Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Happy first Stem Cell Transplant Day to me

I'll go to your party, you'll come to mine

We've given up cigarettes, we've given up wine

We've given up caffeine and sworn off desserts

We're too good to be happy, too straight to be sad

So just blow out the candles, Happy Birthday

Carly Simon

Generally my journey through cancer bounces along, day in and day out, with emotional upheaval kept to a minimum. Physically? Sure, there are good days and bad days. Emotionally, not so much.

Still, there are some dates- Christmas, New Year's, my wedding anniversary, my children and grandchildren's birthdays, for example- that make me wonder, “Is this the last one of these I'll see?” I don't feel the same about... oh... your birthday, let's say, or Arbor Day. Likewise Groundhog Day and Speak Like a Pirate Day don't even register. Easter is important, but because of it's shifting nature, it's hard to think about the next one when you couldn't say with much confidence when the next one would be.

I know I've said this before, but there's no reason to feel sad or maudlin when I share these sorts of thoughts. Yes, we're further down the road now and there's much more wear and tear on my system, so I can see where it might not be something you feel comfortable hearing about. It certainly doesn't leave me wanting to do the happy dance. But here's the thing: I can't afford to be maudlin. I don't have the luxury of being coy about something like this, especially at times like now when I am getting my butt kicked by my illness on an almost daily basis.

I have to look every thought, every situation, right in the proverbial eye and deal with it. You keep telling me how brave I am, and I'm still not sure about that. But, I will also tell you that I am not a big enough coward, I am not afraid enough, to keep shoving difficult, painful thoughts out of my head just because they're difficult or painful.

There are too many other things in my life that I just can't deal with right now, so I don't. We have two printers for our computers and neither of them works. I just don't have the energy to change that. I actually sent my friend Peters a handwritten note the other day. Hand...written...in cursive and everything. But honestly, being unable to print things is an inconvenience. These other things are, quite literally, life and death.

We all know that no one gets out of here alive. No one. Like you, I've known that for a long, long time. However, until I got sick, my attitude was always, “Yeah. Sure. But I ain't going anywhere for a long time.” And that might still be the case, right? Maybe the only real difference between you and me is that I know what is most likely to be my cause of death.

This current bout of thinking is brought to you by my birthday, which I celebrated this week. Sixty-six; one six short of the mark of the beast. I was actually born on an Easter Sunday, so maybe, for this one year only, there is some added irony in that.

Birthdays, in recent memory at least, have always struck me in the same manner as New Year's Eve. A lot of hype over what is, really, just one more day. Don't get me wrong. I love getting presents as much as the next guy, but couldn't we just get a couple of extra presents at Christmas time in honor of the fact that we will soon be turning another year older?

Or, maybe a National Present Day. Everybody gets their presents on the same day, once a year. That way we could have all the hoopla, without any of the angst. The countdown- only three more shopping days until National Present Day- without the introspection- another year gone and I still haven't learned to deal any better with my emotional issues.

I guess the one thing I could say about birthdays at this point is that I certainly hope to have another one, and possibly more. But from where I sit, at least one more would be cool.

Then there's always this to consider: my entire medical team tells me to look at May 6, the day of my stem cell transplant, as the first day of the rest of my life, making it another birthday, of sorts.

Now, frankly, celebrating that makes so much more sense. First off, I had something to do with it. My birth birth, I was just there about nine months after my parents... well, when they... I don't want to talk about that. Suffice to say, I didn't have anything to do with it.

The stem cell transplant, though... Sheri and I were involved in determining that date right from the start. Actually, though, we didn't set the date for the transplant so much as we set the date to begin the lengthy, but arduous process that ended in the transplant itself.

So, thinking about it all, I guess I can stop pretending that my birthday means anything to me, and embrace Stem Cell Transplant Day as a true cause for celebration.

Oh, wait. I realize that puts you in a difficult position... I mean, what kind of present do you get someone for their Stem Cell Transplant Day? Especially the first pne? Wow. I guess I didn't think the whole thing through, in terms of how you would be affected. Hmmm. You know what, I'm just going to go out on a limb and say that you can't go wrong with cash.

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