September Check-in

Hello to whomever has continued to stick with me through this (less informed) aspect of my journey (roughly translated: thank you for continuing to read my blog, when I don’t post much).  I still have to go through the pictures from TumorPalooza so I can post a slide show and let you all see the fun and hilarity that was experienced by all who attended.  Soon (I hope).  Soon.

As for my health, well, that’s been an up and down roller coaster.  Two or three weeks before the Palooza, I started having both abdomen and back pain.  Nothing major, but enough that I wrote my oncologist about it and he moved up my scans because, “You never complain, so when you do, I take note.”  The oncologist put me on extended release morphine (one 15mg pill in the morning; and one 15mg pill in the evening.  I was supposed to take that and then use vicodin for break through pain.  Well, apparently, morphine and vicodin makes for a powerful cocktail as I was a bit “woozy” at work.  As my wife likes to point out, I feel asleep during a meeting with my branch chief (who was totally cool about it, but still…)

The long and short of it is, my wife drives me into work and I try to beg, borrow, or steal a ride home in the afternoon.  (Seriously, it means a lot to me that people were so willing to give me a ride.  Thanks Matt, Kevin, and Lynn.)  Eventually, I realized that I didn’t need the vicodin all that much and the morphine by itself doesn’t woozy me up as much, so I was about to drive myself into work again.  Unfortunately, I began to develop a tolerance to the morphine and I told my oncologist about it and his solution was to double up the morphine at night.  I did that for the first time last night and let’s just say that I woke up incredibly “woozy” this morning.  So it looks like my wife’ll be driving me again.

All this is well and good, but no one can seem to figure out WHY I am having this pain.  My oncologist sent me to a spine doc and he told me he didn’t think the pain was from the spine (he said it seemed more typical of cancer-related pain that is at a constant level, rather than spine related pain which typically changes over the course of a day).  I go back for another abdomen and pelvis (or abdomen and chest) MRI at the beginning of November to see what, if anything, has changed.

Meanwhile, not to appear like a slackard (after helping to take care of the karate school since Mr. Quinn passed away a couple of months ago, or my work with scouts, I have also taken up the cause to get the two counties that boarder where I live (Gwinnett and Dekalb) as well as the town in which I live (Lilburn) to pass a proclamation announcing that November is pancreatic cancer awareness month.  We’ll see what happens.  I am thinking about doing so for Atlanta, too.

So there you have it; the last couple of 6 weeks in a nutshell.  I will say that one benefit of not having much of an appetite is that I have lost about 15 lbs in the last several weeks.  It so much better when the weight is coming off.  :-)

More later.

Merle

F*%&ing Buses (Part 3)

I have been using the “bus” as a metaphor to indicate an event that has had a profound, yet negative effect on my life.  Getting a diagnosis of pancreatic cancer was a metaphorical bus hitting me.  My father passing away, another bus.  My friend getting a brain tumor, another bus.  But toward the end of July, I got hit by the mack-daddy of all metaphorical busses.

I have mentioned here multiple times that I train and teach at the American Karate Productions studio in Tucker, GA.  AKP-Tucker is not a huge dojo, but it has a loyal following that has become a second family for many students and it’s owner, Mr. Robert Quinn, was the patriarch of that family.  He was not only interested in teaching karate, Mr. Quinn knew that he was teaching important life skills to his students. 

One of the things I apprecaite most of all about Mr. Quinn is that he realized the importance of shaping the art to the student, rather than the student to the art.  We got involved with AKP when we were looking for a school for my eldest son who has Asperger’s Syndrome.  We knew it would take a special teacher who was willing to adjust his expectations to my son’s level of ability.  I am a 3rd degree black belt and I know there are students who can kick heigher or faster and likely stronger than I can, but Mr. Quinn also knows that given my size and build I might never be able to kick above my head.  He did not hold that against me.   I know other parents have come to AKP for exactly for the same reason, because they knew Mr. Quinn would treat them fairly and work with their son or daughter compassionately.

In addition to teaching karate, Mr. Quinn conducted several outreach programs at many of the local schools on how to be safe; he provided seminars on how women can protect themselves.  He was intereconnected with many of the businesses in the area.  Mr. Quinn had a dramatic impact on people far and wide (just do a search for “Bob Quinn” on the website “Martial Talk” and you will find story after story recounting how Mr. Quinn affected the poster’s life.

While Mr. Quinn had some medical issues that were manageable with medication, he managed to be generally active all day.  He gave his heart and soul to the school and on July 18th the school came to collect.  Earlier that morning, Mr. Quinn had passed out in his bedroom.  His family came to him and were able to revive him when he indicated he was having trouble breathing.  The EMS were called and they were unable to improve his condition and he was transported to Emory University Hospital.  Mr Quinn’s treatment began in the ER and then moved into the ICU.  During this time, he flat lined several times; the staff performed CPR repeatedly over a 3 hour period and had to use the paddles to shock his heart back into a sinus rhythm on multiple occasions.  Around 5p, the doctors discontinued treatment (presumably because further treatment would do more harm than good) and he died about 30 minutes later from complications associated with a pulminary embolism which damaged his lungs and heart and  probable brain damage.

As an observer of interpersonal interactions (I am a social psychologist, after all), I recognized Mr. Quinn playing the role of part instructor, part mentor, part disciplinarian, and part role model.  Interestingly, I think he spent more time in roles other than that of instructor.  For me, Mr. Quinn was my friend, my mentor, and a role model.  He met me almost every day that I saw him with a smile and a good word and he had the excellent ability of finding the good in every person and situation.  As I dealt with my pancreatic cancer, Mr. Quinn was there to support my family and me and lift my spirits.  More and more frequently, I would turn to Mr. Quinn for advice about some issue or the other and I sought his approval often.  In many ways, Mr. Quinn became the father figure I wish I had had.

When my father Dad, I remarked how disappointed that my relation with my father was not as strong as his relation with my brother (Sid) and my sister (Marjorie) seemed to have.  I said that Sid and Marjorie lost a daddy where I lost a father.  They cried because they had lost an important male figure from their life.  I cried because I didn’t have that kind of relation with my father. 

I understand now how my siblings must have felt as our father died.  This sense of a emptiness inside us that may eventually be filled, but for now just exists as a hole in who I am.  I cried when Mrs. Quinn asked me to tie on Mr. Quinn’s original black belt. I cried when I wasn’t being strong for everyone else.  I cried because my father figure had died. 

From the “Right time; Right place” files, the Saturday before he passed, I brought my camera with me to the school to get pictures of the students training (we had been working on updating the content on the School’s website.  I was able to capture the picture of Mr. Quinn to the right, which so perfectly captures his personality.  Indeed, this picture adorns the wall in the front of the training area (so he can continue to watch over his students) and Mrs. Quinn has decided to have my pictured etched onto Mr. Quinn’s headstone.

In the end, I go day by day, trying to pass along his teachings to the other school’s students.  For the time being, I am functioning as one of the leaders of the karate school staff, being a point of contact for questions about the school, family, and other issues.  I am sad that I have to fulfill this role, but I am honored that Mrs. Quinn thinks highly enough of me to entrust the running of the school to myself and a select few other students.

Mr. Quinn, I continue to feel your loss deeply and hope that I am making you proud of the job I am doing to help keep American Karate Productions together.  You are and always will be the OIC and ROTU.

Merle