Saturday, October 17, 2009

Friday, October 16th: Mr Clean Hath Arrived

I am a cancer survivor.

I got the results of my post-chemo PetScan, and it was all smiles from my oncologist, Dr. Ioana Hinshaw. Based on the report, all evidence of increased metabolic activity and malignancy is gone from my body. In a nutshell, I'm as clean as the Bald guy peddling household products from P&G, and with much less muscle tone, actually resemble him. I've earned the right to wear the yellow wrist band, but probably won't (too cliche, although Lance Armstrong's organization rocks).

I start my 3-month checkup cycle with Dr. H and go back to see her in mid-January. Thankfully, the little metal port under my chest gets removed next week - so no more wierd itchy third nipple that shows through my shirts. Don't get me wrong, having an artificial third nipple isn't all that bad, but the removal of this device is another signal to cancer that I kicked its' ass. If only it was a status symbol - then I'd keep it.

All isn't done with my treatments, as I started radiation on Thursday. Why do this, you ask? It's a precautionary measure to eliminate any microscopic cell clusters in my pelvic bones that may still be active. In a nutshell, they're nuking the sh*t out of the area to get the little purple invader out of there.

The way it works is that every day during the work week (3:15 pm ) I get to go to the cancer center at Pres/St Lukes and sit under a large star trek looking machine with my pants off (sorry about the imagery), my package pulled aside(via towel) by the friendly (and funny) technicians, and get a dose of radiation for 5-6 seconds 1000 times more powerful than an X-ray on the tumor site in my hip. The area of the 'beam' is about as big as your hand - they are bathing the acetabulum (hip joint) and part of the pubic bone (don't laugh) where the tumor used to be with 'golden rays of sunshine' (a.k.a. radiation). I'll have a total of 25 treatments. It's amazing how precise and accurate they are -there are some cool Star Trek lasers off the wall that line up with the tattoos on my hips, and then they 'click click click' for about 5 seconds and- voila! - back to the office!

I'm being told that at treatment 15 or so I'll get to have a little sunburn on the site. That's OK, as long as the little sumbitches are nuked right out of there. Nothing that a little aloe and talcum powder can't cure. My Radiation Oncologist, Dr. Daniel Chin, tells me that I've got a 10% chance that I might get another tumor in 15-20 years at the treatment site - I'll take that risk. After all, I only had a bit over 50% chance I was going to beat this, so 10% is nothing. The hope is that as I get re-activated with my cycling I'll be able to sense if something goes wrong early enough in the future to catch it.

The machine they put me under looks like this picture above - but the room isn't all tricked out this way with the man-cave wood paneling and beautiful sky ceiling. They did take out a couple of the 2x4 ceiling panels at the Cancer Center, and replaced them with some sky pics with fighter jets flying by. I'm not sure about the military theme - maybe its a subliminal way to tell your body thay they are nuking the sh*t out of you, just like these jets could launch a small radioactive device and wipe out some middle eastern village.

But I really have no control, so I'll just take every extra day I can take and live it to the max - risk of cancer recurrence be damned. I've got too much life to live to worry about this.

Carpe diem.

p.s. Happy Birthday Mom!

Monday, October 12, 2009

Monday, October 12th: Should you really give a rat's ass about 2012?

You've seen it in the movie theater previews, and you've read about it through the freakazoid paranoid psychotics on the internet - December of 2012 is when the Mayans say the world is going to end - Doomsday, Baby


This has a strange similarity to Hale-Bopp(remember the Nike shoes?), Y2K, Obama's election, Dubya's election, Oral Roberts' "Jesus will take me home" fundraising campaign....- you get the drift. It seems that the Human species is always figuring out ways to freak itself out over the 'imminent end' of the planet, despite the fact that we've either been here for
1) a couple million years+/- (evolutionist camp)
2) 7,000 years+/- (creationist camp)

Either way, it seems a bit silly that we're freaking out about something that's a couple of years away, when we could be living our lives to the fullest, now - doesn't it? Don't get me wrong, I know it's important to get all lathered up over the future, our country, world, etc - but people, let me tell you something important - now, listen....ready?

It doesn't matter.

I had a great conversation the other night with my good friend Eric who just successfully kicked cancer's ass - for the second time. We were talking about this subject, and how everyone gets wrapped up in the minutia of life & politics. He summed it up in one sentence "Bill, none of this shit really matters." I've thought about what he said - and he's right.

The beautiful thing about having a life-threatening illness is the perspective that it brings. As I've sat in countless bland doctor's offices, been laying half-naked in a hospital gowns inside large machines making strange noises I've been able to mull over the details of life, the people and relationships in my life, and for the first time really 'observe' what is going on around my world - both in the present and recollections of the past.

I know that I've occasionally taken the sarcastic approach in this blog and called people 'douchebags' and ranted a bit, but you know what I've discovered through all of this? I've discovered that many people are focused too much on power, position, money, and being 'important'. I think about folks I encounter in my life now and in the past and it's like the fog has been lifted to where I can truly see their priorities. I am saddened by how many folks seem to be aimlessly trekking through life, wasting away their time in the pursuit of stuff - and not in the pursue of integrity & soul. Whether that 'stuff' is a fancy car, lots of money, the right house, the right 'school', or the right 'look' - it's all immaterial when a doctor looks at you and says "I'm sorry, but you have cancer."

I'm not going to hint remotely at anyone in particular - that isn't fair, and I have no right to judge. But let me tell you, when you have to think about the possibility of a premature death due to illness it really "clears your mental sinuses" and lets you know what's important. This illness has been a beautiful thing - I know, you're saying "Bill, you're beating it, and that's why you can take this positive approach.". You may be right, and I might not be saying these kind of things if I was dying. But it's not my time to go yet, so I have to assume that the pain, suffering, confusion, anguish, and hardships of the past 5 months are intended to push me down a particular path in the 'second half' of my life (see my Hoosiers entry in the blog.)

So, I've established that too many people are pursuing stuff rather than integrity & soul. So what does this have to do with the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar? First of all, have we really established December 2012 as the end of the world, just because an extinct Central American culture, as my friend Craig puts it, "ran out of paper for their calendar?" For all we know, carving all those pictures in stone gave all the calendar writers carpal tunnel and they finally said 'screw it - that's far enough ahead." Or who knows, maybe the head calendar writing guy got sacrified because he lost one of those wierd life-or-death Mayan ball court games they talk about on the Discovery Channel:

While it looks like this doomsday scenario is going to make a mean movie, I really think everyone should just calm down and smell the roses. Do you know the best thing you can do to alleviate your fear of the future? Life your damn life, and make a difference in the lives of others. Making a difference doesn't mean running around telling everyone through your facebook or linkedin account that you worked for charity, or raised money, or went to a 'charity benefit' with your picture on the social pages - don't get me wrong, these aren't bad, but go and do something that isn't public. Volunteer at a Rescue Mission, use your professional 'capital' to help a friend find a new job 'behind the scenes', spend some in-depth time with someone who isn't going to give you a big fat contract or advance you in business - just enjoy their humanity and learn from their life experience.

Enjoy your time, and don't worry about the future or if you're gonna die in a big-assed comet explosion in 2012. For the few months before my diagnosis and chemo, I experienced the pain of a cancerous tumor eating away at my pelvis - I'd much rather die in an instantaneous explosion than have to die a slow painful death from this disease. Those of you who've seen someone die of cancer or suffer through this disease understand what I'm talking about.

I'll take the Mayan solution in a heartbeat, if it means I have a couple of more awesome years enjoying life, drinking some wine, climbing a mountain or two, and enjoying the company of family & friends. There is a saying attributed to John Wesley, an 18th century priest in the Church of England who founded the Methodist Church, which I think summarizes what constitutes a good use of our time on earth:

"Do all the good you can,

By all the means you can,

In all the ways you can,

In all the places you can,

At all the times you can,

To all the people you can,

As long as ever you can.”

So get off your ass, and go make a difference. And please, make sure you're not being a douchebag while you're at it.

Carpe diem.

p.s. My cancer diagnosis and treatment cost has now exceeded $188,000. Booyah!