Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Out of Crisis Comes...

"Often out of crisis comes this enormous wellspring of generosity and motivation."  
~ Josh Fox

We know from past experience the truth of this quote.  I retain many of the 100+ angels that were sent to me when I had cancer.  Although I am a confirmed agnostic, I do believe that the prayers offered when John battled Non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma, contributed to his survival, if nothing else, because he knew he was being supported, even by people he did not know.  And that contributed to his will to survive, in spite of a poor prognosis.

Even with our past experiences, we are profoundly touched by the outpouring of concern and offers of assistance we are receiving from across the country.  Many have asked what they can do to help.  I know there is plenty of advice out there that you should just do what you can because people in the midst of crisis often don't know what they need.  We certainly don't know the extent of what we might need yet.  

Some folks have gone through a challenge of their own and have a sense of what might be helpful.  A card from old friends who had heard our news through the grapevine came unexpectedly and that was touching.  Several friends have sent well wishes and prayers - always welcome.  A friend and a family member who have special medical expertise continue to provide translation of medical terms, insight into possible treatment, and research into other options.  Another who knows me well, knows how I tend to think and react, is a good sounding board as I contemplate important decisions.   Sometimes, a simple offer...like "what would make the day easier today and can I get or do that for you", as one dear friend recently queried, may be the sweetest gesture in and of itself, needing no response other than thank you for the offer.  And anything that brings a smile, or better yet a laugh, is a treasure.

But it is more than fine with us that you offer and then wait for our requests.  We are leaving tomorrow for MD Anderson in Houston. We will make more specific requests once we have more information.  For now, your prayers, moral support, positive thoughts and wishes are deeply appreciated.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

First Things First...

"Courage is the measure of our heartfelt participation with life, with another, with a community, a work; a future."
~ David Whyte

Because I hope you will follow our journey and share our thoughts with others, and because these will be strangers to us, I feel it only fitting to profile who we are and why this chronicle is important to us and, hopefully, to others.

John and I have been married for 33 years (must be comfortable because we both forgot our anniversary this year!)  We met in the summer of 1980 "in a bar in Kansas City."  Just as the song says.  I was an elementary principal at the time, he the Director of Corporate Engineering for a Fortune 500 company.  Both divorced, neither with children, neither intending to marry again.

We were married in Cleveland, Ohio, two and a half years later.  Within a year, John was transferred to Santa Barbara where I created a small boutique training/coaching firm that became my passion for the next 25 years, and he eventually created a small firm specializing in the abatement of asbestos and lead based paint.  That's the raw data.

In some respects, we are quite different.  He loves country and I like - almost anything but. He is a vegetarian, I am not.  He could watch sports all day.  Give me a good mystery.  And then there's politics.  Let's say we cancel each other's vote.  But we are partners, and the medical crises, of which we have experienced our fair share, have forged that partnership. We love each other, yes.  But as important, we like, trust and respect each other.

We have both battled cancer.  Breast cancer for me and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma for John. The latter was put into remission with a stem cell transplant at MD Anderson 11 years ago. The same MD Anderson we will be visiting next week for further testing, prognosis, and treatment recommendations for the rare blood cancer with which John was diagnosed this week.

We are dedicated to facing this head on as we have faced every other challenge together. With the prayers and assistance of an incredible network of support.  With dignity and a healthy dose of realistic optimism. Learning whatever we can to make the most responsible decisions we can. And with a desire to contribute to each other and to others who are or may be facing a similar challenge.  It is our hope that by writing about our journey as we embark upon it, we can add insight and assistance to others now and in the future.  

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

It Is What It Is!

"A crisis is a terrible thing to waste."
~ Paul Romer

We are facing a health crisis as great, if not greater, than any we have faced before.  We do not yet know the full extent of this crisis other than what we have just learned from the preliminary results of John's bone marrow biopsy.  He has been diagnosed with a rare blood cancer that will require further information as to prognosis and treatment.  We do not have a clue as to what good could come from this.  But we do trust that something will.

It is out of our desire to create something good from this crisis for ourselves and for others that John agrees we should share our journey here.  Not that we intend to share intimate details, or rage against the universe, or wring our hands in despair. For it is what it is. But this is a blog about aging, and medical crisis and how one deals with it is one of the most challenging aspects of aging I observe. And am now experiencing.

So, in the weeks and months ahead I will be sharing the lessons we are learning, hoping that they will be of help and support to others who are faced with a similar challenge. And hoping you will share with us also - questions, comments, the lessons you've learned.  Let's learn together.

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Monday, September 5, 2016

Just Like That!

"Aging is no place for sissies."
~ Bette Davis

I woke this morning, a bit tired, having watched a couple Harry Potter movies late into the night. I was looking forward to a leisurely Sunday.  I'd have a Kahlua coffee in the den while tackling the crossword puzzle and  then wrestle with the sudoku. John would make eggs after he got back from Starbuck's with his soy latte, no foam, volcano hot.  Later I'd post a piece about Gene Wilder and the waves of nostalgia I've been experiencing since hearing of his death.

I went into the great room, surprised to see John sitting on the sofa, wearing his Greek fisherman's hat, apparently waiting for me,  No "Good morning."  No "How'd you sleep." Just  "I think you'd better take me to the emergency room.  Something's not right.  I'm having a hard time breathing."  Just like that!

Last night, Harry Potter in the den while he watched sports in the great room.  Tonight, well, when I left him, he was watching sports - in an ICU room.  Something is not right.  We still don't know what or why.  He's had a couple blood transfusions and, of course, a series of tests. We've been reassured he hasn't had a heart attack or stroke.  But - something is not right and they don't know what or why yet.

We've been here before.  Waiting on news.  Waiting for specialists.  Sitting in ICU rooms. After all, we've weathered breast cancer and non-Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  We know not to panic. We know how to advocate for ourselves.  We know we have supportive family and friends. We know how to ask for help.  We know we are stronger together.  

Somehow this feels different, however   Those bouts with cancer were fought in our early 60's. Today, in our mid 70's, we see more of our contemporaries in decline. We have less energy, less stamina.  Less to distract us, to occupy a worried mind. We are more reliant on each other, so feel more at risk when one of us is ill.  

But we are not sissies.  We may be old-er, but we are not sissies.  We are stronger together.

So, my plan for tomorrow.  Get there early enough to meet with the doctors - and stop off at Starbuck's on the way for his soy latte, no foam, volcano hot.