Thursday, November 22, 2012

Giving Thanks During Stormy Times

Thanksgiving is a loaded holiday for many people this year.  These last weeks have tested our patience, faith, and humanity.  As we come together today, we appreciate more, give more, and love more.

I've been through a few hurricanes since moving to the East Coast in 1999.  But Sandy was like nothing I ever hope to see again.  During those days of no power, living with friends, the gas shortage, the images of massive devastation and loss of life, I grieved for the Jersey Shore, Staten Island, Long Island and other places that are still suffering.  I heard Bruce in my head:
Everything dies baby that's a fact; But maybe everything that dies someday comes back; Put your makeup on fix your hair up pretty and meet me tonight in Atlantic City. (Atlantic City)
My firm provided incredible support, leadership and guidance during this crisis, and I struggled to find a way to help my team.  I shared the only advice I could think of:  Eat the ice cream first!  During this time of barely controlled chaos, we all realized how much we take modern conveniences for granted.  We also saw people come together in ways that we couldn't have imagined.  Call it what you will:  the power of the human spirit, witnessing,  living God's word, or just plain instinct, the world responded and tended to our wounds.

In the meantime, I continue to manage the complications mentioned in my last post from my lung surgery in August, 14 weeks ago. Issue #1: The invisible Ace bandage that felt like it was wrapped too tight around my core is still there. It's better, but not gone. Issue #2: The arm injury from positioning on the OR table is also still there, but also getting better. Issue #3: The burning in my skin has escalated and tests me like no other pain so far. Several experiments with drugs have not worked, but we're tweaking some dosages and I'm learning to balance the pain with the side effects. I have a new appreciation for people with continuous pain, every minute of every day. It can make you nuts. My pain specialist says I have Post Thoracotomy Pain Syndrome, which apparently is common after a major lung surgery. (I didn't technically have a thoracotomy, open lung surgery, but mine was major enough to cause this problem.) The good news is that this will heal on its own, eventually. An upcoming MRI of my back will show if there is nerve damage that may have been caused from the surgery that we can also treat.

As Sandy blasted through our lives, and during these medication experiments, my uncle Vic became gravely ill, his body finally shutting down after 9 years of serious complications from a massive stroke in 2003. (See March 4, 2012 post, What Doesn't Kill You...)  Vic passed away peacefully at home on November 17th, with his wife, Patricia, of 57 years by his side.  He was surrounded during his last days by his three sons, many grandchildren, friends, neighbors and caregivers.  A full military funeral was held yesterday, and Vic was honored as he so graciously deserved. Again, I heard Bruce in my head:
They say you can't take it with you, but I think that they're wrong
'Cause all I know is I woke up this morning, and something big was gone...
 The Mona Lisa, the David, the Sistine Chapel, Jesus, Mary, and Joe
And when they built you, brother, they broke the mold. (Terry's Song)
Ironically, Vic passed away on my second transplant birthday.  It was a day for recognizing the fragility of life and death.

June 2004

And on that note, I ask all of you to send prayers, positive energy, shooting stars, magic lightening bolts, whatever you believe in, to the Universe, God and all that is good in the world for Mya, the 10 year old girl I spoke of in my last post.  After undergoing a third and very difficult bone marrow transplant for AML in September, the transplant has failed and the leukemia is back.  Today, on Thanksgiving, she will receive the first of five days of blasting chemo (the same chemo that, in the past, put her in ICU with triple organ failure) to kill the cancer, after which she will get a lymphocyte injection from her last donor (her mother).  This process can be done a few times, and has worked in the past for some patients.  It's a long shot.  A Hail Mary.  But it's a chance.  Mya has been such a fighter, if she's not giving up, then neither should we.  Again, her story is here.

As we sit together today with family and friends, passing the turkey and gravy,  don't forget to pass around the hugs.  Take a moment to look up in the sky and hug yourself too.  Life is short and amazing.  Gratitude should not be limited to one day of the year.  It should be a way of life.  Happy Thanksgiving everyone.