Monday, November 30, 2009

Rainy Days

It's been raining all day today, the last day of November. If you ask me, it's time for the rain to turn into snow and release the beauty of winter.

When I was growing up, I loved the rain. I would always take the basketball out into the driveway and shoot around, and it was special when it rained. I would stay out there for hours, listening to nothing but the sound of the raindrops on the pavement and the pounding of the ball against the wet concrete. I always had the street to myself; people would disappear inside their houses when it rained, leaving me alone with my thoughts and the wind in the trees.

I would think about anything and everything those days. I took the time to appreciate the things that made me happy, and I gave thought to the things that needed figuring out. I dreamed about the future; college, basketball, girls. I always thought about girls.

Left to my own thoughts, I never once dreamed that such a dark, cancerous cloud covered my future.

Once I left for college, my daily basketball schedule was made for me; I was away from home, and I stopped having the opportunity to take the ball out into the driveway. But the peaceful tranquility of those rainy days is something that stays with me.

As I was saying, I would really prefer this rain to turn into snow. Winter can get so cold here, yet somehow I associate it with a quality of warmth. I think of bundling up against the biting chill of the outside air, and of getting close to someone because when it's cold, it's the perfect time to be tangled up with someone else. I, of course, have to avoid human contact like the plague, but I'm still looking forward to a fresh snow to warm my feelings.

Another month has passed, and I feel as if I'm getting stronger. I can still feel something in my bones, something that doesn't belong there, but it's not like it was before and I'm confident that it will be gone before long. A winter alone will be a difficult test, but I have a renewed motivation, a sense of inspiration, and I can feel that inside of me, too.

I look forward to snow, and I'll get through the year, though I'll yearn for the days that I've lost. I'll keep looking ahead to get to the bridge, if I'm sufficiently blessed, I will cross.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Sweet November

I can't believe it's almost the end of November. I'm still accustomed to that meaning the beginning of a new basketball season, the end of a semester, and the air turning unmistakably colder. It's hard for my brain to register that I'm almost a year and a half removed from college, and there are no upcoming basketball games in which I'll be playing, but it's still getting cold outside.

I would imagine that this is the time of year when days will seem to go by even more slowly than they have over the past few months, if that's even possible. I wish I could wake up to a different reality, but my wishes continue to dissipate without response. My days still seem to drag on without end.

I asked for a time-out yesterday, as if some invisible referee were overseeing my life and could somehow grant me a few weeks' break from this cancer-fighting marathon. I could really use a vacation; I'm not sure where I would go, or if I would even tell anyone or invite anyone to come with me. It would just be nice to escape for a little while. I haven't been able to find an escape from this; I've just been creeping along one day at a time since it started.

I couldn't get out of bed again today. I felt like a wax creature, all disfigured and immobile in my bed, on my back, for hours. What I would give for a pretty girl to just come and be there with me! Then, at least the hours of blanketed obsolescence would bring me some joy!

It doesn't feel so foreign to me to remember what that feels like, having someone close to me like that, and I look forward to it again every day. It makes me romanticize the idea of being in a relationship, even though I know it's never going to be as easy as I would like it to be or think right now that it will be. It's just a sensible idea to me that there's someone out there who is meant to be nice to me, and I'll be nice to her, and we'll enjoy spending time together, and everything will work out, and I'll always have someone to waste the day away with me in bed.

To be honest, over the past few days, I've learned of the human capacity to miss something, or someone, that we've never even really had. Missing and longing, it seems, come from the same place, when we recognize some missing element as an integral component of our completion. It is, of course, the natural inclination of the human body and spirit to want to be complete, though we're so often operating at less than maximum efficiency.

I'd like to believe that I'm making sense, and I definitely believe in what I'm saying. The truth of the matter is that I don't know if I'll ever be lucky enough to touch, or to hold, this thing that I'm missing. Right now, it's really far away, but I can feel it as if it were next to me and I know it's real.

So, for now, the object of my obsession will have to remain just that. But at least I know she feels the same, which is a hell of a lot better than feeling alone. And it's nice to feel alive again, like something I had forgotten even existed has awakened from within me. I needed to express it; I want it to breathe, but I don't want to smother it and I don't want it to break. I have to let it be, and that's fine, for all things grow and develop in their own time, and as we know, it's not our minds at all that decide who makes a difference in our lives.

I really could go on forever, but I fear that wasted words will only spoil that which I am trying to protect. If nothing else, I am admittedly a hopeless romantic, and that is something that neither chemo, nor cancer, nor anything else that comes to mind can change about me. And I do believe that it's a good thing, and that it will all turn out well for me in the end. I hope this new thing remains, though I don't know what it will become, but it's been too long that I've missed missing and being missed, and I don't mind it at all.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Round 8

I have now completed eight out of fourteen scheduled rounds of chemo. It feels like I've been doing it forever, and it still feels like I have an eternity yet to finish, but at least I'm officially past the halfway point.

Five days of chemo is always such a long time. When they finally give me permission to leave and deaccess my port, I usually make one last trip to the bathroom before I go. If for no other reason, I want to make sure that the ten hours of fluids I've just received don't end up on the seat of the car. But I'm always bothered by the fact that I don't recognize myself. My face is always swollen and red, my body looks inflated with air, and I'm always so exhausted.

It really is surprising to me that sitting in a hospital bed for five days can be so exhausting, but it makes more sense when you consider that the nurses don't allow you any semblance of a normal sleeping pattern. The last two days, chemo went up at 8am and 4am respectively, so you can imagine how anxious I was yesterday when chemo ended at 6am and I could do nothing but wait to finish the fluids and go home.

I also find it interesting that my simple, well-planned, organized pill schedule is so terribly butchered by nurses who have the schedule all written out in front of them. I love my nurses, don't get me wrong, but I don't always get my familiar nurses and sometimes it's like the nurse I get pays no mind to the schedule at all; they'd rather just stroll in with whatever they find in their hands at that particular moment and leave me wondering if it's what they say it is and why I'm taking it at that time. Then, when I finally leave the hospital, it's hard to remember what I was given at what time and then determine how to get back on track.

It's flu season now, too, so the hospital is packed with patients from the E.R. who need an isolation room. That means there's no chance of me getting a single, even last week when I was the only patient to be admitted for chemo that day. In fact, not only was I put in a four-person room (with a fifth behind a makeshift curtain about fifteen feet from the foot of my bed; an infant, no less, who was incapable of making human noises but rather screamed exclusively like a velociraptor), but it still took almost seven hours to get from the clinic to the hospital room.

I realize that it's a hospital and that they're doing their best with limited resources, but it seems dangerous to me to put flu patients on the same floor as cancer patients. I'm not sure what was ailing the raptor baby, though I'm suspicious that it was a virus, but even if you assume that all of the flu patients were kept in isolation rooms, we're all still being treated by the same nurses and that makes me a little nervous. Clearly, I'd never think of refusing treatment to a flu patient in need of isolation, but it's obvious that things are getting more difficult for the hospital to manage around this time of year. Unfortunately for me, all I want is to show up and get what I need, then get out of there with as little a headache as possible.

The patient in the bed next to me was a young kid with a ruptured appendix. It seemed pretty rough, but I'm glad they were able to remove the organ and all of the poison before it was too late.

That said, I'm not really looking to make friends with other patients' family when I'm anxiously awaiting five days to go by. Still, each morning, this kid's dad was nice enough to come over to my bedside soon after I had first opened my eyes to offer me his newspaper. Aside from the shock of waking up to an unfamiliar man's face, I really didn't want to touch his newspaper. I wanted to stay as far away from that scene behind that curtain as possible, for fear that some abdominal fluid had escaped the child and smeared itself onto his father's newspaper.

So, each time he appeared, he promised to bring me his copy of the paper when I was more awake (he could never just wait until I was really awake), and each time I graciously declined and closed my eyes again. One day, my nurse even came in and said to me, "That man wanted me to tell you that you can borrow his newspaper whenever you're awake."

I don't know what it was that gave that man the impression that I read the newspaper, but I somewhat admire his persistence.

I'm not feeling very well today, which I expected, but I am carrying a sense of accomplishment for having finished another five-day round of chemo. There's not a lot of fanfare and it feels like I'm making progress in inches rather than in strides, but at least I'm going somewhere.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Second Chances

It's an odd thing to feel like you're already living a second chance. Your first chance, when you're young and naive and innocent, ends when you do something that could realistically render significant repercussions, possibly the end of your life. After that, if you think about it, it's like you were given a second chance. At least, that's the way I look at it.

Obviously, there isn't any rule or explanation regarding the number of chances each person gets. Like everything else, it's different for everyone. Some may never get a second chance; for them, it's all over at the first substantial mistake. Others may get chance after chance, never realizing or appreciating the fact that they're living on the edge and that it may eventually catch up with them. Some learn to change their ways after a certain experience serves as a wake-up call to start being more responsible. Some are determined to test their luck forever, with no consideration for those that may be hurt along the way.

Like I said, I feel like I'm on a second chance. I left the younger, more innocent version of myself somewhere in the distant past. I drove fast, and paid for it in speeding tickets, though I was never in a serious accident. I drove without a seat belt, and paid the state of New York for that as well. I drove after drinking, and while I never got caught, I put myself and my friends in danger. I went too far with girls I didn't know, and I've drunk past the point of remembrance and challenged my limits to the brink of alcohol poisoning.

One time, at the beginning of my senior year of college, my friend and I decided to take a couple of bicycles for a joy ride after each having a few drinks. It was exhilarating, liberating, and incontestably foolish, and our route eventually brought us to the top of a hill, overlooking a path, which ran to the left of four collections of wooden stairs, all leading down to a rickety wooden bridge laid across a small stream. Once at the top, we prepared to descend the path, but my friend stopped to say something and I swerved to avoid hitting him, which led me right into the stairs. I couldn't avoid them, so I tried to ride down them, which I did, and I swung back to the left to rejoin the path. At that point, my feet had lost the pedals, which kept on going, and I couldn't catch them again. I tried to make the bridge with a sharp maneuver at the end of the path, but I couldn't make the turn fast enough. The bike hit the front left panel of the bridge, as did my head, and I was thrown over the handlebars. My friend ran down the path to help me out of the brush in which I had landed (I barely missed landing in the creek), and when I stood up there was blood rushing from the gash on my head. To make a long story short, I missed losing an eye, or worse, by about a quarter of an inch. Thanks to the work of a talented plastic surgeon, three layers of stitches have left me with only a 1.5-inch long scar through my eyebrow.

After that night, I fought with depression for weeks. Needless to say, I felt lucky that the damage hadn't been worse. I felt as if I had been given a second chance.

I don't think there was anything I did, or any mistake I made that resulted in my getting cancer. There are other illnesses that can be acquired due to bad judgment, but it's safe to say that cancer isn't one of them. Still, cancer may be the most life-threatening of all the things I've mentioned. It requires the most work to fix it, takes the most time to eliminate, and has taken the greatest toll on my friends and family. If I'm lucky enough to get through it, I will most definitely feel like I've been given another second chance.

It would take me a few minutes to count up all of my second chances, so I don't know what number I'll be on if and when I beat this thing. And I don't want to stop doing exciting things, or having as much fun, but I know that it's time to start being more responsible. There has to come a time when people stop taking so many chances and start acting like adults. I know that after this experience, I want to make sure that my life goes on for a long time, and I don't want to throw it away by doing any of the stupid things I used to do.

I wonder how many more second chances I have left. Cats have nine lives, or so they say, but what's the expression for humans? Maybe "Humans have as many lives as they have, until they have none." But we never know when we have none left.

So, I'll probably calculate my risks a little bit more from now on than I have in the past. I have no way of knowing how many more second chances I have.

Friday, November 13, 2009


I've been finding it pretty difficult to get myself out of bed recently. I attribute it to the principle of inertia; you know, a body in motion will stay in motion until acted upon by an outside force. And, conversely, a body at rest will stay at rest until I can force my lazy ass out of bed to do something. Besides, it's really hard to get my body to do just about anything, so I just stay in bed and pass the day in comfort.

The weekdays tend to get lonely, anyway. My parents work, my sister is away at school, and I'm sick and tired of television and video games. The other day I thought about reading a book, then thought better of it, and if I'm not feeling motivated to write, I can't just force the words out onto the page.

I've been telling myself I should get into reading for a while now, but the reality is I'm just not that interested. Sparknotes got me through high school, and I did what I had to do to get by in college, but reading has never really been fun for me. I've always said that I'd rather live my own life than read about someone else living theirs, which, come to think of it, would actually make right now an ideal time to start. I have appreciated a good book before, and probably could again, but if I start reading now, I'll be reading about someone who still has the opportunity to get out and live, which would no doubt make me jealous and angry, so I doubt I'd enjoy it very much. One of these days, I'll give it a try, I just don't know when.

I'm also getting fed up with people asking me how my day was. Sure, it's a caring notion, and under most circumstances I know that people appreciate being asked about their day. But for me, right now, it really just gets under my skin. It's an uneventful conversation, anyway, and I could simply do without it.

"How was your day?"

"Great. I rolled over. How was yours?"

I'm not so concerned with the back end of that interaction, either, since once again it's bound to involve someone else getting to do something more exciting than a successful bowel movement. And while I'll listen if they really want to tell me, unless it's especially interesting I'd rather be spared the frustration of wishing things were better.

I do realize how bitter I sound, and trust me, I'm exhausted just being inside my own head. If I could drown out my thoughts, I would, but it's an ability I have yet to master.

The weekends get a little easier, though, and at least today is Friday. I don't look forward to them quite as much as I did when I could go out, but it seems like people are overall less stressed and more available than they are during the week, for obvious reasons. Someone else is usually home, which is nice, and there's much better programming on t.v. during the afternoon, namely live football or basketball at this time of year.

During the weekend, it feels more ordinary to be lounging around, and less like I'm doing it because something's wrong. I know that I'm entitled to my weekday indolence, but it still feels better when it's the social norm.

So, Happy Friday! It isn't said enough, but today is a privelege. And for the next two days, we get to do the things we wish we could do all the time, like maybe nothing at all. Some may be more inspired, or able, than others, but they can keep it to themselves as far as I'm concerned.

Just kidding.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

It's Hard to Say Goodbye

The other day, my doctor informed me that she will be leaving Columbia in order to assume a more prestigious position at another hospital in the city. Honestly, though the news was unanticipated and came as a shock to me, my initial reaction was to be happy for her. She has worked her entire life to get to where she is now, and I should be nothing but supportive of her achieving success. I've known her only a few short months, anyway, so it seems that it would be selfish of me to expect my agenda to compete with her lifelong dreams.

She won't actually be leaving Columbia for another month or so, but she did ask me to go with her to the new hospital soon after she makes the move. The new place is all the way downtown on the east side of the city, which is considerably more difficult for me to reach than is Columbia. In fact, the duration of the drive would likely double in time at the very least, making an already dizzying car ride even more difficult in both directions. When I need to come in for a meeting, or to have blood taken in advance of chemo, or when I'm coming in for chemo and subsequently leaving chemo, every car ride that already makes me all shook up inside would be even worse. And that's not even to mention those wonderful, though infrequent occasions when I have to go to the E.R. for some reason or another, in which case I'll probably be in a hurry, but inevitably at the mercy of the ever-unpredictable FDR Drive.

Then I have to consider my nurses at Columbia, who sent me a birthday card and gift, and always come to see me even if they're not on shift but notice that I'm around. Don't get me wrong, my doctor is without question the quarterback of this whole endeavor, and the reason I'm writing this in the first place is to express the loss I'm feeling due to the idea of her not being around. But once I'm checked into the hospital for treatment and my doctor has given her scripts and chemo orders, it's up to the nurses to carry out the plan, and I trust them fully. And, if you remember, they are the friendly faces I look forward to seeing to ease the transition from upright to bedridden and drug-infused.

The more I think about it, though, it's no easier to accept. My doctor has been a stabilizing force since those first, most fearful days when my diagnosis was a mystery and my entire future was in considerable doubt. At the risk of employing another hardly necessary analogy, she took the keys to the RV into which all of my family and friends packed themselves along with their panic and dreams of a miracle, and my doctor began to navigate us along the path that will hopefully lead us to the promised land of remission.

I don't doubt the credentials or ability of this new doctor I've been given to fulfill her responsibilities with regards to my treatment. Things just seem to be going so well right now, it's hard to imagine doing the rest of it without my doctor. When they're about to put me under for my eleventh and twelfth Bone Marrow Biopsies, I just wish it could be her telling me that she'll be there the whole time and that she'll still be there when I wake up.

I know that you can't really predict these things, and that you have to be ready to take advantage of great opportunities when they present themselves, but why does it have to be right now?

If my doctor leaves Columbia in a month, takes a few weeks to get her feet grounded in her new environment, and then asks me to join her there, I'll be at least two or three treatments ahead of where I am now, which leaves (hopefully) only a few remaining between me and the finish line. And at my hospital I know the routine; I know what to expect when I check in for chemo, and we humans are creatures of habit. I also know that at Columbia, the doctors work together, abandon their egos, and I'd like to believe that my doctor will remain relevant in my treatment until the very end.

I don't know how things are done over at the other hospital, though I know that after each chemo treatment I would have to walk a few blocks to some lodge where the amenities would be nicer than they are at the hospital, but the time it would take to get post-chemo hydration or transfusions hooked up again after a walk that sounds like it could be nothing but unpleasant after a day of chemo are not quite reassuring notions. Again, I just wish this weren't happening right now. But if it's not going to be me, then some other patient will have to deal with it, which isn't necessarily better, just easier for me.

At this point, I'm slightly more than cautiously optimistic that I can emerge victorious from this whole thing. Ideally, if and when that day comes, my doctor would be there to share in the joy with me and my family. I would pick her up, spin her around, and maybe we'd all go get a drink somewhere. I'm not saying she won't be there, either, or that her role in this process is finished, or even overly diminished, at least I sincerely hope not, but I have to be realistic about the fact that she probably isn't going to be around very much. Her input will arrive from a distance, and I'll welcome it, though I'll miss her reassuring smile, but that's the way it's going to be. And when this is over, I'll need a doctor for meetings and scans and maybe even the occasional Bone Marrow Biopsy, so you never really know what could happen.

People come and go from our lives, circumstances change when we least expect them to, and sometimes it's when we most want them to just stay the same for a little while longer. I know that these are things I've said before, and probably will again before my days are through, but it never seems to get any easier. Things around me are changing; people, the weather, and all I can do is try and hold onto any order and sanity I can get my hands on. I guess that's why I'll probably stick it out at Columbia, as long as my treatment continues to go well. But I'm going to miss her, that's for sure, and it'll be damn hard to say goodbye.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

An Elephant Never Forgets, and I Am Not An Elephant

My friends wanted me to remember to write about the things I can't remember. On Thursday, when I was in for chemo, three of them were nice enough to come and spend some time with me. When they asked me to write about this, I was entertained by the idea. Of course, today, before getting started, I had to ask my friend to remind me of some of the things I've forgotten so I would have enough content with which to write the post.

One of those three friends had lent me a movie, When Harry Met Sally, the last time she was in to visit me in the hospital. Naturally, she asked me on Thursday if I had watched it, and my immediate thought was, "Oh, no, she let me borrow her movie like three weeks ago and I didn't even watch it!"

"Umm, oops, I'm sorry, I forgot," I said.

I then noticed my other friend sitting next to her, whose face was turning red as she said, "Jon, what are you talking about? We watched that movie together the last time I was here!"

"Oh, we did?" I asked, somewhat embarrassed.

"Yes, we did!" she responded. "Don't you remember how it started and stopped a million times and we kept trying to fix it?"

"Yeahh, that sounds familiar," I said.

"You don't remember," she accused.

"No, not really," I admitted. But I wished I could, nobody wants to forget about something they've done, even if it is just watching some silly chick flick.

I also can't remember watching the final four episodes of season one of the sitcom How I Met Your Mother, even though I've watched the episodes twice because I tried again once I blanked on them after the first attempt.

I told my friends about earlier that day in the clinic, when a nice woman came to sit down next to me and said, "Hi Jonathan, I'm (insert name, because I have no idea), remember me? I'm the karate master."

I must have looked at her as if she had three heads, because she went on, "Oh, it's okay, we have met before, I'm sure, but can I talk to you about the things I can offer you?"

"Sure," I said reluctantly, and she continued to tell me about the karate and mixed martial arts and such classes to which she could invite me when I'm ready to start building my muscles again. She also asked me about the sports I used to play and all the ways I used to be active, which of course made me feel great, and she told me about all the ways she is still active, and I felt even better.

When she finally left me alone, a young doctor emerged from behind a door, and quickly noticed me sitting in my chair.

"Hi, Jonathan!" he exclaimed, clearly happy to see me, and I reciprocated with a much less enthusiastic greeting, but a greeting nonetheless, having no clue in the world as to whom the doctor was. I'm sure he was one of the countless doctors who comes in to see me when I'm in the hospital for chemo and insists on listening to my heartbeat or pressing on my stomach so I have to hold in a fart or asks me about my pain even though another doctor whose name I also never remember has always just been in to do the exact same thing five minutes earlier.

He didn't stay to talk, thank goodness, because I was feeling enough like an Alzheimer's patient and wanted to be left alone.

"Remember the jello story from way back in Nyack hospital?" my friend asked, returning to later that night in the hospital room.

"No, remind me," I said, as the other two perked up.

"Well, the nurse had just come in to pick up Jon's full urinal, and she left with it to do whatever it is she does with a container full of pee. Then, a few minutes later, she walked back into the room with a plate of yellow Jell-o for Jon."

"Oh, no!" Jon quivered, "You made my pee into Jell-o? I don't want to eat that!"

The nurse obviously claimed that it was normal Jell-o, made without pee, but if my memory serves me (ha, ha) I'm sure I didn't eat it.

My friend also reminded me of the way I used to turn my temperatures into radio stations whenever the nurses read them to me aloud. I should remind you all that I was still heavily medicated through an I.V. during my days at the old hospital, so I can't be fully held responsible for my idiocy.

So, a nurse would read off my temperature, let's say it was 98.7 degrees Fahrenheit, and I would chime in with something like "Lite FM!" or if it was a little higher, say, 99.4, I might say, "99.4, The Buzz!" or something to that effect. I am unaware as to whether or not any of my stations actually exist, though they might somewhere, but it was mostly for entertainment. I remember on one particular occasion I was fighting off a tumor fever, and my temperature was rising pretty fast, getting up into the 100's and higher. My sister and friend were beginning to panic, but I just kept on shooting off names of radio stations as my temperature continued to grow.

"101.5, Jack FM!" and then "102.7, The Swing!" followed by "103.6, Oh, The Heat!"

I'm not sure what I actually said in response to the numbers, but with the last one, I was definitely getting nervous, and the next thing I knew I was being wheeled downstairs to a different room where they took the necessary precautions to make sure my temperature didn't get too far out of control and pose any real danger to me.

I obviously don't remember the names of those nurses, and I really have trouble with the names of all the hospital staff unless it's my doctor or the nurses who've been on my team since the very beginning of my time at Columbia. Even then, it took me a while before I could stop saying their names apprehensively for fear that I was calling them the wrong name and was about to be embarrassed.

On Thursday, when my friends were visiting, my nurse for the night shift came into the room to begin prepping me for chemo, and she said hi to everone, introducing herself as Patti. Needless to say, after she came and left, a few moments later, I turned to my friends and asked, "What was her name, again?"

"Patti!" my friends all responded in chorus. I guess it was an easy question.

I've always had trouble with names, though, and it usually takes me a few tries for them to really stick in my brain. Still, it isn't fun feeling like there are so many things I've been forgetting over these few months, and that it probably isn't going to stop happening any time in the immediate future. But I wish I could forget some of the bad stuff, too, like feeling sick, or the pain, or throwing up. Maybe having "selective memory" is just a false creation, or wishful thinking. Nevertheless, it's still kind of funny to think about my follies, and I'm fortunate to have good friends around to remind me of them.

Thursday, November 5, 2009

The New York Yankees are World Series Champions!

The New York Yankees won the World Series tonight. As the announcer said, the title above is the most commonly uttered phrase in sports. It really was a great night to be a New York sports fan (unless you like the Mets, of course). The Knicks still lost, which is to be expected these days, but it was really thrilling to watch the Yankees celebrate after recording the final out. In the end, they won easily, but there were many moments when the outcome of this series was still in doubt. It made me so happy when it was clear that they were going to win.

The Yankees are probably the most celebrated sports team in all the world, and the most hated at the same time. They have the richest history of success, which is why players and fans from all over the world, from all different kinds of backgrounds, wear hats with their logo and dream of playing for them. People can say what they want about the Yankees buying their players (in a sport where the rules are such that teams are not subject to a salary cap, so the teams with the biggest markets and the owners with the deepest pockets have the best chance at signing the best players. Those are the rules, and they've been that way forever, so deal with it.) but there's a reason why the Yankees are synonymous with success. They carry themselves like professionals, are rarely targets in the media for bad behavior (save for maybe A-Rod with his high-profile women and history of performance-enhancing drugs, but at least he's not getting arrested for domestic violence or shooting himself at a nightclub, my apologies to Plaxico, I'm still a big fan), and they're expected to perform on the biggest stage, in the biggest city, in front of the most ruthless critics and most passionate supporters in all the world.

I know that if I go on, I might turn off some of my friends who put themselves under the category of Yankee-haters, and I don't want to do that. Besides, this blog isn't really about current events. But I've been a Yankee fan forever, ever since my dad started taking me to games at the old stadium. And there's a reason that I bring it up. For one thing, it's been a pretty tough couple of months, and watching that happen tonight really made a difference to me. For at least a little while, it helped me forget about my situation and remember the sheer joy of playing a game. As I watched those guys jump around on the infield, I was happy for them. And while I realize it's only the players who won, they always thank the fans, and without us they'd have nobody to play for. So when you think about it, we truly are a part of it, and it's a reason to rejoice.

So, for one thing, I really needed something like this. But that's not the real reason why I bring it up. The real reason is commitment. Baseball may be a game, and being a professional athlete in any sport must be the best job in the world, but these guys work hard. They play 162 games a year, weekends included, and on their off days they still go to the ballpark for their workouts, and in the offseason they're still working hard every day to get better. Weight-lifting, batting practice, fielding practice, throwing for pitchers, who have these crazy regiments where they throw different numbers of pitches on different days to preserve their arms which bend and stretch so far past the limitations of a normal person's arm that it's dangerous. And all of this because if they don't do it, there's always someone younger and stronger working his way up the professional ranks, coming to take their job. Talk about a lack of job security. Sure, they sign massive contracts, but most of them only have a number of good years before they're replaced and they have to find something else to do with their lives. And while the traveling might be exhilarating for a while, I'm sure it gets old, and there must be times when they just want to stay home with their families. Yet they do it all year long and check into hotels at 3am, knowing that they have to watch film or go over the scouting report at 10am so they can eat well enough in advance for a day game after a night game.

Everyone's different, and so are their commitments. Being a baseball player is far different from being committed to beating cancer, but resolve and perseverance are universal. The Yankees lost 63 times this year alone, including the playoffs, yet they can still call themselves champions. Suffice it to say, you can't win 'em all. But you can still try. I've got one big battle on my hands, so I only have to win one, for now, but it's going to take a pretty long time, and it's a pretty huge commitment. Chemo, radiation, vaccinations, a possibility of surgeries or operations; it's a lot of dedication. They should really give me a ring with a ton of diamonds in it if I win, too.

I was hoping I'd be able to go to the victory parade, but it's in two days and I go back in for chemo tomorrow (assuming that my blood counts have recovered). It's somewhat of a disappointment, but a parade probably wouldn't be the safest place for me at this point in time, anyway. I can only hope to see another Yankees title before my days are through. Considering that this is their 27th World Series victory and 5th in the last 13 years, the chances of that happening are fairly high, but that's assuming one enormous victory that has to happen first. It's no sure thing, but I'm seriously committed to it.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009


I've made it my routine to have blood taken at the clinic the day before I'm supposed to go in for chemo. That way, I know whether or not I'm ready for it a day in advance. I learned my lesson when I showed up for cycle number two, all ready to go, only to be told to go home because my blood levels hadn't recovered well enough to blast them again.

Having blood taken ahead of time also eliminates hours of waiting on the day of chemo, so I can just show up and get started.

Today was one of those clinic days. And while this past cycle hasn't been the best, it certainly hasn't been the worst, either, I don't think, though the past few months seem to blend into one big mess in my mind. I've been pretty tired, and I know my red blood cell count is low, so that's the reason why, but I had blood taken at the end of last week and I was told my counts were acceptable. So the only way I wouldn't be ready for chemo tomorrow is if my blood counts have gotten worse since they were last checked. It's possible, and not uncommon, just not what I expected.

Apparently, that's what happened because I got a call a few hours after leaving the clinic to tell me that I'm not ready for chemo tomorrow. I have to go back to the clinic and try again in a few days.

I'm not sure why, but that phone call really bothered me. It's the first time since that second round of chemo that my body hasn't recovered in time for the next scheduled round. And while the doctor says it's not a big deal, that it won't change anything or throw us off schedule, or most importantly affect my chances at beating this in any way, it still disappoints me. It's not that I get some bizarre enjoyment out of chemo, that's obvious, but I guess I just took some pride in always being strong again in time for the next beating. Kind of like the way guys in the movies, when they're being tortured, act as if they're unphased by it and keep on asking for more. I've been going at it every two weeks, which is a really fast clip, and the doctors warned me that we would eventually need to stretch it out. It's just not realistic to expect my body to be ready every time with so little time to heal. Still, I thought I could do it.

This next round is number seven. I'm scheduled for fourteen, so it marks a pretty significant milestone. I was looking forward to being done with it. Still, the bottom line is that it's not a big deal that I have to wait. I have to be patient with myself, just the way I have to be patient with this entire process. I know my body will recover, it's just a matter of a few days. I should enjoy these extra days of feeling better than I will after chemo, or during chemo, which is where I would be if I hadn't been given this extra time.

I get a few extra nights in my own bed before I have to sleep in the hospital. That's really the way I should be looking at it.

Once again, I'll learn to be patient and to curtail my expectations, because things never seem to work out the way I expect them to. I'm not saying I won't set my goals high, and I'll continue to shoot for the stars, but even when I'm anticipating the pits, my plans are subject to change.

Always expect to be surprised, I guess, because if you don't, you're bound to be surprised.