Some of my most vivid memories are when I’ve been afraid…really afraid. I can still remember with absolute clarity some fearful situations that I encountered all the way back to elementary school. No doubt about it…fear is one of the most powerful emotions we must all face.
In the midst of the most joyful time in my life, I faced a fear that scared me to death. It occurred about 10 minutes before Zach was born.
Everything had been going smoothly in Maria’s labor…easy for me to say at least. Maria was a trooper despite the obvious pain during contractions. The nurses were calm, relaxed, and professional…and Dr. Lucas, in his cheerful and humorous manner, indicated that everything was going smoothly.
But as Zach entered the birth canal, everything changed in a matter of seconds. When Maria had a contraction, his heart rated dropped below 50. Dr. Lucas said the umbilical cord was likely wrapped around Zach’s neck and added emphatically “we need to have this baby now!!!”
The calm didn’t quite turn to chaos…but it was clear that our baby was in possible peril. A nurse threw a surgical mask and gown at me…pointed to a room and said quickly, “get changed right away and meet us in the operating room at the end of the hall.”
I went in the small room and began uncontrollably weeping. I had never been so afraid in my life. We didn’t know if our child was a boy or girl…I had never even met this person….and yet I had never felt such a powerful love and I would have done anything to ensure my yet to be born child’s safety.
I said the most sincere prayer of my life…asking God to please, please protect our child and let him be born safely…and then hurried off to the operating room.
The mood there was extremely tense. Dr. Lucas had a huge pair of forceps ready to go in and extract Zach…but they were the wrong type. He shouted something like “get me the 15 inch Simpson forceps now!” Maria started to have another contraction and Dr. Lucas implored her to push with all of her might as I stood watching helplessly, still gripped in a terror I had never experienced before.
Seconds later, Zach was born. He was slightly bluish in color and Dr. Lucas deftly used his index finer to take the umbilical cord from around Zach’s neck. Zach immediately started crying as his color quickly turned normal. Dr. Lucas shouted with joy, “It’s a boy and he looks great!”
It’s been more than 31 years since that emotion filled day when I experienced a love…and a fear…unlike anything I had felt before.
As a result of that day, the one thing I like to tell first-time to be parents is that “human beings do not fully comprehend their capacity to love until they experience the birth of their child.”
And few things bring more joy to my heart, than when I see new parents totally enthralled with their young child…knowing that there is nothing they wouldn’t do to protect that child which they love with every inch of their being.
As life begins…and as life ends…we overflow with love and that is when human beings are at their best.
There are a couple of things that have allowed me to face my mortality with a minimal amount of fear…at least thus far. The first is my faith. Secondly, I remember others who have gone before me, like my father, who have faced death with courage and dignity…and it is comforting to know if they can do it, so can I. Finally, it is very comforting to feel and hear of the love and concern of friends and family. Having others to support me on The Last Train, has been a tremendous lift.
Often times when our children are afraid we say, “don’t be afraid” but I think that’s the wrong message. Fear is real and it is not easily dismissed. Instead, when our children are scared I think we should take them in our arms (or let them sleep in our beds) and say “it’s okay to be afraid. Daddy sometimes gets afraid too. But I’m here to protect you and I won’t let anything bad happen to you.”
Being afraid of death is natural and is one thing all humans have in common. I only hope that by sharing my journey you can have just a little less fear when it is time for you to board your last train.
I had my 19th chemotherapy treatment on Tuesday. Dr. Ocean changed my regimen, taking me off the chemo drug that has been making me so sick and adding back the powerful platinum drug that I can only take in limited quantities (because of negative side effects). We’re hoping that six treatments of the platinum chemo will get my tumors back under control and hopefully even eliminate them.
The FDA has also recently approved the use of PARP inhibitor pills for ovarian cancer patients. PARP inhibitors have also shown to be effective in the treatment of some pancreatic cancer patients so hopefully I can get approval to start taking PARP’s in the near future. These are the drugs that Dr. O’Reilly and Dr. Ocean have been studying and using in clinical trials.
In late December/early January, Maria and I had a great time in Nebraska and Kansas visiting our moms, brothers and sisters, as well as our 12 nieces and nephews on Maria’s side that we love so much.
I then spent a couple of days skiing in Breckenridge with a college buddy Tom Beam and also got to ski with my nephew Nick and his girlfriend Emily. It was awesome…although I did cut my skiing short when I took a hard fall on an icy black (expert) run. I fell hard on my left hip resulting in the biggest bruise of my life…made worse by the blood thinners that I am on.
From Left: Nick, Emily and I; Me and Tom Beam
The hip looks way worse than it feels…and don’t worry…I’ll be back on the slopes in March and will work hard to keep up with all the young bucks in our family ski trip with more than 25 of the Adler clan. It will be a blast!
Next Stop: My rollercoaster ride