As I write this I wonder if she is going to be comfortable even having this blog published. Basel was a step along the cancer journey and I can understand her uneasiness in recollecting or reflecting back on the two treatments there, and more specifically the anniversary of her most recent one. The same emotions stir inside when she goes back to Presby/Montifiore here in Pittsburgh and is faced with the memories of the chemo-immobilizations preformed there (and by coincidence what could ultimately be our final visit with the liver specialist Dr. Gamblin was yesterday , but more on that to come....)or the same emotions stir when she walks by the kiosk at Hillman. For Dr. Christie who performed the lung surgery years ago and by coincidence is directly across the hall from Dr. Friedland's team and offices....the emotions are strong....we have talked about them....we share them....of course understandably hers are infinitely more intense than mine...these doctors all did their jobs...the lung surgery was deemed a success, the liver treatments as of the scan done just yesterday continue to be what we are all looking at and the Octreotide Scans show that Basel did what it was supposed to do. That is all irrelevant....when you have to look around the waiting room and see the faces of cancer, of advanced cancer staring back....you get angry....then you get angry for being insensitive....you are angry for letting yourself get angry...you wonder why your wife...or in Sunny's case why me? The memories come flooding back and if you let them they can overwhelm.
I have no choice but to realize that even though these memories of Basel may be difficult to revisit, that Sunny is still by my side as I reflect. We have been blessed with a year to date since that scary Swiss treatment and we all know that was never a guarantee. Even AIG wouldn't touch that one. So when I title this "short" little entry "Time-Our Most Precious Commodity", I do so not to repeat a common cliche of the late 20th century, but as a testament to my wife....and to how Sunny chooses to treat each day. She inspires me everyday and as I write this and bring back some of the moments of our time together in Basel last March, I do so not to stir up unpleasant times, but to remember how even then whether she wants to admit it or not she is a unique fighter blessed with an Irish blend of PMA and unfailing tenacity that quite frankly, if the Pittsburgh Pirates could tap into a tenth of, Pittsburgh would be truly be the City of Champions. She doesn't make excuses or look for reasons to procrastinate (although as she will attest to I try to give her outs or force rest) she grabs each day as if it were some kind of steroided beefed up super bull, yanking that big boy's horns until it squeals in defeat. She will not get beat by the clock. She will not get cheated by time. So I can share the memories of our second trip to Basel with fondness because we were together, we were close, and she was to simply put it....Sunny.
Sunny of course brought her camera. I think she knew that even though the treatment was torture that taking pictures would be a distraction. Knowing how much I love to pose for the paparazzi, she had focused on the architecture of the historic city, the people , the river, and had taken a slew of great pictures at one of the better museums during our first trip. (I have to throw out a big props to our good friend Peter, who drove down from Holland on both occasions and without whom, we would have stood out even more than we did as touristy Americans...his insight during the first trip helped us to at least not feel intimidated by the cultural differences during our second visit) But what Sunny had really taken upon herself was to capture pictures of the fronts of buildings...in particular doorways...doors...windows....gates etc...most of them were centuries old and all of them were much more colorful as compared to a typical entrance way here in the states. She was determined to put all of these Switz facades into a book that I kidded would rival Kramer's Coffee Table Book about coffee tables. She was relentless. She actually scaled a five hundred year old wall to peep over bushes to take one and as we marched through cobblestone streets on Saturday before her second treatment she must have taken hundreds of pictures of doors....Jim Morrison wasn't in as many Doors pictures as Sunny shot that afternoon as the sun dropped behind the Alps.
Those of you who read this and see her, please ask her to share with you the "Door Pics" from Basel. She hasn't looked at them since she has been back...but let me tell you they were fantastic. As I chased her through narrow twisting cobblestone streets, my feet hurting (Damn Euro trash hip shoes) and the hunger pains kicked in as our quest for a smoke free, good eats, not to crowded on a Saturday night search continued....she never stopped shooting. She was amazing. I was ready to call it a night. We had just flown from Pittsburgh to DC to Germany to Switzerland, grabbed maybe six hours of sleep, her bones in serious pain, and she wouldn't stop. Time. She kept saying she would have time to rest when she was dead. I would have chuckled, but I was too busy wheezin and geezin chasing her through those Basel Blvds and to be honest I never felt more connected with her...more in tune with what was driving her to press on.
Time. The second trip to Basel was the closest I felt to Sunny since her diagnosis. The fear of the unknown was behind us, the only ones we had to count on were the two of us. It is strange to even write this but it truly was an unbelievable privilege to know that it was just Sunny and I taking this step...of course I don't want in any means to dismiss the pain or emotions of the treatment, I can only comment that the pain for the liver treatments here was worse. At least her appearance post treatment back in da burgh was worse. I just know that we all have one timekeeper in life and he chose to have Sunny and I be in Basel...just the two of us....no other family or friends...(although I felt the prayers)...not our kids, not our intermittent cell phones or pain in the ass wireless Hilton Internet service....it was us...Rickki Lake, Sally Jesse Raphael, Judge Judy, some wacko G5 protesters in London, Nick Nolte and Eddie Murphy, Clint Eastwood, and lots of bar nuts, free lobby apples, stinky ass French cheese and those wonderful Salsa Chips from Papa J's Bistro.
Last St Patricks day my wife was in a nuclear medicine ward at Hospitaal Basell..Peter and I , not able to see Sunny for 24 hours wandered through that Irish haven of Basel and actually passed the evening drinking green beer and eating "fresh Swiss sushi". Not quite Market Square and Ms. Irish Smiling Eyes. The 17th of March was just another day over there, as was March Madness...and as my week went along I pretended to care about the brackets I had filled in via the Internet Sunday night...I tried to implore my three boys to fill theirs out and email them back home....Sunny rested ten feet from me....did I realize how special TIME was with my three rug rats. I have since mentioned on numerous occasions that we should take the boys the next time...she wants no part of it...I might as well as have invited the boys to visit their mother back in the 80's ....big hair...leg warmers...neon bracelets and all.
On Friday, our last day alone together in Basel before the long trek home, I wasn't expecting much more than a quick trolley ride to one of the museums we hadn't yet visited. It was 50 degrees F....I'm sorry, it was like 10 degrees Celsuis officially and as I put my shorts on I asked Sunny what she wanted to do....she said lets tackle the zoo. Now mind you, I am all about skipping museums when possible, but it was blustery, she had just been nuked three days prior...her blood count was low enough that if a monkey farted in her general area I was going to have to punch the monkey first and then take her to the Swiss ER...
TIME. I remember to this day what she said next. "I feel bad you have to be inside all of this time, lets do something fun...how about the zoo." It was at this point I realized how nuts my wife really is. In a goodhearted way. But nuts nonetheless. TIME. We grabbed her camera and the Camcorder and left the comforts of the Hilton Basel. We hopped a train that was new, we walked, we walked and then ...there we were....Zoolistengher Gardener....the f$#%#$in Zoo....For those of you who personally know Sunny I can only tell you that no matter she may claim now about her time there...she was in heaven....Pictures of swans, hog sex, hippos in their native setting....leopards mooning us....little Swiss kids running from the big American who didn't care for their little school ground song.....Loose mice in the reptile exhibit....we laughed and laughed, and never once did she complain. She had just got nuked, and we were walking through three and a half miles of odors and animal shit without complaint. I have never been to the Pittsburgh zoo with just my wife. I live 5 miles as the crow flies from it. Its world famous. We take the kids all of the time. My favorite zoo is now in Switzerland.
I hope that none of you have to go through the battle that Sunny has...but if you do , I pray you relish the TIME with each other....don't spend it frivolously, you can never get a refund....so pray....fight the right fight..and remember your life doesn't have a DVR...so be selfish with your time..cancer or not....TIME doesn't play favorites..so just don't take it for granted..
Please keep us in your prayers...huck Sunny for those "door" pictures and I look forward to reaching out to you all the next time Sunny gives me the OK.