Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring time

    The first day of spring always makes me smile. As I stepped out of the truck today I noticed the buds on the cherry tree. Soon it will explode with pink flowers. As the days get longer and warmer I feel rejuvenated. Humming birds have already begun to chase each other around our neighborhood  The deer are everywhere, most with one or two new born fawns in tow. The Canadian geese are paired up around the banks of the lake. In no time at all the goslings will hatch and join their parents on the water. Spring is a time of rebirth yet for me it has a deeper meaning. I survived through another cold wet winter. This is my eighth since this journey began. Somehow I always knew it would be this way but I am always surprised by how long it has been. Spring is also a strange time in western Washington. It is a time of unpredictable weather. The first year in our home it snowed 3 inches the second week of April and again in May. It was gone by noon when the mercury rose to 60 degrees. Mostly it rains in the spring. Sometimes it rains for weeks at a time. One year we had a sunny weekend so I mowed the lawn. It was over a foot tall before I could mow it again. In the morning I head to work donning a sweatshirt and jacket. I return home in a tee-shirt. Occasionally however the sun does come out. When it does it is easy to see why some call this place God's country. The blue of the sky is an amazing contrast to the green that surrounds and envelopes you. Everywhere you look there is wildlife. Fish jump in the lakes and streams while beaver and otter frolic or set about their tasks. On one particular day as Mandy and I were fishing the banks of the South Toutle River, a deer crossed the river just a few feet away, a beaver swam up the river past us and then stood on an outcropping of rock and began to bathe himself, and a great blue Heron landed and began to fish. This all took place inside of 15 minutes. The rivers are running high right now. The ground is saturated and our yard is more like a marsh than anything else. Mud slides are happening everywhere. This year we have had 4 inches of rain in March which is twice the normal rainfall for this time of year. It is years like this when I am glad we don't live on or below a hillside. My heart goes out to the people of Oso Washington where half the population of that small town was buried in a horrific mud slide. The morning news quoted an official who stated that some of the residents my never be found and will most likely remain buried beneath the mud and debris. Such a sad thing for the love ones of the lost. Life is so short. It can end in the blink of an eye and a flash of terror. The world is a violent ever changing place. 
   I consider myself to be lucky. Yes, cancer may one day take my life but at least I had a warning. I was given the opportunity to live like tomorrow may never come. I was able to mend relationships and right wrongs. I was allowed the time to show my friends and family how much they mean to me. I was afforded the luxury of laying the foundation of a life without me for Mandy. I am blessed. One day cancer might win but at least I was able to take it a full 15 rounds. Who knows, when the fight is over it could perhaps end in a draw. I will be a better man for having fought the battle having lived to the fullest each day I was given. I pray for the people of Oso and the families who have lost loved ones without every being able to say goodbye. It is the same for the people who have lost love ones on flight 370.
   I hope as disasters unfold and hearts are torn apart that we who observe take lesson from the tradgedy. Let those you love know each day how much you care. You may never have the time to say goodbye. Todd

Saturday, March 8, 2014

A little humor can go a long way

   Laughter is the best medicine. It is a true statement. I read somewhere that laughter can help fight disease. I love to laugh. It is one of many things that Mandy and I share. It is not always easy but the potential is always there. In the last 8 years we have had much opportunity to be depressed as we fight prostate cancer but some how we always manage to find the humor in things. Maybe we are just looney.
  My first weeks were tough as I began this fight. Mandy and I were new in our relationship and the prognosis was not good. Mandy cried a lot and I had more sleepless nights than I care to remember. I felt so ripped off. I had only begun to get my life back together after losing everything. I was in love. The future was so full of promise. Then my doctor dropped the bomb. I still remember the day that everything changed. I stood at the edge of a bridge looking down at the river below. I was afraid. It was a long way down. A voice in my head said "what are you afraid of, you have terminal cancer". As Mandy watched from below I threw caution and possibly common sense to wind and jumped. The acceleration was exhilarating as the water rushed up to meet me. The impact also hurt like crazy but it didn't matter. I had overcome my fear and let go. I would like to add a word of caution to those who might find the urge to leap off a perfectly good bridge. If you have Prostate cancer, don't do it. The force of the impact was in the same proximity of my grossly enlarged prostate. It was about the same sensation as I imagine a D.R.E. with a baseball bat would feel like
   Jumping from that bridge was a turning point in our fight. It was an outward expression of something that was happening in my mind. I realized in that instance that I had nothing to be afraid of.  I might not live very long but the life I had left would no longer be dominated by fear. I was free. As I swam to the bank of the river in a great deal of pain, all I could do was laugh. Laughter became our weapon. We wield it freely.
   In the early days I had oncologist appointments every thirty days. I had a P.S.A. test a week after my first Lupron shot and the number had already dropped from over 3200 to just above 2900. It was working. Each visit thereafter provided more and more hope as the numbers slowly fell to an undetectable level. Unfortunately the side effects of the medication were also in full effect.  I will never forget the night Mandy and I laughed ourselves to tears. It was late and as she held me close she told me I was a super hero. I immediately started cracking up and said "it's true, I am Lupron man.... My super hero weapon is the hot flash ray of death" It sounds corny I know but we were laughing hysterically until the tears were flowing from our eyes and our stomach muscles ached. It has always been that way. It helps that we are each others best friends. I honestly don't know what I would do without her. I know she feels the same about me.
   Cancer has stolen so many things from us. Guys and their wives who have experienced hormone therapy know what I am talking about. Even in those things we have been fortunate in the fact that it hasn't stolen it all. In some ways we have come to appreciate those moments all the more. Cancer has only the power that we give it and Mandy and I refuse to relinquish any control. It will not steal our spirit. It will not steal our joy and it will not steal our sense of humor. God willing it will not steal our future. 
   Today we are shopping. Mandy turned 35 last week and a shopping trip for Caribbean wear was part of my gift to her. I am sitting outside the dressing room in the husband chair provided listening to bad pop music turned up twenty decibels too loud as Mandy keeps the fashionistas busy bringing her different clothes to try on. Hopefully shoe shopping is also on the list. She is just so cute when she gets new clothes. As my pending disability retirement looms in the coming year I wonder if it is the right thing to do. Our daughter will be going to college in a couple of years. I am only 50 and although I am stage 4 I have been for almost 8 years and I have continued to work every day. I wonder if retiring is the first step in giving up. I would like to believe that it's not the case but it is a question that for now has no answers. The truth is that financially we would be in much better shape if I retire but my income will be frozen at that point. The new union contract will be coming this June. If the incentive to stay is good enough then my plans may change. In the meantime I will laugh daily. I will love often. I will live each day for all that it has to offer. Todd

Sunday, March 2, 2014

In like a lion

   It is said that March roars in like a lion and goes out like a lamb. In the Pacific Northwest that means a gradual transition from cold rain to warm rain. The forecast called for rain or snow today with a steady stream of storms coming in off the ocean for the next week or better. Yesterday we took advantage of a fairly dry day to work outdoors on the deck and do yard clean-up. We have several large cedar and Douglas fir trees in the back yard and recent wind storms made a real mess of things. The burn pile from yesterday was still glowing red this morning when they called me in on a breakdown at work. I hate coming in on days off but it pays well and the work is really easy today. 
    We bought our home 6 years ago next month. After living in a ramshackle condemned double wide trailer for the first two years of our life together and struggling the entire time to get into a home, moving in was a dream come true. Our home was built in 1979 and a 24x24 family room was added on ten years later. The home was remodeled just before we purchased it but was obviously done on a tight budget using the cheapest materials available. After a couple years we set to work making it our own. It is small, 1550 sq. ft. but it is perfect for the three of us. Last year we ripped out the rotting wrap around deck and began the tedious job of replacement. I am a tight wad of sorts. I just can't bring myself to pay someone to do a job I can do myself. Over the years I have learned to do many different things. I am a novice carpenter, electrician, auto and diesel mechanic, mason, and a journeyman pipe fitter. I am also an expert roofer.  The only thing I won't do is drywall. I will hang the rock but I let the pro's finish it out. Beng called into work today paid for the deck wood we bought and installed yesterday. The new front window we ordered will be here next week so I imagine I will install the window and finish the hand rail on the deck next weekend. I have already decided to take Friday off and make it a three day weekend to finish the projects and have some much needed Todd and Mandy time. Retirement sounds better and better all the time.
   My Oncologist told me he would write a letter to Social Security and told me that going out on disability would go smoothly. His reasoning was simple. I am terminal. I have cancer in my bones. The work I do breaks down my body. After saying this, he urged me to keep working. He asked what I felt were pertinent questions. Where are your friends? What will you do to overcome boredom and give value to your life? He said he has seen too many retire too soon and feel they have nothing left to live for. Sigh!!!! I am tired of working but sadly, he is right. My friends are all working every day. Nobody would come hang out with me. Mandy would be at work all day. I would most likely go insane.
   They don't hand out instruction manuals with this crap. Prior to being pumped full of female hormones I wouldn't have read it anyway. After eight years of Lupron I would read it in detail. I get to go home to my wife in a half hour. I think the clock is slow. I will write more soon but for now, happy Sunday, todd