Got through lung cancer. Got through chemo. Got through picking up and carrying 42 pounds of water in the house this morning.

I’ve been having vivid dreams lately, which is pretty neat. I like to wake up with interesting thoughts and old music playing out in my head.

Inspiration is coming back. I’ve missed it. When my world narrowed into rounds of chemo and recovery, blood tests and booster shots, my focus shifted inward for months.

I’ve picked up a new target shooting hobby. I rarely doom scroll anymore. There are too many interesting things to look at and do.

I don’t miss the 28 pounds I lost.

Going on three days’ worth horrible bone pain. Nothing attenuates it. Dr. is unsympathetic. I’m running a solid 9 on the pain scale and he suggests Tylenol in addition to the other meds I take. It does not work. He grumbles and gives me the mildest opioid there is.

I’m not a pill head; never have been. If I could have a couple of shots of Ruby Red, I’d probably feel better, but the thought of alcohol gives me waves of nausea.

Three chemo cycles down, They are shitty. I have a small window of normalcy after a cycle and right before the next one. I take care of business, get snacks for Jane, wash clothes, and maybe wash a dish.

It always starts with nausea. I try to get a handle on it before it gets to the watery mouth stage. Then food starts tasting hideous. My bald head starts hot flashing. Joint pain ramps up to unbearable levels. Exhaustion hits hard.

The mental and emotional side effects follow the physical side effects. Depression, despair, hopelessness, and frustration kick in with a vengeance.

There is no managing it. There’s only gritting my teeth and gutting through it. I count down the days to the next cycle. I visualize pier fishing. I feel good in my dreams. Until the pain wakes me up in the night.

One more cycle. Five or six weeks of hell. I’m still lucky.

I can’t find my ass with both hands anymore. It started November 4, when I got the call that there was a suspicious finding on my x ray. That day turned my world upside down.

CT scan followed the next few days, followed by a phone call that confirmed lung cancer.

The whirlwind of doctor visits, PET scans, MRIs, biopsies, and finally, a lobectomy of my upper left lobe. The tumor was huge, really. That was January 12. Pain still persists and shortness of breath is my best friend.

Next shock: I started chemo yesterday. Not because of mets, but to knock out any lingering microscopic cancer cells lurking in hidden tissue or organs The regimen is short but brutal. I get a triple dose of two drugs every three weeks. If I can handle it. I asked how long the side effects would last between doses and the answer was airy, but blunt. 4 to 5 days, but those few days would be hell on wheels. My hair is going to fall out soon. Nausea is already paying a visit, but I have good drugs for that when I remember to take them. I can look forward to mouth sores, more neuropathy, blood sugar swings, and weekly blood tests for white cell counts. Whee.

I can’t shoot a rifle anymore. The mediport excludes that. My left side has a pacemaker. I asked when I would get the port taken out and the nurse said, ‘never’. That hit hard. I will not be cured. What a kick in the ass. I have a small bit of gratitide for the port, though. My hands and arms are still bruised and tender from the needlepoint they performed for the lobectomy. Now all the blood draws can be done in my chest.

This next part is the most important.

My support system is amazing. I never expected the outpouring of care and love from the people I know even though I’ve not met most of them. Offers of rides, monetary gifts, food, phone calls and texts, you name it. My independent life has been humbled. I’m just now learning to accept with gratitude the help and hope so freely given without expectation. This is the essence of love. I want to hide my face and weep for the grief I feel, but then I am reminded of so many people lifting me up and gladly carrying me, and so I won’t give up. I will never give up.

How can I have a crisis of faith when I don’t believe? What are the words that capture this free fall and freedom? If I don’t drill down into discrete issues, well, it breaks off into limitless voracity of the best way to go with a joyful transition.

Whether that is life, extraordinary life, life beyond death or nothing, I don’t know.

Very few experiences move me to the sublime. Tony Jones does. Father Nathan Monk does. Rodney does. Music is my goddess. Just as certain permutations of religion have adherents, as do I with music.

Sometimes, a song will strike me like a bolt of lightning. Southern gospel is great for that. There are tons of closeted people in gospel. Anyway, Depeche Mode was my epiphany today. “Personal Jesus”? My Southern Baptist upbringing says, they ain’t no Jesus but what the One says! Ok, then.

I always thought if I ever had a disease like cancer, I would know it, feel it like an alien in my body.

It hasn’t been that way at all. The symptoms crept in one small twinge at a time, one extra cough at a time, one afternoon nap at a time.

One day, I was willing to bet I had a touch of COPD. I would have lost that bet the next day.

The medical machine crunk up slowly, idling for a scant week. Then that machine, that infernal machine, kicked into gear and started rolling toward an end I cannot see or fathom.

I’m not sick-yet. I’m not at the finality of the diagnosis-yet. But, I am paralyzed on this new road. It’s not familiar and it looks dark up ahead. The steering wheel is in a white-knuckle grip.

So, tomorrow, the machine picks up speed. Someone said, it’s like being handed a grenade with the pin already pulled.

Double canasta was the game. The cards were so flimsy, we powdered them before every marathon. Sweet tea and cigarettes fueled our competition. At some point, mother and aunt fixed supper for all. Males occasionally subbed but they were placeholders for the female energy that ruled and they knew it. I learned unimaginable lessons at that card table.

I gave you sweet still water

You craved sparkling fake fruity plastic

I gave you a cool mountain stream

You wanted the violent rush of a dam release

I gave you the fine linen sheets

You wanted satin and lace

I showed you the aching blue sky

You preferred neon lights that beckoned to your adrenalin fueled laughter

I gave you back to your subway life

But you came back again and again for respite and healing.

The night breeze stirs

Curtains move with a purpose off the ocean’s breath

Your fingers hover with the assertive purpose of hummingbirds

The hum vibrates on my skin. And god what a worship at the altar of sensation

I’ve known you

felt your mouth in a thousand restless dreams on my chest

As the hummingbirds search with their determined hum

I got on that bus that goes a thousand miles

with a pure heart and the best of motives that ride was a mix of toilet disinfectant smells and quiet the first two hundred miles

at midnight or better, at a small depot in Alabama a whole bunch of recruits got on with their stiff uniforms and fresh haircuts and politeness

we motored on, the kids getting more restless and a poor guy that fell asleep on my shoulder and the hum of the diesel engine became an annoying roar

2 am. There’s a bus stop with vending machines and more payphones than I ever saw in one place. A few of the recruits were using them.

Chapter two tomorrow.