January 20, 2014 (Mon) – “Ladies and Gentlemen, Step Right up…”

OK, your first thought might be a circus. But I can’t come up with too many similarities between my journey and a circus. Now, an amusement park is a whole different animal. It just hit me the other day that many of the events of the past 11 months have an POPeerie connection to games of chance, rides, booths etc. that you might see at the San Diego County Fair. For those of us who can’t let go, aka The Del Mar Fair. And for those of you who frequented the haunts of LA in the 50’s and 60s: P.O.P. 10 points if you know what that stands for. Give up? Or did you just cheat and Google it or click on the link? That was an amusement park on the Santa Monica pier called Pacific Ocean Park. And 20 points if you know what long running TV show filmed its last climatic episode there. Not gonna tell. Gotta have some suspense, otherwise you might not come back to a future blog for the answer.

So how do I dare to compare a cancer journey to an image of someone hawking an overstuffed prize animal for ringing a coke bottle top? Ooh, hadn’t thought about that one. Might be something there after all.

First and foremost is my comparison of my fight to the game Whac-a-Mole. Although I can’t imagine any of you not knowing what Whackamolethat is, it’s a game where you whack a mole with a mallet who pops his head up randomly in one of several holes. The more heads you whack, the higher the score. So at my last meeting with my radio-doc after he prescribed the radiation on my hip and scrotum, er sacrum, I used this analogy about whamming the cancer wherever and whenever it pops up. My normally friendly but stoic doc actually laughed at my analogy. And when I asked him what the next line of treatment would be if hot spots starting popping up elsewhere, he actually got into the game and said, it all depends on how big the herd, or whatever moles come in, was. For the record, a group of moles is called a “labour.” And if you look closely, you’ll see I substituted my fuzzy heads for the mole heads. The last two fuzzy moles have been whacked directly on the noggin and are hopefully down for the count.

Wheel of chanceAnother similarity might be a wheel of chance. Unlike the Vanna version, this one is not so much fun, no matter what section you land on. But that is how all of the side effects I have experienced have jumped around. Just when you thought you were over one, a couple months later you strike gold and get the benefit of it once more. And there is one on this wheel that is up there twice. Guess why? Uh huh. You’re smarter than you look. But that borders on TMI.

Another one we all remember is the one where the carny says he can guess weightguess your weight. Yeah, well, my docs are all about watching my weight like a hawk. Any slippage is a cause for concern so I have been very diligent about ensuring I keep them happy. More happy than they should. But hey, I aim to please. And I aim to please a bunch during our upcoming trip to Hawaii.

house_of_mirrorsWho remembers getting lost in a house of mirrors as a kid? I remember getting stuck in the one at P.O.P. for over an hour. But this journey has been somewhat like a house of mirrors. When one direction looks like the right choice, you walk right up and slam your nose in the mirror letting you know you made a slight error in judgment. When my hip pain looked like a simple case (if one can have a simple case) of arthritis, it turns out the cancer was having a munchie fest after all. Reminds me of the munchie fests I used to have in college after, er, never mind.

I also remember the shooting gallery where they preload a tube of BB’s into a rifle and you have to shoot out a star image on aStar piece of cardboard. Always looked easy enough since all you had to do was wipe out the star image. So just when you thought you had it nailed and you were due for a 6 foot stuffed bear, the carny would reel in the cardboard target and show you the tiny sliver of red star still showing. Kinda how the fuzzies have persevered. You think you have them nailed but there is always a little bit lingering somewhere. Whack them moles!

And of course, the ultimate and obvious comparison would be the famous roller coaster. From scan to scan, treatment to treatment, roller coaster 2this whole journey has certainly been an up and down ride. Mostly up, although the Chi-town meltdown would be considered a big dip. But now back on the uphill slope, click-clicking my way slowly up the incline. Here’s to the dips being just blips in the track down the road.

I could probably think of a zillion other analogies tying in bumper cars, carousels, bungee jumping, and for those as old as me, the hammer. But I think you’ve been subjected to enough of my blogitations.

And before I leave, I want to thank all of you that responded to my request for coming out of the closet, at least temporarily, so I know who is out there reading my blog. There were way too many of you to thank individually but please know that I read every comment, and appreciate every posting, you all make. Much grass. Oops, slipped back into my college persona…

Business as usual. Day at a time.

January 11, 2014 (Sat) – Red Light. Green Light.

Red Light Green LightI apologize for often digging up memories from the “olden days” to use in constructing my blogs. But for some reason they just keep popping up.

So how many of you remember playing the Red Light – Green Light game as a kid? Or even Mother May I, a similar 50’s-60’s endeavor? I have no idea what games kids play these days unless it involves two thumbs and a disappointing lack of sunshine. Oops, sorry. Got political there for a moment. But being a jock (OK, maybe only in my mind) and with my wife a PE teacher, we tend to come down on the side of outdoor play nation and not Play Station.

So back to the blog title. I had been anxiously waiting to talk to my uncle-doc about resuming some semblance of regular physical activity. More specifically softball and golf. With my over-50 softball league just now kicking off, and with our trip to Maui with lots of golf potential looming, I was growing a bit concerned about both. With the hip and back radiation, there is a residual weakness that could possibly put me at risk under certain situations.Softball

So after consulting with my radio-doc, my onc-doc finally called late Friday to tell me I was red lighted for softball for three months but green lighted for Maui golf. I guess there was a concern about the risk of a collision during a softball game. I tried explaining that our league player

golfer - gifcriteria is “over 50 years of age, play like you are over 50, or have 50% body fat.” Thus the risk of collision is minimal. In fact about the only collision I could envision was the one between the beer can and my lips after the game. The doc wasn’t buying it.

And yet with golf, there is a greater chance of collision, even if you take out my golf cart driving skills (or lack thereof). And that collision would be between my golf club and the grass, approximately 12″ behind the ball. Happens more frequently than I care to admit. But hey, I get to golf in Maui – how much better can it get?

Plus lots of lip collisions with a wine glass on the agenda.

OK, changing gears. Recently a fellow blogger and stage IV lung cancer survivor from Portland contacted me after coming across my blog. Dann Wonser was in town visiting his father-in-law and asked if I wanted to get together. I jumped at the chance since I have never met anyone in person who was facing my same journey and thought it would be great to compare notes. Over a grande coffee-of-the-day at Starbucks, we discovered some very amazing similarities in our journeys. Although he started his battle over 7 years ago, this past year our treatments followed similar paths, from starting Tarceva about the same time to having radiation on hips in late fall. And wouldn’t you know he is currently undergoing a kitchen remodel? But his positive attitude and outlook was what amazed me. And the fact that he has maintained it for over 7 years makes my one-year challenge pale in comparison. He also inserts humor into his blog, which is a compilation of e-mails he sends to family and friends. Check it out: http://dannscancerchronicles.blogspot.com/.

So, no scans in the near future until the radiation aura has faded into the sunset. No hip pain, although I am experiencing some slight tingling down my leg into my foot. But that has been pretty consistent and was probably a side effect of the radiation and possibly some nerves freaking out. But come golf time, I’m sure it will become a horrible, completely numbing affliction. At least when it comes to making bets on the game.

Business as usual. Day at a time.

January 7, 2014 (Tue) – Rocky Horror Picture Time

Rocky-Horror-Picture-ShowProbably doesn’t give you much comfort seeing the word “horror” in the title of a blog about a journey with cancer. Didn’t mean to scare any of you.

However, after “entertaining” you all for almost a year with my blogitations, I am asking you for a favor. This is where the Rocky Horror Show comes in. Not that I would really know since I’ve never been to one of those shin-digs. But audience participation comes into play if I’m not mistaken.

So, according to the stats I can see on the back side, I have viewers scattered all over the world, with the US and Canada being the biggies but also many readers in Europe, Australia, etc. On some days I might get more than 100 visitors/readers to this site. A few of my close friends, and an occasional stranger, will leave a comment on one of my blogs if it strikes a note. And I really love Readersgetting those as it gives me good feedback as to whether my blog is hitting its mark or helping make a difference. I know it makes a difference to me.

Yet the vast majority of you prefer, as I certainly understand, to be anonymous readers. And I hope many of you are repeat readers and are deriving some benefit from my somewhat offbeat humor.

But here’s the favor: for those of you that are not personal acquaintances of mine, or even if you are but I may not be aware you are reading my blog, I’d like you to take 2 minutes and add a comment to this blog.  To maintain your privacy, all I would ask that you enter, is 1) your first name, 2) location (city, state/country) and 3) how you came across my blog. If you want to add anything else, (e.g. why you have a connection to this blog) that would be great, but I’d love to know how my blog was discovered and put at least a first name to some of my readers. After this one time, there is no need to comment in the future unless you’d like to.  But I thought it would be interesting to see where my readers come from and how they stumbled across this blog.

Thank you for humoring me. And humor/laughter is the best medicine as you know from my last blog. So in the left column, just under the word comments, click on the link and add one. Do it now. 🙂 Thanks!

Business as usual. Day at a time.

January 4, 2014 (Sat) – “I Thought You Were Dead”

The phrase above was said to me by an acquaintance at a party a couple months ago.

Cruel! Heartless! Clueless! Ludicrous! How many more synonyms can you think of that came to mind when you read this?aghast Perhaps a few 4-letter versions? Yet, considering the source (not to be named), I was totally not offended, and believe it or not, actually laughed out loud. Of course you have to know the person delivering this line (not too many could get away with it) and you have to have been there to see how it was delivered. In other circumstances this might well have been fighting words. Well, considering I’m not prone to fisticuffs (I’ve always wanted to use that word), just walking away might have been appropriate. But we both had a good laugh, and as you know, laughter is the best medicine. (I hope the Reader’s Digest people don’t come after me for hijacking that phrase).

Gallows humorSo, gallows humor. When is it appropriate? When is it not? Is it ever appropriate when you are talking to someone with a life-threatening illness? I know many of you would look aghast at such a thought. But I look at it in a whole different light.

One of the main reasons I opted to write this blog originally was to be very open so that when approached by someone, I don’t have to deal with the “how are you doing” question not knowing if they are aware or not. At the beginning it was a bit awkward when someone asked that question who hadn’t heard and I wasn’t sure how to answer. Now I rarely run into friends who are not aware.

And another part of being open is hoping that people will feel comfortable enough to ask questions, and yes, even joke. And when someone feels at ease enough to make that joke a cancer jokelittle off color, I actually appreciate it because that means they have totally gotten past that feeling of awkwardness in discussing the subject. Now don’t get me wrong, I am not encouraging wholesale mocking at my expense. But there is a time and a place for a well placed zinger. In fact, if you have been masochistic enough to follow this whole blog series, you’ll know that my wife and I will occasionally banter in an off-color way. Remember she told our kitchen contractor, when he asked us what our timing was on the remodel: “it depends on long he lives.” Recently we joked about the fact that I have a 15-year term life insurance policy that expires in 4 years, and if I was still around when there was only one month left, she should consider her options

Radiation CertificateAnd this past week after I finished my last zapping treatment and received my 2nd “graduation certificate,” I stated that it had better be the last one I acquired. Without hesitation, she quipped “Well, at least it’s not a death certificate.” Love that woman. 🙂

As for the latest update, I’m doing quite well. Virtually no hip pain at this time. The fuzzies must be fried. This week I am awaiting a green light from my onc-doc to resume regular physical activities such as softball and golf. OK, our brand of softball can’t really be considered physical activity, unless of course you’re talking about the elbow exercise after the game is over. And golf? More of an exercise in language control. Especially the way I play. But I gotta get back into the swing for our upcoming trip to Maui.

I’m guessing, at least until I talk with the doc, that no scans will be forthcoming in the near future because the recent radiation treatments would cause my whole body to light up. Guess I’ll live with just being radiant for a while.

OK, 2014 starting off pretty darn good.

Business as usual. Day at a time.