I've been unusually busy. But I like busy - so I'm not complaining. In the midst of my busy-ness (much of which the hot brunette would label self-imposed), I've found the excuse not to write. After having separated myself from this discipline for several months, I've discovered a void. Some-thing's missing.
I've come to realize that I possess a belief - I'm supposed to write. It's what I'm supposed to do. The reminder for that came from today's Word for You devotional; but that was just the final confirmation. My real wake up call came on my phone when I got the news of my brother's condition after surgery yesterday.
A work trip to California and my sleep pattern have provided me a large block of time, and quiet, to share. By 6am eastern time, this cat's usually finished napping. So in Cali, it becomes 3 am. Today it was actually 3:24am. I slept in. But when I rose, I knew what I was supposed to do: write for Jimmy.
Jimmy, or Jim as all non-family members refer to him, is my older brother. Though 15 months older, he was really like a fraternal twin because we were at the same grade level in school. He had some health challenges as a little guy which delayed his start in school. Praise God, he overcame these challenges, one of which was a severe case of glaucoma, to live and enjoy a very normal upbringing.
We always shared a room, toys, clothes (until high school when my legs got longer), and pretty much everything. We also share a healthy, competitive spirit so things like running and weight-lifting were always objects for competition. To this day we still compare notes on our training programs though the competitive aspect is pretty much gone. We both realize that we're competing with the world for more time and energy to devote to these things we love.
Like me, Jimmy puts a premium on his health. Though his post-divorce economy has forced him to work about 70 hours a week (30 for Costco and 40 for Home Depot), he still makes the time to exercise. A typical day for him starts at 4:15 am so that he can be at Costco by 5 am. By 10 am he's out the door on his way to the gym. This 20 minute window is the most reliable time for me to catch him on his phone. Ironically 10:10 am is the perfect time.
He'll be the first to admit that he's not always feeling spunky when he gets to the gym; but a little going- through-the-motions and he's good. After his workout he returns home, graps a quick nap, a healthy lunch, then he's off to Home Depot by 1 pm for an 8 hour shift. Could you pull that off for years as he has? I don't believe I could. But he does, and he does it without complaint. Jimmy's a happy-go-lucky guy who never met a stranger and always has something to laugh about. I love him very much.
About 3 years ago, Jimmy had an unusual mole-looking thing on his back that my sister noticed when he was visiting her. As a fair-skinned guy, he's prone to sunburn, and after examination by his dermatologist, he discovered he was prone to melanoma. He had the thing removed, and his doctor was convinced he got it all. Plenty of people get skin cancers removed so we all felt relieved that it was discovered early.
He continued visiting his dermatologist every 6 months to ensure there was no recurrence. After his January visit this year, his doctor was so confident in Jimmy's condition, that he prolonged his next visit for 9 months. Some time in June, Jimmy noticed a soreness under his arm. Because he lifts weights a lot, this kind of sensation is not unusual. The feeling persisted and then he noticed a lump forming under there.
After a visit to his dermatologist and a biopsy of the lump, Jimmy was told he had a malignant tumor. I got the news of this as I emerged from a backpacking trip in the woods of SW Virginia. A little detour in my route home afforded me the opportunity to drive through Atlanta where Jimmy lives, and we met for a late lunch at a Chipoltles. Being the optimist he is, Jimmy rolled with the news and didn't express any fear as we enjoyed lunch.
We couldn't help but laugh about the irony of the situation. The two Hughes brothers, often accused of putting their obsessive, healthy habits ahead of a lot of other things, were sharing notes about their cancer conditions over a couple of buritos.
A follow up visit to an oncologist at Emory hospital revealed some bad news: stage 3 melanoma cancer in his lympth nodes. A little on-line research revealed a new truth to me - melanoma is the most dangerous type of skin cancer. The good news was that testing revealed the cancer had not spread beyond the lympth node. Surgery to remove the tumor followed up by Interferon treatment to fight the tumor were prescribed.
Because of a business trip to Cali, I wasn't able to be there for Jimmy's surgery on Monday. In a meeting all morning, we were given a mid-morning break. I left the meeting room to get an update on his situation. I fished my phone out of my pocket to see two things. A pop up screen revealed I had a message from the hot brunette. And in big bold, only in i phone numbers across the top of the screen was the time: 10:10.
I returned Kellie's call to learn that the surgery was not as good as we'd hoped. The tumor had wrapped around a couple of nerves which may affect some of Jimmy's upper body mobility. I called him later in the day, and as you would expect, he was upbeat. "How long is your scar?" I asked, just another example of that competitive thing. "Don't know yet, it's still covered up". We joked that our brother-in-law, who had a bout with prostate cancer that included a surgical procedure, only has a tiny scar. "Country club cancer" I quipped and we laughed. Sick I know, but laughing seemed better than crying at the moment.
Jimmy's got a challenge. The biggest challenge of his life. I wish I had answers for Jimmy. All I can offer right now are my prayers. The great news is that was good enough for me. My situation taught me the power of prayer. If your're a praying person, I ask that you pray for Jimmy's recovery.
Is it coincidence that my job situation has changed so that I can spend more time in Atlanta with Jimmy? Or that my phone screamed 10:10. I believe those are reminders of what I'm supposed to do.