Thursday, January 26, 2012

Our Fragility

As we age, I am finding that I have a heightened awareness of our fragility.  We didn’t think about this when we were younger.  Life was navigated casually, and we took our health for granted.  It was impossible to imagine that something really bad could happen to alter our existence.  So, we burned the candle at both ends, got behind the wheel under the influence, and worked so hard that we sometimes made ourselves sick with the effort.  We just knew that we could cheat Fate.

Now that we have passed the mark of 50 years on earth, I look at things a lot differently.  There are more years behind us than in front, and I appreciate life as a gift. We’ve experienced more, and we’ve felt the rancid breath of the grim reaper get a little too close for comfort on one or more occasions.  There’s a different perspective that comes with age.

You see, any of us is a moment away from debilitating misfortune.  I don’t live life dreading it, but I know it’s true.  It could be the illness that confines you to bed, the terrible car accident that severs a family, the numbness in an arm that signals a stroke, or a diagnosis of cancer.  These mini tragedies occur around us every day, and mark us all in one way or another.  At best, they bring us together to share our strength, fear, and hope.

We try to take care of ourselves by eating correctly, working out, getting enough sleep, and enhancing our nutrition with vitamins and supplements.  Wellness visits to the doctor and dentist are part of our routines.  Now we know that a reduction of stress in our lives and active social connections with friends are part of a healthy lifestyle.  There is so much we can do.

Embrace every day with gratitude, and take care of yourself and your loved ones.  

Thursday, January 19, 2012

The Weird Science of "Stuff"

Newton developed Three Laws of Motion.  George Carlin had a comedic routine about “Stuff”.  Somehow the two of them missed what seems to be a corollary about the science of stuff.  Here it is:  “The stuff you accumulate grows in direct proportion to the amount of space you have in which to house it.” 

Here’s the problem with that fact.  We have two homes, and are preparing to downsize to one.  We will soon be faced with figuring out how to deal with 4,000 square feet of stuff in 2,000 square feet. Obviously, the only way to do this is to get rid of a bunch of stuff.  We did this in 2008 when we moved from our large home in Memphis to the smaller condo in Chicago.  It was brutal.  We gave things away, we sold stuff, and we threw away mountains of crapola.  One would think we would have learned some sort of lesson.  Yet here we are, about to embark on the same journey of angst over stuff.

Accumulation happens innocently enough as a result of living in two homes.  You want to make a meatloaf, and have no meatloaf pan.  You start playing golf but have no clothes appropriate for the course dress code.  Furniture from Chicago can’t be moved to Prescott while we are spending months at a time in both places.  So now we have “enough” to be comfortable in each home – which means we have too much.

We know how to do this.  Furniture not destined for Prescott will be sold or given away.  Old paperwork will be shredded.  Clothes that don’t fit or haven’t been worn lately will be bagged and taken to the Salvation Army.  But which dishes and glasses will we keep?  What chains of bondage to sentimental items will we have the strength to break?  How completely can we embrace the next chapter of our lives without being hampered by moving too much stuff?

It’s painful to dismantle a comfortable home built over the years.  But I believe the more we look ahead rather than behind, the happier we can be with our lives.  I want people and love around me.  The “stuff” I can leave behind.

Anybody need a meatloaf pan?

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Meeting my Surgeon - Chapter 2 of My Cancer Story

This post is the 2nd in a series describing my journey with Colon Cancer.  If you haven’t read the first installment, click HERE.

My colon cancer has just been diagnosed by a Gastroenterologist, via a colonoscopy.  It’s December 26, 2001.  Ron and I are on the way to St Francis Hospital in Memphis to meet my surgeon, Dr. W. Scott King, Jr.  He has been highly recommended by my Gynecologist, Dr. Thayer.

Word on my condition is out, apparently, because we have no wait at the doctor’s office before being escorted into a private room to meet Dr. King.  I am quivering with fear and sick to my stomach.  I’m hanging onto Ron like a floatation device.  Then Dr. King sweeps into the room.
W. Scott King, MD

He's a bundle of focused energy, and exudes confidence. Tall and lanky, his longish, grey hair is tied back in a small ponytail.  He makes us think of a retired fighter pilot – cocky and self-assured, but in a personable way that immediately inspires confidence.  Dr. King tells us what he knows from the colonoscopy.  Surgery will be required before we can know more – including my prognosis.

Out comes “The Colon Book”, a color pamphlet with information patients can understand.  Using the booklet, Dr. King draws in the location of my cancerous tumor.  It’s in the sigmoid (lower) colon, where waste is stored and pushed down to the rectum.  There is some good news.  The tumor is not in the rectum, which would make surgery and recovery much more complicated.  I will not have to live life after surgery with a colostomy bag.  Further, it will be possible to have my planned hysterectomy and colon resection during the same surgery, while they have my abdomen open.  Two surgeries; one recovery.  Dr. Thayer will do the full hysterectomy, and Dr. King will do the colectomy (colon resection) – removing about a foot of colon, along with the tumor.  I am assured that we all have way more colon than we really need, so I’ll never miss what he takes out.
Dr. King has provided a plan, comfort that we are in the right hands and, most importantly, HOPE.  We won’t know whether the cancer has spread outside the colon until pathology is done on the removed colon and surrounding tissue, but we know we need to cut the bad stuff out.  Now I’m anxious to move ahead.
Surgery is scheduled for January 7, 2002.  I’ll be in the hospital for about a week, and will have to take two months off work for recovery.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

"We Are So Spoiled!"

The "Golden Time" of day at Talking Rock.
There are moments when we feel so grateful for where and how we live that all we can say is, “We are so spoiled”.  I hear this same statement fairly often, blurted from my own mouth and uttered spontaneously by friends.  What is it about life here at Talking Rock Ranch in Prescott, Arizona that makes us feel this way?

As I’m having my coffee this morning, I’m watching the sunrise turn the mountains pink.  Late this afternoon, we’ll see the late afternoon light bathe everything in a golden glow.  The deep green of junipers pops against the backdrop of rosy granite rocks and grassy vegetation.  Distant peaks look blue and purple.  Sunsets paint the canvas of the sky with fiery shades of orange and crimson.  We can’t help being entranced by the constantly-changing display of color and form.

Step outside at night and you will see the Milky Way in the midst of a black cloak sparking with billions of stars.  Meteor showers provide special delights.  Daytime skies are often an uninterrupted, intense blue.  The air is clear and fresh, and scented with juniper and sage.  Desert rain coaxes a sweet, flowery scent from the chaparral. 

We happily share this environment with animal friends.  Coyotes yip and howl when they hunt at night.  Cottontails and jackrabbits flash through the brush and hop across the patios behind our homes.   Javelina appear primeval and comical at the same time.  Bobcats are abundant (watch out, bunnies!).  Deer take shortcuts across the golf course.  Dainty hummingbirds buzz happily among the desert flora.

There’s no question that we are spoiled by the beautiful facilities and wonderful staff of Talking Rock Ranch.  I worked in the hotel industry for 30 years, and this club rivals top resorts across the country - and we live here!  Our golf course is pristine, and the club house has one of the best chefs in Prescott.  The Barn fitness center is large and well-equipped, and the locker rooms clean and luxurious.  You can get your coffee fix at Coops, not to mention a stronger beverage, a sandwich, soup, a newspaper, or other everyday items. 

I maintain that it’s the people here that make us feel truly fortunate and spoiled.  The club staff knows us all by name.  Linda knows how you like your coffee.  Ryan keeps tabs on your wine preferences.  Jayce recalls that your favorite cocktail changes with the seasons.  You may get a hug from your server when you arrive for dinner at Morgan’s.  Chef Richard prepares custom meals for special events.  Matt readies your golf cart for a round, and provides valet parking services for the restaurant.  Brian gives great golf tips and lessons.  Members here are spoiled in the best possible ways.   

Lastly, we have wonderful neighbors who are becoming lifetime friends.  We share many interests, much laughter, and even our sorrows.  Doors are opened wide to fun and fellowship.  Together, we share the joy of having found not only a home, but a community.  There is so much to celebrate!

Maybe we’ll change Talking Rock’s tag line.  Instead of “There’s a Certain Spirit Here”, it should be “We Are So Spoiled”.  Both statements express the truth.