Friday, August 26, 2011

Lessons learned, or, the Zen of Suffering

 When I woke up today, I realized I just learned something. Through talking to my friends and family, including some old friends I never really expected to hear from, I realized that many people have been talking about how strong we are, and how well we are dealing with all of this.

 I didn't really see us as dealing well with this. We spent a lot of days crying and shouting, and yelling at God, and bitching about how unfair it all was. And it is. Life is totally unfair. I can think of roughly 1400 inmates I know who totally deserve cancer more than my wife. I also realize at this point, that I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone either. It is the great equalizer. Young or old, rich or poor, it doesn't matter. Cancer sees no races, it kills indiscriminately. It's unfair to everyone.

 But a few weeks ago, I let my anger go. One night after I took myself off of my anti-depressants, I had a moment where I visualized a Sith version of myself being sealed off. It is geeky, really geeky, but it worked for me. I told him I didn't need his destructive anger anymore. I didn't need the Dark Side, as it were.

 Now, onto the lesson I learned.  I have been noticing there are a lot of spots that Bushido and Christianity cross paths. (Read Bushido, The Soul of Japan by Nitobe Inaz┼Ź) And this particular spot is dealing with suffering gracefully. As Americans, we are bad at that. Especially this generation. We really suck at it. We have this sense of entitlement that is rampant (some worse than others), and if we don't get what we want out of life, stand the hell by.

 The Japanese were always, as a culture better with that. Nitobe pointed that out in his work, and I trust his viewpoint, as he was a Japanese Quaker from the turn of the century. I trust he knows what he was talking about. But if you want a more modern example, just compare Katrina and the Tsunami/Earthquake/Nuclear Holocaust in Japan.

 Who dealt with it better? Any looting in Japan? Anyone floating out giant screen televisions? Nope. People got in line and did what was expected of them.

 It is the whole philosophy of suffering well. We can look at it as dealing gracefully with life. I am by no means a master of it, but I am learning.

 And learning, like everything else is a gradual process. One day at a time.

 One foot in front of the next.

 True courage is to live when it is right to live. - Nitobe

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Hell of a week...

 On Monday, when my weekend was just starting, I had no idea the week was going to go like this. Robin had just started her new chemo, so we were expecting all the things associated with that, but nothing else. Sunday night, she had been complaining of headaches, and had been forgetful and slightly irritable, but we just attributed it to the chemo. This was her first round, so we had no idea what was going to happen with it.

 Monday morning, she woke up with a sever headache and nausea, and the told us to come into the ER. A few scans and an MRI later they told us there was also a tumor in the back of Robin's head, and that one was in her brain. It had been causing the headaches and nausea, the vision issues, etc.

 So there it was. Every time we had gotten bad news, we tried to look on the good side. When it was the first breast cancer, it was, "Well, at least it's something they can operate on." Then it was the lung mets they found. "Well, at least it isn't in the brain." Now, it was in her brain.

 The spot on her skull that we knew about was bad enough. A spot in her brain was our worst fears realized.
This was the first time that I really thought about how I would break it to the kids that Mommy might not be coming home. This was the first time I really thought about the fact that I might have to bury my wife.

 It terrified me.

 I mean, the thought is always there when dealing with cancer, that your loved one might not make it. As many advances as we have made, it is still a fairly imprecise process. Chemo is basically betting on killing the cancer before the poison kills you. Surgery is hoping you get it all, but always waiting for the next thing to pop up.

 With the scans we have these days, we can stay on top of it much better, but we still aren't anywhere that would make me happy. (though, the T-cell studies vs. leukemia are promising.)

 Then it happened, I posted in on Facebook and Twitter, asking my friends and family to pray. They asked their friends and family, word spread, and we ended up with a prayer net all over the world. Then, the Doctor came in to discuss the process with us, and gives his impressions. He told us that it was in a good spot for surgery, and he recommended we go that route.

 Then, the great Beast Coast Earthquake of 8/23 happened. I know it may have been just a coincidence. I mean, sometimes things happen while we are discussing things, and it comes across in an ominous or uplifting manner, depending.

 Then again, when you are discussing the best way to deal with your wife's brain tumor that suddenly showed up, and then when the Doctor Mentions surgery, and an earthquake shakes the hospital at that moment, it made me take notice. We are on the East Coast afterall.

 It kind of reminded me of the way Marine Drill Instructors stomp their foot to make sure we are paying attention during classes.

 It seems to have been the right choice, because Robin's surgery went very well, and she is resting. They hadn't moved her to a room by the time they told me to leave, but I know she had gotten some anti-nausea meds and some morphine, so she should be sleeping well right now.

 So, as tough as this week was, I'm feeling hopeful. Faith is one of those things, I know I can't convince everyone that God has his hand on all this, but I know he does. I feel it in my heart, and it helps me go on.

 And when you are dealing with stuff like this, having the strength to go on is important.

Also, as an aside, I'm pretty sure now, that God is non-denominational. A very varied crew was praying over the past few days. I'm just saying.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Crunch Time

 Hello everyone,
 I haven't posted in a while. Everything has been kind of a whirlwind with Robin doing her Radiation and everything, but now that's over. I just didn't have the drive to write then. Terrible case of ennui.

 You might have noticed if you are on my Facebook, that Robin went to the ER the other day with horrible back pain. We (and the Doctors) were worried that she had thrown a blood clot or something, which thank God she hadn't. It turned out to be some deep muscle spasms.

 We did get some scans done while we were there, and it looks like the Mets in her lung have spread. I guess they were seeing little stuff all over in there. And she has a bump starting on the right side of her skull now. Since she hadn't hit her head, they are just going to assume it's cancer, thince she already has some bone mets.

 But, She also started her chemo again yesterday. Her Oncology team is really at bat right now, and they seem to have a plan ready to go right now. They are going to be hitting this hard, so now we just have to hold on and ride it out.

 So, here we are. It is serious. I was starting to get really depressed with all this the past couple day, but then I realized that we haven't even started this part of the fight. God is still in control of this, and as long as we can still fight this, we will. As long as there is the possibility of hope, we will hope.

 Like Master Yoda said, "Always in motion the future is."

Thursday, August 4, 2011

A Farewell to a Brother

 I am going a little bit off topic tonight, so you will have to forgive me for that. Before I go though, I just want to let everyone know that Robin started the radiation on her hips today, 10 rounds total, both hips each time. Tomorrow she is getting another unit of blood and some iron to help her through this recovery and moving through this radiation. Chemo (again) and more Radiation on the lungs will come after.

 Now, on to my side-track. I found out last night that one of my Brothers from my Marine Corps days died. Came right out of the blue, and totally unexpected. I hadn't talked to Joe in a few years, but when I heard about his passing, all of the memories came flooding back. That's one of the things about the military. Your friends are your friends forever. Sometimes you lose track of one another, and when you find each other again, you pick up where you left off.

 Joe Weldon was an amazing man. I was lucky enough to know him well since we ended up in the same platoon in California, and we were in the same suite in Texas. Joe was one of those people who could always lighten the mood, no matter how serious it got.

He was a loyal friend, and dependable.

I don't even to where to start with memories. Running the Asilomar in California. Joe arguing with the chow hall lady in Texas whether or not it was safe for her to make him a tuna melt. I think she made him sign a waiver, since she thought it was unsafe.

 Going all black ops to repaint the O-course wall at Goodfellow. (Recon was in his blood). Also, I'm pretty sure he drew on my face one time in Monterey. I can't say for sure he was to blame, but it looked like his handwriting.

 I don't know what else I can really say. Joe was a great guy, and I am richer for having known him. I wish I hadn't lost track of him after Texas, and I would have liked to have gotten down to 2nd Radio and seen him.

 We always think about those random phone calls, or emails we should make from time to time. We think about talking to that friend you haven't had contact with in a while. We always think.

 We need to do.


 Semper Fi, Joe. I'll miss you brother. You took up the watch on the Golden Streets.
The rest of us will be along after a while.