August, 2010 Archives

Ends And Odds

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August 13th, 2010

One of the mind excursions I used back when I didn’t have a handle on leukemia was to think about the long-term future. I’d fantasize about anything I could velcro my soul to. That way, if I cemented a future far enough ahead, I was sure to move toward it as opposed to slipping into […]

One of the mind excursions I used back when I didn’t have a handle on leukemia was to think about the long-term future. I’d fantasize about anything I could velcro my soul to. That way, if I cemented a future far enough ahead, I was sure to move toward it as opposed to slipping into the muck of the moment or worse, watching CNN and worrying about the larger things I couldn’t control on top of the other smaller things that I couldn’t even contain.

Here was my favorite future flight of fantasy: I’m rolling in the grass next to our home with one of my daughter’s kids. We laugh, get dirty then flip onto our backs and look up at the clouds.

Pointing up at a thick, robust cumulus I ask, “do you know what that cloud’s called?”

Without missing a second, my grandchild, (son or daughter), answers, “Marvin.”

We laugh like hyenas then notice my wife over bending over in the tall grass, pulling out weeds and we instantly become lions stalking our prey. As we move closer to the lone animal, separated from her herd I realize that absolutely no good will come from the scenario but I’m powerless to stop the slaughter.

Attitude’s everything: Every single doctor, nurse, clinician and dietician I run into tells me a positive mental attitude is the number one key to beating disease. I’m glad to hear that but I also know cancer has become so much less of a death sentence these days than it was even ten years ago. I can’t tell you the number of people that have said, “Oh my sister, or wife, or husband or sous chef had cancer and are completely cured, living exciting lives.”

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Here are a few more funky odds and ends, previously un-reported on this blog.

The most outrageous mistake I made with my jumbled up chemo-brain: I was telling my cousin and niece and sister-in-law about the bone marrow donor questions we had and as I was walking in the lovely park — the evening I heard about remission — I informed them, “Yes, we’re looking for a perfect boner donor.”

The most competitive I’ve ever felt while going through a medical procedure: When I was in the Muskegon hospital and the funny Dr. Mallon was prodding my veins with a plastic line to destroy the blood clot in the Operating Room he asked if I knew any jokes. My mind went to the un-published portion of this blog and dug up some of my bluer material and laid one on him. He countered with something just as risque, (two nurses were snickering in the room by the way). I hit him with another, he retaliated. By the time we got up to about five or six jokes each I was feeling the effects of the anesthesia and had to back out gracefully, (okay, he totally won). 

Messing With The Messengers

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August 11th, 2010

The Zoroastrian priest poked his head inside my room again, looked down at his notes and stared back at me with a blank expression. Apparently I wasn’t Zoroastrian enough for him. But he wasn’t either. Actually, the dude is an Asian Catholic priest and he always looks at me confused. It stems back to the […]

https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcCoexist2.jpg

The Zoroastrian priest poked his head inside my room again, looked down at his notes and stared back at me with a blank expression. Apparently I wasn’t Zoroastrian enough for him. But he wasn’t either. Actually, the dude is an Asian Catholic priest and he always looks at me confused. It stems back to the time when he offered me a prayer and I stupidly said, “Sure, from which spiritual vantage point?” The notes in his hand didn’t really have a good answer for him. I asked him for something from Zarathustra and he smiled then boogied.

I sometimes get that way in normal life, testing people who come at me trying to sell a political candidate, a new church, or gutter cleaning. Salespeople showing up at your door probably despise having to ring doorbells and push their products although the spate of AT&T and Comcast guys arriving at our home seems to negate my premise. They genuinely believe their internet services, which come across the same wires as each other, are faster than the other.

Here in the hospital they aren’t allowed to sell roofing services or premium cable but I get a nice mix of God’s salespeople.

Another Catholic priest who popped into my room recently offered me communion. I was game; it had been a while since I’d gone through the ceremony. But moments before he offered up the piety pita for my consumption I casually mentioned I wasn’t Catholic. I didn’t really like the look in his eye as he glanced from me to his notes and back. “Aren’t you ______,” he asked? When I told him blank didn’t live here anymore he ended the interchange.

Now this much I know; I’ve taken communion in a Catholic church on at least two separate occasions without being given a Spanish Inquisition, (of course, nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition). Then again, those were times in my youth when one of my many Catholic friends had to attend church on Saturday night or Sunday and I was having a sleepover with them so I just went along for the righteous ride. One hysterical incident happened in high school when my best buddy Bob and I were on vacation and he found a remote church along Lake Michigan to attend.

“Okay Bob, I’m doing everything you do. I take the holy wafer in my hand then I accept the drink then later we hug the hot chicks in the pews and say Peace Be With You, right? I’ll kneel when you do and say ‘trespasses’ instead of ‘debts.’ Anything else?”

Bob said I’d covered all the bases. Then we walked into the small clapboard church and he suddenly makes a gesture with the birdbath inexplicably placed right inside the door and wipes his hand off on his shirt a few times, then his forehead. Uhhh, okay, so I did the same thing, using my shirt and pants though.

To this day I don’t know if he just forgot to tell me about blessing yourself with holy water as you enter a church or if he simply wanted to see how I’d react. Bob, you know where the Comment section is; fess up.

Another monotheistic misstep occurred when a substitute minister entered my hospital room and was sweet, caring, full of smiles and couldn’t get my name right to save her soul, (okay, not a good sentence to use that cliche). She asked if she could say a prayer for me and I gladly agreed. Closing my eyes she lit into a fabulous prayer about health and vitality and love, all for “Randy.” She must’ve thought I was a fool, sitting there laughing my head off. But it was a very kind and heartfelt prayer so I forwarded it mentally to two different Randys I know who have cancer. No need letting such a prayer go to waste. I hope you received it Randys. Remember to Recycle.

To give that Zorastrian priest some credit, he always smiles after our brief encounters come to a close. I wouldn’t be shocked if one day he came up with a holy message or two from a different theological perspective but I’m not waiting; I have Reverend Rik for that.

You may have noticed notes here and there on my blog from Rik. My family of agnostics, true believers and those in between all love Rik. He’s the official hospital Soul Man and I defy you to spend two minutes in his company and not see a being of light and love. I think we initially bonded when we realized his daughter is a photographer, has a fun blog and is a soon-to-be-published author. But mostly, Rik is the type of reverend who gives spirituality a great name, doesn’t push it down your throat and is just as comfortable talking about a wide range of other things besides God saving you or metaphoric gutter cleaning. Rik’s the real deal and the hospital, life and his daughter is lucky to have him out there.

For me, a guy who bills himself as a Spiritual Wanderer, the last thing I want to do is ice out or write off religions I don’t agree with, although I’m real close with the Taliban’s way of practicing their political spirituality. Reading this over I hope you don’t get the impression that I’m mocking certain faiths. I just enjoy poking fun at myself and sometimes I take others along for the ride with me.

In the words of another Rodney, “Can’t we all just get along?

What Lies Ahead

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August 8th, 2010

Tomorrow I check into the hospital for my next round of chemo. I don’t fear it though; I spent half an hour in Jo-Ann Fabrics this morning and after that, any form of torture — medieval or otherwise — doesn’t phase me a bit. A half week after being sprung from the Muskegon clot-busters palace […]

Tomorrow I check into the hospital for my next round of chemo. I don’t fear it though; I spent half an hour in Jo-Ann Fabrics this morning and after that, any form of torture — medieval or otherwise — doesn’t phase me a bit.

A half week after being sprung from the Muskegon clot-busters palace I once again enter the health system to continue my sojourn toward wellness, productivity and a full head of hair. In between last Wednesday and now, though, were several wonderful hours relaxing at Lake Michigan with my family and about four or five minutes of intense go-kart racing where, if Taylor is to be believed, my daughter and her cousin left me in their distant exhaust. There’s something about remission that makes my family not treat me with kid gloves anymore. I’ll say it; she should’ve let me win.

https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcLakeMichiganFamily.jpgThis, in some ways, becomes the boring part of my saga. Sure the questions loom large about my eventual outcome — marrow replacement or just tons more chemo. The small scheduling scenarios also come into play — will I stay in the hospital after the treatment or come home to recuperate; can the family count on me for the first day of school or all the intense last-of-summer ballyhoos; what about the fall weddings I’m supposed to shoot.

The latter has been answered, or at least the pressure has been alleviated by two wonderful brides I’ve never met. Kathleen in September and Mallory in October have both sent me exceptionally warm wishes and said they’ll accept whatever I can do. If I need one of my many super-duper-shooter friends to help me, that’s fine by them. If I can do it myself, great. If someone else has to shoot it solo, sure Rodney, no problem.

When it comes to the rest of the unknowns, honestly, I’m a journalist by training and thus have an incredibly high tolerance for ambiguity. I used to preach that to my interns or to whoever would listen. Trust that things will fall into place and the feeling in your gut right now will very soon be less knotted and more at ease.

I obviously need that very advice right now.

Since I’ve always been honest on this blog and since my two Clarkston cousins asked me point blank about the blood clot, no, I don’t feel I’ve adequately or fully dealt with the emotions surrounding cancer and the unexpected half-eaten-hotdog that was lurking next to my heart. Sure I’ve cried and laughed and blogged and talked and thought about it all, but I think there’s a longer answer ahead of me. I know there are deeper discoveries about myself just waiting to be spelunked. And I completely believe with every paisley Jo-Ann fabric of my being that I’m coming out of this experience changed for the better.

And since I’ve been kind of internet-quiet over the past few weeks I just want to reiterate something that has been laughing and bouncing around me for about as long as the cancer’s been poking sharp sticks at me. The interconnections that we all share may not seem significant to you now, as you sit in health and normalcy. But please know when the ride starts to get scary, there are people you haven’t even met out there — as well as your closest friends — who will jump into the seat next to you and help keep you calm, secure, fed and smiling. You don’t always know it until you need it, but those bridges you didn’t burn years ago will allow your past to come visit your present.

And if you were truly good to your past, they’ll bring snacks.

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I Have A What The Size Of A What, Where?

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August 3rd, 2010

Oops, it’s gotten a little dusty around here over the past week. Give the man remission and he flies the coop, seemingly. Don’t worry, there’s lots to report and share. Where to begin is the tough part. Maybe I should start with why I’ve been sitting in a Muskegon hospital for the better part of […]

Oops, it’s gotten a little dusty around here over the past week. Give the man remission and he flies the coop, seemingly. Don’t worry, there’s lots to report and share. Where to begin is the tough part. Maybe I should start with why I’ve been sitting in a Muskegon hospital for the better part of three days.

My extended family had been planning a trip to our favorite Lake Michigan location. I went to summer camp here for four years; the girls go to Blue Lake here, we’ve rented cottages from numerous people since back when a week on the lake cost about $300; and we all just love to relax and plop down and think about nothing for a while. There’s no cell service, no internet, and I think the TV may get I Love Lucy, but nobody has flipped it on.

Before I made the drive I was all congested for most of the week leading up to vacation. It was knocking me down something fierce and I would have to take baby steps, relax, a few more baby steps, then maybe nap. It kind of seemed to me like THAT was how leukemia was supposed to feel. A couple of my oncologists looked me over but just prescribed some more cold medicine and I was off to the cottage.

The first night there, though, before everyone else showed up, I had The Incident. I woke up unable to breathe and alerted the rest of the darkened place by pounding the walls, floors and even the door as I lurched out into the kitchen. Big Brother Dean, from California, grabbed hold of me and was able to hear me say “water.”

Somehow in his arms I was able to exhale, maybe I was able to breathe all along and had only been trying to inhale but to say that moment was one of the most frightening of my life would be an understatement. A little water and a late night phone call to a third oncologist helped ease the situation.

The next morning, on the long-distance advice of my Aunt-In-A-Cape Roberta, my brother Dean drove me down to a Muskegon emergency room and, needing to switch hospitals on me due to procedures, it turns out I have, (or HAD at this point), “an impressive blood clot, the size of a half-eaten hot dog.”

The amazing Doctor Mallon has spent the last two or three days pounding the clot, which rested near my heart, with a series of chemicals and then a tiny balloon and then something I referred to as sort of a carpet cleaner, (he liked the analogy). It wasn’t the exact way I thought of spending my vacation, a tour of Muskegon hospitals, but they are very impressive over here on this side of the state.

He said cancer drugs and this large medical port inside of me were to blame for the blood clot; it was nothing I did or didn’t do.

This is the first time I’ve had Web access so I think I can be forgiven for not tidying up around here or answering emails or phone calls that have come in. This hospital wireless service seems strong and solid, far more so than me. They are going to release me to spend a day or two longer at the cottage, then it’s back to Troy and my newest round of chemo beginning on Monday. I’ll certainly have lots more to tell when that begins.

But through all of this — well, most of it anyway — there has been an acute awareness that I’m in remission and whatever life feels the need to throw at me it’s okay. I was kind of wondering how this whole cancer experience would change me and there, right there, seems to be one of the core fundamental shifts. Let’s see if it’s real or lasts.

I can do without the late night scary bits though.