Today I Feel Like Plato…or Pluto

WE'RE OFF ON TODAY'S JOURNEY

WE’RE OFF ON TODAY’S JOURNEY

I have a lot cut out for me today.  My mind is foaming with rabid thoughts of so many heavy topics, none of which seem all that amusing. To me, this is a challenge…finding some kind of LOL in there somewhere.  But what if I can’t find it?  I hate to disappoint you, since you came all this way through high tech space to get to me.  So, let’s give it a whirl.  It will be fun if I can just tie this all together so I don’t sound like a crazy babbling n-n-n-nut case!  That, in itself, should be well worth the read!

I worked in live theater many years ago.  It was a blast.  Consequently I still have tons of obscure musical theater trivia lodged in my brain.  There is an old musical named “I Do, I Do.”  It’s about marriage, cast with only 2 actors…the husband and the wife.  One musical number always stuck in my brain. 

A BEAUTIFUL DRESS, A LIVING BROTHER AND AN IDIOT CROPPED OUT

A BEAUTIFUL DRESS, A LIVING BROTHER AND AN IDIOT CROPPED OUT

“My Daughter is Marrying an Idiot”.  I think it was so lasting because I’m sure my father had the exact thoughts when I got married the first time.  And, I have a daughter…and she did the same thing.  It was a few years ago on April 19.  I was sick about it.  It took 7 Xanax and a martini to get me through the wedding without punching anyone.  On her first anniversary, my youngest brother passed away.  It was unexpected, it was awful.  It was a sign.  My daughter ended up, for the best, divorced.  Spooky, huh?  Somehow, I always had a feeling that my brother took a bullet for the family, so to speak  If he had to go, he went on a day that would taint it forever…for the greater good, maybe?  Dying is bad, but timing is everything, and I gotta give him props for that!

I’m not sure if it was my brother’s lifestyle or the cardio-myopathy the did him in.  Until he passed, I never even knew his heart trouble was as dramatic as it was.  I remember him being sick with some kind of infection when he was in his late teens.  I remember my Dad telling me it affected his heart.  I remember Dad made Jon quit the swim team.  That is all I remember about any “heart stuff”.  None of it seemed all that dramatic, but we had no internet or WebMD back then, so I  just went on word of mouth and there were never many words about it.  Jonathan lived his life with the reckless abandon of the baby of any family.   After his death, I did a little research and learned that his condition was a WAY BIG deal.  That diagnosis comes with an expiration date of about 5 years.  Jon made it for 20-ish years.  Pretty amazing considering…

ME - NO MAKEUP, NO HAIR DYE, NO BOTOX

ME – NO MAKEUP, NO HAIR DYE, NO BOTOX

He was 16 years younger than me.  OK, so that’s now twice he’s screwed up the family grading curve.  First he shows up 16 years late to the family gathering and then he pulls that “last one in, first one out” move.  That is not how it’s supposed to work.  (Just for the record, if that’s how it’s going to work, I have a confession.  Even though I look like the youngest, I am the oldest of the siblings and I will rightfully take my  position back.  Not that I’m trying to throw my sister or brothers under the Grim Reaper’s bus…I’m just sayin’)

Back to Jon.  The specifics made me mad.  He had heart problems but he drank and smoked and led a frat boy lifestyle.  He had a very physical job that was probably way too demanding on his body.  (Side bar please.  Jon drove a beer truck, and thinking back to quite a few years ago, he was getting out of the truck and got bounced by a passing motorist.  It’s all together possible that was one of God’s little hints to him to get a desk job!  But, he didn’t)   

I was mad because I had to show up for the funeral when I was still in that ‘you IDIOT’ phase of shock. At the time, it was the parallel with Steven that pissed me off. I let doctors fill my husband with so many drugs and so much radiation that his hair fell out, his joints wore out and his pee glowed in the dark.  Dear Jon, You couldn’t stop smoking, you idiot?  Can you see my thought pattern? 

KYLE, ANDY, ALEX, DAD HOLDING WYATT AND JONATHAN

KYLE, ANDY, ALEX, DAD HOLDING WYATT AND JONATHAN

But now I wonder if he made the ill-advised choices in his life because he felt like he had no reason to play it safe.  If he thought he had a short term life expectancy, that sure explains his rocky-road, drama laden relationship with his older-than-me psycho-bitch girlfriend, his penchant for off-roading dirt bikes in unchartered areas and his bad habits in spending what little money he had.  He didn’t know everything, but apparently he did know that you can’t take it with you, and he certainly lived by that old adage!  As smart and sensible as I like to think I am, I might do the same damn thing if I had a “Sell By…” date stamped on my ass. 

Johnny Carson used to say “Do you know how old ‘old’ is?   It’s 15 years older than you are.”  I’ve understood that joke for years, but as I get older I realized how insightful it is.  Which brings me to thoughts of age in general.  I know how old I am, but it really doesn’t mean anything to me.  I stopped counting age hurdles once I passed 21 and became legally responsible for every decision I make.  THAT was the REALLY big one.  Now, the rest of the birthdays are just reasons to eat cake.  So, I don’t pay much attention to aging until something big happens.  Like births, sickness or death.  Then it hits the headlines of my attention. 

When people leave us in that early stage of adulthood, it’s devastating for a lot of reasons.  It’s a new experience because death is supposed to be just for ‘old’ people. It’s a freak out because you suddenly realize that it could be you.  Most importantly, it’s maddening because you weren’t ‘done’ with that person yet.  “Game Over” frustration makes you want to kick something!  Unfortunately, it’s often one of the harder learning experiences that get thrown at those of us in the remedial class of life.

So here’s the thing.  People get old, and still have pretty great lives.  People also get old, live miserably and then die.  Young people take care of themselves and sometimes still don’t make it.  I’d tell you to ask the vegan marathon runner who gets hit by a bus, but she’s being scraped up with a spatula and can’t really attest to the benefits of a healthy lifestyle!  Some people don’t take care of themselves, get hit by a car and live.  And people of all ages get sick and sometimes recover and sometimes don’t.  The bottom line is: Life is really a crapshoot.  What we all have is the time that is right now.  

So if you’re over 21 and legally responsible for all your actions: 

  1. Appreciate your family.  If someone is willing to love you, love them back.  
  2. Pet your dog and let her kiss you on the mouth. It won’t kill you!
  3. Make the best of your job. Even if it sucks, it’s better than NO job. 
  4. Take care of your body.  It’s the only one you’ve got and parts are hard to get!
  5. Be gentle with your feelings and the feelings of others.  It’s all a big circle!
  6. Be loving to your mate.  If someone signed to be your partner, you are very lucky!
  7. Getting mad is OK.  Staying mad is bad for you.  Ask the makers of Pepto Bismol.
  8. Breathe deeply and often.
  9. Watch a sunrise and realize how lucky you are to be there for it.
  10. And NEVER communicate in writing if you’re not as least as good as me!  Paper trails are hard to live down! 

It’s Mr. Toad’s Wild Ride and you just don’t know what’s going to jump out of the dark next.  So buckle up and go for the ride.  Don’t worry about dying, you probably won’t see it coming.  Just concentrate on living the best life you can have.  And don’t even think about getting old.  You won’t be old for another 15 years.

...AND THE JOURNEY CONTINUES...HOPEFULLY FOR A VERY LONG TIME

…AND THE JOURNEY CONTINUES…HOPEFULLY FOR A VERY LONG TIME

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The Als and Company

Today may be “Tax Day” to most of the United States, but for a select few, April 16 was my Dad’s birthday.  So in his honor I’m letting you have a glimpse into my family of Als.  This improptu photo was taken with a self timer on a camera that had FILM, sometime in early 1993-ish!  I don’t remember which one of the front line sibling had to push the button and dive into the shot, but I think this is the last photo we have where everyone was on the lens side of the camera.

Happy Birthday to Dad.  We all grew up and I know you know how we turned out…probably just like you expected!  We still can’t believe that Jon is with you instead of with us, but I hope he’s finally mowing the lawn the FIRST time you ask him.  We miss you both.  I wish you were here to help us through this cancer crap.

From Back Left:  DAD (Alexnder, Jr.), MOM, MY DAUGHTER (Alexis) ME (Alexandra)                                                 From Front Left -  ALEX (Alexander III), JANET, ANDY, JONATHAN

From Back Left: DAD (Alexnder, Jr.), MOM, MY DAUGHTER (Alexis) ME (Alexandra) From Front Left – ALEX (Alexander III), JANET, ANDY, JONATHAN

If You Build It, They Will Come

I just returned from an awesome trip to Goodyear, Arizona where I was given the royal tour of the Cancer Treatment Center of America facility. It was a free trip. Not that I’ll go just anywhere if it’s free (I’m lying. I will) I’m telling you because one of the other bloggers who visited is a professional freelance writer who had concerns about disclosures regarding her reporting. That sounded pretty hotshot to me, so I wanted to grab a piece of that action, hopefully making me more professional! So…I’m disclosing…and it feels so good.

The occasion was their first Bloggers Summit. Just the idea of a Bloggers “Anything” makes me feel a little more legit now that I’m an unemployed slug. Besides, who could resist a free trip to a cancer hospital, right? Seriously, I already knew that CTCA is like a spa/hotel…with massage, unbelievably good food, beautiful decor and blah, blah, blah. (If you want more details, see my CTCA post from January which documented Steven’s personal experience in the Tulsa facility.)

Here’s my take away. If you have cancer (or are thinking about getting it) you absolutely HAVE to check this place out. After our trip to Tulsa in December, I knew that the overall treatment at CTCA was amazing. This time, I didn’t have a pesky cancer patient trailing along to slow me down. I was able to really delve into the inner workings of the organization and I’ve decided that this is the first place that I’ve ever seen that seems too good to be true, but IS TRUE! And let me also disclose at this time that I did not drink any Kool-Aid while I was there; nor did I shave my head and start selling books at the airport! I just couldn’t find anything wrong with the place…and God knows, and I’m sure you do too, by now, I live for finding fault!

IF YOU'VE EVER BEEN IN A CHEMO ROOM, YOU KNOW THIS IS AWESOME!

IF YOU’VE EVER BEEN IN A CHEMO ROOM, YOU KNOW THIS IS AWESOME!

Before this starts sounding like a commercial, I’m going to admit why I am relieved that we discovered CTCA. I feel like it’s a great backup plan. If Steven’s cancer ever decides to boldly act up again, we know where to go. I cannot explain to a non-cancer family what it is like to know you have a safety net. There has been a load lifted off our shoulders since we went to Tulsa, and I want all cancer families to know about it and to investigate it! It has changed my life and allowed my butt to stop puckering for the first time in 8 years! (Seriously, sometimes my butt used to pucker so hard I’d get stuck to my chair and needed a crow bar to pry myself off!) CTCA is in the process of finishing up a new facility in the Atlanta area, so if we ever have to check in, we can stay in our own time zone. Plus, each facility gets nicer and nicer. By the time Atlanta is opened, I’m hoping they’ll have added a nightclub and swimming pool!

One of the things I love most about cancer (can you believe I just said that?)…is that I always learn something. Every time we paddle the rapids of treatment, we end up in the calm waters of understanding. (OMG!!! That is so profound and deep, don’t you think? Let’s just stop a minute and reflect on the brilliance of being me…Sometimes I feel like Plato with boobs!) Cancer is that really mean teacher you had in elementary school…the one who used to scare you so much that you learned your lessons. Luckily, this trip was about the learning without the mean teacher. And the stuff that I learned isn’t about sickness and death. It’s about living and life.

THE ONE-STOP-SHOPPING OF SIDE EFFECT MANAGEMENT!

THE ONE-STOP-SHOPPING OF SIDE EFFECT MANAGEMENT!

We were lucky to have a panel of all the Grand Poobahs of all the departments meet with us to give us their respective raps. One of the most unifying things I noticed is that they all possessed the same kind of calm, peaceful demeanor that I always wish I could have. But they work with cancer every day! How can that be? I get my panties in a wad when my lunch order gets messed up. Even that staff surgeon was chatty and warm…a surgeon. Usually those Type A personality docs are wound tighter than an eight day clock!

I think I was able to get a glimpse into the hearts of these healthcare professionals and this is what I got:

  1. 1. Helping people makes YOU feel good by making THEM feel good
  2. 2. Focus on what YOU do best, and the rest will fall into place.

Yeah…I know…that’s it. That’s my big discovery. It’s basic. It’s what our parents tried to teach us. It’s kindergarten class theory. So why don’t we all live like this? Maybe because we’re idiots.

>THE ROOFTOP GARDEN FOR PATIENTS, COMPLETE WITH COOLING MISTING SPRAYS!

>THE ROOFTOP GARDEN FOR PATIENTS, COMPLETE WITH COOLING MISTING SPRAYS!

It’s hard to understand how CTCA can afford the beautiful building, the nutritionists, holistic healers, massage therapists, acupuncturists, etc. Most of those services aren’t ever included in health care or insurance. And for the most part, they just give it away. They look at it all as a necessity to make the patient feel better. So I asked the head oncologist how they were able to afford their “Mother’s Care” model. (The idea is to treat the patients AS IF they were your mother.) His response was amazing. He said, “We don’t think about that.”

CTCA has a staff of insurance experts who deal with the money. It must be an amazing staff wearing super hero underwear, because the doctors don’t base any of their decisions or treatment plans on insurance. Once you’re in, you’re in. They care for you. The doctors give you lots of medical options, the rest of the staff works to massage your muscles, accu-punct your body, vitamin up your innards, gourmet smoothie your taste buds and shrink your messed up mind. And everybody is happy, the patients, the staff and even the volunteers.

SAVANNAH - ONE OF THE MANY VOLUNTEERS WORKING TO MAKE THE PATIENTS FEEL GOOD!

SAVANNAH – ONE OF THE MANY VOLUNTEERS WORKING TO MAKE THE PATIENTS FEEL GOOD!

So there you are. It’s like that baseball movie. “If you build it, they will come.” Just do what you do and the rest will fall into place. I’m so grateful that I had the chance to learn that lesson right now. I’m trying to live in the moment and not freak out about being out of work…and this experience couldn’t have come at a more perfect or necessary time. So I’m writing this. And I feel good, because I just know I’m helping someone. I’m writing because it’s what I do best…and the rest will just fall into place!

THANK YOU CTCA FOR THE OPPORTUNITY TO VISIT.