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The Right Place and Time

For all my complaining about living in Los Angeles, I have to acknowledge how fortunate I am to be here. As with many things in life, since being diagnosed with metastatic lung cancer, I have looked to the little details in order to find inspiration, appreciation, joy, and meaning. Although I’m not a believer in superstition, it is hard not to take stock in the appearance that I was in the right place at the right time when I began my treatment. And for all of my desire to live somewhere that I could get proper use out of my sweaters, I consistently find myself more pleased to be where I am.

Strictly by luck and chance

Certainly, if I am being completely honest, I have to admit that the “right place and right time” trope is inaccurate. While it was strictly by chance that my insurance company assigned me to see a specific thoracic surgeon whose nurse navigator happened to be familiar with the man who became my oncologist, in a move that took me outside of the usual HMO insurance mill, I am not sure that entirely qualifies as the right place and time. Fortuitous though it may have been, the right place and time would have been months earlier before the cancer had spread, sparing me and my family from this experience entirely. Still, I am grateful every day for the team I fell in with and the amazing care I have received.

Battling Los Angeles weather

And as for Los Angeles, where I have steadily bemoaned the increasingly hot and dry summers over the past twenty years along with the diminishing cool nights of what passes for winter, I have recently begun a reassessment. I do miss the snowy winters of my youth, though more in nostalgic theory than in practice. The larger problem for me here has not been the lack of cold, but rather the overabundance of heat. When I began chemotherapy, it was the winter season and the cooler nights helped me sleep. A few months later, when we were finally into full-blown summer, the nights were unbearable for me. I suffered in the heat, ran up our electrical bill with the air conditioner constantly on, and looked forward to the onset of fall. There was little relief — I grew to disdain the city to which I now felt chained.

But as things often come around the way they do, and summer is here once more, I find my tune has changed. Cancer treatment puts a body through many changes, especially when the protocols change to match different patient needs. I did my time on chemotherapy, and have since been trying various targeted therapies and even had a stint with radiation. All of these things affect the body differently. And along the way, I lost more weight than I had gained, leaving me now with virtually no body fat. Frankly, I am cold most of the time.

Even, it turns out, in the summer.

My sweater weather summer

So in a strange twist, I have gotten my wish for “sweater weather.” I am that guy who wears long sleeves and a hat when the kids around me are in short pants and tank tops. I am sleeping under cozy fleece blankets at night while others in my family are kicking off their sheets. I suddenly do not mind summer in Los Angeles at all.

Much of this, of course, is in how I choose to frame things. I can look at the broad strokes and despair over my condition. Or I can look at the fine strokes and see the beauty in the details. I can say, without irony, that at least for now, I really am here at the right place, at the right time.

Editor’s Note: We are extremely saddened to say that on October 21, 2018, Jeffrey Poehlmann passed away. Jeffrey’s advocacy efforts and writing continue to reach many. He will be deeply missed.

This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.