This One Has Shakespeare
From May 27, 2020
Dear Friends --
This Friday marks three weeks since my small lung surgery. And for the most part, my recovery has gone remarkably well, meaning that no one would probably know that less than a month ago I was looking at a nurse in my room in a rather foggy state saying, "Um I'm not sure if anyone here knows this, but I'm fairly certain someone left a knife in my back."
Instead, my days are full of long walks, and even a long bike ride this past weekend. Pro tip for all living in or planning to visit San Francisco: You simply must rent one of those snazzy e-bikes. You'll zip over intimidating hills fueled by both the power of your very strong legs and the rather awesome battery-powered jet fuel giving your bike just the extra kick it needs. And who's to know the ratio of legs to jet fuel? Zero people!
Recent days have also included a few medical chats with The Medical Team. I wonder if at some point I should write a small post with the bios of all the medical characters who have been on stage for this wild adventure -- like a playbill when you go to the theater. "This is Dr. K(2)'s 9,784th lung surgery, and he's especially glad to be back in the OR today with his favorite anesthesiologist. Also he'd like to thank his parents for always believing in him, even when they wanted him to pursue a career in stand up comedy while he insisted on going to medical school."
At any rate, The Team all agree I've reached a stable place for this part of my story. K(3) and C are the starring leads these days, two of the best oncologists we'll ever know. They agree that a good plan for me for the weeks ahead is to stay on maintenance chemo, which is to say pills called Xeloda that I take in the morning and evening.
I know what you're thinking here. I agree. Xeloda will need a nickname. I was pondering this with my friend Jim in recent days and he suggested Lynda Carters. "I mean they are kind of a disguise for making you like Wonder Woman, right?" We went back and forth on this a bit -- you could for sure make a case for Jaime Sommers and the Bionic Woman (maybe I AM bionic now?), but I like the sound of Lynda Carters so we'll go with that, unless someone else here has a better idea. If so, you and Jim can debate it and get back to me.
Anyhow, if Foxy was the big tanker jet that dropped tons of water and flame retardant on my flaming and sometimes smoldering tumors and the itty bitty, think of Lynda Carters as more of a steady sprinkler system keeping all the embers nice and doused. I take them for 14 days, and then pause for seven.
For how long? Oh here's where the story gets all kinds of interesting. Apparently there are some out there who take Lynda Carters FOR YEARS. I know. Who knew. Others have a harder time with side effects, and it's not such a terrific long term option. So far for me, the main issue is some concern with redness, mild swelling, and skin issues on my hands and feet. We're playing with the dosage so the great hope and prayer here is that Lynda Carter and I might become long-term friends.
Yes but what really comes next? I'd like to know too. Honestly if there's one question I think we all want to know these days, it's simply this: what's going to come next? When will I eat in a restaurant again? Will my kids learn in a classroom in the fall or in a zoom? When will any of us ever go to a baseball game again? Is that my true hair color? I get it.
How maddening that none of us know. But also how absolutely revelatory. Because when we move through the uncertainty, perhaps our main question will shift from "what comes next" to "who will I be as I wait to find out?"
Recently Lucy and I were talking about her big takeaways from Romeo and Juliet, her main reading assignment for the final quarter of her English class. She lamented that she wished that the story didn't have to be a tragedy. "There were so many times in the story when someone could have made a better decision, if only they had known just a little more." But in talking through it, we both agreed that the reason that story has endured for centuries is because the true story is about the fragility of love, and how loving people well means taking care of that gift just as carefully as we possibly can. Even, and especially, when we don't know how the story will end.
Earlier this year, she and I watched "Shakespeare in Love," where a consistent back and forth piece of dialogue is shared throughout the story:
"But how will it end?"
"I don't know. It's a mystery."
Somehow the story is better when we don't know. Maybe, just maybe, in uncertain chapters we live our best days. Or at least our most important days, because these days -- these fragile days -- are truly love story days. We're looking out for each other like never before, and remembering why we love restaurants and baseball: they are the places where we share life's adventures with the ones we care most about.
But for now, we live in the place in between. For me, that means living fully until we learn more from the next scan, which will be sometime in July. And for all of us, that means living fully through different phases of reopenings, and then maybe more closings, and then back again.
A friend in recent days sent me this text as a good morning message. A quote from the Merchant of Venice: "How far that little candle throws his beams! So shines a good deed in a weary world."
What comes next? Our good deeds. It's who we are. It's who God made us to be.