Life Through Headphones

*The following post is hosted at MD Anderson’s blog, Cancerwise.org. Here is the long, unedited version. Thank you for your support!*

Two weeks ago, I sat in a coffee shop and stared at a blinking cursor on a blank screen. The cafe was filled with noisy conversation, a non-ambient soundtrack, and customers who yelled orders over obnoxious blenders. I kept wishing things would be different, fantasizing about conversation levels dying down, and hoping that people would finally get the memo that coffee is not meant to be mixed with ice. I sat defeated when I realized that none of those things would ever come true.

After a few minutes, I suddenly remembered that my backpack was at the foot of the table. As quickly as I could, I reached for my headphones and put them over my ears. Everything that I had been hoping for was finally coming true. Ambient music flooded my senses and the world around me had become mute. The jackhammer that was apparently used to crush ice was extinguished and I no longer felt as if I was in a restless place with infinite drink combinations. I had finally found my comfort zone. Continue reading “Life Through Headphones”

Meow Mix

*Meow Mix commercial plays in the background*

Katie: I’m going to start feeding you cat food.

Me: Noooooo.

Katie: It has salmon in it.

Me: Oh, okay.

Barack Obama, Neuro-Ophthalmologist?

It seems like the person who’s credited with the phrase “Home is where the heart is” was really good at putting the obvious into words.

After nearly two months, I am finally back home. I arrived in Dallas on Wednesday, GPS in hand so that I didn’t get lost. My apartment felt new, like I had just moved in.

I don’t want to bore anybody with the details, but nothing happened with appointments this week. I’m still waiting for a visit with the neuroophthalmologist and I’ll likely make one more day trip to Houston this week to pick up the new Ponatinib. Other than that, it’s just a waiting game.

In fact, UT Southwestern said that it would be approximately eight weeks until they processed all of the necessary paperwork to get me in for an appointment.

I have a better chance of scheduling tea time with Barack Obama. Hm, I wonder if he knows anything about the eyes. I may just do that (Hi, secret service).

Me and my brother’s apartment lease is up at the end of the month. With all of the things I need to do to assure a smooth transition to a new apartment, I was growing restless, anxious, and impatient with things while away from home. The last thing I need is to add the stress of moving to a dinner plate that is already overflowing with things. Which brings up a good topic; moving.

Katie and I have visited at least ten places in the past three days.

Ten.

It would be funny to see a time lapse of our faces from the first day we walked into an office to the last. It’s very possible that we now look like zombies.

I mean, I’m literally dragging my leg from a running injury I sustained one week ago. *sobs*

It’s raining here, so we walk into places looking dreary, somber, and wet. With my story, I truly expect Ty Pennington to walk through the door and, using his outside voice inside, tell us that we’re not getting an apartment, we’re getting a new home.

Ty, if you’re reading this, at least bring me a Hoveround. Please.

Time in the Valley

“The mind of man plans his way, but the Lord directs his steps.” – Proverbs 16:9

I’ve confused myself by this verse in the past. I read it correctly, but my mind always wants to put my name in the second half of this sentence. Something about “…but Justin directs his steps” sounds a lot better and translates a lot easier than if I were to merely allow God to be in control. A life outside of this always leads me to frustration, discontent, and unhappiness, but I try to make it work anyway, daily forgetting the consequences. I’m thankful that I’m given grace every day.

I’m still learning. Continue reading “Time in the Valley”

Didy’s Sport Bar

Times are tough. Entrepreneurship has taken a hit all across America. One might think that Sean “Puff Daddy” “P Diddy” “Diddy” Combs might have been an exception to the rule, but I appear to have gotten an exclusive first look at the superstar’s financial disposition.

Tucked away on a busy side street in Houston, Texas is a brand new, high end sport bar owned by the rapper himself. On the outside, the building remains modest. Diddy likes for people to know that he is a humble guy. On the inside, who knows, there may be a TV. Disregard, for a second, that Diddy’s new digs is spelled Didy’s. He’s working on a refund, or another name change. Why do you think he changed his name from Puff Daddy to Diddy to begin with? Hint: Business cards and misspellings. What’s important is that this is a sport bar. One sport. The first of its kind. If watching sports is cool, watching whatever sport that happens to be chosen for you is even cooler. Didy says so. Sorry, I mean Diddy. Even I’m confused now. Continue reading “Didy’s Sport Bar”

Ophthal, Opthal, Optal, Octal…Eye Doctor

I’m starting to feel a lot better about my eyesight. Maybe it’s because I’ve had some time to process the realities that some of the damage done may be permanent. Or maybe it’s because I have hope that they’ll return to normal one day. Either way, I’ve accepted that the way I see now may be my new perfect.

The appointment with the glaucoma specialist went well. Let me define well: I don’t show any signs of glaucoma, the inflammation of my optic nerve head is absent, and after a week off of medication to reduce my eye pressure, the pressure levels are 12 and 11, both normal. It sort of confirms the theory that the trial drug induced my vision problems. Continue reading “Ophthal, Opthal, Optal, Octal…Eye Doctor”

Week 5: A Marathon of the Mind

Things are starting to become mentally tough. I feel like I’m on mile 20 of 26.2 mile marathon. My legs are getting tired and my mind is starting to wonder. I realize that I can’t turn around. Although, why would I want to? I’m almost to the finish line. This is the battlefield of hope, optimism, and endurance. The body is tired and the mind is vulnerable. A reliance upon feelings will always deceive. A reliance upon God’s promise for renewed strength (Isaiah 40:31) will always persevere.

This stretch would be easier if I didn’t have to add eye doctors to my list of appointments, but I’m hopeful to start the process of restoring my vision on Wednesday morning, when I’m scheduled for an exam with a glaucoma specialist not named Snoop Dogg. Although it’s still believed that the drug trial medicine induced my eye problems, the signs and symptoms appeared as acute angle glaucoma. The ophthalmologist at MD Anderson, by her own admission, stated that she was not a glaucoma specialist and that I might want to see someone who is. My hope is that something is able to be done to restore the perfect eyesight that I had only a couple of weeks ago. Continue reading “Week 5: A Marathon of the Mind”

Twenty First Century Marriage Counseling

Yesterday, I was in the electronics section of Target. I walked around an aisle and on the end cap, I saw these. You may have seen them on TV. They’re a pair of headphones that are specifically designed for people who need to watch late night television, BADLY. Personally, I’d much rather go into the other room, turn on the tv, sit down, and not worry about waking up my partner next to me, but maybe that isn’t an option, ever. If it’s not, then this is a thoughtful solution. P.S. So is going to sleep.

Before I was able to get around the aisle, something had caught my attention about the packaging. “Did that just read as I thought it did?” I wondered.  I picked up the package. “MyZone saved our relationship!”

Wait, what? Is that how this is being marketed to sell? A pair of headphones saved one relationship, so they have the ability to save mine? And it’s being punctuated with an exclamation point? The audacity! As soon as I read the quote, I laughed out loud. That’s just a little too ridiculous. Imagine a relationship that is painfully tethered by one’s compromising ability to drop twenty dollars to watch tv after dark. Here’s some advice: Save that twenty dollars and put it towards some marriage counseling. Headphones won’t give you the ability to communicate, listen, be selfless, caring, thoughtful, or compassionate to your partner. They’ll just delay the inevitable.

If your marriage is down to its last twenty dollars, then a pair of headphones is the least of your concerns. There are attorney fees, custody issues, and a whole range of things to work out. I promise that nothing on TV is that important. Try reading a book…about a healthy marriage.

To some degree, the ridiculousness worked. I’m the sucker who decided to blog about it. However, for the sake of humanity, please don’t buy these.

To See or Not To See

Be thankful for what you have. Tomorrow may bring a different result.

“Your field vision test hasn’t shown any improvement. There’s a possibility that the vision impairment is permanent. Your eye pressure was extremely high for days before you came in, and there’s no telling how long it was symptomatic before you even noticed. We can give you another week to strategize a plan for work, but I don’t think an extra week is going to help at all.”

I sat in the chair, not knowing what to say. Dr. Esmaeli, the ophthalmologist, stood up and walked over to my where I was sitting. “I’m sorry, I have a tendency to be very blunt. I just feel that it’s better to be upfront with you.” I tried to communicate that my silence wasn’t due to her style of delivering the message, but she kept talking, “There’s always the possibility that months from now, this will clear up, but things haven’t improved much, which is a significant sign that they may not improve at all.”

It’s thought that my vision impairment was induced by the drug trial. By the time I was diagnosed with inflammation of the optic nerve head, my eye pressure was over 50. To compare, normal is below 20 and anything above 30 is considered an emergency. There’s no telling how long it was at emergency levels, but it’s highly likely that it had been days. I had confused the severity of the eye pain with a migraine a few days prior to my initial appointment.

“There’s no way,” I thought, “there’s no way that this can be permanent.” Katie asked the doctor’s for a minute, but I just wanted to get the rest of the examination over with so that I could get out of there. I didn’t want to be in that office anymore. There were too many people, and I just needed a little time to process what I had just heard.

My vision isn’t horrible. I can read words, but that’s only because one eye has almost returned to normal. The other doesn’t bring much clarity at all unless I’m looking straight ahead. It sees as if I had just woken from a two hour night’s sleep. Everything appears a little softened, like I’m watching a tv from the 80’s. My ability to see much when it’s dark has also been hampered. Having never failed a color blind test, I can now only get three out of twelve slides correct. It’s a significant drop from the perfect vision that I’ve had my entire life.

“There’s nothing we can do? I mean, is there any kind of corrective lens that might help me out?” I asked. “No, I’m afraid that there is nothing available to correct this,” Dr. Esmaeli responded. I was grasping at anything. Even the thought of wearing glasses would have eased my mind. I stared at the floor. For a moment, I was defeated. Like Rocky, standing in his corner during the middle rounds of a fight with Apollo Creed, I looked to God, my trainer, and thought, “Cut me, Mick. Cut me.”

Katie and I walked to the parking lot and sat in the car for a minute. I shared some of my feelings with her. Right away, we discussed the desire to get second and third opinions. She immediately made a call to an eye specialist and set up an appointment for the following week. And we began praying for the best. It could have been worse. I’m thankful that it’s not.

Recently, I started thinking about all of the sporting events and concerts that I enjoy attending. I suppose this means that I now have to get as close as possible. Nosebleed seats are no longer acceptable. That’s too bad, I hate sitting close (kidding). There’s a silver lining in everything.

My new spectacles.

Why I Can Embrace My Weakness

Talking about cancer is difficult. In fact, the entire process is one of the most humbling experiences a person can go through.  It’s easy to understand why a lot of people never share their struggles or suffering with others. It’s hard enough to properly communicate the trials and tribulations of a bad day, apart from a cancer diagnosis. Magnify that by life-threatening proportions and one can begin to appreciate how survivors wrestle with emotions that might make them feel as if they’re standing on the narrow side of a steep cliff. One false move and it’s easy to appear helpless, hopeless, or full of pity. Continue reading “Why I Can Embrace My Weakness”