June, 2011 Archives

A Year And Today

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June 9th, 2011

A year ago this morning, I woke up early, drove to MSU and gave a guest lecture. A year ago today, I golfed in the late morning with my buddy. A year ago today, we ate late lunch pizza and joked about nearly everything. A year ago today, in the early evening hours, my family’s […]

A year ago this morning, I woke up early, drove to MSU and gave a guest lecture.

A year ago today, I golfed in the late morning with my buddy.

A year ago today, we ate late lunch pizza and joked about nearly everything.

A year ago today, in the early evening hours, my family’s world got sucked into an insane parallel universe where 40% of my body was infested with leukemia and the future, suddenly, had no up or down.

We dealt. We relied on the kindness of strangers. We somehow found down first, then up. So many incredible people showed up and did the most incredible and simple things. As I drank chemo for breakfast, then a healthy bone marrow lunch, we saw the black hole shrink and the white whole expand.

I invited the mystical and spiritual in for a party. God and Buddha danced with Mohammed and Jesus. Mother Mary smiled off in the corner as even Shiva showed up. White light, army flame throwers and cute, tiny blue bubbles went to work.

Daughters dove and acted, performed and scored. Family ate surprise dinners left on our porch. Sometimes we faked it and maked it. We even dared to travel. Sure, a setback here and there, but the only thing we didn’t mourn the lack of was leukemia. Gone. Probably for good. Or evil.

Today — as I was fixing my daughter’s breakfasts and packing their lunches — Taylor said, “Hey, happy one year.” It’s not written on a calendar, nor had we discussed the date, but it was stamped somewhere on her mental album of last year.

Today, I received a phone call. A bone marrow symposium this fall in Atlanta loves my t-shirt design and say, would I mind being flown down to photograph their event and do some video montages of the weekend?

There’s pizza in my future today.

Happy today.

I Should’ve Shared

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June 7th, 2011

I’ve been keeping a secret this past week and it’s led to some crummy results. My secret has kept me from watching or helping out with Relay for Life, or seeing the fun parts of my daughter’s 24-hour music marathon. I had to miss my best buddy Bob’s brother’s funeral. And when a very dear […]

I’ve been keeping a secret this past week and it’s led to some crummy results. My secret has kept me from watching or helping out with Relay for Life, or seeing the fun parts of my daughter’s 24-hour music marathon. I had to miss my best buddy Bob’s brother’s funeral. And when a very dear friend drove a couple hundred miles with his daughters to surprise me, I wasn’t there.

I’m back in the hospital. Yes, it’s for yet another side-effect on the growing list of zany things that happen to Rodney due to his recovery. I am feeling a lot better now, but what makes me sickest is that I didn’t share with everybody, simply due to misplaced pride. Even parts of my family didn’t know about it until I sent them an odd little picture.

I’ll start from the beginning.

I was pretty lethargic for the two weeks following that incident with the swollen heart lining, pericarditis. When I had one too many low grade fevers, Marci packed me up one evening and drove me down to Karmanos; we didn’t even tell the daughters since I didn’t want to scare them. Test after test, pokes and more pokes showed nothing out of the ordinary until someone got it in their head to do a CAT scan of my chest.

BINGO.

Remember that lining around my heart? You and I are supposed to have less than an ounce of fluid between it and the heart. After the cat scan showed far more than that, the doctors stuck a long tube and needle into my chest and started draining the excess. And draining, and draining, and draining…

https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcheart_juice.jpgWhen all of it finally dripped out, over the course of three days, they measured about a liter and a half. I took a lousy photo with my cameraphone. That’s not everything in that bag there, but it’s a lot of it. The heart wall isn’t designed to hold so much. Generally speaking, a couple tablespoons of liquid is enough for the ol’ ticker.

If it filled up suddenly, I would have definitely felt it. So apparently it slowly grew over the course of a few weeks. All of these medical issues lately are caused by Graft Vs. Host Disease. It’s a fancy way of saying my brother’s blood is fighting against my blood. Apparently that’s a good thing; I’m told this shows my new system has pluck and won’t shy away from a good fight. The doctors like to see that. Although having two sons fighting it out, Mom’s probably gonna turn the car around and not take us to the zoo.

That’s what happened, but it doesn’t explain or excuse me from not talking about it. I think part of my problem is disease overload. I don’t want to keep talking, over and over again about the things I’ve been having to deal with. But there’s more. I want to feel normal and human and not look at myself as a work in progress any more. I’m tired of being a poster boy.

But honestly — even though I can’t say it without a story from my distant past — this goes back to a story from my distant past. I was walking our dog Mocha on our block when she yanked at the leash and pulled me down, scraping my knee. I was crying and just as I pulled myself up, a carload of my neighbors drove right by me. I threw on a shit-eating-grin and waved like a ninny at them. I’m sure, in retrospect, they probably saw my dog pull me down and could maybe even see my tears and snotty nose. But I didn’t want to look like anything bad had happened to me, to feel vulnerable or out of control. I wanted to look normal. I didn’t want to be the center of attention for something bad. I was embarrassed.

Sounds all too familiar.

So I didn’t tell people about it. And a day or two turned into a week. Yeah, when people asked what was up, I told ‘em. But please forgive me for not being upfront. You know by reading this blog that I try to always be open and honest with everybody. And that’s the thing; by being so above-board with everything, I get so much support and encouragement.

I don’t know why I shied away this time.

Rodney’s Runners

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June 2nd, 2011

When my daughter Taylor surprised me a few months ago by saying she had entered a team, in my name, to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, my eyes watered up and I gave her a big hug. It was during church but my public display of happiness might have even […]

https://readthespirit.com/rodney-curtis/wp-content/uploads/sites/14/2013/03/wpid-rcTaylor_Me_Julie.jpg
When my daughter Taylor surprised me a few months ago by saying she had entered a team, in my name, to raise money for the American Cancer Society’s Relay for Life, my eyes watered up and I gave her a big hug. It was during church but my public display of happiness might have even gotten others to contribute. Taylor, it turns out, is a master organizer and an incredible fundraiser. Mostly I’d known her for the past 15 years as just a really cool human being.

For this weekend’s event at the Troy Community Center, she and her friends have raised upwards of two thousand dollars, collecting pledges, returning bottles and doing all sorts of things like hitting up Costco for some game day help. If you’re not familiar with Relay for Life, it’s a 24-hour walk held in various cities across the nation throughout the summer. All proceeds raised go to help cancer research and normally it’s people a lot older who are captains. Taylor enlisted my wife Marci and my mom for logistical support, but much of the work for her team, Rodney’s Runners, has fallen on her shoulders.

To say I’m blown away is an understatement.

To quote Taylor, from her own personal team captain page, (where you can go to donate if you’re so moved), “At the event, our team will camp out overnight and take turns walking around the track to raise money and awareness to help the American Cancer Society create a world with less cancer and more birthdays. The reason why we walk all night is to show that cancer NEVER sleeps. We will be walking, skipping, running, dancing, jogging, sprinting, and many other verbs ending in “ING.”

That sums it up pretty succinctly doesn’t it? They also set out luminarias, bags with candles inside, during the night in order to honor us survivors and those who have exited this realm already. I’m told it’s a very emotional and moving experience. Last week my cousins did it in Clarkston and had a blast, created a luminaria in my name and I even was given a lap bracelet by Marathoning Meredith, my cousin who put in fourteen miles.

It has been a huge undertaking for Taylor and her large folder sitting atop our old piano shows how much sheer paperwork it entails. You are welcome to stop by anytime between 10 a.m. Saturday and 10 a.m. Sunday. They would love being cheered on as they “ING” or you could just walk along in support of anyone you’ve ever known who took on cancer.

And as usually happens with a family of teens, Skye will be just coming off her own 24-hour music marathon at Troy High to raise money for their band program. She’s going Friday night til Saturday night.

I know, I know.

(Editor’s Note: Don’t live in Michigan—and want to know more? The national Relay for Life website has state-by-state links to upcoming events. Did you know these relays now involve 4 million people a year—and have raised more than $3 billion since 1985? It’s true!)