“Life is 10% what happens to you and 90% how you react to it.” – Charles R. Swindoll
Twenty years ago I coined the phrase ‘On the Road to Your Perfect World’ (which is the name of this blog). I was recruiting at the time and wanted a way to describe the journey my candidates would go on during their professional and personal lives. Rather than always looking at the ‘end game’ or the destination, I wanted them to look at their careers as a journey and each step an experience that should be appreciated on its own right. Experiences are to be savored, not just looked at as another vehicle to more money or the next possession.
During my time on this earth I’d like to believe I’ve had my share of memorable experiences. I had the opportunity to raise a great daughter, one who has turned out to be a very interesting and unique young woman. Alex is first and foremost my number one source of wonderful memories.
Also I’ve done a lot of cool things professionally. I promoted rock bands to get me through college. I learned how to program by delving into alternative energy in the early ’80s (which I still use today). I published commercial art and printing directories while thoroughly immersing myself into an industry I never thought I’d even dabble in. This immersion would end up occupying a major part of my life as I transitioned into representing the industry’s talent, guiding them in their careers as a headhunter. These fifteen years as a recruiter gifted me an enormous amount of insight into people and their relations, professional and personal.
I’ve lived in some great places, even including a tent for three years. While being homeless might not be considered great by most – for me it exposed me to wide breadth of people who have made me a much more empathetic and whole person. These experiences I wouldn’t trade for anything.
And now I’m on the final stages of putting together my most significant professional venture to date. Community 3.0 is a community empowerment platform that I hope will change the way we civically interact with each – as well as provide ‘Main Street’ with the tools it needs to survive against the onslaught of Wall Street and our governments compliant in their actions.
While by no means has the ride been smooth, but nor should it be. What do they say, scars create character. Or as I mentioned in my bio, “it’s like a ‘box of chocolates, sometimes it’s good and … well sometimes, it’s like those awful ones with the cherries in them.” (Kind of a variation on the Forrest Gump thing.)
Well last week I hit a pothole on the ‘Road to my Perfect World.’ Not one of those that pisses you off, but rather one where you bottom out and then you pull over to see if your car is still together.
Last Tuesday I was diagnosed with cancer, specifically Lymphoma. My body is producing about twenty times the white blood cells it should … for no reason (except that I have cancer). I don’t need to go into detail on the specifics other than that. Today I begin chemotherapy, a process that initially will take about five months.
I had cancer once before, soft tissue type in my leg twenty years ago. Specifically, I was operated on the day of the Rodney King Riots in Los Angeles, where I happened to live at the time. (That’s a whole another story.) But this one is different. It won’t be eradicated by one three-hour surgery and then three hours after that I’m home. This time the specter could be hanging around for a while.
What are you supposed to do when you’re told you have cancer? Call your family and friends I suppose. I talked to my daughter, which was extremely hard. Alex and I are close and I worry (maybe unnecessarily so) about how she’ll feel if something happens to me. I’m helping out my parents here in Montana so they found out right away – since it directly affects them. And then after my treatment was set up I talked to my sister, Christy, in Nebraska.
But more so, how are you supposed to feel? What’s the proper reaction? I suppose it’s different for each person and each prognosis (That’s such an ominous word. I get images of the grim reaper in a black robe just waiting to call my name.) Fortunately my prognosis is good.
For a while I sat back and took inventory on my life and tried to figure out whether I did this to myself and what I could have done differently. There’s no point in beating myself up now though. Obsessing on it is counterproductive. At present my health is good (aside from the obvious). I eat well, work out, don’t have any bad habits (anymore) – and have a copious amount energy. I just happen to have ticking time bomb inside me.
I’m not sad or depressed. I’m not mad (well at least not much). And I’m sure not going to get all religious. I’m well aware what’s going on and there’s really not a lot I can do about it. When I got the diagnosis they gave me a folder of stuff to read and places I can call for support. I really don’t want to call anyone else though. I’m not looking to commiserate or don’t want any ‘I’m sorry this is happening to you’ condolences. I know this works for some people … but not for me. If anything – I’m motivated.
Alex told me about a couple of books I should read while getting my chemo treatments. She said I shouldn’t worry about anything but getting well. And I shouldn’t try to multi-task since it doesn’t work anyway (which is true).
Regardless of whether I should or shouldn’t be doing anything else … I probably will. To me everything is a project. And just because a new project lands on the plate doesn’t mean all the other ones need to be pushed aside. Resources just need to be reallocated and timetables need to be adjusted. I have things to do.
Once my diagnosis came in and my insurance company approved my treatment … it was on to the planning stage. My normal physical routine will probably need to be adjusted after the chemo starts, so it’s been full-on for the last few days. Any of my normal tasks that can be done, either for myself or my parents (being a pseudo-caregiver) need be done now before my energy level wains. The last couple days have been filled with yard work and cleaning as well as planting my garden (my kale and herbs can’t suffer just because of me getting cancer).
Hopefully chemo doesn’t affect my mental acuity. Maybe my brain won’t be focused as normal, but it is what it is. I would guess that distraction is a pretty normal side effect. But it can’t be any worse than the last couple weeks waiting to find out what ails me and whether or not it’ll put me in financial ruin (which I found it won’t). I was going to post a follow-up to my last blog piece, ‘Bridging the Gap’, this week (Part Five of the series). Hopefully it’ll come out next week.
But all that is just logistics. How my life agenda (personal and professional) is affected is really just resources allocation. This whole cancer thing is just another experience (a big one nonetheless). And our experiences shape who we are. I’m very curious to see what cerebral rabbit hole this one will take me down. I have no idea what synaptic connections will be forged – manifesting from the depths of places I have no idea even existed. I’m sure my perspective on things; past, present and future will be altered. At least I hope it will be. I’d hate to think I’m so emotionally detached that something like this won’t have an effect on me.
It should be an interesting ride.
“I may not be well … but I’m doing well.”