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Shine Like A Diamond

Here we are on a Saturday night. My Wife is watching Harry Potter, and I’m about to watch something on Netflix.

In my never ending quest to not feel useless in these circumstances I’ve been handed, I ask my Wife, “Are you ever mad I can’t work? Or that I sit and watch Netflix?” She answered quickly, “No. I’ve never felt that way.” Then I replied with, “It’s so hard because sometimes I feel like such a lump of coal.”

She quickly replied, “That’s ok, remember, coal turns into diamonds.”

I hope you all have a love like I do.

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When Free is Your Goal

We all love a bargain. Don’t we? The thrill of a little something special that didn’t cost a thing. They say in this world that everything has a price. I must admit, I’ve been a believer in that. Too good to be true.

Free. It has so many meanings. Free stuff. I’m free of that relationship. Free speech. I feel free. A prisoner gains their freedom. Today I want to talk about being cancer free.

That is certainly the kind of free that comes with a cost. All the treatments and surgeries. The loss of relationships because some can’t handle illness. The beauty of a friend understanding exactly what you mean when you say you’re cancer free and thriving.

It’s not a conceited Napoleonic stance of hey, I’ve beaten down the army that tried to kill me, so now I’ll sit back in my glorious glow while I sit and absorb the congratulations of my peers and friends.

The truth of the matter is for a few minutes those of us who’ve been so damned lucky to hear the words cancer free live in it for moments at a time. Because when diagnosed time stood still. So much to work out regarding daily living, we didn’t have time to let it all in. It’s kind of the same when cancer free is the new phrase you’re hearing. But dammit, that’s a moment to say yeah, I’ve changed those habits I needed to change to get better. And I’ve made the choice to live.

At lunch today with my gorgeous friend Lia, who’s inside beauty is by far her greatest attribute. And that’s saying something, because she is one beautiful woman on the outside as well. She gets it. She gets me. We get each other. We marveled today at the words cancer free and how positive energy has such a big part in that process. Not fighting the disease, but learning how to treat it as a part of you that needs to be kept calm so that the immunology drugs can do their work and keep the internal anger that causes all kinds of disease under control and therefore the inflammation that triggers cancer at bay.

Immunology is the future of the cure, and the trials are happening. Don’t fool yourself. If you get cancer now, you’ve got a better chance of surviving and thriving than at any other time in history.

Life is worth grabbing a hold of. Because happiness is free if you choose it. But you have to choose it. Because disease in this fast paced world wants to eat you up and spit you out.

There’s an old saying, the best things in life are free. It’s so true. Love, friendship and cancer free. That’s the best thing in life I’ve heard so far.

Without a Choice

Today I was speaking on the phone with my oncology social worker, Katie, when I had an epiphany. I thought I’d share.

Since my diagnosis of cancer last year, and the subsequent months that have been filled with medical calamities and complications, I’ve been trying to find ways to fill my time. Asking myself, “Why am I so bored?” “Why, at times am I depressed?” “Bluer than blue?” Unable to get it together enough to go downstairs to get the mail.

There are days when I feel broken. Not whole. Wondering, will I ever be a contributing member of society again? I’ve applied to school and been rejected. Ok, so it was Harvard. But, why not dream big?

I’m still looking at other schools because I need to keep my brain sharp and learn. Curiosity is the keeper of wonder. It allows the light in.

What came to me today is that my departure from the workforce due to medical reasons wasn’t a planned retirement. I was trying to stay alive. I was hit by a truck, a wall, and a ton of bricks all in one year. Most people plan for their retirement to be later in life. Not in their mid fifties. And not with a broken body.

Forced retirement was never my plan. I wanted to work until I dropped at my desk.

Maybe now I can stop beating myself up for not understanding why I’ve been upset for a long time. Forced to watch life go by in a completely different way than you thought, isn’t easy. I’d throw in John Lennon’s infamous life quote about plans, but I think we’ve all heard it before.

Light bulbs moments are huge leaps of growth. I feel like I just learned an amazing new life lesson.

Not bad for a Summer Friday.

Pleasing Isn’t Always A Pleasure

I’m a people pleaser. There I said it. It’s out there in the universe. I cringe when I think someone doesn’t like me. I always have. Funny thing is, I don’t even know the reason. I could guess at a few. But at my age, does it matter?

It’s a habit I need to let go of. So what if everyone doesn’t like you? Is that the reason I’ll die on the day when death is at my door? I hardly think so. But it may very well bring on the stress that makes situations worse than they are.

I do believe that being a people pleaser brings me to my knees at times. My choices in life should never be based on whether someone likes me or not. But sometimes they are. And on this day, I’m choosing to do something about it.

First thing on the list, is realizing this IS a choice. Most people do care in some way whether they’re liked or not. Otherwise, why would we ask how we look or seek out the answers to the infamous questions? Do I look fat in this? How’s my hair? And so on.

To truly give up what others think of you, means to risk being criticized, talked about and to not give a fuck. Well today is the day of the beginning of my Zero Fuck stage in my life.

If you’re my friend, then you’re my friend. It’s not based on superficial reasons. It’s because we’ve done the work to learn about each other. To care about each other. You’re not going to stop being my friend because I make a choice that doesn’t affect you. If it does, I’ll talk to you about it. I’m talking about things like where do I go on vacation or what charity to support. Not about whether you should have children or not. There’s superficial and then there’s real.

I want to begin to live my life in my lane and my way. Without wondering if there’ll be backlash because I choose to do one thing over another. It’s my life. Why should others have a voice in it? As a cancer patient I have enough people telling me what to do and when to do it. If we’re to truly believe in the right to pursue happiness, why is my happiness always on the back burner?

I’m a damn people pleaser. That’s why.

Life is short. People pleasing is tiring. I may have less friends because of it, but they weren’t really friends in the first place if they want that type of control. Life is even shorter than you think. I’m gonna go do me now.

I’m still going to be of service. That doesn’t change. It’s just where and with whom being of service is. It’s my choice. Time is the only true commodity we as people own that we give to others. I’ve forgotten that in that equation is time for me.

People pleasers don’t usually take time for themselves. My clock has two hands. One for you and one for me. It’s time to start using mine. Before it’s too late.

Finding Purpose

Cancer free! The words you long to hear. What does it really mean? It really means until the next test, you can breathe and allow yourself to live your life to the fullest. To understand the phrase, you first have to understand that once you’ve had cancer, you’re never free again. There will always be tests, monitoring of your blood, PET scans, MRIs, CT scans and all sorts of tests that feel more like biology experiments, than life. The scariest of all tests. The PET scan! The one that looks for spread of the cancer cells.

“Cancer free”. The chains loosen their grip for a time and you can get back to a normal way of life. Depending on how normal your life was before. LOL.

I’ve probably had more needles in me than a junkie on skid row in the 70’s. Mine are clean and disease free, but needles nonetheless.

My core muscles have been cut more the sliced deli turkey. Your core is the centre of your body. Your balance is derived from the core and so, until that heals, if it ever fully does, I’ll have to be careful not to go too fast and fall.

What’s your normal? Mine right now is walking around the house, working a bit at my desk, pretending I can work an office job and rest. My body never seems to have enough rest.

I want so much to find purpose and to share my experience so that others understand what we go through. It’s not a one and done deal. It’s a long process to try and regain who you were physically.

Mentally, you’ll never be the same. I feel more grateful for my time here on Earth. Everyday is a gift and a way to give back. I search for ways to spread information. This blog included. I look for ways to quiet my fear. I’m hoping that the more time passes, the more I can handle the fear. I look for ways to raise funds for cancer research. So many people don’t want to talk about it.

How can you make people believe that cancer doesn’t rub off on other people and you can’t get it from touch. It’s this kind of ignorance I’d like to speak about. I’d love to go around to groups and talk about my experiences with this journey so far. If anyone has any ideas, feel free to chime in and get in touch. I’m really looking to connect with people who are willing to use the experience to empower people in daily life.

It’s time we realized that cancer is an awakening. A chance to grow. Forced or not, it’s a real chance to get your shit straight in a meaningful way. To learn your boundaries. Your needs. Your desires.

Cancer is still just a word that describes a condition. It’s not who you are.

I’m so grateful that mine was caught in time. So I’m “cancer free”. At least until I’m not. I may never get it again. But it helps me keep my focus on each day. We’re all dying. We’re all terminal. By the very fact that we’re alive, we get a clock that starts ticking the day we’re born. How will you use your ticking time bomb?

If you’d like to donate to my journey to wellness and to help others in their journeys, please click here to donate to my walk fund. It’s a road to a purposeful life.

Tonight’s The Night!

I sit here in the quiet of the morning. Birds singing their songs outside my window. I’m content. I’m excited. I’m in awe of the event to come this evening.

Tonight Cathy Richardson, the City Winery Chicago and myself, are putting on a benefit for the Olivia Newton-John Cancer Wellness And Research Centre. Click here to purchase tickets.

It’s been fifteen years since I’ve produced a benefit show, but I still remember the gratitude I felt that day. It’s equal to what I’m feeling now. To have such a beautiful venue, a kick ass band, and everyone that’s supported us along the way, get us to this moment, is nothing short of devine intervention. I’m proud of everyone who has given so selflessly to make this evening come to fruition.

The ONJCWRC is a place where miracles are happening. Treatment for all types of cancer, and programs that involve wellness for the whole person. Mind, body and soul, are what we’re supporting tonight.

Olivia is the inspiration for tonight’s show. As well as the 40th Anniversary of Grease. So expect some of your favorite ONJ songs to be played as well as Cathy’s most well known songs.

If you can’t make it, please consider a donation to my ONJCWRC Wellness Walk Fund. Click here to donate. Every dollar counts.

Thank you to:

Cathy, her band, Olivia Newton-John, Michael Caprio, Libby, Dan, and the entire staff of the City Winery, John Landecker (our host), Kat, Prof. Jonathan Cebon, Debbie Schiell, and the staff of the ONJCWRC, and especially to everyone who has purchased tickets to support this amazing evening.

In my mind, it’s already a success, because it’s happening. Whatever comes of it is gravy. When the intent is good and comes from a place of kindness, how can it be anything but positive?