I had just played one of my best golf games in many years! But the pain in my hip had become so intense, that my golf partner said, “Hey Paulie, you really should have that checked out – I’m starting to feel badly taking your money!” I thought about it that evening, talked to my wife, Ellen, and we agreed to see my friend, an orthopedic surgeon….that was March 5, 2012 – thus began my journey.
I have always approached life with a positive attitude, making lemonade wherever possible. So my story, will have that ring to it: I believe ‘We are what we think’…so, after extensive diagnostics, on March 8 my doc sat me down and explained – he did not like what he saw on the scans…(this has become ‘doctor –speak’ for – YIKES! Something is not right!) He advised me that he ordered a biopsy to look at a lesion that was in the hip bone…checking in to the hospital on March 12 was still very weird – except for some nagging hip pain, I really felt fine! Three days later, the pathology report came in…on Thursday, March 15, my phone rang at 10:00 pm… this time my doc was using his most somber tones…his description was very straightforward – I had lung cancer -Adenocarcinoma- (non smokers) non-small cell lung cancer. He explained how the disease had spread to my hip, (even though I thought it odd that of all places, they would swim there!)… my mind was racing, and I was totally confused! Within minutes, my wife was on the phone with our dear friends, and they suggested that I go to MD Anderson, a very respected cancer institute in Houston. (We all have the right to get another opinion!) But, MD Anderson’s docs soon confirmed the diagnosis…however, they also suggested I could get all the care I needed, right here in Las Vegas! We were on a plane home, the next day.
I decided – and this is huge – that there must be a reason I have this disease! I decided to find my purpose…that is, if it is meant to be, (in Yiddish, we say – ‘Bashert’)…then that is my challenge: to figure out where the lemonade is, by squeezing every last lemon I can! My purpose became clear: to find the positive lessons in life that we can share, and help one another live our lives more fully! Well, it has in fact, begun to happen!
I started to keep a journal of what I was experiencing, and how I was feeling, but keeping it light and humorous whenever possible – my son created a blog which has been therapeutic, as well as very friendly, for me to use: www.paulbodner.com
In 16 months, my site has been viewed by over 13,000 people, many inspiring ME with their heart warming messages. For instance, I was recently sent a photo by my friend in LA who had just told his 4 year old daughter that I was sick…this 4 year old then asked, “Daddy, does he have a pink ribbon kind of sick?” Knowing exactly that she understood, they went into their backyard, and put pink ribbons all over their Lemon Tree. “Daddy” she said, “now your friend can make Pink Lemonade!” And then the next day, another friend saw this photo on my blog, and decorated THEIR Lemon tree…and so this act of love, by a 4 year old, will be passed forward! Today, (as hard as it is some days) I look for just small things that are special: a beautiful rose I had not noticed before, stretching its stem across my neighbor’s hedge, in perfect view from my kitchen window; a note from a long lost cousin I had not heard from in many years; but most importantly, every day – I look at that photo, and think …today is going to be a day I fill with ‘Love, Laughter, and Pink Lemonade!”
I assumed my visit to the doc would be a high 5, and a HALLELUYAH! I was feeling that good! So, I approached the most recent scans as maintenance and a confirmation of how good I was feeling!
When the results came back that there is new growth, in the right lung and the bones, it shook me up. I wanted to make sure…and so did the doc. He ordered another set of MRIs and they confirmed the exact placement and so now we knew.
It was a pretty sobering, but then enlightening moment. I got it – the Tarceva drug had run its course. It did a great job, straight As for the first 18 months of my treatment – then the cancer cleverly found a way around the drugs, and grew back into my body. Lung Cancer, specifically adenocarcinoma, is very tenacious, and persistent – and very tough! It doesn’t just give up. And this, I deeply thought about, and realized – it means I have to be tougher! It means I have to dig down, and never, ever give up, and so I went to meet with the docs to talk about next steps: what do I do now.
My doc has a remarkable combination of academic excellence, and good communications skills – he gets me! So, as he proceeded to kindly explain my options, he mentioned the MRI results…and I had to interrupt him….I had to tell him what happened when I went to get my MRI….
I explained that, the day earlier, the clinic called at the last minute, and I rushed over to get the MRIs done. In the haste of getting prepped, and waiting for the tech to place the headset on my ears to hear music, and drown out the loud MRI noises…I realized, no headset… the tech put cotton in my ears, and then he laid this hose, with 2 nodules on the ends, flat on my belly…and then he walked away. My only reaction was – this must be oxygen, so, I guess I should put those hoses in my nose!…it just wasn’t fitting….and then the Tech came back, looked at me…and said:
“Those work better if you put them in your ears. Then you can hear the music!”
WHAT!!!!!….I honestly just started to laugh!!!….I looked at him, and said:
“Now that is funny!…You have to admit!!!…That is truly funny!!!”
He just looked down at me, and smiled, and said:
“Yup. That was funny – but let’s get on with it, please.”
I just kept laughing – thinking, I almost got them all the way up my nose!!!
Once my doc heard this story, and started laughing….it was easy to move forward and hear the options: I am being submitted for 2 clinical trials and if my criteria differs, I will do more traditional chemo. We will know which direction in the next 2-3 weeks. But, now I know. And it feels better….knowing what you have to do next just always feels better. Because then, you get your head around it, and wrap your heart with the love of your family, and your friends – and re-focus on only the positive things in your life. And there’s the lesson – Do not play in the sandbox, if it is filled with rocks – choose the one with sand!
And so I enter Round 2! I am back in the ring, I am laced up, and I looking forward to the fight! I see it as just round 2…and as long as I am in a 15 rounder – I’m good!!!
I am going to keep you ringside, and I am going to remind you to hug your kids, and drink the lemonade!
And always remind you that this is all part of this wonderful adventure called life! Live it with love, laughter, and much Lemonade!!!