So I take you back again to February 2017. Within a week of my cancer diagnosis, next steps are set and initial appointments are arranged. Debra had done all the hard work, making many phone calls necessary to get the appointments we wanted. And so, I could focus my attention on the beautiful scenery of the Antarctic Peninsula and enjoy the continuous marine wildlife sightings.
We made two different landings each day, one in the morning and one in the afternoon. Inflatable Zodiacs served as our water taxis from our ship to the shore. At every site we visited, thousands of penguins greeted us – actually, the penguins pretty much ignored us, going about their business in spite of our intrusion into their rookeries. There were a few, however, who were very curious and, when we stayed very still, came close to explore our clothing, cameras and backpacks. My daughter Krista was in heaven, as the Penguin is her favorite wild animal.
I found myself fully immersed in the trip and totally distracted from the cancer and what lay ahead for me. As I have said in earlier blogs, a cancer diagnosis doesn’t and shouldn’t stop you from living in the moment. So, if you, a friend or loved one face such a diagnosis, try not to let it consume or define you or them. Here is an excerpt from my journal entry on February 22, 2017:
“Today is the only day I have. What I do today is all that matters. I choose to feel at peace. I choose to be optimistic. I would rather have 100 days of bliss than 10,000 days of being negative or suffering emotionally.”
I’d love to write more about the wonders of Antarctica and our incredible experience there, but I feel I must move on to the next part of the journey. Before I do, let me share some a couple more excerpts from my journal. These entries were made high over Argentina on February 26, 2017, as we started the long trip back to the US.
“It was interesting and inspirational to meet couples in their 70s and 80s enjoying travel and adventure together. It would be great for Deb and I to be the ones being the inspiration to others some day.”
“The guests spoke little of their careers, professions or businesses. From all walks of life, they were aligned around the adventure and the experience. “
But on the same page, it was clear that I was thinking again about what would begin soon after I arrived home.
“I have not journaled for several days, though I have been faithful with the 5 minute journal. Today I awoke with a peaceful easy feeling, at ease with regard to the medical battle that lies ahead. My diet, my exercise, my meditation, my attitude … they are all in the mix. Yesterday I could sense my voice trying to come back. And so I have raised my expectations … or should I say my goals … to achieve complete recovery of function. I will talk again, and I will sing again. Why not go for it all? I am ready.”
We arrived back in the US on February 27. Debra picked us up at JFK, but we had to drop Krista at another terminal so she could catch a connecting flight back to Chicago. We enjoyed only a few minutes with all three of us together. We hugged and set Krista on her way, as she needed to be at work the next day. She was back to her career as management consultant, kind of following in Dad’s footsteps but charting her own path along the way. And I would be heading to the beginning of seemingly endless time spent at hospitals, medical centers and doctors’ offices.
Debra and I were excited to be back together. She had told me that, for her, my global travels were always a source of pride, excitement and worry. This trip took that combination to a whole new level, with a lot more worry than most of my business trips…which, of course, were always to inhabited continents. There was so much to discuss on the ride back home. Our discussion mostly went back and forth between the trip and her research and exploits getting appointments arranged. I must admit, I felt like I had returned from another planet. And I also felt a mega dose of reality falling on my shoulders.
Debra and I both realized that, the very next day, we would know a lot more about my cancer. Even though I still had a positive attitude, the “what-if?” questions were once again top of mind. I would have a PET Scan that would show whether I had a little cancer or a lot, whether the cancer was just around my voice box or all through my body. The uncertainty at that point, just ahead of getting the PET scan, was a bit unsettling.
I was so very glad that my PET scan would happen within 24 hours of my arrival back in the US. I would not have wanted to have a long time between arrival back home and the scan. Without the distractions of Antarctica or international travel, I knew I would have to work harder and stay focused to maintain my peace of mind. Funny, in the early morning on February 27, when Krista and I were flying from Buenos Aires to New York, I included the following affirmation in my 5 Minute Journal:
“I embrace uncertainty. I embrace the X factor.”
It was harder to live this affirmation later that same day. Indeed, I don’t remember much about the afternoon or evening of February 27. I tried to reconnect with my son, Cameron, who typically gives me the brush-off when I first return from multiple days away. I do remember talking with my son, Connor, who lives and works in western Colorado. I knew he was worried about me and afraid for the future. I wanted to assure him that I would be fine. I know I shared with him the most positive words one could say at such a time. But I am not sure that words alone could limit his worry or fear. It was a very emotional time. I think I busied myself with unpacking and reorganizing after such a long trip.
I awoke early on the day of that first PET Scan. It was February 28, 2017, 15 days after the initial diagnosis. I mediated that morning using the CALM app on my phone. It was my 86thconsecutive day without missing a session. I also made entries in my 5 Minute Journal (which I keep in my Evernote app). I’ll end this blog post with excerpts from the entry I made that morning:
What am I grateful for?
I am very grateful that I live in an age, day and place where I have access to the best available medical knowledge and technology.
What will make today great?
Completion of scan without stress or issues.
I do everything necessary to beat the cancer
The power of intention is a force in the universe, and I intend to achieve 100% healing
I am strong and I am a source of strength for people who know me