Thursday, August 27, 2009

It's a Small World After All

Week 39: We're back from our getaway to sunny - make that scattered showers - Florida. Disney World was fun, but remind me not to have a medical emergency if I'm ever there again.

The day was hot and working its way to muggy when the skies finally opened-up. We had been through the entire park, watched the parade, and just finished a late lunch when we made our way over to the only ride we hadn't been on (a race track with little corvette cars). We were literally next-in-line to get into a car and speed away when the park crew suddenly closed the ride and marched us off of the platform due to lightning that was quickly followed by a downpour. Unlike the rest of the cattle being driven out, we detoured from the exit line and took refuge on some covered bleachers, saving ourselves from getting soaked.

We noticed there was a young person (we weren't sure if it was a male or female, but let's assume male) lying on the ground, face down and not moving, at the bottom of some steps leading out of the ride. A woman working at the ride was crouched by his side trying to protect him from all of the foot traffic. Within a few minutes everyone in line cleared out, and then a couple of other workers showed-up to hold umbrellas over the young man who still was not moving. It must have been at least another ten minutes or more before any medical help arrived, and even then there were no flashing lights and no emergency vehicle, not even a golf cart, to hasten this injured person's treatment. They put a brace around his neck, rolled him on a board, and lifted him onto a stretcher to transport him to the pouring rain with umbrella people in tow.

I was appalled by how long it took Disney to respond, especially since they seemed to have such a well-oiled operation in other respects, right down to the obnoxious gift shops you were forced to go through at the end of 70% of the rides. One of the few rides that didn't have a commercial ending was the "It's a Small World" theme ride. There was so much to see on the ride that we went on it twice. The song was still fresh in my mind when we witnessed the above-mentioned accident scene and as everyone waited anxiously for help to arrive:

It's a world of laughter, a world of tears
It's a world of hopes and a world of fears
There's so much that we share that its time we're aware
It's a small world after all...chorus

There is just one moon and one golden sun
And a smile means friendship for everyone
Though the mountains divide and the oceans are wide
It's a small world after all...chorus

I felt so bad for this poor kid whose fun-filled day could very well have ended, heaven forbid, with a paralyzing injury, and for his mother (presumably) who could only stand by and wait helplessly while her child was suffering. The theme song in my head rang true about the world, our connection to eachother, and our human condition. We've all been in similar situations. We know the joy that comes from smiling and having a good time, as well as the pain from our own or a loved one's injury or misfortune. I'm blessed to have great family and friends standing by for me.

We spent another 20 minutes or so waiting for a break in the rain. And the song in my head had gone from profound to annoying by then (you know the kind; like one of those jingles that just won't go away). The rain didn't let up nor did the clouds show any signs of thinning out, so we decided it was time to get a little wet and work our way home. Fortunately the lightning had stopped and the shuttle boats were running, so we hopped-on one and made it back to our hotel pretty quickly. We lucked-out on dicovering that the boats were the way to go. Less people and it was only a 10-15 minute ride compared to the buses that were crowded and took twice as long to go from point A to point B. (Remember to keep that in mind if you ever visit the Magic Kingdom.)

We were pretty much worn out from the day, so once back at our hotel room, we hung out watching tv for a bit and went to bed early. Apparently I've taken up snoring. I was woken-up and chastised by two annoyed roommates all night long.

In addition to snoring, I'm also experiencing chronic pain in my arm for some unknown reason; my eyelashes finished falling out and don't appear to be growing back any time soon; I'm still covered in bruises; my surgery site (from removing the medi-port) isn't healing; my vision is messed up; I'm still tired, and hot flashes are wreaking havoc 24/7. Other than that, I'm doing great. My oncologist told me it'll be about three months before I start getting back to normal. I seem to recall it was more like 5 years. Just in time to have this recurrence. But I shouldn't be complaining. I wasn't taken away on a stretcher and I can move my legs.

Speaking of a recurrence, this September will be the second year in a row that my brother-in-law is walking 26 miles in support of finding a cure for breast cancer (thank you, Michael). Please visit his Avon Foundation webpage for more information:

Michael Blevins - Walk for the Cure

I'd also ask that you say a special prayer for Michael's sister, Cari. Like me, she's had a recurrence of breast cancer; but unlike me, she is having a very difficult struggle. Please keep her in your thoughts. Thank you.

As for me, next on the radar is a PET scan. I'll let you know when it's scheduled.


Friday, August 21, 2009

A Fair Question

Week 38: I took Stephanie to the Water Mine pool at Lake Fairfax in Reston last week. If you've never been there, I highly recommend it. What a great place to have fun and cool off. While there, I was asked by a little preschooler, "are you a man or a woman?" I presume it was my still mildly-bald head that prompted her question. I give her credit for asking. She was confused; she wanted clarification. Simple.  Now if only some of life's other mysteries were so easy to answer.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Over at Last

Weeks 36-38? You may have noticed my absence lately. I continued my saga in silence these last few weeks. I haven't been in the mood for writing because writing means I have to admit I'm scared. Chemo is over and I know I'm supposed to be happy about that, and I am, but unfortunately my spirit is tempered by a sense of fear. Not having chemo means I don't have a security blanket anymore. As much as I dislike the effects of chemotherapy, I felt protected by it. Feeling sick meant I had the upper hand in this fight. I'm afraid the treatment will "wear off" and I'll be vulnerable again. The routine check-ups and tests will inevitably become less frequent and then eventually I'll be on my own again, like a normal person. That worries me. It turned out that my first cancer was a fierce opponent with enough strength in reserve obviously to rise up and challenge me a second time. So even if I withstand the battles, can I win the war? I never really thought about cancer in the first place; nor did I ever think about it coming back. But my body betrayed me both times. How can I trust that it won't let me down again? I'm imprisoned by the dread of another recurrence. Yes, I'm happy that chemo is over, but I need to learn how to cope for the long run.