Saturday, May 9, 2015

The Care and Feeding of Sagging Spirits

Blessings can come in unexpected forms.

Now that the word is out that I’m fighting cancer, little gifts have begun to show up on the Carr doorstep. 

Actually, some are not so little.  Case in point:  the two-foot tall Lava Lamp that arrived today from my sister Amy in California.  Did I mention that it is two feet tall?

I don’t know if she realizes it, but I have a mystical connection to the Lava Lamp.  When I was in management at WFLA-TV in Tampa, I worked closely with the Target 8 investigative unit.  The office (known colloquially at the time as “The Swamp”)  had a classic red Lava Lamp, complete with antique brass fittings.  This light became the unifying symbol for the unit, signifying our efforts to advance Truth, Justice, the American Way, and all that stuff.  
The Target 8 office (lava lamp in upper right)*
One day when the little blob of wax or whatever the hell it is fell to the bottom of the jar and refused to budge, we were traumatized.  OMG—was this an omen?  Maybe it was, and maybe it wasn’t (TV news is always difficult) but under the theory that the bulb, which had not burned out, nevertheless might not be working at full heat output capacity, we replaced it, and that got the lamp back to circulating again.  Morale crisis averted.

So, that same year I bought my own lava lamp for my home office.  I had it on a shelf atop my desk.  One day, without any warning whatsoever (probably due to the vibrations of me pounding the keyboard) it leapt from the shelf and plunged to its death, somehow managing to explode even though the glass hit only the padded carpet.  You have never seen a bigger mess in your life.  From that moment on, by executive decree (hint:  I was not the executive issuing the decree) the Lava Lamp was banned from the Carr household.

Until today.  I won’t say the Bride of the Bloviator didn’t take a dim view of the replacement’s arrival.  But was she really going to make me say out loud that, hey, my loving sister wants to brighten my day with this and, oh by the way, I have cancer?  No.  I didn’t have to play that card.  All I had to do was blink mournfully at her across the breakfast table.  Blink, blink.  Blink, blink, blink.  I think the fifth blink did it.   (I learned this technique from her cats, by the way, who have never failed to bend her to their will with it).  She did, however, insist on hovering as sidewalk superintendent for the entire unpacking, assembly, and installation process.  I commend her patience, though.  This thing is a giant, about twice as large as its predecessor.  If it falls and explodes, the house will have to be condemned.   (And yes, I did place it on a lower and more stable platform this time.)

Then there was the gift we received last week.  It was a small package containing the “Crazy Cat Lady Action Figure Set.”  As Deborah posted on Facebook, they have made a motion picture out of her life, and this is the toy set for it.  The package came anonymously but we figured out the donor.  Ha.  It did what it was supposed to do—brighten our day, and is still doing so.

One gift we haven’t been able to trace was an unmarked package that arrived at Deborah’s place of business containing a very generous, if not over the top, expression of affection and concern. The anonymous note said only that it was from an old friend who is praying for both of us.  The gift and the prayers are much appreciated.  It’s amazing and very moving to know that we are held in such high regard.

I mentioned earlier that some of the most touching of the messages I’ve received have been from people whom I’ve mentored in the past and/or whose  careers I played a role in launching.  I received this one from someone I knew long ago during my first news director’s gig, during which I had given him his first on-air opportunity and helped land his second.  I lost track of him after that.  But he brought me up to date in his email—and he let me know he’d made it to a Top 5 TV news market.   These lines at the end of his email absolutely blew me away:  “I realize I may have only been a blip in your TV management career.  But Forrest, you were the inspiration and launching pad for my career, and helped me realize my dream.  Everyone has that one person who had a tremendous impact on the direction of their life, and you were that person for me.  You believed in me. You supported me.  You were the one that launched me forward.  I've mentioned you often over the years. When someone asks me how I broke into TV, I sit back in my chair, reminisce, and proudly tell my Forrest Carr story.”

Wow.  Really and truly, I had no idea.  From my standpoint, I had set out to do no one any personal favors (news directors seldom do) but had merely chosen someone who seemed to have talent and drive, and then gave whatever encouragement, mentoring and inspiration I could to bring out those qualities and help focus them.  Ultimate success is always up to the individual.  But that letter stayed with me for days, and really, it always will.  I’m not mentioning the person’s name but he knows who he is—and, of course, I’ve already thanked him personally.

Here’s what’s going on medically.  I am now getting radiation 5 times a week and infusion with a chemical called cisplatin once a week.  Cisplatin is a poison designed to kill 99% of the cancer while killing only 98% of the rest of you.  Okay, that’s an exaggeration but only a slight one.  After the radiation ends, they’ll want to do even more chemo, about which I have not made up my mind.  Meanwhile, they have me on a bevy of anti-puke medications which have controlled the nausea so far. 

The main issue at present is that because of the radiation and chemo, my personal energy levels are very, very low.  Combine that with the other drugs I’m taking (as mentioned in particular in my last post) and I can say with certainty and conviction that my physical life has been better.   I can barely motivate myself to get out of bed for a couple of hours to go to the keyboard, and that tells you something, given that I love to write and live to do so.  And my hair is getting shaggy, but I’m too cheap to get a trim knowing what is destined to happen to it at any time now.

But I will say that these little outreach efforts that continually come in at our doorstep and via Facebook and email do definitely make a difference.  As I’ve said before, despite what is going on with me physically, Deborah and I feel very blessed.


P.S.  Deborah just came in for the first of what I’m sure will be many post-installation inspections, and uttered these words:  “God.  That is one huge Lava Lamp.”

Yes.  Yes it is.  It has a big job to do.

*With Steve Andrews and the late Bruce Breslow, circa 1997.  Not pictured:  Rocky Glisson.

Find the whole story of my medical journey collected here.

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