Saturday, July 15, 2017

Episode 02

Yesterday was two days in one. It started well, but ended very badly. As a result, I'm stuck in bed today when I should be getting things done. I have to take a recovery day when I had no reason to believe I'd need one. That's what happens with this disease. You think you're doing fine, and then WHAM! Not so much.

I started my day yesterday by publishing a blog post that I feel very good about; Questions For My Inner Circle. It addresses an important topic; How my cancer and the way I process it so publicly affects those closest to me. I always feel good when I write a new post, especially when it's received as well as that one was. Patients responded that they need to be more mindful of how their disease affects their loved ones. Wives, daughters and caregivers commented that no one had ever asked how they felt. It made me feel like I'd done the right thing. Always a good feeling.

Later that day, I needed to drive about an hour away from my home to meet my medical marijuana caregiver. I needed more oil for the suppository experiment we're conducting for the next two and a half weeks. The drive took place during rush hour, so I left early, and managed to arrive early. I stopped for a bite to eat while I waited to meet my caregiver.

While I ate, I was scrolling through my Facebook newsfeed, and saw the news that my friend and prostate cancer brother Peter Artiste had passed away the night before. I yelled, "Oh, no!" right out loud in a crowded restaurant. A few people looked at me, but I didn't care. I was devastated. I started crying, and the tears have been close to the surface ever since.

Peter was one of the first friends I made in the online support group I frequent. He was one of the original recipients of one of my cross pendants. He was a sweet, gentle soul who loved to paint. Peter had been in palliative care for some time. He faced his own mortality with a grace that I hope to live up to.

Months ago, Peter posted a cryptic message in the support group, basically saying goodbye. When I read that, I was frantic. I messaged him to find out what was going on. He responded that he was only saying that he wouldn't continue to post in the group. But it made me realize how much his passing would affect me when it happened. And it made me realize that I'll never be done with therapy.

As sad as Peter's passing makes me, it also scares me. He is the first of my brothers to fall since I was diagnosed. The first one to die who I'd made a relationship with in a support group. To me, it feels like the first domino has fallen. How am I going to do this? Keep losing one brother after another until it's my turn? I don't know if I can. I don't know how. That's why I need therapy.

For the rest of the drive, I fought back tears and choked down sobs. I listened again to my favorite album, The Similitude Of A Dream by The Neal Morse Band, and it spoke to me like it has so many times before.

When I arrived home, I collapsed in my wife's arms. She hadn't heard the news about Peter. We consoled each other for a little while, and I went to bed. You'd think the trouble would have stopped there, but no.

At around 2:30 this morning, I was awakened by my dog wanting to be let outside. While I waited for her, I was overcome by another dizzy spell just like the one I described in A Scary Episode. I immediately sat down. By the time the dog was ready to come in, I was unable to stand, lock the back door, or even think. But I remembered the fall I took the last time this happened, so I never tried to stand up again. I slowly crawled back to my bed.

My clothes were completely soaked with sweat, so I had to change before I went back to bed. Once I was on my back, it eventually passed, and I was able to sleep.

The last time this happened, my oncologist determined that it wasn't a heart attack. He thought it was probably a combination of dehydration and some kind of bug I'd picked up on our trip to Mexico. I had been experiencing diarrhea for over a week, so that made sense at the time. But that wasn't true this time around. I was very thirsty last night, and experienced a leg cramp this morning, so dehydration could have played a role, but not like a week of diarrhea would.

Here's the bad part. While this episode was playing out, I remembered my oncologist saying that if it ever happened again, I should get to the ER right away. The one in the same hospital where his office is located, since they have all of my medical records. Did I follow my doctors advice? Nope. It was 2:30 in the morning. I was too tired. I just wanted to go back to sleep. I think he may be upset with me for doing that when I tell him. And I will have to tell him.

This proves the one I experienced before wasn't a one-off. It wasn't a fluke. If it happened twice, it will probably happen a third time. When it does, I need to protect myself, and call 911 so they can try to figure out what's going on. But it's hard to do when I'm in the middle of a spell like that and don't have a phone handy. I turn my iPhone off at night so the sound of it vibrating doesn't wake me up. I don't turn it on and carry it with me every time I need to let the dog out or go to the bathroom in the middle of the night.

Both of the episodes I've had happened during the night, when I was awakened by the dog. I've yet to experience one during the day, while I'm awake. It seems like sleep must have something to do with it. But it's not like standing up too fast. It doesn't hit me until a couple of minutes after I get up. And once it's over, I feel like I've been put through the wringer.

So I'm very shaky, wobbly, and sad today. That's why I'm spending a day in bed that I should be using to prepare for two upcoming shows. I'm recovering from what I'm calling Episode 02, and mourning the loss of my friend and brother.

I may look the same, my friends, but I'm not. Each one of these episodes makes me weaker than I was before. Each loss reminds me of how this will end. If my ending can be like Peter's, I will count myself blessed. He died peacefully, with just a sigh. That's something we can all hope for.

But we can all strive to live like Peter too. Treating others with love and compassion, pursuing our passions, putting out positivity, and surrounding ourselves with loved ones. I choose to live like Peter, and if I'm lucky, I'll get to die like him too. #waroncancer #bearingwitness


  1. Praying for you Mark, God Bless You every day my new friend ;-)

  2. I'm so sorry that you have lost a true friend and not feeling well on top of it all. You are love though out your community of friends and blog followers it's must just be so hard to stay strong when you know it will be your time one day. But Mark it will be all our time at some point you have given me and I hope others a relization of being a loving friend and family member to all and stop the critizing and finding the wrong first. God is faithful and you are a blessing to me

  3. I'm so sorry for all of this! We love you and Sharon!