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.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Quote(s) of the Day

"Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever."
---Lance Armstrong

"I got no quit in me."

Learning Matters...

One of the things I have done in conjunction with this whole experience is to learn as much as I can about the disease.

With regard to testicular cancer, Testicular Cancer Resource Center (TCRC) is one of the best resources out there. It is simple to navigate, easy to understand and very well organized. My wife found it for me on Day 1, and it has been a Godsend. I have been cautioned not to overload myself with information, but I find it very intriguing. Consequently, I'm not on overload; I simply want to know what I am dealing with, what my options are, and how best to proceed.

The best part of TCRC is it gives you the questions to ask, and I am now becoming more fluent in the language of this disease. My experience with docs is they always treat you a little better, a little more intelligently, when you demonstarte a fuller understanding of what's going on with your body and your situation.

I went to the US government's cancer site[/URL], as a doctor, and checked out the procedures and how to read charts and protocols. I think it's fascinating, empowering and I really have learned a lot already. I also found some good information at the American Cancer Society's site.

For those dealing with any cancer, the Lance Armstrong Foundation offers a FREE BOOK that helps organize your tests, appointments, results, as well as Survivor Stories and the like. I just got mine last night, so I haven't had time to prepare a full opinion and relevant review, but one will be coming shortly.

One of the things that I hear a lot from Survivors is "This was the best thing to ever happen to me." I'm not at that stage (yet?) but I have heard it from a great many people. Maybe it's also because I don't think there's a lot I take for granted, and I've maintained a really good perspective on everything God has given me. Still, it does give me pause, and in today's hectic world, I can't help but think that's a good thing...

Thanks for the prayers, good thoughts, well wishes, and for being part of my team. Your support has been incredible, and it will help see me through. A huge additional thanks to those of you who have prayed for me and my family, called, left messages in the COMMENTS here, PM'd me, e-mailed me and wished me well. I am so encouraged and blessed by this, by your stopries and the stories of your friends who have fought this disease in all its forms. Through this whole thing, I have never felt alone. Perhaps that is the best thing to come out of this, so far...

In the words of one cancer survivor (and I LOVE this picture)...


Monday, August 21, 2006


I came across this quote from Walt Whitman, and it sums up how I feel today.
I too am not a bit tamed, I too am untranslatable,
I sound my barbaric YAWP over the roofs of the world.

There is something in facing cancer that brings out the warrior in my soul. When this is over, I will stand, having faced this foe and I shall not be found wanting....

Friday, August 18, 2006


I went for a run last night and it was really good. I felt slower, probably from the stress, lack of sleep, and constant focus on "my boy". All that said, it was EXTREMELY positive to be out, running. I did an easy 5K, and didn't push it hard at all, but was surprised, at the end, how I had managed to run most of the time without thinking about cancer.

Since I got the diagnosis, it's been pretty much a part of every waking moment. "Guy with cancer, going out the door to work." "I think I'll brush my teeth...with cancer." "I guess I'll take my cancer to the fridge and grab a bite to eat."

It was nice to be out, running along and just thinking about running. I think I need to do it more...


I had my first self-advocacy moment yesterday and it went really well. One of the things I have been told by my friend Bev, is that you should be sure to get copies of EVERYTHING for your own records. That way, if you have to get second opinions, follow up tests and the like, you can take them to the appointment. Often enough, these things get lost in transit from labs to docs, or from docs to docs. Having them in-hand alleviates a level of concern in an arena where all you have are levels of concern.

So, I called to get a copy of my chest x-rya and evaluation from the imaging center.
"Our policy is to release it to the doctor and let him release it to you," said the woman, when I called.
"Is there any reason you can't release it to me?" I asked.
"Our policy is to release it to the doctor and let him release it to you," she replied.
"Okay, but is there any reason you can't release it to me?" I asked, again.
"Our policy is to release it to the doctor and let him release it to you."
"Listen. I understand your policy. Here's what I'm saying: I need this for my own records. It's really important to me. Can you make a copy and have it ready at the front desk for me to pick up in half an hour?"
"Just a"

And it went forward from there. I had it in hand within half an hour. All in all, it was a very calm conversation, and I kept my cool through the whole thing. I wonder how many people give up at the first mention of the policy? Or how many people would have unloaded on her like Shirley McClain...

Lessons Learned:
1) Be polite, but also be firm
2) Ask for what you want, demand what you need
3) Don't accept "No" for an answer. Not the first time. Not ever.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Thought for the Day

For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

II Timothy 1:7

(Thanks, ProfCuervo...)

Tour de Tests

Yesterday I went for my EKG, to measure my heartbeat and make sure everything is normal there. A lot of the mediacations and treatments associated with cancer affect the heart, and irregularities could cause problems, either immediately or down the road.

I also went for a chest x-ray, with a rather jovial x-ray tech named Ray. His spirit of enthusiasm was just what I needed at that moment. They took the standard frontal pic, the kind where you get a picture of the ribcage head on.

They also take another shot, where you turn to the side, grab a bar over your head and inhale. This side shot lets them know, if they find anything, how deep in the lung it is..a little perspective. I'll have to see if I can get mine in a usable format and post them here...

They do the chest x-ray because, as I said earlier, one of the things cancer likes to do is expand like a Risk empire. While I am comfortable ceding my testicle, there is no way I am giving up my lung, and I am equally sure of protecting Kamchatka (a little Risk humor...humour, to my Canadian friends)

Then they'll send these pictures over to Doctor Wenger, and he will read them with an oncologist, just to be safe.

Both procedures were easy in, easy out. Less than an our for both of them, and I'm grateful for Ray.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Your support...

Just read through all of the comments (three or four times) from my initial post and felt compelled to comment.

Thanks again for ALL of your prayers. I've been having conversations with several of you, and James 5:16 has come up A LOT.
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Thank you for your prayers, not only for me, but for my family.

Thanks also for the reminder: "I've Got No Quit In Me"...never have.

I have read time and again that the number one thing that determines success in these moments is ahving a survival mentality. That means never quitting, never giving up, never saying I can't. Your well wishes inspire me, motivate me, and keep my eyes focused on beating this thing.

So, How's it Hangin'?

I went to the doctor’s office with my wife yesterday. I went through my List of Questions my wife found online. He answered a lot of questions in the initial foray of discussion and then we went through the rest of them. Here’s how it works.

First, I have a lump on my boy (Lefty…sorry, Red) and that’s a 95% indicator of cancer. There are two kinds of cancer it can be, a seminoma (the good kind, and the type that most likely affects guys my age), or non-seminoma (that really aggressive type that laid Lance Armstrong out and almost killed him…before he went on to win 7 Tours de France). There is a VERY high cure rate for both kinds (95%+), especially since we’re catching this early.

I had blood work done, and they will test that for markers, which are anomolies that in the blood that indicate an illness is present. There is usually (80% of the time) significant elevated marker levels for guys with testicular cancer. They measure these before the operation to get a baseline, realizing after they take Lefty, if they get all of the cancer, the markers should drop to zero. If, however, it has spread to the lymph nodes or the lungs (the first two places testicular cancer heads for a vacation property) then the markers will remain elevated, and I will have additional conversations with the oncologist.

Here’s what goes on in the operation, according to Dr. Wenger (he was DESTINED to be a urologist). The actual removal is done by making about a 4 inch incision along the bikini line (HEY! DON’T touch the Penis Lines!!!) through the lower abdomen on the side in question. Once the incision has been made, the doc pushes the testicle up through the pelvic region (GENTLY!) and out it comes. A snip here, a stitch there, and it’s a done deal. The doc expects me to be in surgery for about 45 minutes, and then another 3-4 hours to let the anesthesia wear off. Mrs. Fish will drive me home and I spend as much as a week taking it easy.

After that, they send the boy out to be biopsied, and figure out whether I have seminoma, non-seminoma, or a mixed bag…so to speak. I also have several weeks of radiation, but it’s not likely I’ll have chemotherapy, so I don’t have to worry about hair loss, weight loss and all that. In the realm of cancer, my row is an easy one to hoe...The only bummer is that I’m not allowed to lift more than 20 pounds for a month. I see a decline in my curlz and abz in the near future.

Again, thank you so much for your thoughts, your well wishes, and especially your prayers for me and my family. The support you offer is so greatly appreciated.

Harder Than I Thought...

The hardest part for me was kind of unexpected. I had to call my parents and tell them it was pretty much certain I had cancer. I rehearsed it in my head several times, but even when I said it, the words sounded wrong, foreign. I put myself in the place of hearing it from Katie, and it really choked me up. No parent wants to hear “I have cancer” from their kid. We had a long talk, and I think it reassured them, but they worry. Praying God keeps them close in his heart.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Doctor's Appointment...

I had an appointment with a urologist yesterday, and heard those four dreaded words: "We found a lump." Apparently, there's a lump in one of my boys (sorry,'s you). So the Doc said let’s schedule an appointment for an ultrasound. I took out my planner and flipped forward two weeks, and he said, “NO. I mean, right away.” So he said he would write out a scrip and have his nurse schedule the appointment.

I walked out and the nurse is making the call, saying, “I need to get him in right away. Like now. Twelve o’clock?” She looks at me, I look at my watch (it’s 11:00) and my planner and nod. “Yes,” she says. My antenna is all the way up at this point—things are moving very fast, and we’re talking about health care. Things don’t move quickly in health care.

So I called my wife and told her they found a lump and I’m going for an ultrasound. I’m sure, at this point, it’s just a minor playground injury, retaliation for pulling the pigtails of Sue O'Brien one too many times in ninth grade… I go in to the appointment for the ultrasound, hoping I can bad mouth Sue O'Brien later.

The tech comes out and…she’s kind of pretty. So then I’m thinking, “Why can’t they send a troll or some 60 year old dude to take these pictures? I visualize Orcs as she flits around with the sonogram equipment, taking pictures of my boys. She then puts together a disc for me with all of the results, and also sends them to the Doc.

I drive back to work, but my brain is working overtime at this point. I call the doc’s office and let them know I got the tests done, and ask if there is anything else I can do.
“No,” says the nurse. “The doctor will call you.” About fifteen minutes later he does…again, that rapid-health-care-spider sense goes into effect.

“Hi. We’d like you to come in for a consultation tomorrow…
“Okay,” I say.
“…with your wife…”
“…and without your child,” he adds. “We have a lot to discuss, and you’re going to have a lot of questions, but we probably don’t want to get into it over the phone.”
At this point, I know the jig is up. "Shoot straight with me doc. What are we dealing with here?”

Well, the short version, so far, is that I’m probably going to lose one of my boys (they’ll never call me RedLefty), and that it’s probably cancer (95% chance, according to most resources) and that it probably hasn’t spread (based on my activity and general health) and that I’ll probably survive (95-99% chance, based on lots of variables).

I have been to lots of sites (ACS, LAF, and, one my wife found which was especially helpful: TCRC). This is the point where I have more questions than answers, but I’m learning, I’m positive, and I’m focused.

An observation: It’s amazing, what happens when someone tells you you probably have cancer. Everything else fades away. You just think cancer thoughts all day long. From the time you hear the word, through every meal, every conversation, every movement, you can hear the word, bouncing around in your head.

Life is filled with ironies, and I’ve always been Irony’s number one fan. Case in point: People in the office were hopeful for the recovery of Barbaro, who was dining al fresco today. “Thank God!” “That’s great.” I was happy, too, but also thinking, “Man, I’m going through this and we’re happy for a horse?” It wasn’t that I wanted them focused on me. I was wondering who else in the office was feeling as bad or worse than I do, and I would have no idea who they were, or what my words at similar times meant to them.

Thanks so much for all of you who have begun encouraging me already, and especially for those of you who have begun prayers. If you’re in that habit, I’d like to ask you to take a moment and pray for my wife, that God gives her strength, especially as she is a teacher and is gearing up for the beginning of the school year, and it’s going to be hard. Also, please pray that I have wisdom as I explain things to my daughter.

I’m going in for my consultation today, around 3 o’clock EDT. I’m thinking if Lance can do it, I can. And hey! Phonak is looking for a rider, so maybe this is my big chance.

So anyway, as I do, I’m going to use this place as an outlet to sort through all of the stuff that’s going on. Many of you know me personally, so I’d ask you to kind of keep things under your hat, for a while...

Thanks for your thoughts and prayers.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I Have Come to Seek the Trail...

Me, on the Trail...notice the rocks that pass for the AT in Pennsylvania...

David hiking down the alleged Trail:

Me in a section of road in Pine Grove Furnace washed out by rain

Me, smiling because I'm going to be hiking on a soft section of the trail for the next 15 minutes...

David beside the "Trail"...still looking? It's the river running next to him:

The Fishr, standing next to my "port in the storm", about 5 hours before the huge electrical storm swooped in...

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

The AT...just got some pictures back

For those of you who enjoyed my three day odyssey on the Appalachian Trail, a few pictures...

Home sweet home:

Sunrise on the Trail:

The now-famous stove (still have to get one of those!):

Whenever I travel, my daughter insists I take "The Lion" with me. It's been on pretty much every trip I have been on since she has been born. Here is The Lion on the AT:

My friend David, studying the map, and ready to hike:


You don't have to be a triathlete to be moved by THIS VIDEO.

It's Team Hoyt. Here is Together, ANOTHER VIDEO explaining the backstory.

Some Kid News...

My friends Matt and Michael's baby, Baily, is doing much better. Her temperature spiked and wouldn't come down, so they took her to the hospital. Turns out she had a simple virus. Everything is fine, with her. I'm reminded of those panic-filled moments we all went through as parents of our first children: getting nervous every time they cried, wanting to wrap them in bubble wrap for the car rides, staying up until the wee hours of the morning when they had a cold...

On another note, my other friend Michael continues to struggle to find out what's going on with his son, Jack. Please say a prayer for them to find out what's going on, for Jack's healing, and for patience for their family.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Shakedown Street...

In Minsk airport, we got past the passport women and ran into the buzzsaw that is the suitcase weighing station. In Belarus, inventory is VERY important, so they track everything in and out of the country (as well as everything around the country). I am not joking about this. Last year, our swingset was “quarantined” for a week because we did not account for the nuts and bolts the held it together separately. The President of the country issued a special order that released it…and you wonder why change is sloooooooow to come to Belarus.

Anyway, they weigh the suitcases and then fine you for suitcases that are over 55 lbs. or for additional suitcases beyond the two allotted to each person. It’s basically a government-sponsored shakedown. We were anticipating this, and had set aside Rubles to deal with the problem. As we are discussing things with the agent, Pastor Michael arrives. He begins speaking with the customs agent and we are passed through without the fines, the haggling and the occasional shouting that accompanies these things. Later, I learned what happened.

The agent said to Pastor Michael, “You must pay the fines for heavy suitcases, and for extra suitcases.”
“I never pay the fine,” Pastor Michael replied.
“But we will fine you—you must pay,” said the agent.
Pastor Michael looked at him. “I am a man of God. These people are with me. If you do not let them go, you will have problems with God.”
The man let us pass without further comment.

It amazes me, still. I cannot imagine how that would work in this country. But Pastor Michael is sure of himself, of his strength in God…so sure, in fact, he can convince government agents that fining silly Americans would be a bad move. We also meet Galina, who speaks some English.I learn she is a Pastor at several satellite churches of the main K. church, and acts as Pastor Michael’s right hand…and arm, probably. I like her immediately.

We load the suitcases into the van and begin the three-hour ride to K. church.

I'm Thinking He Needs to Ride More...

More great/oddly disturbing pictures of this caterpillar infestation can be seen at THIS SITE. Spooky, man....

Monday, August 07, 2006


I really liked THIS AD from my friend Joe...

Detente in Minsk Airport

We flew into the concrete bunker architecture of Minsk airport. Some of you may recall my meeting with the passport woman in Minsk last year (For more on my past relationships with the Passport women of Minsk airport, scroll down and read PART II [JULY 8, 2005] HERE). My goal is to make them smile, a kind of detente. Anyway, I went up to the passport window, said, “Здравствуйте” and smiled at the woman behind the glass. Reflexively, it seemed, she smiled back. There were no teeth with it, but it reached up, gently, to her eyes. I got my passport back, thanked her (спасибо!), and smiled, which she retturned, even more the second time. It was a beautiful thing.

Friday, August 04, 2006

Thoughts on My Thoughts?

One of the cool things about blogs is that they can become interactive. If you see something that you like or hate, something that inspires you, moves you, makes you sick or just brings a memory to mind, there's a way you can share it. At the end of each post there's a little area on the bottom right that says "COMMENTS".

You can click on this and leave your comment, thought, whatever. I have even enabled anonymous comments, as some people prefer to remain out of sight--prefectly fine with me as the spammers have not yet invaded this blog.

So I'll continue to Blog, you can comment and maybe we'll learn a thing or two from one another. All the best.

Moooooooooo...ving on to Minsk

We are traveling from Warsaw to Minsk, Belarus today. From Minsk we’ll take a bus to K., which is going to be a haul, I am told. Translation: eat a good breakfast. Surprisingly, the hotel has a very good European continental breakfast. I have a couple of hard-boiled eggs, muesli, fruit, sausage, and, on a dare, a fish paste on a biscuit with a black olive and tomato…delicious, actually.

The trip from the hotel to the airport was an easy one, except I got packed in with a bunch of suitcases. C’est la vie. The airport itself, however, was another story. It’s a mess, desperately in need of an efficiency expert. I think that Poland’s opening itself to trade with the west (EU, NATO, etc.) has led to huge jumps in business opportunities, tourism and the like. The effect on its small and clearly overworked capital airport is immediately obvious. It’s a small airport, smaller even, in my estimation, than Harrisburg (PA).

The inefficiency starts at the door. There are no signs regarding where to go. What there is is a throng of swimming humanity, featuring people packed in like sardines (a claustrophobic’s nightmare), so thick there is no room to even walk. I think immediately of an Indian railway station. We were redirected, several times, to different parts of the airport, which meant wading through the crowds. When we finally got through to the line we were supposed to be in, it was miles long—it was obvious we were going to miss our flight. I was missing my friend Don’s experience with handling International flights.

It was at this point that an official-looking woman, an angel really, opened the business class line especially for us and we scooted to the front of the line. Previously, we had changed a transfer. As a result, our tickets required a special sticker, which was only available at a different window. Tink and I grabbed the tickets and ran over to the window, where we were greeted by a man with very little English. Needless to say, our Polish is a little rusty…In the midst of us pantomiming what we needed, a second (English-speaking) angel appeared and explained our situation to the man, and started telling him we needed these things right away…SO HURRY! He was hurrying, but clearly a sense of urgency means something quite different to Polish bureaucrats than it does to you and me (with apologies if you’re a Polish bureaucrat reading this). The woman returned and helped us get our tickets processed quickly at the gates.

It’s funny, because this is normally the kind of thing that would frustrate and infuriate me. Others in the group expressed these emotions. For some reason, I just knew we would make the flight. It was a very calming feeling, transcendent really. I am trying now to keep it close to my heart, for those times when I need it. We boarded the plane and took off for Minsk.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

A Simple Request...

Hello my friends.

I wanted to ask you for two quick prayer requests. My friends Michael (whom a lot of you may know from MEGALOI) and Jamie's baby, Jack, has been sick A LOT this summer. Last week he spiked a 104 fever had had his blood drawn 3 days in a row. Over the weekend they got some good test results and thought he was doing better. Last night, however, his mother, Jamie, took his temp and he's back to 101.8.

Second, my neighbor (also Michael) just had a baby, Baily, and she has been back to the hospital already. They suspect it's a virus, but tests thus far have been inconclusive.

If you could pray for these two children, and their families, I would really appreciate it. A simple prayer for illumination of what's wrong, strength for their families, and healing for the children would be very much appreciated.

James 5:16
Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Ryan's Fish....Two Perspectives

The infamous fish from Warsaw:

And, a different perspective, post-Tink's photoshopping magic (perhaps this explains Ryan's hesitance to eat it):

On the Street: Warsaw

Like most major cities, Warsaw has a host of street performers. I'm not a HUGE fan of the squeeze box, but I have to admit, these guys were VERY good.

This guy was intriguing as well. He stood absolutely still, until you put a couple Zloti into his cup. Then he became an animated robot. Very cool.

Some Additional Warsaw Pics...

Some views from the top of the aforementioned Cultural Palace:

Further proof that Disney rules the world:

I REALLY want one of these:

Memorial to the Warsaw Ghetto Uprising during WWII: