Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Tuesday, November 8th: Dig Deep

Here I am, in the wee hours of the morning in  the Queen City and it's been awhile since I've posted.  I am still surprised at the amount of traffic this website gets, even though I'm past the "heartbreak stage" of treatment (with the heightened level of interest from friends, family, and others) and am fumbling through life in Remission.  I'm encouraged to still get emails or blog comments from strangers who appreciate my story.  I can only hope that my heartfelt ramblings over the past several years will give comfort to someone who is going through treatment or watching someone close to them go through the process.

All is going well for us, here in Cincinnati as my remission continues and my health seems to be holding up.  Elaina is beautiful and fun, as  she passes her 19th month of life, and Amanda continues to be the awesome life partner she always has been.  The Doctors said the first two years after my treatment ended would be the diciest, and now that those two years are up the anxiety you get from each minor ache and pain (and the associated "O sh*t, is it back?) slowly begins to fade.  But you fellow cancer patients know the fear never really goes away, does it?

This entry is a shameless plug for your cash - lots of it - to raise money for a great cause.   I won't go into too much detail, as all the nitty gritty can be found on the  website link here.   You really should donate.  Seriously.   I'm calling on all of your ethical, spiritual, religious, or mother-supplied guilt to get out the credit card and donate.    After all, it's only cash isn't it?  We're doing a 109 mile bike ride in Arizona in a couple of  weeks in honor of a young lady who, seemingly, was telling cancer to suck it the same time as I, but in the end the cancer bastard took her.

This past weekend was our scheduled long training ride of 80+ miles, and I wasn't able to go with my teammates on Saturday and went by myself on Sunday afternoon.  Milford, Ohio to Spring Valley, Ohio and back on the Little Miami Bike Trail.  88 miles on a crisp, Sunny Sunday afternoon.  Just shy of 5 hours of saddle time lets you think about the big picture.  I did a lot of thinking about life, how blessed I am, and how many other people in my life have fought, lost, and/or won against cancer.  I decided I wasn't going to ride just in honor of Jenna Laumer, but also the many others who have directly (or indirectly) fought the same battle as I....

  • I ride in memory of my grandfather whom I never knew, Steve Baker, who from what I understand wasn't exactly the "Ward Cleaver" everyone expected of a 1950's father, but made amends later in his life before he lost his battle with melanoma.
  • I ride in memory of my grandmother, Fran Willis, who lost her 10 year battle with various types of Breast Cancer over a decade ago.  Is there such a thing as a Western version of a Steel Magnolia?   She was it.
  • I ride in honor of my cousin, Mike Baker.    Mikey was 19 when he got the same cancer I had, and if you think my situation was dire - he was, literally, up sh*t creek without a paddle.   Guess what?  This tough son-of-a-bitch fought back and beat it.   Watching him live his life post-cancer, and our subsequent talks, is an inspiration for me.  
  • I ride in honor of my mom, Linda Baker, who has fought off CLL/SLL for many years through willpower, prayer, and a third-world country feeding quantity of carrot juice.  She's orange, seriously.   She never let on to me the anguish that a parent must feel when watching a child go through cancer.  Cheers Mom, I love you.
  • I ride in honor of Daria, a Canadian woman with cancer who reached out to me via the blogosphere when CCSI went online.    I followed her struggle electronically, and was saddened that she lost her battle earlier this year.   Her blog is here
  • I ride in honor of Rachel, a young mother with cancer from the Buckeye State who, like Daria, reached out to my blog.   She is in the fight of her life as we speak.  I cannot imagine the anguish she is going through with the thought of leaving children behind.   She could use your kind words.  Her story is here. 
  • I ride in honor (or memory, I don't know the results) of the young mother who would show up for chemo treatments with her infant daughter, and sit in her treatment room alone. 
  • I ride in honor of all the medical staff who showed me kindness and caring - in Vail, Denver, and Boston.   For all you people who bitch and moan about doctors getting a lot of cash, shut the hell up.  They are worth every penny.  I especially want to give props to Dr. Hinshaw, Julie, Lucy, Emily, and all the other folks at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center in Denver.  You are my angels.
  • I ride in honor of all of you who sent me a card, email, facebook post, phone call, funny gift to lift my spirits.  It was all amazing.
  • I ride for all who went to your church, synagogue, mosque, temple, meeting house, stake, parish, ward, or cathedral to light a candle, spin a disk, or say a prayer.   You all know I'm a member of the United Methodist Church and don't necessarily subscribe to all of those actions, but the kindness and care that it meant for you to dedicate your religious observance to me touched my heart.

One final plug - give money, lots of it.  Team Jenna and the bike ride is a damn good cause.  On Saturday the 19th - be thinking of us as we spin through 100+ miles of desert with a few thousand of our cyclist friends.  One small step towards eradication of this horrific family of disease.

Carpe diem.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Monday, July 18th: The 6 month finger crossing expedition

No pictures.

No fancy riddles or rhymes.

Just the 6 month finger crossing ritual.

It started last week with a tasty mochaccino barium shake, and a whole hell of a lot of radiation as I slid back and forth in the various 7-figure imagery machines.

And it was capped off by a big smile this afternoon from Dr. Chua, my oncologist in Cincy (who is a cool lady).

All good. Cancer still sucking it.

For those of you who follow my blog and are struggling - solidarity to you. I'm taking advantage of my "second half" in your honor. I won't let you down. This I promise.

Off to Denver next month for a visit to my bone doc, my original oncologist, and the cool chemo nurses at Rocky Mountain Cancer Center on East 18th. I suspect there will be a visit to Lodo and a bit of hiking, also.

Daughter is beautiful and fun. Wife is awesome, as always.

Carpe diem.


p.s. OK, one picture:

Friday, May 20, 2011

Friday, May 20th: Diagnosis Day

May 20, 2009 - May 20, 2011

2 years

24 months

730 days

May 20th is this Bill Baker's 'diagnosis day' - a day that all cancer patients face. For many, this is the beginning of a death sentence, the point at which they begin a long battle towards their ending. For the rest of us it is the beginning of a changed life - a 'born again' experience (to paraphrase the teachings I learned in the holy roller churches I grew up in) that changes your entire being, your outlook, your relationships with others, and your views of the world around you.

There are thousands of cancer variations - most of which have no relation to each other than sharing a general category of similar "bat shit crazy" cellular activity. But the one common thread between all cancer is the reaction in your soul once those words of "you have cancer" pass through your eardrums.

As many of you have read from this blog - I passed out when Dr. Philippon said it. After I woke up to an offer of a beer from my doctor (yes, he did offer me a brew - that good French Canadian!) I put on a brave face the rest of the day. I held it together until my friend Steve called and I saw his number and just couldn't pick it up. He left me a touching voicemail later that night after hearing the news - cancer had affected his family in significant ways and he shared encouraging words for the beginning of this new journey. It was over - I completely lost it in that hotel room in Vail. You see people who go through emotional triumphs of joy or experience the ultimate despair and how they leave their emotions "on the table" after that cry. I've been there and it was what I consider to be the darkest moment of my life.

If you've been diagnosed with cancer you know exactly what I mean. Prior to your return towards Cure, Diagnosis Day is a reminder of your mortality and vulnerability. No matter how "fit" you are, how good you treated your body, how few petrochemicals you bathed in, or how few trips to processed fast food joints you took - sometimes you just get a good swift kick in the nuts. It lets you know that you are not in control. Those of us in the faith-based end of things look at this as a way of God telling you that you're just borrowing some time on this Earth - and that's the truth. Those who are more in the atheist/agnostic end of things just say "serendipity" (or whatever the phrase is) and chalk it up to the DNA lottery.

Maybe it's the first, or the second - it doesn't matter to me, but what I do know is that it changes you forever. Those who don't want to hear about 'when I was sick' stories I'm sure get a bit annoyed - but frankly, I don't care. My good friend and fellow survivor Eric told me once "Baker - it's a battle medal that no one can understand except another survivor." He's 100% correct.

It's been 2 years since that day in Vail. 2009 sucked, royally. Cancer diagnosis, treatment, challenging business environment, and a pregnancy in process during all of it put the emotional full court press on me and my family. I feel blessed that my faith, family, and friends are the reasons we came through it. Oh yeah, I would be remiss if I didn't credit the $400,000 in treatment costs that the Rocky Mountain Health Plan absorbed.

Also, Doctor Hinshaw and her PA Julie get BIG props. Also the chemo nurses of Lucy, Emily, Rose, Karen, and the rest of the gals at the Rocky Mountain Cancer Center should get big props. If you're sick, and in Denver - go see them. East 18th avenue is the place to be.

2010 and 2011 have been, by all accounts, kick *ss years for me.

Most importantly, I'm still here. That statement alone is worth a lot of points in the 'win' column. Yes, I am keeping score, because 14 months ago I was fresh out of the battle of a lifetime and wasn't sure how the future looked. Statistically speaking, my oncologist said I had a 50/50 chance that this may come back within 5 years, with the first two years being especially tricky. Now that I've got the first two down, I am feeling a bit more at ease with each passing sunrise.

But that's the thing, as all of you who have had (or do have) cancer know - you're never fully at ease, ever. And it will never change no matter how long you live - you're always looking over your shoulder and asking yourself the question "is that ache cancer?", or "does this sniffle mean it's back?" It's the price of cancer success.

My greatest moment so far has been the birth of our daughter, Elaina. She's beautiful, pretty happy, and (thankfully) looking more like her Mom every day. Thanks to the miracles of modern medicine, we're able to be parents. It's awesome, and I look forward to every day coming home from work seeing her drool-laden smile and hearing "da da" or some other baby babble. This past January we went back out to Colorado for some skiing and for a checkup with my Denver docs. Last summer I caught some grief from the medical staff at the cancer center when I didn't bring Elaina and Amanda with me - so this time I brought my girls. It was great to see their reactions, especially since so much of their professional careers are spent with persons who are dying. They have even said that seeing the gift of life for me and knowing that my daughter has a father was a real joy for them. Give your local oncology doctor or nurse a hug - 1/3 of you will need them in your lifetime.

Here are some photos (L-R) of Julie, Dr. Hinshaw, and Lucy - three women who were instrumental in why I'm still here.

2 years down, hopefully 61 more to go (until I hit 100). How will I celebrate my Diagnosis Day? A lot of introspection, probably a loss of focus at work for a bit, and most importantly time with family.

Sounds good enough for me. I'm just glad to be here.

Carpe diem.


Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Wednesday, September 8: Open your wallet.

I know it's been a while, as I've got a lot to say. But for now, look at this video and think seriously about supporting this cause. Not for me, but for you, your family, your friends, and your children.

CCSI will be back in the next couple of weeks - the summer has been awesome and I am truly blessed. More to come.