Many of us know the song from childhood. And what do the wheels on the bus do? That’s right. They ‘go round and round’. The thought crossed my mind this week, had I ever really considered the details inherent to the proposition?
What’s to think about, right? Being wheels, their purpose is to go around and round, tirelessly circling their hub. And for all that effort, a good wheel ends up right back where it started from, just in time to do it all over again…and again and again, around and round. And for such yeoman service, I don’t think I’ve ever said ‘thank you’. Unless they’ve gone flat or otherwise failed, we don’t really give their perpetual rotations much thought. Poor wheels.
But they soldier on, dutifully delivering on their humble purpose. And because of their singular focus, whether bicycle, cart or horseless carriage, we roll to wherever we’re going with a degree of dependability no horse could ever match. Have you ever thanked your lucky wheels when arriving safely home? No. Why? They’re just wheels, wheels that go round and round. It’s what they do. So does Life.
Life has an unpredictable way of reducing our ordered lives to little more than a roulette wheel. The sun comes up and we’re swept up in a bad verse of round and round and round she goes. Where she stops? Nobody knows. That part anyway, is something we all know a little bit about.
Two weeks ago, it became my considered opinion I hadn’t felt my own mortality as keenly as I was waiting for the CAT scan machine to quit spinning around and round while the auto-bot voice told me when to breathe…and when to release. Laying there on the sliding table looking up at the light fixtures, all kinds of thoughts kept turning in my head, round and round.
There is no glory in rehashing details I’ve already spoken of. Seven-weeks ago, I thought I was home free. Tumor discovered, removed, benign and my lymph nodes clean. The pathology was all good. The blood work encouraging. I kept asking myself, “Why are my other doctors asking me to sit in an oncologist’s office and waste this good man’s time?”
Why? Because my doctors know cancer cells have this whole wheels-go-round thing down to a dark art form. It’s not beneath the nasty little cells to jump into the blood stream or some other bio-river and go canoeing round and round our bodies in their own opportunistic and predatory way. OK, I get it. If my body is the house, then OK, let’s check the rest of the neighborhood. Another round of testing. That’s what brought me to CAT and now, again sitting in the oncologist’s office, it was time for us to hear what the magic machine had to show for itself.
“We found some small spots on the lungs and a small lesion…”
“We’re arranging for another round of testing. This time, it’s a PET scan so we can get a better 3-D color picture of what the CAT detected. We want to know what we’re looking at up-close and personal. Maybe it’s something. Maybe it’s nothing. But we have to go…”
Yeah, I know, the wheel goes round and round…
This past week, there I was at the same address, laying on my back but this time, in a much larger room. I stared up at different ceiling lights, again. No whirring rotations like Mr. CAT. But a lot more silence to smother the panic yelling at me from behind my own eyes. I tuned back into what the radiology nurse was telling me as calmly as if she were a stewardess on Cancer Airlines.
“…You can breathe normally. If you feel you have to sneeze or cough, just let it go. Just don’t move.”
As the rubber band went around my feet and my arms went up over my head, my imagination placed me on a floating swimming raft in Waikiki…time passes. But the longer I laid there, the more deafening the sterile quiet became as I turned over thoughts about a machine telling me I was going to die sooner than I thought. But machines are far too clever for that. They don’t tell any tales. That’s why the two of us were sitting in the oncologist office, again. Round and round.
Like each of us is to each other, I sometimes think Life as a series of little wheels, each spinning on its’ own but still connected in the larger movement of Time. I’m no different. Though I haven’t written a good deal about it, one of my other wheels has been my journey out of addiction from smoking. Cigarettes are round. The irony is not lost on me…really? And if you’ll recall, I’ve been in my battle to conquer my addiction since the middle part of February and that was well before any of this other stuff had come into view. I’ve had help…Rick covers me at home, I’m chewing the gum like a donkey while Kathy, my smoking coach, helps me with the traps my brain continues to lay at every turn. When it comes to addiction, I can be a resourceful liar. It’s just plain ugly.
Though hardly a surprise to you if you’re a frequent reader here, I am oh most human. For all the gum, pills, journaling and encouragement from those all around me, it wasn’t long ago when I was confronted with the uncomfortable realization that Rick already knew and if I was being authentic as I preach myself to be, I was going to have to tell Kathy the truth about having failed and lit up – not just once, but a few more than a several times. I looked myself in the eye in the mirror the morning we were scheduled to talk. Even with the scare of cancer now very real, front and center, I couldn’t believe the urge to light up had only grown stronger with each new week. Are you kidding me? What’s it going to take?
But an hour or two later, there I was, telling her of my deepest of recent disappointments, I had smoked. The imprinting of my childhood had me ready to flinch. Like I had traveled back in time, I was sure an external lashing was about to be unleashed akin to the one I’d been giving myself for days (if that was even remotely possible). You know what she asked me?
“Are you still trying?”
“Will you keep trying?”
“Then you haven’t failed.”
I didn’t know how to respond. But Love does that to people. It never quits. It finds a way to swirl around and round in the hearts and minds of people who are really good at what they do. It’s like the wheels on the bus. They take our guff and just keep rolling. We may feel like all we’ve been doing is going in circles, chasing our own tails. But when they’re all done, we realize they are the ones instrumental in bringing us to where we needed to go – and be.
The door opens and we say our greetings as our oncologist walks into the room. Third time we’ve seen the man. You know what he says?
“It’s not your time. You’re fine.”
He went on to reinforce how he and the team want to keep an eye on me on a five-year schedule of follow-ups, but to be honest, I felt like Charlie Brown because after ‘You’re fine’, all I was hearing was “blah, blah, blah”.
Every nurse, every doctor, every receptionist and surgical person…every one of them (including Kathy) had come around to care for me at just the right time. No one dropped the ball. Everyone had a common purpose and in the moments we were together, their purpose was making sure I recovered, got strong and got back on the merry-go-round. I am a very lucky dog.
On the other hand, Death isn’t too happy with me right now. I’ve cheated him before and whoop, there it is, I did it again. But like I said, it wasn’t just me. It’s people I’ve never met stepping up to do their part because that’s what they do. Love has a way of finding ever new ways to roll into town.
Which brings me to my pay-it-forward moment. Please indulge my request. There’s a woman at work who I barely know. She’s got a brother in Florida who is paralyzed from the waist down. His name is Felton. Felton Brown. Reading about him, Felton is a fighter and like me, he isn’t rolling over. But for all his triumphs, getting around to school and everything else his paralysis has dumped on him has not been an easy road. That’s where each of us comes in.
There is a contest for a fully equipped van especially designed for those with physical handicaps like Felton’s. All we have to do is vote and Felton gets a van.
It’s been almost 40-years since I learned to walk again much less learn how to pick up a pencil. And this week, I got my life back, again. I want Felton to get his wheels. Please join me, go to the link, register (it’s no big deal – they just want to make sure one person (that would be you) equals one vote.
Vote. Vote once a day if you like, but vote. This is the latest chance to do something for someone we don’t even know for no other reason than it really makes Death angry. From someone who knows, it feels pretty good.
Take the chance and do something besides joining me in a rousing chorus of Hakuna Matata. It’s free. It’s right and it’s what Love looks like tonight when what goes around, comes around and round. I’ll look for you at the uprising. Wheels up.
Make it real for Felton Brown (Miami, FL)
Spread the word. Take Felton viral in your own web spheres while you vote for him to win the tricked out transport van. Help him get around…this guy is tough but he can’t get there without us. Wheels on the bus, kids. Wheels on the bus…
LINK TO FELTON’S VOTING PAGE IS:
Read more about him below. Jackson Memorial is the same hospital that saved me. Too weird, but then again, not so much. You can jump to the link at: http://articles.sun-sentinel.com/1998-10-19/sports/9810190043_1_dolphin-doug-betters-first-dolphins-game-randy-wheeler
Carolina Trailways 1940’s: http://postcardman.org/Atlanta/transportation.htm; CAT Scan Example from X ray computed tomography: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/X-ray_computed_tomography; PET Scan Example from Concierge Radiologist: http://www.conciergeradiologist.com/pet-scan-images.html; Cigarette Addiction and the Beast: http://quitstopsmoking.com/the-best-tips-to-quit-smoking/; Exam Room (a WordPress blogger): http://teamgloria.com/2011/06/17/another-suitcase-in-another-hall-or-another-messenger-bag-in-another-examination-room/; Pay it Forward: http://www.teachwithmovies.org/guides/pay-it-forward.html; Felton Brown: http://www.mobilityawarenessmonth.com/entrant/felton-brown-miami-fl/
— ## —