Tag Archives: positive attitude and cancer

Wish upon a star

The night before last I wakened in the wee, wee hours and couldn’t fall back to sleep. I lay there thinking about all the things I wanted to do and how long it might take to accomplish them all. I thought to myself “I need another thirty years”. As I was thinking this I turned my head to look out the tall windows adjacent to my bed and at that moment a shooting star streaked across the night sky.

Boom—as my kids might say. There and then I decided it was an affirmation. In the past decade I have sometimes measured my life span in months. At my most optimistic I plan perhaps two years out; in the absence of an effective therapy and at the rate my cancer seems to grow, that might be a reasonable projection.

Denial has never been my style. And yet…I am also a bit of a dreamer and I believe in the power of a positive attitude. To wit—when first diagnosed with lung cancer I understood only too well the odds that I faced with an overall five year survival statistic of 16%. When you are stage IV, as I am, that statistic drops to a dismal 4%. I have helped myself deal with this reality by picturing a bell curve—in my mind’s eye I am waaaaay out on the end.

In reality I have achieved outlier status; living well beyond my ‘expiration date’. However, due to the pernicious nature of my disease I am unable to relax. As I once said to a friend whose cancer had taken a turn for the worse, sometimes the thing that’s trying to kill you just keeps on trying.

Two nights ago a shooting star gave me the courage (abandon?) to allow myself to believe that I could live another thirty years. I mean, what’s the harm? Suddenly my future stretched before me like a Texas highway—almost endless.

It’s a view that I could look at, well…forever.

Hello new year!

Although 2012 had its beautiful moments, I am not sad to see it go. Time for a new year with fresh possibilities.

I’ve got some major catching up to do and plan to embark on some serious blogging in the days to come; maybe even a few twofers. But not before I start the year on a positive and hopeful note.

I urge each of you to go see Ang Lee’s new film Life of Pi. A fable like adventure story, which hews very closely to the novel by Yann Martel (winner of the Man Booker Prize), it features a scrappy young survivor named Pi and his antagonist/co-protagonist, a bengal tiger. The movie is lush and gorgeous, packed with magic realism. And don’t miss the chance to see it on the big screen, as everything about this film is larger than life.

It was snowing when we left the theatre after seeing Life of Pi, the streets icy and deserted. We stopped in a tiny chinese restaurant. At the conclusion of our meal we cracked open the fortune cookies and mine read:  “The only way to catch tiger cubs is to to go into the tiger’s den.

I’ve never before encountered a fortune cookie that mentioned tigers, and given the movie we’d just seen, it seemed strangely apt. And it certainly seemed that I’d somehow wondered into the tiger’s den. However, I do question the motivation behind catching a tiger cub–sounds a little nefarious.

Anyway, I never tire of scrappy tales of adventure and survival and Life of Pi was one of three films I saw (and enjoyed) in 2012 that fit this sub genre. The first of the other two was The Hunger Games, which introduced a complicated character named Katniss Everdeen. Inspired by a trio of young adult novels by Suzanne Collins (I loved the books), The Hunger Games is dark, violent and dystopian. However, it is ultimately a story, however stark, about survival. I found inspiration there.

Finally, if you didn’t see Beasts of The Southern Wild, a small independent film, do. An enchanting tale full of whimsy but also pathos, the character of Hushpuppy will stay with you forever. At one point Hushpuppy declares “I am the man!” and you know that she too, is ultimately a survivor.

In 2013 I wish you all this: may we have the strength to deal with what lies ahead.

As you face your challenges, live fully and without hesitation. Embrace each day, not as if it is your last, but as if it were your first.

L1020715

Pathologically optimistic and unrelentingly positive

I was prepared to write yesterday, but faced with Haiti’s natural disaster, I found I couldn’t.  I am back at it today, with a somewhat curious title.  It is, in essence, my battle call; after the initial shock of bad news, I find it necessary to rally with a message of hope.

Last week I received phone calls from both my very caring head trial nurse and my oncologist.  They were checking in and following up with reassurance following my slightly concerning report from the most recent CT scan.  I assured them both that after a few days of anxiety, I was back on track with a can do attitude.  By definition I have a terminal illness, but it is counterbalanced by determined optimism.

It is virtually impossible for me to remain depressed for long.  I would imagine this is so for a combination of reasons.  To begin with, I am so in love with this world and view each new day as an adventure.  I much prefer happiness to sadness, and make my choices accordingly. Depression requires focus on one’s troubles, and I am quickly bored and easily distracted.  I have a home, adequate food, love and friendship.  And let’s not forget the prozac…

When it comes to attitude, I actually feel a bit of a kinship with our golden retriever Buddy.  Retrievers are prone to hip dysplasia, but Buddy came from a lineage with no appearance of the disorder.  That is, until Buddy.  He was only eight months old when an x-ray confirmed not just severe hip dysplasia on both sides, but two bad elbows as well.  Poor Buddy.  The breeder offered to ‘trade’ him for another dog, but that was unthinkable.  We considered surgery, but ultimately decided there was just too much to fix, as well as the fact that each surgery would involve long periods of confinement and discomfort.

Buddy is not yet three years old, but there are days when his movements are more like those of an old dog.  Undoubtedly, it will get much worse.  None of this has had any effect on Buddy’s joie de vivre.  He is happy, happy, happy and always up for anything.   Food!  Squirrel!  Walk!  Play!  Pet!   More wag, less bark, this one.

I’ve known some worried dogs, but not many.  And usually, even in the most miserable of situations, you can turn their mood around.  I believe they respond to life much as I do:  each day is an adventure, happy is good, all distractions are eagerly welcomed, as is food, shelter and love.  No prozac necessary.