Bill Harmon, Random Thoughts ~ July 20, 2016

On some levels, I feel I have to apologize for my last journal. I knew when I sent it that it could be construed as being a whiner, a victim and ungrateful for all the things I have going for me: MDA, the doctors, my family and literally the hundreds of people supporting me. I weighed that before I hit the send button. I also felt a need to share where I was really at. I felt I was venting more than whining but then again I’m biased!

I received many, many replies back that were all over the spectrum. As I expected, I received a few that in no uncertain terms, let me have it for being such a victim given all the things I have going for me. I respected and understood their messages on certain levels. From my perspective I was conveying the feelings of someone who was in a state of “acute depression” and for a brief amount of time, I wasn’t capable of looking at the good things, I was lost in the abyss of depression. I had allowed cancer to affect who I really am. I also felt that I had to journal the way I really felt not what I was supposed to feel. Having been the caregiver to the strongest lady I’ve ever met, my wife Robin, as she went thru her bout with breast cancer I saw how exhausting it can be to be “positive” 24/7. We are human, and we are hurting and at times we weaken.

I put my pain out there in some ways as a cry for help. I was down, I was hurting and most of all I was scared again. The panic and anxiety attack I had during my radiation treatment scared me to death. I had 29 more of these ahead of me and what if react like that all the time? I won’t be able to make it. As we drove our little 5 minute drive back to our apartment from the proton center, Robin and I had a very honest and frank talk. I told her how low I was, how disappointed I was in myself but I knew I couldn’t continue this way. She said that we had to do something about it. I mentioned that I was so consumed by my fear and anger that I was overwhelmed by the “problem” and I had to find that guy who had been so good for the last 2 1/2 months. I HAD to start focusing on the solution. Every now and then I’ll hear an expression at a recovery meeting that I don’t know what it means but I DO know what it means. I decided I needed to get back into my “recovery tool box” soon, like very soon. The expression is “I can’t think my way into right acting, I have to act my way into right thinking”. You see my “thinker” was so broken for a couple days, it needed to shut up! That afternoon I took a nap and when I woke up Robin was speaking with Dr. Rosenthal’s assistant about my situation. She assured us that what I was going thru was totally normal and they treat people like me all the time. She said they would suggest a mild sedative before radiation and also suggested that I use their psychology department if I needed to talk to someone. I agreed to participate. It was time to get to the solution, immediately.

Last weekend, I immersed myself in all the things I was told to do, rinse 4-6 times a day with baking soda to help prevent infections in my mouth that radiation promotes, rinsed with a solution that enhances my saliva as my mouth is staring to dry up, did my swallowing exercises, take the pills to prevent the constipation that they seem very concerned about, did all the lotion and moisturizer therapy that was suggested etc…. I got back into the solution. By midday Saturday I felt I was back, had a terrific weekend. I had come full circle again….

But I didn’t do it alone, although some of the replies back had a little “sting” to them, they were necessary, also, they inspired me to look inward and change. I had many others that offered different insights that were most helpful. A wonderful doctor friend of mine said “you never heal in a straight line; there will always be bumps in the road”. He also went on to say that he thought it was great they were doing another round of chemo because it decreases the chances of the cancer reoccurring. That was the very thing I DIDN’T think about when I was told! I just thought about, I don’t want to do it! That was reassuring. Another friend wrote “the next time they put the mask on you, instead of listening to yourself, listen for all the people cheering for you and I’ll be cheering the loudest”. Another dear friend shared with me that her husband (who is here now) that this was her husband’s 4th bout with cancer and listed an extensive list of the things he’s endured the last 15 years and reassured me that you just fight thru it, one day at a time. But what it really did was wake me up to realize how good I have it. I immediately shared it with Robin and we both got it….get off the pity pot, many have endured much more than you. I called her later and thanked her for the brilliant way she kicked me in the butt! I received all the love, tough love and the things I needed. My journal in retrospect was a subconscious call for help even though I knew I would be left vulnerable to criticism. At the end of the day, I got what I needed, not always what I wanted.

But there was one more big concern……how was I going to be at Monday’s radiation treatment? Some of you have had “the mask” on, it’s very awkward how tight it is but it’s also tightened to the gurney so you have zero chance of taking it off even if you want to. If you get “squirrelly” at all its game on. What surprised me was that the first 4 times I was fine. If I had a “squirrelly” thought I was able to dismiss it and move on, last Friday they just overwhelmed me. So….I took the sedative about an hour before my appointment, they called my name and I went in feeling pretty good. I laid down and as they tightened the mask I …..was like I was the first four times, it’s weird, confining, uncomfortable but if I found my rhythm breathing thru my nose and “relax into the mask” rather than tense up and fight it, I now have a shot. The procedure last 30 minutes so I have to stay “present”. I then started to get lost in the support of all the people who have been there for me and….I made it, I have a chance again! I’ve made it the last three days without incident. Today was a little of a test because my chemo ended at 1pm and radiation was at 2pm at another facility. I just got it done. Big, big difference from that drive home Friday when I felt like a beaten and broken man. Thanks to all of you, your support really helped.

Yesterday (even though I felt fine) I kept my appointment with the psychiatrist and found it quite helpful. It lasted an hour and I learned quite a bit about what triggered my fears. He concluded that he didn’t need to see me on a consistent basis but he there for me if necessary.

I also had the opportunity to apologize to the receptionist that I leaned on. She was wonderful and didn’t deserve to be treated the way I treated her. She acted like it was no big deal but it was a big deal to me, it’s not the way I do things.

I know I’m in a little “journal overkill” here but I wanted you realize how much you’ve helped me.
With my nephew, Ben Harmon (Craig’s son), Robin and Nancy Harmon
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Dicks two son’s Ricky and Chris

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The whole Dick and Nancy Harmon family and the two boys wives. So, so grateful to have them here in Houston, they have provided me with love, support and laughter! 072116 Harmon2

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8 Comment

  1. Jack Area says: Reply

    My brother just had lung cancer surgery and now I know more than ever how your story is quite understandable. Just hang in there, get back to yourself and rejoin us in the desert when the weather is better…. Jack

  2. Dave Mount says: Reply

    You’re dong great. Hang in there and we’ll see you in the desert when the weather is better.
    With love and affection,
    Dave and Michelle Mount

  3. Wilf Gobert says: Reply

    Bill, I don’t think you need to apologize for how you feel. Staring at the Grim Reaper and being sick as all hell is something most people will never feel, because they went quickly. So, very few people will ever really know what you are going thru. Your life time guidance to golfers dealing with frustration ( which seems so trivial to you now!) is the approach now forced on you, how to be positive and optimistic when all you really want is for the evil to stop. Prayers, best wishes, and so grateful for your part in my life.

  4. Sallie Krause says: Reply

    You are always teaching us. Even now . Keep believing ! Sallie

  5. Pat McDonnell says: Reply

    Hello Bill,
    We don’t know each other but I have been following your blog. I wanted to send you a note and tell you one of our dearest friends had tongue cancer and went through a horrendous Series of radiation and chemo for almost a year. That was 4 years ago and he has been cancer free for 3 years. He is back on the golf course , happy and healthy! I pray you will be encouraged to know another has gone through what you are going through and has successfully kicked cancer in the butt! I am praying that for you, too!
    Pat McDonnell, Toscana neighbor.
    Ps if you would ever want to talk to Our friend, I know he would be open to it. Just let me know.

  6. Dawn Jasper says: Reply

    Bill, You have been in my thoughts and prayers, and in reading your random thoughts I am somewhat reliving Don’s experiences, especially the “mask”, you are doing amazing and have a wonderful attitude. Keep fighting and look forward to seeing you back at “Camp Toscana” in the Fall. Dawn

  7. Gina Pedrini says: Reply

    Hello Bill… I have not had the pleasure of meeting you yet, but I certainly look forward to the day I do! And I hope that’s very soon! …Your “random thoughts” journal is nothing short of inspirational. Your “get on with it” attitude and “one day at a time” approach are qualities that I find both motivating and mindset-altering. Your relentless pursuit of positive thinking and “positive acting” are also great lessons and reminders for me. I just want you to know that by way of your sharing your very personal experiences – the good, the bad and the ugly – you have given me a new mindset and new perspective in my own life. I’m very appreciative of your head-on candor, your complete honesty, your willingness to share your vulnerability, and at times – feelings of fear, and of course, your incredible strength! You have shared all of this with such humility and such dignity. …May you & Robin and your family & friends continue to feel comfort and strength in the love and support that surrounds you. …A Toscana Friend – Gina Pedrini…

  8. Greg Castleman says: Reply

    Bill thank you for sharing your experience which must of been of terrifying experience I’m sure you’ll come out much stronger because of it. Your junior golf buddy Greg

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