This is what fighting back is like.
These past three and a half days have been the biggest challenge I have faced so far. I said something similar in one of my last health updates, but this one takes the cake. Sorry if this is overly detailed, but this is also my journal to reference to when I am Cancer free. I will start off the story by saying I am feeling better today. So not to worry.
When I woke up on Sunday, I knew something wasn’t right. I was having the worst feeling in my stomach. It was a burning, swelling sensation that felt like acid. I couldn’t stand up straight. I waited a minute to see if it would go away, but it didn’t. My parents and I got in the car. It was hospital time.
We only made it a mile before I had to quickly open the door and unleash the beast (vomit). Not a good feeling. The pain got stronger and stronger. As soon as we arrived, I was admitted to the emergency room. They did a CAT scan and found that I had Pancreatitis as a result of the Chemo. There are all different types of Chemos, and my body didn’t respond well to the particular one I was on.
Because of the enlarged pancreas, which causes a ton of pain, they had to drug me up pretty good. I was in the ER for the day, and having trouble pushing words out. I was super weak. As the pain continued to get worse, they admitted me back into the hospital. Apparently I didn’t get quite enough fluids in the ER, which wasn’t anyone’s fault, just the situation at hand. So now I was fighting the effects of the Chemo, pancreatitis, major dehydration and a heart rate of 160.
Monday was basically a very painful blur. I remember it, but could not really tell day from night. I was just sleeping, and rolling around trying to fight through this. It was all very confusing and frustrating.
Unfortunately, the only way to fight pancreatitis is by having no food or liquids until it goes away. So I have gone three full days without eating or drinking anything, which can actually drive you a little bit nuts. I am getting all of my nutrition through an IV. The hospital wound up going from one-liter IV to a full gallon yesterday. So I’m slowly getting the hydration part back, as well as a very sexy lady’s figure. Just when I thought I was skinny enough…
Late in the day yesterday, I was finally able to have ice chips, but only six or seven pieces. Ice chips are just that – they are pieces of ice. But I will tell you what. They never tasted better in my life. Since I didn’t get nauseous, I graduated to four ounces of Gatorade. Then, finally, the best thing I have ever had in my life: chicken broth. Just water and a little flavor. It tasted so good. I hadn’t had a single drop of anything in three full days. It was amazing.
As of this morning (5:34 am), I am going on my fourth day without actually eating food. I am (and I don’t like this word much) HOPEFUL that today I will be able to have some noodles or something. I really need some food. The swelling has gone down, I can sit up again, and feel a hundred times better than on Sunday.
I have learned that treating Cancer isn’t as simple as going through Chemo, and dealing with the effects. It also involves figuring out which medicines help or hurt your body. Every person is going to react differently to the drugs, and we found one that my body didn’t like, in a big way. It was a major bump in the road, and a pretty scary few days.
But I’m fighting through it, and am ready to go to the next round. Ding Ding.
Tonight my heart and mind lay quiet. My one prayer is that my eyes open again tomorrow. Wants and desires become simple. Just let my eyes open again tomorrow. Let me feel life. Let me share my love.
Tonight I lay thankful to share my bed with my Soul. She sleeps by my side with unconditional love. She breathes with me and for me. She cries with me and for me. She laughs with me and for me. Our hearts are truly one.
Tonight I am quiet. I’m not up or down. I am at peace with how life works. I understand. I have faith.
Tonight I realize that so many of the answers sit right inside of us. We look so many places to find them, but they are sitting right there, if we just take a little time to look within. We have all been given the key. Every answer also brings an equal amount of mystery. The combination of the two is life. Its the journey.
Tonight I have nothing to fight. Nothing to achieve. Tonight I trust in the way things should be. Tonight I am happy.
Tomorrow I will open my eyes for the new day.
I made a mistake today. Actually, that I suppose would be contradicting my old post of saying there are no mistakes if you learn from them. So I will rephrase. I learned something today. I ignored something I already had taught myself, and it brought me stress and frustration.
In the past, whenever I had a goal, I would always write out the steps beforehand. This would help me track my progress, and stay focused on the outcome. But some things in life get written for you. What do you do then?
For example, the next seven months of my life have been planned out for me. It is pretty extreme. I will be in and out of the hospital, with intense chemo that forces me to stay in-patient for three weeks at a time. I’m facing more weight loss, blood transfusions, and the risk that if I catch anything, it will halt the entire process.
Instead of looking at tomorrow, I found myself looking ahead seven months from now. I tried to envision three years from now. I jumped to the middle and end, and skipped the current chapter. The entire overall list became too long and daunting. I’ll admit it made me weak, it made me cry a little. I felt overwhelmed and consumed by the journey ahead.
I then looked at my body, which has completely transformed in thirty days. I started thinking about how hard I had worked to get in shape. How my hair was alive and thick just one month ago. Now, it is tiring to get up and take a five minute walk. Literally everything I was physically has changed in a flash. It didn’t happen gradually. It was instant. It’s frustrating. If I say otherwise, I would be lying to myself.
You may be saying to yourself, “It’s ok to be frustrated Aaron. It’s a lot to take in. It’s healthy and OK.” I agree with that to a point. It is OK to have a little sadness. But again, for how long? Life is so short, so happiness should be the majority.
So now I need the solution to get out of this mental hole. I had my nightly discussion with myself, and here is what I said.
“Ok, Aaron, you’re starting to cause yourself suffering, which won’t help your healing. You’re paralyzing yourself a bit. You’re in too sensitive a state right now, and thinking of the past is not healthy in this particular moment. Put it aside right now. Save it for when you are in a positive space, and can reflect on the past with perspective.
Next…. Let’s simplify. Shorten all the steps ahead. Shorten them big time. Rather than looking at the entire list right now, Let’s bring it down to what can be accomplished this week.”
I feel better now. It’s working… Suffering is being lifted, and I am getting out of this temporary hole. Simplifying the before and after, and concentrating on what matters now, really calms the mind and soul.
The lesson I re-learned tonight is that I don’t have to be sad for so long if I can just pull myself together enough to have that conversation and understanding with myself. When feeling overwhelmed, let’s get back to the ultimate goal of “TRUE HAPPINESS” as quick as possible. Let’s shorten that daunting list and just start going down it one step at a time.
My promise to myself and anyone reading my posts is to be 100% transparent throughout. I may even contradict myself from the beginning post to the end of my posts, as my feelings will certainly evolve and change. So here it goes.
Reality… Even though Cancer really sucks on the body, my spirit and mentality remain a 10 out of 10, as self-promised. I am very happy and optimistic, and have nothing but fight in me to keep pushing forward. So what I am going to talk about is purely physical feeling.
Before I had Cancer, I would just hear about someone who had it. If they survived it, I would just be happy for them. Like, “alright, good for them, that is awesome.” If they didn’t survive it, I would feel sadness for them and their family. But I was ignorant to the fight that you go through with Cancer. It really is a daily battle on your body and wits. I didn’t understand that until recently.
A month ago I was 200 pounds. I was at the gym 6 days a week, and in the best shape of my life. I had been working out 8 months straight. I will self-admit that I was the hottest version of myself possible. I did shoot a couple of selfies. Ha ha.
I am 100% positive that being in shape is why I am here today. My lungs should not have been able to breathe with the amount of blockage and fluid that was present. So working out proved its value. But I have lost 30 pounds in 1 month. I have regained my 1994 high school body, which is naturally skinny. With all the treatments, there really is no choice for weight gain. What happens is that all the muscle basically melts away. But I think I am at a good maintenance point now where I will stay at this weight.
Although my brain is 38, my body feels like it is 90. It feels better to bend my knees than to stand upright, and it is more comfortable to slouch. Old man withers… Then there are the tingles. From the steroids (which are very important for the chemo) comes a tingling sensation in the fingers. It doesn’t hurt, but feels extra sensitive. I also feel little flutters in my heart. Not dangerous… but I definitely know my heart is there, which is strange. Under normal circumstances, we get used to things just working. I have constant small reminders that my body is actually functioning and keeping me alive.
Along with the steroids comes heightened anxiety. I have never understood or had anxiety until now, but it is very real. Your body gets antsy and unsettled. Like having 10 cups of coffee. I use all my mental techniques to control it, but it goes beyond that. It’s chemical. So there are medicines to help even you out. Unless you take the medicines, you feel tired, but wired at the same time. Last night I went to bed at 3:30 am, but didn’t even feel tired until around 10:00 pm. That was partly my fault, though, because I was convinced I could sleep without medication. I should have taken the Ativan earlier. I am just not accustomed to taking meds. In the past, I even avoided Tylenol. Not any more though.
There are more physical effects that come from the Chemo, which makes your energy come and go in waves. It isn’t like being under the weather, where you just feel lazy-ish. It is more like a weakness overtakes you in pulses and ripples. Accompanied with Chemo is an acidic feeling behind my sternum. It is almost like nausea, but not as extreme. More like when you read a book during a car ride for too long. There is also an effect much like when you yawn, and you feel that buzzy sensation around your head… But with the Chemo, that feeling sticks around for hours, rather than ten seconds seconds you yawn. Again, none of these things hurt outright, but they definitely make themselves known.
Then there is Senna. Senna is a drug you take to make sure you stay regular. Otherwise, you don’t get Chemo, and you don’t want to interrupt that. So the stomach is always gargling a bit.
I’m not sure if everyone who goes through this has the same experiences. I can only speak from my own perspective. Between all of these different drugs, mixed in with the actual Cancer, my body is left feeling old, frail, and achy. Some moments are better than others. Cancer is a battle for sure. I’m not going to sugarcoat it. My situation is more extreme than many, because of the intensity of treatment needed.
I’m not sharing this to get sympathy, or to inject more fear of Cancer. Rather just walking you through a day in my life. The funny thing is that living is so worth going through all of this. There are a lot of tunnels to pass through, for sure. But none of them matter. They all have light at the end of them.
Although I vowed to live in the moment, and maintain happiness (which I am), I can’t help but fantasize sometimes about my future. My dreams have simplified, though. I look forward to stepping back on the baseball field with my Sluggos teammates. The longest I have gone without throwing a baseball in the last 10 years, other than when I had shoulder surgery, is maybe a month. I look forward to pitching just an inning, even if I throw 50 mph and suck. I just want to step back on that mound to feel complete. I look forward to dunking a basketball again in a pickup game. I look forward to just jumping.
I am excited to travel. I look forward to giving Brandon a piggyback ride. I look forward to holding Baby G, my sister’s kid-on-the-way. I see April and I with a cute baby in our new house. I won’t escape today for the promise of tomorrow, but I do look forward to the future, and all the surprises it will bring.
For now, the good news is that they did let me out of the hospital early. So I am at my folks’ home, the same place I grew up in as a kid. I haven’t lived at my house in 19 years. So it is a different experience, to say the least. But thank God I have such amazing support. It feels nice to have the comfort of my family around me. I know as much as my Mom would love to see me healthy, she secretly likes going into ‘mom mode’ to make me a sandwich and clean my pillows. That is beyond comforting and I appreciate it very much. I couldn’t imagine going through this alone.
As for the next steps, I am outpatient this week. This means that I will be going into have Chemo at the hospital on Friday. They will also do Cat Scans to see my progress. Then, through the next six months, I will be in and out of the hospital. Sometimes I will stay there for a few days. On a couple of occasions, when the Chemo is really at its height, I will be living at the hospital for three weeks at a time. So for now, I savor the time at home.
That wraps up the health update of the day. I love you all and wish you a very happy day, every day, and lots of good health.
I have always found that a quiet voice with a message is so much more powerful than a loud voice that says nothing. Why do we feel like we have to talk so loud? Why do we feel like we have to yell to be heard?
Don’t get me wrong, the natural thing to do when you get pissed off is to scream to the rooftops. I have been there. But to actually be effective, and have your message heard, a quiet direct voice always wins out.
Remaining calm is effective not just in an argument, but in all forms of communication. It shows confidence. It shows you have swag. It allows the message to be received without distraction. This really has been my method, and what I have taught myself over the past 15 years through sales.
The key to selling your point is timing, and clearly expressing the message that you want delivered. It is not about filling every space and every moment with words. When you are talking just to talk, the words lose meaning, and people zone out. When you are loud the entire time and talk super fast, you wind up not being heard at all. I have found that the most effective way to have another person get your message is to be direct and straightforward, with a soft yet self-assured voice.
Whether you are selling a product, a service, or a point of view, you have to completely believe in what you are selling, down to your core. Otherwise you wind up being a phony. You can’t be trusted. Could I sell poop in a can for $10 dollars? Probably… I will boast and say that I can sell anything. But long ago, I resolved that if I didn’t believe in something 100%, I wouldn’t sell it. I always want to stay genuine.
Selling and singing are actually very similar. There are many that have nice voices and can sing beautifully. When I hear someone doing all these crazy runs, and are always at a ‘level ten’ showing off their pipes, it is impressive. But you never really hear the message. It is the softer, tender moments that affect the heart, and create impact and balance.
So what is my point? Its simple. Let’s all stop yelling. Let’s not even raise our voices. It just doesn’t work. It puts us all in a defensive mode and makes us want to get away. If you want to get a message out to someone, sit down, look them in the eyes, and quietly tell them how you feel. Let them know what you need to be happy. Share what is happening in that moment that isn’t making you happy. Be calm, sincere, and direct. The result will be much more powerful!
How do we achieve true happiness? How do we sustain that happiness rather than it just coming in waves? I don’t think life has to have major ups and downs for long periods of time. I think that happiness takes training. I think it takes discipline. My goal is to be as happy as possible, as much as possible.
I understand that sadness is also a part of life. Being happy doesn’t mean burying the sadness. That isn’t healthy and will eventually resurface in a negative way. But if we really put life into perspective, I think we will find that 95% of what we think matters at the time just doesn’t. My goal is to always get back to true happiness as quickly as I can.
We have all heard the saying, “live in the moment.” I like this saying to a certain level. But the phrase is only partially meaningful. It needs some perspective added to it. So I would like to modify this saying with two of my own thoughts. “Live in the moment when things are good.” When things are feeling bad, “step away from the moment and embrace perspective.”
We get caught up in the moment, if we let ourselves. For example, let’s say I am driving on the freeway. There is a ton of traffic and I just want to get to Santa Monica already. Apparently there is no accident. It is just 4:00 pm and the freeway is deadlocked. LA… go figure. This totally sucks. I’m stuck in the car. I planned on meeting a friend for dinner, and there is no way I’m going to make it in time. Three hours in the car and I have to call my friend and cancel. What a horrible day and a waste of time…
Ok… Now is time for perspective. To be happy (or at least happier) in the moment as I sit stuck in the car, I have a conversation with myself. I wonder whether this traffic will matter tomorrow. If the answer is yes, then I ask myself whether it will still matter in a week. By then, if I even remember this situation at all, it will be nothing more than an old story. Within a year, it will be long forgotten, along with most of the small problems that consume our brains.
Whether we gripe about our circumstances, or accept reality as it is, we will get from point A to point B. But which journey would you rather take? I choose to sit in that car knowing that I can’t change the traffic, but I can change my outlook. I am in control of how long I sit and vent about the situation. The faster I regain my perspective and understanding of what matters, the quicker I will regain happiness.
I choose to come up with a new plan. I am going to move forward with the right perspective. I am going to recognize that it will be just fine tomorrow. I am going to choose happiness in that car, accept it for what it is. I’ll rock a few tunes, maybe call up some friends, and all will be just fine.
Not too long ago, I was in Denver watching all the leaves change. The trees were changing their cycle, conserving their resources. The leaves that had been sheltering the trees all year were now just floating away. The branches became bare. But the trees now appearing to be fragile and vulnerable were already preparing for their eventual renewal.
I attached an image that shows a leaf through a microscope. The red areas are actually scissors that are built into each leaf. When it is time, the leaf actually severs itself from the tree, because that is what is necessary to start fresh.
It is such a strange feeling. I am shedding. My hair is much like those Aspen leaves in the middle of the Denver fall. All it takes is a soft breeze. I see hairs in different areas of my room and realize they are from me. My facial hair has not grown at all. My body hair is softer and more fragile. The hair on my head is becoming wispy and is floating away.
But my body is just changing its cycle, refreshing itself, preparing for the eventual renewal. Maybe in the spring I will have blond curly hair like I did as a child. We shall see!
My employees make fun of me a bit, because I always say that “everything is an opportunity if you make it one.” Even things that appear bad at first can be treated like opportunities. Seeing the positive in every situation also helps bring quicker and sustained happiness, because it means that no wrong can happen. Instead of spending time self-wallowing, or making excuses for everything that is imperfect, you find a way forward.
My best example of opportunity, for me, is right now. Crazy as it sounds, I have been given an opportunity by acquiring this Cancer. I am CREATING a great opportunity by having Cancer. Rather than crying and complaining about what just is, I have redirected that energy into doing things that have meaning and purpose.
Cancer has enabled me to slow down and think more. I now enjoy writing. I never took the time to write, mainly because I was too busy and hadn’t found purpose in it yet. Cancer has given me the opportunity to connect with so many people, including friends, family, and people I don’t know. Cancer has given me more of a voice and time for reflection. I have been given the opportunity to really appreciate every breath that I take.
I woke up just now (4:00 am), excited to be alive. I am actually excited to be awake at 4:00 am to write this blog. I’m excited because I made it through yesterday, having two blood transfusions, a lumbar puncture, chemo injected in my spine, an IV drip for 4 hours, steroids in the late afternoon, another one-hour session of chemo, and then another fifteen minute session of chemo. I’m still here. I’m still breathing.
Before Cancer, I will admit that I didn’t wake up every morning and say golly gee, thank God I woke up today and am alive. I appreciated life, of course, but I now have a more intense appreciation of every second. I know that this appreciation will stay with me forever and I owe my Cancer for opening my eyes a bit more.
If you know me, you know I have a “can do” mentality. That hasn’t changed. To move forward, I feel that you can’t look at what opportunities you don’t have, but what opportunities you do. There are always way more options than you would think. “can do” sounds cheesy, but it works. Believing in the decisions that you make brings more confidence. Because literally every decision that you make, good or bad, will lead you to a better place if you let it. If you turn it into an opportunity.
So my Challenge Number Three of this blog has arrived. Next time you feel something has been taken away from you, next time you feel a bit defeated, change your mental gear. Don’t allow self pity, don’t allow the “why me” to click in. To put it bluntly, bitching about a bad situation won’t lead to opportunity.
Instead, take 10 minutes, get a piece of paper and a pen, and write a list of possible opportunities you can make from your new scenario. I can promise there are always more ways forward than you think, if you create them.
I had a long talk with my Doctor and Physician Assistant today about my condition. I was questioning why and how I got this Cancer. Is it predetermined? Is it genetic? Is it diet? Is it from sitting near a telephone wire for too long? Is it because I had Mono once as a kid? Is it from Acutain?
Yes, there are some cancers that can come from your ancestry. There are certain chemicals and environmental situations that can make it more likely for you to get Cancer. But they both said with 100% belief and understanding that my Cancer is 100% random. It is part of our bodies evolving. The reality is that we all have good and bad cells. All it takes is a bad cell to get through and multiply, and Cancer now exists.
Believing that something like this is random is tough for anyone to swallow. Because it leaves the door wide open. It means there is no rhyme or reason to how I got it. The easy answer that we all naturally want to have isn’t there. My Cancer wasn’t pre-determined. It isn’t hereditary. It isn’t from my lifestyle. It isn’t my diet, it isn’t the telephone wire.
I relate my condition to a slot machine. A person sits down, puts in a quarter and pulls down the handle. A hundred people use this machine and nothing. No reaction, or change. Eventually for someone it will hit. I sit down and pull the handle and it hits, jackpot. Then a hundred people after me, nothing…
When we were were created, we were given imperfect cells by design. If we had perfect cells out of the gate, and then the environment changed but our cells didn’t, we would all die. Because our bodies do adapt and change, there are going to be kinks. It isn’t perfect. My cell got caught in the kink. It didn’t adapt.
My Cancer is a random occurrence that occurred in my body. It is as simple as a cell taking a different turn in the road. But again, just because something is “random” doesn’t mean that we can’t give it purpose. I have the power now to give it a reason.