The short version - best and worst year

In December 2017, I was at the worst point in my 6th (or more) bout of pneumonia in 10 years. After a week of pet/house sitting for Laura and Robert, I dragged myself into a walk-in Novant Healthcare clinic. They asked questions, listened to my lungs and ordered up a chest x-ray. The Dr. got the pictures back and then sent it "upstairs" to the head of Radiology. "Bill, you've definitely got pneumonia." And, they both saw "a spot" on my upper left lung. They talked about it and were pretty sure it was pneumonia but "Bill, we want to make sure. Come back in a month and we'll take another picture."

What I heard was "come back here when the pneumonia clears up so we can get another picture." I'm not fooling myself (now anyhow) or anybody else. The Dr. no-doubt said what he said. I heard what I wanted to hear.

April 2018. Larry Bennett - friend and identical twin for life had scored tickets to see The Eagles. We got to the Spectrum Center and I doubled up the stairs like I always had. But at the top I said "LB, hang on. I've got to catch my breath!" That was an odd thing to hear coming out of my own mouth. I'd always been in good shape but I really needed to catch my breath. We've talked about that a hundred times since then.

July, 2018: Laura (my 10 foot tall baby sister) and I were at a 3 day seminar. We had a homework assignment to write a letter (that we wouldn't send) to somebody that we haven't been completely honest with. They used the term "inauthentic". On Saturday (day 2), during a break, Laura and I walked across the street to get a cup of coffee. We were sitting outside. It was a beautiful July morning. Laura asked me if I did my homework. "Of course I did. And I wrote my letter to Rob." I asked, "How bout you?" She looked at me and said, "Yes, and I wrote my letter to you."

My heart stopped.

She proceeded to read the most amazing letter I've ever "gotten." It broke my heart. She was pleading with me to get medical help. It was life-or-death. *If you want to read the letter, it's in the long version of all this. That letter is a lesson on "who you should raise your kids to become." And I'm not talking about me.

I promised her I'd march my scrawny ass over to the walk-in first thing Monday morning. She looked at me with serious eyes and said, "NO you won't! I'll pick you up, and we'll go together."

Monday, July 23. Laura and I went to the walk-in clinic, after an x-ray, I was ordered to immediately go to the hospital. About 3 hours later Dr Listwa walked into the little room with Laura and me, sad down and put his hands in the size and shape of a softball. "Bill, I don't say this lightly. And I'm as certain as I can be before I do say it. This is cancer."

What seemed like an hour later, I smiled and said "thanks for not bull-shittin' me Doc." I was serious. The long version of this goes into some amazing things that happened after that. But let's keep this train moving.

I told my family (of course) and my closest friends. I was instantly surrounded by the most amazing corner-team a fighter could ever dream of. We have laughed and cried. But mostly laughed. You are all a give to me that I can never repay.

That was a year ago. Since the moment in that little room, It's been the very best year of my life. It's also been the very worst. This "ball" turned out to be inoperable stage 4 lung cancer. My only option was (and is) chemotherapy. My "baby sister" Laura has been with me EVERY single step of the way.

Until now - to look at me, if you didn't know I was sick, you wouldn't know I was sick. I've been able to sneak under the radar.

Three weeks ago, my chemotherapy regimen changed. It's now "the drug that makes your hair fall out." I've said forever "all I've got is good hair and a decent sense of humor." Let me tell you, I don't find this part funny. I don't want people to feel sorry for me when they see some sick guy. And honestly, I don't like the thought of looking in the mirror and seeing a sick guy.

Sure enough. Right on schedule, my hair is hitting the ground (and pillow, and sink, and every damned thing around me) and I look like I have "the mange."

A couple weeks ago, Laura and I were meeting with Dr. Obi, (Dr. Ogbata, my angel and Oncologist). I ASKED, and she told me that I can expect 9-15 months. I split the difference and - I call it a year.

This past year, and with what's ahead - to me is a gift. A huge gift! I feel so lucky. Then again, I always have.

My dad and step-dad both died suddenly. Friends and other family members have died suddenly. But me, I have this "gift" of time.

My hair falling out was the sign that I needed to tell my friends and family, that I haven't been able to tell individually - I LOVE YOU. I can not imagine what my life would be like without you.

I still say "I'm the luckiest guy to ever walk this planet." I wake up every morning with a smile, feeling like I've won a prize.

I would love to talk with each of you. There's a reason we bumped into each other during our lives. I think the people and the "reasons" are why we're here. Love. Laughter and Tears. Joy and Sadness. Beginnings and Endings.

I feel GREAT. And, except for a few setbacks, I've felt great since I began treatment. My Drs. are THE very best on the planet. They really are! Again, I'm so lucky. Dr. Obi (Dr. Ogbata - my angel), Dr. Thakor, Dr. Greenfield, and Dr. Listwa. Wow. These people are rock-stars. I'm not kiddin' Look em' up!

I want to talk with every one of you! Call me anytime. 616-886-0005. Or, send me an email. bill@billpayne.net. Trust me when I tell you - you'll make my day. If I don't get back to you right away, please know that I will. I love you all so much. Wow. How did I...

I'm just some guy that smiles too much and lives this dream of a life I've gotten to live.

But, here's the deal...

That "gift" I talked about is time. But not just any time. It's time that I've been given to be able to tell you all thank you and how much I love you and what every one of you means to me. A sudden death doesn't give you that! I've had time to talk with many people who helped me, inspired me, and helped me grow into the not-so-bad-guy that I'm proud to say that I am. To me, that's an amazing gift.

But, there's a curse that comes right alongside. Somehow, I have to say goodbye to you. And I can't even imagine how... And that's probably a good place for me to tie this up.

Thank you Sam the Cat for teaching me a HUGE lesson in your last days. You were the first friend that I had to say goodbye to. You taught me that I would have to say goodbye to everybody else too. I miss you buddy. Thanks again.

Whatever you're thinking or feeling right now, stop. Instead... call your sister, call your brother, call your mom, hug your kids, play with your dog, talk to your cat. LIVE. Life's too short to leave much time to do anything else. And THAT'S what it's all about.

IF, you're as lucky as me the hardest thing you'll ever "get" to do is figure out - how to even begin to say...

Comments

  1. Well done brother!! This is so well written. Love you : )

    ReplyDelete
  2. Bill, I am walking this path with you my friend as my wife too has stage 4 inoperable Pancreatic cancer. You know that I normally don't get all gushy. But you my friend made me smile and laugh many times as we worked together. If you ever need to reach out to me PM me and I will give you my number. Love ya brother!!

    ReplyDelete

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