Deforestation: My 2nd Quarterly Check-In

Dear Folks,

It’s been a while since I sent an update – my bad.

Sometimes in life, winning bears great meaning.

Examples include: as an ex-con seeing your probation officer, a clean record has great implications; as a substance abuser checking in with your counselor, “no needle marks” prove the battle is being won; or as an alcoholic at your AA meeting, a dry patch is a hard earned chapter of clarity. In my case, it’s as a cancer alum meeting with my oncology team. To not have a win means you will not be revisiting a rocky journey that could bring you asunder.

Earlier this week, I had my quarterly check in at SCCA. I noticed some tension and stress as to what exactly the outcome will be.

From a clinical sense my own assessment was good.

My dad used to say that a patient’s vital signs will tell betray valuable info that is an important complement to whatever the tests will indicate. And I felt good. In fact, had if I had no memory of the events from July 2016 to March 2017, I would never know I had PTCL-NOS. The day-to-day routines are pretty unremarkable. I sleep okay. Eat “better than okay” (unfortunately). I am back to long walks and since March have been running a few times a week. My PR (personal record) is a 7:20 mile, though now it hovers between an 8:00 and 8:30 mile.

Another good indicator: as the team photographer for my older son’s high school cross country team, this season I could actually get from point A to point B BEFORE the fastest runners had traversed their route.

Last season, I never captured a shot at the middle of the course of their fastest senior female, Camila David-Smith, ( she was among the nation’s top 10 in the the 2 mile). She was the defiantly competitive hare, running so fast I was sure her feet didn’t actually touch the ground. I was the equally stubborn tortoise, who had discovered all that chemo drugs sloshing in my veins reduced me to two gears: 1) PARK; and 2) a barely noticeable trudge. I would see her showing the wind how to move, and while I impressed the glaciers in the same manner.

This year had no such problem. And I noticed. I could get shots of the entire team of 40 male runners in the men’s races, or nearly 30 female runners in the women’s races, then grab all my gear and dash the hundreds of yards to the next shoot point. I also noticed I ran with a dumb smile on my face. Why? Because I was actually running, God what a joy and a blessing it was. The year over year comparison made me so much more aware of this tiny aspect of goodness. And how poor our brains are at visualizing what absence can feel like, until it happens.

Keeping tabs on yourself is always important.

In my case keeping self-aware of my physicality is a bit more important given nature of the attacker: when it struck, my lymphoma was doubling each week. I raised the following hypothetical with Dr. Shustov last summer, “look what if a CT scan on July 1 has a clean reading, and the very next day the cancer kicked back into high gear again? By my next quarterly check-in on Oct, would I not be on the other side of dead?” His trademark ‘just the facts’ response (which I came to really like as no question was out of bounds for him), “Yes, you do need to watch for specific things that indicate something is not right, and these are nothing complicated either. Then, call us immediately if something looks odd.” Vigilance is important, yes.

So clinically, going into the meeting, I felt good.

Then the Results From the Tests Came.

The tests are also important. They cast a thousand bright lights into the nooks and crannies of the factories and warehouses, the back alleys and closets of the vast & complicated infrastructure that make up your body, just in case there are industrious physiological demons busily & silently at work.

The takeaway? An unambiguously clean reading for both the diagnostic CT scan and the blood draw.

Nothing showed up. It’s akin to a boring plane ride. You actually want just that. Sometimes in life, uneventfulness is a blessing. (I can return to more pedestrian, nonetheless important things, like my job search. Put in context, it’s the little leagues.)

That makes it 2 wins in 2 rounds.

Hallelujah!

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Snippet From the Diagnostic CT scan report that caught my eye.

Danger Zone.

At the meeting, Karen Shaivo the whiz-bang oncological specialist clarified that the first two years after treatment are particularly important. Why? Because, statistically, they have the highest incidence of remission. Simply put, the clean reading carries a little more bearing.

In truth, I am now of the view we are never out of the woods. The path forward is opaque, clarity is a wickedly seductive illusion. “Now” is the only truth, and what you do with it is essential. So rather, enjoy the woods. Try hard to do your life’s work each day. To that end, I found a little tool for my meandering ways – a Chrome extension grimly called the “Death Clock“. Each time I open a new tab, it shows the estimated number of days left if I have a healthy life. And so I wonder, should I actually watch this video, or read this FB post… or spend time with Paul and Sidd? Hmmm…

In closing, the score is 2 for 2. I am clean. The Norman Mailer painting comes to mind of a guy getting a tattoo with his new girlfriend’s name. But in my case, it says, “1 for 1,” “2 for 2.” I have a long-time friend from high school, Bob Chambers whose business makes signage including T-shirts. I’ll run some ideas by him.

Norman Mailer painting

“Tattoo Artist” © 1944, Norman Rockwell (Click for larger images)

So have a long walk, hug someone, indulge in a dessert, or watch another episode of Stranger Things on my behalf today. 🙂

How About We Again Close With Some Goodness?

William Ellery Channing

To live content with small means;
To seek elegance rather than luxury,
And refinement rather than fashion;
To be worthy, not respectable, and wealthy, not, rich;
To listen to stars and birds, babes and sages, with open heart;
To study hard;
To think quietly, act frankly, talk gently, await occasions, hurry never;
In a word, to let the spiritual, unbidden and unconscious, grow up through the common.
This is my symphony.

3 from Rumi

Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.

As you start to walk out on the way, the way appears.

If you are irritated by every rub, how will you be polished?

As always, you can find old posts here.

Happy Holidays! Abe…

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