Thursday, July 3, 2014

I guess I have been through a lot

There is no doubt that we are on a streak of wonderful clinic visits. The latest generated more enthusiasm and another A+. It never gets old. If I'd had the positive feeling of multiple A's in college, maybe I would have applied myself more... Nah.

I was never motivated by grades, just as in my professional life I was never motivated by money. If I didn't like what I was doing, you couldn't pay me enough. If I did like my work, I swear to God, most of the time I couldn't tell you what I was being paid. I'm not an idiot, in case that thought entered you mind, at least not in that regard. I knew I was usually making enough, and that was okeedoke.

Anyway, we were sitting I the doctor's room, after being graded, and I was gearing up for another woofing session: “Didn't study”; “How do you like me now?”; and so on. Then Sheri said something that stopped me in mid-woof: “Do you realize what you've gone through, what you've done, to be getting such good news?”

“Do I realize what I've gone through? You're talking to the... Wait. What?”

“This didn't just happen. You've met every challenge you were given. You've done everything you were asked to do, no matter how hard it might have been. These good results didn't just happen.”

What? That's not right. No. I didn't study. Sheri is the one who has been conscientious about things. She's the one who has been stable-ish, and focused.

“Think about what has happened since Labor Day weekend last year.”

I don't spend much time doing that. For one thing, there's been enough going on at any given time to keep me occupied. I wrote about what was happening at the time, and filed it under a blog number (this is blog 54, by the way), and faced whatever was next.

As we know, though. it doesn't take much to get me thinking. Okay. On the Saturday of Labor Day weekend I was attacked by a swarm of bees, stung 15 times, injured (I thought) a rib, went to the doctor, went for a CAT scan, and found out I had multiple myeloma, whatever that was.

So the “going through” started immediately. I don't mean because I found out I had cancer; that was too big a topic to even consider. No. I had to go home that night and tell my wife I had cancer. I had left the house with an injured rib, and I was coming home with cancer. As I wrote at the time, there is no easy way to do that. You just do. Then you just do with your kids.

And the just doing becomes how you handle “going through.”

Alright, I have cancer. Now what. Well, multiple myeloma is incurable, but is treatable. Okay. There's conflicting information if ever I heard it. What does that mean? To me, exactly?

Right. Initial treatment is chemo in pill form and large dosages of steroids. The steroids made me manic, but it was for my own good.

In the process of going through the initial treatment, I presented symptoms of blood clots, a not uncommon side effect of my treatment. After being checked through nuclear medicine, it was determined that I was stressed, and wasn't even aware of it. Maybe I was distracted from the stress by the terrible rash I developed; another side effect.

Well, we got through all that and began making arrangements for a stem cell transplant. Look, I had never heard of such a thing and, frankly, I would have been happy to live my whole life without knowing what it was, never mind having one. But, if I was going to get through this, my medical team felt it was the right thing to do.

In the process of preparing for the transplant, it was determined I had a rare chromosome problem called chromosome deletion 17p. The name struck me as ridiculous, something you would expect in a Monty Python sketch. Well, it wasn't funny, as it turned out. It could seriously affect any remission I may achieve. Again, what am I supposed to do about that? I needed to add an IV chemo to the regimen I was already taking. Fine, I can do that.

Then there was the stem cell transplant itself. Don't worry, I'm not going to make you revisit that. Yes, Jim, we know it was challenging. Yes, Jim, we know you were very brave during the whole process. No, Jim, we don't really want to hear the details again.

Then there's all the little, daily challenges that I've forgotten about Sheri mentioned, in passing this morning, about when I had to chew on ice for an hour-and-a-half, for a few days; I don't even remember how many. It was so the chemo I had been given to kill my immune system prior to transplant wouldn't injure my throat. I'm sure that doesn't sound like much to you, but believe me- it sucked.

So, all in all, Sheri had an excellent point to make when she asked if I knew all I had gone through. Even with all that, we still don't know what is happening with the cancer itself. The transplant was a huge success, and my immune system is bouncing back quicker than anyone expected. The next big thing to go through then, is finding out for sure that the cancer is in remission, as we believe it to be. We can do that.

While I think it's important to look back on all that, I see no need to linger. There's plenty ahead to go through and I'll continue to focus on that. I do want to point out though: two A pluses and an A, and I didn't study. How do you like me now?!

There are a variety of versions of the story that gives this blog its name. The pony is the constant in all of them. A man is on his way to a party when he comes across a young boy shoveling ass over tea kettle at an enormous mountain of manure. The man asks the child if he wouldn't rather go with him to the party than shovel all that poop. The kid says, “No way man. With all that poop... there must be a pony in there somewhere.”