Feeling soooo grateful for 48 years and counting

I was teased a lot as a kid.  

I was short, very skinny and extremely hyper (when Oprah ran a special on Attention Deficit Disorder, several friends called to say I had ADHD 🙂 ).  

But something happened late in my teen years.  I grew overnight to 5’11”, put on 30 pounds of muscle so I was trim instead of skinny, and calmed down.  I started dressing more stylishly.  Even my facial features changed (Wife M looks at pictures of me and says she can’t believe it is the same person).  Personality wise,  I become less impetuous, and my tolerance of others improved.  Suddenly, some of the girls who had teased me as a kid were asking me out in college, and I was approached by strangers. All that has no meaning now, except it is much better memories than the ones I had where I was teased, and it has given me a lot of confidence in myself as I age.  In the early years, I oversteered – I became a little cocky.  But after a few years that too calmed down into quiet confidence, and then I met my future Wife M.  

But my point is this —  if life had been taken away at 10, 15 or even 20 or 25, I’d never had a chance to change, to evolve, not only looks wise but personality wise (I am a much wiser person I think then even in my 20s).  My life would have been — and =eople would remember me as — a small, opinionated, high-strung, homely kid with glasses.

It is such a gift to be given a long life, to change and evolve, to grow as a person.  Not everyone gets that chance. So I am very grateful. And how many kids or young adults have died who didn’t get a chance to evolve.  Which is one of the many reasons I love the idea of forgiveness and thinking the best of young people, and why our incarceration and imprisonment of so many young men and women is devestating, and one of many reasons of why wars are so tragic.

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Feeling soooo grateful for 48 years and counting

It has been 5 years to the day since I saw the thoracic surgeon – I feel incredibly lucky

5 years ago this week my pulmonologist referred me to a thoracic surgeon for a lung biopsy after a high resolution ct scan (HRCT) without contrast showed all kinds of “ground glass” speckles in my lungs.  The specks were everywhere, and I remember the doctor scrolling up and down through the image and my lungs looking like a starry sky (where the stars were something that shouldn’t be there 🙂 ) and thinking how strange it was to be looking at all those marks and realizing that was my lung.  

They got me into the surgeon two days later, and the surgeon (who was awesome) made a few comments that were memorable… One was that the complications risk were generally low but that I had very sick lungs so it was important to be aware there could be complications from the surgery, and the other was when we asked him if he had any educated guesses as to what I had he looked at the scan, shook his head and said “it could be anything.”  Five days later I had the surgery, and I still have the scars (they look like Walt’s scars in breaking bad, and I’m always surprised when I catch an image of them in the mirror at how noticable they are).  Those were scary times and I was looking at a very real possiblity of having something fatal.

Fast forward five years and I am remarkably — miraculously — healthy. I  still have lung disease and I now have autoimmune disease (which appeared later) and I will never be the same, but I am reasonably fit and look very healthy and – most importantly — am alive and not on an oxygen tank (50-50 chance of dying or having a crippling condition, which when its lungs can mean a lifetime of supplemental oxygen).    I was looking at the real possibility of lymphoma, untreatable lung disease or lung cancer and it turned out that my disease responded well to treatment (it is not curable, and was possibly treatable, and it turned it did respond to treatment).

In two words, I feel “incredibly lucky.”

It has been 5 years to the day since I saw the thoracic surgeon – I feel incredibly lucky

Pain is down today!  I feel so lucky and happy those 1 in 20 days I feel okay.

For a day or two every few weeks, my aches and pains and stiffness ebbs for no rhyme or reason.  Today seems to be one of those days.  After being in a tremendous amout of discomfort for the past couple of weeks, I feel good this morning.  During my exercise I felt nimble.  It’s funny, because I take care of myslf best I can despite the pain, so those days when I feel better I really do feel youthful again, as opposed to feeling like a 90 year old man the other 90% of the time.  Do I feel better abou tthe 90% of the days I hurt?  Nope.  That ship has sailed.  But I really do apprecaite those 1 in 20 days I feel good.  They are such a gift that I feel lucky to have!!!!!

Pain is down today!  I feel so lucky and happy those 1 in 20 days I feel okay.

Today is a good day – it has been 5 years since I was told I didn’t have pulmonary hypertension.  I am feeling blessed!!

In my earliest days of my health issues, when there was obviously something wrong with my heart and/or lungs, my pulmonologist gently alerted us that he wanted to do a test that would test if something was wrong with the artery between the heart and lungs.  Do you mean Pulmonary Hypertension? I asked.  Yes, he said.  But let’s finish your other tests first in case it is something else, he said.

So when they called me the next day to schedule the test, I was devastated.  I even cried for 5 minutes, the only time I cried during that entire crazy six months of diagnosis and treatment.  I just knew I had Pulmonary Hypertension, and I knew that Primary Pulmonary Hypertension would mean I wouldn’t see our kids graduate from high school.  

The test itself was fine.  They prepped me, treated me with kindness, and wheeled me away.  In the test, they take you to the operating room, slice an opening in your artery by the groin, run a tube up next to the heart, pump dye through the tube, and observe the dye running through the artery up there.  I think the procedure itself is an hour or so (I was drugged into oblivion), but then 3 or 4 hours has to be spent laying motionless on my back to allow the artery to heal enough so I wouldn’t bleed to death on the way home 🙂  After the drugs wore off, it was excruciating (boring plus my back hurt) to wait. 

When the doctor came back following the test, he said, “Clean as a whistle.”  THat is, I didn’t have pulmonary hypertension — the artery was clearn and good.  Which meant there would be more testing (it would take another month to learn what I had) but also meant I was not going to die from pulmonary hypertension.  We were ecstatic!

The median survival rate for that issue is 2-3 years from time of diagnosis.  Which means I probably would not be alive today if the test results had come back positive that day.  This morning was sunny, peaceful, and I was thinking how grateful I was to be alive on this day.  

ALthough I ended up with a different scary diagnosis, I am doing very well all things considered.  And, again, I feel nothing but luck and gratitude that I avoided something completely out of my control to avoid.

Today is a great day.

Today is a good day – it has been 5 years since I was told I didn’t have pulmonary hypertension.  I am feeling blessed!!

It is sooooo nice to be out of metrics hell

My last employer ruled its sales team by metrics.  50 “dials” (I hate that word) a day, 1-2 meetings a day, etc. each and every day.  The COO of a billion dollar company looked at these metrics every single day – who is meeting these metrics, who is not?  It takes all strategy out of it, and makes the job absolute hell, like working on a factory line but with the added pressure of quota.  In good times, this might be okay, since the frenzied buying can hide a lack of strategy, but they have really been suffering this past year.  Meanwhile, I am sooooo glad to be out of that hell.

It is sooooo nice to be out of metrics hell

Illness made me more comfortable emailing Decision Makers and using my full name.

Part of my job as a Sales Person is reaching out to “new” Decision Makers.  It is a part of the job that most experienced sales people hate, but honestly it is an important part of keeping revenue potential high when you/I don’t work for a big and established firm.  Before my illness, I never used my last name (“Hi, this is Robert with ABC Company”) when I called, and never emailed someone I hadn’t met before – primarily because I didn’t want someone recognizing my name in a personal setting (a fear of at a dinner party someone saying, “Hey, I know you, aren’t you that sales person who called and emailed me last week?”).   But my potentially fatal illness a few years ago changed that – now I am okay emailing strangers, and using my full name when I call someone.  Why? Because everything in life is so temporary, and at the end of the day, no one’s opinion really matters any more (note: I still do the ethical thing, but not because I fear being judged — I do it because it is how I am wired to be).  That summer when I was coming off treatment, when I didn’t know yet if I would survive, the world seemed like a shadow and I didn’t feel like I belong in the world; for the most part that has passed, but in some ways I still maintain that couldn’t-care-less-what-you-think  mentality.  HOnestly, it’s quite pleasant and yet another gift my illness bestowed upon me.

Illness made me more comfortable emailing Decision Makers and using my full name.

So many times, an extra 10 minutes goes a long way towards helping another person – we are grateful to the person who did that yesterday.

Daughter L made a friend on one of our days ashore.  They spent the entire day talking, laughing and swapping stories.  But at the end of the day, they forgot to exchange contact information, so all she had was the person’s first name, age and country of origin.  But she wanted to reach that person again.  What to do?

We called Guest Relations on the boat.  Could they help us?  No, they said.  But we could try the Excursions desk.  So I called the Excursions desk but we were put on hold.  I tend to hate the phone anyway (I’d rather do face-to-face or by email), so I walked down to the Excursion desk.  I told the story and asked if they could help us track down this person?  No, the person said, only if we had the first and last name.  Ugh.  Later, that night, I went back to Guest Relations, and tried a final time.  “We have the first name, age and the person’s nationality,” I said.  “Isn’t there any way to search the database that way?”  The young woman at the front desk thought for a moment.  Let me try a few things, she said.  And she took 5 minutes to search through her computer.  “I think I found it,” she said.  “There is only one 20 year old from that country on the ship.”  She explained she couldn’t give us the name or the cabin number, but that she could call on our behalf or deliver a message to the room.  So I sent our contact information to the room.

(Note: if this is a different format, it is not by choice 🙂 – I think I hit a random button that changed formatting for this paragraph).  A half hour later, there was a knock on the door, and it was the friend.  My daughter was happy, and it turns out the friend was happy – they were having the same dilemma and wanted to reach my daughter, and in fact had been searching the shiop for her.  Both were happy, life was good, and all because one of three people took an extra effort to help us.  She cared, she took 5 minutes to search, and she took 5 minutes to relay the message.  

10-minutes is nothing. It is the time it takes me to shave, brush my teeth, floss and rinse off in the morning.  But so many times it is difficult for most people to find an extra 10-minutes to go the extra mile for another person, especially when we are disgruntled with something else. But it is so important, not only for customer service and business, but primarily on a human being level – we all want to same like our needs matter.  

I am very grateful to that person who helped us, and I sent a note to her employer that I hope expresses my apprecation in some small way,.

So many times, an extra 10 minutes goes a long way towards helping another person – we are grateful to the person who did that yesterday.