October 24, 2013 (Thurs) – I’m a Degenerate Hippie

HippieAny questions? If these aren’t pictures of a degenerate hippie, I don’t know what are. The first circa 1971, the second, 2010. Some things never change, eh? Hey, what do you expect for someone who went to UC Santa Barbara a year after they burned the bank down in Isla Vista?

So, as per usual, I obfuscate (gotta love that word) the actual theme of today’s blog by sending you down a confusing path. Yet, this one is really pretty straight forward if you think about it.

A couple weeks ago at my monthly meet-and-greet with my onc-doc, I mentioned that I was experiencing some random days with significant hip pain. Kinda like my mind, it comes, and it goes. Some days, I didn’t notice a thing; other times I could barely walk. Those of you that played B-ball with me in Ottawa at the GSCA conference know that on that particular day, it was the former. How else could our team have kicked butt…oops. Sorry, my competitive juices got the better of me. Plus my memory might be a bit rusty, like everything else. But please don’t ask my wife about any other rusting parts. Wow, I am all over the map. Must be the hydrocodone-acetaminophen talking that the onc-doc prescribed for the off-days.

In order to determine where the pain might be coming from, he sent me down for a set of x-rays. Good news: apparently it has nothing to do with cancer having a calcium munchie fest on my hip. Instead he said that the films showed, wait for it…., degenerative hips, aka arthritis. That seemed to be a bit of a coincidence since it just started up all of a sudden. So my wife wakes up in the middle of the night not being able to sleep and Googles Zometa, the once-a-month bone strengthening infusion drug I get. Guess what side effect popped up in several of the websites she found? Gee, whaddayaknow, hip pain. Hmmm. Doc still says it’s arthritis. Gotta wonder.

geezer sign

I thought only geezers got arthritis. Oops again, forgot that I are one now having passed the magical six-oh milestone.

Considering the ying-yang options, I’ll take the ying, thank you very much. Yang? Not so much. You know what? I’ll take anything that comes my way if it just means that I’m getting old. Because that means I’m getting old. 🙂 Which is my goal.

Next set of scans coming up at the end of November. Another MRI of the noggin. Many more of those and I really am going to turn into a chick magnet. Oh, that was bad. But I’m also scheduled for another 50-times-as-much-radiation-as-an-x-ray PET scan again. Break out the Geiger counters. I guess the risk of radiating my body again is less than the risk of missing something coming back that the PET scan would catch. Everything is a trade off. But let’s not jump ahead here. That is still a month off and I can feel a couple blogitations coming up before I put out the cutesy calendar reminder.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

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October 8, 2013 (Tues) – Dump Dumbo

OK, who would want to be so cruel to such a cute Disney character? Dump Dumbo? C’mon!

Dumbo

I guess I could just have easily said mash the mastodon. Or pummel the pachyderm. But Dump Dumbo had much better alliteration and probably got your attention quicker.

So why would anyone in their right mind advocate harming one of our Zoo’s biggest attractions? Stay tuned.

Lies, damned lies, and statistics. This is a quote often attributed to Mark Twain. Essentially this refers to the misuse of statistics to prove a weak point. Statistics can be useful, or useless, depending on the data being measured or supported/debunked. Heck, 88% of all statistics are stupid or meaningless. Oops.

Statistics

Even though I loved math in high school, I despised the statistics class I had my freshman year of college. I can’t say I’m any more a fan of odds crunching these days either. Unless, of course, I’m at the sports book at the Belagio. But ever since my initial diagnosis almost 8 months ago (yes, hard to believe it was way back on lucky February 13th), I have avoided cancer statistics like the plague. Or I guess I should say like stage 4 lung cancer. Of course, at the very beginning I had to satisfy my thirst for learning everything I could about this affliction. And there was no way to avoid reading up on mortality rates of those in my fuzzy shoes. But after a few web surfing episodes and almost drowning in the waves, I figured that reading such junk was only going to hinder my healing.

When I first met my uncle-doc (gotta go way back to get that one), I naively asked him what stage of cancer I was. Like I should have known better, he said that, of course, I was stage 4. I guess he forgot that newbies like me had no clue at the time what the stages were, only that the higher the number, the worser it was. (I love to butcher grammar now and then). I never did ask him the proverbial “what are my chances” question. Didn’t really want that answer.

So here is where Dumbo comes in. I have never talked about statistics on this blog. Never thought there was a reason to. But I know, if you are anything like me, that what my outlook is for the future is always lurking in the back of the brain. The tumor-free brain at last check. You know you’ve Googled it, just like me. So this is kinda the elephant in the room, er, blog. So thus my wacky pachyderm.

This will be the one and only time I bring this topic to bear. Because it is a bear. OK, now I’m mixing up my animals. But I do this because I want it out in the open where it can then be buried once and for all. So here we go:

The fact that I am typing this blog means I have almost already beat the first statistic: of those diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer, half don’t survive more than 8 months after diagnosis. Nanny-nanny. Gonna clobber that one. And odds (damn statistics again) say that I have less than a 10% chance of being around in 5 years. Sorry, gonna also skew that curve big time. Always figured hitting the top 10% was not a big deal. My wife reminds me that these statistics are bogus since they take everyone with this disease into the equation, no matter what age, whether they are a smoker or non-smoker, or have other health issues etc. So the fact that I am a reasonably healthy not-too-ancient non-smoker works in my favor. Plus the stats are always 3 years or so behind the times. And testing positive for the EGFR marker means that there may will be a new designer drug available in the future, similar to the Tarceva that is currently and miraculously holding things at bay.

So help me dump these numbers, never to see the light of day again. Kinda like the vision I learned once about opening up your head to expose your brain, turning on the bath faucet, and washing out all of the dark, gnarly junk. Stats are truly dark junk, and as far as I’m concerned, do not apply to me. Never will.

Dump Stats

Buh-bye.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

October 1, 2013 (Tues) – One of the most inspirational guys I never met

We all have our heroes.

hero

For some of us it might be a sports star. Or, heaven forbid, a movie star. Unless, of course, it’s Jimmy Stewart.

Jimmy Stewart

No, I’m talking about other real life heroes that make a difference. My Rotary club selects several heroes once a year that have come to the aid of someone in need. Those truly are heroes in that they often put their own safety at risk in helping others.

But still, I’m talking a different breed of animal here. Someone who is a hero day in and day out. Mike Stevens was such an individual. Yet, I never met him. Sounds kinda strange I guess.

Mike Stevens, like me, was a stage 4 lung cancer survivor. I will not use the word victim as Mike was far from a victim. Given two months to live when he was diagnosed in 2005, Mike fought the battle for over 8 years beating every obstacle thrown at him. This past spring he somehow came across my blog and offered very encouraging words. This from a guy who was going through some major challenges. I traded e-mails with him several times with the intent of getting together. Unfortunately that never happened. In his last e-mail to me in May, he said: “My doctor did not have a very good outlook but my favorite thing to do is to keep proving the doctors wrong and I will once again do that.” Now that is an attitude I can aspire to. Check back with me in 8 years. 🙂

Mike-Stevens

We lost Mike last week. As Dylan was my 11-year-old inspiration from camp, Mike is my inspiration on a different front. Not only did he fight the valiant fight against cancer, he worked tirelessly on behalf of all lung cancer victims in drawing attention to this very misunderstood disease. Without knowing anyone personally that suffered from this disease before my own diagnosis, I, like many of you I’m sure, associated lung cancer with smoking. It’s a common misconception which not only pervades public opinion, but is also reflected in the lack of funding for lung cancer research even though lung cancer kills 3x more people every year than any other single cancer. That was one of the things Mike fought for and he made significant inroads in that effort. Although I never met him, he will be missed. Here is a recent story done on him. And if you Google him like I did, you’ll find all sorts of ways in which he made a difference.

This is not a political blog. My intent is to draw attention to a person who made a significant difference in the face of overwhelming odds and personal challenges. So if you wonder where I sometimes get my strength and inspiration, you need look no further than Dylan and Mike. Between the two of them, and my family and friends, I’ve got plenty of inspiration to last a lifetime. And I plan on that being a very long time.

Business as usual. Day at a time.