreal world afore me. Still, I was alone in my present and it was peaceful and good.

Peace B

Tune in next time to find out: Why mom ends up back in the hospital, and Aaron has his first Weenie roast, while Brian meets yet ANOTHER breast cancer survivor at the bonfire singing harmony.


Maureen said...

Hi Brian!

I'm glad I checked back in today...surprise...a new chapter!!

The beach sounds glorious! I hope it was renewing for you.

How are you doing now? In the present? I've thought about you a lot and missed you.


Dr. Swill said...

Hey M,

It's so nice to hear from you!!! The beach was awesome, like being on a desert island for the day!

I am well, just tired. Still watching over mom, who has been in hospital and rehab since XMas!

A lil depression as some of my cancer blog buddies pass. Lost 2 this week. And then there's the daily struggle of just keeping up with everything. So I've lost my muse to write as you can see.

I hope you are well!!!


Peace B

Words To Live By:

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