This week I celebrate an anniversary of sorts. One year ago I was riding in the bike lane at Audubon Park when someone I disparagingly refer to as a “Tulane frat boy” lost control of his skate board while doing jumps. The board hit my bike and I went down, hard. I knew things were not okay. As I lay on the ground, my immediate thought was that I was supposed to leave for Peru in three weeks – that was going to be a problem. After they saw I was not dead, the frat boy and his buddies took off, not wanting to hang around to take any responsibility. Someone else passing by helped me get back on my bike. I shakily peddled home, got to the front steps of our house and collapsed. I hobbled around on a walker and then a cane for several weeks.
And what a year it has been!
My first medical visits were not promising. The bone scans and blood tests did not look good – something else might be going on besides the impact of the wreck. My primary care physician recommended additional tests to rule out cancer – but that could wait until I got back from Peru. I ended up leaving for Peru four weeks later than planned, making my way through the airport with a cane. I was physically miserable for the six weeks I spent In Peru. When I returned to New Orleans in early August I could not lift my duffel bag off the baggage return conveyor at the airport.
Then tests and more tests, and by late August my oncologist’s diagnosis was a stage 4 cancer metastasized throughout my bones with an unknown primary source. Three to six months of life reamining was the first prognosis. I won’t rehash the next few months of medical process that I blogged about, beginning here.
By February of this year, six months after the initial diagnosis, with the exception of fatigue, I remained without the manifestations that cancer was supposed to bring. My oncologist referred to the lack of my cancer spreading as a real “head scratcher.”
Then in mid-March of this year I had a heart attack. And now in mid-May, I am in cardiac rehab and living with my somewhat ambiguous my cancer.
So how do I celebrate this one year anniversary?
- Though I hate to admit it, the “Tulane frat boy” did me a favor by getting me to a doctor to begin the testing that revealed the cancer. My monthly x-geva injections have stabilized the bone loss and brought all blood indicators to normal. I have less back and neck pain than I routinely experienced two years ago.
- My cancer prognosis remains uncertain at this point. Taking all things into consideration, I feel good today, but realize that can all come crashing down pretty quickly, as I wrote last week. The same is true for the heart attack, cardiac rehab, and whatever that future holds.
- Emma and I reprioritized our lives, not putting off till tomorrow what we are able to do today.
- Of importance, I continue to explore life’s existential questions and meet fellow pilgrims on that journey. I particularly enjoy my small group meetings, whether the Enneagram discussion that Emma hosts at her shop each week, the Sunday Wilderness class at Rayne Memorial UMC, or the weekly gathering of friends in the School for Contemplative Living.
- I have a strong and complete “attitude of gratitude” for my 30 plus years of sobriety that brought me to today. I consider the folks I have met through my treatments at Touro Infirmary, the outstanding professionals (particularly the RNs) and patients facing the same issues as me, as a recent gift on that road.
- Asking myself “What matters most?” as I live each day takes on added meaning. Today the answer mostly had to do with work in our gardens, sharing out our abundance of herbs, and feeling that wonderful New Orleans sun on my back as I planted a bed of wildflowers.
When Emma and I retired to New Orleans we each had plans about how our lives would go. Substantive portions of those expectations are now revised. But, as we celebrate this anniversary, we are certain to take the best of those plans with us as we continue on our happy and meaningful road to our true selves.