Thursday, November 20, 2014

No more curmudgeon for you

First off, I want to thank you for all the support and caring you offered me last week when I wrote about my “meltdown.”

Over the months I've been writing this, it no longer amazes me when people are kind or supportive about something I write. You have been wonderful about that. But, the compassion that poured down on Sheri and me last week was even more humbling than usual. Seriously. You are generous beyond words. So generous, in fact, that I don't feel comfortable being a curmudgeon any more. If you are going to be so nice to someone you don't know except through the written word, how the heck am I going to be all, “You don't really care. You're just saying that.” Or, “Yeah? Well, life sucks and then you die.” I can't. I've tried. You've taken all the fun out of being curmudgeonly.

Want to buy a “My curmudgeon can out snarl your curmudgeon” tee-shirt. I have plenty!

To update you on all that... As it turned out, the alternative the medical staff came up with worked. They were able to view my gall bladder function and saw that it was normal. That was actually disappointing to me, because I figured that malfunctioning gall bladder would be the solution to what is going on with my stomach. Then, we'd smash that gall bladder, or whatever they do to them nowadays, and let me pay the land of pain free a visit for the first time in over 14 months.

Besides, Thanksgiving is coming up. That would be a great thing to be thankful for! As we all know, my knowledge of anatomy and physiology is sketchy at the very best, but it seems to me that if my gall bladder is gone, not only would I have an appetite again... But, with the extra room, I would be able to cram in more food. Yes! Right, I know I have that extra spleen, but that doesn't take up much room. Besides, I've had that for countless Thanksgivings past. It's just that this year I know it's there.

Well, no. The palliative care doctor remains convinced that there is something wrong with my gall bladder, though, and so I'm scheduled to see the gastroenterologist on Dec. 1. True, that's too late for Thanksgiving, but I'm sure I can scrape up something else for which to be grateful (note the proper grammar??).

Did you see what I did there? Huh? Threw you a little curve ball. Didn't I? I intimated that without the obvious good news of my gall bladder being removed, I was going to have a hard time “scraping up” something to be thankful for. It was a ruse. A ploy, if you will, to get you emotionally involved in what came next. I'm sure they have a name for that sort of ploy in writers' school, but I never went to writers' school, so I couldn't tell you.

Fake ploy not withstanding, obviously, I have a tremendous amount of gratitude for the current state of my life.

The big thing heading into this time period last year was that I had no idea what my cancer was up to. Was it active, thinking about remission, going into remission, or “other.” I had no idea and wouldn't know until the first of the year.

But there were things I did know, and that I was grateful for. The love of my wife and my family and how much support they extended to me. I had friends to help, but at this time last year I had no idea how many nor how connected they were to me and my recovery.

Last Thanksgiving I was facing a tremendous unknown in my potential stem cell transplant. I mean, what the heck was it and what was it going to do for me. The general things I knew about it were both encouraging and daunting. It would help beat back my cancer, true, but it meant spending days in isolation and a long period of recovery.

It meant spending a lot of time in Boston and we had no idea where Sheri was going to live while I was in the hospital. We spent hours making phone calls, trying to keep the expense of spending a month in Boston within our weakening financial grasp. On top of a place to stay, we had to consider the cost of parking and meals, and this was all on top of the medical care I need.

Last year, we believed it would all be okay and that we would manage just fine. This year, we can look back and give thanks for all that was done for us. Friends gave us a place to stay, rent free. We were able to get assistance with the parking which would have cost us hundreds of dollars otherwise. We even were helped with the cost of gas traveling back and forth between home and the hospital.

The stem cell transplant went like a dream and was so successful that I was released a day early, the projected at-home recovery time was seriously shortened and I was able to re-start my life much sooner.

Last year, Thanksgiving was all about hope and trusting. This year it's about saying thank you for the hope and trust being true!

This year, for the first time in 30 years, one of my daughters and her family will be spending the holiday with us. That's one daughter, one husband, and three male grandchildren which = a happy Jim and Sheri. Maybe I should say happier, since we're pretty grateful for what we've been given every day of our lives. We hope you and your family have a wonderful Thanksgiving, and, if I may quote Warren Zevon again, "Just let us be brave, and make us play nice.”

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.”