My brother, Mike, who noticed the tone of our phone conversations turning a bit bleaker, decided to do something. As a former scorekeeper of the Class A San Jose Giants farm team, he knew several contacts in the organization. He called and hired Derin McMains, the Peak Performance Coordinator to consult with me by phone to discuss the mental aspects of my situation.
I regarded the six weeks of July and early August as a trial in patience. With my cancer markers stalled out at the Kappa Light Chain level of 1235, my spirits flagged a bit. Stanford wanted to see that number reduced to 350 before moving forward. My hematologist admitted that no further progress should be expected from the regimen that is currently regarded as the standard of health treatment for Myeloma. I began developing aversion reactions when I went to the infusion center. I could smell the chemicals in the room. The Velcade shots began to hurt more than before. The bright blue chemo pills of Cytoxan began to make me nauseous before even swallowing them. These are what cancer studies are now calling the first signs of PTSD in cancer patients.
I found the discussion with Derin a breath of fresh air. When I mentioned my anxiety rising on my weekly chemo infusions, he suggested developing a play list for my IPOD that I would listen to on the way to treatment and right through to the moment of the shot. As I listened to Bocelli last night, I realized it was the beginning of a brilliant idea.
I had told him I found my nurse a little (Ok, easily distracted.) She often skipped steps from one injection to the next and seemed anxious to engage in small talk. Frankly, I was too scared to engage so I began to dislike her. When I think about it, she probably gives forty to sixty shots per day. How can you not be a little distracted? But I certainly did not want her unfocused when it came to me. Every time she dropped the syringe container, forgot to clip my patient band or to write down my weight, I was certain she was going to do something disastrous. But Derin’s suggestion was again brilliant. He suggested that at the moment the shot was ready to be applied, I should ask her a question about the shot itself. It would help bring her to focus!
In my right mind I would have come up with these ideas but when so deeply invested I found I lost the objectivity necessary and was running on pure emotion. Perhaps his biggest contribution was to ask me what are the three most important things I want to maintain in my life and which extend beyond the next 18 mos? He recounted asking Barry Zito the same question in 2012 when he was struggling so badly in his pitching. Zito was embarrased by his performance and that added pressure only made his efforts worse.
Zito said: 1) To give it my all every time I take the mound.
2) To be the most encouraging teammate I can possible be.
3) To show up on time and do the work necessary as a professional.
Derin pointed out that by Barry’s own admission he was doing those things, but he had also inserted other outcomes as added burden. When Zito realized that he was being true to his core values, he began to relax, to eat better, to get more sleep. And as we know, the Giants would not have won the 2012 World Series without Barry Zito’s incredible contribution.
So now this week I’m reviewing my Core Important Principles. The things that make me get up each morning and at week’s end, I’m calling Derin with those values but I can already see in a few days how some smaller ambitions occasionally creep in and stomp for attention. I’ve been able to recognize that and put them in their proper place.
After the consult, Derin confided that he and his wife were people of faith and as such would make a special time at dinner to pray for Meg and me. I was touched by that given all of the people he works with within the Giants major and minor systems.