The Great Outdoors

To say it has been a bit damp and stormy lately here would be an understatement. This past week is the first time that I can recall being forced into the basement to seek shelter from a tornado warning.

Things aren’t much better back in my home town of Chicago, which broke the record for wettest month of May in its history. The rainfall total for the month climbed to 8.25” at O’Hare this past Thursday morning.

When the local forecast called for warm and dry conditions over the weekend, I couldn’t help but beg Lorie to go for a walk at Tyler State Park. While my breathing conditions deteriorated, a wheelchair had been dropped off on Saturday. Also, I received a prescription for morphine sulfate oral solution to help open up my airwaves. What could go wrong?

I haven’t been able to take our pup Humphrey for a walk in quite some time, so bringing him along was a must. However, I didn’t think through how little I would be able to help. Holding his leash in my hand(s) would be a sure-fire disaster — dragging me behind him at warp speed. Having Lorie hold one end of the rope while steering the wheelchair with the other hand was equally dangerous. Well, we’d figure something out.

I couldn’t see behind me, so I’m not sure what Lorie had worked out. Judging by her two scraped knees, it went about as planned. I felt awful. The struggle between my desire for freedom versus the safety of both Humphrey and Lorie was quite real. Humphrey only wanted to play with other pups he met in the park and who could blame him? But Lorie was running out of breath pushing the wheelchair through the rough gravel path, and it was clear my ill-planned trip needed to come to an end.

Next time we needed to enlist the help of a third person to handle Humphrey or leave him at home. We broke out the water bowl for Humphrey before heading home. Afterward, he quickly fell asleep in the back of the car.

While the trip was otherwise fun, it was a sad reminder that my days of doing speaking engagements and other patient advocacy activities have come to an end: “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” (Matthew 26:41). Even with the assistance of Lorie, an oxygen tank, and morphine, I couldn’t manage to make the short trip.

This week was also the first anniversary when I returned to Chicago in connection with the year’s largest cancer confab — the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) annual meeting. At the time, I did a speaking event and second edition book signing for McKesson. I cannot imagine doing that event again now.

Michael Becker writing this blog entry

12 thoughts on “The Great Outdoors”

  1. Ahh..ASCO (and those other dreaded “A” meetings, AACR and ASH). I don’t miss the craziness of those gatherings one bit but I do mourn with you for the loss of the life you once had.

    But as always, your readers are happy to hear from you. I think of you often. And Humphrey stories, good or bad, always make me smile.

  2. You might not be presenting at ASCO but what you are presenting to us here is perhaps even more important than you might imagine. Thank you for continuing to inspire all of us and know that tons of love and hugs and prayers are going out to you and Lorie and all of your family. Sorry to hear that Humphrey still thinks he is in control of you and your domain. Can’t imagine how ever got such an idea!!!

  3. There are few things better on a beautiful day than a walk at Tyler State Park. The next time you want to go, I’d be happy to push your wheelchair or hold Humphrey’s leash. Wishing you more days filled with sunshine on your face and wind in your hair.

  4. I thought of you and your message yesterday when I had my 12 year old in for his annual physical. He received part 2 of the HPV vaccine. Your story, your words, your advocacy echoed in my head. Godspeed, Michael.

    • Thank you, Betsy! Curious if your doctor recommended the vaccine or if you had to request it!

  5. Thank you so much for your blog. We have a dear friend with head and neck cancer and he is just finishing his first round of chemoradiation after major reconstructive surgery. This has so helped his wife understand what he is going through. Your POV has been invaluable. We are grateful for all you have given to this.

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