Thursday, May 24, 2012

A lot of stuff.

For those who know me, you know I am a man of many passions, many strengths and many emotions. To know me is to know where you stand with me, and to know my opinion of you, even if only to know I don't have one yet. Though tempered by my mind and my sense of justice, my heart is quite capable of the emotions of vengeance, wrath and fury, and I would be lying if I said I had not entertained such thoughts against several people in my life.

All that being said... I wouldn't wish the side effects of my Chemotherapy on my worst enemy. 

And even more... I wouldn't wish cancer on anyone either. 

At the moment I am just now recovering from what could best be described as "bug" with extreme gastrointestinal pain and "issues" more or less since last Sunday. Not only did my stomach hurt, but all of the signals it normally sends were screwed up all to hell. I had to learn (and am still learning in a lot of respects), and the signal for "gut wrenching nausea" now doesn't actually mean I am going to throw up. In fact, it means I need to eat something, or the pain is only going to get worse. And yes, let me tell you, that little fact took me a few agonizing days to sort out.

I've gotten a lot of pats on the back and support, from friends, from co-workers, and even from some strangers. As much as I appreciate all of it, I really have to tell you, there have been times where I just wanted to curl up and scream because there didn't seem to be any escape from the pain. I didn't, but Lord help me, how I avoided that is beyond me. You can say what you want, but even now, I am using strength that I frankly just don't have. The poetic would call it "divine intervention." Personally, I'm just ready to look up at the heavens and say "thanks."

Still, there are some thing that you might enjoy from my experience. Even though the suffering, there have been triumphs, joys and wonders. 

As you probably know, I made it into work on Friday, as much to my own surprise as anyone else. It turns out that that was fortuitous for me on several levels. 

First of all, when I showed up on Monday, I'll just say right out that doing anything was a struggle, the pain in my stomach, as well as the gas and a million other things just made work unbearable. My team flocked around me almost immediately, helping or offering to help. There was no talk of "until your better", or "how much work can you still do"... just "I've got it," or "No problem, how do you want me to handle this." The relief was enough to help me settle in, and start to figure out how to work under what is going to be a new "normal" for me. The hardest part for me was IMing my supervisor and asking for a reduced workload. Part of my core work ethic is carrying my fair share, so it took a lot for me to not only admit that I couldn't meet the bar, but the to say as much to a supervisor was doubly hard. To her credit, Jamie didn't blink, she reduced my volume of work, and told me to just let her know when I feel up to 100% again. I assured her that I wouldn't push this farther than it had to go, and she just waived me off. "I'm not worried about it, Cisco. if I were I wouldn't have said yes in the first place."

Tuesday was a lot like Monday... and in some way a little more punishing. When I got home that night, we went out to eat, and that turned out to be a mistake. Something in the salad dressing instantly declared war on my stomach, and I was in agony for most of the meal. I got up at one point and walked outside, on the verge of tears, wondering when, if ever, the pain would end. 

I don't know why, or what, or how, but in the end I wound up coming to a small realization. I could worry and cry and suffer over things that weren't under my control, or I could deal with what I could control, and just "man-up" over the rest. It didn't make the pain go away, or even lessen, but for some reason I suddenly felt like I wasn't on the loosing end of a fight anymore, like maybe there was hope somewhere closer than the end of the proverbial tunnel.

As it tuned out, hope, and a lot more was just around the corner. 

Wednesday started off like Monday and Tuesday had, rocky and painful. I muscled through the first two hours with resolve I didn't know I had. Right after my Break, my case mentor told me she was scheduling a "one on one" with me. These were individual meetings, and could range from anything from a pep talk to "you are doing your job wrong." I've been in a few, and had mixed results in the past, one of them I would even qualify as a firing squad. The moment I heard that, I jumped up and ran to the bistro to grab something to eat. I wound up with a western panini, and let me tell you.... not only did it hit the spot, but for the duration of my meeting, my pain was almost gone. 

Now, for the crux of the meeting, and the cool part. Carlen (my case mentor) sat down with me and started off by saying how glad she was to work with me. My worries of another firing squad were instantly gone, she was just doing her normal rounds, saying hi and talking to each team member in turn. She said how impress she was with me overall, and praised my work with customers, even the difficult ones. I point blank asked her if there was anything I needed to work on, and she said that while I can always improve, nothing in my stats or metrics was off base. Not only was I doing a good job, but she was noticing it. 

And then for the creme-de-la-creme. Carlin just casually added, "yeah, I even mentioned you in a meeting the other day."


"Yeah. We had a case mentor's meeting on Monday, and I got in there with all of the rest of them," [and all of the higher-ups on site,  I will point out], "and the first thing I said at the meeting was 'yeah, my agent Cisco just impressed the hell out of me.' and they were like 'why's that?' and I said "He just had surgery on Wednesday, and then chemotherapy on Thursday, and he was at work on Friday, working like normal."

What she didn't say, that I found out a little later was that of this room full of people [including the facility manager] mostly hadn't even heard of my diagnosis, so their introductions to it was not "oh he has cancer," but "oh yeah, he had surgery and chemotherapy, and yeah, now he's right back at his desk working."

While not quite the subtle "let the people who need to know know first" approach I was aiming for, in the end, Carlin's casual comment set the stage for my coworkers to find out all of the important parts right up front. 1: Yes, I am sick. 2: I still have a job to do, and by God I am going to do it. 

To cap the whole meeting off, she added that she consider my work ethic an inspiration, and was "impressed to hell" (her words) with how I was both handling the whole thing and dealing with the chemo. 

Believe me, I'm not saying any of this to self aggrandize. No, I'm saying this because one nagging worry I have with any job I do is wondering what the people "up top" think. I know I work my butt off, that's never a question in fact, but how much do they actually see, what do they think, what is their opinion. Wednesday I got to find out that whatever my shortcomings... the people who oversee me look at me and see an asset, and they see an asset worth backing  and backing up. 

That was the shot in the arm I needed to make it through the day. It still wasn't easy, not by any stretch, but for the first time since that phone call two Fridays before I was reinvigorated, and ready to push myself again. 

Also, as a side note, one of the perks we like to get at work is when customers e-mail our bosses to brag about how good a job we did. On average, I'd say our team pulls in one kudos letter per person every two weeks, with some averaging more. 

I pulled in two in one day on Wednesday, and no, I have never mentioned my condition to a customer. 

In the end, some people might want to call this week one for the "win" column. I'm not saying it isn't, but most people who say that haven't faced the type of situation I am. Pats on the back are good, but the don't do anything to alleviate the very real stomach pain when it's at its worse. 

I'm not keeping "wins" or "losses" right now. I'm living it, writing it down, and moving on. In the end, getting a pat on the back or praise from my boss is good. In fact it's wonderful. But it's not as wonderful as knowing that some day I am going to look back and say "I beat it!"


  1. Glad to see you feeling well enough to post! It's great to hear from you and good to know you're still kickin'!

  2. Keep putting 1 foot infront of the other and you will be on the other side of this before you know it!

    You are def. an inspiration!

    Sending Cancer fighting vibes your way!

    Jodi from Ontario, Canada

    1. Ontario...

      Holy smokes! Not that I mind the coverage in the least, but how in the heck did you hear about me up there?

      And thanks.

  3. might want to break the panini into elements and see what worked so well... congrats on the 'still getting up again' ethic..Pyro