November 5, 2011
Although I had been writing Napkin Notes for many years, November 5, 2011 was the date Napkin Notes took on a new meaning. It was the day my life changed. Looking back, I might even be tempted to say that my life changed for the better in many ways.
Here's an excerpt from Napkin Notes:
CHAPTER 2: Sangria Red
“If God sends you down a stony path, may he give you strong shoes.” Irish saying
I lost sight of her again. I was running but she was faster. I had to stay on the path, but she was darting through the trees and the underbrush. I could not keep up. The path was too twisted and uneven. I was running up, down, left and right on the dirt. The afternoon sun was beating down on me through the golden and red leaves. My wife and neighbors were well behind me, but we were all yelling her name. I was doing my best to run ahead but I was already short of breath. I was scared. She hadn't been on her own like this, with so much freedom. I had to keep her within eyesight.
We were camping, an activity I didn't particularly enjoy. On a hike with our friends, our dog Noel had dashed off in pursuit of something and was nowhere to be seen. We had rescued her less than a year before. Noel had been in a local pet shelter for 59 days. This nearby county shelter was not a "no kill" shelter and after 60 days, the animals were euthanized. She was saved from that fate by F.L.A.G. (For the Love of Animals in Goochland), a local animal rescue group. Noel barely looked like a dog when we met her. She was just fur and bones. The fur that she did have was patchy and sparse.
Noel had clearly been on her own for some time. She was skittish around most people and appeared to be deathly afraid of me. Lissa and Emma were certain. Noel was the dog that we had to save.
I didn't want a new dog in our home. Lucy was my dog. I had chosen her and loved my German Shepherd - Rottweiler mix for thirteen years. Lucy had died just four months before Lissa and Emma ambushed me with rescue dog pictures. I was still grieving and didn't want to have room in my heart for another pet.
I continued running even though my lungs felt like they might explode. Bailey, the neighbors' Golden Retriever, was keeping up with Noel and I could just see a yellow ball of fur up ahead. All I could hope was that Noel wasn't that far in front of her.
Finally I saw the dogs slow, some smell halting their joy run. I was able to catch up and put the leash back on Noel. I let out a huge sigh of relief, thankful that the rest of our weekend wouldn't be spent wandering the wilderness, hoping to somehow bring Noel home.
Our neighbors, Mike and Cheryl Bourdeau, had invited us camping, one last getaway before the cold of autumn set in. At least it was camping in a cabin and not in tents. I could handle staying in a cabin much easier than sleeping on the ground. We were celebrating Cheryl's birthday and that night Mike had a fantastic dinner of steaks planned. We toasted the birthday girl with red wine and ate gourmet cupcakes. We played games and thoroughly enjoyed each other’s company. The evening came to a close too quickly. As I was preparing for bed, I needed to use the bathroom. As I stood peeing, I watched in shock. My urine was sangria red.
I couldn't begin to think what was causing this. There was no pain. There was no other indication that something was wrong with me.
I commenced freaking out.
I found Lissa and told her what had happened. I grabbed my phone and tried to look up potential causes. There was hardly any signal. I stepped out on to the cabin porch, held my phone above my head and tilted it at just the right angle to get some data signal. Blood in your urine was called gross hematuria. I read through potential causes. At the end of a very scary list were two causes Lissa and I hoped could be the answer: vigorous exercise and an excessive amount of beets. Not only had I been running earlier, trying to catch Noel, an activity that isn't a normal part of my routine, but Cheryl's birthday treats involved a Red Velvet Cupcake from a gourmet shop. Though I never would have guessed, Lissa suggested that the shop might have used concentrated beet juice to color the cupcake. We calmed ourselves down, enough to sleep, hoping that it was a freak occurrence and not something to truly worry about.
It would take another three weeks to verify I had a 13 cm (grapefruit sized) tumor enveloping my left kidney. I would have surgery on December 20. I would come home on December 22 and start a new part of my life: Cancer Warrior.
Family Picture taken on November 5, 2011.