October 5, 2016

Digging in deep

By Dom Cioffi
My health itinerary said I was meeting with a counselor of some sort. At this point in the process I do not question the appointments that the Mayo Clinic sets up for me. They have been a marvel of efficiency and expertise throughout my cancer journey so I’ve reached the stage where if they suggest I do something, I just do it.
I walked into the appointment and met Martin, a middle-aged balding guy in a nice suit who explained that he was there to answer any questions I may have about my treatments. Basically, his job was to assuage any confusion I was having about the treatment process, the pain, the medications, or any other side effects I was experiencing.
After his prompting, I explained how I was feeling and how I have been physically handling the treatments thus far. He then asked me about state of mind, with questions about life, death, depression, hope, despair, etc.
It hadn’t really occurred to me until that moment that cancer can do a number on you from a mental standpoint. I’ve been so busy learning, prepping, scheduling and attending that in some ways I haven’t had much time to think about me and how cancer is effecting me emotionally.
Martin then hit me with several challenging questions. I knew it was his job to ascertain where I was from an emotional standpoint so I answered as honestly and thoughtfully as I could.
He asked me about my support system so I explained that I had three women (wife, mother, mother-in-law) doting on me, attending to whatever whim I may have (I also argued that there was a successful sitcom in there somewhere if you looked hard enough).
Martin then asked me how I was coping with the day-to-day grind. I admitted that it is, indeed, a grind. I told him that getting from morning to night is never easy when you’re uncomfortable on a consistent basis. I’ve always been someone who is jumping around doing things so the level of passivity I was experiencing felt very foreign to me. I want to watch TV, but it bores me; I want to make a jigsaw puzzle, but I can’t stay focused; I want to take walks, but I tire quickly.
Martin then hit me with a few tougher questions about life after cancer and whether or not I was having any anxiety about death. I told him that death doesn’t scare me; I’m comfortable with my views on the way the world turns. However, I did emphasize that I certainly wasn’t ready to leave the party anytime soon.
I could tell he was trying to gauge my “fight,” so I let him know in very exact terms that I had a lot in me. I always knew this battle was going to be hard and fraught with tougher and tougher moments, but I could see no other option but to fight.
Martin agreed with so many of the things I said and in such an understanding manner that I immediately classified him as “really good at his job.” He just seemed so attuned to what I was saying and was offering up such valid insights that I really began to appreciate the time I was spending with him.
Once I had answered all of his questions, Martin said we were done. He reached out his hand and gave me a solid, purposeful handshake. He then looked me deep into the eyes and said very directly, “Once you’ve beaten this, you’ll be part of the brotherhood – and it’s a brotherhood that I feel very proud to be a part of.”
At that moment, his attention, his understanding, and his compassion all made sense. Martin was a survivor. He had fought cancer and won. I looked him up and down and saw how strong he appeared, how confident he acted and how bright he glowed from within. And with that, Martin made me feel like there was no chance I was going to lose.
This week’s film, “Deepwater Horizon,” also features some survivors, but in this case it’s about surviving a man-made disaster of epic proportions.
On April 20, 2010, the Deepwater Horizon oil rig in the Gulf of Mexico blew up, creating a nightmare for those who were onboard and for those whose job it would be to clean up.
Starring Mark Wahlberg as one of the rig’s workers, “Deepwater Horizon” shows how one event can trigger epic heroism in select individuals, even when there appears to be no hope in sight.
Check this one out if you’re in the mood for a fantastic action-thriller that delivers on multiple levels.
An engulfing “B” for “Deepwater Horizon.”
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