10/22 – The War of Attrition

“Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” Pema Chodron #favoritequote

 This quote was put up on twitter by our old neighbor, Julie Burton (@unscriptedmom) and it instantly hit me.  On November 1st it will be 11 months since I was diagnosed with Cancer.  When you first hear the words from your doctor all the usual thoughts cross through your mind.  How long do I have? is the most common – and for me I was thinking in terms of months not years.  After you process the words and emotions you come up with a plan.  And as you execute your plan you begin to think of all the ways to maximize the rest of your life.  

I wrote a blog early on about the little things.  All of life’s moments that I appreciate that much more than I used to.  Whether it is sleeping next to Helene, wishing someone a Merry Christmas or hanging out with my family and friends.  I appreciate every opportunity I get to be normal – to be regular.  

Over the last 11 months Cancer has become a part of my life.  I wake up – go to the gym (hopefully) – go to work – come home – get treatments twice per week – and (hopefully) fulfill my duties as a husband, father and friend.  Cancer is just another part of me.  I mentioned that there are many ways to fight Cancer.  One is through modern medicine and chemotherapy.  Another is through Eastern medicine – acupuncture and herbs.  The last is through attrition.  I will outlast Cancer if I have to.  

But part of outlasting Cancer means always learning, always striving, always improving.  Becoming a better person every single day.  That’s what this quote means to me.  You see – upon diagnosis I was a novelty.  I went to Mt. Sinai for treatment every Friday and Saturday and I had a posse.  A group of friends who would come and sit with me, hang out, have lunch whatever.  Eleven months in and I go alone.  Life goes on – for me – for everyone.  I don’t mind being alone actually.  It gives me time to think – to reflect – to work.  As I said, I have a private room.  I pull my lap top up and work.  Outside of the Cancer part its really a nice day.

But as my old neighbor Julie says – “Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.”

What is this experience trying to teach me?  What can I learn and apply – and EXECUTE – to better myself and others around me so that I can send this Cancer away?  That is my new search.

As Cancer has become part of “regular me” I probably have dropped the ball on that appreciation of the little things.  The routine of work, family, fitness has set me back in that quest to be a better man.  Just as the novelty of my Cancer has worn off, the routine of my regular day has gotten me off track on this quest.

Today I begin again.  The late Jim Valvano once said in a speech that you need to do three things every day – laugh, cry and spend some time in thought.  I can do this each day.  I can laugh.  I can cry.  And I can spend some time in thought each and every day.

I scheduled my stem cell transplant for January 6th, 2014 at Hackensack.  Each and every day until then my mission is to find out what Cancer is trying to teach me so that I can get rid of it once and for all.  I will win the war of attrition by learning.  I will win the war of attrition by being a better man every day.


2 responses to “10/22 – The War of Attrition

  1. When I was diagnosed two years ago, my funk quickly lifted when my wife said she and my two young sons needed a husband and father here and now and to fight, fight and fight. I remember those words each day. Thanks for your blog. Terry. Haddonfield. NJ

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