When you take any journey in which you control the mode of transportation, you can experience things you wouldn't if you had to ask the driver to stop the bus, risk the fine for pulling the emergency cord on the train or just continue to look wistfully down from 35,000 feet at, say, where the World's Largest Ball of Twine is known to sit.
My daughters make the best of an average 10-hour journey to visit us by picking a web site featuring roadside attractions, many of them as simple as a business sign that catches their fancy, one like Mr. Peanut in front of Perry's Nut House just north of the City of Belfast, and visit as many of the gems they see as they can fit into their travels.
Maybe it's their recent visit that has me thinking of some of the things I've gathered in this three-plus years journey with cancer. Is that a forced comparison? You tell me. It's certainly something that I've been thinking about.
It could be it's the holidays that make you look back, not only at previous holidays and what was happening in your life then, but at the times around those mostly day-long celebrations.
Whatever the reason, I've been think about some of the things that I've noticed as I spent the past 1186 days with cancer.
First, although I am certainly more than a cancer victim, as I have pointed out numerous times before, it is almost impossible to have a conversation in which it does not come up, usually to the exclusion of anything else because cancer is a definite conversation shortner. Talking about it makes the vast majority of people very uncomfortable, and after a quick check-in to see how you're doing, they generally wander away as their most effective method of ceasing the conversation.
Chronic pain sucks. It doesn't even have to be really painful pain. When it is present every day, it makes it very hard to find positives in your life.
And finding positives in a journey like this is probably the one biggest find/roadside attraction you have to try to discover every day. The days you fall short on that need... it really doesn't matter if your cancer is in recession or has come back full blast,they aren't going to be good days.
People are going to want to show your their love for you , their caring and they're going to want to do things for you. You need to let them.
Communicating in relationships is even harder, and the closer the relationship, the more difficult it can be. Take my wife and me for example. We are both under a tremendous amount of pressure; she sees someone she loves in some state of physical disrepair everyday, while I have to watch her worry and stress over my failing health. Nerves are part of our physical make up and subject to damage just like any other. But how do you snap at a person who has cancer? How do you become short-tempered with someone who is doing everything in their power to help you though this horror? The very nature of the sickness forces us to be together, and under stress, a lot. For Sheri and me, we do the best we can and apologize quickly when we cannot.
And in a somewhat related item, I've found that having two spleens doesn't change the process of venting your spleen. Since one is comparable to the donut-sized spare tire most cars come with these days, you petty much move right though that. But, hey, maybe it replaces the time-tested count to 10 before you say something you'll regret. Maybe not. I'll have to do some research and get back to you, brothers and sisters.
Spiritual signs pop up all over the place. If you believe in coincidences, that might be what you see. I don't. I need to consider just two examples from the last nearly-1,100 days. I first discovered I had multiple myeloma when I went to my family doctor to check out some damage to my ribs that I thought was caused by an attack of wasps while I was doing some yard work. Nope. Cancer. And now for your consideration: a friend of my older daughter's is part of the team that has developed the amazing new treatment regimen that is the latest to be used on my cancer. Add the fact that the same daughter has another friend, working for a different pharmaceutical company that has come close a couple of times in a treatment for multiple myeloma and it pretty much, at least in my mind, rules out coincidence.
One last thing for now: cancer is everywhere. Maybe you need to have it to realize just how much you see it in real life, in the plot of virtually every TV show if it is on the air long enough, in books, movies... everywhere. So I think it becomes important that we keep hope everywhere. Miracles are happening and new treatments and cures are being found. So, let's keep the faith baby. The joy can be in the journey.
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