June 20, 2011

“Stand up straight!,” my mini-sized mother would yell at me when I was a kid.  She always followed with a slap to the lower back and some supplemental instructions, “chest out, shoulders back!”  At 4’ 10”, she knew every trick in the book to gaining an edge in the height department.  Of course, I ignored all these lessons, but these past four weeks have been nothing but posturing.  I’ve been carrying the burden of a tumor and all the baggage that comes along with it.  Weighing heavy on my shoulders, I’ve had no choice but to be strong – stand up straight.

I had a follow up meeting with my oncologist.  This will be a routine meeting every week after my treatment to check on my symptoms and progress.  I will have 6-8 chemo cycles, depending on their effectiveness.  After my third treatment, I will have a CT scan of my chest to see if we’re making any progress.  After my sixth treatment, I will get a full body PET scan.  If the tumor’s still there, the doctor will opt for radiation or more chemo.  I will have blood tests every week to check my white blood cell count.  Chemo pretty much just kills everything – even my disease fighting white blood cells.  If they go below a minimum level, I will have to miss chemo until they return to a safe level.  She also explained that she doesn’t feel surgery would be necessary.  I should see results right away, maybe even as soon as after my first treatment.  The fluid around my lungs and heart should begin to subside.  Only a few days after my first treatment and I’ve already noticed significant improvements in my breathing.  The chest pains have eased up too.  Maybe this stuff actually does more than fry the hair off your head.  No more tests and guessing.  We now have the map of my journey.

Ever since this journey began, I’ve never had the Nancy Kerrigan taking a pipe to the knee reaction.  There are things in life you can control.  I recognized that this wasn’t one of them.  No one gave me the Dummy’s Guide to Avoiding Tumors in the Chest, so I don’t know how I could’ve prevented this from happening.  I’ve never felt sorry for myself.  I was 11 years old when my parents got divorced.  I understood from a young age that life can be cruel.  It doesn’t always go the way you want it to.  Maybe this was another life-lesson that prepared me for the challenge I face today.

Sure this has been an unfortunate turn of events in my life, but I felt I had plenty to be thankful for.  Whenever I look at my situation, I always think it pales in comparison to what others are dealing with.  Sure it’s cancer, but it isn’t in my lungs, kidneys, pancreas, etc.  I don’t have to have any body parts surgically removed.  I can’t begin to imagine what emotional trauma a woman would go through after a mastectomy or a hysterectomy.  I have my age on my side.  I would much rather battle this at 34 than at 64.  I may have fast food tendencies, but for the most part I’m healthy.  I have a great support system – I have a lot of people I can bitch at when all else fails.  Plus, all my test results proved to be more good news.  We were only dealing with the tumor in my chest.  Non-Hodgkins is supposed to be very treatable.  All of these factors had me thinking this was going to be a piece of cake.  Then I had my first treatment and it all came crashing down on me.  As the chemo was running its course through my body, it may have poisoned my mind more than anything.  The thought of having to go through all these treatments and taking all these pills was overwhelming.  Train of good thought – derailed.

Read this next part in Morgan Freeman’s voice:

Jeff looked up at the road to recovery and became dwarfed by the mountain of treatments, doctor appointments and pills that piled up in front of him.  Unable to look past this obstacle, he asked himself, “Would this ever be over?”  All he wanted to do was burry himself in a hole, only to crawl out and return to the rest of the world when he was healthy.  Unfortunately, his PPO didn’t cover this kind of treatment.  There was no detour around this mountain.  He had to face this challenge head on.  It was then he realized his attitude was the only variable that he could control.  This was possibly the most important moment of his journey.  It was time to get busy living or get busy dying.

Ok, that last line was to see if you were still using Morgan Freeman’s voice.

I had an epiphany, a moment of clarity, the skies parted and angels sang.  I hate to sound cliché, but it finally made more sense than ever, “attitude is everything.”  Getting past this is going to take some manning-up.  I put my feelings and emotions in check.  More importantly, I accepted it.  There’s no magical flute that can warp me past this level.  Yes, I’m going to be pumped full of chemicals till I’m sick.  Many people have gone on to live fulfilling lives without eyebrows.  I told myself another old cliché, “this is gonna suck ass,” but it’s not the end of the world.  It’s not even a whole year.  I’ve stayed with girlfriends that are possibly worse than cancer, for longer than this.  I trusted my healthcare team has me on the best plan to beat this.  I now knew exactly what my treatment schedule looked like.  I started making plans for when I was going to be healthy again.  Like, filming that Eye of the Tiger montage of me running on the beach I’ve always wanted.  This new outlook gave me clarity and confidence.  All of a sudden, that mountain became nothing but a speed bump on my road to recovery.  Chest out, shoulders back, stand up straight – I was ready to kick cancer’s ass.

Coming Soon!  Special edition: “Quit Being A Little Bitch” Be Heald bracelets.


21 thoughts on “Epiphany

  1. Hi Jeff, I am a friend of Julie’s here in WC. Our sons Josh A. and Mason were in Kindergarten together last year. I have really enjoyed reading your blog entries and so wished they could be published so that others could read about your journey…..alot of lessons to be learned here, like stay away from little filipino nurses, and long needles do hurt. You have alot of people who don’t know you laughing with you, crying with you and praying for you.
    Truly wishing you a speedy recovery….

  2. Jeff,

    I completely understand the phrase “Get busy living or get busy dying”. You are handling this really good. As you know here are no “How To” guide books for dealing with something like this. Keeping on living and laughing and to see you soon!


  3. You are awesome, Jefe! Brilliant incorporation of Shawshank, and your positivity through this makes you a role model. Not mine, but I’m sure someone’s. Bah. Just kidding – mine a little. Sign me up for a bracelet. Play on, playa.

  4. Oh jeff another great entry, i really enjoy reading your blogs, but on the other hand i hate that you have this evil sickness. I know you are gonna kick cancers ass, if anyone can you can. and then its party time. Love ya kiddo just like you were one of my own. keep on kicking ass buddy
    Love ya

    PS very proud of you

  5. Jeff: You have the bull by the horns and you have the best ingredient working in your favor: the choice of attitude. Yea:! I am so proud of you. Can’t wait to see and talk with you when we come out in November. Driving down the street the other day I caught a glimpse of a black Honda a nd on its back window was written in big letters Cancer Sucks. Well that is one way you can state your claim but I am loving reading your jouneys. So keep up the good work, keep looking up, and please continue your therapy of writing. We love reading. Love and Hugs, A. Sandy

  6. Good stuff, el jefe. Love all your movie references, but I love YOU more :) You have a way with words, always have. Can’t wait to celebrate your last treatment with you and Erica. You’ve both been through a lot and now it’s time to say adios to that squatter!
    Love you!!

  7. Great job my love! Your writings just keep getting better :) I am so proud of you and all your positivity and strength that you have shown since day one! You continue to inspire me everyday! Can’t wait to celebrate BIG!!! I love you!

  8. Wonderful post, baby. I think the most profound thing you said was you accepted your fate. Accepting the trials of life is the beginning of growth, maturity, understanding and wisdom. When you first told me about the tumor, okay, I went a little nuts, then came the anger, the fear and then the depression. I didn’t go to the office for 3 weeks because I didn’t want to see anyone. I didn’t leave the darkened apartment for days, crying, praying and worrying especially during that time where we didn’t know what kind of cancer you had. One day it was encouraging news, the next day it was bad, the seesaw of hope and despair caused me to spiral into chaos because I couldn’t control anything. Then, I turned everything over to God and told Him I wanted you to be healed, that was my wish, but I was surrendering my wants and needs to Him because the burden to too great to bear. The next day I woke up in perfect peace because I knew then, you were going to be okay. The following day, we received the news about the type of cancer you were fighting and the journey to restore your health mapped out for you. Yes, your doctors and staff have certainly helped, but your life, is in God’s Hands according to His perfect plan for you…..which, by all accounts, might be as a writer judging by your fan base.

    I love you too, Erica, for being Jeffy’s support and cheerleader. You’re the best….I thought so the first time I met you. I remember some of Jeffy’s girlfriends and you’re the only one I liked.

    I love you,


  9. Your attitude is truly inspiring. Thank you for your transparency in your writing!! :) btw – I think the “Be Heald” bracelets would be a fantastic idea…I’d buy ‘em and sport ‘em! ;)

  10. Jeff: As a Heald who has been healed (many times) I like your bracelet idea.
    Have enjoyed your blog. You have a flair for comedy.
    I would strongly suggest that you self publish your blog into a novel.

    You can rest assured that you and Erica have been in our prayers daily.

    Continue to be HEALD.

  11. Dear Nephew Jeff;
    I love reading your postings – yes! You do have a way w/ words. You Mini-mom may be correct that your future could be as a writer.
    You are in my prayers daily praying for God’s healing but most of all for your walk w/ Him through these days. Mini-mom is so right – your days / your life / both the good and the bad are all in His hands. In Colo we have written on the wall over our bed:
    “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, lean not on your own understanding.
    In all your ways acknowledge Him and He will direct your path.” (Proverbs 3:5-6)
    That is what I have been praying for you.
    And now I’m also praising God that you are improving.
    Most of all I pray for God’s will to be done in your life.

    BTW – did you receive the prayer shawl I sent to you?

    Erica – I’ve spent so many years with a husband struggling with his health. I KNOW it can take a toll on you – please continue to care for him but ALSO care for YOU! God bless you with wisdom / strength / peace. You are a dear – Jeff is blest to have you by his side.

    God bless both of you, my prayers continue for you.
    Aunt Ann

  12. Jeff,

    I hope that earthquake of chemo levels the mountain and you kick that damn cancer in the ass all the way to the end of the universe!


  13. Jeff,
    It’s been awhile, never forgot the past and the power of beautiful sunrise, continue to create and inspire good friend.

  14. I watched my little 4 year old granddaughter go through ALL…oh my, cancer kicked her ass, then she got pissed and kicked back, she is now 9 with survivor attitude and gratitude. She was almost 6 when she told her dad, she wanted to get her ears pierced and he said “oh honey getting your ears pierced hurts, daddy doesn’t want you to have to go through that” oh lordy…she put one hand on her hip and fixed her gaze on him and said “after everything I’ve been through, you think THAT’s gonna hurt me?” She got the most beautiful pair of diamond chip earrings from her daddy that day.
    I was directed to your website by my daughter…I hope you never lose your attitude, your hair and eyebrows, hey they either grow back or they don’t and if they do, the hair usually comes in way better. My granddaughter still has what she calls “chemo brain” still she rocks it daily…and lives, loves and laughs (and gets pissed) on a level most of us can’t comprehend…guess unless you’ve walked the walk, we don’t understand fully.

    I hope the rest of your journey is without any majors ups and downs and that you always walk tall, shoulders back….just like your mom told you to. Will keep checking your blog for updates!

  15. Very good Jeff! You know I’ll cook anything you want, just let me know. Looking forward to celebrating the start of your “Cancer Free Winter”!

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