-I have a cousin who dealt with cancer. He's one of the good guys. I don't know him real well. A couple of holidays as kids, a funeral or three, weddings. You know the drill. I saw him a few years ago during a layover at O'hare. Like I said, good guy. Single dad who raised his boys, has worked for the same employer forever, and puts out some of the funniest stuff on Facebook. Good parents (aunt and uncle), and good brother. (Another cousin. Of course.) Good people.
Since the cancer was treated and went into remission, my cousin goes back for periodic scans. "Scan parties," is what he calls them. I used to wonder how he dealt with the potential mortality of his situation. And the constant reminders at those parties. I assume that for each person that these questions and issues are so personal, so deeply wound around experiences and outlooks and friends and family and even the day or the week or the month, that there is no answer. There is no one-size-fits-all to contain these loud or quiet moments -depending again on the person. But I find myself now in a similar boat. And the newness of the situation has not provided ample time for definitive statements just yet. With one or two exceptions.
I am going to go back for scans on the lung nodule every six months. I have been fortunate that for now, they don't see anything that causes them great concern. I am going to go back for a scan of my esophagus soon, as well. Right now, I am on a script that should produce good results.
And I will be changing positions (career-wise) very shortly. Probably within the next week or two. (And on that bombshell...)
So, this trip, the Fast Present, thing is at an end. We have tied up the loose strings. Bartowsky is back in Wilmington supposedly editing the footage from the trip. We'll see. Heavy course load and social scenes that center around college life are hard to overcome. The heart, lung, pet scan, esophagus montage that started at the very start of this journey has been left with an ambiguous ending. But so be it. Scan, scan, scan... Alright. No problem. For today, and any foreseeable day, that is better than death, death, death. (Even though the thought of finally going home has an undeniable appeal.)
And the recent development of the job going bye-bye is also okay. My beautiful better-half and I have talked a lot about living a good life in lieu of simply living. Her mandate is clear. "Do something you love and want to do." As opposed to simply taking the well-paying gig that one may not enjoy. We have, in part, the health issue to thank for that. We also have this journey across twenty-five states to thank. The Fast Present Road Trip has lent a modicum of perspective to a sometimes busy life. Somewhere after day three...
I would do the trip again in a moment. Maybe slow down slightly more on the repeat, but definitely again. And I hope that I do.
And so, again, we are at the end of this chapter. Thank you so much for taking the journey with us.
I really hope you enjoyed the ride and the blog.
"Hello, New Beginning!" Possible updates to follow? We'll see. For now, we will take one road and one day at a time.
We loaded up on Sunday and headed off to the land of Big Ed's North. (A local eating establishment famous for breakfast.). Bartowsky calls the place, "Enormous Edward's," in that college humor, pithy banter way that corrupts names while retaining meaning. This, like a lot of things with Bartowsky, we've come to enjoy.
The occasion was slightly solemn in the sense that after this breakfast of high cholesterol and abundant salt disguised as pork, eggs, butter, and even a salt shaker, Bartowsky left for his sophomore year at college. Of course, his mother followed him in her new mini-van filled to overflowing with Bartowsky ephemera.
(The new mini-van came as a result of trading in the old mini-van and the beloved Avalon. Yes, the Avalon we picked up for the Fast Present trip. Happy wife, happy life. Debt-free life = Bonus Round. Bye-sniffle-bye, Avalon.)
The photo above shows Bartowsky reacting to an admonishment from his mother after throwing a fictitious UNC-W gang sign at Enormous Edward's. No gang garbage is allowed to intrude upon the sanctity of breakfast. Even fictitious gang garbage is banned. I myself silently removed a non-existent bandanna after taking the photo above.
I am going to miss Bartowsky and his penchant for hibernation in his room here at the ranch. (Which is code for a tract home in North Raleigh.) I already miss the road trip and dragging his tuchus through 25 states at a frenetic pace. I miss the fast, urgent way he talks and the way he laughs, and even guffaws, at his own jokes.
I will miss the Avalon, too. But truth be told, I am way too tall in the torso, not to mention fat, to be contained by the Avalon. Much like the way Buddy boy is too large to be contained by protracted hibernation in a tract home. His excitement about returning to school was and is palpable. Like the remains of an electrical storm.
Bartowsky told us the mockumentary/documentary he is doing on the Fast Present trip will be ready in six to eight months. "I underestimated the time involved," he said. No worries. We all do.
In the meantime, I am waiting for two things: the lab results of the lesion biopsy from the old esophagus. And I am waiting on the work being done on the Avalon replacement: a Honda 1,300 CC VTX that I picked up when we got the van. The dealer took it in on trade, and it was in need of attention. Eleven years old and it showed 6k on the odometer. I picked up the new van and the used bike in one fell rebel-without-a-clue swoop. Obligatory VTX photo below:
I already have visions of trading it in on a Stateline -the VTX successor that has EFI in lieu of a carb and a choke. But I will get comfortable on this bike first. It is vastly different than my Triumph bikes. Ah... the curse of the wandering eye.
I have visions of riding the beast down to Wilmington. Another road trip. Maybe early in the morning with the sun shining as the highway to the beach rolls out before me. Early AM so that we can meet for breakfast at an Enormous Edward equivalent. Bartowsky and his old man. The future and the past sharing a salt shaker.
Life is too short not to live.
As we wait for the (hopefully) the last test results, we pause on this 9th day of August to say HAPPY BIRTHDAY! to Bartowsky. (Pictured here in one of his many roles -this time as big brother from a few years ago.)
He is an outstanding, articulate and nice guy.
Like many others, I am blessed to know him.
So I need to update this blog. At the end of the day, this story is about a journey. And truth be told, the journey began long before the road trip with Bartowsky. But more on that another time.
For now, I had the first test on Friday. So far, so good on that one. Full results in a week, but only one polyp found and removed and shipped off to some top secret lab for testing. The doc said that if it was pre-cancerous, he still would not need to see me for five more years. I'll take that as a win.
I had the second test yesterday. I have told a couple of friends that I am nuclear now. The PET scan uses a solution that is nuclear in composition -or so I have been told. Am I glowing? If so, are you absolutely sure that it is from the nuclear stuff? The test itself was crazy. Do this experiment: Recline on a padded board with your hands over your head. Breathe normally. But don't move for 25 minutes. Wow! I quickly discovered what I already know; I am out of shape. And a wiggle worm. I can hear my third grade teacher now. She was hot. But she tied me to my chair. You could do that back then and no one would get sued. I was a "wiggle worm." Still am. Confined spaces? Restraints? I am going to kick against the goads. I am going to try to get out of it.
"Calm the mind, grasshopper. Be still and at peace. Breathe deeply through your nose and out through your..."
"Um... no. Got. To. Get. Out. Of. Here. NOW!" Panting. Gasping. Red in the face.
I thought the results would take a couple of days or longer to wind their way from the PET scan doc to my doc to her nurse and then to my ear. Turns out that I got the results today. Mixed review: The lung nodule is benign. YES! Yes, yes, yes! However, they found lesions in my esophagus and now want to do an EGD (upper endoscopy). I'm sorry. What?
So, to recap, I had chest pains and went in. Cut the trip with Bartowsky by four days and drove like a mad man across the country. Did 110 MPH in South Carolina. No kidding. 110. In a Toyota. So, they did a scan for the chest pains and said that the test was fine, but they found a nodule on my lung. I then went for a CT scan and they said that they weren't so sure about the scan. I then went for a PET scan -where they insert a nuke fuel rod into your veins -and they said the nodule is benign and to monitor it (read, "scan") every six months. Oh and they want to take a closer look at the esophagus. Something is no bueno with the old 'gus. This is some trajectory that I seem to be on. However, at the end of the day, the ride so far has taught me a few things -no matter how the EGD-Gus-thing turns out. So what are the lessons I've learned from this?
First, God is good. Everyday is a gift. It is incredible just to wake up and hear my new daughter snoring. Or my wife, for that matter. Tiny freight trains circling the base of a Christmas tree on December 25th. Every. Single. Day. I forgot that. I wrapped myself in layers of planning and thinking and debating and worrying and being tied up with work and making ends meet and this thing with that person and that thing with this other person and the wife and the kids and... Wait. Be still in the darkness. Stop for just a minute. Just one solitary minute out of a day filled with 1,440 minutes. Be thankful that there is at least one more day, or even part of a day, or even just that particular minute. Another second in the land of the upright. There is still work to be done. There is still a reason for existence. Even if it is only to be thankful. In that minute. God is good. All the time.
Second, perspective is vital. I lost my perspective. I have been so wrapped up in me. Self-absorbed. Narcissistic to a fault. What will I do? What will I work on? How will I spend the rest of my life? And then you walk into a clinic, or a hospital, or an endoscopy center where the patients are lined up like cattle along the walls with nothing but a thin curtain chute between them. You hear the stories through paper-thin whispers. The silence speaks volumes as well. And you realize that no matter how bad you have it, someone has it worse. Guilt, care for others, and thanksgiving intertwine in a strange dance that destroys balance. You are not the center of the universe. And possibly not even the center of your own universe. Or you return to work from your colonoscopy and find out that while you are worrying about a lung nodule, a co-worker has discovered that she is in stage three breast cancer. She's 33. Married. Planning a life with her husband. Thirty-three! And another co-worker, a friend, no, more than a friend-a "sister from a different mister" -reminds you in routine conversation (no kidding) that her adoptive son lost his young and besieged biological mother recently. As in death. As in the mother that didn't have much time for him because... Because of the little sister he barely knows. The child she didn't give up. Because of the dog. Because of the weather. Or because of the drugs that robbed both her son and her of youth... and eventually robbed her of her life. And your heart breaks and bleeds. For her, and her, and him, and the faceless voices in the clinic or the hospital. And it seeps out into the vast unknown. And you want to take another minute and regain some perspective.
This rocket ship has been a blessing of empathy and perspective and thankfulness poured out in early morning hours. Or in the car driving home. Or in the clinic. Or while trying to be completely still on a padded board for twenty-five minutes. It has been a payload of benevolence delivered in mere weeks of life. How wonderful! How undeserving, and at the same time, appreciative, I am of this gift. We are to be salt and light for others. Those we like. Those we don't. And the vast multitude in between. And all of this poking and prodding, and pinpricks, and IVs and scanning has reminded me of that fact. At the beginning and end of life, we are all connected. We often forget in the multitude of years between those two formative events. That is until the exponential blessings found in a health crisis reminds us. Wait a minute. One more minute to the two that came before.
I am scheduled for the EGD on Friday. And sure, I'll be praying ahead of time. But in those prayers, I will also be joyously thankful for any days that I am given. And I will be thankful that God loves people. I will be thankful that I remember now...
so do I.