May Day

Last Thursday morning, May Day, I put on my rain boots and jacket and rode the rails to NYC through the tail end of a 2-day rain. Walking from Grand Central to MSK I noticed how slow I was moving. I have traditionally been one of the faster moving objects on a New York sidewalk but I was rolling at true octogenarian speed. It was sort of nice to take it all in a little slower.

I got my chest x-ray and joined the unusually large number of patients in the waiting room. When finally got to see Dr. Bains he entered the exam room with a smile and I knew my chest tube was coming out. We did some tests with the tube to confirm that the leak in my lung was, in fact, healed and then out it came!

The x-ray showed my lung 100% inflated which was also great news. I had a feeling when I woke up the Monday beforehand that the leak was healed. I could breath more deeply and it just felt fundamentally different. “It’s amazing what the body can tell you if you listen,“ Bains told me.

Out damn tube! Up to the dressing was all up in me. ew.

Out damn tube! Up to the dressing was all up in me. ew.

Dr. Bains seemed to think it was fine to let my body recover for a month or two before attempting the right lung thoracotomy as it would be more prophylactic now than interventional given the rest of the data. I’ll confirm this strategy next week when I meet with my oncologist, Dr. Feldman.

When I left MSK the sun was out and the city was having one of the first true Spring days. Fruit trees in bloom and everyone on the street seems a little giddy and caught off guard at the intoxicating effect of the weather. I myself was just so happy to be free of the chest tube, the last physical strand connecting me to my unexpected and trying hospital stay.

The days since have been up and down. On one level I am so grateful to be free of the tube, recovering from all of the complications and, moreover, for my tumor marker to be in the undetectable range. On another level my body is still healing from the abdominal disruption, the incisions, and the loss of blood / hemoglobin. Without the chest tube I have pretty much stopped taking pain killers and I think I am also experiencing some withdrawal from 6 weeks of regular opiate use.

For the first time I am starting to feel like I am no longer in the jaws of the cancer or its complications and that the clear and present dangers have passed. With a little breathing room and relaxing of my guard I am processing aspects of the experience for the first time. I find myself crying at random times. It scares me because the tears feel like rivulets of water on the face of a dam that is swelling and cracking. I am afraid of either having to contain that energy or it flooding out all at once.

I’ve started reading a book called Waking The Tiger: Healing Trauma and I realize I’m entering another phase of healing. The trauma from the experience overall, from the treatments and their attendant complications needs to be healed.

I try to remind myself to be grateful. To savor not being in the hospital and being able to walk in the woods on a sunny afternoon. I remind myself to breathe, to trust, to inhabit and celebrate the moment. It’s harder than it seems it should be.

One I wrote while waiting for Bains last week:


this room feels like an airport lounge
except nobody here is flying today

we wait, patients being patient,
for surgeons, oncologists, radiologists

comrades in cancer
shooting each other knowing glances
furtive smiles of belonging
nods of encouragement

this weary tribe of
lawyers, bus drivers,
retired football players,
hairdressers, matrons,
bankers and farmers

shuffling slowly
towards the bright and tearful
resolutions ahead

deep in the marrow of life
awash in grief and praise


  1. Christine Walters says:

    A wonderful post – brought tears. Not full out those of joy because of the sadness/unease in your words. What an wonderful support crew you have here. You’re fantastic go on and enjoy the spring that seems to finally be springing!! On another note, whenever you need a lift to NYC and don’t want to ride the rails – I’m always up for a trip to the jungle. Holler. I mean it.

  2. KirsTie Page BenedicT says:

    “I myself was just so happy to be free of the chest tube, the last physical strand connecting me to my unexpected and trying hospital stay.”

    Jay, that was actually the first thing I thought before I had even read that you actually wrote how it did connect you to that long and unexpected last hospital stay. It all is so much more than treatment & healing… And you hear so much about what people go through having cancer. But this blog has given me a first-hand experience, in real detail and never too much information (which I love). It is raw, and honest and open and scary and most often humorous. Thank you for always keeping us informed… The Good, The Bad & The Ugly. ;)

  3. it’s about
    in one’s self
    in the unknown
    in the next
    in the now
    but now, you know
    and believe

    THRIVE in every moment… it’s living, and that’s the blessing, and that’s all that matters

    cheers mate — may you continue to discover the wonders of a cancer survivor

    I pray every single day, sometimes more than once each day, for this incredible journey to grant me another day, no matter how many months the MDs tell me I have before I come back for my next “well-visit”

    it’s only about the now… and the next
    and you are grateful

    which means you believe… in you

    and that’s all that matters

  4. Theresa Ryan says:

    Oh, Jay. This is such great news. Forge ahead! xot

  5. Ellen love Dungan says:

    Bravo, Jay! Thank you for sharing your life, your thoughts, your humor – so inspiring and healing for everyone.


  6. Jane Ringer says:

    :) XOXO

  7. Brother Jay, let yourself cry, it won’t break you…let the river flow if it will… nothing can break you now. Love Nadiya~

  8. Stancy says:

    Tetherless into Spring! Xoxo

  9. pbnilsson says:

    Congrats, Jay! The light is growing brighter….!

  10. Ann Bresnan says:

    Cry your heart out. You deserve it. You have endured so much…I have found that tears can be cathartic. Love you, Jay.

  11. Lowen Cattolico says:

    Hooray! Thanks for sharing & healing, Jay.

  12. Sebastian says:

    This is the best news I have heard in a long time. Nothing makes me happier than thinking about you leaving the darkness and once again entering the light. Your strength is a real example for all of us. Love you man.

  13. One of your more moving poems. As a real octogenarian I relate to the slow walk! And I remember the surprise of detoxing after a spell on Fentanyl patches some years ago with no helpful doctor to explain why I felt so nervy and unquiet. So glad you are coming along so brilliantly!! XXX

  14. Ralph Linsalata says:

    Jay congratulations on your progress. I hope the book on healing convinces you to have the patience to allow the healing process to take the time necessary and that mentally you recognize that a year is not unusual for what you have gone through. A year sounds long but it will go by quickly.

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