Saturday, December 30, 2006


I have been putting in some serious time with the family, this holiday. Absolutely the best, especially loving up my daughter. I have painted all of the furniture for her bedroom, and my wife helped her organize a boatload of stuff and purge the extraneous. It will be nice for her to be able to start the New Year with a New to follow.

Also, my friend Tink took a bunch of pics of my birthday party, which I'll be posting soon..may have to put electrical tape over some of the eyes, though! I'll blog the experience when I can tell the story with pictures...Hope everyone is having a beautiful Christmas and is set for a safe and happy New Year.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Mango 5.0

I woke up and it was cold. I knew it the second I was awake. My body kept telling me to stay in bed. I gazed across the bed, bleary eyed, at the clock: 5:26. You have to be kidding? Do you know how cold it is going to be out there? Yes.

I sat up in bed. Not even the dog was going to get up with me at this hour. I went in to the bathroom and drank two cups of water and grabbed my gear from the closet. My new hat and reflective jacket were waiting to be used--my wife's Merry Christmas to me. She insisted on the Mango color (yes, it's REALLY called Mango), because it was brighter, and less likely to get me run over.

"I love that woman," I thought.
The bitter-angry-part of my body that still wanted to be in bed replied, "If it weren't for her, we'd still be sleeping like smart people everywhere."

I went downstairs, made the coffee and headed out the door. Turns out I was right--it was cold...only, not as cold as I thought. I found my stride quickly. I started up the hill at the half-mile mark and was feeling pretty warm. At a little past the one mile mark, I had to take the hat off. At that point I was feeling really good and decided to make it a longer run than I initially planned. I made the right out toward the high school.

It started to snow. I put the hat back on, but Iw as still feeling pretty good, nice and warm. I got to the turnaround. It was suddenly thrust upon me why I was doing so well. The first 70% of my run had been done with a tailwind. There was a 15 mph wind in my face...with gusts of about 30 mph.

"There's only one way home," I said.
"Dumbass," said Mr. Bitter.

I turned for home, then made the longer turn that would make this a 5 mile run, just to shut mr. Bitter up. He did. I climbed the last challenging hill and knew I was cruising for home. I said a prayer of thanks, running through the snow, that I was still strong enough to do this.

I went to the store and made breakfast. I'm looking at the clock now. It's 8.30. THAT is a FULL morning.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

White Christmas...

I'm dreaming of a Funky White Christmas for you and yours.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Take a Ride....

I thought THIS VIDEO was a beautiful ride. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did...

ANd while you're out taking a spin, take a ride with DEXTER BENJAMIN. It's a great picture of the human spirit and living life by your own terms. I say, "Well done."

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

More from the Nature Hike...

A couple more pics from my hike with my daughter...In her tree once again

The Center also has a beaver dam display, where kids can crawl around and see what it's like to live as a winter beaver.

Wildwood Nature Center

I took my daughter to Wildwood Nature Center and went on a hike. Snapped a couple pics of the adventure, and I'm also including some from our trek this summer (the ones where she is in short sleeves. She was amazed to learn we hiked TWO WHOLE MILES(!) on this hike. We also saw squirrels, titmouse, wood ducks, Candian geese, finches, and woodpeckers. In the swampier parts, we saw tracks from deer, racoons, and what I suspect was a bear (it was way too big to be anything else).


Me and my hiking partner:

She loves to climb this tree:


Her picture of the woodpecker:

Anticlimactic...thank God

I went ot my FIRST monthly checkup with my radiation oncologist, Dr. Kottapally. Everything checked out just fine, and it was really almost a formality. He'll continue to monitor me, and he wants me to go back for a complete blood count (CBC), which will also be part of the monitoring process.

The only caveat he gave me--DON'T SKIP OR MISS APPOINTMENTS! "That is how we get ourselves into trouble," he said, sagely. (It's funny, as I type this, and the other things he says, I always hear his voice. It's very much the stereotypical English of the Indian subcontinent, and I always hear the very proper English grammar and style behind it). "You should be cancer free for the rest of your days, but if it comes back, it will be dealt with more aggressively. We simply must know as early as possible." That almost certainly means chemotherapy, and attacking it with maximum harshness and discipline.

So, I will coninue to visit Dr. Kottapally, as well as my urologist, Dr. Wenger, and they'll work in concert with me. Hopefully the future appointments will be as easy as this one.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Still Running

I went for my longest run in a loooooooong time, with regard to both duration and distance. I covered 5.3 miles in 1 hour and 1 minute, according to my official timepiece (the clock on the wall). I realy would like to get a heart rate monitor and watch.

It was chilly this morning, but the wind wasn't blowing and it actually wasn't bad. I wore my PI AmFib gloves and they were way too warm. My hands were sweating at the end of the first mile, so I just took them off and carried them after that. I thought it was going to be more of a hassle than it was. I wore the t-shirt, I slept in (cotton is NOT a good choice for this kind of run. It holds all of your sweat, and holds it close to the body. It wasn't bad on the run, but the cool-down was a little chilly) and two long sleeved workout shirts. On top of that, I threw on my shell (a rough term for the wind-breaker-like jacket I wear that neither breaks the wind nor provides a shell; God bless my wife: this is my Christmas gift this year) on top of that.

I also wore my fleece headband instead of a hat...maybe next time I'll wear the wicking one. Overall, the temperature of The Running Fish was just about right. I'm still getting used to regulating this, so it's like a minor miracle when I get it right.

It's really cool to be building a base, and I want to start experimenting with some interval and speed work. I also added some stretches at the end of the run and then went for a walk with my daughter and my dog as I cooled down.

We watched the steam rising off my body as we walked...

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Thoughts and Prayers for a Friend

I know a lot of you have enjoyed Michael's blog in the past. I read it today and could not believe what I saw. He tried to save a young man who was shot in a gang-related act of violence. My thoughts and prayers go out to him, and to the family and friends of the young man. Details are still unfolding, but you can READ ABOUT IT HERE.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


Spent a lot of really good time with the family, and, clearly, not that much in front of the computer. To my friends in the cyber world, my apologies. Suffice it to say I'm convinced my priorities were spot on.

That being said, there is really not a whole lot to report. I went visited the in-laws for the holiday. I was expecting to have blog meat of epic proportions with that single visit, yet it was pleasant, down-to-Earth and thoroughly enjoyable. Not much you can say about a holiday where everything is fine.

We also got the lights up around the house and have started preparing for my 40th birthday. We had some friends over to practice our cocktails on. The party is going to be a martini Rat-Pack style affair with close friends and family.

I played golf. It's about 60 degrees, which is unheard of in Pennsylvania in November. Even more unheard of is me shooting a 103, since I've only played 1 or 2 times a year for the past 3 years. I had my fair share of bad shots (two bunker-to-bunker shots-UGH!) but I also had some great shots. And, I was hitting my ancient 3-wood about 220 and straight...sweetness.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Running Again

I got out first thing this morning and went for a run a little over 4 miles. It wasn't the shuffling run I've grown accustomed to, either. It was a run in the real sense of the word, and I felt I could have easily put more miles under my belt. Reason showed up and told me to stop at that point...

Still, it was long enough as a reasonable starting point, and I'm feeling well enough to realize I'm getting better.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Dash for Drew race Report

My friend Ken arrived at my house at about 7 am dressed in his NY Yankees t-shirt. I briefly considered how rude it would be if I didn't let him in, but since he got up at 5.30 (yeesh!) to get here... We drove to Greencastle-Antrim, which is about an hour away. We got to the high school where the event was being held at about 8:05 am, which is roughly when registration was supposed begin. It was a beautiful drive down, the weather was amazing (mid-50s, sunny, bright...a great day for a race!)

When I e-mailed my friend Randy (the event organizer) the day before about his projections, he had about 450 people pre-registered and was expecting another 50-100. I'm no expert, but 500 people for a two miler in it's first year seemed like an awful lot of people, so I was really excited and happy for him. It turned out that they had given away the extra 100 packets by the time we got there (Randy apologized[!] and said, "I'll try to get you a t-shirt." I got to quote Lance and replied, "It's okay. It's not about the t-shirt.") 8:05 am. 550 people. I looked back and people were still streaming into the lot. AWESOME!

The event was extremely well organized ; I'd expect nothing less from Randy, honestly. Plenty of voluteers were around to register people, there was virtually no waiting in line (I hate that) and everyone seemed to be on the same page and know what was going on. They had maps of the course, which Ken and I looked at and were assured it would be easy to follow, with volunteers at all turns. I'll spare you the suspense: it was, and there were. We went outside, did a couple warm-ups and waited for the start.

The Race
Ken and I were at the very front inside when the race started. We agreed to run our own paces, because he's in better shape than I, and has been running more regularly. My goals were to 1) finish and 2) do it in less than 20 minutes. The horn blared and we were off! One kid REALLY took off, and he looked strong. I ran to get out of the mix and it seperated nicely. People were very respectful and there was no jostling or bouncing. Nice. I went out a little faster than I had anticipated, but I kind of had to because I was at the front of the pack. Ken was right with me.

We ran around three-quarters of the track and then out the gate and onto a cross-country-style course. It was a little wet, a little slippery, but I was careful. Ken had begun to separate, and I let him go and began to run my race. The only tough part about that was letting a Yankees fan get the better of me. Because of my initial position, I was in a position to get passed, but not to pass a lot of people. I didn't realize this or have the ability to reflect on it during the race, but it was a little disheartening to have people passing me, without much opportunity to pass others. It was just a matter of perspective, but I did not have the benefit of that perspective. It's one of the things I learned from this race, and I think it will make me stronger for my next race. We ran into the woods...

I didn't know where the halfway point was, relative to where I was on the course, and after a while my mind started asking the question, "Where exactly is the halfway point, Fish?" I wasn't hurting, exactly, but I I felt I was pushing pretty hard and wanted to guage my effort and pace myself. This was harder to do because I was used to running on pavement, and the completely unknown factor of the course offered no clues. I began to question a little bit more, when I came to an opening in the woods and there was a girl reading off times--the one mile mark! She read off the times: 7:57, 7:58, 7:59...I ran the first mile in LESS THAN EIGHT MINUTES!

I knew, based on where I was physically, I would take longer on the second mile. But I resolved to leave everything out there. I could see the turn toward the stadium track area, which would mark the conclusion of the race. We were to run around the outside of the fence, then into the stadium, onto the track and to the finish. I was starting to hurt when I got to the fence. Then I saw Randy, and he yelled, "Let's go Rob! YOU CAN DO IT!" Talk about an emotional lift; it meant the world to me. I started pushing a little more, and picked a guy I wanted to catch and pass (a younger guy, probably late teens early twenties).

We came to the entrance to the stadium and entered onto the track. He was still about ten yards ahead of me, and I had about 300 yards to catch him. I began picking it up again and was two steps behind him when I felt someone coming around my right shoulder. We went three wide on the final turn, 100 yards to go, and I knew what was going to happen next. My sprinting instincts kicked in and the adrenaline rush was on. I left them both.

More importantly, I completed my first event as a cancer survivor. And, I did it in the name of my friend's son, Drew Michael Taylor.

Final time: 16:39

Ken and I went to change so we could play a round of golf after the race. In the locker room, there was posted an opportunity for students to come out to train for the Dash for Drew, to get in shape, and to run a race. I thought it was totally cool, and just the kind of thing Randy would do.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Going to Race!

I am going to race! Not a big one--it's a two mile charity race in the memory of my friend's son. The Dash for Drew is to raise money for the Drew Michael Taylor Foundation, started to help underpriveleged kids grow their minds, bodies and souls.

I was questioning whether or not to do this. After all I've been through, I wasn't sure I'd be able to finish. But, I ran a couple times this week and I'm pretty certain I can complete it. It's a place to start, and I'll be proud to race in Drew's memory.

I'm going to go for it.

Final note: One of the most powerful things I EVER heard was Randy's eulogy for his son.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Happy Halloween

From Cleopatra and Lance Armstrong...

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

I Miss My Bike

Weather here is supposed to be 70 degrees and sunny today. Days like this would be great to bring the bike to work and go for a ride at lunch. I suppose I'll settle for a walk. I miss my bike.

Monday, October 30, 2006

My Own Little Victory

The question of which Pennsylvanian has it worse, me or Ben Roethlisberger, has been raised. Here is my analysis.

Ben: Riding his motorcycle in June when he T-boned a car and crushed his jaw.
Me: Riding my bicycle in August when I was hit and run by a pickup truck, scraping the entire left side of my body in road rash.
Loser: Ben Roethlisberger

Ben: Diagnosed with acute appendicitis; emergency operation to remove the appendix.
Me: Diagnosed with testicular cancer; emergency operation to remove “Lefty”
Loser: I think we can all agree this one is Me

Ben: Concussion knocks him out of commission, still shaky on his return; throws four interceptions and loses AGAINST THE RAIDERS
Me: Bronchitis knocks me out of commission, but I work from home and still manage to close a deal
Loser: Ben Roethlisberger

Ben: Backup comes in and performs admirably; people begin calling for Charlie Batch (!) to replace him
Me: As long as I’m closing, I’m golden
Loser: Ben Roethlisberger

How about that! In the final analysis, as bad as I had it, I am not even the worst-off person in Pennsylvania. How refreshing, that my life is better than last year’s Super Bowl Champion quarterback.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

It is finished...

I finished my radiation this week! I actually feel pretty good...check that...REALLY good (which is to say, normal). After the radiation was over, my body spent a couple days purging it. I was still very nauseous and had some "intestinal issues", but all in all, the transition has been easy. Also, I noticed the front of my abdomen didn't have any signs of radiation, but my back got a little burned.

Next Steps
Now I begin ten years of tests and follow up. Most protocols seem to indicate five years as a massive indincator of success, but people who work with testicular cancer say ten years is the REAL cutoff for total success. Either way, I'm just glad to be through with radiation.

Welcome to the Club
I had lunch, which I set up via networking and a cold call, with a prospective client. I had never seen him before, and when I met him, I saw he had lost the use of one side of his face. He sat down and explained he had cancer, and they had to take out the muscle controlling the side of his face because it had cancer in it.
"Yeah, I have cancer, too."
I felt bonded to him. We talked about our respective cancers for a while, and then moved on to business, but it was always there. We concluded by wishing each other well with continued recovery and good health.

I remember when I was looking for help when I first got diagnosed, and I turned to a very health conscious person who had cancer for his advice. Before he told me what I wanted to know, he started out with: "It sucks. But, welcome to the club."

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Be Still....

I went to my General Practitioner yesterday. He did a couple of basic tests, asked me some questions and told me I had bronchitis. Basically, it means I have to take it easy for a couple of days, get lots of rest, and drink lots of fluids. As a Fish, the last one is easy, but the other two are a little harder. Still, after spending the entire weekend in bed, I figured a couple more days would do no harm. I have now watched more television in the last four days than I have since college.

I've also been reading, and am just starting Snow by Orhan Pahmuk. While I've just begun, I must confess I really like his style of writing. My friend Susan gave me a book after the surgery called Poetry for the Spirit, edited by Alan Jacobs, which has inspirational poems from the dawn of man through the twentieth century. I turn to it in times like this, just opening it to see what's in there. Today, I found this poem by Emily Bronte, the last words she ever wrote:
Last Lines

No coward soul is mine
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere
I see Heaven's glories shine
And Faith shines equal arming me from Fear

0 God within my breast
Almighty ever-present Deity
Life, that in me hast rest
As I Undying Life, have power in Thee!

Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts, unutterably vain,
Worthless as withered weeds
Or idlest froth amid the boundless main

To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by thy infinity
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of Immortality

With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates and rears

Though Earth and moon were gone
And suns and universes ceased to be
And thou wert left alone
Every Existence would exist in thee

There is not room for Death
Nor atom that his might could render void
Since thou art Being and Breath
And what thou art may never be destroyed.

I read something the other day (again, I had the time) from a book my friend Bill sent me (Cancer: Fifty Essential Things You Must Do by Greg Anderson)[Note: If you know someone diagnosed with cancer, I recommend getting them this book first. It is filled with practical advice, profound help, and incredible stories of healing and hope]. It said I must choose to live a healthy lifestyle. It doesn't necessarily mean I will be healthy all the time, but that I have the power to make choices that positively affect my health, every day, often from moment to moment. He also asked me yesterday about my "genie", the dark force that creeps out when you're not looking, not paying attention or just can't keep bottled up any longer. Actually, I've been keeping it at bay very well; between prayer, meditation and just learning to be okay with being still (the hardestof the three, I assure you). When the genie comes out, instead of shoving it back in, I acknowledge it, address it, and send it away with force. It holds no sway, because I choose not to give it power over me.

All things considered, my friends, in spite of the adversity slung my way, I am still doing quite well. I have also dipped into Job, and while his burdens were much greater than mine (can't even imagine!) I am getting an understanding of his character. Thanks, as always, for your thoughts and concerns, but rest assured, this too, shall pass.

Monday, October 16, 2006


I think the radiation and the bike accident have simply worn me out. I got sick on Friday and have been pretty much in bed all weekend. It totally sucks, but what are oyu going to do. Off to rest....

Friday, October 13, 2006

Video of My Trip to California

It was all just a big misunderstanding, but I'm glad I lived to POST THIS VIDEO.

Slow and Steady...

...wins the race. I'm wrapping up my first full week of radiation treatments today. I am tired, and somewhat nauseous, but otherwise okay. I leave work, get treated go home and take a nap for about half-an-hour to forty-five minutes.

I am eating normally for breakfast and lunch, and midmorning and midafternoon snacks. Dinner hasn't been great for me, but I'm still trying to get something in at night. Had pizza last night because I had a craving for salt. It really hit the spot. I have lost about 13 pounds since the whole ordeal began, and am now at 190, which isn't bad (I'm 6 feet, so I'm almost at my fighting weight...Bernard Hopkins, BEWARE!). I'm not going to recommend this as a way to lose weight, but it has to be better than starving yourself to death(check out the woman on the magazine cover...UNCONSCIONABLE, as Cassandra and Lou pointed out!).

Everything is healing from the bike crash. The road rash has all but disappeared, exept for three holes where I must have hit rocks when I landed. They left two holes in my forearm and one on my thigh. I'm still stiff in my left calf, and there is bruising all up and down my left side (doesn't hurt, though...or perhaps it's just relative), but otherwise I am good. Took my bike to the shop, and while he couldn't declare it totalled, he did say the damage would adversely affect the handling of the bike, and that it was not repairable. We shall see how that goes with insurance...

I still have another week and a half to go with the radiation, but the end is in sight. Thanks again for your thoughts, well-wishes, phone calls, e-mails, PMs, and especially prayers. They are very much appreciated.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Maybe I was Misleading You...

Yesterday I posted this picture of a linear accelerator.

My friend Eric wanted to know if mine looked like this...If I was able to request other pictures...if I got to play Nintendo? The truth is: NO. Mine sits in the back of a dimly lit room, with no picture on the ceiling, no brightly lit machine. Mine isn't even new and shiny like this one. It's more like this artist's rendition, showing how one is rotated through different angles:

Okay, maybe it's not that bad...but it's not like the first picture, either...

Tuesday, October 10, 2006


I went to Dr. Kottapally and got my measurements for the radiation. It’s kind of funny because I was expecting something high-tech and he took a CT Scan and then whipped out a Sharpie and drew the pattern on my abdomen. Basically, it’s a rectangle, about 4 inches across and 8 inches long, from the base of my sternum to just below my belly button.

I started the radiation treatments last Wednesday through Friday. It’s a fairly easy process. I showed up and Stephanie, the office’s cheerful receptionist, checked me in. I went in and met Tracy, Mark and Jeff, who introduced themselves as the technicians who will be responsible for my care.

I dropped trou and laid down on the table on my back. They covered Righty with a lead shield to keep him from harm and adjusted me so I was aligned with the target field for the linear accelerator.

I’m fairly certain they put the shield in the freezer about an hour before I got there. Nice… Then they left the room, zapped me from above, the machine spun on its axis and zapped me from the bottom (I call it "radz to da abz"; my wife called it "radz to da nadz"). It all takes about fifteen to twenty minutes and then I am on my way.

I felt pretty awful by the time Friday rolled around, as the effect of the radiation is cumulative. I didn’t feel much like eating, and I was really tired. Other than that, though, it was all right.

The Funny-Profound
One of the things I have been trying to do is to keep the whole thing from my eight-year-old daughter. We recently lost a neighbor to cancer, and I'm afraid the word “cancer” alone would be too difficult for her. When I got home, I took my shirt off without thinking, and she walked in and saw the marks Dr. Kottapally had drawn, including a cross right in the middle of my abdomen. I froze, but she just looked and said, “Huh! Holy Spirit” and pointed to the cross on my belly.
“That’s right” I said, confident she had the correct answer.

I had a cavity, my first one in probably about 25 years. But of course I did. Normally, this would piss me off to no end, but now it’s just a cavity, one more thing to deal with.

My wife and daughter had perfect checkups, so that’s a great sign. Go GIRLS!

Friday, October 06, 2006

Life Catches Up...

I've been swamped lately, but more soon.

"Thank you Lord for thinkin' 'bout me
I'm alive and doin' fine."

--Five Man Electrical Band

Monday, October 02, 2006


I slept, finally, this weekend. An amazing ten hours on Friday, eight hours on Saturday and seven hours last night. It has made a world of difference. I feel clearer, lighter.

Friday, September 29, 2006

Turned Himself In...

The guy turned himself in after seeing a newspaper report that basically left nothing to the imagination with regard to what the police were looking for. The truck was exactly as I described it, and he drives that route to work every day. He said he was turning himself in because he "didn't know he hit a person" (Note: that screaming you hear might be an indication, Tom Druce. You might also notice the cars stopping behind you, people getting out of those cars, the bloody guy on the lawn...or, you could just gun your engine and take off, because it was a "sign") and saw the report, figuring "it was just a matter of time before they caught him."

It's been hard to shut it off.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Mondays Totals, and an Update...

Mondays Totals
Doctors seen: 2
Nurses/EMTs seen: 8
X-ray techs seen: 2
X-rays/scans: 12+
Needles taken: 4
Hospital facilities visited: 3

I am feeling a little better today. I am stiff as a board, and my left leg hurts when I walk, but I CAN walk. Nothing broken, nothing strained, nothing sprained. I was concerned about my knee initially, just because I have had surgery on it twice. It is actually the sturdiest part of my leg.

My shoulder looks like it was sandblasted, and my forearm looks like a raw hamburger. My left thigh has a huge road raspberry on it as well, and my thihg is hurting, presumably from where the bumper hit me. My back also has some scratches and bruises on it. Showering was a bear this morning--water and road rash are a terrible combination...

No report on the driver, yet. The police staked out the accident site yesterday to see if he came back. It may have been a 91-92 Chevy S-10, because he lost a hubcap at the site, which the police were able to I.D. Time will tell.

I'm not even angry the guy hit me. Accidents happen all the time, and I'm fairly convinced that's what this was. At 6.30, the sun was fairly low and could have created significant glare at the scene. What galls me to no end is that he left me there.

I am getting around okay now, if a little stiffly. I'm going to try to pick up my bike this afternoon. I'm pretty convinced it's going to be totalled, but again, we'll see.

Tell Me Why, I Don't Like Mondays...Part 4

I went to Holy Spirit Hospital and they took me in on the gurney. It was just like those medical shows where you're looking up at the bright lights, but the bustle of doctors and nurses is way overdramatized. Matt and Joe, the EMTs, pushed me into one of the Emergency Room triage areas (For those that don't know, when a hospital is busy, they divide people up into three categories: Those that will make it, but only with immediate care; those that will make it, but they can wait; those that won't make it, no matter what they do. I was in category two).

Will, my nurse, came in and gave me the once over. We talked about the date, my name, my date of birth, losing consciousness...the kind of light banter that makes a nurse's night, I'm sure. He ascertained I was pretty much okay, except for the bleeding. I lay on the backboard, feeling different parts of my body seizing up. First my thigh, then my calf, then the base of my buttocks which sent shooting pain all the way down my left leg. At one point, I remember praying and asking God to take the pain away, if only for a little while. Miraculously, I felt it move away, like a tide. I thanked Him, and lay still, praying.

He hooked up my IV and started the drip. Another needle, this one in the right hand.

I asked Will if I could call my wife. He dialed the number, gave me the answer. I left a message. Then I asked if I could call my neighbor, which I did. As I explained in my earlier cancer posts, I live in the kind of neighborhood where everyone looks out for each other, takes care of each other. I explained what was going on, and asked her to try to call my wife until she reached her. My neighbor looked out her front door and saw my wife walking our dog.

For us, these conversations always go something like this: "Hi Honey. First, I'm okay...but I got hit by a pickup truck." I figure if my voice is the first one she hears, she'll know it's not too bad. She got to the hospital about fifteen minutes later.

She said my daughter crumpled into a sobbing mess when she told her I had been in an accident. I called my daughter immediately, and spoke to her, letting her know I was fine, was going to be alright, and had no major injuries. It's amazing the stores of strength God makes available to us in moments like this. I felt no pain, no fear, no anxiety--I just knew I had to make my daughter sure Iw as okay...and I did. One of the things my wife did was to ask my daughter to help pick out clothes she could bring to me at the hospital. My daughter picked the t-shirt I earned from my first triathlon--I love that kid! She also packed THE LION, because "it helps you be brave when you need to be brave." For those that don't know, my daughter, who is eight, has packed the lion in my stuff everytime I have had to take a trip. He has been to Tennessee, Belarus, New Orleans, the Appalchian Trail and more than a couple hospitals. He makes me brave because he reminds me of the strength of my family...

After about an hour (I think. Time is kind of fuzzy in situations like this), the doctor came in to see me. Note: If you get hurt on a Monday night, you KNOW you're not getting the Doctor from Johns Hopkins...or even the cream of the crop from your local medical college. The doctor walks in, looks at the television with a look of contempt, turns it off and starts asking me questions. Then he decides he wants me off the backboard, so he GRABS MY THIGH AND TRIES TO MOVE ME!

"Oh does that hurt?"
Joan said later she saw him start to reach for my thigh, but couldn't get the words out fast enough. She wanted to punch him when he did it. I think he made himself a mental note: ascertain full extent of injuries before trying to move patients. His bedside manner never did improve.

Then they gave me some morphine, which made me horribly nauseous. I ended up not throwing up, but it was touch and go for about 20 minutes. They gave me another drug that counteracted the nausea and I felt better. Eventually, I was wheeled to the Radiation Center for x-rays. Will came down to make sure I was feeling better. I thought it was a class move, very thoughtful. The head x-ray technician was actually really funny and engaging. He made me laugh for the first time since getting to the hospital, and his staff was equally enjoyable. They took shots of my arm, chest, thigh, calf, full leg, and ankle...probably eight or nine shots in all. At this point what's one or two more, right?

I got wheeled back to my ER holding cell and continued to wait. That's the other thing they don't show on medical shows. The interminable waiting. My wife was awesome, going up at various points and asking "What's next?" "What are we waiting for?" She kept the ball moving forward. I'd probably still be there if she hadn't done this.

They took some blood to run tests and make sure nothing was abnormal, and they also took a urine test. Another needle. Ummmm....right arm. Will looked at my arm and asked, "Did you have a shot already today?"
I replied that I had.
"Do you want to try the other arm?"
"No," I said. "I got a shot in that arm, today, too."
"Are you serious?"
Right arm it is...

After more waiting, it was time to get my wounds cleaned out. They were going to do stitches, but decided against it. The way they clean road rash is to pour a liquid painkiller onto it (which is in itself a misnomer, because the "painkiller" stings like hornet going on) and then get a scrub brush with the yellow disinfectant (betadine?). Will scrubbed the wound vigorously, apologizing. I just gritted my teeth and told him, "Do what you have to do." That included him digging in at various spots with a toothpick-like instrument to pull out blades of grass and gravel that were imbedded in my skin. Grit teeth. "Do what you have to do." Grit teeth. "Do what you have to do." Done. Mercifully. Done.

Then I had to wait for the doctor to come in and close things out. He came in again, looked at the television with the same air of contempt and shut it off. I think he was wondering who kept turning it on. After almost 5 hours of this ordeal, I really didn't care what he thought. On a funny note, I couldn't look at my wife because I knew I would start laughing at the doctor.
"How are you doing?" he asked.
"I'm ready to go home."
He asked, "Do you want me to wrap things up and go over them with you before we do that?"
I almost said, "Not really" but thought better of it.

He went over the procedures, asked Will to get some things, then almost dressed him down when he started to go get it before the doctor had finished his proclamation. After Will left, I told the doctor about the great care he had provided, the attention he had shown me. I'm not sure he heard it, but he needed to.

I stood up, and walked (hobbled) out of the Emergency Room, continuing my 39 year streak of never having to be wheeled out. My wife drove me home at 1.30 in the morning. It's been a long time since my bed felt so good.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Tell Me Why, I Don’t like Mondays…Part 3

One of the things I have missed the most since being diagnosed with cancer is riding my bicycle. I am used to putting in 100+ miles per week, pretty much year round, and this time of year is my favorite. The cooler weather makes it ideal, and I thought today would be a beautiful day to get out and ride. My wife wanted me to go to the mall with her and my daughter, and ride the trainer tonight, but I said no. I wanted to get out and feel the fresh air on my face. And besides, this was my first ride in more than a month, since the orchiectomy, the cancer diagnosis, the recovery, and everything that went with it. I finally felt comfortable enough to ride.

I took off, feeling pretty good. Hills were tougher, and I could feel where my fitness had waned, but all-in-all, I felt really strong, if for no other reason than I was out on my bike. I decided to take a local loop I do, which is a little less than twenty miles and not very hilly, feeling it would be a easy one to complete. Just enough to get out and stretch the legs, really (non-bikers are always amazed at statements like these, but 20 miles really is a “warmup-and-get-your-legs-under-you” type of ride for many riders, especially those that average 40+ miles per ride).

I was riding and starting to feel my rhythm when I felt this surge from behind me, lifting me up and off the bike…there was an intense cracking sound, metal on metal, metal on plastic…I felt a huge pain in my left calf…I was flying through the air…I yelled really loud…then I hit the pavement on my left side…had a split second of clarity and sprung to the grass on my right side…and came to a stop.

I had been hit by a pickup truck. The driver came to a semi-stop, ostensibly realized what he had done, then took off. I lay on the side of the road, afraid to writhe, in considerable pain.

The driver behind the truck stopped and called 9-1-1, and the driver two cars back was an EMT named Mike. He jumped up to me and started asking me questions which allowed him to ascertain my condition and made me think about the questions instead of the situation, both of which were good things. I get the sense he knew what he was doing on both counts.

The ambulance arrived (note: not the Wahmbulance—if you get hit by a car and you’re on a bike, it’s not whining), and Joe and Matt hopped out. They asked me the same questions Mike asked, and presumably compared notes to make sure my knowledge of arcane subjects like my name, date of birth, age and the month of the year all matched up. They put me in one of those neck collars, as a precaution, and put me on a backboard.

They loaded me into the ambulance and asked me what hospital I preferred. I was unsure of the extent of my injuries. I was fairly certain nothing was broken, in spite of considerable pain, but didn’t know about internally. Nothing felt wrong, even when they pressed on my spine, belly and skull. Still, in a moment of clarity, I picked the one closer to home, in case I had to stay overnight and my wife need to make hospital runs.

They got me there quickly enough, but I felt every bump in the highway…and there were a lot. At this point I began doing my own assessment of just how bad it was. I felt a really deep bruise into my left calf, I was sure I had road rash underneath my shorts on my left side. I felt wet on my arm, so I was pretty certain the road rash there was pretty significant, and bleeding. And then I was off to the hospital…

The Funny
So I’m laying by the side of the road, just been run over by a truck, presumably covered in more than a little blood and one of the EMTs asked me if I had any other present medical conditions.
“Yeah, I have cancer.”
“Are you kidding me?” he asked.

Tell Me Why, I Don’t like Mondays…Part 2

So far I have been to see a urologist (Dr. Wenger) and a radiation oncologist (Dr. Kottapolly). Today I went to see Dr. Conroy, oncologist. He came very highly recommended, is Board Certified and a Fellow (which means he REALLY knows his stuff, and is affiliated with Johns Hopkins (ditto). We went through my records, my tests, scans, bloodwork, results, surgical history…just about everything, really, since Day 1 of diagnosis. He was very thorough.

Two important things happened in this appointment. First, he confirmed for me the recommended treatment for the radiation. Stage I (no evidence of spreading anywhere) Seminomas, being highly sensitive to radiation, are treated with short blasts of the stuff for 13-14 days. They used to do the abdomen and the area from just below the belly button down along the pelvis to about where the leg connects to the pelvis for 4-6 weeks. They call it the “hockey stick” because it looks like a goalie’s stick. Dr. Kottapolly wanted to leave out the pelvic area because of the increased morbidity (still relatively low) of radiating that area, which led to cancer in the bowels. Dr. Conroy concurred, saying Stage II (evidence of some spreading, usually to the lymph nodes and/or lungs) were treated with the “hockey stick” but that Stage I’s could just as effectively be treated without it, aiming at the abdomen only, for a shorter period of time.

Second, he agreed to be my quarterback. One of the most exhausting things about the whole cancer experience is coordinating the care. It’s even more so when you are handling it yourself, which is what I have been doing. Dr. Conroy is going to take over scheduling CT Scans, lung x-rays, follow up care, appointments with other specialists as needed and all of the necessary secondary questions that need to be handled. It’s a huge relief. It’s not that I am going to be relaxed or uninvolved in the care anymore (surely you know me better than that!), but it’s nice to know someone else will be helping with all of that, and that I’ll be able to breathe a little.

At the conclusion, he ordered a Complete Blood Culture (CBC), and asked me to come back in a month. Blood work…let’s go with the Right Arm this time…

Tell Me Why, I Don't Like Mondays...Part One

This was my day yesterday.

Bone Scan
Oncology Appointment
Hit-and-Run While Riding my Bike

That's an exciting year for most people, but in typical Rob-fashion, I had to squeeze it ALL into one day.

The Bone Scan
I had an early morning 7 a.m. meeting for part one of my bone scan. As mentioned previously, Dr. Kottapolly found an unusual growth on my left hip bone. He said it was, in all probability, a sports-related injury, but with my history, it was better to be sure.

So I got to the appointment and met Kimberly, an older woman with a no-nonsense approach; very efficient, very focused, knew exactly what was going on and how long it would take. I liked her right off the bat.

She asked me to roll up my sleeve (let's go Left this time) and she gave me an injection of a radioactive isotope. This particular injection/isotope is attracted to the chemicals in calcium, so it circulates throughout the body, being drwawn to the calcium in the skeletal system. In a little more than 3 hours, the circulation should be complete.

I got the injection, went back to work, then came back to the outpatient center at 10.30. I laid down on the machine and went through a series of tests. The machine looks like this, which makes me realize just how prescient Gene Roddenberry was:

So I lay down and the machine feeds me into the imaging area, where the camera takes picture of the radioactive isotope in my body, now clinging to the bones. It's not a bad test, all-in-all, except the machine is REALLY close AND they strap you to the bed so you can't all. Note for the Claustrophobic: This is not the test for you! To wit:

I have had claustrophia in the past, but sometimes you just have to suck it up and go with it. This was one of those times. That being said, a fan on one of these machines blowing cool air on the patient would work wonders.

When all was said and done, I got a series of pictures that look like this:

I'll be taking those images to my oncology appointment with Dr. Conroy at 2.15 today and my next appointment with Dr. Kottapolly, time and date TBD.

The Funny
I'm laying in the machine, strapped in to the slab, getting ready for the test. Kimberly steps out momentarily to get something, and the phone rings. I'm laying there, listening to the phone ring, then stop.

Kimberly returns, sits down at her station, then asks, "Was the phone ringing?"
"Yes," I reply.
"Why didn't you answer it?"
"HEY! I just got my radioactive powers. I don't know how to use them yet!"

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Radiation Appointment

I went in to see Dr. Sri Kottapolly, MD, Radiation Oncologist (known affectionately as a Rad. Onc., which is just fun to say...try it) for my radiation appointment last Friday. I walked in and he asked if I had my records, which of course I did because I now carry EVERYTHING in the Planner I got from the Lance Armstrong Foundation (They're free. If you or someone you know is going through this, get a planner to help organize your thoughts and records). I was glad I did because Dr. Kottapolly did not have online access to the database that contained my CT Scan and records.

We went back and reviewed the CT scan in his office. What the CT Scan does is takes pictures of you like a slice. If I were laying on a table and a ninja sliced me like a loaf of bread, the scan shows what each slice of Rob would look like, belly to back. We went through each of the slices, toe to head, until we reached the pelvis, at which point he stopped.

"Ummmm." As a cancer patient, the "stop" and the "ummmm" combine to release an experience that I am certain is not dissimilar to what happens to a Thompson's gazelle in those first moments when the cheetahs arrive, still out of sight. Something isn't quite right, the heart starts to race, and all you can think is, "Get ready. Here it comes."

"You have something on the left pelvis, right here," he said. "We call it a boney island. I know you are athletic, so I am guessing you probably banged it when you were doing something, causing an injury. The body healed up around it with bone. But, I would like you to get a bone scan, because with your condition, you want to be sure. I am almost 100% sure it is nothing, an injury like I described, but let's be sure." And, he was very reassuring.

He showed me on the CT Scan report, where a bone scan was recommended, and I thought, "Hmmmmm. I wonder what else is recommended?"

We continued looking at the slices of Rob, moving on to the lungs, at which point he stopped again. He showed me three growths on my lungs, which are classified as non-calcified nodules. Again, the CT Scan report recommended follow up, but did not say with whom, or what kind. Brilliant. Dr. Kottapolly recommended I speak with my oncologist (Dr. Conroy, appointment on Monday) about that.

The other thing mentioned in the CT Scan but not addressed by my urologist was the possible presence of a Medullary Sponge Kidney. More to discuss the next time we meet. Yippee...

Dr. Kottapolly recommended 13-14 treatments at 2500 rads, which is a little shorter, but mostly what I expected. Where he really differed from what I knew was in where the radiation will be applied. The old standard (read as: the one I had read everything about), was that they would radiate the abdomen, moving down from the sternum and hitting the lymph nodes from there to roughly just below the belly button. He would hit the area along the side where the testicle was taken out. It looks like a goalie's stick in hockey, actually, and this is how most doctors refer to it. Dr. Kottapolly said the new (last 6 or 8 years) have removed the "blade" and hit only the stick--the abdomen. This reduces the chance of radiation causing cancer in that area and the bowels, which has been a problem in the past; apparently the radiating this area presents no added benefits, when comparing return rates of cancer. Oddly, I can find nothing on this online, so I put a call in to the Lance Armstrong Foundation, who will put me in touch with a cancer counselor who can help me.

He also suggested I bring my wife next time. "They have the brains, so we like to have them here so they can think for you when you need it," he said sagely. Good idea.

The Funny
As he's describing the procedure, he draws a picture of "me" lying on the table, so he can show where the radiation will be directed. "Hey, doc?" I said.
"The drawing is wrong. You gave me two testicles." We both laughed, then he looked at it and said, "One of these will be the penis. Here. I will make it bigger for you." And he did...very generously.
Still laughing, as I type this...

Why Radiation Instead of Surveillance?
I found a lot of great information about surveillance versus radiation here. I opted for radiation because I wanted to meet this thing head on, kill it, and move on. Also, with my lifestyle, the more frequent follow ups that surveillance require would be problematic. Both of these suit my plan better. I discussed this with Dr. Kottapolly and he confirmed both of these for me. Granted, he is "selling" radiation, but I was glad he said exactly what I believed.

What to expect
Treatments are expected to last about 10 minutes, or less.
The normal symptoms associated with radiation are tiredness, nausea, and I've got that going for me, which is nice.

Next Steps
Oncology appointment on Monday with Dr. Conroy
Bone Scan on Monday, consisting of two separate tests
Call cancer counselor re: new procedure for radiation related to testicular cancer

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Ran Yesterday

I went out yesterday morning and ran a local neighborhood route. I did a simple 5 minute warm-up and then just shuffled through the run. My pace was really slow, but it felt good, again, to get out and be moving. I was still sore from from Monday's (pathetic) workout.

It's going to be a while to get back to "running", but I'm actually more than okay with that. Slow and steady wins the race, I've read. I'm more upset (which is actually too strong a word but the right one escapes me) by my pathetic show of (or lack of a show of) strength on Monday.

...still, cutting myself slack...

Benefits of a Healthy Lifestyle...

I feel like I'm in the Masque of the Red Death, the Edgar Allne Poe story about a disease that comes to take everyone in the town. In the past two weeks, everyone in my office has been sick...except me, Mr. Cancer.

Perhaps it's a combination of eating right (lots of veggies and fruit, coupled with low fat proteins and healthy fats), drinking lots of water, washing my hands a lot and being active. Or, it might just be dumb blind luck. Or, God's Providence.

Just trying to keep it at bay and shooing people out of my cubicle.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Roller Coaster...General Thoughts

I’ve been riding the ups and downs of this cancer-thing for some time, now. Most of the time I am focused on simply kicking the crap out of it, and that’s a good thing. Other times, it’s hard; my friend Bill calls it the Genie in the Bottle…every once in a while, it gets out. I took yoga a while ago, and it has been helpful for me to rely on something I learned in the post-workout meditation session. Sometimes things crop up: bad thoughts, loneliness, fear. In meditation, you’re taught to acknowledge those things, but not to give them value. “Oh, there’s a thought. Interesting. Moving along…” As strange as that sounds, it’s really helped.

Also, I wasn’t sleeping real well. Four to five hour nights were becoming more common. I slept late on Saturday and Sunday, and I went to bed early last night. I’ve found my mood and energy level have improved drastically, and I am trying to go back to a “normal” sleeping pattern.

Last, I started working out again (I'm going to keep a journal at Beginner Triathlete). I cut the lawn and did some weedwhacking on Sunday. I know that’s not a workout for most people, but it was, sadly, pretty tiring for me. Still, it felt good to get out and get moving, to get the blood flowing.

On Monday night, I did supersets of pushups, squats (with no weight other than body weight), chair dips and Swiss Ball Crunches. It was actually pretty pathetic, and I couldn’t even finish the third set. Two months off, surgery and cancer have put me pretty much back to square one. Not that it’s a bad thing, in all honesty. I’m just going to take it slow, and build from where I am now.

More Pirate Stuff, for TLAPD


That's right, me mateys! It's International Talk Like a Pirate Day! So get some pirattitude, grab some booty and head for the high seas...


Monday, September 18, 2006

Tumor Humor...

The Cancer Primer...Don't Be Panic!
Okay, getting and having cancer isn't funny. That having been said, I'd have to say THIS IS PRETTY FUNNY! Even though "every people in the world know about well about this dangerous disease," this video will serve to give you all the important information you need to know as you deal with people with cancer. I hope this helps...

...and, remember: No smoking!

Some videos...

I thought THIS ONE was a lot of fun. I really like his spirit.

If you're in the mood for laughs, you need to see Chad Vader.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Two Wolves...

A Grandfather from the Cherokee Nation was talking with his grandson.

"A fight is going on inside me," he said to the boy.

"It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves."

"One wolf is evil and ugly: He is anger, envy, war, greed, self-pity, sorrow, regret, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, selfishness and arrogance."

"The other wolf is beautiful and good: He is friendly, joyful, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, justice, fairness, empathy, generosity, true, compassion, gratitude, and deep VISION."

"This same fight is going on inside you, and inside every other human as well."

The grandson paused in deep reflection because of what his grandfather had just said. Then he finally cried out; "Grandfather, which wolf will win?"

The elder Cherokee replied, "The wolf that you feed."

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Good News

I met with Doctor Wenger yesterday and he confirmed what we had expected. There is NO METASTASIS (cancer-speak for spreading to other organs and areas of the body), NO INFECTION OF THE LYMPH NODES, and the type of cancer I had was PURE SEMINOMA (the good kind, which is treatable by radiation, meaning I don't have to go through chemotherapy and all that really terrible stuff.

The nurse asked me when I had my orchiectomy. When I told her, she was amazed at how well I was getting around. There is no hitch in my giddy-up, so she was impressed. Cool.

The Funny
Along with my Left Radical Inguinal Orchiectomy (note: I like the TCRC page better, but it was down as of this writing), I also had a vasectomy. Today my daughter saw the specimen cup that I need to bring back in two months to make sure I am complete (or is that incomplete?) make sure the vasectomy was done right.
She picks it up and says, "What's this, Daddy?"
"I have to use it to take a test to make sure I'm still healthy," I replied.
"Oh. So I can't use it to catch bugs?"
"No, honey. But we can use a different container."

Next Steps
I go to see the radiation oncologist on Friday, the regular oncologist on Monday the 25th and to get a second opinion, possibly, on the Thursday the 28th. Then, we develop a radiation plan, which will, in all probability, last 4-6 weeks.

Friday, September 08, 2006

The Power of Prayer...

I am reading a book now called Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett, about a hostage takeover of a birthday party in South America.

According to Amazon:
In Ann Patchett's Bel Canto, an unnamed South American country, a world-renowned soprano sings at a birthday party in honour of a visiting Japanese industrial titan. Alas, in the opening sequence, just as the accompanist kisses the soprano, a ragtag band of 18 terrorists enters the vice-presidential mansion through the air-conditioning ducts. Their quarry is the president, who has unfortunately stayed home to watch a favourite soap opera--and thus, from the beginning, things go awry.
Among the hostages are not only Hosokawa and Roxanne Coss, the American soprano, but an assortment of Russian, Italian and French diplomats. A Swiss Red Cross negotiator named Joachim Messner is roped into service while on holiday. He comes and goes, wrangling over terms and demands, and the days stretch into weeks, the weeks into months.

One of the characters is a priest, and when his parish finds out he is among the hostages, they begin to say the mass in his name. One of the things that he says, as he begins to consider this, is how amazing it is that his name is being lifted up from so many people, and that these people are lifting his name up to the very ear of God. I had never considered your prayers in quite that way until I read this passage. Now that I have, I will never be able to think of it otherwise.

The Waiting is the Hardest Part...

I am trying to keep my mind busy and not dwell on all of the "what ifs..." that come with this kind of territory. The next step is an appointment with Doctor Wenger on Tuesday, so I'll be reading, probably writing, and trying to stay otherwise-occupied until then.

It's been a heck of a week. Going back to work, car breaking down, my computer at work picked up a MAJOR virus...I have not been this happy to see Friday roll around in a long, long time. Frankly, I'm exhausted.

That being said, there is also a great deal for which to be thankful. For example, we have not had a lot of rain in Pennsylvania this summer...until about two weeks ago, when God left the spigot running and we got drenched with the remains of Ernesto. Needless to say, the formerly parched patch of earth that was once my lawn went from sandlot to jungle in about a week. My neighbor, Bob, called me and asked if he could cut my lawn. "YES!" So he came over and cut my grass for me, and all it took was losing a testicle and an ice-cold Yuengling Lager.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Back to Work...

I don't have any pain related to the Vasectomy. I understand how guys think they are feeling better and can disregard doctor's orders and do things like go hiking, lift weights, or even go for a bike ride (I know someone who did this, and eneded up with an infection--yikes! LISTEN TO YOUR DOCTOR!) before they are fully healed and ready. The Orchiectomy (Losing Lefty, as you may call it) still has a huge lump where they cut through the muscle wall at the bikini line, and this is where all of my pain is centralized these days.

I'm doing a lot better now. It was weird, because for a while I felt I wasn't improving much at all. Every day, I woke up with pretty much the same level of pain as the day before. On Sunday, my daughter noticed a difference first: "Daddy, you're moving around MUCH better today."
"You know what, you're right honey. I am," I replied. I felt like a huge load had been lifted off, and the pain was incrementally less.

I went back to work yesterday. On top of still being sore, my car almost didn't start, so I also had to take that to the garage to get a new battery and positive cable. Needless to say, I was pretty wiped by the end of the day.

Today was a little better. I have had considerably less pain the last two days, and, consequently, this takes less out of me. Additionally, I am taking Tylenol to manage the pain and that has made things so much better than the Oxycodone (Percocet). I don't miss that icky feeling I got with the Percocet at all.

I am also managing to get around much better. I can walk the dog around the block without feeling pain or getting worn out. I can also do a shuffle-run. Not a full run, but more like the NFL-Practice-I-just-caught-a-pass-and-I-know-people-are-looking-at-me-kind-of-shuffle-run (Think: TO, without all the baggage...).

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

My friend Michael...

continues to struggle to find an answer to what is going on with his son. When you pray, would you please give God a shout to build up Jack, and the family as well. You can also leave a comment on MICHAEL'S BLOG to let him know the family is in your prayers, if you're so inclined.

Pinch Me...

I don't know why I find THIS ONE so amusing, but I do...

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Midnight, Not a Sound from the Pavement...

I went for my CAT Scan. The procedure was fairly straightforward. Vanessa did my intake and she was bubbly and cheerful (She's going on a cruise in 5 months, she just found out she can go for $100 dollars less than she thought, and she gets to meet people like me--what's not to be cheerful about?). She gave me the requisite forms, which I filled out and corrected. As a former teacher, it disturbs me to go to the office of professionals and receive documents with typographical errors, so I always make the corrections in the hopes that someone will 1) notice 2) care and 3) make the changes. I handed them back and went in to get my IV.

Nobody likes needles. I like them less than most. At least, I used to like them less than most people. One of the byproducts of being poked, pricked and prodded is that I have lost the fear I used to have of needles. It probably helps to have professionals who hit the vein every time, but I just don't fear them like I once did. Vanessa brought out the needle and the tourniquet, tied my arm off, inserted the needle into the vein in one professional stab and set up the tube for an IV drip.

The needle was a different system than I had seen before. They inserted the needle, then slipped it out and a flexible plastic tube remained in my arm. This enables the IV to move around without snapping the needle off in my arm while I move around in the CAT Scan.

Next, I went into the CAT Scan room, where Stephanie was waiting. She was a charming, attractive woman with a warm demeanor and a nice laugh; I like her immediately (Note to single guys--while I don't recommend testicular cancer as a way to meet women, I have noticed A LOT of pretty, single women in the health field. Bonus: they're extremely smart, too!). Then, she asked me to drop the trousers to my knees (one more thing that no longer makes me nervous at all), get up on a table and lie down. The table was in front of a large, 8 foot machine that looks like a doughnut. I quickly deduced they would raise (high the table, Carpenters...20 extra credit points if you can name the reference) and feed me through the hole in the doughnut.

The Procedure:
First, they did, indeed, raise me up and feed me through the hole. Stephanie took a series of images with no IV drip in my arm. I was asked to inhale, hold my breath and wait while the machine operated. The breath holds lasted for periods between 5 seconds and 35 seconds. The machine whirred to life, and a little disc spun on the inside of the doughnut, taking the pictures.

When she came back in to the room, Stephanie told me she and Vanessa were cracking up that I made corrections on the forms in the waiting room of the office. She also appreciated the corrections, and said she will work to make sure they are made. I like her even more.

Second, she pulled me out of the hole, then inserted my IV and began the process again. The IV dripped Barium into my system, a dye that filled in around my organs, allowing the machine to take pictures of the areas of contrast where the dye did and did not not fill in. I felt warm and fuzzy all over, a very comfortable feeling. I got put into the chamber and was again asked to hold my breath for various lengths of time, this time between 5 seconds and almost a minute.

Then, it was over. Stephanie came back in, told me I was done and that she will forward the results to Dr. Wenger's office, which works because I am due for an appointment there in a week and a half. Hopefully, my results will be more conclusive that this:

She also said she was impressed I was able to hold my breath for the entire period of the longer scans. One more advantage of being in good shape.
Interestingly, there seems to be no shortage of CAT Scan humor (humour to my International friends). Perhaps THIS and THIS are examples of why Vanessa and Stephanie were in such a good mood.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

It's Official

I got a call yesterday morning from Doctor Wenger that I have a Stage I Seminoma. All things considered, this is about as good as it gets. Stage I means that it has not spread to the epididimous or vas deferens (which would be bad), the other testicle (a little worse), or the surrounding lymph nodes and organs (a lot worse). Furthermore, Seminoma responds MUCH better to treatment than Non-seminoma (the kind Lance had) and the treatment is a great deal easier to deal with.

It is most likely I will be getting radiation therapy for 4-6 weeks. The resulting side effects include nausea, diarrhea, possible vomiting (though it’s less likely) and general tiredness. Still, it soooooo much easier to face than chemotherapy, which causes hair to fall out, chronic exhaustion, inability to eat or keep down what you do eat. My heart goes out to those who have to deal with the effects of chemo.

Bedside Manner
So when Doctor Wenger called, he kept assuring me I had a long life in front of me, and I would be fine in the long haul. It was almost a little strange, until I realized it’s probably not everyday you tell someone they have cancer, especially testicular cancer (which is relatively rare: about 6-7,000 guys a year are diagnosed with it). Further, I think it’s the word: CANCER! I think a lot of people hear the word and hear a death-sentence. The people I know, especially the survivors, have educated themselves about the disease, and become empowered by embracing the cancer. It’s as if when you know as much as you can about it, and what specifically you are facing, it loses its hold on you.

I have to confess, the moment Dr. Wenger said, “You have a lump” I realized my life was changed…but it wasn’t over. He pointed me to all of the resources and websites I mentioned before, and gave me the statistical information to back up his assertions that I would be okay. I have to say I really respect him because he respects me, and he sees this process as a collaboration, not as an opportunity for him to tell me what to do. I will count myself fortunate to have doctors like him all the way through this journey.

Next Steps

The next step is a CAT Scan on Thursday. They’ll take pictures of the lymph nodes and surrounding organs to get an idea of where everything is and to double check to ensure the cancer has not spread to the organs or the lymph nodes. After that, I’ll reconvene with Dr. Wenger next week to review the scans, the post-operative results, and the biopsy results, and then begin planning my course of action for the next couple of months, which, again, will probably involve radiation but no chemo. I’ll also take all of the information and results with me to get a second opinion, just to make sure it fits with the current recommendations as they are being given.

Random Thoughts...

Coming Home

I came home on Friday and set up on the living room couch, with a water bottle in one hand, the television remote in the other, and a bag of frozen peas strategically placed on my remaining boy, Righty. I called a bunch of people to let them know I was in good spirits and, even though I was in pain, I was doing great.

One of the neighborhood families stopped by for a visit and brought Chicken Divan, which was absolutely wonderful…comfort food rules! I had some brown rice and we put it over that and chowed down. My wife and daughter have been wonderful through this whole thing, as you might expect. My daughter is kind of like my personal nurse—whatever I need, she’s on it. Further, the neighbors have broughtsuccessionion of dinners, alleviating the need for me to be on my feet (I am the chef of the family, so it's a huge load off my back): baked ziti, enchiladas, tortellini soup, Swedish meatballs...all of it mmmmm-mmmmmm good!

I watched V for Vendetta—absolutely amazing film, especially poignant in today’s political climate. Munich, about the hunt for the terrorists that planned the 1972 assassination of Jewish Olympic athletes, was riveting as well. Next up, my Robert Duvall Mini Film Fest, with Second Hand Lions and The Apostle, both at the insistence of my friend, the Spaniard...

I am also getting time to read. I read A Lesson Before Dying (by Ernest Gaines), a book about a teacher who tries to make a death row inmate into a man before he dies. ItÂ’s reminiscent of To Kill a Mockingbird, and well worth the read. I HIGHLY recommend it. Now I am reading Bel Canto, a book about a birthday party that is interrupted by a terrorist takeover. It focuses on the relationships and lives of the people at the party, and how these relationships deepen as a result of the ordeal. ItÂ’s beautifully written, and I would be surprised if Ann Patchett (the author) did not have a background in poetry, so rich and textured is her writing.

Also on my reading list:
Between a Rock and a Hard Place, by Aron Ralston, a guy I would definitely want on my team...for anything.
Deep Survival:Who Lives, Who Dies and Why
For the Eight O'clock Reading Time: Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Diary of a Wombat and Wombat Divine

A quote that really helped me the other day:
"Remember even a handful of mud will reflect heavens beauty if you shine the right light on it..."

Myth Busting...

Let's get this one out of the way. Note to my audience: This is where I take a radical departure from the upbeat, "I'm going to beat this thing" stay positive, stay focused tone that generally pervades this blog in general and my cancer experience in particular...

Who is the idiot that came up with " least you'll have all those great drugs..."? I think I'm going to come back with "Hey, I'd like to rip your ball out through your stomach and then I'll get you some good" It's just so silly. And the thing that gets me (and this is the dirty little secret)--the drugs aren't really that good (unless you're taking thirty a day). Every day, I wake up and decide whether I want to be a pain-free, drooling idiot or a guy in pain that can read, write and think (relatively well, anyway). I've chosen to take one pill instead of two, recognizing I'll be in more pain, more often, but at least functioning.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Losing Lefty...

My daughter went to one of my neighbor's homes, and it was time to go. Again, one of the huge blessings in my life is the neighborhood in which I live. People here really look after one another. It reminds me of when I was growing up. The parents looked out for ALL of the kids. I also remember getting busted and yelled at by various neighbors, the knowing there was going to be a continuation of that punishment meted out at home, as it was a given that the neighbor would be calling my parents. It seemed horrible then, but I LOVE it now.

I went to the outpatient center on Friday at 11.00 am. It still seems hard to believe that a procedure like this is outpatient, but anything that gets me home at night with the promise of home cooking is a winner to me. The first person to meet me was the intake nurse, a friendly and efficient woman with a nice smile. The intake was straightforward, checking my past history, confirming the procedures to be done, health care information, HIPA form, etc.

Then they asked me to go back to the prep area, while my wife waited in the lobby area. I got to change out of my clothes and into the world of hospital high fashion. Blue gown (the opening goes in the back, even for this procedure) and brown fuzzy socks with grippy bottoms. I shuddered, then realized it was in response tot he temperature of the room, not the outfit.

Trish, my nurse, brought over a blanket and draped it around me. The blanket was, mercifully, heated. I soaked in its warmth, as I signed a couple more forms. She then confirmed all of the health information I had filled out outside. She then said she was going to hook me up to an IV, and asked, "Do you need to lie back for this?"
"I hate needles, but I've never had a problem before. I'll be fine," I answered.
She took my hand. "Um, you're sweating. I'm going to have you lie down."
So I'm thinking "Well, I'm a little nervous about losing my testicle and having cancer, so that might explain it" but I say, "Okay" and she pushes the button that makes the bed go back. She's a pro and the needle goes in quickly and easily. Another advantage of being a exercising, weight lifting, fair-skinned person: the veins are very easy to find. My wife is allowed to come in and join me after I get hooked up.

Then I was introduced to Dr. Khan (secretly hoping, upon that introduction I would not have to face any of his wrath), the anesthesiologist. He was very relaxed (hey! He's an anesthesiologist....what was I expecting) and he explained the procedure as very simple. They would put some relaxation meds into my IV, then have me breathe deeply into the oxygen mask and I would go to sleep.

Then Doctor Wenger came in and went over the procedure, but first told me the good news about the blood test. What it means is that he is almost positive it is not a non-seminoma, the really aggressive cancer (think Lance) that spreads everywhere. I am still facing seminoma, and should have the results back by Tuesday or Wednesday (quicker than I thought--normally this takes about ten days, by mostof what I have read). He was going to make an incision on the left side of my Speedo-line, push Lefty up through there, tie a tourniquet around it and cut it off. Then he'll be sent to a lab where he will be poked, prodded, tested and evaluated. Easy enough--let's do this...

I am wheeled into the operating room, which is even colder(!). I slide over from the gurney to the operating table and Dr. Khan starts setting up. He places an oxygen mask over my face and I fall blissfully to sleep.

At about 1.30 I wake up. It’s a slow awakening, but I know immediately where I am and why I am there. I reach down and check. Yes. Lefty is gone. I don’t feel sad, or upset, or anything negative. What I feel is relieved…

As I awaken, I realized I am in pain. A minor pain on my right side (Vasectomy) and a major pain in my left side (Radical Orchiectomy). My wife is there, and I smile at her. I give her a kiss, and she says I still smell like the chemicals from the anesthesia. The nurse gives my wife a prescription for pain killers that she can fill downstairs, so she does that while another nurse offers me a pain killer right away.

They ask me if I want to wheel out or walk out. Yeah right. I walk.

Friday, August 25, 2006


I got GREAT news--the blood work came back at zeroes, stating, in effect, that I do NOT have non-seminoma, the more aggressive type of cancer. The rest of the tests come back Tuesday or Wednesday, much sooner than I expected.

Needless to say, I am in quite a bit of pain, but unbowed. Thought the Morning Prayer of St. Patrick would be appropriate in this moment. All my thanks, respect and love, to you, all.

The Lorica
I arise today through a mighty strength,
the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation.

I arise today through the strength of Christ with his Baptism,
through the strength of His Crucifixion with His Burial through
the strength of His Resurrection with His Ascension,
through the strength of His descent for the Judgment of Doom.

I arise today through the strength of the love of Cherubim in obedience of Angels,
in the service of the Archangels, in hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
in prayers of Patriarchs,
in predictions of Prophets,
in preachings of Apostles,
in faiths of Confessors,
in innocence of Holy Virgins,
in deeds of righteous men.

I arise today,
through the strength of Heaven;
light of Sun,
brilliance of Moon,
splendor of Fire,
speed of Lightning,
swiftness of Wind,
depth of Sea,
stability of Earth,
firmness of Rock.

I arise today,
through God's strength to pilot me:
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's way to lie before me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to secure me:
against snares of devils,
against temptations of vices,
against inclinations of nature,
against everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and anear,
alone and in a crowd.

I summon today all these powers between me (and these evils):
against every cruel and merciless power that may oppose my body and my soul,
against incantations of false prophets,
against black laws of heathenry,
against false laws of heretics,
against craft of idolatry,
against spells of witches, smiths and wizards,
against every knowledge that endangers man's body and soul.

Christ to protect me today against poisoning,
against burning, against drowning,
against wounding,
so that there may come abundance in reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ in breadth,
Christ in length,
Christ in height,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of every man who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

I arise today through a mighty strength,the invocation of the Trinity,
through belief in the Threeness,
through confession of the Oneness of the Creator of creation. Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of the Lord.
Salvation is of Christ.
May Thy Salvation, O Lord, be ever with us.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

Looks Like I'm Not the Only One losing an Orb This Week...

That's right...the Solar System lost one today, too, according to THIS ARTICLE. Poor guy.

Throwing Down the Gauntlet...

“Tomorrow, we go into battle, with the Good Book in one hand, and the rifle in the other” Jupiter Sharts, Glory
A couple of thoughts, as I prepare for tomorrow and the orchiectomy of my pal, Lefty, and hopefully the cancer that goes with it. One of the things that has really helped is to realize who I am, and that, in many ways I was meant for this moment. I have been into exploring two aspects of my character of late, my faith and my heritage.

“Remember who you are.” Mufasa, The Lion King
I was reading John Eldridge’s Wild at Heart and he stated several things that really resonated with me. I’ve realized that God creates us for “battle”, he imbues our hearts with a thirst to face an enemy and test our mettle. There is something in me, I believe, created by God that makes me crave adventure, battle, challenge, and with that is a realization that I want to see if I have what it demands of me. Do I have what it takes?
I am assured I shall:
Do you not know? Have you not heard? The LORD is the everlasting God, the Creator of the ends of the earth. He will not grow tired or weary, and his understanding no one can fathom. He gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weak. Even youths grow tired and weary, and young men stumble and fall; but those who hope in the LORD will renew their strength. They will soar on wings like eagles; they will run and not grow weary, they will walk and not be faint.Isaiah 40:28-31

Second, I have been looking back on some notes I took when I was reading How the Irish Saved Civilization (interesting sidenote: I was talking with friend about this and she was telling me about how the Poles saved civilization by turning back the Turks), and some of the ideas that occurred to me. My people rarely went looking for a fight (hard to believe, I know) but somehow fights seemed to find the Irish (I’m reminded of Tom Cruise in Far and Away when he says, “I’ve no wish to fight you…” as his introduction to begin pummeling the crap out of someone). That having been said, I loved this description of the Irish Warriors, as they met the most powerful and fearsome army on Earth, the Roman Legion:
The Irish, like all the Celts, stripped before battle and rushed their enemy naked, carrying sword and shield but wearing only sandals and TORC-–a twisted golden neck ornament…the Romans, in their first encounters with these exposed, insane warriors, were shocked and frightened. Not only were the men naked, they were howling and, it seemed, possessed by demons, so outrageous were their strength and verve. Urged on by the infernal skirl of pipers, they presented to the unaccustomed and throbbing Roman sensorium a multimedia event featuring all the terrors of hell itself.

"Through these fields of destruction/Baptism of fire/I've watched all your suffering/As the battles raged higher/And though they did hurt me so bad/In the fear and alarm/You did not desert me/My brothers in arms." Dire Straits, Brothers in Arms
Another thing that has helped me is to realize how many men have gone before me. Thirty years ago, Testicular Cancer was almost a death sentence. Today, survival rates have flip-flopped with death rates, and more than 95% survive when the disease has not spread to other organs. I don’t kid myself; this disease has claimed a huge amount of men, but I am so grateful for them. I gain strength from those who faced the challenge and won, and for those who lost but did so with dignity, fighting to the last.

I received stories of Testicular Cancer survival from Dave Hickey who was one of the first to respond with caring, sensitivity and THIS, and from Mike (Go Sox…PLEASE…), patrain, Ignatz’s friend Eric Nichols
and obviously, Lance Armstrong, the most visible TC survivor, who could have ridden his bike out of this whole thing, but didn’t.

Moreover, I got so much support from people who are CURRENTLY in the throes battling cancer (breast, throat, lymph, prostate, and every other thing you can imagine, as well as a couple you might not) who offered (and continue to offer) prayers, phone calls, personal messages, e-mails, and a host of support that, quite frankly, humbles me as much as it gives me strength. Bev, Alan, Dawn, David and his mom, and so many others…they’re just ordinary people who drew a bad card and made the most of the hand they were dealt. Thank you for your honesty, your support and your strength.

“Dances with Wolves. I am Wind In His Hair. Do you see that I am your friend? Can you see that you will always be my friend?” Wind in His Hair, Dances with Wolves
Likewise, I have had incredible support from my church, particularly the men of my Men’s Group. It’s one thing to preach the Gospel, another to live it, and I am thankful for my brothers and sister who apply it, for each of you. At work, I have had the thoughts and prayers of dozens, and people have supported me in so many ways. I have also had friends from far and wide call and ask what they can do to help, and it is amazing how much help they offer, and give. Last, my neighbors have been amazing already. I am blessed to have an old-fashioned neighborhood, the kind where all the parents know all the kids, where we REALLY look out for each other and lift one another up from pain.

Last, online communities ostensibly designed to help us get better at healthy living (ironic I know…), cycling, and triathlon. JP Fitness, Roadbike Review, FittobeMen (viewer discretion advised), and Beginner Triathlete—in those moments when I needed a quick lift, you were all there—thank you.

I don’t need to mention all of you by name, you know who you are (and that’s a good thing, because I’ll inevitably end up forgetting someone), and I love you all. Know also how much your concern and thoughtfulness has lifted me up.

William Wallace: I AM William Wallace! And I see a whole army of my country men, here, in defiance of tyranny. You've come to fight as free men, and free men you are. What will you do with that freedom? Will you fight?
Soldier: Against that? No, we'll run, and we'll live.
William Wallace: Aye, fight and you may die, run, and you'll live... at least for a while. And dying in your beds, many years from now, would you be willin' to trade ALL the days, from this day to that, for one chance, just one chance, to come back here and tell our enemies that they may take our lives, but they'll never take... OUR FREEDOM! William Wallace, Braveheart

And so, I stand at the crest of my hill, looking down on the cancer that has had the gall to step into my domain. I hold it in contempt, and I shall offer you no quarter, as I know none shall be given…nor expected. In the tradition of my ancestors, I’ll strip down for this battle; in the tradition of God's people, I’ll pray for strength, for courage and for dignity, that honor may be given to Him who lifts me up, despite my wounds.

I look down on the field and see the bodies of those who have been there before me, in victory and defeat. I look to my left and to my right, and see the army assembled on my behalf, and my might grows, as you shrink before it. As a warrior, I will lift up my cry, raise my barbaric YAWP!

And, then I will not walk, I will run, unflinching into your gaping jaws and I will carve you out of my kingdom, out of my body, and I will send you back to the hell from which you came.