The on-going, first-hand tale of a journey through medical oncology... and what happens after.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011


So, these days I see a metaphor for living every time I turn around. I am certain that this is part of the reality-check that comes with the recent discovery of my liver mets, but I cannot help but write about this one.

On our plane flight from Atlanta to Orlando, the three Arabi managed to get seated together near the rear of a not-close-to-full plane. Then, right after the cabin door closed, we were allowed to change seats if we wanted. All three of us quickly took our own window seats. About five minutes or so after take-off, the plane seemed to crest (you know the feeling - when it changes from climbing to descending - like on a rollercoaster) and then suddenly seemed to be descending. The engines were not laboring as hard as they usually do while climbing. We began a turn to the left, and the bank of the turn became more noticeable.

In the span of a few seconds, many thoughts can go through your mind. I looked past the woman that had taken the aisle seat in my row to see Karen tell Julia to join her back in her row. I saw concern in their faces. I figured we had a technical problem, and were heading back to Orlando, and hoped that the elevation we had was sufficient to make it back. I wondered about fuel-loads, and whether we could safely land at the fueled plane weight. I wondered about dumping fuel. I wondered about a hundred different scenarios, and some of them were not pleasant.

Then, we banked back to the right, the engines came back up to their normal, climbing throttle, and we appeared to be headed up again. Moments later, the pilot announced that we had avoided a descending plane that was nearby, but close enough to set off the autopilot's warning. We had not been in any real danger. He announced that he thought we would still be able to arrive on time.

But the autopilot was not yet done with us... we had several intermittent "crests" and some strange plane jiggles that were not quite the turbulence that I associate with air travel. Then, the pilot announced that they were having some trouble with the autopilot, and that they were turning it off to fly manually. What a concept - to actually have a human drive the plane. I experienced some relief that we were in the hands of competent professionals and would have a nice Florida vacation. There were no additional mishaps on the short flight to Orlando, and we arrived early. Go figure. The humans had performed at least as well as the autopilot might have (if it had been on its proverbial game).

Great story, and very good news for the Florida vacation and the Arabas family... but the metaphor? Well, despite my commitment to exercise and attempts to eat well, I have been on autopilot for at least a couple years now after my first round of colon cancer. My autopilot was a team of doctors (but primarily my oncologist) looking out for me, and the warning bells began sounding in Mid-January. So this human is now back in control, and he is setting course for success starting next Monday. But it made me wonder if there are areas of my life that deserve closer attention, that I have been unconscious about. Perhaps our autopilots need to be re-booted every so often? Just thinking...


Oriverat said...

I really do enjoy reading your blog Ed. I hope you're having a wonderful time.


Julia said...

You are brilliant Ed. We all need to check our autopilot mode now and then.

I would have been absolutely terrified on that flight. Glad you are all on the ground.

I hope it's sunny and warm.

Anonymous said...

Why is it that thinking about dying is one of the best ways to engage in life? Big hugs to all of you... AliK