One Year

A year ago (almost to the hour) I listened to a man, whom I had met only a couple of hours earlier, quietly tell me over the phone that I should stop what I was doing (I think I was eating some leftover pizza) and check myself in to Regions Hospital. The month or so of mysterious bone pain, abnormal (though seemingly inconclusive) blood tests and plenty of head scratching finally “made sense.” What didn’t make sense was the fact that my body was malfunctioning. The body that I had known and (for the most part) cared for, was in need of some outside intervention if it was going to continue to function.

Virginia was teaching her yoga classes when I received that call. And, as I scrambled to look for the phone number to the building she was teaching in, I could feel myself coming undone. It’s a feeling I’ve never quite felt to that intensity before, and is one I’d rather not repeat. I ran up and down the stairs, not fully aware of my surroundings, still looking for that damn phone number. I remember telling myself out loud to calm down, my frantic search was just that – frantic. But, the search for the phone number, the packing of the bags, the waiting for Virginia to arrive all distracted me from the new reality that I could feel starting to take hold – I had cancer.

Once at the hospital, it only took a matter of minutes to make the unnerving transition from being in control of my own actions, my schedule, my life to that of cancer patient. I was now a case with a medical id number (which, if I think about long enough, might even be able to recall by memory). One minute I was walking around in civilian clothes, the next I was sitting on a bed in a gown, an I.V. already dripping, telemetry device hooked up to monitor my heart and the oncologist (no longer a guy that I met earlier in the day, but now someone who had my life in his hands) was discussing the procedure to insert a hickman line in order to start chemotherapy the next day. Waiting for treatment was not an option (let alone discussing alternative treatments), as my blood was quickly becoming less and less useful to my body.

Through this whirlwind of craziness, Virginia stood next to me taking in what my mind could not (which was basically everything). She was my rock, my partner through every single day that I was either in the hospital, or at the cancer care center undergoing additional treatments and receiving transfusions.

We looked back over the year and marveled at how much happened in just a short amount of time. I remember asking my oncologist (back when he was just the guy on the phone) how many days would I be in the hospital (thinking about my projects at work, about Spring quickly approaching), and being completely shocked when I heard “this will take months.” I had a really hard time coming to terms with the length required to treat and then to heal from the treatments. But, heal I did.

And, now it’s Spring again.

Tomato seedling

And, I have a chance to live again. (Not to mention, the chance to also get my hands dirty again.)

34 and counting

Instead of dwelling on the past today (thinking about the nearly 20% of the past 365 days spent in a hospital room), we celebrated by doing what we love to do. We drank coffee, ate waffles, worked on some projects (of the scratchcraft variety), had lunch out, did a little shopping, watched a movie, worked on some more projects (of the household variety), and toasted to normal—to many more years to put under our belts (with homebrewed beer, of course). All in all, it was a perfect day.

One of my gifts included some exciting new bundles of wool (much better than a box of chocolates… although, I wouldn’t have turned that down, either).

Bundles of Wool

So, to a new year. And, with New Years right around the corner, health and happiness to you all.

Best possible outcome

Those where the oncologist’s words. I just received a phone call from him with my PCR test results—a big fat “0” in the 10,000 cells that were analyzed. In other words, the results were resoundingly and unmistakably negative. I wish I had a photo of some fireworks, or something. This will have to do:


My cancer card has been revoked, and I happily hand it back to the universe.

Getting back into shape

It is quite astounding how quickly one loses muscle and overall fitness in just a short while. My forced inactivity over the past 8 months has left me pretty flabby, short of breath and needing some serious muscle rebuilding. Bike riding seems to be a good way to start, and we have very good trails all around us (including the Gateway Trail which we can hop on three blocks from our house).

Vintage Dunelt Bike

I am fortunate to have a good friend who (besides being a good friend) is knowledgeable in servicing bikes. So, after plying him with beer and pizza, had him show me some of the basics of fixing up our bikes (they had been sitting unused for over a year or more).

Vintage Dunelt Bike

Virginia and I have two pretty basic mountain bikes, but we also had this dusty old bike sitting in the back of the garage. We took the opportunity to clean up this one as well. (It’s pretty safe to say that Virginia will most likely be abandoning the mountain bike for this beautiful vintage Dunelt 3-speed.) I’m a little jealous, but it was satisfying to be able to return this one to working order.

Vintage Dunelt Bike

Vintage Dunelt Bike

I rode for the first time yesterday, and it felt great. I was a bit jelly-legged and winded, but no pain, no gain, right? In some ways, the restoration of this old bike illustrates the transformation from an ill body to one that is back in working order. A little elbow grease, some fine tuning, a new set of tires, and wah-lah. I can’t wait until this transformation is complete.

Untethered, at last

Today I took another step away from cancer and towards being myself again. The hickman catheter, which has been the link between my body and my treatments for the past 5 months, was removed. All that remains is a small hole that will soon heal, leaving all but a small scar (one of the few that have been left in various parts of my body).

We’ve been anticipating this moment for awhile—it being the signal that no more treatments are anticipated. Granted, I’ll still have weekly labs for awhile, but there’s a huge difference between “monitoring” and “treating.” I think making this transition from “treated” to “monitored” requires much celebration (which we’ve been doing), and it also requires another photo of some flowers to show how happy I am.