Infusion No. 19 was last Wednesday and it was as uneventful as they come, unlike the few days that followed it. We are halfway through the trial, my friends, with tumors just under a third of their original size. Sounds like a good reason to have a bit of a festive weekend, right?
A long, fun weekend was had down in South Florida, with numerous friends and memorable events. Here are the highlights of my "This is me taking it easy, I swear" week:
Anniversaries – Jen and I celebrated six years of marriage this past Saturday in one of the more uniquely memorable anniversaries I imagine we will have. It was certainly not the typical romantic type (as you'll read). Instead, it involved good friends, food and drink, and a lot of beautiful Florida weather. We postponed dinner and quiet time until Wednesday night, in favor of more typical Jen and T.J. weekend activities.
Fun – Jimmy Buffett and the Coral Reefer Band came to West Palm Beach on Saturday and "Southern Cross" and "One Particular Harbour" was as close to reliving our Tahiti honeymoon as we could get. It wasn't a huge group of us there, but for my 19th show, (I think) it was one of the best. Tailgating began late for some, early for others, and just about the right time for us. Once inside, we started on the lawn, and then worked our way down to seats pretty close to the stage, thanks to my buddy Jax, who was visiting us from New Jersey for the show.
Afterwards, the party continued poolside at our friends' place. We even had a few people who didn't go to the concert join in the Buffett Anniversary celebration. Among the adults, we had ten kids who were all in the care of someone else for the evening — so it was nice to let go a bit (or a lot), and really enjoy an evening out.
Colostomy side note #1 – There are several reasons I am very conscious of drinking alcohol infrequently and in moderation. The health benefits are obvious, hangover recovery time is now measured in days, and having a tumor on your liver tends to make you want to keep that organ in optimal health. However, there have been a handful of nights where I thought I was 29 again, and a huge downside becomes a lack of awareness of the colostomy. Late Saturday night, the darn bag opened up; luckily, we were back at the house with a shower and a change of clothes available, so the embarrassment was somewhat limited.
Friends, Old – Sunday was the annual reunion of four friends from middle school. For me, it was a slow afternoon, as the late night Saturday took its toll. Watching the Flyers game didn't help; they skated like they had been to Buffett the night before, too. But getting together with this little group reminds me of the roots I have (even if only three of us now live in South Florida) and those who have known me for a long, long time.
Life is marching on, kids are growing up, careers are advancing, and yet the time for grade school friends to get together is still precious. We always say "we should do this more often." and know that life right now affords each of us little free time. That we make it a priority to see each other a couple times each year is a good reminder to "lust for the future, but treasure the past." (I'm keeping with the Buffett theme here, guys.)
Friends, New – Friday and Monday was golf with a bunch of new(er) friends at the Roma Club, a group from Burlington County who make an annual golf (and drinking) trip to Fort Lauderdale. I started attending the event five years ago, and the last two years I missed the annual tournament they hold on Monday (two years ago because of rain, ad last year I had just started my PD-1 treatments). Though I did attend last year's post-tournament poolside "awards and activities" (you DON'T want to be on the losing team, trust me) and put "Golf in 2014 Roma Club Tournament (and not lose)" on my iPhone GOALS list for the following year.
Both goals were notched this year, and I got to spend two solid days with a group of great guys. Just before we teed off Monday, there was a moment of silence for Club members who had passed on, and I thought, "Man, there is a LOT of golf left to be played before Rick is mentioning my name on the tee box." After seeing a few father-son pairings there, I added "Roma Club Golf with Tommy" to the GOALS list that Monday night.
Colostomy side note #2 – I noticed someone else with one of these for the first time ever. I didn't even know what to say (so didn't say anything), and wondered how many times people notice it with me and just stay quiet because they're not sure if or what to say.
Looking Ahead — Believe it or not, the weeks ahead get no less busy. Besides the "quiet" anniversary celebration tonight, my 39th birthday looms, Jen starts a new job, A Prom To Remember Fort Lauderdale happens Mother's Day weekend, and Josie readies for her ballet recital all by the time the next infusion rolls around. Then we'll travel to Philly/NYC, Chicago, and San Diego for melanoma-related events starting in mid-May, plus a trip to Boston for the first A Prom To Remember there and returning home through Philly for the Susan Fazio Foundation Golf Outing.
So as we pass the one-year mark on PD-1, the comparisons from similar events the year before show just how much our day-to-day has returned to my old life. A year ago, we were still hoping I would respond to some kind of treatment. Now, we are happy this treatment has given back some of the future we had always taken for granted — whether that's "Fins to the Left," drives down the middle of the fairway, or pushing our anniversary celebration to the right, life is slowly returning to a better normal.
T.J. Sharpe shares his fight against Stage 4 Melanoma in the Patient #1 blog. Read more »