Do not take this blog seriously, and don't drive and read!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Floor Number 8 - at Vanderbilt

   The year was 1996, and I was a thriving young 25 year old with my eyes on big aspirations at a small television station in Monterey, TN. That station later became the WB Network and moved to Nashville.  But at one time, I was Program Director and we did a 30 minute daily news cast for Cookeville and the surrounding area. At a small station, one wears many hats. Not only was I responsible for meeting with the G.M. and making our programming schedule, but I also had to make “run-date,” mail programs back to the distributor after airing, and physically make sure all the day’s shows & commercials were identified and categorized. But my favorite part of the job was the news.
   I was mainly out shooting and editing stories while occasionally directing the news as well as filling in part-time as the sports anchor.
   That year was a tumultuous one with me working up to 60 or 70 hours a week. Not to mention a personal life that seemed to “hurt so good” as John Cougar Mellencamp might sing.
   I was truly under a lot of stress, but I really liked all aspects of my job. The stress, however, I believe, finally caught up with me.  
   IN June of that year, I was diagnosed with a “little touch of cancer.” Apparently they caught it just in time for me to catch a lifeflight to Vanderbilt. By the time I got there, my neck was swollen (I looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy –on steroids) and the tumor had wrapped itself around my heart and was beginning to SQUA--WEEEEZE! I was getting very little oxygen to my brain. Under normal circumstances, for me, that might not be considered unusual.
  BUT That first evening at Vanderbilt, I didn’t think I was going to live through the night. I couldn’t breathe.  If you’ve ever played sports, you may have experienced what is known as having the “breath knocked out of you.” I had that sensation the entire night.  I thought it was something they were giving me... a drug that was “somehow” making me sicker and unable to breathe.
   But there wasn’t any unusual drug in the needles sticking out of my arms. The simple fact was: I was BAD SICK.
   The next day, two different biopsies were performed. The first one was done with a big ‘ol needle that was pushed into my chest cavity. The doctors had to extract tissue to determine what kind of tumor they were dealing with. I was awake the entire time and was told to remain calm and breathe easy, or the needle pushing into my chest cavity “might” hit my heart. This procedure made me so nervous; but I was not jittery. In fact, you would have thought I was a corpse. I didn’t move a muscle. I don’t even think I took a breath.
The diagnosis came back and-- yes, it was a cancerous tumor, and it was centrally located in my chest, wrapped around my heart.  The doctors were baffled by the first biopsy, so they decided to do a second one.
   I was put to sleep this time, and the experts cut into an area of my neck in order to go deeper and obtain a larger tissue sample. This time the results came back as 99.9% Seminoma; meaning it was a germ-cell tumor centrally located in the chest cavity. It had not spread to other regions in the body. When a tumor is that large, it’s extremely rare that cancer cells have not divided, spreading to other vital organs in the body. But, this was an uncommon form of cancer, and like the unique person that I am, only about 380 people a year are hit with this variety of the disease. Mom always told everyone I had to be different. I guess she was right.
   Recently the Country Giant was raising money for the “Kids of St. Jude” and it made me think back to my own experience with the dreaded “C” word.
   I remember my last “post-cancer” “check-up visit” like it was yesterday. I also made a huge mistake that day. I went to Vanderbilt to have my blood drawn and get my final chest X-ray; having gone over ten years since finishing treatments.
   The mistake I’m talking about didn’t really hurt anyone, but to this day I feel guilty. I completed my regular check-up that was always performed on the first floor. I glanced at the elevators and all I had to do was press the “up” button. I didn’t do that. I didn’t go up to where I had my treatments. Now I wish I’d taken time to visit some of the folks on that floor.
   I had my treatments on the 8th floor. After completing a few treatments, I got to venture out a bit. Being on floor number 8 at Vanderbilt, I walked the halls dragging my little IV bag behind me. What I saw had nothing to do with me and my condition.
    What I saw were children-- children who had been through a lot more rounds of Chemo than me-- children who were stronger than I will ever be-- many children who probably never made it off the 8th floor at Vanderbilt. There were children there from ages 2 to 16 and up. They were bald like me. But they were a lot more innocent than I. It’s almost as if I was supposed to be there. But I couldn’t figure out why they had to be there. Maybe they were only there to show me that. Maybe they were there so that one day someone who’s having a bad day would read this and think: “I ain’t got it so bad after all.”
    If you ever do get down in the dumps, I recommend a visit to floor number 8 of Vanderbilt Medical Center. You can find cancer patients in any hospital, but I am well aware of the ones on that floor.  The “C” word- Cancer- is one thing, but for some reason it just doesn’t make sense to associate it with the other “C” word- Children.
   So, God Bless the children. The good Lord said, “A little Child shall lead,” and I think the good Lord knew exactly what he was talking about. Children placed in dire circumstances are stronger than anything you can ever imagine. They’ll always say a prayer for you even when you forget to say one for them.
    I was able to make it off the 8th floor at Vanderbilt. I’m not sure what God had in store for those inspirational kids I had the priviledge to meet. I’m not even sure what he has in store for me.  But I’ll just take it a day at a time and won’t EVEN try to figure out what’s on HIS mind.
   I was able to make a few nurses and doctors laugh and even brought a few smiles to some kids when I wrote and sang a little parody song about my experience…
(sing it to the tune of Jimmy Buffet’s “Come Monday.”)

G                     C                             D                                G
  Headin’ up to Vandy, Nashville… to get my Labor Day CHEMO Fill…
              C                               D                                 G
I put my blue gown on and in another five days, I’ll be going home…
Am                 C                     D                   D7          
Hey Doctors, just say it’s so, this Cancer is just about gone,

         C                   G                          C                     D
Come Tuesday, I’ll be real tired, Come Tuesday, my veins will be on fire
            G                 Bm           C               D             C                    D                          G
Ain’t  a  Penthouse suite up at Vanderbilt neat, what a strange way to lose my blonde hair. Yeah ain’t penthouse suite up at Vanderbilt neat, what a strange way to lose my spare tire…

Yes, in June of this summer, took a chopper rider with a lump on my neck
And worry consumed those around me, but me I just said what the heck.
A badly needed vacation I’ve found, has kept my spirits up and not down …

Come Tuesday, I’ll be real tired…

Amaj7     Dmaj7                       Amaj7                  Dmaj7   
The doctors all think I’m funny, And Vandy has worn me quite thin.
Amaj7                    Dmaj7
Are they conspiring against me
             C               C     D      F   C    G
Because I’m a big U.T. fan

Side note: I’m not making light of cancer, but those around me always told me: “Keep your spirits high, and the better chance you’ll have.”
Laughter is the best medicine even if it brings a tear to your eye thinking of someone you know who may have lost a spirited battle against this disease. Life is precious, so live it, love it and taste it!

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