Engagement and Chill

A friend who—rather unexpectedly—visited me in the hospital last week happened to be at church yesterday morning. We conversed briefly but did not have the chance to spend much time visiting before the service began. Because by the time the post-service group discussion took place I was not feeling quite as energetic as I had before the service, mi novia and I went home, so I did not have the opportunity to talk with him afterward. During the time of  his hospital visit and yesterday, while we chatted, we touched on several topics about which we share similar perspectives. Yet time and circumstances did not permit much conversation in either situation. As I reflect on our brief interactions, the importance of carving out time to talk to people—the way he carved out time to visit me in the hospital—occurred to me. Only by actively pursuing for ourselves, and the people around us, the chance to engage can we maximize the opportunities to enrich our lives and those of others. By stopping by the hospital to see me, my friend illustrated that it does not take herculean efforts to make those kinds of connections—but it takes a little time and intention and an appreciation for the importance of engagement.


Food brings people together; often, offering food to people is a sign of friendship. Lately (and many times in the past), I have witnessed and benefitted from the connections between offerings of food and the confirmation of relationships. Chili, baklava, chicken pot pie, pound cakes, lovely spreads of hors d’oeuvres, nuts, crackers, cookies, and many other delicious expressions of friendship and love have made their ways into my home, delivered by people with whom I have developed close connections. Recognizing and acknowledging those offerings as they are delivered or accepted informs me of the power of food in relationships. And I have prepared and offered food to others as a means of enhancing and cementing our relationships. Reflecting, after the fact, on how sharing—whether giving or receiving—food reminds me of just how powerful the act of “feeding” one another can be. Eating just for fuel, especially when the opportunity exists to use food as a way to connect with other people, seems to me to rob one of the chance to strengthen interpersonal bonds. Sharing food—whether elaborate cuisine or simple cheese and crackers—with others can be a highly meaningful and purposeful act of love. Offering food to a friend or acquaintance can be translated as a statement: “You matter to me and I want our relationship to grow; I want to be close to you.” It may sound corny; so be it. Corny can be a profound attestation of intent.


Much of the last week has been unpleasant, with admission to the hospital by way of the emergency room to address pneumonia and COPD among other kinds of medical unhappiness. I am home now, feeling much better but still battling symptoms I would rather have left at the hospital; such is life. Aside from continuing to deal with those symptoms, I am readying myself to take on another battle against lung cancer, which has returned after a five-year hiatus. Later this week, another treatment regimen is scheduled to begin: chemotherapy in the form of two powerful anti-cancer drugs and immunotherapy in a form I have not yet come to fully understand. If my body responds as the oncologist and I (and mi novia) expect and hope, there will be just four courses of chemo, spaced three weeks apart. Simultaneously, immunotherapy will be in play; it, though, will continue after the chemo is complete, for a total of two years. These plans assume, of course, that the cancer responds as desired to the treatments. Were that not to be the case, adjustments in either the types of chemo drugs/immunotherapy and the forms or length of treatment will be made. Unfortunately, the chemotherapy port installed in my chest before chemo began five years ago was removed just a couple of months ago; so, I will either deal with needles in my veins or I will have another port implanted—to be determined. The auto-injected Neulasta (a drug to reduce the risk of infection…and, I thought, nausea…during chemotherapy) was used during my last treatments, but apparently is no longer approved by insurance, due to cost. So, instead of having an automatically injected dose delivered the day after chemo, I gather I may have to return to the clinic the day after chemo treatment for an anti-infection injection; I will try to learn more and clarify later this week when I begin the treatment process. Even though I have gone through this before, I am entering this second experience in a state of mild confusion about exactly what will be involved in my treatment. I know I will have regular CT-scans and a lot of blood draws to measure the extent to which the treatments are or are not working. But, at this stage, it appears I will not have to undergo radiation treatments, a fact I appreciate enormously. Whether I will be as fatigued as I was last time around, what side-effects the treatments will have, etc., etc. are questions I hope to have answered later this week. My oncologist visited me twice while I was in the hospital this week, but I was not sufficiently clear-headed to ask (or remember the answers to) the right questions. Mi novia will be with me Thursday, so I will depend on her to help me wade through the questions. So…onward through the fog of chemotherapy!


The weather is brutally cold (8°F at the moment). As I look out the window, I see that it has begun to snow again, after an inch or two (I think) overnight. I wish I had called the propane company week before last to refill the propane cylinders; damn it! Both the cylinders are either empty or quite low, so the warming glow of a fire in the fireplace will have to wait until we can get them re-filled. Today’s weather (and road closures of the hilly terrain in our area) will delay that for quite some time. I was not an especially good Boy Scout.   Okay…time to watch the snow fall and just…chill (but not too much, I hope).

About John Swinburn

"Love not what you are but what you may become."― Miguel de Cervantes
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