Catching Up

It has been awhile since I have blogged. So a couple of thoughts to catch up:

  1. School has started in Scranton. It is incredibly weird to see my youngest, Gabe, walk out the door with a backpack on his shoulders. I don’t think I am ready for it – but am incredibly glad that he likes school and has a great teacher.
  2. It has been more than a month since I finished radiation. I am still incredibly tired and in need of more naps in my life. The two side effects of radiation that I experienced are alopecia and fatigue. I can’t complain about either one of them. I lost about a third of my hair. The hope is that it will grow back in a couple of months. Or I will start shaving my head more frequently.
  3. Since I lost a third of my hair (the left side of my head above my ear), I have gone to wearing headbands. They have worked out well – and are also multi-functional. When Emma has a soccer game – a headband helps keep her hair back and gives her extra energy for the game. When Nathan is sure he is not going to school because school is his enemy, a headband gives him extra strength to go to school.
  4. I have done pulpit supply a couple of Sunday mornings in the month of August. On my first Sunday, I woke up and took my medicine. Then, when in the car, I forgot that I had taken my medicine, and sent Jenn back into the house to get more for me to take. I cannot tell you how tired I was that Sunday morning. It was rough. I wanted to record the sermon. I got my phone out, sat it on the pulpit and opened up the voice memo app. And then I forgot to turn the app on when I started preaching. I recorded the second sermon – which I will share sometime soon on this blog.
  5. I was down at UPenn last week to endure more torture in the name of cancer treatment. I had an MRI and follow up appointments. We spoke with the oncologist about next steps (chemo). I will be starting chemo on Monday, September 23rd. The chemo regiment is six weeks long. It will be taking pills for a lot of it and then also driving to Philly for an infusion twice in the cycle. The hope is to go 3-4 cycles – but can also go as many as 6 cycles. Yahoo.
  6. So – not only is this a blog about radiation and things surrounding that, but it will be a chemo blog as well. I will try my best to entertain with chemo brain!!! I will keep reflecting on the cancer journey and things like that – and also on whatever other things come to mind.

Things I Learned This Summer – Part 1

The kids are going back to school next Wednesday – 4th grade, 1st grade and Gabe starts pre-K this year. It is exciting times – and also marks the end of summer for those who care not about the autumnal equinox. I have only known one person in my life who cared about autumnal equinoxes – he worked at the South Pole and something awesome happened at that time (maybe he saw the sun for the first time in months…?) I don’t know. But anyway – summer is almost over. Now is a good time to reflect on this past summer.

First, I have previously written about the snake. That was legit.

Here is the other scary thing from the summer. We spent last week at a lake house not far from here to reconnect, rest and relax. It was great. There was a lake (obviously) with a beach, a pool and other fun things to do – we took our kayaks. Here is the worst part of the lake week: getting your nuts and chest wet when walking into cold water. This is true of walking into either a lake or cold ocean water or pool. Life was great and no problem after I got my mid-section and chest wet, but up until that point – I was paralyzed. I could only take baby-steps deeper and deeper into the water or into the pool. My mind kept telling me to face my fear and keep walking deeper into the lake. My balls kept telling me they were planning on hiding somewhere deep within and things would be incredibly uncomfortable for awhile. After 10 minutes of inching my way toward deeper water as I watched my kids already playing in the deep, I worked up the courage to sink down below the water line and get my testicules wet. They responded by disappearing. It was no great feat, but I feel as if I accomplished something.

The tough part then was that I was closer to my knuckle-headed kids. They would start splashing like I had been swimming all day long. But my stomach and chest were still dry. I was still on the baby-step plan of entering the water. With each splash my nipples started threatening that they were going to go the same way as my testies or do some unforeseen protrudity. I didn’t want to show any weakness in front of my kids (because they would just laugh and exploit my horrors). I had to do something. So, I finally just had to dive in and get wet. Everything was fine. I am not the big softie I thought I was. I was able to get wet and play with my kids in the lake – it just took some time!

I also went through significant cancer treatments that shot particles into my brain, blasted the hair off of part of my head and may or may not have long term effects while I was living away from my family and not being able to help my kids process what I am going through. But I can write about that later.

Here is the learning:

  1. Going into a cold ocean is easier than going into a cold lake or pool. The ocean has waves that will wet your crotch quicker than if you have to do the dirty business yourself. Although – we should all prefer lakes because there are no sharks. Obviously. Shark week on Animal Planet was off the charts this year – as were all of the great whites off the east coast.
  2. There is only one way to enter a pool. Cannon ball into the deep end. No other way. You adjust to the temperature of the water quicker. There is no playing around like trying to walk into a lake or ocean.
  3. A quick dive into the lake solves all frozen nut problems.
  4. It is basically like ripping off a band-aid. Get your head around getting cold quickly and you will be fine.
  5. Once you get in the water, crouch down so that only your head is above the water. Everything below your head will be fine from there.

We Are Moving

Good bye Scranton. We are moving. I can’t believe we have made it this long – lived here for five years without knowing.  There have been good times and bad times. Good things and bad things. But it is time to go.

Earlier this week I mowed our lawn. Jenn and I then spent a half an hour weeding the back flower garden and unearthing the peach tree we planted last year. It was still there under the overgrowth. It is about five feet tall now! Mowing and gardening was not the best move I made this month. I was severely worn out afterwards. 

As we were weeding, I looked over to my side and saw this sucker sitting there eyeing me up. I couldn’t believe my mind. Or not instantaneously evacuate the contents of my bladder. Holy crap! What was it plotting? How venomous is it? How long has it been sitting there salivating over my ankles? Has it ever been in my house? Is my house secure enough to keep the snakes out? Can snakes climb stairs? How can I walk outside now knowing that sucker is stalking me? What in the world is a snake doing in my yard? How many friends does it have? Is it plotting against me right now? How come I was not gardening prepared – with a snake whacker close by that I could whack a snake when it is getting ornery with me. How many snake whackers do I need? That little dude is a game changer.

I live in a city because I don’t want to live where snakes live! I have watched enough Animal Planet to know what snakes are all about. They are about killing people with venomous bites and then squeezing them to death and then swallowing them to death. So you ask, how do you get rid of a small snake? Bigger snake. Obviously. But then you have a bigger snake problem. How do you get rid of a bigger snake? An even bigger snake, duh. But then you have an even bigger snake problem. A cat would take care of the snake, right? But then you would have a cat problem. I was watching stupid TV this week when I saw that jaguars in the Amazon hunt gators (or caiman). (Maybe that wasn’t stupid TV but freakin awesome TV) Jaguars probably don’t like reptiles. Maybe I can get a jaguar to take care of the snake. But that may give us a jaguar problem. I was talking with someone recently who grew up in South Africa. She told me she once had 10 foot forest cobra in her back yard. However, her dogs killed it before it could get close enough to eat her or her family. She had Jack Russell Terriers. Maybe we need a different dog.

Either way, we are out of here. We have to pack up soon and move to a place where there aren’t any snakes. Are there snakes in Texas? Are there snakes in Idaho? Should we buy a cabin in the woods to get away from snakes? Would there be snakes if we lived in a beach house? Are there snakes in Antarctica? Are there snakes in Canada? Is there an island we can move to that has no snakes? I could go on a HGTV house hunters show and buy a house based on the number of snakes in the area. It would be a little less pretentious than every other show on that network. I am definitely not moving to Australia or South Africa. Both of those places are infested with poisonous snakes. I have also learned from the TV that their waters are infested with Great White Sharks. Dangerous places….like Scranton.

One Week Past

I have been home for almost one week and I am a tired monkey. I get a bunch of sleep at night. But by 300 in the afternoon, I am dragging. It is 3:20 now and I am ready to sleep for a bit.

We are still amazed and grateful for the support we have received over the past months. We are almost without words – but thank you are two good ones to use. We tried to walk this path in the past by ourselves. It didn’t work for us. It took us years to recover from the pain, heartache and exhaustion that we went through. Things are different this time. We are trying to be mindful in asking for help and taking time to rest. We are trying to care for the hearts of our kids and walk with them as they wrestle through what is going on. It will take us time to take a deep breath after this summer.

What’s Next

Now that I am home, there are some next steps to come:

  • I will have about a month to rest and recover from the radiation. The next couple of weeks will be full of resting. Fatigue in the weeks following radiation is the toughest.
  • I will be intentional in catching up with Jenn and the kids this month. It has been difficult on every person in the family for me to be away.
  • I have a follow up appointment at UPenn in the beginning of September. I will check in with the radiation oncologist. I will have a MRI as a new baseline for treatment. I will also have an appointment with the oncologist to set up chemo. My guess is that I will start chemo in the early fall. We want to check in with my doctor at MD Anderson before starting chemo.
  • Amazingly enough, the school year is starting soon. It will be time to get the kids ready and get them to 4th, 1st and Pre-K sooner than we think.

Finishing Up

There is a bell in the radiation waiting room everyone rings when they are finished their treatment. As you know, I got to ring it on Thursday. One of my friends from the waiting room took a picture of me ringing the bell. It was the last thing I did in my treatment. You can see that I got to take the mask home with me. So glad to get to ring the bell!

Alumni

Early in my pastoral career a friend and I went to a conference at Princeton Seminary. We took some time to go into the bookstore on campus. We found some Princeton Alumni shirts on the clearance racks and we naturally bought them. We went back to the conference and showed off our new purchase to everyone we saw – including one of the speakers. We delighted that the shirts only cost us $10. After relating the cost to her, the speaker looked back at us and said, “That is great, but I paid a little more for my shirt.” Roasted.

I wore the hell out of that shirt. I finally retired it a few years ago when the collar wore away and there were holes all through it.

I now have my second alumni shirt from an Ivy League school.

I now have my second alumni shirt from an Ivy League school. I figure I earned this one. I gave more than the $20 I paid for the shirt in the bookstore. I gave a bunch of my brain and UPenn ended up with a ton of money for my treatment. I deserve the shirt. I am going to pull a Nathan or Gabe and wear it all week long.