Thursday, April 11, 2019

Defining Normalcy Again

My brother Steve (left) and I at Daytona 11 days before my surgery
I went back to work at my teaching job three weeks and one day after my lung cancer surgery, and it feels great! The surgery itself was seven weeks and two days ago and if you read my blog regularly then you know I am a full time teacher in an adult high school called The Excel Center in Noblesville, Indiana. Now that my surgery is behind me, I have to define a new normal for myself as I have never missed so much work in all my life and I am still testing out what kind of limits I will have physically since I had the upper lobe of my right lung removed. And just so you know, I don't claim to be a cancer fighter since I haven't really done anything - the doctors did it all - but I am relieved that all the pathology shows I am cancer free. Thank God for early detection so if you've been a smoker like I was for 40 years, get yourself checked out. My journey started with a $49 heart scan last October and now five months later, I have cleared a significant hurdle in my life journey thanks to the medical professionals at IU Health.

The oddest thing in all of this is that there are times when it feels so surreal - as though it all happened to someone else. Throughout the process, I have found support in areas I would never have anticipated, especially through my social media contacts, many of whom I've never met in person but who have given me a boost nonetheless through their comments, feedback and encouragement. I have really appreciated that and during my recovery have spent a lot of time trying to thank people for their support. I apologize if I've missed anyone but please know that it has meant so much to me. This whole experience has helped me to start looking at life differently so I am extremely grateful for that. Who ever says they are grateful for having had cancer? I don't know but I am, and it feels like I have a second chance at life so I don't want to waste a minute.

My jump shot in 1976 
Growing up all I wanted to do was play pro basketball but I didn't quite make it there. I was fortunate to play high school football and basketball and then play Division III college basketball at the University of Chicago. I have been lucky to be an athlete all my life and I remain very active even now closing in on 62 years young.  I even played 30 minutes in my UC alumni basketball game in January a few weeks before my surgery so when the doctors were asking me the last few months if I could walk up two flights of stairs, I would just laugh. Now I'm not saying I'm ready to get back on the court and play ball again, but the racing season is upon us and I will be getting thousands of steps at racetracks this year starting this weekend with the ARCA Menards Series race at Salem Speedway. 

Before my diagnosis I had planned on going to Sebring last month for the combined WEC and IMSA sports car races. Instead I got to watch a lot of it on television after returning to work at my teaching job on Thursday of Sebring week. I was pretty worn out from the renewed level of increased activity so having the Sebring races on television was some consolation for not being able to attend. I knew  several photographers who were there and it was great to follow their work on social media both Friday and Saturday. My next race with the ARCA Menards Series is at Salem Speedway and while I realize that bumpy little high banked half mile in southern Indiana bears no resemblance to the flat Sebring airport road course in central Florida, it will be great to get back to my racing photo work nonetheless.

Jasper's Fairview Cemetery overlook to St. Joseph's church and beyond
In the meantime, I have my Indiana Arts Commission photo book project on older Indiana cemeteries to complete. I have a couple more road trips to complete to gather photos but I have a lot of material to use already and the concept is becoming more clear in my mind as my completion deadline approaches this June. If you have not seen my Facebook page for "Hoosier Cemeteries: A Photo Study", then please check it out and give me feedback. I also have a page on my Alleygroup website at this link with other photos from my various trips. So far I have been able to hit all corners of the state except for the southwest so that is where I need to go next to find some older cemeteries that have been overlooked or perhaps are now surrounded by newer development. It's been especially interesting visiting some "pioneer" cemeteries and a few that have genealogical significance for my own family. surname "Alley". You start to see some patterns and similarities with headstones and grave markers according to time periods across the state when you visit ones that date back to the early- to mid-1800's as I have.

Today I am sitting in a hospital waiting room as my fiance undergoes breast cancer surgery so finding a new "normal" is being thrust upon our family in ways we could not have envisioned even when we went to Nashville, Tennessee at the end of December. To top it off, her brother also has cancer so this dreaded affliction has hit us hard emotionally so if it is true that bad things come in threes, then we should be done with all of that and our luck surely must be changing soon. I sure hope so. In any case, we are going to carry on and live our lives as best we can, trust the process and do the things we are meant to do. Thanks to everyone for the love and support. See you at a racetrack somewhere soon. And if you want to know more about my Hoosier Cemetery photo project, then please drop me a line!

Vevay, Indiana cemetery along the Ohio River in southern Indiana contrast with the mills in Kentucky across the river
Alley-Jones-Gloshen pioneer cemetery near Brookville
St. Ferdinand cemetery with the Immaculate Heart nunnery in the background

No comments: