Saturday, May 3, 2008

You don't Know What You Got Till It's Gone

My good friend "The Mayor" (he knows everybody and is the ambassador of goodwill in my world) and I have a weekly Sunday schedule. We meet with our awesome friend Miron and typically go to a local restaurant or cafe, get a walk in and generally while away some daylight before going back home to our families. One fine Atlanta Sunday, The Mayor took me to a wonderful Ethiopian restaurant for lunch and to go over some business ideas. The restaurant was filled with the delightful aromas of spices, freshly cooked beef, lamb and the music of laughter. We enjoyed generous portions of fresh vegetables bursting with color and flavor, spicy beef and irresistible Ethiopian coffee and dessert. The meal is eaten with injera bread which is used to scoop your portions from a large round communal dish. The custom is, if you have an Ethiopian meal with someone, you are friends for life - what a cool concept. That meal The Mayor and I had that day is reminiscent of al the best things in life. You are healthy, you have your friends and family and you are enjoying your life to the fullest. Life tastes good!

After my cancer diagnosis in December, 2007, life changed so much, it was almost like it inverted. Life took on a complexity and starkness that caused almost everything to be serious, difficult, tasteless and colorless. By that I mean, the entire focus of those days was survival. Everything was pared down to the most basic of processes. My music creation stopped. My creative writing stopped. My graphic design business stopped. My income...stopped. I lost my apartment and control of day to day things. The overwhelming stressors of these situations would have plowed me under, but the fatigue and tiredness along with hard, cold reality took on a strange warped life of its own. The days were like a vortex. Every aspect of my life was enveloped in a anesthesia and medication induced sick, yellow fog that sped by me as if I was watching another person perform it. I have lost the time from mid December to March in this vortex. I just recall the oncologist visits, the hospital stays, the infusion center and so many new terms about my cancer diagnosis that it all faded into a high speed, downhill vertigo. If it wasn't for the love of family and friends, I think I would have circled the drain and been escorted off the planet. A mighty thanks to my family and friends, the skilled oncologists and doctors and the universe for seeing me to this day in May.

The ensuing chemotherapy and radiation treatments for my head and neck cancer has made the idea of eating a normal meal moot. The chemo therapy gave me a condition called "chemobrain", sometimes called "chemofog" that hoses with short term memory and cognitive abilities. Not only was I sick, I couldn't remember simple stuff like where the car is parked or what my neighbor's name is. Weird. The radiation therapy has the side effect of drying up your saliva glands and obliterating your taste buds.  Dry mouth and a feeling like strep throat that won't end is a daily crucible. Sure, there are a lot of prescriptions and tactics you can do to mitigate these effects and control nausea and fatigue, but man, what I wouldn't give to be able to taste food again. I have been informed that for every week of radiation therapy, it takes a month to recover the damage to your saliva glands, tongue and the return of your taste buds. Even then, the effects can linger for up to two years, depending on ones physiology. The trade off is, cancer is eradicated and driven from your body by the chemo and radiation. You have a chance to live again and rebuild. I can get back to creating music, graphics and that awesome Ethiopian restaurant with The Mayor and Miron.

My appreciation for all things in life right now supersedes any bitterness, hate, anger or negativity. I am simply thankful to be alive. I cannot wait to start creating new works and connect with the creative community again to add my kick and snare to the mix. It's late spring in Atlanta and I'll let the new energy and blooming madness shake loose this fugly chemofog. Gonna put some colors together and create some new logo designs, posters, business cards, flyers and web graphics. Gonna stay creative in this complexity and think about that old Joni song that says "Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got till it's gone". Ain't that the truth.


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