Thursday, June 30, 2011

Roger’s Cancer Journey – A Mixed Tape

Getting chemo, listening to tunes...
Music is a HUGE part of my life. I would argue (with passion) that music is the common language of the world. It can generate similar emotions between two individuals that speak different languages and come from polar-opposite cultures.

I used to think I would be awesome at creating soundtracks for movies given my mixed tape ability as a kid, but reality checked in when I needed a paycheck... I was feeling the mixed tape urge this week as a way of expressing my cancer journey by putting together a list of songs I relied on (heavily) to get me through chemo treatments, recovery periods, and in making sense of my new situation.

I am going to release one song an entry starting with a little background of what it meant to me and how it helped me through that part of the cancer journey. Feel free to comment if it draws any emotion out of you or relates to your life. We are all in this together after all...

Artist: The Alternate Routes (Link)
Song: Carry Me Home
Album: Lately

I ignored some pretty powerful emotions that come with a cancer diagnosis when I entered fight mode for treatment. It was near the end of my 8 months of chemo that I was sitting in the Chemo Den getting my bi-weekly chemo cocktail that I first connected with this song. My Dad was there with me, which was a change from my usual chaperon (Erica, my hot wife). Carry Me Home is the first song on the album and it just crushed me with the opening melody and verse:

Oh lately, the winds have been threatening
Things have been getting so hard to control
But your love is holding me close
Like a rope on a flagpole
It won't let me go, it won't let me go

I immediately thought of Erica, what we were going through, and how she was my rope… The next verse took it over the edge:

Well you can't stop some poison from spreading
Once it gets let in it knows where to go
But you saved me faster than a heartbeat
Wider then these arms reach
More then you know, more then you know

I did everything I could to not lose it in front of all the nurses, fellow patients, doctors, Dad, and supporters in the Chemo Den. We are all warriors and it’s not fair to the others in the room to detract from the positive energy of people fighting for their lives.

When I got home I played it for my wife and it was the first time I cried (hard, in her arms) about my reality. This song perfectly captures the emotions I had going into my fight and still strikes a raw nerve today.

It’s the theme to the opening scene of what would turn out to be a life changing film of my 2010...

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Static vs. Action Words

Welcome to Lift Living’s English class!

Grammar police officer Roger is back and encourages you to put your feet up on the desk for this week's lesson:

Static vs. Active Words

I was wrapping up an email the other day and used the word “hopefully,” a frequent favorite, as a plea for action by the receiving party. Only this time I finally realized I've been letting others dictate my future by passively giving them control of something I wanted to accomplish. I was just sitting idle waiting for them to "hopefully" influence my next step in a static state.

Active words help drive and motivate us towards achieving our goals. They take back the control from "hoping" something will happen to making it actually happen. Or at least getting the ball rolling where we can fail, adjust, fail, adjust until we ultimately meet our goal.

If you sit around and rely on hope for things to happen in your life you are going to be static for a long, long time. And by doing so you refuse the right to complain about your lack of progress.

  • Lesson #1 (see post Here) : "i before e AND WILL, except after c"

  • Lesson #2: Get rid of the static.

Class dismissed.

[Extra credit: For someone who spent their youth dreading English class, I am finding it a bit comical how I am finding ways to enjoy grammar all of the sudden. It's not so much that I am polishing up on sentence structure, but for whatever reason my mind is finding cool translations of lessons I am learning in the context of grammar. Maybe it's the chemo brain???]

Monday, June 13, 2011

Top 3 Lessons I Learned from Cancer

I recently read Jim Higley's book, Bobblehead Dad, which chronicles his journey through prostate cancer and the lessons he drew on from his youth. He'd been living the corporate life for 20 some odd years and his diagnosis forced him to take the summer off to heal from surgery. In his recovery summer he realized some deep truths about himself that nearly everyone can relate.

Jim's book got me thinking about lists... Not like the top 10 lists on Wayne's World or the ones we'd make into t-shirts in college, but a legit list of the top lessons I learned or carried into my cancer journey.

So, from public access Blogger on the couch in my basement...

The Top 3 Lessons From Roger's Cancer Journey

#3 Spend energy on healing, not score keeping
Over the course of my life I was conditioned to compare and keep track of my performance as it related to others. Was the gift I gave my friend "the best" one he got for his birthday? Did I beat the field in my golf tournaments? Did my bosses like me more than my coworkers?

My college roommate gave me a glimpse of this lesson while we all were adjusting to his new disability. Some acted how he thought they would, others, not so much. It wore on him for a bit, but he came to the conclusion that there was no right way to grieve and he would let people come to terms on their own and be there when they arrived.

I carried this lesson into my cancer journey and it allowed me to focus my energy on healing instead of keeping tally on who was bringing meals or sending mail. I appreciated everything equally.  (Full entry on this topic here: The Score Sheet)

#2 Present is a state-of-mind, not something you give your boss
I've mentioned in previous posts that one of the hardest parts of being diagnosed with cancer was that my life was on hold while I got treatment. I was forced to sit idle for 8 months while all my friends and coworkers continued to ascend the corporate mountain.

Funny thing happened... When I stopped thinking about where I wanted to be in a year, what meetings I had that week, or what my boss would think about me taking a day off shaving I was forced to get present in the moment and find what was truly important in my life.

If you are too busy living in the future, it's going to take you a long time to line up your priorities with your values. And chances are, it's gonna be too late.

#1 Live life as the True You
Before cancer, I built my life on the guidance of others including teachers, parents, siblings, peers, media, etc. The list goes on and on. I thought I was living a pretty sweet life in the eyes of everyone else, but you know what? There is only one set of eyes that look back at you from the mirror at the end of the day:


This final lesson is what sparked Lift Living. I want to translate the impact of receiving a cancer diagnosis into something the every day person can internalize and implement in their own lives so when they look into the mirror they can't help but smile.

Imagine a world where the term "Bucket List" has no meaning because we didn't spend our lives neglecting the things we wanted to do the most. It takes courage, acceptance, patience, and determination to live your True You, but if you are willing to put in the work you are on your way to a fuller life.

And that's a lesson worth living.

Monday, June 6, 2011

Hall Pass

Not sure what they have in schools nowadays, but when I was growing up and needed to navigate the hallways of my middle school while class was in session, I requested a hall pass. These little guys permitted you to roam freely in the halls without being chased down by teachers or administrators and sent to the Principal's office.

I was not one for rocking the boat, so the last thing I wanted was for Mom to receive a call from Dr. Wagner about how her son was caught out of English class stealing chocolate milk from the cafeteria coolers...

In short, hall passes were gold and allowed you to freely express your path through the hallways between point A and point B without fear of reprisal.

Three weeks ago my wife and I had a check up with my oncologist to go over the results of a follow up CT scan of my lungs. My previous scan had a few very small spots he wanted to monitor over a 6 week period. Turns out the spots had gone down on their own since my last scan, and therefor everything looked normal.

When we were wrapping up the appointment he said my next scans were set for the first week of August, to which I immediately thought: "Summer Hall Pass!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!"

Last summer was a struggle spent primarily indoors recovering from chemo or resting up for the next treatment.

This summer? Not so much...

Look out cafeteria coolers...

I am coming for your chocolate milk and taking it to the beach, pool, and golf course to share with all my friends.