A health crisis will affect nearly every single person in their lifetime, either as a patient or as a part/full-time care-giver. Cancer; heart disease; stroke; dementia; etc. When, not if, but when a health crisis hits, are you financially prepared and mentally prepared. How are you going to deal with it?
I’m writing this journal for a couple of reasons. First – I have a sneaking suspicion that in two days, on Tuesday 6/28/16 at about 8am, I will receive confirmation of a diagnosis of a rare form of soft tissue cancer. I had an MRI exam a few days ago and in 36 hours I get to find out if the MRI guy is correct; he suspects that this lump on my arm could be Malignant Fibrous Histiocytoma (MFH).
MF is shorthand for a very vulgar term, which comes pretty close to what I first said to myself when I initially read about MFH. Apparently, it is a very rare diagnosis; I recall reading that less than 1% of annual cancer diagnoses are of this type.
At this point, I don’t yet know if I even have this MFH-stuff. But, since I already don’t like the sound of it, nor what it implies, I’m going to hereafter refer to it as MF. As you read this blog, anytime you see the word MF, just know that it might refer to
1) My Form of cancer or
MF… dammit, this is NOT the 1% club that I wanted to join…
Let’s be very clear about this blog;
First, I am NOT a doc. If you’re only looking for medical know-how, don’t waste your time reading this.
Second, I do NOT want your sympathy; I am NOT a victim. Don’t get me wrong; I am both touched, humbled, and frankly I find myself at a loss for words from the offers of support from the few folks that so far are aware of what I’m about to fight. However, the one thing I absolutely do not want is sympathy. I do NOT want some well-intentioned friend saying, “Oh, I heard, I’m so sorry. Howzit going? If there’s anything you need, let me know how I can help.” Please do NOT interpret that as being ungrateful or anything else. If/when I need an assist, I am not afraid to ask. At this point, I think the best thing anyone could say to me is MF, and leave it at that. That tells me that they’ve read this, and they get it.
Third: I write this stuff as if I’m talking to you. I expect that those of you that know me can, in your mind’s ear, hear my voice saying the words you’re reading. However, there are many of you that have never heard my voice. You don’t know my speaking cadence nor can you tell what words or syllables that I’m emphasizing. You can’t see my eyes, which means that you can’t see them twinkle when I’m being sarcastic. Also, it is very, very important to know that if my words can be taken in more than one way, I mean it in the good way.
This is probably best read out loud. When you do so, put some emotion into your voice, and put some emphasis in your words. I’m pretty good at recognizing and expressing my thoughts and feelings. I suspect that there will be some sections that may bring tears to your eyes, and hopefully, there will be some parts that make you smile. If I’m doing it right, there had darn well better be some sections that make you laugh out loud.
Why even bother writing this? I could just tell those with a need to know and leave it at that. The challenge with that is that word will slowly spread. Then, people will come up, in a hushed whisper, and ask if it’s true. Then, they’ll want to know more, and, and, and. Each one of those discussions could end up being 30 to 60 minutes. The other challenge is that I teach a class about trading the stock market. Hundreds of people have attended. I’ve developed an amazing number of very incredible relationships as a result of that class. Many of the attendees have become close to one another. Bottom line: I’m writing this so I don’t have to repeat this story countless times.
Another reason to write this is to share my experience(s) with others that may be going through something similar. It could be cancer; it could be some other disease; it could be a setback in life. As I’m researching this rare form of cancer, I’m not finding a lot of stories about what goes through one’s mind on a daily basis, as you’re working through it. It’s probably out there but it hasn’t jumped out at me. There is a TON of not-so-uplifting stuff out there; I want nothing to do with that. I could find lots of material where people talk about what treatments they’d tried; which ones worked and which one’s did not. I’m just at the beginning of the path; I don’t understand a lot of what they’re saying; I did not find it uplifting; in fact, it had the opposite effect. I found that I was often drawn to the stories of what other people mentally went through, but they weren’t talking with me, they were talking at me. A few of the stories were MFH-related, most were not.
Since I’m not finding what I’m looking for, I’ll create it for the next person. I realized that if I, as a layman, can help someone else, either through humor, and/or a bit of “here’s what I went through, but your mileage may vary”, then I’m doing my part. Hopefully, there’s someone who can learn something from my path.
The most important reason to write this is so that my kid can read it when he grows to adulthood. Hopefully it will provide him a little different perspective of the guy he knew growing up. When he gets older and thinks back to this time of his life, he can see it from the view of the guy he looked up to.
I’m not writing this for feedback. If you don’t like it, don’t read it, go write your own blog.
Another reason to write this is that most people need a kick in the butt when it comes to their money. I am a stock trader and I occasionally run a class where I teach people how to do what I do. Trading is a fabulous way to make a living, nothing beats it. There are very few “jobs” that people can/want to remain in until the day they die; this is one of them. I know that even if MF knocks me down hard, I can still make money via trading in the market. MF can’t beat me.
I typically am in trades for a few days up to a few months. It is possible to use the methodology to buy & sell within the same day, but it isn’t my favorite thing. If MF is now claiming me as a member, then I intend to show people that, if you have knowledge, MF does not have to impact you financially. I am a firm believer that no matter where you currently are in life, it is critical that you know how to manage your money, regardless of how much you have or do not have. Start now. Nobody cares more about your money than you do.
I’m thinking that I may publish two forms of this blog. One is for those who simply want to see the trades that I’ve recently done, and the thoughts and emotions that run through my mind while in a trade (without any mention of the cancer stuff). I’ll also publish a beefier version that includes more of the human stuff related to how I’m beating cancer (yuck – I hate writing that c word).
So, here we go…the blog begins…
As a kid, I’d always been told that the 21st of June is the longest day of the year; this year it rang ever so true. About two weeks prior, I’d asked the instructor at NDS Athletics about this weird walnut-sized lump on my right deltoid; I later learned it is 4.5cm x 2.5cm x 3cm. There was no pain; no reduction in mobility nor strength. (He studied kinesiology & I thought maybe he’d have an idea as to what it might be. By the way, if you’re near Long Beach CA, I can not recommend highly enough their workout programs – the owner, Junior Nartea, is fabulous.) It bugged me enough that a couple days later I went to a doc, who ordered Xrays & Ultrasound.
That weekend, I was teaching the stock trading class; one of the attendees was a friend/client who is an orthopedic surgeon (thank goodness). He felt the lump, said he wasn’t sure; it could be something as simple as a lipoma, or it could be something else. He asked me to send him the test results. Two days later, my phone is ringing at 8am. All I remember hearing was, “I’m going to be blunt. I don’t like what I see; I think you might have a bad guy in there. I’m scheduling an immediate MRI, near my office, with someone that I know & that I trust. It won’t be convenient for you to drive to me, but he does what I ask him to do, and I trust him.”
Two days later, I’m at an MRI facility. I didn’t even know what an MRI was. Basically, you lay on a bed and feel like you’re getting shoved into a human-sized drinking straw; it lasts about 45 minutes.
The next morning, 8am, phone is ringing. All I remember is something like, “I don’t want to scare you, but this is not good. You do have a bad guy in there. It looks like you’ve got a soft tissue tumor, these are very rare. I am booking you asap with a guy I’ve known for years and who I trust. He is an orthopedic oncologist (the Chief Orthopedic Surgeon) at City of Hope”. For those of you not familiar with it, City of Hope is a cancer hospital in Duarte, CA, a suburb of Los Angeles.
I remember hanging up the phone and trying to process what I’d just heard. I found myself chuckling at his first words, “I don’t want to scare you, but this is not good.” When a doc says that this is not good, you tend to quickly take notice. It hit me so fast, I don’t know if I was in denial or disbelief. Yet, I found myself chuckling at his first words as it reminded me of the “but” clause. If you’re not familiar with this, whenever anyone says something with the word “but”, as in, “those jeans are nice, but they make your ass look fat…”, then they are lying about the jeans! Everything that gets said before the word “but” is basically a lie; it’s bullshit.
The day before, I had googled “lipoma”. It is a fatty mass, that gets extracted and looks almost like a big pimple, but rather than just squeezing it out, it gets cut out. Thanks to the internet, I found DrPimplePopper.com, where I had the unforgettable experience of watching someone pop pimples and blackheads as well as extract lipomas. I showed my son how this thing on dad’s arm might get removed. This pre-teen boy was fascinated by watching facial skin being rolled between the fingers and seeing schmutz come out of the pores. He began eyeing my nose; I showed him the door.
Now, one day after having watched 15 minutes of DrPimplePopper, the doc is explaining the MRI test results. I can hear the concern in his voice. Suddenly, lipoma is no longer part of my vocabulary. I wish it was. New words are quickly being added to my vocabulary, including “histiocytoma” and “orthopedic oncologist”. My head was spinning fast, trying to put it all together. I hear my friend, an orthopedic surgeon, saying that he is very concerned. It is definitely NOT a good thing when a surgeon with 35 years of experience tells you that he is very concerned. I replied to one of his comments with “Cool…”. His wife, who I know and who works with him, barked, “Chris! This is NOT cool.” Her words still haunt me. Those are words that I’ll not soon forget.
My brain was still trying to piece together what was happening. He IS an orthopedic surgeon, so I get that he is referring me to an orthopedics guy; that makes sense to me. But he also said oncologist? That’s a cancer guy… Wth? I read the MRI report, and barely understood every 4th word. Googling the other 75% of the report was about the most depressing thing I’ve ever done; nearly every link referred to the rarity of this, and a 5-year survival rate that ranged from 30 to 90%.
I had to figure out how to tell my wife. I didn’t know how to say it. Three words. It’s hard enough to SAY those three small words, yet how hard would it be to HEAR those three small words. It doesn’t matter how those three small words get stated. They could be at the beginning, middle, or end of a paragraph. Once those 3 words come out, the conversation halts; life changes. Once she hears, “I have cancer”, it instantly becomes one of those, “I’ll never forget when…” moments. She’s a great wife and an incredible mom. It’s a good thing that she’s strong; she’s very smart, yet she’s also very sensitive. I knew she wouldn’t have a loud reaction, yet I knew she would instantly tear up. I didn’t want to put her in the position of instantly having to explain to our son why she was crying. I’m a good communicator yet there is no way to work that into a conversation, “Welcome home! Did you have a good day? That’s great, glad to hear it… My day was good too. I had one of those, ‘this hasn’t happened before’ days. The doc called to tell me that he’s freaked out because it looks like I have cancer. Oh, and that’s not all… It sounds like it could be a very rare form of cancer! So, what’s for dinner…Domino’s or Thai take-out? ”
I talked to the wall a bunch of times, trying various versions of the story. I could never get past “I have cancer” without choking up. If she saw me struggling to find words, she’d start to freak out, and rightfully so. Yet, I had read that MF is aggressive, so we’ve gotta act. I needed to verify that the orthopedic oncologist was covered by our insurance plan. I’ve always liked the idea of a PPO insurance plan, as it lets you choose which doc you want to see. With a runny nose or a scratchy throat, the choice of doc probably doesn’t matter. If you’ve got a pimple, I’ve got an 11 year old that would love to meet you. However, when the word cancer is in the sentence, instantly, the choice of doc NOW matters. And now that it is crunch time, I realized I didn’t know how to find that info. So I had to wait for her to come home before I could learn about our insurance plan. I spent the rest of that day, reading cancer stuff on the internet. The more I read, the more scared I got. She called during the day, I didn’t answer. I sent a text, “will be on phone for awhile longer, call ya later”, I never did call back.
By the time she got home, I still didn’t know how to work it into a conversation. So, I took the easy way out. I wrote on a Post-It note, “Dr “x” – City of Hope”. She was in the kitchen with our son. I walked in and said, “I heard back about the MRI. When you have a minute can you verify if a doc is covered by our insurance?” I handed her the note. I immediately went upstairs to take a shower in an attempt to hide my tearing eyes. I was in the shower for 10 seconds before I heard the shower door slide open. I turned to see her scared eyes; they were wider than I have ever seen them. She had a look of shock that is seared in my brain. Her eyes quickly welled up, mine already were.
A few minutes later, I was in the office. She was up there within minutes, handed me the post-it and nodded. She had a questioning look on her face; I just nodded with welled up eyes.
We’ve got an 11 year old. How do I tell him? What do I tell him? As a 54 year old dad to an 11 year old, you don’t expect to be at his 60th birthday party, but I had never considered the possibility of not seeing him graduate high school.
Eleven years ago I realized that kids do not arrive with an owner’s manual. Yet, how do I tell him that dad has got something that is serious? I’m very close to him. How do I say it in a way that won’t freak him out?
We sat him down at the kitchen table. My wife started talking to him. I wasn’t able to look him in the eye for fear that I would tear up; I didn’t want to scare him. My wife told him that he would spend the night at his grandparent’s house because Dad had an early morning appointment with a doc who wanted to look at his arm. The doc was going to do tests on the lump. She didn’t use the word cancer, but he asked, “Is it bad? Is it cancer?” She said, “We don’t know; that’s why the doc wants to run tests.” He said, “okay, no problem. When are we leaving?”
What’s ironic, and I’m really embarrassed to admit this…I don’t remember the conversation with him! All I know is that I definitely was sitting there. I actually had to ask my wife how we (she) told him. Maybe I was so focused on ensuring that I kept a normal expression. For whatever reason, I don’t remember one damn thing about that conversation. This entire life chapter has been a whirlwind like nothing that I’ve ever experienced. It’s odd how your brain remembers every last detail about things that are very important; and yet some other things that are equally as important seem to be lost in a fog.
I’ve been told that my outlook on life, and on parenting, is different than other parents. I worked for almost 20 years in corporate America, and was able to leave by the time he was born. While working, I spent nights and weekends teaching myself to trade/invest, and now make my living via the stock market. He never saw the daily suit and tie; he never saw me go to an office early in the morning and then come home late at night; he only knows me in shorts and t-shirts. He sees me looking at stock charts in an extra bedroom; he hears me talking with people on the phone about the emotions of trading. I’ve been teaching him business concepts since he was about 4. I show him the basics of how to read a stock chart. I teach him about investing, albeit at an elementary school level. Yet, he’s still a kid.
I realize that he knows a lot more than I did at his age, but I’m not sure how to explain, in a way that won’t scare him too much, that dad may have cancer. I know that kids are adaptable, and can deal with a lot, but I want him to learn the vocabulary of business, not the vocabulary of cancer. It absolutely sucks that he’s going to start hearing a bunch of these 5-syllable medical words. It’s an awesome thing to watch your kid explore and learn about the world, yet it sucks to have to hit him with some very serious stuff. It is a time in his life that he’ll likely never forget. MF…
A week ago, he was referring to the lump on my arm as “Dad’s little friend”. As I told him what I thought was going on with my little friend, he looked concerned. I said, “Tell me what’s going through your mind. Can you describe what you’re thinking or feeling? Are you worried? Do you feel scared?…”
He said, “Both, but probably more scared.”
I said, “It’s okay for you to be *concerned*.
I don’t think it makes sense to *worry*, at least not now. The reason is that you can’t tell me what you’re worried about. Since we don’t know what my little friend is, you would only be guessing. And it is a total waste of time to guess. We should know exactly what this thing is within the next few days. At that point, we no longer have to guess.
Same thing with *scared*. You are scared of the unknown. In your mind, you are probably saying to yourself, *what if this…or what if that*, but again, you are only guessing at things that your mind is imagining. It is totally okay to be afraid of something, but only if you know what it is that you are afraid of.”
He said, “I get it Dad. So, to answer your question, I would say I’m concerned; I’m not worried; I’m not scared.”
As he walked away, I didn’t have the heart to tell him that I was scared and more than a little concerned. I was being a typical parent of “do as I say and not as I do”. I realized that I wasn’t listening to my own advice to him. My brain was running through all the permutations of “what if I have to go through chemo…what if they have to cut off my arm…” Nowhere in my mental gymnastics was the thought of “what if this is just a bad dream”.
A few days later is my first time at a cancer hospital; I’m there for my first appointment. My first impression of the facility at City of Hope was very positive. It’s clean; it has a warm, welcoming feel to it; the staff is friendly, incredibly friendly, and very helpful; in fact, they could teach other companies about how to do customer service. I could write a long list of positives. Yet, even if they would have welcomed me with a bar of gold, I still did not want to be there. “This place is here for other people, not for me” was my thought.
I’ve got a business mind. As I looked around, it dawned on me that there is a LOT of money being spent at this cancer hospital. There are many others just like it, all around the globe. It got me wondering how many people would be out of a job if there was a cure; maybe it’s more beneficial to the economy to not have a cure. We’d put a lot of people out of a job. It’s similar to simplifying the tax code; if we all just paid $x per person or x% of one’s salary, think of the number of accountants, tax attorneys, tax preparers, etc that would be instantly out of a job; it would shut down an entire industry.
As we were walking down the hall to that first appointment, I got an incredibly strong urge to turn around and walk the other way. I whispered to my wife “get me the hell out of here”. I felt bad for the people who I assumed, because of their hair loss, were chemo patients. Some walk around with their head exposed; others wear a baseball hat; many females wear the telltale scarf; I saw a few people in wheelchairs, missing a leg or a foot.
In this facility, there are three groups of people walking around. The first group is the employees. They are either wearing business casual clothes or wearing medical garb; they’re easy to spot because they have a badge that hangs from a lanyard around their neck.
To the untrained eye, members of the 2nd and 3rd group are hard to tell apart. Once you know what to look for, they are easy to differentiate. The difference is a white bracelet on the wrist. Visitors have a naked wrist; the cancer patients are all wearing a white bracelet.
That damn white bracelet is paper-esque and is printed with your name, your birth date, a patient number, and a barcode. They snap that damn thing on your wrist when you arrive; it feels to me like a prisoner’s handcuff. What it does is allow the facility to track you; it is an awesome system. All of your medical records can be accessed with that white bracelet. Yet, that damn white bracelet means that the wearer is one of “them”. Your heart melts, and your eyes well up, when you pass by a young child wearing a white bracelet.
All I could hear in my head were the words, “I am NOT one of “them”; I feel fine; take the lump out of my arm; cut the bracelet off and get outta here”. As we were walking down that hall, I tried my hardest to keep my eyes from welling up. I recognized the stark reality that had just been shoved right in my face. I had just become a member of a new club. That club has millions of other members from around the world. About 1.6 million new members are inducted into the white-bracelet-club in the US every year. And not one single member wants to be in that club. No one wants to be issued that MF membership card. If you’re wearing that white bracelet, then you are in the MF club.
Heck, they even laminate a membership card for you to carry around with you. That way you can easily and conveniently scan yourself in, the next time you visit. Don’t get me wrong; it is an incredible facility and I am beyond grateful that it is there. Yet, no matter how incredible it may be, I would rather not be a member. I’m picturing an American Express ad, saying, “Membership has its rewards”, however my mental image has a red circle around it with a big red line drawn right through the middle.
That first appointment was a combo of scary, and amusing. The door opens up, and in walks the Chief, followed by three other people. Chief is a very friendly guy, I like him instantly; it’s obvious he knows his stuff; he introduces the other members of “the team”. The first one looks like he is about 19 years old; he looks to be a student, carrying a clipboard, probably there for the summer, my guess is that he’s in school to be a doc, no problem. The next person introduced is a clipboard-carrying 40ish woman who, I believe, was the case manager; again, no problem. The three of them are very pleasant and friendly. They are each wearing the standard issue bright-white lab coats. These must get issued, along with the diplomas, to every graduate from every medical school in the world.
The 4th guy on “the team” isn’t wearing a white lab coat; in fact, he’s wearing black. Every player on every team that I’ve ever seen wears the same color uniform, but not this guy. Before they introduce him, I’m walking over to shake his hand. As I’m reaching out to shake his hand, I hear Chief say who he is. We haven’t shaken hands yet, and it registers in my mind that Chief just said the words “the prosthetic specialist”. I didn’t catch his name. Once I heard “prosthetic specialist”, I stopped listening. We are inches from shaking hands, from connecting. I nearly recoil from his outstretched hand; I don’t want to touch him. It instantly crosses my mind to reach just beyond him, grab the doorknob, open it and push him outside. My thought was “Prosthetic specialist?! Who’s next, the guy who will measure me for a coffin? And then will we bring in the guy selling underground condos at the local cemetery? MF… Mr prosthetic specialist, you can NOT have my arm; get the HELL outta here”
It is a rare occurrence that my brain applies the brakes in time to stop my quick witted mouth. My thoughts were saying one thing, and I wanted to push him out the door. Yet, I shook his hand and said, “I’m Chris”. I KNOW that I did NOT follow that with, “nice to meet you”.
A special note to Mr prosthetic specialist: If you ever read this, please know that I respect and admire what you do. This facility needs people who do what you do. However, please understand that I’m watching a nightmare unfold right before my eyes. It is a goddamn train wreck, and I feel totally powerless. I have no clue about what is happening and I’m not sure what to do. If I snarled at you, just know that it was not personal. At the moment you were introduced, I instantly saw you as the grim reaper; you are the mop-up guy for when they amputate arms and legs. I’m sure that there are some grim reapers who probably have kids and grandkids and I’d bet that some of them are actually very nice people. MF, you are NOT getting my arm. That said, next time you first meet with someone who is coming to a cancer hospital for the first time, asking, “do I really have cancer?”, you might want to introduce yourself as, I dunno, perhaps the movement specialist….and for crissake, do not wear black.
After answering Chief’s questions, he poked and prodded my arm. I have full range of motion; no areas of numbness anywhere in my arm, my hands, my fingers. He did a needle biopsy. Chief had me lay on my side, gave me a shot in the arm to numb the area, then inserted what looked to me like a fairly thick needle. No pain, no hassle. He extracted a slice of my little friend that gets sent to pathology. My clueless mind has a mental image of pathology being like the basement in CSI (the TV program) with a bunch of people in lab coats looking through microscopes at stuff that comes out of fairly thick needles that were put in people’s arms. Tests run in the pathology department will help determine what my little friend actually is, and if it’s benign or malignant.
It’s amazing that within 3 days, I’ve learned more medical/cancer terminology than I knew in my prior 50 years. The whole time that Chief is talking, I’m watching his face for any expression, whether one of concern or one of nonchalance. I quickly realized that he has been dealing with situations like this, every single day, for years. That’s why he is The Chief. We are all watching his expression for a glimmer of hope. He doesn’t want to unnecessarily alarm anyone and he also doesn’t want to give anyone false hope. Until he knows what is in that needle, he has to maintain an emotionless poker face. He wrapped it up with, “I’ll see you in one week at 8am. Between now and then, you’ll do a CT scan, so we can be sure that nothing has metastasized in the lungs.” MF…
Later that afternoon, I’m driving to a networking dinner event, talking on the phone with my dearest friend. I share what’s going on. I crack myself up as I tell him about wanting to push Mr prosthetic specialist out the window. The rest of the time, I’m trying not to choke up as I’m describing this train wreck. I pretend to curse other drivers whenever I have trouble getting my words out. My voice gets soft and is cracking when I’m complaining about other drivers. I know he can tell that I’m struggling, as I don’t normally complain about other drivers. He had the BEST comment, “…I want you to know something. If I could take it for you, I would…” THAT is a huuuge statement. We should all be so lucky as to have a friend like that. I would never give it to him, even if asked, but to hear those words…my eyes well up just thinking about it.
Even better though, once he said that, something clicked in my mind. I realized that, if I could, I would take MF for my kid; any parent would do the same. And if I ever did have to take MF for my kid, I would have no fear of the unknown. None. You do what you have to do. So, since that moment, whenever I find myself feeling a fear of the unknown of what lies before me, I think about taking MF for my kid, and voila!; the fear instantly goes away.
For the next seven days, I’m faced with the reality of seeing the Chief on “Tues 6/28 at 8am”; that’s when I’ll learn what I’m up against. I suspect & hope that I’ll have surgery that Friday. After having watched nearly 15 minutes of DrPimplePopper, my new-found expertise surmises that we’ll simply cut that sucker out, just like DrPimplePopper does. However, it is not quite that simple. The MF lump is apparently burrowed pretty deep into my deltoid muscle; a chunk of the deltoid will likely have to be removed. The biopsy will help determine how much healthy deltoid tissue will have to be removed along with the tumor.
A ton of questions race through my mind: How much motion/strength will I lose in my right arm? Can I rebuild it? Do I need to find a specialized somebody to show me how to deal with “limited muscle on one side and normal on the other”? Can I ever again swing a kettlebell with my right arm? Will I be able to toss a football, baseball, or Frisbee with my kid? Can I do a normal freestyle swim stroke? Will it look like a shark bit off part of my shoulder? I’ve got a full head of hair; will that be a thing of the past? An amusing visual keeps popping into my head: I’m at the gym, doing shoulder presses with a 40 pound weight in my left hand, while struggling to lift a roll of pennies with my right. It’s amazing the amount of thoughts that run through your mind. If I feel scared, I remind myself that I’m taking MF for my kid, and the fear goes away.
How do I tell my parents? I’m an only child; I’m close to them. They are awesome parents. I know they’ll want to help in any way that they can; I don’t want them to worry. The absolute worst nightmare for a parent is to have to bury their child. The second worst nightmare is to see your child suffering. We all expect to outlive our parents; it’s the chain of life. Yet, I can’t even begin to think about having to bury my child. What thoughts will be running through both of their minds. I don’t want them to worry.
I call them to ask if grandson could spend the night and if they could take him to his summer day-camp the next morning. The reason is that I’ve got an early appointment with a doc to take a look at an odd lump on my arm. They don’t miss a beat and immediately inquire about “odd lump”. I say, ”The doc has looked at an ultrasound, and an x-ray, and he’s not sure what it is. I don’t know enough to be scared. Once I know more, you’ll know more. It will get removed but he wants to know what it is before he can remove it.” They both are astute enough to hear what wasn’t said. I did not use those dreaded three words.
The next challenge is who else do I tell? In-laws? Relatives? Nieces and nephews that I see somewhat regularly? Where do I draw the line on who I tell versus who I don’t tell? I realize that once I let the genie out of the bottle, I’ll forever be stained with “he had cancer”. That label will not ever wash off. Then, I’ve also gotta figure out how & when to tell them. There is never a good time to hit someone with this.
As an example, we went to a concert at the Hollywood Bowl on July 4th weekend with a dozen family members. What a perfect opportunity to be able to cross off a bunch of names on the “I’ve-gotta-tell-him-and-her” list. However, we’re there for a fun outing with family, plus it is someone’s birthday; I don’t want to cast a pall on the evening by uttering those three memorable words.
In addition, not only do you get to consider “when”, but there’s also the balancing act of dealing with the different personalities. Some will be calm; some will freak; some will ask endless questions; some will listen to what’s said and ask nothing else. Aaargh! I don’t want to sound selfish, but my focus should be on getting rid of MF, not fretting about whether or not to tell others.
That night, I had a few amusing, “oh wow”, moments that made me realize that I can’t act like some newly appointed, almighty god, dispensing my new-found opinions to the masses about causes of cancer.
Before the concert, we all had a picnic dinner, where I was talking with my wife’s cousin. We’d all gone to the Philippines about six months prior. I remembered snorkeling with her and she had had an unusual lump on the top of her shoulder. I asked if it was still there; asked if it was a lipoma. She said she didn’t know, pulled up her sleeve to show me; said it didn’t hurt and it didn’t bother her. I said, “As a precaution, and I’m no expert, but you should get checked. A friend just got diagnosed with sarcoma, some very rare cancer was found in a lump in their arm.” She said, “Is your friend okay?” I said, “oh yeah, they’re fine”.
(to BD: It is not my place to tell people what to do, and I refuse to become one of those people who, afraid of their shadow, gets anxious when anyone has a bump or a pimple. MF was right there with us last night, hanging out on my arm, listening to our entire conversation. Forgive me for not introducing the two of you; MF never can get introduced to people in a warm and friendly fashion; that night didn’t seem like the right time/place. Fortunately, you won’t get to ever meet MF as MF won’t be here for long. Next time I see you, I would like to know that you got your shoulder checked. One white bracelet is enough for all of us…)
Chicago was in concert that night, a 70’s band, popular when I was in elementary through high school. I noticed a lot more gray-haired attendees than I normally see at the Bowl. If you’ve never been to the Bowl, it seats about 17,000 people and it seems like 90% of the attendees enter and exit through the same walkway, which is, I dunno, maybe a quarter-mile long and about 50 feet wide. So, you basically are herded like slow-moving cattle through a funnel to get either to your car, or to these ubiquitous buses that bring people in from all over LA.
As we were leaving the concert, working our way through the funnel of humanity, a 75ish year old woman was walking next to me. Walking is the wrong term. To exit the Bowl, you actually shuffle a few feet forward, nudging the people in front of you along, and simultaneously getting nudged from behind. And then you stop for about 10 seconds, and then you shuffle forward another few feet. This continues for about 30 minutes until you leave the tunnel/funnel. During our close-quarters shuffle routine, this woman shuffling next to me decides to light a cigarette. I was stunned, and then I got pissed off. I held my tongue but I wanted to say something like, “Lady, you…are…a…frickin’…idiot. You are thoughtless and incredibly selfish! There are 10 people within 3 feet of you; we all have to breathe your smoke. I assume you haven’t lived under a rock for the past 40 years, which means for the last 4 decades, you’ve been bombarded with endless stories about how cigarettes cause cancer. You’ve got a lot of nerve to blow your smoke at me and my kid. I have two words for you lady…white bracelet.”
After we came through the other end of the funnel, we stopped at the restroom before getting in the car to crawl on the LA freeways for 45 minutes. I’m in line with my son, and a mid-20s guy gets in line behind us; he is puffing on one of those e-cig contraptions, vaping. The guy looks menacing; his arms are loaded with tattoos; they look like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. My son moves in a little closer to me, he’s not comfortable with what’s behind us.
I say to the guy, “Dude, that is a very cool looking e-cig. What flavor do you have in there?” He turns to me; his pupils are huge; he’s got the tell-tale bloodshot eyes; this guy is higher than a kite. He mumbled something that I couldn’t understand. His pupils are huge; I’d bet big dollars that he’s got some flavored THC that he’s been vaping. Menacing look or not, this guy is higher than high, and he’s coming out of a Chicago concert, where you’re not likely to attract people looking for a fight.
I so wanted to amuse myself and those around me. I really wanted to say something like, “you know I read something that was very interesting about vaping. Did you know that the government doesn’t have any regulations on what can be put in the liquid that gets vaporized? You know, I’m thinking I could go to Walmart, the auto parts section, and buy some of that smell-good liquid, the stuff that blows out through the ac vents in your car to make it smell good. And, I’ve got a big German Shephard at home. That dog is a non-stop poop and pee factory; it’s a mess. Anyway, I’m thinking if I could get the dog to piss in a cup, I then mix it with that car scent liquid, and then sell it to people who want to vape. Call it Shep-pagne; produced by a German. Our customers would think it’s champagne from Germany, but it’s really just scented dog piss. Government couldn’t stop us, it aint regulated. Ingredients would say, “processed water, and scent”. Tell me again, what flavor did you say you have? “
At that point my kid was done. That guy just stared at me for a couple of seconds, lost in a fog. He was so high, I don’t know if he’ll even remember he was at a concert. I hope he soon figures out that his vaping habit can’t be good for him. It would have been fun to plant the idea in his mind that he was inhaling vaporized dog urine. I wonder what he would have done if I had lied and told him that vaping was the reason that I got a white bracelet?
Those who know me and learn about MF tell me that they love that I’m writing this journal/blog. They tell me that the story hooks ‘em, and they feel compelled to want to hear more as it is putting on full display, the raw emotions and subsequent thoughts that I’m dealing with.
If I’m writing this to help others, then it makes sense to put it on social media. However, it seems so impersonal if those who know me discover MF by reading about it on social media. I think of social media as a way to let people know where I had dinner, or where I spent the day; it’s not how someone should learn about a friend’s MF.
How should I tell people? Being the master of the obvious that I am, I have figured out that it is very difficult to first say it to someone. If someone says, I have cancer, and you reply with, “Oh, I have cancer too”, that’s easy. That’s like when you had your first crush, and you decide to tell the girl at school that you like her. You approach her; you’ve got your words all memorized. You’re scared to death of being rejected. You hope that there’s no lunch remnants stuck in your teeth. Your mouth is dry; your lips are dry and popping. The butterflies are going crazy in your stomach. You drop the bomb on her. It hangs for a moment in the air. And if her reply is, “Oh, I like you too”, then all of your fears of rejection just instantly disappear. Flower petals rain down from the heavens, all is glorious.
On the other hand, if she just stares at you, now you’re in a bind. You’re staring at her, not sure of what to do next. She’s staring at you; you’re searching for the rewind button, trying to put those words back into your mouth. She’s trying to figure out how to get out of there.
Now that I’ve made it to adulthood, I’ve come to realize that when some people hear “cancer”, they immediately equate it to “death sentence”. Others think of it as very serious but are not as quick to rush to judgement. I’ve not yet experienced anyone who was not momentarily stunned when they hear those three words, I have cancer. They hear you say it; they process it to ensure that they did in fact just hear those three words correctly; they’re stunned for a moment. They’re reading your face; you are reading their face. The eye to eye contact is incredibly intense. The anxiety you felt in junior high is multiplied by about 100 when you have to deliver those three words. If you flinch at the wrong point, one of you can start to tear up. It absolutely sucks to have to tell those three words to someone. I feel bad for the Chief.
During those seven days, what do I tell people? I don’t even know what I’ve got. My emotions range from scared to strong; my mood ranges between joking and slight tears. I can have a very frank discussion with my friend the doc as well as an anesthesiologist friend, and not be troubled by it. Yet, when I talk with a friend who is not in the medical field, I choke up when I tell ‘em what’s going on. Because of that, I’ve elected to mostly keep my mouth shut until I know something more definitive. So, if you are a close friend reading this and wondering why I didn’t tell you earlier, now you know. It’s nothing that you’ve done, it’s because of me. It’s weird when a friend says, “so, what are you going to do today, or this week?”…and my answer is “nothing”; I can’t come up with a good lie, and I don’t want to tell ‘em the truth and freak them out by saying, “Today, I’m going to read some depressing medical journal articles about cancer…”
The internet is a godsend for doing cancer research. The internet is also your enemy. It is a trap for doing cancer research as you can easily find some pretty depressing stuff. I’ve learned to set a 5-minute alarm on my phone whenever I start doing some searching; that seems to keep me from going too deep down a rabbit hole.
There is a mountain of stuff to sift through on the internet in the matter of treatment. In recent years, others that I know have had cancer diagnoses and have done a variety of cancer treatments. Conventional refers to treatment offered by the medical establishment (think of surgery, radiation, and chemotherapy). Alternative treatment refers to that offered by those not in the medical establishment. Integrative is when you mix ‘em together. I recall discussions about a Gerson method among others, and juicing a mountain of fruit every day. There are other treatments that suggest doing multiple daily enemas, with coffee. It’s truly an odd thing to realize that the damn white bracelet makes you study things like blueberry consumption, and using coffee as a cleansing agent for the exit piping. I never have liked the taste of coffee, now I won’t be lying when I say it tastes like ass. Blueberry juice and coffee enemas, what a MF combo! Violet Beauregarde is the little girl in the Willie Wonka movie who effectively turns into a blueberry after eating so many of them when she visits the chocolate factory. Recently, a friend tasted craft beer made with blueberries; he said that it tasted like Violet Beauregarde’s ass. (to CS: I will definitely give you credit for the Violet line if ever it makes me/us famous.)
After seven days of sorting through so much stuff on the web, and having all kinds of thoughts running through my mind, it is a very weird feeling to actually be looking forward to seeing an orthopedic oncologist. It is also very disturbing to know that, within seven days, I’ve progressed from DrPimplePopper on youtube, all the way to having two appointments with an orthopedic oncologist. Who looks forward to seeing an oncologist?
That’s enough about MF; let’s talk about trading for a minute. From a trading view, this should be a fun week. Friday was the Brexit announcement day, where the Dow fell 600 points. I was already in a put position, so profits piled up; I have not yet checked to see how much the profit is; I think there’s more down to come so it doesn’t matter. I was watching all morning on Friday for an entry, up or down, but didn’t see an obvious one that I was willing to take. I expect that there will be a lot of volatility this week, probably providing some trades this week, although I don’t know what my availability will be to participate.
Another idea I’ve had for this blog is to show my trades for the next few months as I go through this personal storm. I had already started this strategy about 45 days ago. I started with $6,000 and grew it to $12k. So, now for documentation purposes, I’ll start with $12k. My plan is to parlay it up to about $40-50k via trades that I likely will enter and exit on the same day. Once the account balance gets to that level, I’ll then demonstrate how one can generate a $100k/year “salary” from that $50k balance. I’ll post the trades, winners and losers, long after they are closed. I’ll do my best to document my thoughts and feelings as I’m doing the trades, so that people can learn via observation. I won’t post the trades in real time as I don’t want people trying to shadow the trades.
This is not about tossing someone a fish; this is about witnessing someone doing some fishing; and about teaching them how to fish. It is not meant to be an advisory service, telling you what and when to buy/sell, but rather a proof that it is do-able. The method is already documented; I use it every day; others do as well. If you have zero interest in that, no problem. If it’s something that you want to learn, go learn it. You can learn it from me, or you can learn it from someone else; I don’t care where you learn, but do learn it.
I firmly believe this is a life skill that everyone must have; this is NOT something that you outsource to a financial advisor. The most common excuse is, “I don’t have time.” That is an outright lie. I don’t care if you lie to me, but you should care that you are lying to yourself.
If you are already a member of the “white-bracelet-club”, my guess is that before you became a member of the club, you would have said that you didn’t have time to fight cancer. Yet, once you get issued that white bracelet, you suddenly found the time for the fight.
On the other hand, you may be lucky enough to not be in the white bracelet club….yet. Statistically speaking, you or someone very close to you will, at some point in their life, join that or a similar club. I don’t know what color bracelets are given to people in the diabetes club, or the back pain club, or the stroke club, or the lupus club, or the “insert-some-damn-thing-that-alters-your-life” club. You’ll claim that you’re too busy with work, or that you don’t know anything about investing, or you’ll say “I’ve-got-a-guy”, or you’ll come up with some other wimpy excuse. That’s crap and you know it. You do have the time; you just have to make it a priority.
Years ago, I made the choice to learn to do this. Today, I am beyond thrilled that I made that choice. Ideally, you learn how to do this before you need to rely on it. You don’t buy fire insurance when your house is on fire, you buy it in advance, in case it catches fire. Because of that choice, the white bracelet does not impact my ability to support my family while going through treatment. If I can do it wearing a white bracelet, so can you. Stop making excuses…
I’m going to figure out how to turn MF into something positive for others…
Tuesday June 28, 2016. The “day”. As I walk into CoH, I flash my membership card and am given that damn white bracelet again. Actually, it is a fabulous patient tracking system. From a technology standpoint, it is very impressive; and this comes from a guy who saw countless leading technology implementations during my IBM career. Even so, fabulous or not, I still despise what the white bracelet symbolizes…
The Chief walks in, followed by the case manager. Mr Grim Reaper wasn’t with ‘em, which to me was a very good sign. Chief tells me I’ve got sarcoma (greek work for flesh is sarx). Specifically, it is high grade pleomorphic liposarcoma. Now I understand why my friend, the orthopedic surgeon, likes the MRI guy he sent me to – that guy nailed it. Apparently, the cancer community no longer uses the term MFH to refer to sarcoma. I’m still going to call it MF; that’s not referring to its medical nomenclature. Actually, if I’m reading it correctly, MFH is now referred to as pleomorphic sarcoma. Call it whatever you want, it is still MF to me.
Sarcoma is soft tissue cancer. It shows up in muscles, tendons, cartilage, nerves, fat, and blood vessels of your arms, legs, and abdomen. Net, Net: It is rare. I read that 1.6 million new cancer cases will be diagnosed this year; 12,000 of which are sarcoma; that’s less than 1%. High grade means it has a potential of recurring. Pleomorphic means it takes different shapes and is a rare subtype. Liposarcoma is a rare cancer that shows up in the fat cells. Ironic that mine showed up in a deltoid muscle where I would have assumed I have little to no fat. So, apparently, I’ve got a rare subtype of a rare cancer; there’s that darn 1% club again.
I heard Chief say that there is a 35% chance of recurrence. If it does show up again, it usually is in the same area or in the lungs.
I also heard him say that the 5-year survival rate is 65%. I mentioned that to my friend who said he would take it for me. He had absolutely THE best response, “Why didn’t you ask him about the 5-year survival rate for those who do not have cancer?”
From what I’m reading, apparently sarcoma can be a nasty beast. It can also show up in the abdominal cavity. If it is there, it can grow quite large before ever being noticed. As a result, apparently it can get all twisted up around your organs before ever being noticed. I’m hoping that is those cases that are causing the 5-yr survival rate to be as low as it is. I’m fortunate that the orthopedic surgeon showed up to class that day, felt my arm and reacted as quickly as he did; and I’m fortunate that it showed up in a spot that is easily noticeable.
Treatment: radiation 5 times/week, for 5 weeks, then surgical removal. A chunk of the deltoid will have to be removed. Then there will be physical therapy on the shoulder for a few months; there will be quarterly CT/MRI exams on my arm and chest for a few years, confirming that it has not come back. My shoulder’s range of motion from front to back will not be impacted, however, doing the chicken dance at Oktoberfest might look a bit awkward. However, that’s okay as I always have looked awkward doing the chicken dance.
So, now I can add another few definitions to the acronym of MF. It might refer to:
1) My Form of cancer or
2) My Fight or
3) Mortality Facing or
4) My Five-month project or
Chief asked if I had any questions. I have hundreds, but none that can, or need to be answered right now. I said, ”When you sit around with your surgeon buddies, sipping on scotch at some medical conference, telling war stories about your most memorable cases, is this one of those cases that you’ll remember? Or is this just like any other case that comes through your door? My preference is that I’m just a mundane case, no different than any other that you’ve seen over the years.”
He pondered that and smiled. “That’s a good question. Your case is not something that stands out as being unusual.”
I asked him what it is that worries him about my situation.
He didn’t hesitate. Chief’s concern is not the 5-week radiation, nor the surgical removal; his concern is the possibility of recurrence.
I walked out of there, not sure of what to think. I got in the car, immediately tore off the white bracelet, and sat there staring at my wife for a few moments. She said it the best; it was the best bad news one could get. MF is malignant, but had not spread. There will be five weeks of radiation to shrink the tumor, but chemo is not on the table. There will be a patch of skin on my shoulder that will look/feel like a bad sunburn for awhile; I can deal with that. Radiation might cause fatigue. Surgery will happen following the five weeks of radiation. The radiation should reduce the amount of extra deltoid muscle that will have to be removed. GQ won’t be calling to schedule me for a shirtless cover shot. I’ll do physical therapy for a few months. I will have less strength if ever I do the chicken dance, I can deal with that and work to build that back up. I will likely become more of a gym rat (which I wasn’t before). I can work to build the strength back; I don’t expect it to come quickly. If something can be earned quickly, it usually isn’t worthwhile. It’s the stuff in life that is hard to get that is worth the effort. The harder the effort, the sweeter the reward. (I’ve learned that lesson from trading.)
A month ago, I had been able to do about 7 consecutive pull-ups; my year-end goal was to do 20 consecutively. MF threw a wrench in that goal. I won’t know until I see what I’ve got after physical therapy, but I’m thinking that my new goal might be a lower number of pull-ups, or it may become doing a one-handed pull-up. If you’re a friend reading this, just know that, within 2 months of reading this, I expect you to be able to do 5 pull-ups and you ought to challenge yourself to do a one-handed pull-up within maybe a year. No Excuses.
The cards have been dealt; now I get to play them.
Trade-wise: the market popped-up today, not a surprise. Chief asked if I thought now was a good time to buy; I told him absolutely not. I explained that market tops are violent and market bottoms are calm; we are definitely not in calm waters right now. I explained that we’ve been in a 7 year bull market, with very few pullbacks. We are now about 10% off the highs; that’s not enough to clean the decks. I mentioned to him that by the mere fact that he was *wondering* about buying should tell him that we are not at a bottom. It is when he hears everyone around him saying to stay away from the market, and when he is scared to death to buy more shares, that’s when he should be willing to make a purchase.
Looking at the monthly and weekly SP500 & Nasdaq charts, I suspect we have more down to come. The daily charts were outside the lower bb, so it makes sense that we’d have a lift, today or tomorrow, to take us back inside the bb. We’ll likely rise for a bit as we’re at the end of the month, and historically, there is a rally in July. Then, I will not be surprised to see more down movement as we get deeper into the summer.
Wednesday June 29, 2016. My kid comes in this morning, and says, “Dad, is your cancer stage 1 or stage 4?” Crap! While I want him to be able to talk about it, I certainly don’t want this being front & center of what he thinks about. I want him to enjoy being a carefree kid, and care about the new Marvel movie coming out. I want him to know what time is his favorite TV show; or who is the latest YouTube sensation; I don’t want him thinking about stages of cancer.
I reply, “That’s a good question and I don’t know that answer. I did not ask the doc that question. I know it is not stage 4 because I think that’s what they call it when it has spread all over. What I have is located only within this lump on my arm. Realistically, I don’t really care what stage it is.
Here’s how I think of it, and I suggest you do the same. Think of those times that you and I wrestle on the living room floor. I take on the role of the announcer, and in the best booming “announcer-voice” that can be conjured up, the announcer calls out, “In this corner, weighing in, a bit heavier than he would like, at nearly 200 pounds, is the undisputed champion, Dad! And in the other corner, weighing in at about 95 pounds, if he has shoes on and has rocks in his pocket, is the constantly returning Challenger, who can never seem to catch a break…” Before we even start to wrestle, I know, and you know, and mom knows, and even the announcer-guy knows, every single one of us knows that I am going to win. I may let you feel like you’re winning for a few moments, but you already know that I’m going to outmuscle you and very quickly will be sitting on top of you, pinning your arms. And then I’m going to tickle you, to the point where you have to say the magic words of “Daddy is smart and good looking”, and you already know that that’s when the tickling stops. Before you even start, you already know that you are going to lose the wrestling match to me.
Well, by the same token, I already know that I’m going to win the battle against my little friend that is on my arm. It might be a stronger opponent than I expect; I might get tired along the way; I might get some bumps and bruises along the way, but I AM going to win. I already know that. And that is why I don’t care what stage cancer it is.
Now son, I have a question for you. You must have been reading something on the internet about stages of cancer. Did you see what stage number is used to describe the cancer when it is beaten and goes away? I don’t know that answer. For discussion purposes, let’s say that it gets described as a stage negative 1. If so, then to answer your original question about what stage is my cancer, my cancer is stage negative 1. I just haven’t finished the battle yet.”
He looked at me for a moment, smiled, said, “Got it” and walked away.
Kids are annoying. I just gave him what I thought was one of the most profound answers of my entire life; one that takes years of wisdom to figure out, and takes minutes to succinctly explain and deliver in a fashion that he can understand. And to top it off, I delivered it off the cuff without any pre-thought nor rehearsal. And he replies with two words and walks away.
He came in later and asked if I was going to tell people. I told him that I had four choices.
One alternative is to only tell a few people as I go through this process. Of those that I have told, I believe that they will keep it to themselves, otherwise I would not have told them in the first place. Once treatment is done, I go back to day to day living as I’ve always done. Nobody else ever has to know.
Another alternative is to wait until MF is all gone and then tell people, if and when relevant. Some people will be hurt that they weren’t told beforehand. Oddly enough, if they’re hurt because they weren’t told, that’s the reason why I didn’t want to tell them.
A 3rd choice is to publish this journal/blog under a pen name (anonymously), or the 4th choice is to publish it under my real name. The idea is that it might help someone else going through something similar. With choice 3 and choice 4, I could publish each update (as in blog format), or I could wait until MF is gone and then publish it all at once, as a completed journal, almost like a book.
I asked if there was anyone that he wanted to tell. He said nope, not yet. He said that he’d wait until I figure it out.
I said, “If I don’t tell people, some will find out eventually, and then I’ll have to repeat the story over and over. Some people will be hurt because they weren’t told sooner. Rather than deal with people’s drama, I suspect that I will likely tell people, but I want to think through how and when I do it.
Let me give an example as to why I want to think it through. A few years ago, when you were about 7, there was a dad and a mom. They lived in this area and they were arguing. It was not a brief argument, their disagreement likely had been going on for weeks. They had a son who is your age. The stupid dad got so mad at the mom that one day, he went to where she works. He shot and killed her. Then he shot and killed six of her co-workers. Then, he shot some random guy in the parking lot. It was the worst mass shooting in Orange County history. The dad drove away. The Seal Beach police caught him within a few minutes and put him in jail. He never got out of jail. He’ll be in jail for the rest of his life. In just a few moments, that dad, obviously not thinking clearly, forever changed his life. He also forever changed his son’s life. His son did nothing wrong; yet now he won’t get to see his dad, who is in prison, and his mom is gone. His son will be forever known as the kid whose dad did the mass shooting.
The son did nothing wrong, yet people will whisper about him. It happened just a few miles from where we live. Last I heard, he now lives with his older sister. I believe they still live here; he might even be enrolled at your school, and he will be in your grade in high school. I’ve wondered what I will do when you go to a birthday party, and that kid is there. I don’t want to treat him any differently, but I suspect it might cross my mind when I first meet him. If I get to know him, I suspect that it will be something that I will forget about. That kid did nothing wrong, yet Dad’s actions left a stain on that kid. There’s a good chance that people will whisper about him, and/or feel compassion for him when he walks into a room.
Thankfully, my situation is nothing close to that. While my situation is totally different, I also don’t want people whispering and wondering about me, and I don’t want people treating me any differently than they did before. And I don’t want people treating you any differently. Whenever I teach the stock class, there are about a hundred people in the room. I don’t want 100 people coming to me, telling me that they’re sorry, and offering to help. It’s truly flattering that they care; and it’s humbling that they offer to help. Yet, many of them will want to know what happened; some will want a brief overview, some will want all the gory details. That means that I will continually have to re-live a not-so-fun period of my life that I’ve already put behind me. Plus, I’ll never get anything done!
If they feel compelled to say something, I would rather they simply say MF, or “my white bracelet” and leave it at that. I’ll know that they’ve read the journal; and they are aware of what I’m dealing with. If they know someone that can benefit from reading about my white bracelet, I trust they’ll pass it along.”
He said, “That’s a cool way to do it. I know you don’t like Facebook, but you might end up being popular,” and he walked away.
Then, a few minutes later, he walks back in. I brace myself for the next life-lesson question.
“Dad, do you know what steatopygia is?”
I’m puzzled. I try to spell it in my mind, in case he is mis-pronouncing it. My mind races; maybe this is a cancer term that I’ll be adding to my vocabulary. Before I can answer, he says, “it’s Kardashian’s butt” and walks away.
A couple days after having that discussion with him, I had the chance to tell a couple of friends, individually. I had told the first one that I’d been working on a project, a blog, and that I wanted his input. I told him that I didn’t want to send it to him; I explained that I wanted to see his reaction as that would tell me if I was saying it the way I wanted it to be heard. I knew we wouldn’t be seeing each other in the next week or two, and I really wanted his input, so I delivered the blog to him via a webinar! I use GoToMeeting regularly, so when we both had about 20 minutes, he logged into my “webinar”.
I asked if he would read it, kinda out loud, so I could hear his reaction. I’d scroll down when he got to the bottom of a page. He read the first two sentences out loud and said, “Oh my gosh, is this about you?” I said, “keep reading”.
Once he was done, we talked about it for a bit. The good thing is that all of the questions that I could answer, were already answered. He said, “I’m stunned, but that actually is a good way to deliver the message.”
I said, “I’m sorry that I just gave you something that’s going to marinade in your brain for awhile.” His comment, “you’ve got the right attitude and mindset, you’ll get through it.”
I told him that I was meeting another friend for lunch, and was debating about handing him a hardcopy of this journal to read while we’re sitting there. His comment, “Whatever you decide to do, be sure to let him eat first. After he reads it, he won’t feel like eating”.
So, I hung up the phone, and drove to lunch. As we sat there, we talked about how he was doing with trading, and I asked a lot about a new job he was excited to start. He was doing most of the talking, I tried hard to not eat all of my lunch.
When we hit a lull, I told him I was working on a project that I thought would take 4 or 5 months to complete. I held up a 10-page, “project plan” and said I’d like it if he could take a few minutes to read it while we’re sitting here and then give me feedback.
He was surprised that I’d written up a 10 page plan. He grabbed it and started reading. He very noticeably leaned forward, intently, after reading what I assume were the first two sentences. I could hear him say a few times, “oh wow…”.
I sat there and ate quietly. I got up to get us both a drink refill. He didn’t touch food nor drink for 10 minutes, he simply turned the pages. When he was done, his comment, “that’s good…it’s intense..I want to know more.” I asked if I should publish it. He said to absolutely publish it.
I said, “does it grab you because you know me? Or does it grab you because it grabs you?”
He said, “good point. It definitely grabs me because I know you. And because I know you, I can hear your voice saying all those words. I wasn’t reading, I was listening. It grabbed me because I could relate it to situations in my life, and to situations that I know of that other people are going through.”
We talked about those for a few minutes. I decided that I had to figure out how to get a stranger’s reaction. Moments later, the waitress stopped by the table. I asked her if we could borrow her for a few minutes to read something and provide us her feedback. After checking with her manager, she sat down with us and started to read.
When she was done, she said, “okay which one of you is Chris”. I laughed and said, “Neither, he is our friend and asked us to read this. We just wanted to get the input of a stranger.”
She made a few comments about how it grabbed her, and how it made her realize that some of the things in life that she was facing really were not that big of a deal.
he talked for a few minutes. We thanked her and as she stood up to go back to work, I rolled up my sleeve and asked if she’d like to see the lump. She shrieked and started bawling! Literally, standing there bawling; huge crocodile tears streaming down her face, mascara running down her cheeks. “I’m so sorry! Oh my god! That is so intense. Oh my god!”
After we wiped her tears and cleaned up her cheeks, we all three laughed about it. She said, “send me the blog when it’s done; I want to share it with others, and I want to know what happens next…”
My take-away: It’s okay that I’m disturbed by MF. I questioned myself a bit, wondering if I was being a drama-king about this whole MF situation. There is a part of me that says, “Just play the cards, do what you’ve gotta do; don’t spend your time sharing the details with others”.
Yet, when I see the reaction of people, be they strangers or be they friend, they do want to know. I realize why…it’s because they care.
more to come..