Thursday, April 14, 2016

Another loss, another fight

I lost another friend to cancer this week. I say friend, cause that's how he seemed to me. I mean, I hadn't known him an especially long time, didn't see him on any sort of regular basis, didn't have dozens of stories to share about things we did together. But...He was someone I liked; someone kind, caring and thoughtful; willing to help others on a moment's notice. Those are the things that matter; those are the things that led me to call him friend.

I had bumped into him about three months ago when we were each visiting our own doctors at the cancer center. He looked pretty good, and I wasn't aware that he'd been sick, so we didn't talk an awful lot. Hey, for all I knew, at that point, he could have been there as a volunteer helping other people. That's just the type of person he was.

I saw him again about a month later and it was obvious that he was there for himself, not for others. He looked pretty sick, but he didn't complain. Again, we just talked about what each other was doing to help ourselves and away we went for our doctor visits.

The last time I saw him, he didn't look so good. That doesn't always mean much, not as far as outside appearances goes at any rate. But, this time, he looked really tired, from the inside out. He was having a hard time talking, his significant other was there and Sheri was with me and the four of us kinda huddled together to share... well. To share whatever positives we could.

Then the two of them were off down the hall to see their doctor and Sheri and I went off to see mine. And that was that.

This comes at a time in my journey through cancer that, other than my stem cell transplant itself, has been the hardest physically... by far. My cancer has put a tremendous strain on me mentally over the months, a strain not always matched by physical symptoms. This time, though, the physical pain is the Alpha Dog. Bow flippin' wow. Best in Class.

It began with the first dose of my adjusted chemotherapy and how terrible that made me feel. Somewhere in there, something happened to my collarbone (the good one this time). Now it hurts to breath, it hurts to not breath, it hurts for you to not breath somewhere I can see you...

This lead to an emergency room visit and after a few hours, tests, etc., it was decided that some cartilage had separated from by breast bone. How did that happen? Well brothers and sisters, that answer's in the same book with the one for “Why did I get cancer?” In the medical profession I believe they call it, “The Great Big Book of Because.” I guess the big boy name for what I have now is Costochondritis.

Just to show you the universe is still good for quite the little chuckle at my expense... This is EXACTLY what I thought I had when I went to the hospital after being attacked and stung by bees 2 ½ years ago; when we came to find out if was multiple myeloma. Yeah. Seriously.

When I sit in hospitals these days, which I do a lot, I am very aware of how much actual disease and illness is around me at again given time. Every cough. Every sneeze seems like a personal attack.

So, it didn't come as all that great a surprise to arrive home with something which, though maybe not flu, wouldn't certainly do until the flu showed up. Aaaarrrrggggghhhhhh.

It took difficulty in breathing to a whole new level and took any cough, no matter how slight, and turned into a multi-colored display of the body's pain centers that left anyone looking at it wondering: “Okay. Red is pain. Right? But what about all these different shades of red? Red is all we have.” True dat, my sisters and brothers in the medical field. Welcome to me.

The bottom line in all this is that I feel lousy, but it's a strange lousy. It's almost like a pre-cancer lousy, when all you had to worry about was which of the myriad medications shown on TV would work best. That lousy was an adult version of what you had felt as a child through young adulthood through.... well, now. There were mild variations, but rubbing Vick's on yourself wasn't so different from your mother rubbing Vick's on you.

But you don't rub Vick's on light chain proteins and drinking warm tea with honey is just going to gum up your system. But... But... Here's the thing we know as a result of the past 30 months. We can adapt. We can adjust. We can figure out what it is we need to toss at the “new” lousy and beat it... I just hope it doesn't turn out to be that neon yellow liquid medicine that stuck to the countertops and wouldn't come off. Yeah. I hope it isn't that.

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