I was diagnosed in 2010, treated (proton beam therapy) in 2011, and I’ve now finally come to realize and accept that prostate cancer is only a small part of my life. I know it could change, and I know it’s a serious part of the lives of many, but if caught and treated early prostate cancer is usually manageable. I am a member of that fortunate group living with little daily impact from prostate cancer.
Day by day, I don’t worry about it anymore. In fact, I don’t really think about it much at all until PSA testing time every six months or so (or while writing for this blog). I am free to focus all my nervous attention on a host of other seemingly less important matters that upon closer examination really aren’t trivial at all. They are, in fact, of paramount importance to my quality of life. You might be surprised at my current top-4 list, as I might be surprised at yours. Care to share?
Losing my connection worries me.
What would a day in my life be like without my wonderful wife Lucy, my loyal dog Baxter, and my gateway to the universe? I feel secure about the first two, but my tenuous key to the Internet doorway? Not so much. I’m not even sure I can publish this blog post without incident. Let me explain why I’m holding my breath.
High speed access to the Internet is indeed the downside of modern rural life. As a neighborhood of one, we’re of little interest to broadband providers.
My home is situated on a little slice of heaven in rural South Carolina. Nearly everything about it is glorious, except for my digital connection to the rest of the world. High speed access to the Internet is indeed the downside of modern rural life. As a neighborhood of one, we’re of little interest to broadband providers. The notion of running cable or fiber wire to our isolated little haven makes them literally Laugh. Out. Loud.
Of course, we do have copper for our trusty land line phone, and defying the laws of nature, we can also squeak out about 3Mpbs of Internet speed over that same old wire. Technically, our DSL connection shouldn’t work at all over those three miles of copper, but it has sort of served us for about a decade, and has been generally good enough. Beggars can’t be choosers.
Now, copper connections are being phased out as fiber is phased in. Where does this leave me? The provider’s automated online qualification tool says I can have the much faster fiber now, so YAY! But the local live human expert says … no way, José. Way too far. No fiber for me. Not now, and probably not ever. So, not yay. But wait! There might soon be a third option for me—fixed wireless, so YAY! However, appearing to qualify for fiber (even though it won’t work) could disqualify me from fixed wireless. Yikes!
… Lucy, Baxter, and I might find ourselves lazily sitting in front of the fireplace, wearily wondering what’s going on in our webless world.
So yes, I’m nervous. As a fluke of technology, I could find myself between a rock and a hard place. It’s entirely possible we might be left with only our very limited cell phone connection. Sooner than we think, Lucy, Baxter, and I might find ourselves sitting lazily in front of the fireplace, wearily wondering what’s going on in our webless world. No online news, shopping, Netflix, Facebook, Pandora, Skype, YouTube, Echo, books, or blogs. A very different life, especially troublesome for a retired I.T. guy like me.
Hiring contractors makes me anxious. It’s a deeply ingrained learned reaction.
If I could do it myself (whatever “it” may be), I would, but sometimes I can’t. This leaves me faced with finding someone who can. Many such people call themselves contractors, and I realize you might be one. If so, I am sure you are an exception to what has been more of a rule in my life. It’s just that for a usually optimistic guy (me), pessimism prevails every time I am faced with hiring a contractor.
Maybe it’s me. While living in Charleston during Hurricane Hugo, maybe it was my fault the roofer couldn’t properly fix the roof. When we moved to the midlands, maybe I was responsible for our home builder’s inability to complete our current house, leaving me to become my own general contractor to finish the job. Maybe the reason contractors often don’t return my phone calls or submit a promised quote is simply that they just don’t like me, preferring to forgo the work rather than see me again.
Over the years, I’ve experienced numerous cases of incomplete or low-quality work. Although there have been a few notably exceptional contractors in my life who were truly amazing, I’ve become gun-shy. I shudder and shake with uncontrollable nervousness at the thought of embarking on any new building adventure (or misadventure, as the case may be).
Maybe the reason contractors often don’t return my phone calls or submit a promised quote is simply that they just don’t like me
But there are some things Lucy and I need and want to do, and I can’t do them myself. Even as I write, we are about to engage the services of another contractor, and yes, I have the too-familiar knot in the pit of my stomach.
In my childhood, cute little Bucky Beaver became famous as the smiling cartoon spokesrodent for Ipana toothpaste. Back then I smiled with him. Now, not so much.
Squirrels are cute until they nest in your attic insulation and chew your electrical wiring. Raccoons are adorable until they eat all the premium bird seed every night, leaving nothing for the finches, cardinals, and chickadees. Deer are delightful (and sometimes delectable) until they relentlessly eat the azaleas and other plants you’ve nurtured to beautify the landscape. And beavers …
I realize some of you might feel we humans are the uninvited guests of these prior inhabitants. You might think we should get out of their way and move elsewhere, or figure out a way to live in harmony. Far be it from me to try convincing you otherwise, but a beaver might be able to sway your thinking.
We live in a wooded rural area on a beautiful, large pond fed by a small stream. When the rain is heavy, our pond spills into a creek that runs through a culvert under our only access road. There are several strategic water flow locations where even just one or two beavers can build a dam, causing costly trouble.
I’ll spare you the gory details. Suffice it to say, beavers have single-handedly (and more than once) caused our road to wash out completely, costing too many thousands of dollars to repair. If Bucky would chip in a few bucks or contribute some manual labor to rebuild our road, I might not mind. I’d be willing to leave it to beaver, but the beaver leaves it to me.
When I walk around the pond, I can’t totally relax. I watch anxiously for any sign of beaver activity …
It can happen again any day. When I walk around the pond, I can’t totally relax. I watch anxiously for any sign of beaver activity—chewed or downed trees, or newly constructed dams or dens. When I gaze out on the pond at dawn or dusk, I instinctively look for Bucky’s telltale wake.
In days gone by I looked forward to Bucky Beaver’s next episode, but no longer. However, I do respect his work ethic.
I am not a party guy.
Social events have never been my strength. Not now, not in my working life, not in college, high school—not ever. Not giving parties, and certainly not attending them. If I found myself at one, in all likelihood I was playing in the band.
Nevertheless, in my post-proton therapy life, Lucy and I have hosted an annual party in our home for proton alumni. This is totally out of my comfort zone, yet we’re about to do it for the fifth time this fall. I use the word “we” lightly. I do my part, but without Lucy’s guidance there would be no party. For four years our “Empty, Drink, & Be Merry” gathering has been successful, and I have no real reason to think #5 won’t be.
Each year we send a snail mail invitation to dozens of proton alumni who live within a reasonable drive to our home, or in some cases, to a local hotel for the night if they’re so motivated. Some let us know in advance if they hope to attend, but all are welcome even as a last-minute decision. A few even bring guests of their own. The more, the merrier. So far, so good.
So why am I nervous? I have no idea how many will attend, which is worrisome for a planner like me. What if nobody comes, or worse yet, what if only a few show up? How embarrassing! What if we have food for fifty, and only five arrive? What if we have beverages for twenty, and fifty show up? Despite Lucy telling me not to worry, that everything will work out fine, I find it nerve-racking.
if you might be in our neck of the woods in October (the exact date TBD), and we’ll send you an invitation. We’re near Columbia …
I’m clearly not cut out for this, but we do it every fall, and it’s festive and fun. Send me an email if you might be in our neck of the woods in October, and we’ll send you an invitation. We’re near Columbia, just ten minutes from I-26’s exit 97. Also, please pass this information along to other proton alumni who might be able to attend.
Notice my repeated use of “might.” No commitment needed. Just a hopeful maybe. I know I am needlessly nervous about this. Probably.
I don’t mean to whine or cry on your shoulder. Broadband, beavers, contractors, and parties are admittedly first-world problems. Still, they do make me nervous on a nearly daily basis. On the plus side, they leave me little time or energy to be concerned about more manageable matters. Like prostate cancer.
I know this could change. I realize a recurrence, or some new flavor of cancer, or some other disease or calamity of life is always possible. You might be in that boat now, as I might be later. In that case, your list or mine could look different. My neighborhood beaver might lose status. My urologist might gain.
… everything—including concern about cancer—is relative. Take a look at your real list of daily challenges …
I am merely pointing out that everything—including concern about cancer—is relative. Take a look at your real list of daily challenges affecting your quality of life. Is prostate cancer number one? Two? How far down the list has it dropped?
So there’s my list, and at least for now … how lucky I am!
What’s higher than prostate cancer on your list of daily concerns? Go ahead, cry on my shoulder!