Monday, September 22, 2014
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Giving myself time to reflect on my wish

You know that moment you sort of snap to? As the first line of Rascal Flatts echoed in the hot studio, I kind of jolted up straight, the hair on the back of my neck rising. The words came out slowly and deliberately, like Gary LeVox (yea, I had to Google that) was talking directly to me.

Giving myself time to reflect on my wish

Our little routine for my infusion week is to hit yoga on back to back days. Tuesday is super-energetic class with Paige, after my blood draws and the doctor's consult. Wednesday is a more focused, mentally challenging (and calming) class with Paul, just prior to the infusion. Both get the mind cleared, the heart rate going, and, we hope/believe, prime my immune system to flush out these toxic cancer cells as PD-1 does its thing.

Normally, the background music gets lost in the shuffle of trying to figure out each pose. I have a difficult enough time keeping myself upright, without paying attention to the tunes. Near the end of an eventful class before infusion nine, though, a familiar melody popped up on The Yoga Joint’s playlist:

I hope that the days come easy and the moments pass slow,

And each road leads you where you want to go, 

You know that moment you sort of snap to? As the first line of Rascal Flatts echoed in the hot studio, I kind of jolted up straight, the hair on the back of my neck rising. The words came out slowly and deliberately, like Gary LeVox (yea, I had to Google that) was talking directly to me.

And if you're faced with a choice, and you have to choose,

I hope you choose the one that means the most to you.

It just happened. Tears. A lot of them.

And if one door opens to another door closed,

I hope you keep on walkin' till you find the window,

If it's cold outside, show the world the warmth of your smile,

Maybe it was the song - the one my Mom and I danced to at my wedding - and remembering that moment, remembering a lifetime of moments with my family that came rushing back with it.  Or maybe it was the brings-a-smile-to-your-face mental association from the wedding, the gathering of family and friends that occurred that weekend in April, five years ago.  

But more than anything, more than anything,

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,

Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,

You never need to carry more than you can hold,

Maybe it was the literal mess I was in. See, not even 10 minutes earlier, I had left the class to clean up a small colostomy breach – apparently these things weren't made for hot yoga. It had come unsealed near the top and there was some minor leakage, not exactly what you want when bending and flexing. It was quickly cleaned up and McGyver'ed enough to get me through the end of the workout, but the untimeliness irritated me. I was 30 minutes from an experimental cancer drug IV, and I have to deal with this now?  Seriously?? I returned to the mat in the exact opposite state of mind yoga should put you in.

 And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,

I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,

Yeah, this, is my wish.

Maybe it was finally time to have an emotional release. Jen has asked me on multiple occasions how I can deal with this without breaking down. I never really have a good answer – usually, something along the lines of “I won’t let this beat me” or “just focus on getting better”.  I never really answer the question, though — probably because even I don’t really know how I deal with it. I just do.

Maybe it’s because I hold those feeling inside and use them as motivation – something I’ve always done. Feelings can’t stay locked away forever, though, and the good thing about being a sentimental person in a hot yoga class is that tears camouflage themselves among the many beads of dripping sweat. Any torso-shaking or lip-quivering gets attributed to physical challenges, not mental ones. Shortness of breath is expected. Yoga is a good place to have a little bit of an emotional moment, especially if you don’t want to be seen.

I hope you never look back, but ya never forget,

All the ones who love you, in the place you left,

Maybe it was the projection of what that song offers as possibilities — the chances to create more moments with my family, with Jen’s family, and, of course, with our little foursome. The parallels of my happiness growing up, and providing for my children’s happiness as they get older, drifted across my mind. Never forgetting who I was or where I came from, and watching Josie and Tommy grow to feel that way, too. 

 I hope you always forgive, and you never regret,

And you help somebody every chance you get,

Oh, you find God's grace, in every mistake,

And you always give more than you take.

Maybe it was the enormity of what has happened, not just the last year but in the microcosm of this last week. The tide is turning against my cancer. The successes we have seen are being sustained. Life as we knew it has come back in small pieces. I am actually assisting others with their cancer diagnosis, giving (very limited) medical information, along with emotional support to those who reach out.  

The lyrics almost came too fast to process the thoughts they prompted. Almost.

But more than anything, yeah, and more than anything,

My wish, for you, is that this life becomes all that you want it to,

Your dreams stay big, and your worries stay small,

You never need to carry more than you can hold,

Maybe it was something Paige said the day before that stuck with me; “When you go into the past, you get depressed. When you go into the future, you get anxiety. But when you stay in the present, you are OK.” Before the song played, my mind was on the past – “Why the hell did I end up with this colostomy thing, it didn’t even work and certainly doesn’t make life easier.”  Before the song played, my mind was on the future –“Now I’ve got to go through another treatment, without time to shower or really clean this up; THEN, afterwards, I have to do all of that, and God knows how I’ll feel.” As the final lines played, those thoughts streamed away with the sweat and the tears. Focus returned, to the moment, to what I was doing now.

And while you're out there getting where you're getting to,

I hope you know somebody loves you, and wants the same things too,

This is my wish

I hope you know somebody loves you

May all your dreams stay big

Maybe it’s OK to let yourself go every once in a while. Maybe it’s OK to give yourself time to reflect on your wish. Maybe hints of vulnerability are really signs of life. I can’t remember Paul’s exact words at the end of class — something about his wish for us for this day and for life. My mind was already on the present. My body was cleansed (well, at least inside). The negative thoughts had been washed away in a stream of tears and perspiration. I was ready for cancer-conquering pharmaceuticals. I was ready to fulfill my wish.


T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »

T.J. Sharpe
About this blog
T.J. Sharpe is sharing his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma. A South Jersey native and Bishop Eustace graduate, he currently lives in Fort Lauderdale, FL with his wife Jennifer and children Josie and Tommy. He was Patient #1 in a clinical trial at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa as the first person worldwide to use this sequence of treatments to fight melanoma, and is currently in a second clinical trial at Holy Cross Hospital in Fort Lauderdale receiving Merck’s anti-PD-1 drug Lambrolizumab

The Patient #1 blog will update the progress of T.J.'s fight against cancer, and also touch on many cancer-related topics.

Follow T.J. on Twitter and Facebook. Reach T.J. at Patient1@tjsharpe.com.

T.J. Sharpe
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