Writing this today I find myself between two bookends. One bookend represents the day I was diagnosed with Myeloma which will remain embedded in my brain as Nine Eleven Nineteen just 24 days ago. I am looking forward to the other bookend in 53 days a trip to Mexico to celebrate Thanksgiving and 25 years of wedded bliss to the best wife in the land my Denise.
That trip to Mexico has been planned now for over a year. Denise and I have gone before and at times with other family members. This year we paid for a room upgrade to an Ocean view Suite at the Grand Velas Riviera Nayarit. It is simply an OTT ( Over the top) Luxury all inclusive resort. You want a bottle of Johnny Walker Black, bring me the bottle. They bring you Nachos in your Cabana and you can drink champagne in the reflecting pool overlooking the Sierra Madre Mountains and for folks like me that don’t drink a lot they will even make you special non-alcoholic drinks and deliver a special experience.
To know me is to know I love food and they offer more award winning food than anyone we could find. If you know of somewhere better let me know, but they have nine options for dining plus at anytime you can have them bring whatever you want to your room.
Feeling charcuterie and cheese? Yes please and pair that with a good wine for us. Feeling like you want a special breakfast pastry, fresh juices and eggs can’t be beat. On site dining has won many awards independent of the resort and offers you cuisine from France, Mexico, Japan, Italy and the world over. Seriously, it’s going to be great, so in terms of “eye on the prize” that is a very big deal to me right now.
As with an all inclusive, you know exactly what you are getting into financially before you go. Once you are their it frees your mind and all I can say is that it is heaven on earth. The photos look to be something that cannot possibly be real, trust me it is very real and offers the best view of a sunset anywhere on the planet.
This past few weeks brought a lot with it, much of which you would expect but so much that they cannot and do not prepare you for. That is the focus of this blog entry.
When you are sat down and told you have cancer it is very clinical. It is very matter of fact. If you have ever been told you lost a loved one it can be a very similar experience, it is just that loved one was you. Not that I am dead, no, but you immediately start to ask yourself questions you would never ask another living soul at that point anyway about your mortality.
Complexity is like 1000 cuts – Simplify, Simplify, Simplify
The very first thing that I experienced after the initial shock was over was walking into my home office and feeling dread. I have an office at home about the size of two normal bedrooms placed end to end in an open floor plan. It is a fortunate design of my home and in it I can accommodate a nice desk with a formal working space for school and working from home. It also houses my maker space, a builder and repair area, fully outfitted electronics bench, room for my 3D printing obsession and several bookcases. Over the last few years I had started to pile junk in front of bookcases and lost access to lots of space as I collected junk.
In my office at work there is a “Best Practice Implementation” award that was the result of a corporate wide deployment of scanning equipment that I deployed. On that project I learned about simplicity and a quote of Henry David Thoreau – “Our life is frittered away by detail, Simplify, Simplify, Simplify.” and at the same time respecting the advice of Albert Einstein who said “Everything should be made as simple as possible but no simpler.” I have found strength in simplification, and these wise words.
The need to clean
Something about that junk was like a cut every time I experienced it. Every time I walked into that room the complexity of it all came raining down on me. I found especially after a hospital stay that complexity was harder for me to deal with. For someone who has been a technical worker their whole life that is a scary thing to have happen. For the record I didn’t lose any technical acumen, I still can tell you more about using hardware for math and subnetting networks in binary than you ever want or need to know, but learning new information is easily twice as hard and complexity for complexities sake is simply not tolerated anymore. Suffice to say I cleaned my office with help from my Son Nick.
Education on Hold
I also made a decision to defer my University education until I can physically take up that fight for the same reasons. I had been two weeks into a course on developing intrusion detection systems. In that course two weeks in I was setting up a cloud based virtual lab in my own Amazon Web Services account, so that I could setup both attacker and defender machines and use open source tools such as Snort and Bro to monitor traffic between servers and logs on servers looking for malicious activity. This wasn’t a course in underwater basket weaving, this was a master’s level graduate course and just too much with what I had going on.
There is a terrible sadness that goes along with the loss of that activity knowing I was enrolled in two of the four classes I have left to complete my Master’s degree program, but I do have five years to get back to it, so when I kick cancers ass and fully recover from my bone marrow transplant, I will absolutely go back to it.
The need to build and express myself
Throughout this ordeal my drive to make and 3D print has skyrocketed. I made 3D printed models of boats and gave them to everyone who worked with me at the Genesis radiation center. Some of them even had little pirate flags on the back to denote those who worked with me most directly. I made special models for my radiation doctor including a stand for his boat to signify the support he gave me and how rising tides lift all boats.
I wanted to leave all of them a piece of something physical that will sit on their desk that leaves an indelible mark of a living patient. They need no reminders of this by the way, they all know well. My experience is that oncology is PURE medicine, it uses pure science and is performed by those who very much know how to apply it with a humanity that is unparalleled in the field of medicine.
I have also been printing other items that catch my eye for friends and family. It seems I never print something once, but loe to try prints in many colors. Sometimes I print items using a multi-color filament that results in a one of a kind never to be repeated color combination which makes them even more special. The grandkids have always loved to come into the house and look for whatever I have newly printed. They are very respectful of them. Things I toss around and don’t think much about they seem to hold with a reverence and I appreciate their excitement. I know their rents are probably annoyed with more baggage to take home but one day they may have something left they will pick up and think about Grandpa every time they pick it up.
If this changes anything for me as a technologist maybe I will work to study big data so that in some way I can figure out to help apply data analysis in the field somehow. Maybe I will figure out how to apply my own web skills or so many other skills I have far outside of the cyber realm to help support the cancer community.