#12 Man Up

Today I complete the 23rd of 28 days of my radiation and chemotherapy treatment. I’ll be more than 80% through this first part of my treatment program. And while I wish I could tell you things are getting easier, the fact is, they are getting harder. Chemotherapy and radiation are cumulative, so over time, the side-effects grow. I’ve been informed that the next couple of weeks will likely be the hardest of all.

Up until now, I’ve been introduced to just a few side effects. Along with the obvious plumbing issues, fatigue and persistent nausea are my regular visitors most days. I’ve learned to manage the nausea with regular doses of ginger tea and ginger ale as well as an ever present supply of Saltine crackers. As long as there is something in my stomach, I’m pretty stable. And I’m getting a lot of sleep at night to combat the fatigue. As for the plumbing issues, I’m accepting them as my new normal.

An emerging side effect is a painful feeling in the soles of my feet that’s not uncommon with my particular chemotherapy drug. I feel like my feet have been bruised and parched from the inside out. It started early last week, mainly in my heels, so I walked on the front part of my feet. But in the last few days, there's now a persistent parched feeling, and the pain and tenderness extend throughout the soles of my feet.

As I instinctively react to the various side effects of my treatment, the words “Man Up” ring in my ear.

It was a direct challenge delivered by my Oncologist, Dr. X during our first meeting as we discussed the possible side effects I would experience from chemotherapy. Her point was to give me some perspective. As she and my medical team try to save my life, I need to accept and deal with the tough stuff that will show up.

So, when things get rough, I’m challenged to not to feel sorry for myself or assume the role of a victim. I’m reminded to accept and live with the pain or discomfort of the situation. I acknowledge my sore feet and try to walk without complaint. I say “yes” to my treatment and all that comes with it.

I try my best to “Man Up.”

Earlier this week I started reading the book, Letters To A Young Poet by Rainer Marie Rilke. The following paragraph in the 8th Letter jumped off the page to support and enhance the challenge from Dr. X.

“We have no reason to harbor any mistrust against our world, for it is not against us. If it has terrors, they are our terrors; if it has abysses, these abysses belong to us; if there are dangers, we must try to love them. And if only we arrange our life in accordance with the principle which tells us that we must always trust in the difficult, then what now appears to us as the most alien will become our most intimate and trusted experience.

How could we forget those ancient myths that stand at the beginning of all races, the myths about dragons that at the last moment are transformed into princesses? Perhaps all the dragons in our lives are princesses who are only waiting to see us act, just once, with beauty and courage. Perhaps everything that frightens us is, in its deepest essence, something helpless that wants our love.”

I can easily identify the dragons in front of me. I acknowledge the fear and moments of terror I face about all the unknown that lies ahead. I anticipate the inherent danger that my diagnosis implies. It’s easy to find my mind stuck and rehearsing the different abysses I could fall into.

Rilke’s words urge me to trust this situation I’m in and its presence in my life. And with the scary things that I encounter along the way, to act with courage and beauty. I am reminded to accept and love the parts of me that feel frightened and helpless.

It’s almost like he suggests I “Man Up” as well. But it’s more than the macho bravado the term seems to imply.

It’s more elegant, mature and soulful.

As a result I am compelled to ask, “What does courage look like for me in the face of this diagnosis and treatment? “What does it mean for me to act with beauty toward all this?” “How do I love the frightened, helpless parts that live within me?”

The answers are not obvious to me. These questions lead to even more questions.

But in the process, it’s my hope that in my desire to live the questions, some princesses will show up along the way.


  1. Mike Sullivan on December 5, 2016 at 9:31 am


    You humble me each and every day.

    Cheers to you, my friend.

  2. Don Gerard on December 5, 2016 at 11:15 am

    Attitude, Attitude, Attitude is what will get you through this, and you already have that part licked! Keep-on Keeping-on kicking this cancer’s ass. YOU WILL WIN THIS FIGHT!!!

  3. Evelyn Jefferson on December 6, 2016 at 1:16 pm

    Tom, my love, you are my hero and you do humble me, as well. 5 more days for this part. You will do it!!! You are awesome!

    • Tom Adams on December 19, 2016 at 11:01 am

      Ah, thanks Evelyn. I appreciate you.

  4. Susan Kruger on December 10, 2016 at 4:05 pm

    I appreciate your updates as I am often wondering how you are doing. Of course, I don’t like to hear that things are getting worse. But, I do appreciate your insights along your journey.

    After reading this, I feel compelled to tell you an otherwise random story.

    Our community of Lake Orion has a mascot… The Dragon. If you like in Lake Orion, you ARE a Lake Orion Dragon. Every elementary, middle, and high school has the same mascot. (Unlike most neighboring communities where each school has a different mascot.) Even if you don’t go to the public schools (as life events dictated for our family), you are still a Dragon.

    I’m convinced it is the silly mascot that is the #1 reason living in Lake Orion has retained so much small-town charm, even though we’ve become a bustling suburb of a major metro area.

    It was only three months ago that I learned the full legend of the Lake Orion Dragon.

    It started nearly 100 years ago. Lake Orion was a booming summer-resort destination. Lake Orion (the lake itself) is exactly half-way between Detroit & Flint. At that time, a passenger rail-way ran right alongside the lake, with a stop just yards from the main harbor. As the lake was becoming more & more popular, the Lock Ness Monster was becoming a global rage.

    One of the bays of Lake Orion was reserved as the “Ladies Bathing Area.” A couple of boys decided to have some fun with the ladies. They created a hinged, wooden dragon and weighed him down in the middle of the bay, where he bobbed at the surface of the water. The boys used a long cable to control the dragon’s movements from the shore. As you can imagine, their dragon created quite a stir among the ladies!

    That same summer, a mysterious island appeared in the middle of the same bay. Witnesses claimed the island was NOT there one day. Then appeared the next day. The mysterious island and dragon, coupled with international rage over Lock Ness, created a long-standing identity for Lake Orion.

    However, the mysterious island disappeared a couple of years later. Then, another island appeared in a different part of the lake. Overnight. And, after a while, it disappeared.

    This phenomenon created such a stir, I’m told Time magazine did a cover story on Lake Orion’s dragons and mystery islands. (Although, I can’t verify this.) The Army Corp of Engineers was called into to study the mysterious islands. After several years, they walked away with no conclusions.

    Meanwhile, the small bay of Lake Orion where our office is located is the furthest from the old train stop, most remote, and was the last to be developed; cottages and homes did not appear on our shore until the 1950s.

    As I said, we didn’t learn about the legend of the Lake Orion Dragon and/or the mystery islands until three months ago. But, two summers ago, we arrived one morning to discover a new island in the middle of our bay. It wasn’t there one day and it was the next. It was about 15 feet long by 10 feet wide. It was just a gnarly mass of land with old tree trunks and roots protruding 1-3 feet above the surface of the lake. If I had heard the story of the mystery islands prior to witnessing one appear overnight, I wouldn’t have believed it.

    The new island created an obstacle. We had to navigate around it every time we went out on our boat or paddleboards. We called it Mystery Island. When we learned the legend of the dragon, we began to call it Dragon Island.

    Just a few weeks ago (Nov 1, to be exact), I went out on my paddleboard. As always, I had to swing around Dragon Island. Two days later, I went out again. And Dragon Island was gone. GONE. Just like that, it disappeared. I floated my paddleboard right over the top of the former island; it was fully submerged 6-20 inches below the surface of the water. With no rain in between, our mysterious Dragon Island sunk at least 2-4 feet… overnight!
    It totally disappeared.

    I don’t know if this phenomenon happens elsewhere. But, to this day, no one knows what causes these islands to appear and disappear so abruptly in Lake Orion.

    But, it was pretty surreal to be able to float right over the top of something that had been a complete and total obstacle just two days prior.

    I pray that your dragons sink fast. And that you are soon floating over all of your obstacles, too.

    • Tom Adams on December 19, 2016 at 11:00 am

      Susan, What a wonderful story and encouragement. Thank you.

  5. Jody Sanders on December 13, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    Tom, my admiration and compassion continues to grow. Becky filled me in today on everything and I am grateful and relieved that your chemo and radiation treatments are through for now. Your feet are compromised for the time being, and time will diminish these annoying and painful side effects. Let your heart, soul, and spirit guide and replenish you now. Your ability to share and express this journey is remarkable and revealing of the true man that we all know you to be.
    Always in my thoughts and prayers, Jody❤️

    • Tom Adams on December 19, 2016 at 10:59 am


      Thanks so much for your thoughts and prayers.