Surviving In This Very Moment…

My Personal Battle with Prostate Cancer … And Life!

Archive for the tag “Chicago Cubs”

Getting Festive . . . Making Decisions

Getting Festive

Getting Festive (photo credit: Roger Passman)

It is Saturday afternoon as I sit down to write. The day began with a trip to the Vet’s office with our two dogs, Mazel and Simin. They were due for their heartworm injections, in fact, they were it turns out, six months overdue. They should have been injected in June but that month was taken up with my knee replacement surgery. Who ever said that growing old was going to be easy? Now, with the relief of being declared cancer free, we can pay more attention to the mundane tasks of everyday living.

While at the vet’s office I watched these two dogs, sniffing and exploring, at least that is what I think they are doing. I thought about their actions, how they were absolutely engaged in this very moment, concerned about nothing but their well chosen activity. There I sat, thinking also that I was peeing into a diaper which made me a bit self-conscious, while the Vet was getting ready to inject them with the serum to keep the dogs safe from heartworms for the next six months.

In the car, on the way home, it hit me. What am I feeling sorry for myself for? Look, I still don’t know if the incontinence caused by the Radical Prostatectomy is permanent. In fact, there have been some signals that it may be only temporary. But so what, let’s take the worst case, that the condition is permanent and I will be wearing adult diapers for the remainder of my life. What if instead of diapers I would be tied to a colostomy bag? Would I be complaining loudly or accepting the condition as a fact of life that I would simply learn to live with. Things became quite calm at that very moment of decision. It is now unlikely that prostate cancer will be the cause of my demise. The latest mortality rates for disease specific mortality is a mere 10% (a survival rate of 90%) so it is clear that I am not facing death from this disease. If I have to face the consequences of incontinence so be it. At least I may actually, possibly, maybe see the Chicago Cubs win a World Series…I can always hope!

I am also getting ready for the holiday season. Chanukah begins at sundown and the first candle is to be lit tonight. We are planning to attend a Chanukah party at the Elgin-Hoffman Estates Chabad tomorrow afternoon and on the last full day of Chanukah we will drive to Madison to join our Grandson Eddie, his parents and a number of other families for a festive Chanukah party with potato latkes, lox and bagels and a whole lot more. While I don’t much care for religious celebrations, Chanukah is one of those times when kids have a whale of a good time, families get together to share and we can get ready to be rid of the cold weather and look forward to Spring. The fact that one must recite a few blessings interjects a pallor of myth that must somehow be deconstructed in order to make any sense at all of the underlying irrationality of the holiday itself makes the whole thing somehow tarnished.

The ubiquitous nature of the season is also a cause for stress. No matter where one turns there are reminders that simply won’t let go. I cannot drive down my street without being attacked by houses lit up with commercially available lights made in China (or some other third-world sweat shop) which seems to me to debase the message the house decorators are trying so desperately to send. Wouldn’t it be a better choice to sit this one out, to pledge to purchase only domestically manufactured goods as presents? Perhaps one should also look to the idea of gifting as something one does, not to impress, but to give unconditionally without expectations of a gift in return. The gift of love, of caring, of hope, of embracing the differences we share with our neighbors ought to be enough to capture the spirit without breaking the bank or supporting the practices of shipping jobs overseas to save a corporate dollar (which goes to feed the greed of the corporate executives at a rate of nearly 500 times the annual salary of their average company salary). Okay, then, I have ranted enough. Time to sit back and watch some sports on tv and get ready for dinner with friends tonight.

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Reflecting on the Run-Up to Surgery and More

A light blue ribbon is the symbol for prostate...

A light blue ribbon is the symbol for prostate cancer (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

This whole run-up to surgery is becoming very tiring.  Not only is there a waiting period to allow my biopsied prostate to calm down, but now I have pre-op testing, a bowel cleansing, filling out forms that ask the very same questions that are already in my records and the very idea that my prostate will be removed by remote control. What’s a poor boy to do?

What I have concluded is that I need to return to my core, I need to sit quietly, do those things that I must do to take care of myself and the others around me, but mostly sit quietly and let this very moment be at the center.  I decided to not look at my calendar or wear a watch so I don’t have to focus on the future.  That’s a start, for sure.  But what I do best is think about issues, learn how others think about the same issues and synthesize ideas.  This means I’ll be reading a lot.  Currently, I am reading Modernity and the Holocaust by Zygmunt Bauman, a powerful postmodern sociological take on how the holocaust follows from the vision of the Enlightenment and modernity and, while not a necessary effect of modernity, it is made possible only by the emphasis of rationality and science combined with unchecked political power and a bureaucracy that is efficiently geared to cost effective problem solving.

My core understanding of how life actually works centers on the very notion that all that is real is this very moment, already past.  The idea of the future being nothing more than the projection of goals or desires and the past being nothing more than a trace existing only as a memory that fades as the moment moves further away from the very moment of the present.  Given that central idea, I believe that it is easier to close the door on projecting into the future.

I am also bolstered by the very idea that I will die someday.  That is an unavoidable fact!  There are no vampires, zombies or other beings that are immortal in spite of the fantastic story telling of novelists and Hollywood.  The fact of dying has given me an opportunity to measure my life.  In a nutshell, I discovered this simple, yet extraordinary, truth; if I were to die at this very moment I would leave this life with no regrets of any consequence.  Sure, I would regret not seeing the Chicago Cubs win a World Series but this is of little consequence.  Up to this point I have lived a life of which dreams are made.  I worked at a job that I would have done for free, that’s right, for FREE.  The bonus was that I actually got paid to work at something so interesting and rewarding.

As a middle school teacher, I had the opportunity to influence the lives of hundreds of young, maturing human beings.  As an education professor I had the opportunity to work with future teachers and even watch them as their career unfolded.  Professionally, I published scholarly papers in professional journals, many of which were extensively cited by others, I presented research at scholarly meetings and seminars internationally and, with a colleague, co-authored a book.  During my working years I never felt like I was going to “work!”  I can go to the grave knowing that I made a difference in my time on this earth.

None of this means, however, that I intend to go easily.  But my best weapon for fighting my cancer is to focus on this very moment, live my life as it presents itself to me, and do that which needs being done at this very moment.

What I am Grateful For

While waiting around for testing and results, for biopsy results and more, I decided to make a list of all those things I am grateful for rather than dwell on desired results.  I thought I’d share the list here and now…

  1. My wife, a true partner and friend…
  2. My cancer because it allows me to put important things in perspective…
  3. My kids who, like most kids, drive me nuts but so what…
  4. My grandchildren who fill my heart with joy…
  5. Parents, gone but did their very best to mold me into the man I am today…
  6. Family…
  7. Friends…
  8. Books that transport me to places unknown…
  9. Health, pretty good except for that cancer thing…
  10. Questions that drive my thinking and keep me sharp…
  11. Starbucks, I love coffee especially a quad over ice in a venti cup…
  12. Dave, my physical therapist who forces me to perform beyond my own expectations…
  13. Dogs, especially my two, Mazel and Simin both of whom make me laugh constantly…
  14. Music, mostly any kind but especially alternative country and classical music…
  15. Art, mostly photography but visual art of any kind that makes me think or respond…
  16. Poker, I just love to play and I am pretty good at it so there…
  17. Theater, (the arts again) especially Shakespeare but more than that because a good play transports me to anywhere where I am not and pushes me intellectually and emotionally…
  18. Movies for the same reason…
  19. Good eats: Food is so sensual and satisfying…
  20. Traveling, both at home and abroad allowing me to embrace differences and reflect on my own place in this world…
  21. Anything that makes me laugh, great comics provide us with the satire that uncovers truth…
  22. The Chicago Cubs because they always provide me with something unbelievable to hope for…
  23. Ice hockey, the second greatest game played in the world only one level below baseball…
  24. What I don’t know in order to stoke the curiosity of new ideas…

While I don’t think this is an all inclusive list of the things for which I am grateful, it is a start.  It doesn’t contain one wish (unless you consider the Cubs winning the World Series in my lifetime as a wish).  I am grateful for the things I have and not the things I wish I had.

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