Thanksgiving & Genuine Feelings of Gratitude

» Happy Thanksgiving. Gobble, gobble.

I went to Moores again yesterday. Normally I write about my experience ON THE DAY of the trip. Which is more difficult. More challenging.

I feel this approach takes the reader closer to the experience itself. Because I myself am closer to the experience.

Thanksgiving TurkeyBut waiting until today, being Thanksgiving, gives me the opportunity to share some observations about gratitude that I find interesting.

Plus it gives me 24 hours to reflect on the experience. Because there was a lot of information to absorb in a short time.

Yesterday was sort of an orientation or indoctrination for folks who are scheduled to receive radiation treatments.

A 1-hour class given by the lady WHO RUNS Moores. That would be » the Director. (With a capital 'D'.)

She could easily have pawned this off on someone else .. being the busy person that she obviously is.

But it speaks volumes (to a patient like me, anyway) when the head honcho herself welcomes you to her facility.

There is an unspoken subtext. Which goes something like this »

» "This is what we do here at Moores. Let me show you a little of what I mean .. because I realize it would be easy to overwhelm you with information at this point. But I want to give you a quick, general idea of the quality of care you can expect to receive while you are HERE WITH US at Moores. I think it will bring you a degree of comfort when you realize that .. nobody does cancer quite like we do. Ah! There I go again, bragging on my people. Shame on me. But it's hard not to brag on them. Let me briefly show you what I mean by that. Let me introduce my team to you. And if while I am introducing them to you and while I am outlining their (most remarkable) skill sets for you .. if you somehow get the impression that I am insanely proud of them .. well, uh .. that's because you're right. I am. Guilty as charged. But hear me out. There are reasons for this pride of mine. Many reasons, and all valid ones, too. For example ..."

Thanksgiving Turkey roastedTo be continued. Time to go eat some bird.

But wait 'til you hear about these radiation machines. Linear accelerators. "Wow." (Times ten.)

They cost a few million dollars each. The size of Volkswagen's. So cool.

» Techno Boner City

They spin around you as necessary. Truly awesome. Technologically speaking. I am so impressed that I can hardly stand it.

Dude, these machines are SO TECHNO COOL that .. even with cancer, I had a boner.

There is a part of me that does not identify with the cancer .. and part of the way in which I deal with it (with the cancer, I mean) .. is to identify and recognize any and every POSITIVE thing that I can find. (And yes, there are many .. if you look. Tho yes, it can be difficult, at times, to look beyond the cancer. Sure. This I will not deny.)

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••• today's entry continues here below •••

Now, I would never entertain such a deal .. but I would be lying if I said there werent a part of me that said » "Dude, I hate to say it but I'm actually kinda glad that you got cancer .. cuz look at all this cool shit that you are getting exposed to .. up-close-and-personal-like."

I'm back from Thanksgiving dinner. Wow, that was yummy. Super yummy. At a fancy, gourmet restaurant.

Streaming EspressoI followed up with an espresso at the end .. (with pineapple cheese cake and pumpkin tiramisu) ..

.. so I would have the 'umph' to finish this tonight.

Maybe the best cheese cake I've ever had. Not very sweet. Kinda fluffy for cheese cake.

As we were leaving the restaurant, I said to a quiet, elderly couple sitting at a table near us, who, it was clear were both nearing the end of their lives » "There might be bigger Thanksgiving tables than ours .. but few ate better than we did." They both agreed wholeheartedly.

» Thru the Treatment Door at Radiation Oncology

As a writer, I feel that one of the most ________ (« word?) [ most challenging? ] things you can do is to take the reader to worlds that they otherwise would never be able to experience.

And today I went beyond (into, through) the door where patients go who are receiving treatment. I have previously gone thru the other door (.. in the department of Radiation Oncology, is what I am referring to here).

I have previously gone thru the door where patients go who are being examined.

But I have never gone thru the door where the patients go who are receiving treatment. But I have seen others go thru that door, yes.

Two people sit at a desk / post / counter there at that door.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant | Hudson River, New YorkIt reminds me of a 'Control Point' at a nuclear power plant ..

.. where we would normally staff three people, so that two can be there at all times .. even when one is on break.

There is a key-card access at this door. Clearly, not just anybody can go thru that door.

Today I went thru that door .. for the first time .. with the lady who runs Moores. Yes, the Director. These things speak to you in a language that I would call 'sublingual'. Actions here speak louder than words.

I want to take you beyond this door. If you dare. Now, if you dare not, then that would be certainly understandable. This I would totally understand.

But .. there is cool stuff beyond this door. Let me share with you a little of what I mean. From a patient's perspective.

I would be lying if I said there were no similarities in feelings between walking down the long hallway beyond that door .. and the hallway that led to the Commodore's office.

But I'm sure you can intuit these similarites. [ For example, your 'career' seems to be hanging in the balance with each step. ] So then, the » differences .. are what I want to focus on.

Bamboo» The Peaceful, Tranquil Bamboo Garden

And these differences begin with » the bamboo garden.

This place where I have been going .. to the main Moores building .. broke ground in 2002.

A paragraph that describes this building says »

» "A tranquil, shaded bamboo garden in the courtyard will serve as an extended lobby, providing intimate spaces where people can meet and talk. On the second floor, the Mesa, an outdoor space for dining and interaction, will overlook the bamboo garden."

This bamboo garden lies to your right as you walk down the hall past "the door". Large panes of glass reveal the length of this garden.

The bamboo garden seems to TAKE YOU DEEP INTO the treatment area .. and you appreciate this .. let me tell you .. because it does indeed exude a feeling of peace and tranquillity and serenity.

When you go talk to the Commodore, you will not be seeing any bamboo gardens. (Trust me on that.)

While I was walking down the corrider and checking out the bamboo garden, I heard the Director tell one of the other patients » "We only close for two days a year » Thanksgiving and Christmas."

» Helping Grandma Feel Understood

During today's class, I sat beside a woman, who I learned was a grandma .. while two large flat-screens displayed the same images on the far wall during the director's presentation.

At the end of our introductory class, the Director came and sat down next to us. The grandma's husband sat on the other side of her. He said to the director (something like) » "She's so angry. Shouldnt she try to have a more positive attitude?"

He also said » "She thinks she's gonna die, because her friend had cancer and died."

Now, I dont know what kind of cancer this grandma had, but I could immediately see that this is something you never want to say to a person with cancer. So I asked gramps » "Is she angry at everybody or just you?"

"Just me," he said. [ Why was I not surprised? ]

» Sucking at Compassion

"When you have cancer," I said to clueless gramps (something like), "little things become big things. If, for example, you spill a cup of milk at the kitchen table. Normally, this is no big deal. You just grab a towel and wipe it up. But when you have cancer, it seems like an ordeal, because you have a malignant gorilla on your back that is literally trying to kill you. If you had cancer, you would know this. But you dont."

While the director was chatting with gramps, I turned to grandma and said in a quiet, intimate tone » "Some people are good at being there for you in your time of need .. in your dark-night-of-the-soul .. and some people are not. The idea of cancer can freak some people out. You need to find people who are good at being there for you .. who make you feel understood. Who make you feel heard. Who make you feel like they are there for you. Call it compassion. Call it empathy. Call it what you will. But clearly, your husband does not have it. Unfortunately for you."

After our little chat, grandma turned to gramps and, pointing back at me said » "This guy gets it." .. the tone in her voice toward gramps carrying more than a hint of disdain.

Long story short » the director walked out with grandma and took her to the main desk that I told you about earlier, and signed her up with social services for her to have a weekly session with a trained psychologist. (Just like I did myself on the phone this past Monday, three days ago.)

These people known how to "be there" for you. They make you feel heard. They make you feel understood. You cannot believe how much this helps when you are in our situation.

Why are some people not good at this? Why are some people not good at being there for you in your hour of need? I dont know.

But you would think that a spouse of many years (grandparents) would have figured this out by now. But obviously they havent. And probably never will.

At first, when I heard the insensitive things that gramps said about grandma, I thought » "No wonder she's got cancer .. dealing with heartless shit like that." It seemed like he only cared about himself.

Most people are outstanding at being there for you .. in your hour of need. At leat, most of the people who I know. But some clearly are not.

I think some people suffer such emotional trauma during their formative childhood years .. that the part of them that allows most people to feel empathy and compassion is broken. Or that it fails to develop properly.

Just like the way that some diseases, or a lack of nutrition, can cause certain people to develop abnormally, physically.

Do your own research and I think you'll find that I'm on the right track. Since they are unable to be with you in your world, they try to get you to be with them in theirs.

» My Twenty-Four Karat Cousin

I can see that this is the perfect place to tell you a little about my cousin Patty. (Her mom was one of my dad's 3 older sisters. My dad was her uncle. Her mom was my aunt.)

Because she is outstanding at BEING THERE for you .. with you .. in your dark place. In your hour of need. At hearing everything you say and letting you know that she hears you.

She is beyond outstanding, actually. Because the Dog is outstanding .. and she is beyond the Dog. She signals her recognition in countless wonderful ways.

Patty went TWICE to the Miss Connecticut pagent .. where she came in 5th and 3rd. So we came close to going to the Miss America pagent. Very close.

Like I said, when you have cancer, little things [ such as » the idea of getting all your teeth pulled out, or the threat of jail ] quickly become BIG THINGS.

And it is nice (sooo nice) to be able to call someone who can say » "That's not such a big thing as you might think it is and here is why." They speak soothing words of reason to calm your frantic anxiety.

She married a doctor, herself, and left the beauty pagents behind. (Three kids now.)

I have not seen very much of her since I left home at age 18. But, when I was small, I saw her every Sunday. We would go to my grandmother's after church. Patty lived right next door with her mom in the duplex there, where you could go from one side to the other via an enclosed porch.

Gram would spend the whole morning cooking all sorts of yummy ethnic foods that my dad liked to eat. When Patty walked into the kitchen, she was always wearing a big smile, which seemed to light up the whole room.

So bright and infectious was her personality that it seemed like 3 or 4 happy people walked into the kitchen with her .. whenever she came thru that back door.

She seems to always be in a good mood, always smiling, always happy, always upbeat, always something positive or funny to say. Never offended. When she walked into the room, all eyes were drawn to her.

Since her mom was so much older than my dad, who was the baby of six kids (Catholics, you know) she was probably 10 years older than me. So, when I was 6 or 7, she was 16 or 17.

You can probably see why she is somebody that everybody naturally wants to be around. (Especially guys.) Smart and pretty and educated and nice and kind and compassionate and talented (singing, acting, etc.). I could go on, but you catch my drift.

The Munsters[ If you have ever seen the Munsters, Patty reminds me of the pretty girl there (Marilyn).

Patty is a brunette, unlike Marilyn on the show.

And my dad's family were not exactly the Munsters ..

.. but they were more like the Munsters than my mom's side of the family.

Uh .. perhaps I should clarify. By associating dad's side of the family with the Munsters ..

.. I mean that » they reminded me more of the OLD WORLD. They had more of the old world still on them. The old country.

You could feel the 'village' on them. The old world culture .. and far more visable than they probably realized.

Sure, the old world culture can be a good thing. Nor do I mean to imply that they were ugly. Or scary. (Tho not all were beauty queens, let me tell you. Not hardy.)

Nevertheless, Patty still evoked that same contrast. Old world vs new world.

Perhaps because she seemed more 'American'. My dad was fluent in the old school language. But not mom. ]

» Genuine Heartfelt Gratitude

She is the reason why I wrote this entry today (on Thanksgiving day) and not yesterday, as I normally would.

When you read the title of this entry as » Thanksgiving & Genuine Feelings of Gratitude .. she is a part of the reason for those feelings. A significant part. A very significant part. A remarkably significant part.

A few days ago I left a message on her cell .. I called to tell her what the Clinical Trials girl had said when she called back. (Who had called me back at nearly 8PM .. with good news. The Clinical Trials girl .. that is another story, entirely.)

And I had earlier that day spent a whole hour on the phone with cousin Patty .. talking about many different things .. about stuff that was all over the place .. discussing one seeming urgency after another.

And in my message, later that night, after all seemed well again, I said » "I am actually kinda blown away at you. I am feeling very grateful for you right now. Yes, grateful .. that is the word to describe how I am feeling this evening."

I could feel it coming straight from the heart .. from a genuine place. No need for me to dig for appreciation, no. Rather, all I did was simply give voice to what was already there. In abundance.

From a place of » genuine gratitude. (Hence the title.)

.. not far from that place at the end of your road .. at night .. on a cold, dark, rainy night. That place you'd rather not go (.. if you had your druthers).

And the gratitude that you feel when you arrive there at the end of your road .. only to find someone waiting there for you. That's the gratitude that I'm talking about. That is no small gratitude, my friend.

When she says » "Call any time, I keep my phone by the bed," she says it like she means it. (So I do.) I think that was the only time I ever got her message box. In probably 25 or 30 calls of late.

When I got home from Moores yesterday, there was a box from her (a care package) waiting for me. Filled wth untold goodies and loads of "pirate booty".

For example, in there was an aromatherapy candle in a tin labeled "Be Peaceful." (Lavender & eucalyptus & cedar) I pull off the candle's lid at night and set it on the nightstand beside my bed and dream of peaceful things. (It smells so good that you neednt light it.)

These are little things that make a big difference when you have cancer. And this is not the first care package she has sent, either. No. sir.

Speaking of the other package .. remind me to tell you about the St. Blase prayer card that she sent (Catholic. Laminated. Wallet-size.)

I know that it might seem like a non sequitur here, but the #1 best thing that you learn from cancer is that » you dont have time to waste.

That point definitely comes home clearly. "Hello there. Yes, I got the message. Loud-n-clear. Thank you, kindly. Yes, I saw the guy with the sickle. He introduced himself to me."

» Radiation Machine Rigorous Calibration Check Testing

But right now I want to tell you about the #1 best thing that I heard at the Director's introductory class .. that made me feel better about radiation.

See .. my lymph node is not so very far from my brain .. feel me? How do I know that, while aiming at my lymph node, they dont accidentily shoot my brain? Valid concern, no?

Anyway, she explained how the machines are checked for calibration every morning before any patients arrive .. and again every evening at the end of the day after the last patient leaves.

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant | Hudson River, New YorkEven more comprehensive calibration checks are performed monthly and quarterly and annually.

Similar to what they do with instrumentation at nuclear power plants.

It's kind of a hassle, I admit. But this rigorous checking is obviously necessary .. to make sure that the machine is functioning as expected.

I walked away feeling confident that they had a handle on it.

» The Secure, Multi-Disciplinary Director

So the Director begins by introducing herself, very low-key like .. and by saying she has been at her job for four years now. So she is obviously no rookie. But she didnt delve into her background at all.

And you know me .. Mr. Curious and an appreciator of fine skill sets. At first, I was just going to leave it be. But my curiosity got the better of me and I couldnt stop my arm from reaching out ..

.. as if to go ahead and ask for me .. if it would be okay to interrurpt her presentation  to ask if I could ask a question.

She paused her Powerpoint presentation and gestured to field my question.

"You are the director of Moores," I said  [[ somewhat surprised that the director would still be there .. so late in the afternoon on the » day before Thanksgiving .. much less giving the class herself. I could feel myself trying to grapple with the implications behind that fact. ]].

"A most impressive facility. With the most impressive people working here. Who possess the most impresive skill sets. What type of education and training prepares you and qualifies you .. for such an important position? Is this a valid question?"

Silverback on Viagra"Sure," she said. Again, very low key. (If it were me, dude, I would have climbed up on the table, ripped off my shirt like Hulk Hogan ..

.. and started pounding my chest like a silverback on Viagra.)

She held multiple degrees. Beginning with pre-med and ending with an advanced degree in "Global Management" ..

.. along with years of experience at a big hospital (Boston General, I think she said), which she was woo'ed away from.

When you are really good at what you do, word gets around and people with authority from on high come and talk to you ..

.. and try to entice you away. To things bigger and better and more challenging. You know.

You make a name for yourself. You develop a reputation for kicking ass and taking names and making shit happen. And happen right. Out there on the bleeding edge. With your impressive skill set. With your impressive multi-faceted skill set.

Anyway, I could see how all her degrees worked together in order to give her the skills to do what she was doing. The director of the Moores Cancer Center is an impressive position .. I dont care who you are.

If I were the king of San Diego, everybody who worked at Moores would be able to park for free in my city. Any time of day or night.

She said that 75 people work for her .. "not counting Research or Clinical Trials."

Of those 75, she has 11 Radiation Oncologists. Eleven. Wow. All with their own area of expertise.

This woman, the director, she obviously needs to know how to deal with a diverse group of people, very smart people, who, I'm sure, all have healthy egos. [ If I were a doctor at Moores, I dont think I could help but bring my ego with me. (Could you?) ]

It takes a certain type of character to lead an organization where such impressive people work. Such mind-blowingly intelligent people. You must be secure in yourself. Confident in your abilities. Because even minor insecurity-issues can quickly become problematic in such a highly-functioning environment.

So she needs to be confident .. without being an asshole. That is a much trickier thing to pull off than might initially seem apparent.

She also needs a solid background in medicine .. in order to function in her world where medicine is the focus.

She also needs to be able to deal with a wide variety of state and federal regulators, which I assure you can be a full-time challenge in and of itself. ( Compliance. )

No doubt there are other challenging aspects to her job [ such as Finance and Funding ] which only those closest to her can fully appreciate. A multi-disciplinary position .. in the truest sense of the word. Respect. Much respect.

» Dosimetrists & My Trip to the Commodore's Office

Nuclear Powered Ballistic Missile SubmarineI should probably tell you that, while reviewing her staff there ..

.. and explaining what each of the groups did, their various responsibilities ..

.. the director mentioned that » Dosimetrists made good money.

I can vouch that this would be a cool, interesting job. Probably requires lots of math and science.

I know a little about dosimetry, myself. Dosimetry is the instrumentation devices that you wear into a nuclear plant in order to measure how much radiation you receive while working there.

Actually, dosimetry is the reason why the captain kicked me off the boat (nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarine) near the end of my (6-year) enlistment, and consequently why I had to go talk to the Commodore.

I may tell that story yet. It's not actually a very interesting story, except for the outcome. But I know you want to hear the gory details. And how the shit went down. But until then, you can glean a similar flavor of this encounter by reading » this.

Radiation » the Enemy of My Enemy Who Used to be the Enemy

Radiation detection meter / instrumentPerhaps you can see how it might seem strange for me ..

.. that much of my life was spent trying to avoid ionizing radiation ..

.. and how I am now embracing it .. as the thing to kill the thing .. that is trying to kill me.

[ How does that old saying go? » the enemy of my enemy is my friend. Which can seem weird if he used to be your enemy. ]

It's something of a head-torquer. The thing that I have been so conditioned (over so many years) to protect people from .. is now the thing I must embrace. It gives you this stop-go, stop-go sensation.

» Teddy Bears & Radiation Treatments

She said that we can bring our Teddy Bears with us .. to our daily radiation treatments. I liked that.

The end. ■

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About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Rad published on November 27, 2014 11:27 AM.

The Chemo Doctor (Medical Oncologist) & the Genetically Engineered Smallpox Virus (Immunotherapy) was the previous entry in this blog.

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