Gratitude And Humility - How To Get It

by GregP_WN

How do you get gratitude and humility? First, get yourself a life threatening disease, maybe 4 different versions of it to be sure you get the message that you are not invincible. Then get together with a big group of your closest friends and family just before you go in for a forever life changing, hopefully life saving surgery. 

Dinner Donna's Shirt

This is going to take a minute to cover all of this, so get some popcorn and a drink.

First, I should explain a little background for anyone that doesn't know about my history. I will be having a laryngectomy and bilateral neck dissection this Tuesday. This is for my fourth cancer diagnosis, this one is hypopharyngeal cancer. It's been 11 years since my last diagnosis and 32 years since the first. 

Donna and I have been preparing to be gone from home for a week or more while we are at Vanderbilt University Medical Center for this surgery, getting things together to live in a hospital room during this time, getting things gathered and prepared for when we come home and while I recover. A new Bullet Blender is sitting on the counter ready for when we come home. It will be my chef for the next couple of months. Most of my nourishment will come out of it and into a feeding tube. 

We've been going through the motions in preparation for this while having the seriousness of this diagnosis and surgery looming over us all the while. You can only look reality in the face for so long and then you need to look away, you need a break from the cold hard truth that this latest cancer diagnosis is going to leave you changed forever, physically and mentally. This is where Sweetie stepped up. 

Dinner Donna's Little Car

Unknown to me, she has been sneaking around for the last couple of months planning a surprise dinner for me with 60 or 70 of our friends and family. She was able to plan this with the help of some of her accomplices. She has experience with this after having pulled off something similar for my 50th birthday. 

She had told me a week or so ago that we had plans for Saturday night, dinner with two of our closest friends. That's nothing new so I just thought it was a last supper of sorts before the surgery. This surgery will leave me with a feeding tube for a couple of months so eating will be a thing of the past and an opportunity to eat again prior to surgery was OK with me. I've been trying to gain weight leading up to this surgery because I know I will be losing a bunch so I've been eating anything that looks remotely appetizing. 

Dinner Family2 Donna Girls Lap

This ruse was supposed to go down at 6 PM, we were to meet Scotty and Kathy Hollowell at the restaurant. I hate to be late for anything so I had said we needed to leave the house at 530 to be on time. So as anyone who knows her is aware she is subject to do, Donna was still dragging around the house at 530 when I was ready to go. She was deliberately dragging up so we would be a few minutes late so everyone that was coming could be in the banquet room for the big surprise moment before we got there. 

I was told to head back to the "back room" to see if there was a table available. I was wondering why they let me lead the way since I had no idea where we were going. The restaurant was very busy and looked packed from one end to the other. As I walked through the door to this room the usual "surprise" rang out. This caught me by surprise, (I think that's why they call it a surprise party) and I stood for a moment trying to understand what was happening.

Dinner Surprise

As I looked around at this group of 60 to 70 people, I started to notice face after face of people I know, very well. Most of our family, some that had driven in from Ohio, Kentucky, from both ends of Tennessee, and all around our area. A fellow Voice of Hope, Lori Kuhuski had driven up from Memphis, a 3 hour drive. A sweet cousin had driven down from Ohio the day before. Our nephew, or I consider him our son, drove in from the Knoxville on the other end of the State. Friends that I have played music with for years, but some that we haven't seen in years were there, along with a huge group of our family and close friends. All there to wish us the best with this surgery, offer love and support, and just be there for one "last dinner". 

Dinner Lori Me Dinner Donna Me Stacy Ernie Wishes

I've been considering every dinner I have eaten in the last couple of weeks a "last dinner" of sorts since I won't be eating for a couple of months. Think about it.....if you were told today that you couldn't eat for two months what would your "last dinner" be? So many choices, so little time. 

As I made my way around the room I found face after face that is an important part of our lives. Some people are friends, some people are family, and some people are just special. Every person in that room was special. So many hugs, so many well wishes, it's hard to explain.

There were a few gifts and lots of cards. Some things that will forever be special to us, like this painting of a drum kit with the word H O P E on the front head of the kick drum. The drums were even painted similar to the color scheme of my favorite kit that I play. This was painted by our Aunt Marilyn, or Mema, as she is called by almost everyone in the family.

Dinner Painting

This scrabble board, put together by Lori Kuhuski. It contains words that are meaningful to any cancer patient. These fit me perfectly.

Dinner Scrabble

She also brought me a HOPE jar. It contained a bunch of messages from people from people that I know, and people that I have only known online through my cancer advocacy and our work with the American Cancer Society. Some of these are scattered all over the World. Messages of hope, inspiration, admiration, and love. Sometimes you realize that people have been listening to you, following you, and have been impacted by you, without you even knowing it. Humbling.

Dinner Hope Jar 2

To have someone who you have never layed eyes on tell you that you have helped them through one of the most difficult times in their life is amazing and gratifying to know that the work you have done has actually touched real lives.

In the face of the most serious, life altering medical event of my life, (and I've had a few) this was a fantastic and enjoyable night. A good diversion. Life will not be the same after Tuesday, nobody will ever hear what little of a voice I have left again, as it is. I hope to be able to speak again with the help of either a T.E.P. device implanted in my throat, an electric larynx, or just simply by adapting and learning how to voice using what's left in my throat. 

It was extremely humbling to have this many people show up to talk to me one last time before surgery and offer their love and support and is really indescribable 

Dinner Group Corner

So as I thanked each person for coming as they left and we gathered the gifts, cards, and notes they brought, I clicked one notch closer to the reality of what's going to happen next week.

You might think that you haven't made a difference in the lives of anyone, but you might be wrong about that. Humbling

You might think that nobody knows what you've been through, are in the middle of going through, or about to be going through, but a lot of people do, without you knowing it. Humbling

You might wonder how in the world are you going to get through all of the simplest parts of everyday life as it will be with all of the changes and a disability to come. But tons of people have already said they will be there. Humbling.

You might even think that after years of helping thousands of other people get through their own battles with this beast that when it comes your turn to need help, support, and some love, that there won't be anyone there. You would be wrong. Inexplicably Humbling.

With a heart full of gratitude and a humble mind, Donna and I thank you all from the bottom of those hearts as we head off to Vandy and I literally lay my life in the hands of my brilliant doctor, Dr. Sarah Rohde. I do not fear the future. I'm not afraid to lie down on that operating table. I know it has to be done. To ignore it and stick my head in the sand and pretend as if there isn't anything wrong would be certain death. We're all going to die one day, I am just not ready today.

Thankful For Life

I've been told by a throng of people to let them know what we need, they have our back. Well........cover me, on Tuesday, January 28th, I'm going in. Now if you'll excuse me for  minute there's something dripping on my keyboard I need to wipe off.

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