Archive for April, 2014

Wait for it to sink in…

April 27, 2014

I had to.  

It was the perfect setup.

I could hear the giggles start from the audience and I capitalized on it.

———-

This past Friday, I was asked to give a Survivor’s Reflection at the RPI Relay for Life.

In writing the speech, I originally included a joke that was probably a little too much.  I knew that families would bring young children and that the wrong words in front of one of the Vice Presidents, could lead to disaster.

I’ll share the joke at the end.  It’s really not too extreme because of what you already know about me.  But I just thought the words used could be a little too spicy for young ears.

———-

Stick to the script Jeffrey.  You added in a few beats.  You added in some movement.  You only have three minutes.  

Stick to the script.

———-

(The start of the speech)

“Yea… We’re going to need move this one to the top of the list”

Those were the words that started my cancer journey. In some reflections on a personal blog, I compared it to a roller coaster but now that things have started to settle… now that life is returning to a new, KEYWORD new, normal… it’s been more of a journey.

This journey started just last year on April 8th where tests showed that I had developed testicular cancer. A few days later, well, the most appropriate way to say this is that, through surgery, I became a little lighter on one side.

———-

Let me interrupt for just a second.

Safe.  Didn’t drop any inappropriate words.  Kept it clean for the…

Was that a giggle?  And another.  Ok.  They got the joke.  Wasn’t enough though.  That joke was supposed to be funnier!

———-

(Speech continues)

Wait for it to sink in…

———-

Cue moment of fear as you go off script!

I had to.

It was the perfect setup.

———-

(Speech continues)

 

The journey took it’s time at getting me connected with the American Cancer Society. I actually was here, last year. My head spinning from recent results, decisions that needed to be made, and thoughts about the effect this was having on family and friends.  I almost broke down back there (POINT BEHIND THE BLEACHERS) as I saw everyone gathered in the unity of supporting people affected by cancer. I vowed at that point that I would be back here this year to be part of this environment and energy of the students, faculty, staff, and friends of Rensselaer to walk with you at this amazing event.

Having decided treatment options and learned that I have a very treatable form of cancer, my journey took me to the American Cancer Society Hope Club over in Latham. I walked in there with a mission. I was going to start getting involved, start volunteering, and start sharing with other people who have testicular cancer that they’re not alone. I met with the volunteer coordinator and her response to my mission stopped me in my tracks. She said,

You fix you first.

I thought, “What? Who are you telling me to fix me? I’m fixed. I’m ready. Use me. Sure… me fix me.”

But it was exactly what I needed to hear. She knew that ahead of me lied chemotherapy, further tests, and my body and mind trying to understand exactly what was happening.

Through support groups at Hope Club, I learned more about how people were coping with the disease at all levels of treatment and response. It was a place where I could ask some hard-hitting questions and, as you heard a second ago, get a very honest and supportive response. The men and women in these groups shared their own journey and gave me an idea what lied ahead including not using google to diagnose any pains and that chemo brain was the reason I couldn’t remember what I had for breakfast.

My journey has now brought me back here to this Relay for Life. I’m deeply touched, profoundly lucky, and unbelievably blessed to be standing here today amongst the smiling faces of family, friends, faculty, staff, and students. I joked earlier that I’m a little lighter on one side but in a big way, it’s because through your efforts, the load of this journey is a little lighter for all those affected by this disease. You are working to pick us all up whether we are cancer survivors, whether we are friends and supporters of people with cancer, or whether we are those who have seen the worst of this disease can cause.

You are lifting us all up and I am honored to stand up here and say “Thank You” for everything you’ve done. My thanks to all those who planned this event. My thanks to all those who supported this event. And my thanks to all of you who will be here tonight. Here’s to a great 2014 RPI Relay for Life. Thanks.

———-

The rest of the speech, thankfully, went very smoothly.

All survivors in attendance receive a special t-shirt, a pin, and a survivor sash.

In honor of all the work they did, I gave my sash to my parents.  Couldn’t have done it without them.

The joke that I wanted to include was something like this…

———-

As some of you may know I have a severe allergy to peanuts, almonds, cashews, pistachios… really all nuts.  I just didn’t think the one down there would be something my body would want to be allergic to.

———-

There were kids in the audience.  Right in the front and center.  The VP for Student Life had just given his remarks.  The General Counsel for RPI was also in attendance.  Little kids plus members of the administration did not add up to jokes about my, um, nuts.

All in all, it was a great experience and I’m honored that the students from RPI Relay would ask me to share my story.

Thanks for reading…

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You fix you

April 13, 2014

“You fix you”

These words hit me square in the face.  Who is this person to tell me to fix myself?  What do they know?

A year ago today (April 12) I became a little lighter on one side. The cancer roller coaster had begun and I had a prime seat.

What wasn’t really written about in the original blog post was an interaction between myself and a volunteer coordinator at the American Cancer Society.

I remember soon after the chemo effects had simmered down, that I wanted to get out and share my story to anyone who would listen.  I wanted to get involved and say to folks, “You don’t have to be scared alone.  You don’t have to be anxious alone.  You don’t have to go through this alone.”

I am one of the lucky ones who has great family, friends, colleagues, and students who were nothing but supportive.  But I know not everyone is so lucky.

That bothers me.  No one should be scared alone.  No one should be anxious alone.  No one should have to go through this alone.

One day, sometime last year in the summertime, I met with a volunteer coordinator at the local American Cancer Society.  I had the Spain charm primed to 11 and was ready to be sent wherever was needed.  She chatted with me for a few minutes about my cancer journey and then said to me…

“You fix you first.  Then we’ll see about getting you involved.”

“Say what?  Ma’am I am a-ok.  You don’t know me.  It’s go time.  Point in a direction.  Any direction.  Fix me?  Yea.  Ok.” was exactly what I said in my head as a response.

Out of my mouth came, “Ahhh.  Sure.  Ok.  Gotcha.”

It’s now been a year and how right she was.  Time was needed to put my physical life back together and my mental life back together.  It worked.

In my New Year’s blog post, I spoke about how my mom is encouraging me to live life with gusto.  That gusto, combined with some random resolutions has really made 2014 interesting so far.  A quick update on the resolutions:

1) Run a 5K- Thanks to Couch to 5K, well on the way.  Almost done with the program.  Probably would have been easier if I didn’t eat everything in sight post cancer fixing process, but the weight is progressively getting better.
2) To end a raucous speech with my hand gesturing towards the sky- Spoiler alert!  This will be accomplished April 25th at RPI’s Relay for Life.  My tiny request for support.
3) Get back on the darn stage- Working on it.  I semi-accomplished this by being asked to be the RPI Basketball Public Address Announcer but it wasn’t technically the stage.  It will happen though.
4) Travel-  Saving the coin.  Keeping an eye out for good deals.  Probably going the solo traveller route.
5) Learn how to pick out Men’s Shoes- Ahhhhh… nope.
6) Finish one of the six-ish scripts that I started- Semi-accomplished.  During some recent work with RPI Orientation, we came up with an idea to have students create small videos that would get them thinking about college.  Some in the room thought that we should create one as an example.  So I drew up scripts for two possible videos:

School Supply Take 1.pdf

School Supply Take 2.pdf

I’ve still got time to finish one of the big ones.  I’m making progress!

7) Road trip to a random place in the Northeast- My original idea was to put a map on a spinning dart board and drive to wherever my dart landed.  Do you know how hard it is to find a spinning dart board?  I probably could have built something but being the techie that I am, I turned to the Internet.  So that you don’t think I’m cheating, here are the screenshots from when I did it:

 

Thanks Random Point Generator!

Thanks Random Point Generator!

mappoint

Looks like I’m headed to Long Island!  There will be a pics and blog post after I get there this summer.

8) Learn to play guitar- Thanks to some friends in town from Quincy and some other resources, I’m on my way to rocking out on a guitar:-)

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The cancer journey continues for me in a positive way.  But for many, it is a challenging and troublesome road.  I feel lucky and blessed to have you readers take the time to just read briefly about my journey and all those who’ve called, texted, emailed, or voiced out loud words of support and encouragement.  This year may have been physically lighter on one side but it is not because of the removal of this tiny piece of my body, it is lighter because many of you have reached out to help lighten the load.  The laughs, the stories, the high fives, the love, the hugs, the notes, the smiles… all the efforts to check in do not go unnoticed or unappreciated.

From the bottom of my heart, thanks…