Decisions, decisions

The snow in Boston is crazy high, the temperatures bitterly cold, and the kids don’t have school.

Trudging through the backyard

Though it can feel like we are trudging through, it is all actually fine. I love hunkering down with my family, the snow is beautiful, and I bought a super-warm blanket. The only glitch is that, in the past few days, I caught a cold that includes a dry cough with a really sore throat and fatigue.

No big deal, for sure. But here is the scoop: I am scheduled for chemo tomorrow. I need to decide whether to go ahead with it.

Last time I went in with a cold (about two years ago), here is how it went down:

I signed into Dana Farber, where they always ask if I have a cold or flu. When I said yes, they gave me a mask and sent me to my first appointment, which is where the nurse accesses my port and draws bloods to get data.

I told the nurse that I was not feeling well. He or she was sympathetic but not the decision maker. They accessed my port, drew my blood, and sent me (needle in my chest, tube dangling) to my next appointment, to see my oncologist.

My blood numbers were good, so my oncologist told me that he sincerely believed that I should do chemo. Besides, he reasoned, I was already accessed (meaning, I had the needle in my chest, ready for chemo….).

By then, I had spent two hours at Dana Farber. I was tired and in no shape to disagree with anyone who remotely felt like they had authority. I moved forward with chemo.

This happened every two weeks for quite awhile.

As a result, I had no voice (not even a whisper) for over a month and really couldn’t shake that cold for much longer.

But I understand their point of view: Of the two illnesses, the cold is simply uncomfortable and will eventually move on. Cancer, who knows.

From my point of view, having my body deal with chemo on top of this cold is a lot. I also know that, before I have the conversation with my doctor, I need to start out with my own point of view.

Here’s what I know:

  • My oncologist is doing his very best.
  • His medical knowledge far exceeds mine.
  • My throat is so raw that inhaling through my mouth causes pain, as does swallowing.
  • I cannot imagine vomiting.
  • I will have a CT scan in March and want to do as much as possible to keep things stable / improving so I can take a break.

So, I have to develop a going-in position. Then I try to have this conversation over the phone, rather than go in and have my body ushered through the process while my will weakens. But first things first.

Here are some options I see:

  • Postpone chemo until Friday, if they can take me then. (That is another day when my doctor sees patients.)
  • Postpone chemo until next Tuesday. This creates a complicating factor impact on the rest of my life, as it changes my chemo weeks and off-weeks, and I plan important things for those off-weeks.
  • Postpone chemo for two weeks. This doesn’t seem like a big deal, but after that chemo session, I’m taking a three-week break, so that isn’t an ideal solution.

My oncologist may have other suggestions.

I feel a bit like I am playing roulette, which is scary. But I also know that I have to take responsibility for my decisions and that ultimately, I know that my doctor will do what I want. I just have to be clear about what I want, and listen to his point of view as well.

If you can see a good solution, do share!

I would love to, for example, hand this over to someone who both shares my values and knows more than I do. But this is my circus for sure. Advocating for myself does not come naturally, though definitely a good thing for me to learn.

I hope you have easier decisions to make today, and if you have difficult ones, I’m hoping you can find the answer that works for you.

Much love,

One point on the journey

I can take any moment, magnify it, and project it into the future, even if my life is a testament to unpredictability. I’m constantly reminded that it is hard to imagine the end of a journey based on any one point along the way.

About two weeks ago, I brought my car into the dealership for service. Getting into the loaner car, I immediately noticed a chewed up pen in the console and a few little candy wrappers on the passenger seat. Yuck. But it was only a loaner and I was in a rush so I drove away without complaint.

Awhile later, when I got out of the car, I glanced into the back seat and saw something sticking out from under the driver’s seat. It was a $20 bill. When I pulled it out, a $5 bill came along with it!

Judging by the cleanliness of the car, it probably belonged to whoever used the car before me, or maybe even before them.

I considered keeping it. I thought about handing the money back to the dealership and asking them to find the previous driver. Maybe I should just give it as a tip to the guy at the dealership.

What I knew was this: It was fun to find, and it wasn’t mine. I decided to give it back to the dealer. Then it is their responsibility and decision to find the owner or keep the money. And if the guy at the dealership kept the money, well, maybe he needed it more than I did. Who am I to judge?

When I returned the car to the dealership, I was greeted by the same very nice man who gave the car to me. I told him that I found $25 under the seat and joked that, if someone had cleaned it, they would have gotten a nice tip. He laughed and said that he would look up the previous driver. I handed the money to him, and I went on my way.

Later, I told the story to my sons. The younger one said, “Why did you give him the money?”

“It wasn’t mine,” I replied.

He looked at me quizzically. “It was once you found it.”

Hmmm. That is another way of looking at it. We let it rest there, though of course I wondered about the rest of his morals, how they were developing and what kind of man he would become.

About a week later, our family plus a friend drove through a giant snowstorm and wandered into an empty Bertucci’s restaurant. As the host led us to our table, I noticed a dime on the floor. (Does NO ONE clean anymore?)

I tapped my son and pointed down to the dime. He looked at me, then picked it up.

We returned to our place behind our group, marching to our table, but he veered off. I figured that he had gone to the bathroom and would be back.

When he returned, I asked, “What was up?”

“I went to give them the dime,” he said. After a pause, he added, “It wasn’t mine.”

Again, no one step can predict the end of the journey, but that one sure felt fine.

Wherever you are in your journey, I hope you are feeling fine, or are on your way there.

Love and blessings,

Outside the restaurant:

Lexington Center in the snowstorm - recycling

Our heart connections

Not surprisingly, I think a lot about death. I think about the experiences of my friends who have passed. I think about my own eventual death. I think about death as a concept and as a reality. I think about it from a physical perspective and from a spiritual perspective. I think about it from a distance and up close.

I am curious about what might exist after death. I’ve read the books written by Anita Moorjani and Eben Alexander. I’ve read the book Heaven is for Real and saw the movie. Like many people, I’ve had funky experiences where I can feel someone around me, then later learn that they died during that timeframe. I’m convinced they came to let me know of their passing. I’ve had random, unpredictable events occur, related to someone who has died.

Given this train of thought and my experiences, you would not be surprised to know that I believe in mediumship. Mediums vary, both in how they connect with those who have passed as well as in their ability to work with you, but I’ve found a few who I adore.

My favorites combine warmth and humor to convey their messages. I have a blast working one-on-one with Monica the Medium (based in Pennsylvania and Northern Virginia), where she delivers personal and spot-on messages from those I love.

Two New England mediums I’ve seen, not one-on-one but in large auditorium settings, include John Holland and Maureen Hancock.

Working with a crowd of hundreds, John Holland was entertaining and captivating. So when I saw him scheduled for a smaller venue of about 60 people, I scooped up two tickets.

Then something came up (a memorial service – more death, ironically. It happens.) and I couldn’t make the event. Though I know many people who could use the tickets, I kept having this feeling that I should give them to my friend Marinda.

Marinda is a graduate student in therapeutic dance and in her early thirties. When she was two years old, her father died after his car was hit by a drunk driver. She and her mother became a tight team and best of friends.

Then almost two years ago, Marinda’s mother, Cheryl, died suddenly, thrusting Marinda into complicated emotions as well as an opportunity to help a woman by approving a face transplant from her mother. Cheryl’s story and Marinda’s unselfish, loving actions were the topic of many news shows and newspaper articles (including this NYTimes article). Marinda built these tributes to her mother for more than a year while she was also grieving and going to graduate school.

As I kept hearing that I should give these tickets to Marinda, I tried to convince myself it wouldn’t make sense. She could finally focus on her schoolwork and would be busy with finals and end-of-term projects. She wouldn’t want to drive an hour to attend a funky event where she may not even get called on. She might not find a friend to go along and she might not want to go alone.

But the voice was persistent, so I tentatively contacted her. She immediately said yes AND that she had a friend who could join her! I was thrilled that the tickets would be used and hoped that she would have fun. Maybe her mother would even come through for her. The voice gave approving silence and I went on my way.

Marinda and her friend checked into the event as me (meaning, no one there knew her name or could do prior research on her), and later that night, Marinda called me: Out of the approximately sixty people in the room, only about eight were called on. John called on Marinda right away and her father came through. Here are some excerpts, in Marinda’s words (and shared with Marinda’s permission and blessing):

He asked if I had a brother. I do, but not many people know this. My dad got a girl pregnant when he was 16 and then was forced to go to a boarding school. I have yet to seek him out and not many friends know this about me. “He wants to acknowledge his son.”

Then, he says “John and Mary”. Who are they? They are my mother’s parents who passed on when I was 10 and 16. I was extremely close to them. He didn’t fish for those names, he just said it.

Marinda – you are an artist. You are on stage and you are a good dancer. “New York, California”. I spent a very short time with my father on earth and taking me to NYC for my first birthday was his idea. When I was 6 months old we road tripped across the country to California. There are many beautiful pictures of this trip.

“Mom passed, and you weren’t expecting it. There are questions about her passing. Feels like she took the wrong medicine and it affected her body. Your mom didn’t act like a mom but more so a big sister/friend.”

He went on to describe how my father has been with me and has watched me graduate from college. “You did well in school.” “Take your parents love,” he said. I took it and feel lighter and loved like I’ve never felt before.

And right when I thought he was done, he said “Tommy, Tommy, who is Tommy?” That is my father’s name. With a smile he said, “Dad sees it all.”

Those tickets were never meant for me. I felt honored to be a pawn who was moved to enable all this to unfold, and I thanked God that I actually listened! I marveled at the workings in our life beyond my intellectual understanding.

About one week later, I read a Facebook post from Debbie Whitmore’s sister. Debbie was a fellow cancer patient and friend who passed away in November. Debbie’s sister had gone to see Maureen Hancock and the first spirit to come through was Debbie! She, too, shared messages that were clearly personal and gave her family peace. (This is also shared with her sister’s permission.)

I love that Marinda now has a relationship with her father and that Debbie’s sister got a few more minutes with Debbie. I miss Debbie as well, so it made me feel better too.

I love how we can all stay connected. Maybe our heart ties remain strong enough to keep us linked to those we love. Maybe our souls stay around and heaven really is here on earth. Though it doesn’t replace the physical presence of those I love, I have experienced some powerful and fun connections. It gives me hope that my family and friends are okay.

I am reminded to listen to the voices that guide me, and to trust that our heart connections live on. I continue to marvel at the workings of our hearts and in our lives, at the things that we cannot see but can strongly feel.