Now that I’m in the thick of treatment, I’ve found myself feeling less fearful of what is to come, because there really shouldn’t be anything new in terms of what I’ll experience physically. That’s not to say that I won’t have my good days and bad days (in fact, after our great day at the wax museum, I had a rough couple days after that in terms of fatigue). Looking forward, I think that dealing with chemo will only get better. Over the last few weeks I’m getting a better understanding of how to deal with symptoms so that’s giving me hope as well. MRI’s will always be a scary, no matter what, but I’ve at least accepted that fact now (which is freeing). Knowing all this, I’ve started taking small steps to “assimilate” back into a life, post recovery. Today, I even returned to Whole Foods with my mom : ) As I take these “baby steps” (yes, like in “What About Bob?”) I want to make sure that I apply the knowledge that I’ve gained these past 8 months and continue to strive for a high quality of life with wisdom (as God told Solomon is the most important thing that we can ask for) at my core.
In my senior year of college, I came down to Los Angeles to do an inner city mission trip where we traveled around the city reaching out to the impoverished, destitute, and homeless. Knowing then that I would probably eventually move down here, I had my antennae up the whole time to see if this was really a place that I could see myself living. One of the nights during the trip, the group I was with and I visited the Griffith Observatory. It was a gorgeous night with no smog in the air and at the top of the hillside, near the observatory, you could see all of LA. The view was stunning and captured the magic of the city for me. At that moment, the future and the city looked hopeful and wide open and was beautiful and bright. It was at that moment that the city put her hooks in me and here I am living in LA 10 years later with a wonderful partner in Amy by my side.
Our good friends Kevin and Francesca came down from Seattle to visit us this past weekend and we went to check out the Observatory (during the day this time) and even though I was struggling with some fatigue and all we could see at the top was the city covered in smog, I was still captivated by the view and (all though not as easy to feel as it was 10 years ago) I knew that the future was still wide open to me. As I thought about it some more, I found the smog to be a great metaphor for our situation. Although it was hard to see the city (the future) as so bright, hopeful, and beautiful as it was when I first enjoyed the view at the Observatory (10 years ago), I knew that the city (the future) was still there and that fact alone gave me hope.
Every morning, I wake up, pray, meditate, and make a choice to climb aboard the “hope train”, but as you can imagine, there are still days when the “suckiness” (so eloquently put, I know) of the situation sneaks up on you. Amy had one of those days today. She didn’t even know what started it for her. She just found herself (out of nowhere) getting emotional in the car (our new car…which is awesome btw) as she drove home from work. She called me and told me that she needed me. I was at Jamba Juice (Jamba Juice has become my “Cheers”. Everyone knows my name there) at the time she called, so I hurried back home to greet her. When she saw me, she got out of the car, wrapped her arms around me, and said “I’m sorry, I just started thinking about the possibility of you getting a reoccurrence some day and I got scared. I really want you to be around for a long time.. No, I need you to be around for a long time. I just love you so much. This whole situation just sucks!”. We then held each other for a long time in the middle of the street (it was like a scene out of a Nicholas Sparks novel). As she told me about what was stirring inside her, I remembered something that my brother Nate said to me once that really resonated with me, he said “Where does it say that life is supposed to be easy? I’ve never seen or read that anywhere”. I think that is what makes dealing with Cancer (or any hardship, really) so hard is that whether we want to admit it or not, we expect life to be easy (and get easier), when everything we see in nature, everything we read in the “Good Book” says the exact opposite. Everything that we’ve learned about our planet and universe (at this point) is that they are clearly out to destroy us, yet we don’t realize how lucky we are to even be “conscious” or “aware” of that fact. I think that we can all sympathize with the disappointment of the fact that “life isn’t supposed to be easy”. We can even understand the desire to crawl into a little ball when a “sh**storm” comes our way, but I also think that accepting all of these things as reality is actually what the “Hope Train” is all about. Even though the “reality” at this moment is that “the city” (future) is filled with smog, we can still hope for a “city” that is beautiful and bright and (as a result of the difficulties we’ve faced) live a life of gratitude (on a daily basis), which is what I personally believe that life is really “supposed” to be about.
In closing, one of my favorite movies (you’ve probably noticed that I have lots of “favorite movies”), “Rebel Without a Cause” with James Dean (or what I like to call it, “The 50’s Emo Movie”) , was filmed at the Griffith Observatory. Although I think that some of the aspects of the film don’t hold up very well, I do think that the central themes of the film are still relevant and even apply to our situation. One thing that I’ve found in common with all Cancer patients is that there is an “existential crisis” (which is the main conflict of “Rebel”…and pretty much all films of the era) that we all go through (meaning that we often struggle to find the meaning in what we’ve experienced or are experiencing, depending on where we’re at on our road to recovery). For me, even in the midst of that solidarity, I (like the main characters in “Rebel”) still find myself feeling alone or misunderstood, because of the “uniqueness” of brain cancer. However, I had lunch the other day with a couple guys from the support group that I attend (sometimes). All of them are brain tumor survivors, all of them are either going through, or have already made it through “treatment”. As we each talked about our experience with the disease, there was nothing but “hope” filling the room, because we all sat there knowing that we aren’t alone, knowing that we’re understood, knowing that it’s okay to admit that the unknown is extremely scary, and we were all basking in the fact that we have been blessed with the knowledge that “life is in no way supposed to be easy”.