June 27, 2013 (Thurs) – The Answer: “Life Got in the Way”

The Question: “Where the Hell Have I Been?”

Good question. Better answer. Life definitely got in the way. And that’s a good thing. Mostly.

Actually it might be more accurate to say life didn’t just get in the way – it took over my life. Wait, can a life take over a life? OK, the drugs must be talking. Essentially my schedule for the past two weeks has been extremely crazy. Often in a good way, but sometimes not so much. But the latter is typical this time of year. The combination of awesome/not-so-awesome events have teamed up to almost (read: almost) make me forget about my little c-issue. Drug side effects, as usual, kept me from having complete amnesia.

It’s funny, my unclecologist says to avoid stress in my life. Yeah, good luck with that. He obviously has never worked for a non-profit in June. That’s like telling a dog in heat not to..er..well, you get the drift. However, the 3-month stress-fest as a result of trying to come up with a balanced work budget for FY14 has come to a close with the board voting unanimous approval this past Tuesday. But this really IS business as usual this time of year with lots of late nights crunching spreadsheets etc. One stressor down. And that was the big one – the rest is small potatoes. And I certainly do not want to come across as a whiner, especially after you hear the positive side of what has been hogging my hours.

Those of you that are FaceBook buds know that we just came back this last weekend from 3+ days at the Resort at Pelikan Hill, courtesy of the generosity of my brother and his wife. Three days with two of my brothers and 3 wives. No, only one was mine. No polygamy in my family. Three days of golf, wonderful dinners, some Rombauer, some more Rombauer, some electric-boat cruising around Lido and Balboa Islands, and, of course, some more Rombauer. Can’t say we killed off all ten bottles in 3 days, but we did some pretty good damage. Heck, my doc wants me to hydrate well so I am just following doctor’s orders. Absolutely great trip. And my handicap that has been sneaking up might actually be heading south. Slightly. But here are some pics from our trip.  Lifestyles of the rich and famous. Felt a bit out of place. Except for my yellow car there. Right. Business better than usual. 🙂

Pelikan - electric boatPelikan - carsPelikan Hills guysPelikan Hill girls

So lately I’ve been getting even more comments from people about how good I look. Ordinarily (BC) that statement might cause one to have difficulty fitting their head through the doorway. However, I interpret these statements as more of a comparison between what people, especially those that have not seen me in a while, expect I might look like versus my current relatively normal appearance. Maybe that recent James Bondish photo from our fundraiser at work had something to do with it. In any case, I appreciate the compliments. Sure beats “hey, you’re not looking nearly as bad as I thought you would.”

I’ve also been given kudos for my positive attitude. Well, here’s a twist on that. The other morning my wife and I were getting ready for our respective jobs, standing in front of our master bathroom single-sink. OK, how many of you still have a master bathroom with only one sink? And are still married? Well, we’ve survived for almost 34 years as single-sinkers. Sorry, digressed. Essentially I was whining in the mirror a little about how the Tarceva is affecting my hair growth, or lack thereof. So my wife says, “just be glad when you won’t have to take that medicine any more.” I looked at her through the mirror reflection in puzzlement. She saw my look and clarified: “You know, when you’re cured.” Now I looked at her incredulously. What planet was she on when our oncologist told us during our first visit that there was no cure for stage IV lung cancer? But no. This was actually my wife out-positiving her positive husband. She’s the one assuming that a cure will be developed in time to work for me. Gotta love her. And I do. So much so that I won’t even mention the 8 out of 9 ping pong games I took from her recently. Oops.

Speaking of side effects, and I often do as you know, I mentioned before that one of the “benefits” of Tarceva is the stifling of hair growth. All hair. So I’ve been saving on haircuts although this chops into the income of my sister-in-law who cuts my hair. Then again, what I pay her means she is sacrificing what amounts to approximately 2-day’s worth of a Starbucks fix every 8 weeks. Another bene is that I don’t have to trim those obnoxious ear hairs that sprout regularly. Oh, come on. If you are a guy over 50, you know whereof I speak. And I won’t even mention nose hairs. Oops again. Guess I just did.

While I’m on a roll about side effects (this is where most of you will bail out), I really need to beef up my monkey food intake. This lack of potassium is playing havoc with random foot cramps in the middle of the night. I find myself jumping up often to put pressure on my foot until it goes away. Until the next one. Kinda like Whack-a-Mole. You knock one down and another pops up to take its place.

Had a great Father’s Day. In the past I’ve tried to use the “but you’re not my mom” excuse to my wife on Mother’s Day if I hadn’t gotten her a gift. Nope. Didn’t fly. So she was on the hook for Father’s Day. Even-Steven. And she came through: a SkyCaddie GPS golf watch. My son gave me golf for two at Maderas – an awesome course. In reality, he gave it to us since he will be joining me. Can’t wait. And my daughter gave me two very nice pens and a mouse pad all inscribed with my blog sign-off. As Jeff Blatnick, the ’84 Olympic wrestler said after winning gold, “I’m a happy dude!”

And speaking of signing off…

Business as usual. Day at a time.

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June 7, 2013 (Fri) – “Good, you gained weight.”

How many of you have had the pleasure of hearing that statement before? Yeah, thought not.

Yet, when my uncle-cologist walked into our monthly appointment this week, he had a very large grin which caught me off guard. When I asked this guy who deals in what could be a very mentally challenging profession why he was so happy, he said it was because I had gained weight since the last visit a month ago. Essentially a cancer patient losing weight is a bad sign as it could indicate the cancer was taking its toll. Gaining weight, on the other hand, is a very positive sign. I couldn’t bring myself to tell him it was just because I’d been eating like a pig. He was a happy camper; however, my straining belt buckle was not. But overall it was a boring doctor’s appointment. And that’s a good thing. Nothing new, nothing bad, everything on track. Couldn’t ask for more. Well maybe a lower handicap perhaps.

Starting to get some decent use out of my new Vitamix blender. Whipped up what turned out to be the best recipe yet. It starts with some oranges, add a lime or two, a lemon and some ice. And oh yeah, tequila and triple sec. Damn good margaritas. Granted this may not have been the healthiest (or intended) use of this contraption, but hey, my doctor likes that I gained weight and I aim to please. I think I’ll experiment next with a smoothie of whipped up Cheez-its.

Can’t post a blog without chatting about some side effect or other. Heck, I don’t have any cancer symptoms, so what else? Plus there are a few other Tarceva newbies reading this so they should know what they might be in for. So I shall try to describe the effect that the Tarceva has had on my hair/scalp. Of course there are other SE’s but we shall discuss only one at a time. Sounds like a medical lecture, eh? How interesting is that? In any case, here’s the best way to describe this scalp feeling. Grab a handful of your hair. Go ahead. Grab it. OK, I know you aren’t really doing it so I will wait…..ready yet? Now take that handful and pull straight up. Hard. Don’t let go. That should do it. That’s the feeling. Remember tho, this is not a complaint. More of just a clinical discussion.

BTW, I have absolutely nothing to complain about. What are a few zits and rash in the scheme of things? I really do feel very fortunate. That may sound a bit weird under the circumstances but it truly describes my current frame of mind. Heck, I’m probably busier doing more things now than I was BC. And our kitchen remodel is moving forward. So life goes on. Moves on. Moves up.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

June 4, 2013 (Tue) – I forget I have cancer

I know it seems a bit odd. How can someone forget they have cancer? That’s like forgetting what the Kardashians are famous for. OK, maybe not a good example. Paris Hilton? Um, help me out. Other than a Carl’s Jr. commercial, I’m drawing a blank here. How about forgetting your wife’s birthday? Better not happen. But yes, if it weren’t for the constantly evolving (and constantly reminding) side effect menagerie, I would feel and look totally normal. That may or may not be a good thing depending on your point of view. Here’s a recent pic (with my gorgeous wife Kim) from our recent big fund raiser to support that theory:

Big Bang Gala 2

But the constant worry about the results of the tests that were happening weekly is now not the 800 lb gorilla it once was. My next scans are not due until August and I’m not planning on visiting that zoo for a while. So it really is business as usual as far as I’m concerned. Business as usual including a daily anti-cancer pill, antibiotic cream, anti-biotic pill, special shampoo, leg cream, arm cream…yadda yadda. But I’ll take yadda yadda any day over the alternative.

This past weekend I attended the very special and packed celebration of life services for my buddy Dylan (see prior post). You know the kind of impact on people this 10-year-old fireball had when you consider there were 800+ people in attendance. 800. Amazing. And as my farewell tribute, I have one more video of Super Dylan. Here he was practicing for a campfire presentation of a Saturday Night Live skit up at camp. You can see why he was everyone’s favorite. He will be missed.

Back to the side effects that prevent my total cancer amnesia: remember when I said that I had a nasty looking measles-like rash but luckily it didn’t itch? I lied. Or at least I didn’t know I was lying. Mostly gone from my face and arms, as you know it has invaded my legs. And now I find myself constantly reaching down to scratch my ankles. May have to break out the antihistamine again. Ahh, another drug. However, I guess I should be grateful though as drugs are what are keeping the fuzzies at bay. And another side effect that was warned about was the depletion of potassium. So I’ll be vegging in my recliner in front of the TV and my foot would go into a major cramp spasm. The immediate thing that comes to mind is “Craw, not Craw.” My brother might be the only one that gets that unless you were a Get Smart fan. But I find myself having to jump out of the chair to stand on my foot to get it to un-cramp. Speaking of gorillas, I guess I’ll have to up the ante on my banana intake.

So what is it about tar that seems to have healing properties? My main drug: Tarceva. My special shampoo: T (Tar)-Gel. So tar would seem to provide positive benefits to life. I’m not sure the La Brea dinosaurs from a billion gazillion meelion years ago would agree. Sorry, watching too much Austin Powers. You’d think someone that works in a science center would know exactly how long ago that was. But I was told by another cancer survivor to load up on funny movies as laughing provides a healing effect. I absolutely agree. Recommendations for absolute gut-busters?

I find it difficult to describe exactly the prickly feeling that Tarceva causes. And every once in a while it comes over me in a wave that sends goose bumps down my whole body. I would liken it to a hot flash but my wife would nix that comparison with “are you kidding me?” It kinda feels like a garden-full of desert cactus trying to work its way out from the inside. So if anyone knows of a commercial enterprise that a has a vat full of Lucerin cream I can dunk my whole body in, that might do the trick.

In keeping with my not-too-proud-to-pull-the-C Card M.O., my wife and I were playing ping pong the other day. Ping pong is deadly serious at my house and the three of us (including my son) are pretty even in our matches. With one game apiece and my wife leading the 3rd at 19-17, I asked her if she would feel bad beating someone with cancer. Her response: “Hell no.” And she proceeded to finish me off. Love her.

Business as usual. Day at a time.