February 26, 2006

Shorten the list?

It was noted by my wife the other day that the "Intentions" list at our church has grown to quite a lengthy list. Just a few years ago it may have contained perhaps 5 or 6 names. Today at mass there were 23 names.

For those of you who are not Catholic, the reading of Intentions occurs after the Homily/Sermon and before Communion. Basically the list is read and we are asked to pray for the sick. I always silently add the names a of a few of the folks mentioned within this blog. At first it was strange to hear my name read, that feeling eventually faded. As far as I know, anyone in the parish can request a name be added to the list.

After Mary's observation we had a conversation about requesting my name be removed. As Mary pointed out, this could (and will) go on for years, and so the thought was should we remove it now and add it back if/when we need to? That's not to say we don't need everyone's continued prayers!

Why would we do this? Does it even matter? It is somewhat of a strange thought at first, but the more I have thought about it, the more I like the idea. I am healthy*, perhaps more so than any period of my life. Proceeding would provide a symbolic moment, selfish as that may be. At first people might wonder or ask why? My response to them would simply be this "right now, things are going really well. I feel wonderful, my x-rays and scans are much, much better than last year and my PSA number is low and receding. Chemo is off for the foreseeable future and Mary and I felt that it was time to make room for someone else." I am not sure what the reason is but something is compelling me to make this change. Something I can't put my finger on right now. We have not yet made any decision, I'm just sharing the experience. I'll let you know what we decide.

However, let's get something clear, regardless, I still am counting on the power of prayer to be exercised through each of you, I'm not letting you off the hook that easy!


Last night was the annual fund raiser for our parish. It was a wonderful evening and allowed me to catch up with a number of people I have not talked to in months. I never anticipated that this blog would prove to be a source of inspiration for others, but it apparently is. If anything, I started this blog to help myself, but last night I received further proof that it is much more than that now. I am thrilled, that somehow, I may be encouraging/inspiring/supporting others.

It's the circle thing again. I give, you get, you give, I get.

Life is truly beautiful!

February 21, 2006

Exposing myself…..emotionally

Today I took a leap of faith, an opportunity that in the past, I probably would not have dared to take. I spent two 50 minute sessions on the phone with a group of high school students discussing death, dying, cancer, et al.

My brother-in-law's brother (Andy) teaches a class on death and dying at St. Joseph Academy in St. Louis. In addition to reading "Tuesday's with Morrie" they were assigned to read my blog. They also were asked to submit a list of questions to Andy beforehand. I wish I would have seen them as well, they were tough!

I had no reason to be apprehensive when Andy asked me if I would be interested is doing this, after all, most of the time I like to talk about my situation, it's almost therapeutic. What I should have thought through more was the type and range of questions they might ask me. I don’t want to give you the impression the event turned out bad or was extremely difficult, it was just a little emotional at times (thank goodness the video hook up wouldn't work and we resorted to just an audio conference call!!!). I was envious (and told them so) that at their age they were discussing, learning, researching a topic like this. I wish I had done this in when I was in high school.

There were a lot of questions, so many I can't remember them all. Their questions were awesome, very well thought out, here are a few (and what little I remember saying);

- If I could go back, would I change anything in my life?
[Be a better student in high school. Take it more seriously, apply myself, party less. I also added that I am a firm believe in fate and that God has a plan for us all, so if going back and changing things altered my path and meant I would not have have met Mary, etc. than I would do it all over again the same exact way.]

- If I was rich, if I had all the money I wanted right now, what would I do with it?
[Two answers, one selfish, one not: I'd give as much as possible to cancer research, not expecting it to find a cure for me, or address my situation but to make sure in the future there is more hope for others. I'd take Mary and Brad to Europe the day school got out and travel the entire summer. No agenda other than a list of countries to visit].

- How do I stay so positive and how would I advise others dealing with similar situations to remain positive?
[As I have said here before, when faced with this everyone has a choice, we chose the road of HOPE. I also said that a person needs to find faith or turn to it. It may not provide all the answers, but it will provide strength and solace.]

- How has my relationship with God changed?
[It is far stronger now than prior to my diagnosis. I pray more, I do not question "why me" but look to God for the answer to "now that it is me, what do I do next". I think I know and I think expressed that to the classes; It is as simple as this; 1) Do something for others (research, fundraisers, etc.) and 2) Tell as many people as you can reach to be tested and continue to be tested (educate), it not a lot more difficult to figure out than that.]

Regarding these last two, they are closely related. I used the example of another man's blog. He is a little older than I am, perhaps mid-fifties. He is going through either chemo or radiation treatments right now. His blog is the expression of how both he and his wife are dealing with cancer(they both add entries). God is not mentioned much, or at all. I'm not being judgmental here and told the class this, I am simply pointing out the fact that these two people are struggling more than my wife and I and perhaps their lack faith, prayer etc. might be the reason? It is their choice and not my, position to judge, again, it was just an observation.

One of the students asked about poetry because I have made a few attempts to include some. I wrote a lot in high school. None of it particularly good, most about infatuations, feelings, etc.. I saved it for all these years but I tried to find it all a little while back, but I'm not sure where I put it all? Perhaps it was the moment but I told them that I can't remember any of it, except for one verse:
Life goes on,
though yours might end,
in a lover, a brother or just a friend.

February 17, 2006

Three words.....and a few more....

For some of us cancer survivors, it's not enough when they blind side you with "You have cancer",
they have to follow it with "…it's worse".

With my emotions a wreck, my heading swimming with "what if's", I hardly remember the conversation. It's strange to think that it was 364 days ago because on one had it seems like yesterday, on the other it was a lifetime ago. (I know I've said this before).

I find myself in this really good place right now, a very comforting frame of mind. I know it won't last forever, but I'm going to try to get the most out of it right now. One year later, and I am such a different person. You've heard the saying a million times, "People can't change.". No, it's not easy, but put in the right situation, anyone, everyone can or will change. Certain things are far less important, others are no longer important at all. So few things become the focus of what you do, think, feel each day. It may take a situation like this, to bring life into perspective. There are many people that find themselves in similar situations or just difficult times that don't, won't or can't stop to realize what's really important. I am thankful to God to be smart enough and willing to acknowledge these things.

One year later and I find myself healthier, more aware, more optimistic, more faith filled, more at peace, and more thankful for that which is important.
As I said many, many months ago: I didn't get cancer, it was given to me - what follows is yet another example of the reason behind it becoming more clear.

Earlier this week the phone rang and a complete stranger was on the other end. He explained to Mary that his sister-in-law had found my Blog and passed it his way. His name is Rick, he's 46, from Houston and he has advanced stage Prostate Cancer.

Rick was just diagnosed in late December and he was looking for someone to talk to that is in a similar stage and to nearer his age. I called Rick back later that night and we talked for over an hour. At times I think I talked too much and didn't listen nearly enough (sorry Rick). I'm not sure how much I helped him? I hope he knows I am here, always. However, like it or not Rick, you have just been inducted into "the group" (Along with John W., Karen and others) I ask that the audience of "The Big C" add Rick and his family to their prayers. Rick, this one's for you:

Prayer to Saint Peregrine
O great St. Peregrine, you have been called "The Mighty," "The Wonder-Worker," because of the numerous miracles which you have obtained from God for those who have had recourse to you.
For so many years you bore in your own flesh this cancerous disease that destroys the very fibre of our being, and who had recourse to the source of all grace when the power of man could do no more. You were favoured with the vision of Jesus coming down from His Cross to heal your affliction. Ask of God and Our Lady, the cure of the sick whom we entrust to you. (Pause here and silently recall the names of the sick for whom you are praying) Aided in this way by your powerful intercession, we shall sing to God, now and for all eternity, a song of gratitude for His great goodness and mercy.

February 10, 2006

A point in time….

"You have cancer", three of perhaps the most devastating words in the English language. To some, they really are devastating. To others, they become a challenge, a goal, a focal point. As you know, I fall into the latter.

Tomorrow is THE day. I was told over the phone. Not that receiving the news that way was good or bad, it's just the way it happened. To me the news I received one week later ("it's much worse than just Prostate Cancer") was far harder to deal with. At this point, February 11, 2005, Mary and I had researched enough to know that if it was just PC, the cure rate had a very good success rate. Remove it, radiation, seed implants and a number of other options were available. But when the doctor said we would need to pursue this further and get a bone and CT scan it just didn’t sit right with me. I instinctively knew it was worse. The seven days that followed and the weekend after were our low point.

People say change is good. I agree, to a point. When you have a choice, change can be good but when it forced upon you, change can be hard to accept. I am not sure what makes us different than others, but we are. We have both read a lot of books and blogs by others who are going through similar situations and I pray for these people. Perhaps it's our faith? Maybe it’s the strength of our relationship before this ever happened? Or the friends and family that surround us? It's a combination of all of these that have made us very strong. I also believe it's the fact that we are both very grounded in reality and we both believe in fate. If I heard her say it once, I heard it a million times over the years "everything happens for a reason". Some of those reasons are very difficult to accept at first. We however, did not spend much time on the pity bus. I can’t recall her every saying "why you?, why us?, why now?" etc. It was more like "What now?, We have to go on!, We have to beat this!" etc.

And so year 1 comes to a close. Am I a better person? I'm certainly a different person physically, mentally and spiritually. Does that qualify for "better"? That will be for someone else to decide. That someone is going to have to wait quite a bit longer for judgment day because I plan on being here on year 2, 3 and……

[John W., we hope everything is OK? We're with you as you start round two on Monday!!!]

February 06, 2006

2-4-05 a lifetime ago

The weekend passed and so did milestone number two without much fanfare or conscious thought. Having a biopsy last February 4th was not really a highlight. It was a painless procedure that was over within minutes. The outcome or results of the test were obviously life altering.

On Saturday it was the usual routine; a frigid round of disc golf, basketball and Mass. Though they lost a close one, the 3rd grade boys played awesome. I love to watch my son play. Although he's got a ways to go on other skills, he is really learning to set a pick! He's also starting to scrap for loose balls and will definitely get in someone's way to clear a lane to the hoop! The entire team is playing so much better as a group.

Winter is passing slowly, though we have little to complain about as the temperatures have been well above normal. Things are supposed to return to normal this week, just as I was starting to think spring had arrived early. There is no doubt that spring is my favorite season. Blooms, green grass and the many reminders of "life". It provides a lot of hope after the dreariness of winter. I'm looking forward to planting the veggie garden and anticipating the return of tulips, hyacinth and later on roses and moonflowers.

Two milestones down, with the two big ones yet to come.

February 02, 2006

An Anniversary: Milestone 1

Today marks the first anniversary of the blog.

On February 2, 2005 I started this little journal with an entry titled,
"The start of the end?" How far things have come. That first entry was full of doubt and lacks the Faith, Hope and Love that are pushing me/us through this rocky road.

Things are good right now. We are in a place much like we were last summer. My numbers are down and we just process through each day, day after day, until the end of the month arrives. I roll up my sleeve, they pierce my skin, draw out my blood and we wait for a few days until the news arrives.

This a screwed up way to live. However, it is what it is. I want it to go away and return to my "normal" life. That is not going to happen, I know. Even if I was told "you're cured" tomorrow, life would never be normal again. Exercise and diet and generally living a healthy life will forever be first and foremost. The days of fries, burgers and pizza are long, long gone.

The low points of this journey seem like a lifetime ago. All of the news of last February, the trip to MD Anderson and the thought of Chemo just over a month ago. The highlights however quickly overwhelm these thoughts. I am grateful for every day I am alive.

In the weeks ahead, there will be more milestones to "celebrate"? I will try to encounter each looking more forward than back. It is human nature to remember, to relive moments in the past and I promise to do my best to relive these with you by presenting a positive attitude and my eyes looking through the windshield and not the rearview mirror!

God bless you all and thanks for being passengers on my journey. ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
P.S. - I decided to transition from this first year by updating the template of the blog. No significant change, the colors are different and the archives are now grouped by month.

I hope you like the changes?!!!