Thursday, October 27, 2011

Annoyingly Happy

I am becoming that annoying person that people love to hate. 
I am that person who comes storming into work each morning, over-caffeinated and far too cheerful.  If you start to complain about your day, I am likely to say “Well, at least you are alive, employed, and have health insurance.  It could be so much worse.”  If you start to tell me your problems, I might zone out a bit because in my head I’m thinking “Really?  These are problems?”
Don’t get me wrong.  I have bad days, and I have bad moments and occasionally I throw a pity party for myself.  But I can usually snap myself out of it by reading the posts of other cancer survivors/fighters or by going back and ready my own writing and remember how I longed to just have normal stressful days. 
It annoys me when I see people just fester and spend an entire day angry about things that mean nothing in the grand scheme of things.  Life really is too short.  I was listening to the radio the other day to a snippet of a commencement speech given by Steve Jobs and he said:
“When I was 17, I read a quote that went something like: "If you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll most certainly be right." It made an impression on me, and since then, for the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: "If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?" And whenever the answer has been "No" for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.

Remembering that I'll be dead soon is the most important tool I've ever encountered to help me make the big choices in life. Because almost everything — all external expectations, all pride, all fear of embarrassment or failure - these things just fall away in the face of death, leaving only what is truly important. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked. There is no reason not to follow your heart.

Your time is limited, so don't waste it living someone else's life. Don't be trapped by dogma — which is living with the results of other people's thinking. Don't let the noise of others' opinions drown out your own inner voice.  And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly want to become. Everything else is secondary.”

And I’ll be honest, I may have said this all sounded like a bunch of pompous bull prior to this whole cancer thing.  But those words resonated with me in a way that is difficult to express.  And what he says about being unhappy too many days in a row – so very true.  We all have obligations that have to happen and being employed isn’t optional for most of us.  But if you are miserable at work everyday, then you are probably in the wrong line of work.  I am fortunate that I have a career that I enjoy and manages to nourish me both intellectually and creatively.
And even if you are in a job that you have to do solely to pay the bills, what is the harm in trying to make the best out of it?  There is nothing wrong with making the best of a bad situation.  As Abraham Lincoln once said “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” 
So me?  I’m going to be annoyingly happy.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Save the Assholes

Let me start by saying that I am all about cancer awareness.  Early detection is frequently the difference between life and death.  I am 100% certain of this.  This post is not intended to discourage anyone from cancer detection.  I am just sharing my own personal perspective. 
October is breast cancer awareness month.  How do I know this?  How could I NOT know this?  Between the blitz of radio ads, billboards, walks, runs, workshops, T-shirts, ribbons, and bumper stickers it would be impossible not to know about breast cancer awareness.  I grabbed an egg out of the refrigerator the other day, and even it was stamped with a pink breast cancer ribbon.
As someone who works in marketing I completely understand why breast cancer gets all the awareness.  Between a great spokesperson (Susan Komen), pink ribbons, and a whole society of people that wants to save the tatas it is an easy sell. 
But sometimes I think we as a society are so focused on saving the tatas that we forget about the folks that are fighting the less glamorous cancer fight.  Let’s talk about the men and women with rectal cancer that not only have to fight cancer, but have to be ashamed to talk about it.  Try going to your doctor to talk about those issues.  No one is giving them a pink ribbon or stamping an egg about awareness. 
Or the folks with tonsil cancer – one of the most painful cancers to experience.  Tonsil cancer patients undergo one of the most painful treatments imaginable and it goes on for months.  And it’s usually diagnosed from a sore throat that just won’t go away.
Most people don’t even realize my cancer, lymphoma, is a blood cancer.  And it’s often diagnosed from a set of symptoms (commonly referred to as “B symptoms”) that seem bizarre – itching, weight-loss, night sweats, and low grade fever.  I didn’t really have any of those, but you’d be surprised as the number of people who do and it takes months and months for them to figure out what they have because there is no real awareness.  Cancer symptoms can be obvious – a lump in your breast or on your prostate.  But they can also be much more subtle – stool changes, frequent urination, tiredness, a wart or a mole, white spots on the tongue, coughing, anemia, headaches, and weight loss.  It could be a single symptom or a combination. 
I am not writing this to scare you into trying to learn all the symptoms of all the types of cancers.  That is a ridiculous notion to anyone who hasn’t been through a cancer diagnosis or had a loved one with cancer.  But I am writing this to encourage you to listen to your body and see a professional if you are feeling “off”.  If it ends up being nothing, you’ve lost nothing more than a couple of hours of work and a few bucks.  You are not so important that your workplace cannot function without you for two hours.  But if it is something, you may have gained a lifetime due to early detection.
So yes, save the tatas. But how about we try to save everything else too?

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Full-Speed Ahead

I can’t believe how long it has been since my last post.  I have been so very busy that it has been difficult to find the time to stop and reflect. 

Cancer is becoming more of a memory.  And as time passes, the details become blurred and it is slowly becoming this thing that happened a while back.  I thought the day would never come in which it wasn’t constantly consuming my thoughts, but time is a wonderful remedy.  There just might be life after cancer.

I haven’t been great with the treadmill this week, but I have been pretty active so I feel good.   For example, last weekend we finished painting the kitchen.  The kitchen I started to paint years ago that remained half-painted all through my cancer days.  It was one of those things that made me feel like my life was on pause.

This fall is sort of surreal.  I am doing all the things we do each fall.  Except now I know that last year at this time I had cancer.  Yesterday we went to Ocktoberfest, and as I was walking around I was remembering that last year I felt so tired.  And I felt wonderful this time, which gave me more confidence that maybe the nightmare really is over.  It is hard to describe, but I feel like my “cancer ghost” haunts each experience.  But it is important for me to remember how far I’ve come so the ghost can stay for now.

Last week was very busy at work, and this week is more of the same.  I have a gauntlet of travel the first part of the week that includes a one day trip to DC (fly in and out same day) and a trip to Raleigh for two days.  But for so long I felt “grounded” that it is sort of exciting to get out and see people and really jump in with both feet.

Lingering side effects are almost completely gone.  Probably the one that drives me the craziest is that when I’m really tired I really struggle for words.  It’s not that I can’t gather my thoughts; it’s that I can’t find the right words to express them.  And this totally frustrates me because being able to speak intelligently on-the-spot is an important part of my job.  I just need to be cognizant and try to get appropriate amounts of sleep. 

Today was a fabulous day of emerald mining with Ust Gunder, Tom Tom, and the hubbie.  We had a great time, but I think every inch of my body is exhausted so I’ve got a serious night of relaxing planned.

Two last thoughts – rest in peace to Steve Jobs who lost his battle to cancer.  Cancer sucks.  I am sad that we will never know what ideas were still in that head of his because of this stupid disease.  Also, I am very sad that my dog niece Val also passed away this week.  I have great memories of watching her and Zoe romp when they were young dogs.  I know that she is somewhere doing that now and feeling no pain.  Much love to Rosalie who is missing her fur-baby.