What a week. After such a celebration last week you would think that was the final note, the end, the last tale, but alas I was not out of the woods yet. In fact the chemo has been dragging the cancer out of me this week…..kicking and screaming all the way. No one ever told me that cancer would be easy to beat nor did they say that it would go off without a hitch. I just stupidly assumed those things. This last chemo treatment went in without a fault and I got many congrats and lots of pats on the back, but the thing is that the treatment is only half the journey. The rest of the journey is what it does to you on the way out. I was living on the high of being done with my chemo regime. Friday I taught all day, Saturday I had Keifer’s (really great greek food) with my wife on a beautiful day. I got to celebrate with my very good friend Adam in preparation for his wedding in a few weeks. I was really living. Sunday I knew would be the beginnings of the tough days so I took it slow that morning and then actually made my way to the MS Mu Alpha Theta competition. I was the needed second sponsor for our trip and our high school brought about 25 kids so I came for moral support mainly. Truly I sat with the students that were inbetween events or not in other events and tried to just stay chill. I made it through Sunday without incident and really enjoyed my time with our Mathletes (Mu Alpha Theta is a math organization for high school and junior college students).
Disclaimer: If you watch Parenthood and did not see the episode from tonight 4/10/14 I WILL spoil it for you if you read on. That is all.
Today is a day that I typically dread. It’s chemo day. But today was last chemo day. So naturally I was pumped. Don’t get me wrong, I am still pumped to be done. Since last week I got to spend a great weekend at Lake Bruin, LA with some great friends for some much needed down time. This week has been super busy at school and I really haven’t had much time to think on the magnitude of this trip to the chemo dock.
However, my spirits were high. I constantly updated my facebook and twitter accounts with the final treatment festivities. Festivities being sitting in a chair getting poison pumped into my bloodstream. I did however do something unique. Not only was today the final chemo treatment for me, but it is also Disney’s It’s a Small World’s 50th anniversary celebration. Last Friday my students and I uploaded a video of us all singing the theme from It’s a Small World to help benefit Unicef. Our video was epic. So of course during chemo I watch one of the men that wrote It’s a Small World, Richard Sherman, live in front of the ride in Disneyland answering questions about the song and the ride. This ride of course gets a song stuck in your head and you will all probably hate me for mentioning it. But that’s where our connections begin in this blog post.
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears
It’s a world of hopes and a world of fears
There’s so much that we share
That it’s time we’re aware
It’s a Small World after all – Richard and Robert Sherman
Readers it truly is a small world. A great big, beautiful small world. Over the past 18 weeks I have battled through 8 chemo treatments. It has been one of the most terrible experiences of my life, if not the worst. And yet it has been one of the greatest things that has ever happened to me. Cancer sucks mainly because it is like the white witch from Narnia. It comes in all shapes and sizes. It can be aggressive and angry or it can be slow and sneaky. No matter which way it comes at you, it disrupts and dismantles. Through my diagnosis, I have met so many others with similar, easier, and harder diagnosis. I have met amazing people who have lived through worse treatments than me, and I have seen others who have passed since I started treatment. The thing is that any one of those people could have been me and I could have been any of them.
Tonight’s episode of Parenthood was incredible. I told my wife (who currently has to wake up at 3:15) that I needed her to be with me to watch it tonight (which meant staying up til 10:00). She graciously did. The reason is that I had seen in passing that a character would be returning to the show for an episode. That character was Gwen. Gwen was Christina’s (one of the main characters) friend throughout her bought with breast cancer last season. Gwen is constantly showing up on the show having a relapse of cancer. This episode was incredibly tough, because Gwen passes away in the episode. Christina immediately wants to know why. Why does she get to live and be a mom, wife, daughter, sister, etc. and Gwen does not. Why? It’s such a hard question. In the end Gwen gives a gift to Christina of money to help open a new charter school for exceptional children. Carly and I sat on the bed and wept, because that could be me. That could be me. I will never stop getting checked for cancer for the rest of my life. Also that could be my friends, family, or strangers that I will never know. That could be them. The weight of this disease is incredible……no wonder it makes you so strong.
Wednesday nights I have had the opportunity to lead a bible study on the book of Romans for the past few months. Of course I have skipped a few nights because of chemo side effects, but for the most part I am there. This week we studied Romans 9, which I found tough to teach from. But, there was a verse that I want to talk about now.
“But who are you, a human being, to talk back to God? “Shall what is formed say to the one who formed it, ‘Why did you make me like this?’ Does not the potter have the right to make out of the same lump of clay some pottery for special purposes and some for common use?” – Rom 9:20-21
As a sinner, I deserve death, but Christ gives life. I want to tell God all the time, “I know what’s best for me. Here is a list of the things you should make happen.” But see God, the potter took a lump of clay. The same lump of clay that he used to make everyone else, yes even you. He took that clay and made something out of it. He could make a special vase used for special occasions or he could use an everyday cup that gets worn out from daily use. Both these items fulfill a purpose for His glory and we as the clay have a hard time seeing that purpose from the beginning. I have no idea why some die from cancer and some live. I have no idea why I’m still here, but I know who does. Readers many of you have known me since I was a born, maybe you were even there when I came into the world. Many of you might have cancer just like me. Most of you know someone with it. I want you to remember that we are all from the same clay and the same creator. We were molded for a certain purpose and put in this small world. You are still here for a reason. Right now I am the piece of clay that writes what the Potter tells me to each Thursday night. I will continue to do that until He tells me it is time to go back on the shelf.
At the end of my chemo today, a few amazing things happened. The nurses brought me a Purple Heart Certificate to celebrate that I had finished my regimen of chemo. Now I have a Purple Heart like my grandfather does. Although Papaw (Jimmy Clayton) got his from the Battle of the Bulge and another off the coast of France. So completely different, but then I heard the Andy Griffith show theme and remembered Mayberry. I remembered that right now he is there with no diabetes and he is there with my other grandfather Papaw Knot (Benoit Yelverton) who passed from this cancer disease before I met him. I know that right now they could be swapping stories of war because one was in Europe and the other in the Pacific. I just know they are both in Mayberry.
I don’t know all the answers Readers, in fact I know very few of them. All I know is that there are lessons here for all of us. We are all so similar to each other. Love one another. I also know that I’m still here for a purpose. And I will continue to serve the one that knows that purpose. Love God.
“Somewhere down the road, they’ll be answers to the questions
Somewhere down the road, though we cannot see it now
Somewhere down the road, you will find mighty arms reaching for you
And they will hold the answers at the end of the road.” – Amy Grant
“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.” – Rom 8:28
As Ernest Hemingway said, “no tears in the writer, no tears in the reader.” I assure you I have cried my share on this post.
I am still here, it’s a small world after all, and there is a reason. I love you all Readers. Journey strong.
First off let me say this has been a great week….comparatively. We tried some anti-anxiety medicine to calm down my heart rate and nerves and stop the onslaught of migraines. This worked. Also, I took it easy. I didn’t do much to write about. Also a gift from our now good friend Patty, has done wonders as well. She sent me a few boxes of Migraine patches that work sort of like ice packs, aromatherapy, and Dr. Scholls for your head. At the first tick of a headache, I put one of these cool patches on my head and there is almost instant relief. Definitely a blessing. I say that I took it slow this week and I am being honest. The weather was so beautiful this week and we really wanted to get out and take a walk. I had the start of a migraine by the time we were around the block. Home we went and we stopped it before it started. So needless to say, Chemo has made me pretty pitiful when it comes to athletic activity.
When I began this journey with Hodgkin Lymphoma a few months ago, I really didn’t know what to expect. My father went through the same regimen for the most part, but even though I was very close to him during all that struggle, I was still not ready for the full “Cancer” treatment. For those of your that really know me, you know that I am not a very patient person. That goes for having patience and being a patient (see what I did there?). Today was chemo treatment number 7. If you remember my first treatment was on December 27th of last year. That seems like an eternity ago. That was even before I started my blog. Now I am a veteran of the chemo ward. Everybody knows my name there, just like Norm from Cheers. I have now had the pleasure of sitting in all the different nooks and crannies in the chemo dock. I have also run the gamit of side effects. I went through hair loss, metallic mouth, exhaustion, nausea, and migraines. I have had some of the worst days of my life these past few months, but I must say I have also had a few of my best days. And you know readers, I really couldn’t have had those best days without cancer. Really think about that. Our trials in life are what make life beautiful. They are the things that expose us for who we really are. A few years ago through a series of actions some good, a lot bad, I lost many of my closest friends. It was one of the best times of my life, because it was so awful. When my father went through chemotherapy I was in middle school. Then my parents separated for a time. Because of my dad’s journey, I had a guide here with me every step of the way. Because of that time apart, my parents love each other more today than they ever did, and they love us (the kids) better too. I know I probably sound like a broken record by now. Maybe I look at the bright side of life too much or maybe thats just the way God wants it. Don’t get me wrong, many days I am just ready for this to be over. However, I can’t help but sit back and think, “God what are you really doing here.” It has got to be good.
I watched a lot of TV growing up. It wasn’t that my parents weren’t interested in me or that I was terribly unathletic (although I was terribly unathletic), I just really enjoyed it. Being a kid of the 80s and 90s really set me up for some quality television. More on that at another time. Really I wanted to focus on not my favorite show, but a show that came to mind to me this week. Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood was one of the oddest shows ever made. Really lets be honest the puppets were terrifying. They were something out of a horror movie and the voices they had were equally disturbing. Really the big draw of the show was not the puppets and other characters, but Mr. Roger himself. The way that he introduced himself to his audience. He always made you feel comfortable and welcome. Then he spoke words that were just for you. Made you hear them, not by force, but because you wanted to hear them. That’s when I heard about being kind to others, sharing, lending a helping hand, and that hard word to understand, empathy. Another key thing that Mr. Rogers said is listed in a small book I have on my desk at school. Its a book of quotes by Mr. Rogers and on the front is a mirror and the words, “You are Special.” I think I got this book as a graduation gift. I still look at it and smile today, because I mean how can’t you smile at that. Well in that book is a quote that goes something like this:
“Sometimes it is not a sign of weakness when you ask for help….sometimes it is a sign of strength.”
I don’t know if I have ever been the kind of person that liked to handle things alone. I have always been the one to want to have someone there with me through every situation. I like companionship and friendship. However, I am one stubborn kid. I hate to be told no and thats not possible. I also don’t like to be taken care of. You can ask my parents. I hated to be told what to do. For instance, if I was supposed to clean my room it had to be on my terms. I didn’t want to be told now was the time to clean. I wanted to clean in Bryce’s time. Same thing with getting out of bed in the morning. I wanted to get up when I wanted to, not when anyone else wanted me to. This obsession has overflowed into my classroom. Not that I have the most organized room in the world, but my process is set and my way of distribution and grading and leading class is perfect for my room. I love it. All of this is leading up for me to tell you that this week was the worst week of my year.
It started off just fine. All the problems arose on Tuesday at lunch. See my “bad days” after chemo are typically the Tuesday and Wednesday directly after treatment. This Tuesday saw the arrival of another migraine episode. I really hate migraines. I used to suffer from them a lot more in high school and college, but they have only just resurfaced again since chemo. Migraines are very elusive things. No one really knows why they happen or how to effectively stop them. Everyone who suffers through them like me have some tricks of the trade to handle them. Sometimes these little aids help and sometimes they just do nothing. Really nothing works well to stop the pain. A migraine means I am out for the next 3-4 hours. And there is nothing I can do to stop it. The most frustrating part is that a migraine looks like nothing to the common bystander. They see no physical pain besides that which you show on your face. No one around you really knows the pain you are going through except you. At least when people see someone break a leg they aren’t wondering if the guy is faking it. With me I am always like, “I have a migraine.” But I feel like people hear me say, “my head hurts a little bit.” I wish the pain I felt was visible on the outside, like my head was bulging or something. Here is how my migraines start:
First, one of my eyes, usually my right eye begins to have blots of my vision missing. I can’t focus, my vision begins to blur, and I lose a bit of depth perception. It is almost like I lose sight out of my eye with it being completely open. As my vision comes back, a slight ache begins above my left eyebrow. My vision comes back completely, but the pain is becoming greater. I begin to sweat from the stress and strain. My words start to slur and stumble. I can’t figure out what I am trying to say. The pain is now so great that it is all I focus on. Light hurts to look at. Sound begins to feel like it is bouncing in my skull. I have to run. Nausea sets in. All I want to do is rip the pain out. Nothing makes the pain subside. And there I twist and turn for hours until I either throw up all that is in my stomach and fall asleep or I get medicine that knocks me out before the nausea is done. Laying in the dark with an ice pack on my forehead helps, but it is no match for the pain. And there I am waiting for the pain to subside.
That scene was my Tuesday afternoon. That scene was my Wednesday most of the day. That scene was my Thursday afternoon. Each day I tried a different medicine approach. Each day the medicine failed to help. Every day I woke up feeling good and went to school to teach. Every day I felt my vision begin to “short out” and I knew what was coming. After three days of nausea, headaches, and frustration, I took Friday off just in case. I took the day slow and tried to pick up the pieces of my mess of a week. We found out that migraines really weren’t usual chemo side effects. So that means I am unique….yay. Another theory might be that the migraines are caused by anxiety brought on by the chemo. Also I have two more treatments left and if this is a sign of things to come, I really dread the last two trips. But I can’t think like that for the anxiety in me might explode. All I know is that I am ready for the end.
I really had to learn that lesson from Mr. Rogers this week. I could not have made it through this week alone. I needed help. I needed my wife to fix me the best ice pack ever made and hold it on my forehead while I slept. She also covered up windows in our bedroom to block the light out. I needed my fellow teachers to step in and take care of my students that I had to leave in the middle of the day. Again I am reminded of how amazing it is to have willing and able people around you who care about you. I had to sit down and swallow my pride and say, “I can’t do this.” I think Mr. Rogers is right. It is harder sometimes to say you need help.
So many people ask me all the time what can they do and I always say, “oh nothing,” or “just pray.” The fact is that it is so much harder to accept the gift of help. We are such selfish beings. We think we can do it all, but the truth is that we really can’t. So thanks everyone for stepping up and saying, “let me do that.” This week, I really couldn’t have done it without you.
Most people love Spring Break. I am one of those people. I have always had a Spring Break. It is one of the many perks of being a teacher. Ever since I was young, Spring Break has always meant vacation. Mainly those vacations were in Disney World. When I was in 9th grade, I went to Disney World with my good friend Geoff and his family. It was epic. In college, I went with a group of friends from Mississippi College. That trip too was epic. After college, Carly and I traveled to Disney World with my sister and her now husband. Then yet another year we went with our good friends Steven and Chrissy. Both trips were, as you guessed, epic. This year there would be no Disney World. Instead there would be chemo. I love this time of year at Disney and really just this time of year. Spring Break this year began with Daylight Savings Time, which is great that there is more sunlight after 5 pm. I love long afternoons that extend into the evenings. It is a grea time to have a walk or play some frisbee. It is also a great time to be at EPCOT at Disney World. EPCOT just started their annual Flower and Garden Festival, which showcases the Disney Park’s green thumb. You really can see the change from Winter barren to Spring bloom.
1. fixed door and microwave
2. much needed hours of doing nothing
3. lunch at both Two Sisters (fried chicken!) and Old Capital Inn(Crab Cakes!)
4. lunch before chemo with our great friends the Sharpes and their 5 amazing kiddos at Chick fil a
5. listening to acoustic guitar Pandora while talking with my wife
6. listening to EPCOT background music with my wife while driving around running errands (yes I married the right woman, and yes if you want some EPCOT background music just ask)
So there the goods out weigh the gripes. Sometimes its great to just have a little perspective. Life will always have the Spring Forwards and the Fall Backs, but we have to keep the positives. I could sit and complain all day about my metallic mouth or the nausea OR I could laugh it off and know that I am getting healed.
There is a season for everything under the sun.
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent<sup class="crossreference" style="font-size: 0.65em; font-weight: bold; line-height: normal; vertical-align: top;" value="(D)”> and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace. – Ecclesiastes 3:1-8
“Hello my name is Child of the One True King.” – Matthew West
“Your name shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with men, and have prevailed.” – Genesis 32:28
Childlike Empress: He doesn’t understand that he’s the one who has the power to stop it(the Nothing). He simply can’t imagine that one little boy could be that important.
Bastian: Is it really me?
Atreyu: Maybe he doesn’t know what he has to do!
Bastian: What do I have to do?!
Childlike Empress: He has to give me a new name. He’s already chosen it, he just has to call it out.
“The nations will see your vindication, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow.” – Isaiah 62:2