I have heard from so many of you asking for me to keep you informed on how I am doing. I hope you will forgive me, but posting blogs about it is the easiest way to reach the most people, and for me, writing what I am experiencing is like therapy. If you know me, you know I am not a private person. I perhaps share too much information, but at 75 it is too late for me to change so here goes.
I started chemo and radiology yesterday. So today, Friday I have five more chemo treatments of four plus hours and I have 29 more radiation treatments. I will share a little more about that later.
I know some of you have experienced cancer, others have loved ones or close friends who experienced it. Everyone’s story is different. For doctors the types of cancer they are treating may seem like the same, but the experience is different for each person. I have told my friends we all have a story and life has not been a straight line for any of us.
I believe those who have or had cancer do share some similar experiences. I believe we go through stages. I think I am on the fourth stage which I call “I started the roller coaster.”
Let me tell you about my stages one and two.
Stage One: My first stage was I am in a dream and when I wake up everything will be okay. I have similar dreams about Russia invading Ukraine and the suffering of their people, paying $5.00 a gallon for gas, feeling unable to afford the filet Mignon at Costco.
I can go on, but I have always pledged to not write anything political here. At the risk of offending someone I will simply say in my dream all politicians who are my age and older are enjoying retirement and gone on to other things. As we know like most dreams we wake up and stage two sets in.
Stage Two: My stage two was “how could this happen to me” and intensely researching to understand it all better. What started as a pinched nerve in my neck and lots of arthritis that was going to be treated with steroid shots in the hopes of avoiding surgery all changed when an MRI my doctor ordered showed two lumps in the other side of my neck. In less than a month I went from life as normal to life never being normal again. A biopsy revealed I have Metastatic Squamous Neck Cancer.
The post surgery pathology revealed the surgeon removed 17 lumps. That is not a good thing, but “it is what it is”. So, my second stage with cancer was the “whoa is me” or I am sorry or really pissed off stage. This bad attitude existed while Nancy drove me to doctors virtually Monday through Friday every day. While already having a bad attitude, I learned I might lose teeth, never have the same taste buds and I can go on. You can only imagine what it was like for Nancy and still is like for Nancy.
Before I had seen the post surgery pathology report I had dreams of no chemo and no radiation. Those were short lived. The radiologist explained my cancer situation was the highest risk. But then, perhaps to brighten my spirits he said there were two clinical studies that showed for my kind of cancer above with radiation and chemo the chances of it coming back are 10-to 15 percent. As a lawyer I should have asked if there were any clinical studies that showed what happened to patients who had the surgery but did not do chemo and radiation. I just made the assumption that if that had ever been studied the results weren’t especially good.
Stage Three: I call this the reality stage. My attitude has improved as I have come to grips with things I can’t change. Russia is killing innocent people in Ukraine, gas prices are over the roof and I am eating pork chops. That is just how it is and our life, my life has changed for whatever is left of it. We were supposed to move into our new home in Cabo on March 14 with our dog, Stella and stay until June. Come back then and go back and stay until September, go back and stay until the holidays. We know that isn’t happening.
So I did the math. Six weeks of chemo and radiation will be done the last week in April. I looked at airline reservations to go to Cabo then. But, yesterday I learned that the side effects are such that I won’t likely be able to travel on an airplane for a month. So, now we are up to the first chance I can go to Cabo is when we originally planned to come back to our home in Texas. But, maybe I will be able to keep the schedule after that. Then I learned that for the next 12 months and maybe beyond I have to go see the surgeon once every month and they will send me elsewhere if anything looks suspicious like new lumps showing on the outside of me neck. I never dreamed after putting over 5 million miles on American Airlines traveling for work, I would at 75 become a frequent flyer again back and forth every month. Thankfully the flight is only about 2-3 hours non-stop.
Stage Four: In a nutshell, I have started the roller coaster phase. I did almost five hours of chemo yesterday. I brought my laptop thinking I could work on my novel. That didn’t happen. For the IV to flow I had to keep my left arm straight with the palm up on a pillow. Supposedly I will have port installed in my chest before the next chemo so I can work for four hours. I did get to see my law school University of Richmond Spiders defeat Iowa so that was a pleasant surprise. Today is the game my heart will be pounding while watching. Go Hokies.
I call this the roller coaster phase because I am on it. I can do the countdown. Five more chemo treatments and at about 5:30 this evening 28 more radiation treatments. I don’t wait well and I deal with whatever the “it” is better when I am experiencing it not thinking about it. That said the nurses at both facilities went to great lengths explaining to me how bad the side effects are going to be starting about the third week. The one nurse told Nancy we have to find a 24-hour pharmacy. I don’t know of any so I guess that is more research.
I am very upbeat about being in the six weeks of treatment. I know I will face challenges when the roller coaster goes down at speeds I can’t control. I can’t say my life totally prepared me for these challenges, but more than anything I want to get off the roller coaster and live as normal a life as possible while I am able. I can always use the cancer excuse if my golf game is not up to par.
I believe at least one thing thing I have experienced is hearing from so many of you who I coached, and even from lawyers who I never knew who had used my blog and presentations to self-coach themselves. Hearing from all of you confirmed to me that I made the right decision to leave my law practice and follow my passion to help the next generation of rainmakers and leaders. Many of you have shared with me that you are passing on to lawyers in your next generation ideas we discussed. The feeling I have from hearing from you adds so much to my energy level going forward.
God Bless You.