Six Years Ago.

Facebook gave me a notification today that exactly six years ago, I had ostomy surgery.  It also brought up a post I put up the early morning of surgery day.  As you could imagine, I was having a hard time sleeping the night before everything would change for me.  Here’s some of what I wrote:

So here I am thinking about my future and what changes I can expect after tomorrow. I wanted to take a moment to tell you all how wonderful everybody has been.  Over the last six months the amount of love and good will that has been coming my way has been overwhelming. The many notes, comments and calls have been wonderful.  All the offers of help have been amazing.

As I head into surgery on Friday I wanted to acknowledge all of you and everything you have done for me. I know its hard to watch somebody go through something like this. I know that feeling of helplessness you may feel because it seems like there is very little you can do.  From where I’m sitting you have all done so much. My spirits remains high from your encouragement, your humor, your hugs, your offers of help, your understanding, your smiles, your interest in how I’m doing and also just treating me like me.  Talking to you I have never felt “sick”. I’ve always felt just like the normal me and that is an amazing gift you have given me.

There is no doubt in my mind that the whole experience had changed my outlook on life quite suddenly in 2010 and 2011.  I often tell people that even though I was facing cancer and I was scared, I wasn’t anxious beyond the immediate surgery/chemo anxiety.  All the other stuff in my life that was bringing me down was gone.  There was a simplicity to my life at the moment.  I had one job, to get well.  It was very liberating.  All those other things were still there, it just seemed like they were small and could get figured out down the road.  There was nothing so pressing that it couldn’t wait.

During that time, I had gotten plenty of overdue bills, bill collection notices, and stopped disability payments.  Six years later, it all worked itself out.  The bills got paid, the collectors stopped calling, the checks eventually showed up.  It all worked out, and regular life started up again.  With regular life, the old anxiety would start to creep in as well.  At first I was really good at recognizing it and pushing it back down.  Over time, though, that skill that came to me so easily when I was sick, seemed to atrophy.  Now, my anxieties haven’t gone back to where I was before I became sick, but they’ve definitely become more prominent.

This time capsule from facebook was a good reminder of that feeling of perspective.  Reading it made me relive the positive thoughts, love, and encouragement you all generously shared with me throughout my journey.   Reading it made my today easier and helped with certain difficult things going on around me.  It also put my perspective back in check.

So I just wanted to say today, as I said back then, thank you for the amazing gift you have given me.

-Michael

Posted in Cancer, Health, Ostomy, Surgery, Thoughts | Leave a comment

And Now, For Something Completely Different…

Making Silver Bell


IMG_20170206_155334

The snow was cold, but Heather insisted on making a snowman.  Of course the snow is cold, it’s snow.

“I’m from Wisconsin,” she said, “I don’t need gloves!”

Her statement made sense in that we just drove up into the mountain from Las Vegas.  We don’t interact with snow that much.  And she was right.  She didn’t need gloves.  She dug her bare hands into the icy white snow that had been packed down by the scenery watchers before us.  She crafted a bottom layer of the snowman.  It was about the size of a normal snow ball.  For a moment, I thought it was all a ruse to arm herself for an attack against me while I suspected nothing.

It was not that.  She placed the first ball in the snow and started on the second ball.  I turned my attention to the view.  I had my phone out to take some photos.  I wanted to paint the scene some time next week and I needed a reference.  I took a step forward and heard the familiar crunching sound of the packed snow get a little more dense.

“She needs eyes and a nose,” I heard behind me.  

I turned around and looked.  Heather had formed the traditional three-ball snowman in miniature.  She was standing, looking around for something to use as eyes.  I started looking as well.

We were just off the parking lot in a snow-covered area, surrounded by trees.  I was looking in the dirt for something. Heather was eyeing a tree.

“We can use these berries from this juniper bush,” she said.

“I’m not sure that’s a juniper,” I replied.

I wasn’t sure.  If it was a juniper, it was the biggest darn juniper bush I had ever seen.  It wasn’t that important to me to confirm the species of the bush in question.  I moved on.

Heather had grabbed two berries of the bush and was applying them to the snowman.  Unfortunately, the snowman was really an iceman at this point, and Heather was having a hard time making the eyes stay in its head.

I turned just as I heard a crunch and an “awwww!”

Heather had just crushed the head of this poor snowman, like an evil villain crushing the head of a helpless little munchkin in a not-for-children animated movie.  I laughed, a little.  I couldn’t help myself.

“Uh oh,” I said, “what did you do?”

Heather looked up, “I couldn’t get her eyes to stick!  I need to make a new head.”

“Maybe it doesn’t need eyes and a nose,” I responded as she was shaping the new skull for this sad headless snow torso.

“Honey! She needs eyes!”

“Okay,” I replied and started looking around.  Seeing that the berries didn’t seem to work, I looked at the bare earth for some small, dark pebbles.  Heather handed me the snow-head.  I started to apply the head to the torso.

“Wait!” Heather said, “won’t it be easier to put the eyes on with it in you hand?”

She was right.  Eye surgery is much easier when I can manipulate the head position without fear of ripping it off the body.

I grabbed a dark pebble and started to insert it into the icy skull.  I can see why Heather crushed the skull the first time around.  The icy ball resisted the insertion of the pebble, and I found myself squeezing the head quite hard.  I was dancing around that fine line of constructive/destructive force needed to give this snow-munchkin sight.  

One eye in, one to go.  I bent down to pick up another pebble/eye when the first one fell out leaving a creepy-looking eye-socket hole in the decapitated ice-crystal noggin.  I sighed, grabbed the first pebble again, and reinserted it into the socket, rationalizing the snow-optic nerve will be fine.  Fine enough for a snow-person anyway.  Holding the icy head so that the severed snow-being was looking at the sky for fear of loosing its first eye, I grabbed a second eye and shoved it in.  A light layer of ice over the eyes will keep them from falling out.

Now for the nose.  I grabbed a small twig from the ground and shoved it in.

“Looks like a cigarette,” I said.

“No it doesn’t!” Heather replied.

I handed her the head as she was more of the spine specialist while I was more of an eyes, nose, throat guy.

She placed the head back on the torso that had not moved since its original mutilation.  How could it, it had no head on its shoulders to use.

“Now she needs arms,” Heather exclaimed.

Heather had pulled two arm-like twigs earlier and was ready to apply them to the she-snow torso.  Luckily, this procedure was much simpler than eye and nose surgery.  There were no complications, and we had a fully formed snow woman.IMG_1350

The snow woman stood proudly by a fallen branch in the snow that formed her.  She had her back to the mountains as if to say to all who approached, “Yes, yes, this is all my domain. I am the mistress of the fallen snow!”

It was photo-op time.  Heather hunched down as much as possible without kneeling in the snow and shot off a few pics.

“Honey,” she said, “pick her up so I can take your picture.”

I bent down and gingerly picked up the frozen water, twig, and rock being that we created.  I had to be careful.  She just had head-replacement surgery after all.

I held the snow-woman in my right hand and looked at Heather, waiting for her to snap the photo.

“Give me a thumbs up!” Heather commanded.

IMG_1359I put my left hand in the “thumbs-up” position and gave a cheesy smile.  You know, the “How you doin’” look.

She smiled, “You look cute!  Now let’s bring Silver Bell up to the lot.”

I couldn’t imagine what the plan was for “Silver Bell”, but I carefully held onto the balls of ice and made my way back up to the parking lot.  Once there, I had an idea to stick Silver Bell on top of one of the parking-lot markers.

“Don’t you break her!” Heather implored.

“She’s fine,” I responded.  The snow creature sat proudly on top of the marker.  Heather was pleased and went around to take a picture.  Unfortunately, the marker was tagged with graffiti, and Heather was no longer pleased.  

“We need to move her to the other sign!” Heather proclaimed.

I, once again, gently picked up the future-water-puddle in the parking lot and moved her to the other marker.  At that moment, Silver Bell’s head fell off, taking her right arm with it.  A one-armed, headless snow carcass remained on the post.

There was immediate panic as I reached down to rescue the head of old Silv.  I can call her Silv, we’re close that way.  Her head had a chunk taken out of it.  

“You need to rebuild her head,” Heather said.

She was right.  I grabbed some snow and reshaped the severed head of Silver Bell.  Heather grabbed the eye that fell out and handed it over.  I jammed it back into the snowball.  Optic nerve be damned!

I looked around for the arm that fell off, but had no luck locating it.  I pulled a twig off a nearby tree, but the twig was too green and Silver baby’s body was too frozen at this point for me to attach it too her.

Right at that moment, a mini van pulled up.  It had plates from California.  A woman jumped out.  We tried to play it cool.  Luckily, the head was back on so it didn’t look like complete snow-person carnage.  Actually, with only one arm, Silver Bell just looked like she was hitch hiking for a ride back down the mountain.

“Can I take a picture of your snowman?” The woman asked.

“Sure,” we said.  We didn’t want to cause any more awkwardness and explain that it was indeed a snow WOMAN.  Silver Bell wasn’t talking.  It was probably because we never went so far as to give her a mouth.

IMG_1366The woman from California was enamored with Silver Bell and took several pictures of her.  So much so that she didn’t even bother to look at the spectacular view of the snow-covered mountains that were the reason for the parking in the first place.

Just as quickly as the woman showed up, she was gone.  It was once again just the three of us.  Me, Heather, and Silver Bell.  The three of us decided that it was best Silver Bell stay in her home land.  We bid our farewell as Silver Bell decided to stay on her new home on top of the marker sign and welcome any new visitors with her single-armed wave.  She was always much more of an extrovert than Heather and I.

We hopped into the car, waved, and moved on.  Glancing in the rear-view mirror, Silver Bell was already making friends with a new group of travelers.  Maybe we’ll see her again, but I doubt it.  Temperatures are rising.

Posted in Humor | 3 Responses

Lists

  • Shirts
  • Pants
  • Socks

I make lists.  A lot of lists.

  • Phone
  • Phone Charger
  • Tooth Brush

I’ve kept lists from time to time over the years, but since having chemo, I find them essential.  After chemo, I found my brain seemed sluggish, slower.  I couldn’t really describe what my issue was, but I knew I wasn’t as sharp as I used to be.

  • Camera
  • Film
  • Tripod

It’s been 6 years to the day since I was first diagnosed with cancer.  It struck me yesterday when Heather and I were in the hospital.  We were visiting a friend in the same hospital that I was diagnosed in.  I realized, walking through the corridor, that the anniversary of my diagnosis was only one day away.  It made me think about how I have changed over that time.  One of the biggest things is my memory.

When I was receiving chemo, the last thing I was concerned about was my memory.  I had a lot of things going on, and to be honest, being home, sick, and on chemo is not something that required strong brain power.  I was writing software for my phone to pass the time, but it was all new to me and not something I had to recall from memory.  My first indication of the issue was when I discovered that I lost words mid-sentence.  It was incredibly frustrating as I knew exactly what I wanted to say but was unable to produce the word verbally and unable to find a suitable synonym to get my point across.  Very often I found myself stuttering in front of people for (what seemed like) minutes trying to find the word.  It was almost always the simplest word too.  A word I learned as a young child.  A word like “desk!”

While the Mayo Clinic does not tie chemo brain to chemotherapy, it does say that one of the possible causes is cancer treatment.  It also talks about cancer itself, complications to treatment, the stress of having cancer, and other medications used to treat the side effects of cancer treatments.  Regardless of the reason, I have felt the effects of chemo brain.  For me, the effects were worst right after I was done with chemo and have gotten better over time.  I still have the occasionally lost word, and I live on lists now, but I function quite normally.

Unfortunately, there is no cure for chemo brain.  As mentioned in the Mayo Clinic article, cancer-related memory problems are, for the most part, tempory.  I feel like most of my issues have improved over time.  I do feel like the effects still linger, but I am able to overcome them.  I do this mostly, with lists.

  • Hair Brush
  • Razor
  • Notepad (for lists!)
Posted in Cancer | Tagged , , , , , | 4 Responses

Restart

At the end of 2011, my oncologist had declared I was in remission.  Shortly afterwards, my brother and his girlfriend came to visit.  He had been down to visit several times while I was sick.  He spent a lot of time in the hospital with me along with his girlfriend and Danielle.

The WatchAt the visit after I was declared cancer free, he gave me a watch.  The watch pictured to the left.  When he gave it to me, he said it is meant to symbolize new beginnings and the time I have in front of me.  The watch is really beautiful, and I wore it to my cousin’s wedding in 2012.  I didn’t wear it much after that because it’s such a nice watch;  I was afraid of damaging it at work.

Since then, a lot of things have happened.  My brother and his girlfriend are now husband and wife.  I had gotten divorced about a year ago.  Danielle has moved to another state and has a new love of her life.

I had resigned myself to a life possibly alone.  I had written before about how I felt, being single and “broken.”  Cancer was gone (and still is) but the collateral damage made me feel not particularly desirable.  Being 46 didn’t help either.

Recently, I started wearing the watch again.  I started wearing it after I showed it to my new girlfriend.  My new girlfriend who makes me feel everything but “broken.”  The watch had stopped running over the years in storage.  But the watch has eco-drive.  All it needed was a little light to get it started up again.  A little light to give it life.

The moment wasn’t lost on me.

So I wear the watch to work now, careful of not scratching it.  I like what it tells me besides what time it is.  My brother was right about new beginnings; he’s a smart guy that way.

-M

 

Posted in Cancer, Ostomy, Thoughts | 6 Responses

Exercise

What to say about exercise?

As a guy who has been heavy most of his life, and honestly, if we’re going by that dick BMI chart, obese and morbidly obese, (I technically don’t think a chart can really be a dick, but it sure does feel like it.  That thing has been mocking me my entire life!  Even when I lost a crazy amount of weight and people were wondering if I was sick from all the weight loss, it was telling me I was still “obese”, not even just plain “over weight”… that’s a dick move if you ask me!) I have always struggled with exercise.  Here are a few reasons why.

Before I get started, I want to point out that these are my reasons and I think some of them may resonate with people who struggle with weight.  For those of you who don’t have these issues, kudos to you.  I wish I could be more like you and have the discipline you do.

GETTING STARTED
So, the first thing.  Starting is incredibly hard if you have a lot of extra weight.  Like I said, I was morbidly obese.  Yes, I got there on my own, but I wanted to change things and I wanted to exercise as one of the ways to get there.  Having all that extra weight is like wearing a vest filled with lead weights all the time.  I wasn’t lazy by any means in my life, and being heavy didn’t stop me from doing the things I needed to do, but asking my body to do a sustained workout weighted down is excruciating.

We are told that an effective workout is 20 minutes a day, three times a weak at your target heart rate.  Slap on a 3 minute warm up and a 5 minute cool down and we are at about 30 minutes.  Your target heart rate is calculated by your age.  The formula hasn’t changed for decades.  I remember it quite well (and looked it up to see if it had changed).  First you calculate your maximum heart rate by taking 220 and subtracting your age.  Your target heart rate for exercising should then be between 70% and 90% of that maximum.

Getting to the target heart rate is pretty easy, maintaining it less so.  Relatively quickly after you start your heart is struggling to get oxygen to the muscles that need it.  You start breathing heavy really fast.  All that extra insulation is making it difficult for your body to maintain body temperature and you start sweating profusely.   After a 20 minute workout at my target heart rate, I wanted to throw up.  For me, and I think a lot of people, I have a natural tendency to avoid doing things that make me feel like I’m going to vomit at the end of doing it, or have to lay on my back gasping for air for another 15 minutes before I can continue my day.

So you try to do things that don’t make you feel like your heart is going to explode and you find that those things simply don’t seem effective.  Honestly, you start a program, you’re motivated but you want to see results quickly.  Starting at a moderate level to condition your heart before you get serious takes too long.  I’m not saying that it’s right, but it was my state of mind in the past.

BOREDOM
My biking friends will tell you, I hate doing laps.  My bike rides tend to be one giant loop around a section of town.  I get bored doing laps on the street.

If that’s true while riding my bike, imagine how I fair on a stationary bike or treadmill.  I can ride my road bike for over seven hours and do 100 miles (when I’m in shape) and be perfectly entertained (as long as I’m not doing laps) but, I find 10 minutes on stationary equipment excruciating because of the boredom.

For those of you who can do this and are not bored, again, kudos to you!  Bottle whatever that quality is that you have. You could make a fortune in the health supplement industry.

It has been suggested to me on multiple occasions to watch TV or read or something.  Trust me, I tried.  I had a treadmill set up for years with a little TV right in front of it to watch shows.  It didn’t help.

I think the reason for that is that watching TV is pretty passive.  I’m not really engaged in it so my brain focuses on the treadmill which is pretty uninteresting as well.  My brain then wants to move on to something else but is trapped on this treadmill while some movie that I’ve probably already seen is assaulting me from the front.

I thought that since I enjoy riding my bike, I could just get a bike stand and ride it like a stationary bike and not have any issues.  Not true.  Ten minutes on the stationary bike and I’m ready to quit.

Here’s what I think is going on.  Riding a bike outside requires me to engage my brain in the process.  I need to keep balance. I need to maintain a course. I have traffic I need to be aware of.  All of these things are keeping my brain busy.  Add on the moving scenery and my brain is fully engaged.  I suppose that’s why I’m not a big fan of laps.  At some point, that part of my brain’s engagement is no longer needed so it wants to wander off to other things but is stuck pointing out that we’ve passed the same tree three times now… and it hasn’t changed… and that we’ll have to pass it 5 more times before we’re done with this infernal ride!  Laps… bad!

TIME
Now that I’ve found something I enjoy doing, I’ve got to find the time.  At first it was really easy, I picked the amount of time and rode that long and came home.  It all worked out.  Six miles on the bike was more than 20 minutes, it made me want to throw up and I wasn’t doing laps so I wasn’t bored.  Once the urge the vomit no longer came up, I started to up my ride time.  I changed it up to distance.  I’d set a goal for 10 mile, 15 miles, 20, etc.

The rides started to get longer and longer.  From an exercise point of view, this was great.  I was exercising more, getting in better shape; I was really starting to feel better.  The problem was becoming more logistics than anything else.

I’m not a fast cyclist by any means.  When I was doing 10s, it would take about an hour, which I could find time for pretty easily.  Once I was doing 30s, it could take between 2 and 2.5 hours.  Still fairly manageable, but I had to plan for it.  It wasn’t something I could just do on a whim.  Once I hit 50 miles, it became difficult to schedule.  They usually took me around 3.25 to 3.5 hours to ride.  When I was training for my first century, I was trying to get two 30s and a 50 in every week.  Needless to say, I wasn’t getting much else done during that time.  I stopped riding like that after the century ride, but was still basically doing 30s three times a week.

Part of the problem I think is that once you are comfortably doing long rides, when you do a short one, you don’t feel like you accomplished much.  There were times I would finish a short ride and feel let down because I knew I could and wanted to go further.  I just didn’t have the time.

So not wanting to get on the bike and ride because it won’t feel rewarding, dumb reason not to ride, but one I have to deal with.

IN THE END
I’ve found something I like to do that keeps me active. I still have the pitfalls I’ve always had about exercising.  I’ve just had to trick my brain into believing that biking is not exercise, which seems to work… which is weird because you would think my brain is in on all the sneaky things my brain does…  The different lobes should talk to each other more.

I’ve fallen out of riding recently and my waist line has been showing the results.  The BMI chart is mocking me again (dick chart) so I’m starting to get back into the groove with 10s again for now.  I’ll be up to 15s in no time.

 

 

Posted in Health | 2 Responses

Patience

I don’t have much patience when waiting at the doctor’s office. My appointment is at a certain time, I expect to see the doctor within reasonable window after that appointed time.

Today I’m waiting to see the doc and it’s an hour past my appointment. To be honest I’m kind of fuming about it. Why am I expected to wait so long? Don’t they have any respect for my time??

But then I take a step back and try to reflect on what’s going on behind the scenes. My doctor is awesome and she takes the time to talk to her patients, including me. I think about what she deals with back there. Sometimes she has good news to share with her patients, sometimes bad. I think about the information she needs to explain to her patients.

So I take a breath. People all around me may be in different stages of their cancer journey. I’m on the back end, healthy and coming in to schedule a colonoscopy. I can wait.

Now that I’m healthy, I’ve gotten caught up in some old habits. Losing sight of the bigger picture in these instances is one of them.  I’m trying to keep hold of my perspective.  Sometimes it’s hard.

Posted in Cancer | 3 Responses

The Week

Not the machine I was in.

Not the machine I was in.

It’s that time of year again.  Time for the CT Scan and the blood work.  Time for the barium and the iodine.

None of that is really all that bad.  It’s the week between the tests and the results that still gets me anxious.  There’s something about the fact that there is paperwork somewhere in the health system that has facts about me that I need to know NOW!

My anxiety isn’t anything like it used to be.  I remember back when I had my first checkup after I was declared cancer free.  I was a wreck for weeks.  Now I’m just a wreck privately for a few days.

It all starts with the actual scan now.  I step into the room with the friendly techs who ask me some standard questions:

Are you diabetic?  No.
When did you drink the Barium?  8:45
Are you allergic to iodine?  No.
Why are you here?  Cancer followup.

Then I lay down on the table with my feet towards the machine as the second tech taps my arm for the iodine push.  We’re all very chatty and the mood is light.  I explain it’s not my first rodeo and notice they have a new CT Scan machine and how I prefer CT to PET scans.  Once they are set, they tell me to put my hands over my head and listen to the female voice for breathing instructions and start up the machine.  I do one set of passes and then they come out to push the iodine for contrast and do a second set of passes.  This time, my hands are in the air.

The second pass is done and the first tech comes out to chat while the second checks to make sure the scans are clear.  Once She gives the “ok” they start to get me out of the machine.  This is the moment the anxiety starts to creep in.

Right at that moment I start eyeing the technicians.  I’m looking for their “tell”.  Did they see something?  Are they being extra polite to me because they can see on the scans that I’m doomed?!!  I used to try to be sly and ask open ended questions looking for information.  “Everything look good?”  I’d say it in that nonchalant tone of just trying to make idle chat.  As if to say, “I’m really interested in your work… and not because you just took pictures of my insides…”  They obviously never buy it, “Result will be ready by Friday and sent to your doctor.  Make sure you drink lots of water to flush out the iodine.”  I’m sure they get hit up for information all the time.

So now back to the changing room to get changed and go on with my day.  Now that the picture has been taken I start to analyze my last few weeks.  “Anything weird???” I think.   “Well, I’ve had some headaches lately.”  And it has started.

Like I said, not as bad as it used to be, but it lingers….

 

-M

Posted in Cancer, Humor | 3 Responses

The CDC and Ostomies

I’ve tried writing this post a few times now.  The CDC has put out new anti-smoking ads.  These ads have always been kind of in your face and shocking.  The most recent tie together the increased risk of colon cancer and smoking.  There’s this one:

and this one:

Many people with ostomies were offended by these commercials.  The United Ostomy Association of America even wrote a letter to the CDC asking them to remove the ads.  The argument is that portraying ostomy bags in such a negative light increases the negative stigma that would cause people needing the life save surgery to delay having it or refuse having it altogether.  The CDC changed the one that was most offensive to people with ostomies.  This is the new version:

I’m torn.  I was really offended at first.  The original version of this ad basically said that getting an ostomy was the worst possible thing that could happen to you.  Julia basically said that it leaked and smelled and she was stuck in the house for the year she had to wear one.

Having a colostomy bag for 4 years now I wanted to shout at the monitor and say that’s just not true.  I later felt bad for Julia because if that was her experience then her health care provider really failed her post surgery care.  They could have addressed those issues and not made her feel trapped in her home.

 

Ostomy -v- Normal / Ostomy -v- Death / Ostomy -v- Pain

Given a choice, nobody is going to choose an ostomy over being normal.  At some point though you may be faced with a choice of an ostomy or severe pain, incontinence, or death.  It’s unfortunate that there is such a negative stigma that it may cause people to endure pain or even prefer death to it.

I’m going to be honest.  When I was diagnosed with cancer, I thought getting a colostomy bag was the worst possible outcome.  That was really early in the process.  That was before the massive pain I had to endure before surgery.  That was before the actual realization that death was a possibility.

I’ll also say that getting one is life changing and that having one was difficult for me at first.  I had problems with having the bag adhere to my skin.  I was afraid of being too rough with cleaning the stoma because, you know, it’s my colon sticking out of me.  In the end, medical supply companies were very generous and sent out many samples of different products until I found one that works and my stoma nurse ensured me that my stoma is pretty damn tough.

Four years later, I’m more active than I was before the surgery.  I’ve had to change how I do things obviously, but I have not been hindered at all.  At the end of the day, I don’t mind much pooping in a bag.  I’ve also managed to keep my sense of humor, thanks for the tip Julia and Mark!  :)

 

At least smile when you show your poop bag!

At least smile when you show your poop bag!

Posted in Cancer, Ostomy | Leave a comment

Slow Down! Embrace the Journey.

It’s 38 degrees outside today and the wind is blustering.  It’s not the weather you expect in the Las Vegas desert, but if you live here it’s not surprising.  I’m wearing a leather jacket, wool hat, and gloves.  I’m walking to the grocery store to pick up some supplies for New Year’s Eve.

The store is a little over a mile away and I could easily drive there in five minutes, but here I am, face into the cold wind enjoying my walk.

For a few years now, I’ve been riding my bike.  For the most part, I’m a fair weather rider.  When the temperatures start hitting the forties, the bike tends to stay in the garage.  When it’s warmer out, I ride my bike to the grocery store to do my shopping.  Even with the commuter bike, it’s still a little bit of a project to get going.  Because of that, I tended to not ride to the store as often as I could have.  I was feeling guilty about not riding so I started walking instead.

I’ve been walking around the neighborhood a lot recently and I feel like I’m discovering it all new.  I’ve lived here for 17 years and I’ve never really took my time to explore the place.  For example I thought most of the area had paved sidewalks.  That is entirely not the case as I discovered walking to the park the other week.  I’m on a major surface street with 2 lanes of traffic in each direction, and no sidewalks or street lights.  It’s something I never noticed zipping by the same area thousands of times at 45 miles per hour.  I didn’t even notice it riding my bike hundreds of times at 20 miles per hour.

Walking slows me down, and that’s a good thing.  For that hour it takes me to walk to and from the grocery store, there’s nothing to distract me from the task at hand.  My brain disengages from multitasking.  For me it becomes very serene and relaxing, even on a cold winter day.  So much so that I’m starting to make excuses to go to the store.

For most of my life I always kept my eye on the goal.  While never losing sight of your goal is a good thing, having tunnel vision to your goal may not.  You may just miss some amazing people and events during the journey.

So what does it all mean?  For me, time has been flying by.  It seems like only yesterday we started 2014 and now here we are at the cusp of 2015.  Before you know it, we’ll be half way through the year.  If walking to the store slows down my day and lets me decompress for a short time, I don’t see the down side.  I can enjoy what I have and what I’m experiencing without distraction.  We are constantly bombarded with outside stimulation, it’s nice to shut it all off sometimes and only let in a what you are in control of.

I know none of what I’ve written is new or Earth shattering, but sometimes it takes a 3 mile walk in cold wind to have a light-bulb moment.

Posted in Cancer, Thoughts | 5 Responses

Begin Again

Life is about beginnings and endings. My life as a married person has come to an end and my time as a single person has begun again.

I was not expecting this ending or beginning again in my life, but sometimes a curve-ball comes your way and you have to take your swing. It is not important to share the details of the breakup here. All that it comes down to is the fact that I’m alone again. This last month has been a hard time for me, but I’m managing. I have family and friends to thank for being good, sympathetic listeners when I needed it, coaches when I stumbled and cheerleaders when I needed uplifting. I know they will continue to be there as I move forward with this new chapter in my life.

I’m using the lessons learned from being sick to move forward now. I’m taking one day at a time and concentrating on the things I have control over. I’m breaking down tasks into smaller bits and being satisfied with my progress no matter how slow it’s going. I also make myself okay with the things that have not changed, nor will change in the near future. Making plans to change things are good enough now. As long as I’m moving forward, I’m still moving.

It’s too soon to think about my future with somebody, or not. Of course I have. It’s hard to think about being single, 46 and “broken”. I say broken because of my colostomy. I know I’m not really broken, but I’m not normal either. If I do meet somebody, how does something like that come up? How do I tactfully bring it up in conversation? Do I do it early before I’m too emotionally invested that it won’t hurt if I am rejected because of it, or do I wait until I’m really comfortable with somebody to have a frank discussion about it?

These are questions that are too soon to think about, but I am. How could I not?

For now, though, I am embracing being single again. There are so many things I want to do with the house and try creatively. I’ve started making rings out of coins. I didn’t know how easily it could be done with basic tools. All that is needed is patience and time. Right now I have an abundance of both. There are other projects I want to concentrate on when I have enough money to get the tools needed to make them. I’ve been very interested in building my own weight driven mechanical clock. Making the gears out of wood and designing my own clockworks seems really fascinating to me.

Of course I have my bike and plan to ride it often. I need to get back in shape as I have let myself go. A combination of stress and bad decisions need to be turned around. Hopefully I can do that and make the life long changes I need to make to continue to be healthful. I’ve started with small changes. I’ve stopped drinking soda on a regular basis. I don’t miss it at all, except sometimes. I’m managing. Small steps.

Right now I’m in the middle of a purge. Danielle moved out and now I’m getting rid of so many things that have been weighing me down. When I’m done the house will be simple, clean, and uncluttered. Hopefully my life will reflect those attributes as well.

It’s been a hard month, but now I’m making changes; and that’s a good thing.

Posted in Thoughts | Tagged , | 7 Responses