Thursday, June 4, 2015

'Finding the Pony' turns 100... and one

Last week's column was the 100th blog on my journey through cancer. In this case, 100 seems like a lot. Yes, there are plenty of others who have written much more. Remember Dear Abby? How many do you suppose her, or her sister Ann Landers, did. Different formats, true, but thousands would seem to be the answer and thousands is a lot.

I have never been a prolific writer. I have always tended to write in fits and starts. Whether it's starting a short story, or a book, or even other attempts at columns... My output has always been rather limited.

In this case, though, I've been pretty thorough. As I've mentioned here what must seem like countless times, somewhere along the way, many people have come to depend on me for a weekly dose... of whatever it is they get from this. That sentence calls out for a cheap joke. But I'm running a little low on them.

Truth is I'm running low on a lot of things. If some of you have been working on collecting the whole set of “Finding the Pony” through the Kennebec Journal and/or the Morning Sentinel, you'll find yourself a little short. Not all my blogs have been published in the papers, though far and away the majority have. There is also the variance in my own output.

When I started, there were weeks I wrote a couple of columns as things happened too fast around my cancer treatment for one blog to give me the relief writing brings me. There may even have been a couple of weeks when there were three.

The numbers, and what was going on with my treatment at the time, don't tell the whole story of my heady output. The protocol for treating my multiple myeloma, prior to my stem cell transplant, included a dose of chemotherapy, taken in capsule form; an IV dose of Velcade, a targeted therapy approved for use in treating multiple myeloma; and steroids... lots and lots of steroids.

Steroids, though actually an important part of my care at the time, also made me manic on a scale comparable to... let's say... oh... The Tasmanian Devil in Warner Brother cartoons. They gave me extra energy, made it impossible to stop talking, and left sleeping as nothing but a pleasant memory.

So, just taking steroids would have given me extra waking hours and available energy to write plenty of columns. But the thing is... On top of that, in the beginning I misunderstood the directions on the bottle of steroids. Judging by the oh-so-many people who showed me the label and directions written, as they so kindly noted, in little words even a child could follow, it should have been ABUNDANTLY clear I was to take them once a week, not once a day.

I saw more than my share of sunrises during this time, since I was consistently still awake when the sun came up. My writing output showed considerable volume, but it also showed a considerable amount of “Forty Monkeys Given Typewriters; Produce 'Hamlet,'” with similar results. For each “There's something rotten in the state of Denmark,” there waaaaay many more “Tjslkdjf jso pppdfa jhnsasm””s.

Anyway, did I have any idea how many people would respond to my writing about my journey through cancer? No. Did I have any idea the impact it would have on people? No. Did I know people would send me stuff in the mail? No, but that was cool.

In truth, I didn't know if the number of blogs would even get into double digits, either because of my heretofore shaky output, or my losing the fight in the very early rounds.

In the beginning, the writing didn't come too hard, really, because I was able to address multiple myeloma/cancer stuff, medical stuff and technical bits of what was going on around me.

Still, it wasn't long before I realized that I was going to end up revealing a lot more about me and my feelings than I had originally intended. And that was because of you, brothers and sisters, because of you. You had so many kind words and offered so many thanks for my being able to ease your fears, or help you deal with a loved one being sick. What was I supposed to do but keep writing?

Same with Sheri too. As I wrote about what she had to live through on a daily basis, caring for someone she loved living with cancer- the second time she had had to do so. Her son Jason suffered from neuroblastoma twice before he was four years old (He's now 37)- you told us it helped so many of you deal with the same challenges in your lives.

And then, somewhere along the way, I realized I was actually writing about dying from cancer, not living with it. Doesn't that strike you as odd? It does me. Multiple myeloma is incurable and it kills people. So, though on the surface, I was writing about living with all that, in my heart I was obviously preparing for the opposite. Wow.

Still, here I am still standing, still writing, still waiting for Godot. I made that last bit up. I am waiting to see what happens next, though, and I hope to be able to share it with you, whatever it may be.

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.