Monday, June 25, 2012

Here is a quick video from our trip to Pittsburgh;

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Shake Up The Rug From Underneath Your Feet

Sometimes it seems as if we can't catch a break.  Other times it feels as if we are in the movie Groundhog Day and wake up and re-live the same day over and over, quietly pressing down our desires, passions, and thoughts.  You can get lost in it, over your head in it until you have forgotten what it was like to have focus, to be truly alive.  We are all guilty of it.  The human brain is amorous towards patterns and low resistance.
But we all have desires and passions.  And in moments of true inspiration we connect with those attitudes.  We become focused and move towards a goal that we want for ourselves or our world.  This though, is temporary for most.  It lasts if not only for a moment, only for a short time before being flooded by the brains affinity for the easy.  As efficient and wonderful as it is, the brain is a product of evolution, survival of the fittest.
So how do we gain this focus and keep it?  How do we stay pointed towards what is important, what gives us awe?  And how do we keep it fresh?  How do we keep it from becoming old hat?
The title of this blog was taken from a video I saw by a guy named Jason Silva.  You can google him and find out more about him, but in the video he uses the phrase "Shake up the rug from underneath your feet."  "Disruption makes things new again."
Yesterday, I was working the evening shift.  I had just come back from dinner and was getting ready to begin the second half of my day.  All of a sudden, it started to thunderstorm.  A thick downpour of rain coated the air.  I parked in the parking lot and sat for a minute.  I had a decision to make.  Sit in my truck and watch the lot through the storm?  Drive the boundaries?  I had plenty of indoor projects I could have worked on.  I had already had a rough day, so why not take the dry/easy route and stay in the truck or inside?  Do what anyone else would have done.
But then I remembered that phrase "Shake up the rug from underneath your feet."  I had the opportunity to do something exhilarating.  Something that could help change my focus, give me a sense of awe.  Something that would disrupt my thoughts of low resistance and self constructed patterns and would make me feel alive again.
So I jumped out of the truck, threw on my pack, put my jacket over my pack, and started off.  The rain was thick and heavy, soaking my clothes through almost instantly.  I could feel the water dripping down into my boots after only a few steps.  I had to keep my head tilted down just a smidge to allow the water to drain off of my eye brows and not into my eyes.  It was loud.  It sounded like an orchestrated applause from thousands of people.  The lightning would startle you, even though you knew it was coming.  The thunder was deep, and rumbled through the hills as you could feel it move through your chest.  I stood on the shore of the lake for a while.  The air had been hot earlier in the day.   The wind accompanying the storm made for a welcomed chill.
I hike the trails every day I am at work.  I see the same trees, same animals, same plants and rocks.  But in this storm they were different.  The forest was a different creature all together.  I was immediately inspired.  My brain began to have focus.  I began to feel euphoric and awestruck.  Along with the storm, I had been the architect of my own happiness.  I had made a simple decision to disrupt my normal patterns and walk in the rain.  I felt new again after so many months of feeling broken.
Like a wave, the clutter was washed out, and a clean, new canvas was left.

Thursday, June 07, 2012

A Little Less Hazy

   There was a haze over the city when I got up early this morning and peeked through the curtains of the hotel room.  I was up just after sunrise because, A) I couldn't sleep and B) I knew I had an important appointment that I had to make sure the family and me were awake and prepared for.
   We had driven up to Pittsburgh, PA from Nashville, TN to visit a doctor that specializes in pseudomyxoma peritonei treatment.  He is one of the top dogs in a dog pen of only 17 or so special dogs in the country.  We had decided to make a small vacation out of it since we were not going to get much in the way of a vacation this year due to me taking so much time off for my surgeries.  And, in pure Jenkins' fashion, we have made a pure adventure of the trip.
   But this morning was a different feeling.  It was really something which I had been waiting for since we found out about all this stuff going on.  I didn't necessarily think that we would have any definitive diagnosis just by traveling up here.  What I did know though, and Kari had agreed, was that we would have spoken to the best doc we could about the situation, and that in and of itself would be worth the trip. In the back of my mind, I knew what Dr. Bartlett (the specialist) was going to say.  But I kept an open mind, and proceeded with my morning with an air of excitement that we could possibly have some answers after our appointment.
   Kari and Wren and I were walking up to the Hillman Cancer Center at UPMC a full 30 minutes before the appointment.  (My Mom had driven up from Virginia, and she took care of River in our hotel room during the appointment.)  When we got there we were greeted at the main entrance, given a welcome packet of information, and given a tour of the patient library.  Then a welcome employee took us upstairs to the office we would be seeing Dr. Bartlett in.  After a few signatures and a set of vitals, we were put in an unassuming exam room.  Only after a minute or so, we were visited by a nurse that I had spoken on the phone with previously.  She just wanted to stop in, check on me and see if we needed anything.  She also said she had sat in on their morning meeting as they went over my case.  Then Dr. Bartlett's P.A., Heather, came in the room and went over our case with us to make sure they had all the details down, and then did an exam.  She stepped out and then after another minute stepped back in with Dr. Bartlett.
   Dr. Bartlett, an unassuming, quiet spoken, middle aged guy, with a friendly but dare I say "doctorish" disposition sat down in the chair in front of me.  He began to explain the process of pseudomyxoma peritonei to us.  I had read much of what he said already in research articles, but later Kari would tell me that what he said was very informative and helped her make some sense of the disease.  He told me that there was truly no way of knowing whether or not I would eventually get pseudomyxoma.  He said that some people get it and that others get lucky and don't.  The only way of knowing was to continue a watch and wait process, by getting MRI scans every 6 months for two years, and then every year, for 10 years.  If, after 10 years, the scans are clear, then I can stop getting scans because even if I did have the disease it would be so slow growing that I would not have to deal with it in my lifetime.  If, sometime in that 10 years the disease shows up on a scan, then they would go in, do a cytoreductive surgery along with a Heated Introperitoneal Chemotherapy treatment, and hopefully that should be enough to take care of the disease.  Pretty straight forward.  He also wrote a prescription for tumor marker tests along with the MRI scans to check for any change in that field.
   I knew, through all of my research, that this was what he was going to say.  And for the first hour or so, I was sort of in a funk, only because secretly I had hoped that we were going to get a much clearer answer that would break through this wall of unknown that we were bumping into the last few months.  But after some thought and talking it through with Kari, I knew that the advice from Dr. Bartlett was just what the doctor ordered.  It was a definitive, confident answer to the direction we should go from here.  It wasn't a "well, I think this should be fine", or a "I don't normally do this, but since you are asking I'll order these scans for you" type of answer.  It was a "we want you to do this" and that was it.
   We are still swimming the sea of the unknown with this stuff.  But I tell you, after today, the shoreline is a little less far off.  The haze has begun to burn off and we are pointed in the right direction confidently for a change.

   Tomorrow we are leaving Pittsburgh and headed back to Nashville.  It will feel good to get back into the swing of things and have a direction, a set plan, a plotted course.  And while us Jenkins' are never free  from change and life's craziness, it will feel more like an adventure again, instead of a ship lost without a sail.

Kari insisted upon taking a photo of me with the Doc and the P.A. because they were part of our vacation.

“Only those are fit to live who do not fear to die; and none are fit to die who have shrunk from the joy of life and the duty of life. Both life and death are parts of the same Great Adventure.”  Theodore Roosevelt

Monday, June 04, 2012

Adventure, Day 1

We made it to Cincinnati tonight. How a 4 hour trip gets turned into 7, one might never know, but we are here and all laying in nice cushy hotel beds.
Tomorrow holds Pittsburgh in its grasp.

The Mecca Awaits

A pilgrimage to one's mecca is the high note of any devout man's life story. The one I and my family are about to partake on... Well... Not so much. But, to Mecca we will go (Pittsburgh), and we will suck every bit of adventure out of it that we can.

In a couple of days we will be leaving to head to Pittsburgh, PA to meet with a cancer specialist in pseudomyxoma peritonei. He is one of the top dogs when it comes to this rare disease. And while this may seem like the opportunity to have a bummer of a trip, we are going to make it a Jenkins Adventure like we do with everything else.
Because we are driving, it is going to take two days to get there and back. With two little kiddos, it's hard to be in a hurry to get anywhere. We are going to stay two days in the Burgh, one for visiting family and the other is held for the Doc.
We are going to make sure that we squeeze in some time to see the city and get some pictures in front of the Steelers stadium, for that is why I call Pittsburgh the Mecca. We are die-hard Steelers fans!
Hopefully we get some good news along the way and get home safe, refreshed, and ready for the next season in our lives.