Sunday, October 2, 2016

Oh, yeah. Happy anniversary


Lies that life is black and white
Spoke from my skull...
Ah, but I was so much older then,
I'm younger than that now”
Bob Dylan

Lost in all the kerfuffle around my latest treatment is the fact that it has been three years since I was diagnosed with multiple myeloma.

Actually, three years plus a few days, but considering the questions and mystery surrounding the initial diagnosis, three years seems like a safe enough anniversary to mark.

The beginning of a journey is always... well, exiting if nothing else. Somewhere in yourself, you know there are going to be highs, lows and middles. Whether it be something wonderful, like a trip to Disney World or some other long-dreamed of place; or merely mundane, though pleasant, like the annual visit to family around an annual event (reunion, Thanksgiving, etc.)... highs, lows middles.

As it begins, I think, as humans, we focus on the highs. Everyone on the trip will be on their best behavior, all connections will be made, and fatigue will be manageable.

In truth...not so much.

Still, when I found out I had multiple myeloma, a rare, incurable, but treatable, form of cancer, after the initial shock, it appears I decided to make the best of it. I mean, I didn't have a discussion with myself, nor did I confer with Sheri on whether or not to be positive, negative, fatalistic or what. I just decided to keep my oncologist appointments and do what came next.

Before I started “Finding the Pony,” I did some journaling, off and on, for the first few weeks. I decided to look back and found, as would be expected, plenty of confusion and more micro managing than I would have thought it possible for one man to carry. Every twitch of pain, every disruption of sleep, every doctor's visit was held up to the bright light of worry, scrutinized and assigned an importance it could not possibly hold.

Amidst all this flaffery, fluffery and over thinking, I even misunderstood what multiple myeloma actually was. Probably because it was lesions in my bones showing up on a CAT scan that was one of the confirming factors in my diagnosis, I thought it was a bone marrow cancer. Is there even such a classification? As we well know now, it is a blood cancer, and a tricky little bugger at that.

Despite all that there was the occasional moment of clarity: Oct. 17, 20013- So, I begin treatment in earnest tomorrow. I am more than ready. There is some trepidation about how tired and/or ill I may get, but I really want to start doing something about the cancer itself. So, let's go, right?” True dat.

And here we are three years later, still standing, still showing up for my oncologist appointments and doing what comes next. Like any journey, there have been highs and lows. In something of a reverse of what I wrote before, going into this I think I expected more minuses than pluses, more lows than highs, and yet, I can't say that's how it's been.

There have been far more many highs than lows. Through all the different treatments, and through all the different kinds of pain, there's been a focus to things in my life; a better, though not perfect, understanding of what's important, what matters and a willingness to accept the love people have been heaping on me virtually since day one.

Reading through the pages of my journal, I also found this, which, frankly, describes the most important thing I have learned in all of this: “Late September, 2013: Just looking back at the cards and letters Sheri and I exchanged when we first started going out... It was crazy, terrific and tough. But these, right now, are the days when love shows. Not just being sick, but growing older, sharing our latest fears and successes, loving our lives together. The beginning, when it was crazy, is not to be lamented. It was wonderful and difficult, and sooo worth it all... because we needed that to bring us to this.”

Happy anniversary to all of us. You have been an important part of my journey and I thank you for it!

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