Sunday, August 31, 2014

Quality of Life

   Before we get the inevitable political bull shit that I normally enjoy debating, this ain't gonna be the place. This is strictly how I (double capital I) see my very own Quality of Life. Those three damn words  an piss me off worse than anything on the planet right now, since it mostly becomes an "I wish someone could fix this!" dissertation on not taking care of yourself, but wanting someone else to make you happy. That's not going to happen here. I'll zap any post from anyone that wants to argue it, and I have no problem with making folks unhappy with me on that end of the spectrum. So, her we go.

  Quality of Life. Holy shit, that's loaded for God's sake. 2008! Man, Quality of Life was great! A two week tour of Scotland, all that time with the youngest kids and my loving wife having the time of our lives! I couldn't WAIT to get back to Texas, load up the truck and head for Kansas in September to show off my trip to my Highland Games friends in McPherson. THAT took a fucked up hard left. Labor Day weekend I rode to Kansas to see my Dad. Got up to head home that Monday morning, one swollen gland on my left jaw line. Didn't hurt, nothing on the right. Before I even said "I'm going to the Dr ASAP when I get home" I knew what it was. No pain, hard as a rock? That's cancer baby!. Took 8 days to see the Doc. Got worked in early to an ENT Liz likes, Dr Case. 16 days total since I rubbed it, and it was now big enough to see in my shadow with the sun on my back. Yeah, quality of life took a hit. I played that weekend, only told one person. Talked with Liz, got my port put in the first week of October, started chemo before my stitches are even partially healed. Told some of my extended friends. THAT beat feet across the Heavy Athlete grapevine. I got what seemed like a million text messages wishing me luck. Encouraging me and my family to keep the faith and this too would work out. I had no doubt I was going to beat it. I mean fuck, my body already ate the primary spot, this was a secondary my system was too worn down to kill off.  Quality of Life took a HUGE jump. We had already decided I was going to beat this out. Of course I'd be physically different, probably not as strong, but alive and able to laugh, eat, enjoy people, throw again, ride the NEW bike, (enter Fat Girl) and see a lot of different things, entirely different. Yeah, WE made our own Quality of Life. We had help to steer us a bit, but we'd already decided NOT to let it ruin life, or the life we wanted.

  Rest assured, Liz and I work hard at being happy with each other's company. We fight, sure, because we are smart, independent, people who are passionate about everything, including each other. This has been the singularly most exciting ride and party I've ever experienced in my 53 years so far. It's getting cut off WAY too soon for me, and I'm sure it is for Liz as well. All four of our children (Liz never thought of her step kids as anything but her own. Heart, folks, it's all about the heart) don't want it to stop so soon, but it is gonna happen.

 So, 2009 I'm all clear after taking as much radiation from my collar bones up so that anymore treatment will kill me. A fact reaffirmed in 2012, and March 2013 at MD Anderson. But I jump ahead. I learned a lot in the 4 months I took off for Short Term Disability. First, my Employer Apache took great care of Liz and I. My direct boss, Jimmy Garcia too great care of Liz, helping her navigate with the corporate HHS people. His boss didn't get to meet me until After I was back. He welcomed me like I was the Prodigal Son returning. Quality of Life, fuckin A high. On down the road, Apache merged with a company, and wanting a change of scenery I transferred laterally to a new field. God Almighty, that was a 4 month struggle that almost saw me fired. I let my quality of life slip. I couldn't find a way to fix what was being told on one level, and was entirely different that what we field people were hearing.  I though, caught myself, not without being warned, and started to turn that around. Picking a place to improve my quality of life again, without having to have my hand held along the way. Two leadership changes along the way. The first leader, he transferred and left us one foreman short. The man that took over asked if I could handle things on my own. Step up and take control and LEAD. You Damn right I can, and I did. Quality of Life grows for myself, and in turn for my family, as well as the guys I work with. We were forming a team. Finally, one I grew to be incredibly proud of, and in keeping in touch, not as often as I should, I continue to grow proud of them. Wishing only that I was there now, to help and to grow along with those men. We started a project that was huge. The field was put together haphazardly, NORM stored all over it, when it should have been disposed of properly. My God it was a mess.
  One man was let go, and that was the stepping stone in to the job I truly wanted and enjoyed even more than hanging off the diving board on the work over rig 55' off the ground. Well Tech. Diagnose, keep tabs on the wells, recommend pulls and work. God Almighty I LOVED IT!! The Quality of My Life was something I NEVER had before, it was not at a peak, it was continually growing, and I was rolling in it. I had weekends off. Liz and I used to go have Saturday breakfast on the few days I had off weekends when I pumped. Not enough of those, never. Now, in November of 2011 we got to go every Saturday. I was working 60 to 80 hours 5 days a week, but I finally, after all those years away from the pulling unit, I could see the fruition of a job. Beginning to end, whether I was correct of not, and so far up to that point I was into the mid 90% correct. We did, even on the ones that didn't produce more, however, begin to slow down the running speed, get the Pump Off Controllers to doing their job as they were supposed to work. Expenses out side of pulling were coming down. We rebuilt tank batteries as we drilled new wells. They went from jumbled messes to well rebuilt and redesigned lay outs that worked and would allow growth without silly add ons that would be unneeded. Yep, quality of life man, we built it ourselves.
  Shit, a year later and my cancer was back. On the day I got the for certain, I told my bosses the score. That as soon I know, I'll get started training a guy to take over my spot. I was sure, and unfortunately correct, that this time the cancer would kill my ass. Turns out I had 2 weeks. I got everything I was doing caught up as best I could. I took my pick with me, let him run the equipment, and I hope I got him enough hands on to take over. He did, after a difficult start (I offered to come out and help him through the meeting.) began to get a grip on what it was they wanted. He made the job his, that made my Quality of Life rise, because that's what we intend, isn't it? To make ourselves better through creating what we want out of life? Isn't that the essence of Quality of Life? Not the fewer people, not uncrowded highways. Not climbing rents, home prices, and all the other things that as a whole we can't change, not one iota. Quality of Life begins in your heart. It's where you find your greatest peace. All this time since I was cut on in Jan of 2013 right up to today, my Quality of Life is altered, a LOT. It's not lost, just different. I do believe in Quality over Quantity. Some folks have seen pictures of me from earlier this week. There's a chance that I have Superior Vena Cava Syndrome. Common among neck and head cancers. It's a blockage in the Vein that supplies the return for blood in your upper body. Causing the face, neck, head, or all three to swell since they can't move fluid out with the blood.  Thursday I could see well enough to drive to the Hospice to pick up some supplies. 25 minutes across town with business travel and I didn't know if I could make it back home before my eyes swelled clear shut on me. I feared my Quality of Life was gone if that happened. Told my nurse "Shit, I'm headed for  Quantity, not Quality, and I won't stand for that". It dawned upon me, on my incredibly tense drive home, that she was going to bend over backwards to get me help. So THIS is what it's like when others help! I'll be damned. Now, before this sounds like I'm casting aspersions upon my regular nurse, he and I have asked for help a time or two without much success. Once though, the nurse who doesn't see me two or 3 times a week saw how rapidly it came at me on Thursday and got the wheels going. I got a visit from the Doc, he wanted to get in right away. I got meds instead, to see what happened with the swelling. Three days in and my breathing is improving all the time, I can see. The facial swelling is fine and continuing to come back to "normal" what ever that is these days.
  Quality of Life? 100%. Why? Because I want it to be there, that's why. My favorite means of travel to see my farther away friends (minimum of 325 miles one way) is different, and so it the time I can spend with them. I'm there, I watch. I can't cheer since my voice is fucking gone, but I can revel in their successes with them, I can stop and write a note to tell them how great it is to at least watch them throw, laugh and live a life on the balls to the wall side. I've found I can bake a bit. I can't eat it, but when it's full of flavor and everyone is enjoying something I created, how in heaven's name can I not say my Quality of Life isn't 100%! All of you who join me on this leg of my life, YOU are part of my Quality of Life. Family, friends, it all has changed and slipped in some places while it's grown in others. It wasn't given me with any help from any politicians, civic leaders, none of the entities or people I hear others say make part of the Quality of Life they have. We make our own, with friends, family, stories of ourselves and what we do to get over adversity. THAT is Quality of Life. Not the highways, taxes, any of that. It's the way we are inside. We can create a better Quality of Life than any government  agent, or agency at any level can fix for us. Open your eyes. You are your own Quality of Life comptroller. Grab that bitch with both hands, because with a high Quality of Life, comes a ride like you've never been on…Life, both hands on living it.

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