It feels so good feeling good again

Dear Izzy, Max, and Kate,

I wrote to you a few days ago about some of the struggles I’ve been having with my health. At first the doctors called it an ulcer. When the blood work came back it looked like something else. They called it pancreatitis. They scheduled me for an ultrasound a few days later.

In the meantime I was losing sleep. Up all night with intense stomach pain. The kind that makes you consider the emergency room. Several days of that pain made me weary.

I was living on fewer than 500 calories a day. Within 7 days I had lost 12 pounds. I shut my triathlon training down completely.

The ultrasound showed a dilated bile duct. That set off a long a list of possible causes, none of which sounded like something I wanted to deal with: gall stones, cysts, infection of the pancreas or gall bladder, or tumors.

It’s hard not to be melodramatic when you consider “tumors”.

Gall stones are bad. But once someone says “cancer” out loud to you it never quite leaves your mind.

All of my symptoms started keeping me distracted by what is to come. At 38 years old I’ve already been obsessing over my legacy and my mortality too much. Once you get the word cancer in your head it speeds up the thought process tremendously.

I’m scheduled to see a specialist tomorrow. I’m sure there will be more tests.

I changed what I was consuming. I’ve been living off of vegetable and fruit juice, yogurt, and natural apple sauce for the last 4 days – before that it was just dry toast. All at once I’m sleeping again. And the pain and sickness is gone. I was able to eat a little solid food  yesterday. I even ran a few miles this morning.

Maybe I fasted long enough and gave my system  time to heal itself. Maybe the fresh vegetables and juices flushed my system. Or maybe I just prayed so hard that those quite conversations with God made a difference. Maybe little of all of the above.

I still have to see the doctor tomorrow. There are still symptoms that concern me. And the fact is, my blood work and my ultrasound were abnormal.

But I feel better. A lot better.  And you never feel better than when you first start feeling good after you’ve been feeling really bad.

The sun is shining today. We had breakfast at our kitchen table while Van Morrison, Dr. John, and the Neville Brothers played in our kitchen. I watched Milan-San Remo, the Italian cycling classic and felt inspired. A few days ago I wasn’t inspired by anything except for finding ways to stop hurting.

Thinking about who I am still. It feels as simple these days as living a story that my children will be proud to tell one day. Beyond just the fact that I loved you. I’ve always been a story teller. On paper and it seems, with my life. Someday I’ll tell you about it all. The things I saw and did. The races I ran and the ways I felt alive in the process.

Happy Birthday sweet Izzy. You’re 9 today! My world rose with the sun at 5:15am on March 17th, 2004 when I saw your face. It’s all part of the story. Sickness, health, inspiration, and rebirth.

I love you,

– Daddy

Robert Earl Keen’s “Feeling Good Again”