September 21, 2014 (Sun) – Life in the Slow Lane

Slow laneWhat fun is that? Life in the slow lane? Aren’t I supposed to be rapidly checking off items on my bucket list? That would usually mean traveling in the fast lane. Then again, you have to have a bucket list in order to cross things off. And I don’t. Nor do I have a frog list. You know, things you want to do before you croak. Or a haunted list – things you do before you give up the ghost. OK, I just made that one up. But you get the jist.

Why the heck don’t I have one of the aforementioned gotta-do’s? Doesn’t everyone, especially those in skydive graphicmy situation, have a dozen or more items that they want to accomplish before the inevitable? Visit every National League stadium? Drive a race car on a Le Mans track? Sky dive?

For some reason, and I can’t really explain why, I have none of those urges. Or anything else that I consider necessary for a fulfilled life. Heck, if I had a list and completed it, then what? I guess you could say I do have bucket-lista bucket list consisting of one solitary item: living until I’m 90. That doesn’t mean I don’t plan on having all the fun I can in the meantime. A lot of people might have traveling to Hawaii on their list. Heck, we’ve done that multiple times. I’ve traveled to Europe twice. Several trips to Canada. A Caribbean cruise. Married my perfect match. Two wonderful kids. I guess I’ve probably checked off a bunch of things on other people’s lists.

Other than the aforementioned (very) high points, I prefer day-to-day simple pleasures rather than planning for some bungee jumping expedition off the Golden Gate Bridge. Golf, softball with my son, dinner with Duffy boatfriends (with, of course, Rombauer), my Rotary involvement, Duffy Boat cruises in Newport Harbor with my family, even watching Groundhog Day for the 20th time. These are the things that make my life very enjoyable. And the types of things I look forward to.

OK, guess I was continuing my philo-babble from the last blog. Time to switch gears.

A guy I know from the Old Pros club I belong to came across my blog a while back. A week and a half ago he invited me to his company, Epic Sciences, to chat with what I thought was to be a half dozen or so of his lab staff. His company is working on developing blood tests that could eventually replace invasive procedures like biopsies to detect types of cancer or cancer mutations. That would be a wonderful technological breakthrough in this biz. In any case he thought it would be epic_sciencesgood to have his staff meet someone on the other end – someone who was a beneficiary of the type of work they are doing. Little did I know he had invited his whole company for this one-hour informal chat. I joked with them that our little get-together was probably a $10,000 meeting. I was sitting at a belly up table with my buddy who threw softball questions at me in front of 65 people. An amazing experience. I got as much or more out of it than they did as I now got to see the type of people behind the research and genetic breakthroughs that have kept me alive with designer cancer drugs.

This past week I discovered that my blog has just passed the 50,000 “views” threshold. Wow. As Sally Fields said, “You like me. You really like me.” Actually I think it’s one person (my wife?) clicking on my blog 50,000 times to humor me. But it shows you must appreciate some off-beat, and sometimes sick, jocularity. Yeah, just my type. 🙂Shaving bloodElectric razor

Still trying to get used to shaving with an electric razor. Had to give up the blade as slicing and dicing was probably a bit too much of a risk now with the thinner blood coursing through my veins. OK, maybe not of all of them.

Still dealing with a fat foot as I guess it will take a long time for the clots to dissolve away. Small stuff. Actually got to play golf yesterday at an awesome course. Held up quite well. Surprisingly had 4 pars and a birdie on the back nine. You’ll notice I’m not mentioning the front half of my escapades. But once more: a simple pleasure. And with family. Doesn’t get much better.

Scottish fightersAnd finally, my daughter brought me a present back from Scotland where she went on her honeymoon. It was a set of 5 small Scottish Highlander warrior figurines. Still didn’t get it until she told me that these fighters have a motto of Bydand, meaning steadfast, loyal, enduring and courageous. Very cool. I’m going to place them all over the place where I will see them daily.

Who needs a bucket list?

Business as usual. Day at a time.

September 11, 2014 (Thur) – Phil it to the Brim

groundhogNo, I have not suddenly become challenged in the spelling arena. And I am not referring to philling up any more lung-suck bottles. Nor am I referencing my buddy Punxsutawney Phil, the star of one of my favorite movies, Groundhog Day. I definitely had to Google the spelling on that Pennsylvania town.

A good friend of ours challenged me to explain my switch in philosophy as it relates to the “glass-half-full” attitude change. But before I go all Dr. Phil on you, I owe you an update on the last couple of weeks.

So, where have I been? Like one of my blog posts of yesteryear (whatever that means), life just got in the Hang fanway. And that is a good thing. Business as usual, remember? Work, plumbing repairs, softball games (as a cheerleader), volunteering, hanging a new ceiling fan, stabbing myself twice a day, Rotary meetings, yadda yadda. Especially yadda yadda. Most of this was much to my wife’s chagrin. And she was not grinning, trust me on that. So sitting down for 20 hours to write this blog just didn’t make the cut. What? You think I whipped out these gems in an hour or two? OK, yeah. Maybe 3 hours. But 20 sounds a lot better. Bottom line though is that other than a fat leg and foot from the blood clots, I am doing very well. The A-Team appears to be kicking butt.

plumber_pipeHad one more tiny glitch however. Since I am the first one in this trial here, they are learning as bit as they go as to the idiosyncrasies that Astra Zeneca (the A-team maker) require. Since I originally had some brain mets in the early going, they apparently need a brain MRI every time I do a follow-up CT scan. So I had to interrupt my incredibly enjoyable pipe repair work outside in the mud on a Saturday to go in for that MRI. Probably a toss up as to what was more enjoyable. But now they have all of the tests they need and I know exactly what will be required every 6 weeks from here on out. Considering I had the other MRI (that they didn’t know I needed) only a month or so ago, and it came back clean, I am not even calling to get the results of this one. How’s that for glass-half-full, eh?

Although my business trip to Toronto this month was nixed, I am green-lit for our planned trip to our friend’s lake-view home in October, just outside of Boston. Because of my leg clots, I gotta score me a bulkhead seat though to give my legs some room and then be sure I walk the aisles a lot. I understand Southwest has a “blue sleeve” pre-boarding pass you can get for situations like this. The problem is that I look perfectly normal and people have taken advantage of this policy so I’m bound to piss some people Compression stockingsoff as I walk past them. Them’s the breaks. Still awaiting approval, believe it or not, for insurance to agree to cover the cost of some very stylish custom compression stockings. Somehow they are considered “durable medical supplies” so it has to go through the process. Just a glitch.

gooeyOK, on to the more ooey gooey stuff.

Before my diagnosis a year and a half ago, I really was a glass-half-empty guy. Always looking at what could go wrong in a given situation. Allowing the negative side of any circumstance outweigh the positive. I’m honestly not sure pollyanna2where that perspective originated but I do know it has been part of my makeup as far back as I can remember. I was the pessimist and my wife the Pollyanna optimist. Not sure how my wife saw around that and agreed to marry me unless she thought she could change my outlook.

So what’s different now? Well, for one thing, I have cancer. Duh. So things are lot more black and white than before. Previously I could have reacted to different situations in a lot of different ways. But suddenly, as I’ve said before, I now see only two options. I can crawl into a ball, withdraw, and let things take their course. While I wpathsould still have been on the same treatment regimen I am now, I would not have had the healing power of the positive thoughts and prayers that I have received from everyone because I would have tuned everyone out. Or I can take the other road (previously less traveled by me) and head down the path that I have chosen to take for the past 19 months. But who’s counting? As Lincoln said, and a friend reminded me, “folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” So while I may not be jumping up and down with enthusiasm about having to give myself a stomach injection twice a day, it’s just something I do now, like brushing my teeth and flossing. Yes, I floss. I plan on outliving my teeth so I want them to last at least another 25 years. It’s just a new normal.

But what’s funny, if you can call it that, is that I don’t think I’m a glass-half-full guy now. That may seem a weird conclusion considering the relatively positive tone of most of my blogs. I just know that this is the path I’ve opted to take and I do not plan on diverging from that course.

bad luckI never have pulled the “why me” attitude, although I suppose I could have. Heck, I’m a good guy overall. I have never smoked (not counting those funny things back in college mumble mumble years ago). So I consider this whole episode just (bad) luck of the draw. And while I continue to ignore statistics, I do know the facts. I have cancer and there is no way around that.

Am I scared? Hell yes. Does this feel like a nightmare that I hope to wake up from? At the beginning it did, but I quickly accepted my situation and I do not dwell on that. A fellow cancer blogger (Ruth Rainwater) recently addressed the opinionCourages and comments from people about how we can be considered heroic or courageous with the attitudes we portray in our blogs. As she said, we are people with cancer, going about our daily lives as normally as possible. Is that courageous? Nah. Is it heroic? Double nah. Save those descriptors for those that lost their lives 13 years ago today. I will grudgingly accept inspirational, although even that adjective can be hard to swallow, since I’m just a guy with cancer who chats about it. I am very pleased, however, that some people are entertained and informed by my blog. I know how hard it was for me initially and reading the blogs others in my (currently fat) shoes really helped understand the journey.

Speaking of people reading my blog, a fellow C-traveler from Portland who I met because of my blog, is trying to get into the same trial I’m in at UCSD. Dann Wonser found out about the trial here through me and so I am very glad about how this blog is helping in situations like that. He is coming in at the tail end of the trial opening and still needs to qualify but we are all hopeful he gets in. So, since I’m in a pretty stable situation right now, please send your positive thoughts and prayers his way. Click on his name and leave him a comment on his blog. He is on a real roller coaster ride right now and could use everyone’s positive vibes.

Monday is my regular follow-up with my lung-onc at Moores. I’ll be getting a new batch of A-Team poppers and, of course, an EKG and blood draw. And then another blood draw that day at my regular medical provider, of course. 🙂 Small stuff.

Business as usual. Day at a time.