First, let me thank everyone who has been concerned about my cancer issue and my recovery. Your notes, positive thoughts and prayers have been so much appreciated and they certainly contributed to me keeping a positive attitude through this “journey” and maintaining my sense of humor. This, in no small part, has contributed to my above-average recovery process.
I received a comment yesterday from one of you loyal blog readers asking where in the world I am and how am I doing. The reader said it's been 5 months since my last post. It's actually 4 1/2 months or 130 days. Add that to the 113 days at my last post and it totals 243 days or exactly 2/3 of a year since the “fireball” struck me on August 18, 2019.
So much has happened since that time. I underwent chemotherapy and radiation. After a short recovery period, I underwent major surgery (only 10 hours in the operating room) on January 3, 2020. That was followed by a total of 12 more days in the hospital and then five weeks in a rehabilitation/skilled nursing facility. I got out of rehab on February 21, 2020, and, within just a couple of weeks the COVID 19 shelter-in-place, stores, gyms, etc. lock-down went into effect. I've been hunkered down at my friend's house in north-central WV in a small rural town. She has been fantastic. I've only been out of this area a few times since then mainly for follow-up doctor appointments.
By the way, the photo of me is very recent. My New Zealand buddy has made me an official “Goodwill Ambassador.” You'll also note I'm now wearing a U.S. Air Force veteran cap to share my pride as a veteran with my comrades. I have a pin to recognize prostate cancer survivors (of which I'm one). I also have my American flag pin and my Vietnam Era Veteran pin on the cap. Soon I'll be adding pins to recognize survivors of stomach and esophageal cancer as well.
My Current Condition
I am doing very well. My doctors are very pleased with my recovery. They were very pleased that I experienced none of the more common side and after-effects of the radiation and chemotherapy. I went through the surgery as smooth as anyone could wish. I've been so fortunate to have experienced no pain before, during nor after the intense and aggressive treatments I've been through. I was offered prescriptions for pain relievers, but I refused them and have had no need for them.
My road to full recovery is still a long one. I'm still dealing with the typical post-treatment issues of significant fatigue, low energy and physical weakness. I've lost about 40 pounds. I'm not upset by this weight loss because I was programming myself to lose at least 30 to 35 pounds before the fireball struck me. So, I'm right in my target weight zone. But, I must admit, I hadn't planned the weight loss this way.
I had stomach/esophageal cancer. It was Stage 3. Typically, it doesn't present until it's already Stage 4. There have been indications that my survival, during that week in August when I was taken down, was in question. However, I've come a long way, Baby, since then. Since I lost half of my stomach and about 3/4 of my esophagus and my stomach is now pretty much in my chest, I've had to and continue to relearn to consume food and liquids with my new anatomy. The good thing is that I can eat just about anything. The negative is that, due to the surgery, I no longer have any sense of hunger or when I'm full. So, I have to be very cognizant to be sure I eat and drink enough, but don't overeat or it can come back up. It's not a pretty picture and, so far, I haven't experienced that situation.
A New Lease on Life . . .
The past 8 months have been an amazing journey. I have had the opportunity to face a potentially life or death situation. I have shared time with many other people who have been going through some very aggressive and radical treatments. Many, if not most of them, were not fortunate enough to weather it as well as I was able to. I always kept my attitude positive and maintained my sense of humor. I did my best to make the staff of doctors, nurses, aides, technicians and other patients feel a little better. I felt a personal need to be inspiring and encouraging.
I have had a lot of time to contemplate and meditate. Indeed! I have spent a lot of time on my back either sleeping or asking the Big Questions about life and why I have been allowed to survive and hang around for a while longer. I have never stopped telling people, including all the people I mentioned in the last paragraph, that I'm on my 45-year plan and that I have people to see and meet, things to do and places to go. So, let's get with the program and move forward. They did. And those words never failed to elicit a smile and even a chuckle or two.
My downtime allowed me to evaluate my past life. Yes! Like just about everyone, there were some really crappy times and things that happened. But, there were lessons from all of those events. I chose not to focus or dwell on the negative aspects of my life. Instead, I realized just how great and exciting my life has been. Of course, there are many others who have had more exciting, productive and successful lives. I admire them. I do not envy them nor am I jealous. I never sought great fame or financial fortune. I realized my life was rich in experiences and memories. I have wonderful friendships and relationships. I've seen amazing places and will see more of them in the future.
I have been contemplating what I want to do with this future, this new lease on life I've been given. I've had a wonderful career in my chosen professions as an audio recording engineer/producer, a video producer and a book publisher. There have been many offshoots that have also given me a lot of fulfillment including professional audio systems sales, design and integration, high-speed tape duplication (remember tape and cassettes?), professional video equipment brokering, voice-over work and professional speaking. My last 11 years that I spent traveling as a vandweller and “professional nomad” have been amazing. I've also become a writer as you have realized through reading this blog.
What's next? That's the latest Big Question. I keep running ideas by some of my closest confidants. I listen to their reactions. They pose questions about how much time will these ventures consume. Will they usurp the “freedom” I've been experiencing for the past 11 1/2 years? Will they turn into another 40 to 60 hour a week job like I've created for myself many times over during my entrepreneurial career? Will they generate enough financial return to be worth the time I'll invest? What kind of fulfillment am I seeking? Am I going back into the rut (albeit, my self-chosen entrepreneurial rut, if you will) simply because I don't know how to do anything other than be a workaholic in businesses I create?
These are powerful questions. I've been wrestling with them. Like so many people, but most especially entrepreneurial people and people drawn by adventure and adrenaline rush in its many forms, I want to do it all. After all, I am on a 45-year plan, there is still plenty of time to accomplish everything. But, is there really? One of the great things about this precious gift of life we have is that there are so many opportunities. One of the negative things about this precious gift of life we have is that there are so many opportunities. And, the biggest negative of our life is that no matter how long we are blessed to live, it's NEVER long enough.
We can't do it all!
Life is all about choices. We start learning about choices and making them as very young children. The longer we live and the older we become, the more choices we have to make. Many people reach some arbitrary age and simply “hang it up” and just sit back, watch old reruns of “I Love Lucy” and “M.A.S.H.” and re-watch all the James Bond and Star Wars movies. There's nothing wrong with that choice if it is how you want to spend your time and will be fulfilled at the end of each day. For people like me, that doesn't cut it.
Yesterday I had a long video chat with my “brother from another mother,” Brian Morris, who lives in Picton, New Zealand. We've been friends and coaches of each other for about 30+ years even though we live on opposite sides of the world. I asked Brian if he'd be my “accountability partner.” In exchange, I'll be his “accountability partner.” What this means is that we will each monitor each other's goals, objectives, progress and hold each other accountable to fulfill them. This is one of the reasons I'm composing this blog post today. Brian wanted me to do it last night, but as the night rolled in, it turned out to be one of those nights where I just wasn't feeling well. I have those times periodically. So, I set the plan to compose this today.
My plan is to get back in the habit of writing every day. It may be a blog post. It may be some inspirational emails or posts I put on Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn, Twitter, etc. It may be a chapter for a book (of several) I'm, finally, going to start writing. It may actually be an entire book. Most of the books will be designed to be ebooks. However, some may find their way into paper and ink books and some may also become audiobooks. Whatever I'm working on, I need to be writing every day and Brian is going to hold me accountable. Self-discipline has always been one of my weak traits. I need to work on it so I can create a positive body of work.
I still have a very nice complement of professional audio and video equipment. I need to determine how I'm going to use that equipment and even IF I'm going to use it. I have several projects I want to use the equipment for in producing some products I feel will be inspirational and encouraging for others. But, do I have the time? Big Questions that need to be addressed.
Here is what I MUST do. I must write and/or produce materials that will inspire and encourage you and so many others like you around the world to find their own purpose, freedom and happiness in life. If you haven't already figured it out, mine is to “live free and be happy.” I'd wish that for you, too. But, that's a choice you must make for yourself. I know that I want to dedicate the rest of my productive life (as many of the 45 years in my plan as I can) to producing a body of work that will inspire and encourage as many people as possible. I've never aspired to become a bestselling author. Maybe I need to rethink that. Perhaps, I need to target becoming a bestselling author to inspire and encourage as many other people as possible.
That's about it for today. I am making a commitment to myself and you to produce at least one blog article each week that will inspire and encourage you. Please let me know when I hit the target and when I've missed it. Comment below. Send me an email. Message me on Facebook (if we are already friends or send me a friend request if we're not). Join the Living Free Project Facebook group that I'm planning to reactivate as an interactive site. More to come. But, most of all . . .
Be Safe and Live Free and Be Happy. EH