Sunday, April 27, 2008

Incredible Week

Well, it has been a very strange and interesting last two weeks. Really, one of the strangest, scariest and most blessed of my entire life. Let me do this Soap Opera style -

Previously, on Matt's life. . .

Okay, so two weeks ago, we were in Utah at my Grandma's funeral. We left the Beehive state on Tuesday and arrived in sunny Las Vegas later that day. I wasn't feeling great that day and Leah made the entire drive herself. She said she wanted to see if she could do it, but I suspect she didn't trust me behind the wheel at the time. I was totally exhausted from packing the car. I mean, I could barely get the suitcases into the car and was simply "dead on my feet". I don't have any idea how I got the cartop carrier on and filled. I would move a bag up, then sit down in the car and rest for five minutes. It was ridiculous. But, we made it to Henderson, signed the papers for our house and settled down campout style that night.

The new VP of sales was coming in on Wednesday night and my boss wanted to make sure we had everything ready. However, the movers were coming on Wednesday morning and I had to be there to sign for everything. I finally got into work on Wednesday afternoon and got things ready for the next few days, caught up on emails, etc. Again, I got home and was just exhausted. Except for feeling under-dressed on Thursday and Friday (all my nice clothes were still in boxes), the visit with the VP went well. Each night, after work, I came home and just fell into bed. I'm sure the kids thought I was the laziest person on the face of the earth, but I literally had no energy. I felt awful, but just assumed that as soon as things got back to normal, I would pickup.

Saturday, Leah and Sarah (visiting with her kids from Utah to help with the unpacking) decided to give me a day of rest. I slept almost the entire day. I was totally lazy. By the end of the day, I thought things were going better. I was excited for Church the next day and to meet our new ward. I didn't feel perfect, but I felt better. Until that night. Overnight, things got really bad. My stomach started really hurting. I threw up a few times and couldn't keep anything down. We'd eaten Chili's for dinner, so I thought maybe I overdid it, but I was in lousy shape. Sunday morning, I decided I would rest while everyone else went to Church. Then I decided I was being ungrateful and needed to go to Church. So, I got up and showered and got in my suit. I came downstairs and Church was going to be starting in about five minutes. I couldn't get my shoes on. It was too painful and exhausting to lean over. We decided to go to the doctor, instead of Church.

Bad to Worse

Sarah took the kids and Leah and I left to find a hospital. The first thing we spotted was the urgent care, so we went there. I was in terrible pain - was having trouble standing. Leah checked me in and the doctor came and took a look. He said, "You should have gone to the emergency room. Look out the window - it's right there." So, after assuring us that we'd get right in, he sent us next door. We sat in the waiting room for an hour. I even said to Leah that we should just go home and make and appointment with someone. Finally, they called me in and started checking things out. The pain and discomfort had grown pretty bad - I was at a 10 on the pain scale. They decided to admit me - I think really just to see if they could get the colitis flare up under control. In fact, on Sunday, when they took me to my room, there's this little white board with who's your nurse, treatments, etc. One of the categories is "What's Important". I told them to get back home to get to work as soon as possible.

You see, this past week was going to be busy. I had been building up to it really since I was hired for this job back in February. Two huge events were to take place, with meetings and dinners starting Tuesday night. First, my boss has spent the past several months working out some partnering arrangements with Sprint in Las Vegas (remember, I work for Embarq, not Sprint. Sprint = wireless. Embarq = wireline. Not quite that simple, but good enough for this blog.) So, there were a couple of things I needed to do for these meetings - plus attend a lead team dinner on Tuesday night and the big meeting on Wednesday. My boss would be in San Diego until Wednesday, so I was to take the lead. Then, Thursday and Friday was our first ever West Pacific Quarterly Sales Leadership Meeting, to be held at the TPC Summerlin. This was my baby. I had been working on agendas, logistics, presentations, etc. for about two months. We had about 15 presenters coming in for Thursday's session - all of them people I wanted to meet with. We had a big dinner planned for Thursday night. Friday would be the sales team only and I was working with the sales managers on what they would need to present to the boss. It was a big deal. I didn't feel like I could miss it.

Well, I missed it. I was in the hospital on Sunday night. At one point, during the night, the pain was so intense, I was literally praying in my bed and pleading for my own life. I was pleading with the nurses for help with the pain. I know they did all they could for me, but I was really struggling. Monday, the pain began to subside, but I knew I wasn't going anywhere until they did some tests. I just assumed the colitis has flared really bad, but would back off and I get on a different mix of medications. They scheduled a CAT scan on my abdomen and I waited. About three o'clock, I had the CAT scan and came back to my room. They even offered me the clear liquids diet and I had some frozen lemonade, apple juice and a delicious Italian ice. I figured we were on our way. At five o'clock, they took away any food and put me back on ice chips. They said I had a perferated colon and needed surgery. At seven o'clock, it became emergency surgery. They suspected it had begun to leak. By eight o'clock, I was in the OR. And then I slept.

Tuesday arrived with lots of pain. Here's what we learned. The large intestine had torn slightly. I had been leaking into my body. There was a mass the size of a grapefruit on my colon. The doctor had removed the entire colon and I was now colitis free. We weren't sure if the mass was cancer or not, but the surgeon was confident he had removed all the dangerous tissue and residue. I was going to be okay. I was in a lot of recovery pain. My life would be forever changed. If we'd waited even 48 hours more, I probably would have died. That was a terrifying statement for me.

So, there you have it. Now it's Sunday, the 27th. I missed all the meetings. I am still in the hospital. The mass was cancer, but right now there don't seem to be any worries about that. I'm surviving the recovery, though I am really bored sitting in this bed or in the chair or walking the hall. I'm really not very patient, but I'm trying to be a good patient, if you know what I mean. The next few weeks will be exhausting - at least a week of home recovery before I can go back to work. Fortunately, I work a desk job, so it will be manageable. Just lots to recover from.

I am really grateful for all the love and support we've received over the past week. Sarah stayed until Tuesday. My brother Chris came on Tuesday and basically just sat with me and talked while I was trying to breathe through the pain. He was here to ask questions of the doctors and support me so much. Leah's mom and sister came on Friday and left this morning. My mom is coming on Tuesday. I've had countless calls and cards and shows of support. I've had prayers and fasting and blessings from people who have never met me. We have really been taken care of. I'm sure I can't express the gratitude and love I feel at this time. It's overwhelming.

The Lord truly has a plan for each of us. We have no idea what that plan entails. I've been learning that lesson again this week. I do know this - he is aware of me and my family. He is watching our for all of us. His timeline and will and different than mine. He is truly my Savior. He spared my life in this process. Things happened, really beginning months ago, to put us in a place where this last week I had doctors ready to act. He knew we wouldn't be moving into the house in Southwest Las Vegas. He knew we would spend three weeks in Utah. He knew my Grandma would pass before we came to Las Vegas. He knew and He knows. I have to learn to trust that. Leah and I are truly blessed. I am so blessed by Leah and the strength and power she has. She lifts me up and makes me better.

I'm sure I'll have more to say about all this in the coming weeks and months. I'll try to give you some sports, too, so you aren't totally grossed out by all the medical stuff. Feel free to drop us a line. There are many of you who have reached out to us this past week and I hope you don't feel too ignored. Things will get back to normal. But they'll always be a little bit different.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Goodbye, Grandma

Our trip from Kansas to Las Vegas took a sad, but not entirely unexpected turn last week. The message to me, as usual, was that the Lord knows best. Early in the week, my Mom called and said that my Grandma, her Mom, wasn't doing well and may need a blessing. I said I was more than willing to go and was glad I was in Utah to help. She said she'd let me know and that they may wait until Friday when she and my Dad were set to arrive. Grandma had been struggling with dementia for some time and had slipped into a slight coma. The doctors had thought she might make it a few more weeks, but she had taken a turn for the worse.

On Wednesday, Mom called and said she needed me and my brother to head over and administer the blessing. Of course, we agreed and headed north. When we got there, my aunt and her two daughters - Shauna and Christy - were there. Chris gave a wonderful blessing. After the blessing, we were able to sit with the family for several hours and just talk about Grandma. It was really a wonderful evening. I am so happy that I was able to be there in Utah at the time. If we'd already moved to Las Vegas, that wouldn't have been possible. For that, and many other reasons involving this move, I've realized that the Lord just knows what's right. I firmly believe I needed to be available over these last few days.

Grandma passed away about 10:30 the next morning. Sandy and her daughters were there, as well as Shelly, one of Frankie and Sandi Jo's kids - who was also Grandma's home hospice nurse. I picked Mom up at the airport that morning and we arrived at about 11:00. Again, I am grateful to have been available to be there for my Mom and my extended family. I truly wouldn't have been anywhere else at that time.

Dad arrived on Friday and the viewing was held Sunday with the funeral on Wednesday. I spent much of those two days with brothers and sisters, aunts, uncles and cousins that I hadn't seen in many years. The passing of my Grandma did one of the things Grandma loved the most - brought the family together. We talked about our memories of visiting with Grandma, about what she liked and didn't like, about her life and her legacy. We caught up on our lives and where we were headed and how many kids we had and what we were going to do next. We cried some and laughed a lot. To me, the weekend was about what all funerals should be about - the love of family and the promise of reunion. That's such an integral part of the Gospel - that we will be together again.

The day after the funeral, we left for Las Vegas. We're here now. We're in the house we are renting. The kids are thrilled. Leah and I are thrilled. There is so much to experience and so much to do. The Lord wanted us to take a little time to get here. It's been a heck of a four weeks, but those are stories for another day. His plan is just better than my plan.

I know it sounds cliche, but Grandma is in a better place, now. She's in a place where she isn't restricted by a body that was breaking down. She can share her thoughts and feelings. She can talk with loved ones that she hasn't seen in decades. She can reflect on her own life and the legacy she left behind. For the past few years, none of those things have been possible. I love my Grandma very much. I will miss her in this life, but I look forward to our promised reunion, as well. I hope she has the fudge-stripe cookies!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Breaking News: Winning NOT a Crime!

Do you ever have something that you look forward to and look forward to and then, when you think there's no way it will ever happen again, it happens and you're so excited and so happy and so thrilled and you jump up and down and you hug everyone around you and then. . . you don't know what to do next? That's how I feel right now. So, if this comes across as a bit of a ramble, please remember that it has been 20 years and two days since any of my teams actually won the title. 20 years and two days. I was fourteen. I watched the '88 championship in the Schumman's basement, then rode in and on their VW bus around downtown and campus. Now I'm 34. I watched the Jayhawks cut down the nets in my brother's basement with his wife and kids. I nearly cried. Then I drove back to my in-laws house and tried to sleep. Let's just say, sleep was elusive!

The Game
Wow. I mean, holy crap! That was absolutely amazing.

At halftime, I thought, "They are playing really well. A good run in the first ten minutes of the second half and this game is over. Just absorb whatever Memphis throws and it will be fine."

Well, Memphis threw one heck of a punch. When Rose's desperation bucket that was at first ruled a three, then a two went in, I thought, "Well, that's really it. Those are the kinds of baskets that go in for teams that are meant to win."

Down 9 with 2:12 left: "It's been a great year. Nothing to be ashamed of."

CDR misses two free throws: "Interesting."

The steal and the Collins three from the corner: "Yes! Yes! Wait, not Collins! Not Collins! Yes! Yes, Collins!"

20 seconds left - the Collins drive to the basket, down 2: "Wait! Wait for the team! Play for the win! NO FOUL?????"

10 seconds left - the Rose free throws: "Just miss one. Just miss one. HE MISSED THE FIRST!"

End of regulation: "Get the ball down there. Can't take your time. No one is open. Mario's got two guys in his face. That ball could bring rain. IT WENT IN!!!! IT'S TIED! HE TIED IT." (At this point, I believe my nephew Caleb actually said he was asking for Mario Chalmers for his birthday.)

Overtimes are funny. It seems to me, 90% of the time, you can tell who is going to win in the first minute of overtime. This one was no different. KU had all the momentum. They scored the first six points. CDR his a three just before the two minute mark, but that was really the end. The Memphis players looked like zombies. The Kansas players looked like champions! It was truly awesome.

Two things stand out to me as I think about the game. First, Kansas WON the game just as much as Memphis LOST the game. That seems like one of those ridiculous comments that analysts make trying to fill time before your late local news. But this rings true. There is no doubt that Memphis choked the game away in the last two minutes. I mean, they were up by NINE! They missed crucial free throws. But, at the same time, Kansas made the plays to win. If Kansas can't hit the shots, then nothing else matters. But Kansas hit the shots - especially THE SHOT! Mario Chalmers may be the new Danny Manning in Lawrence, Kansas. Will he ever pay for a meal again while inside the city limits? I seriously doubt it.

Second, this game was absolutely incredible. I mean, all time great. I'm not just saying that because I'm a Kansas fan. These were two great teams that went toe to toe for 45 minutes. They played great offense and spectacular defense. They did the big things and the little things. They were awesome. The Chris Douglas-Roberts running push shot? How do you guard that? You don't even know that the ball's gone? When Derrick Rose got hot in the second half it was actually scary to be a Kansas fan. Dorsey's steal, dunk and chest bump into Cole Adrich? Juvenile, but that's his game. I kept thinking - one more push and that guy starts throwing punches! And for the Jayhawks - the back doors to Kahn, Arthur and Jackson. Arthur, all around force inside. Rush gliding to the basket. Collins bull-rushing to the basket. Mario's shot heard round the world. It was a great game. And the Jayhawks won it!

The Pool
So, I didn't do a pool and the Jayhawks won the title. Does that mean I don't ever do a pool again? Honestly, you'll have to ask me in 11 months. I don't know. I mean, I do a pool for how many years and am crushed by disappointment after disappointment. I don't do a pool in 2008 and the Jayhawks triumph. Seems pretty "1+1=2" to me.

The Okie State Thing
So, what can I even say about this? T. Boone Pickens and his semi-pro, multi-sport franchise, the Oklahoma State Cowboys are going to try and buy Bill Self. And he has the money to do it. I'm an adult. I understand that you listen to that offer. The question is, where is Self's heart. If it's in Stillwater, then he goes. If he thinks, "I've done it in Kansas, now let's see if I can do it with a program that is not one of college basketball bluebloods." Well, I guess I can accept that. It's his alma mater and we're talking in the neighborhood of $40M! But, if his heart is in Lawrence and KU makes a good, solid offer - I mean $2.5M a year, probably - then I think he stays. I just hope it's not a money grab. Don't just go for the money.

Here's what bugs me about all of this - besides the fact that T. Boone really showed his stripes by leaking this while the Jayhawks were in the middle of a title run. One of the big perks of winning or even playing for the National Championship should be the recruiting benefit in the following years. High school players saw Self and Kansas cutting down the nets. Self can go into their homes and say, "I've been there. I've done it and we can do it again." It's an invaluable tool - unless your coach leaves. In 1988, Larry Brown left for the NBA and an unknown Roy Williams stepped in - plus KU was on probation in 1989. In 2003, Roy Williams left after losing to Syracuse for the title. Self steps in - great coach but he couldn't go to recruits and say, "We just played for it all." My frustration is, if Self goes South, we miss out on that opportunity one more time. That's what really bugs me. Like I said, I'm a grown up. $40M is a lot of money. If he want's to go home to Stillwater, that's fine. I can understand listening and if KU can't counter with a really good offer, I can understand him leaving. I just wanted to be the defending champs with the defending coach. Haven't done that yet.

Okay, let me say one more thing on that. If he really loves Kansas as much as he loves Oklahoma State, I think he has to weigh a couple of things. First, what happens if winning isn't instantaneous in Stillwater. It will be harder to get big name recruits, that's now doubt. What happens in year five if he hasn't brought the title to Stillwater. Will Pickens be leaking Billy Gillespie rumors to the press? Does Pickens fire him? None of these coaches go in thinking they're going to lose, but a contract like that brings a lot of expectations. Be ready for the fall out. On the flip side, he could spend the next 15 to 20 years in Kansas, become one of the winningest coaches of all time and be a Kansas legend. I'm serious. They'd name streets after him. He can make a lot of money in Stillwater. He can make history in Lawrence.

The Aftermath
So, here we are. I can't complain anymore. One of my teams has one a championship. According to Bill Simmons, I have to allow a five year grace period before I can complain about Jayhawk basketball again. I think that's appropriate. I have to tell you, I can't stop smiling. It's awesome. I wish I could be in Lawrence for the parade. I wish I could go down to Jock's Nitch and buy a T-Shirt. I'm already looking for deals on the Sports Illustrated Commerative book about the Jayhawks. That's what I want for Father's Day! Even with the Bill Self stuff, I am absolutely thrilled. The Kansas Jayhawks are the National Champions! What a feeling. Now, someone tell the Royals and the Chiefs and the Cougars - it's okay guys. You can do it and not get in trouble! ROCK CHALK JAYHAWK!

One Final Thing