Saturday, August 13, 2016

In which I quote Wayne's World... a lot.

Confession: I love Wayne's World. In fact, I have dressed as Garth on more than one occasion (usually only for costume parties ;) ). Bohemian Rhapsody came on in the car today when I was in AURORA, home of Wayne Campbell and Garth Algar. It was perfectly poetic and it prompted me to watch the video clip on YouTube, embedded here for your viewing pleasure:

If you took the time to watch the clip, note that the White Castle is the actual White Castle in Aurora, a mere minutes away from my house! 

So, what's the point of me sharing my love for a very 90's movie born out of SNL sketch comedy? First, so you get to know me a bit better. I told you what you see is what you get, and if you didn't know I can pull off a pretty good Garth, you don't really know me. Second, to remind anyone reading this about how AWESOME Wayne's World is. Lastly, to paint a picture of the comfort in the familiar as well as the comfort in the memory of a simpler time in my life.

If the preceding paragraphs don't serve as evidence for my love for Wayne's World (and Wayne's World 2), maybe this anecdote will: I quoted Wayne's World 2 in my last job interview. (Spoiler alert: I got the job, so either the appreciated my sense of humor or they had no idea I was quoting the movie.) The choice quote: "If you book them, they will come." The spirit of Jim Morrison wisely tells Wayne and Garth that's how they will get bands to play their Aurora concert, and (Spoiler alert again!) it works. Aerosmith shows up. AEROSMITH! I didn't just blurt out this quote randomly, it actually answered the interview question perfectly. It's pretty good life advice: if you set an expectation, it is much more likely to be met than if you didn't bother to set the expectation at all. At the very least, it was a better quote than Wayne's "It will be mine. Oh yes, it will be mine." That probably wouldn't go over very well in a job interview, nor would "We're not worthy! We're scum! We suck!" help you get a job, though it did help Wayne and Garth get away from the very awesome Alice Cooper. 

There is both comfort in the familiar and comfort in remembering simpler times. I watched Wayne's World a countless number of times in my youth, long before I had a close encounter with my mortality. Remembering the movie brings back a little piece of the unadulterated me, as does listening to Q101, and memories of an MTV with TRL and music videos and Loveline. I am so grateful to be growing older (better than the alternative!), but I am also grateful for the glimpses of the young me, the person with unlimited potential and endless possibilities, the person with a whole pancreas who had no idea what it felt like to be really, really unwell. I'd venture to guess everyone has their own version of "the good ol' days," though I have no desire to return to them. Garth doesn't need to tell me to "Live in the now!" because I make a point to do just that. Additionally, adulthood does have its perks, such as buying fancy guitars, playing hockey in the street, and headbanging to "Bohemian Rhapsody" in a car that is not owned by your parents. 

Party on! 

Friday, August 12, 2016

Why not me, revisited

Prior to the fall of 2014, I did not feel connected to Steve Jobs in any real way, besides having owned an iPod and an Apple computer or two. The doctor who was given the task of telling me about my pancreatic tumor introduced the diagnosis by telling me what it "probably" wasn't- pancreatic adenocarcinoma. So I said, "Oh, like Patrick Swayze?" Him: "Yes." Me: "Or Steve Jobs?" Him: "Wait just a minute there. Steve Jobs had a neuroendocrine tumor, which can be curable. We think you might have a neuroendocrine tumor." I absorbed the gravity of the potential diagnosis from my knowledge of Steve Jobs, a very public figure who died of pancreatic cancer relatively recently (he died in 2011). While I did not end up having the "Steve Jobs" variety of pancreatic cancer, I did have a Whipple surgery like he did. I did have "a" variety of pancreatic cancer like he did, though it wasn't the same histology (type of tumor tissue). So, I feel a bit of a connection to Steve Jobs.

I came across this Steve jobs quote the other day as I was creating the image for the Julian of Norwich quote ("All shall be well..."): "The people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world are the ones who do."  I was instantly attracted to the quote itself, and then I saw to whom the quote is attributed. Steve Jobs. I had to save this one for later! So I created another image with his fantastic message. 

As I tried to make peace with my trial of an illness, I didn't wonder "Why me?" I decided to question, "Why not me?" Or I tried to, at least. "Why me?" is a pity-seeking question in my opinion. To me, "Why not me?" means that I am like everyone else. I am not more or less deserving of good or bad things. So, I got a tumor. "Why me?" is not a really productive thought to ponder, but "Why not me?" grounded me to the idea that the random and bad things that can happen are just that: random. Maybe you already see how this world view of mine relates to people being crazy enough to believe they can change the world, maybe you don't. Simply: People do make a difference. Why can't I be one of those people? I can! Why not me? Why can't you be one of those people? You can! Why not you? 

Thursday, August 11, 2016

All will be well

I'm not a regular churchgoer, though I sometimes attend a local Universal Unitarian Sunday service. I heard these wise words during the "For All Ages" part of a poetry-themed service, though the speaker changed "shall" to "will," probably to make the saying more understandable to the younger folk. The speaker said this was a poem he kept in "his back pocket." While it's not a poem, exactly, it's a good saying to have at the ready. It's a really eloquent (and poetic) way of saying, "It's going to be alright!" I now prefer Julian of Norwich's positive spin to my oft-used, back-pocketed saying, "This too shall pass." 

During my two-week-stay at the surgical telemetry suite, I communicated with my family though text and video chats. I distinctly remember typing to my husband, "This will be behind us soon." All shall be well. 13 of the 14 days I was in the hospital, I held on to the hope that this experience was but a blip, that I would soon return to normal. All would be well. On that one day, Day 10 as it were, I had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good,Very Bad Day. I blogged a bit about that day back in October 2015. On that dark day, I lost sight of the larger picture. I did not reassure myself that all shall be well. I didn't know that saying yet, so maybe that was the problem. 

How do you get through your dark days? 

Wednesday, August 10, 2016

Leave your mark: part 2

"The thing I realize is that it's not what you take, it's what you leave." 
-Violet, via Jennifer Niven, author of All the Bright Places

It's no secret that I love books. I am a librarian, after all. The past seven years I have been working with elementary school-aged children, and I have loved (almost) every minute of it. However, the time has come for me to move on to something different. I am moving to our district's high school, so my student body and thus reading material has had to change considerably. There's a lot I have to catch up on. The quote above is from Jennifer Niven's book All the Bright Places. If you read this post about making your mark, you know my approach to this goal has changed since my illness. Making my mark is about what I leave, not in the "when I leave this world" sense, but in the "what can I do today to make the world a better place" sense. 

For me, this quest to make the world a better place includes my quest to become a better human. Professionally, I constantly work on improving my craft and bettering my students' educational experiences. Personally, I strive for self improvement. As my career progresses in time and in responsibility/success, the line between my professional self and my personal self not only becomes blurred, but it is starting to disappear entirely. In other words, I present myself honestly and consistently across the different "categories" of my life. What you see is what you get. My colleagues, fellow library trustees, social club friends, etc., all know the same person that my family knows: ME. 

I'm pretty sure I was the same way before surgery, but I was perhaps a bit more guarded than I am now. I'm honestly not sure. I'm the now me, as I ever am (as we all ever are). As time moves me further away from my illness, surgery, and recovery, I reflect less on how this experience has changed me, which is evident by my lack of writing on this particular blog. I spend more time reflecting on how to do better, how to be a better human. If you'll stay with me, I'll continue to write about my quest. Not as a documentation of the things that I do that I perceive as "good," but as a challenge to myself to "put my money where my mouth is." This week I've been all about reading inspirational quotes, so look forward to that- hardy har har. 

And now, one of the most confusing quotes from one of my favorite pieces, Lewis Carroll's Alice in Wonderland: 

"'Be what you would seem to be’–or if you’d like it put more simply–‘Never imagine yourself not to be otherwise than what it might appear to others that what you were or might have been was not otherwise than what you had been would have appeared to them to be otherwise.'" -The Duchess

Wednesday, August 3, 2016

Being Alive

This past weekend, my husband posed the question, "Aren't you glad we had kids?" Of course! That's an easy question. I'm going to go out on a limb and suggest most parents are mostly happy about their status as parents. In turn, I asked, "Aren't you glad I'm not dead?" A ridiculous exchange, I know, but asking ridiculous questions with (hopefully) obvious answers is part of the fun of (our) marriage. 

Prior to my giant tumor/illness/surgery debacle, "Aren't you glad I'm not dead?" was not part of our repertoire. Again, it should go without saying that people are mostly happy about Being Alive. The status of Being Alive, however, became more important to us after we had to look pancreatic cancer in the face (in the pancreas?). In the diagnosis-limbo month, nearly everything I read was doom-and-gloom. I remember thinking that I might have a life expectancy of an additional six months, according to common pancreatic cancer statistics. Even so, I was hopeful that I did not have adenocarcinoma and had a neuroendocrine tumor instead (possibly benign!). I remember saying to Chris, "Even if it is neuroendocrine cancer, there's a good chance it'll take 5 to 10 years to kill me." I got daggers for eyes in response. The initial and post-surgical biopsies proved much more optimistic, my tumor was exceedingly rare (a good thing in this situation), surgically curable, and unlikely to return. 

I'm about 18 months post-surgery at this point, and super happy about Being Alive. My quality of life is fantastic. Most people who have had the Whipple procedure report similar quality of life to the un-Whippled, according to this study

I feel great, though undergoing a pancreaticoduodenectomy (I spelled that right on the first try!), a.k.a. Whipple procedure, has not been without consequences, physical and otherwise. I see an oncologist quarterly for an exam and blood tests, and I have a follow-up CT annually (indefinitely). While not exactly convenient, it's helpful. My surgical changes have rendered me anemic, but the answer is iron pills (no big deal!). My surgical changes have messed a bit with my digestion and given me chronic gastritis (a slightly bigger deal but still manageable). My surgical changes are what helped me remain the the "Being Alive" category, so I take the negative consequences with a pretty positive attitude, hence the "fantastic" quality of life statement. 

I recognize how trite it is to state one's appreciation for Being Alive only after a brush with not Being Alive, but it is my truth. Thanks for reading.