A Project Manager’s Game Plan for Dealing with Incurable Cancer

Segment Fifty-Four— 100% Guaranteed or Your Money Back…NOT!

This, my friends, is the perfect time to put an end to these posts…for the time being.  Why?  I just had five medical “events” in a ten-day period, and they were all GOOD!  And I’m writing this over my 66th Birthday weekend.  My cancer markers from the blood work?  Lower.  My MRI scan—showing improvement. My PET scan—same report.  My meeting with Dr. Mavromatis’ physician’s assistant? Nothing but glowing reports (except on my sodium count, which means I need to take in more salt)! My meeting with Dr. Morris? No more PET scans until mid-2024, and if that one’s this good, the subsequent scan will be in 2025. Please. Hold your applause.

What do we do with good news?

That’s actually a bigger question than it sounds.

I wasn’t sure how the Stage Four Project was going to go.  I seriously doubted we’d wind up in the transition phase. For those who don’t know project management parlance, transition is where you move on to another opportunity but leave enough data behind for others to take over where you left off.  For me, the objective of this project was to leave information behind for my friends and family to know (and leverage) the things I’ve learned in the course of a wonderful life.  I pondered the possibility that the project termination phase would be handled by my next of kin.  Gratefully, I was wrong.  As I close out this phase (transition), I realize that I haven’t skimmed the surface of the wonders life has taught. A few that I haven’t delved into?

  • My father’s birth in 1924, and my grandparents’ subsequent divorce (at a time when it was societally frowned upon) in 1925.
  • The death of my mother’s father (Frank Hoon) when he was only 53, and my mother was 16.  Or about the passing of her mother when she was only 8.
  • Mom’s graduation gift from the Pennsylvania Railroad (my grandfather had been an executive there at the time of his passing) with a free train trip of her choosing (and how our family skin tans darkly enough that she rode back from Florida in the “colored car.”)
  • The back-and-forth driving trips to Maine from Ohio (in my VW SuperBeetle) to land work after college (3 round trips-15 hours+ each way-90+ hours on the road), and the fact that perseverance bore fruit.
  • The day my youngest son rescued his grandmother when she fell into a sinkhole that emerged in the middle of the parking lot.
  • The fact that my father had a Clark Griswold-type compulsion (Christmas Vacation) for exterior Christmas décor that would attract the neighbors.
  • My fascination with the sheer beauty of majorettes that only ended when I married one.
  • The quest to recapture my childhood bike, and the subsequent showroom quality discovery on EBay.
  • The discovery that the owner of our last houses in Frederick were both owned at one time by men named Carl.

Someday, if I opt to pick the series back up, I might dig into those stories.  Or perhaps I’ll do an extended travelogue highlighting the fact that Platte River State Park in Nebraska is one of the most amazingly beautiful spots on the planet.

You, my friend, have stories.  In fact, you likely have just as many as I do, if not more. You get them when you actively listen to those around you. Your parents, your relatives, your friends and your neighbors are your primary sources.  But you need to listen and catalog what you’re told.

Lesson Learned: I spent about an hour recording an interview with “the Joes” (Aunt Joanna and Aunt Josephine Heckman) on video. They were in their late 80s at the time, and were the resident family matriarchs (born in 1899). While I have dozens of DVD’s from our home movies, that interview is the only missing one.  If you DO take the time to build legacy interviews, preserve them.  Make 10 copies, and get seven of them OUT of your house. Get them to another relative who might care (or who might not lose them in the moving shuffle). Knowledge only has value when it’s preserved and shared.  And in these segments, I’ve tried to do just that.

Does anything in this project cure my cancer?  No.  Dr. Hudhud, on Day One of the journey, declared it incurable.  A cadre of specialists since then have affirmed his assessment. But am I living better thanks to the wonders of modern oncology?  Yes. Do I get a refund if I fall over from the disease or a side effect tomorrow?  No.  Where does that leave me?  GRATEFUL. I remain amazed and grateful for everything that everyone has done across the span of the past three years, and for what I know they’ll do over the years ahead.  The Stage Four project has been about getting to this point.  It’s a point where I haven’t won, but I also haven’t lost.  Getting to a draw with stage four cancer is about as good as it gets.  And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

I now have a job to do.  I have to recompile these lessons into a family book so my sons (and nieces and nephew) have a resource that’s a reasonable read on our family experience. Go thou and do likewise. Thanks for reading.

Carl Pritchard

carl@carlpritchard.com 301-606-6519