Tuesday, April 1, 2014
A is for Absence
A is for Absence
I intended to write this piece about the absence of happiness and well being. You see in February I learned that I had lung cancer which I must say came as a huge shock to me, a non-smoker. And unfortunately this is not my first experience with cancer. In 2010 I was successfully treated for breast cancer.
Facing two life threatening illnesses in less than four years would knock the wind out of anyone's sails, right? I can't help but feel betrayed by my own body and in very weak moments I wonder why me God? To add insult to injury, at the time of my diagnosis I was suppose to be leaving for a once in a life time trip to Hawaii with my best friend. Yup, sometimes life just doesn't seem fair but then whoever said it was?
I changed my ticket destination from Honolulu, Hawaii to Rochester, Minnesota and instead of packing bathing suits and sandals I filled my luggage with sweaters and warm socks (yes, I shed a few tears) and headed to Mayo Brothers Clinic. I'm currently undergoing six weeks of radiation and chemotherapy and living in Hope Lodge which is a wonderful place that provides housing for in-treatment cancer patients at no charge.
I've been here three weeks now and this is the first time in my adult life that I have been totally alone without family and friends close by. As I said earlier, I planned this piece to be about the absence of well being because that is how I was feeling but as I began to write I started to view this experience in a new light.
They say there are no such thing as coincidences and I believe that. I think "coincidences" are our guardian angels guiding us but if you are a skeptic you be the judge:
Coincidence #1 - It was a fluke that my lung cancer was even discovered as I had no symptoms. I caught a particularly nasty flu virus that was going around at work, went to the walk-in-clinic and a chest x-ray showed something "suspicious".
Coincidence #2 - A girlfriend of mine arranged for me to meet a friend of hers who previously had lung cancer. He gave me some very good advice. Do not waste time with local doctors and small town hospitals. Go to Mayo Clinic. It is not something I would have even considered but after talking to him I immediately made plans to do just that.
Coincidence #3 - Because I had been saving money for my Hawaiian vacation I had the funds needed to make two separate trips to Mayo Brothers for additional testing.
Coincidence #4 - The exact day I began treatment at Mayo Brothers a room became available at Hope Lodge. They tell me that never happens, it is usually a seven to ten day wait. I would have had to stay at a hotel until there was an opening which would have been extremely hard financialy.
Coincidence #5 - Well this isn't really a coincidence. All the love, support, well wishes and prayers from my family, friends, coworkers and acquaintances has totally lifted my spirit. Never underestimate how much a kind word or deed means to someone who is struggling.
Mayo Clinic is an eye opener. When I came here I was feeling very sorry for myself but everywhere I look there are people struggling with serious illness and disease. My problems seem small in comparison when I see a young mother who's child just had a bone marrow transplant or the newly wed who had a brain tumor removed and is going through radiation.
I saved the best for last. The other eye opener is how many wonderful, caring people donate their time and services to complete strangers. Volunteers who walk through the chemo wards offering cold drinks and snacks, the lady who mans the desk at Hope Lodge every Saturday afternoon to "give back" because her husband once stayed there, folks who drop off homemade goodies or hand knitted hats for the residents, and many more.
So what started out as a blog on the absence of happiness and well being has morphed in to a reminder to count your blessings. They are always there, sometimes we just have to look a little harder to find them.