Birthday

Tomorrow is my birthday.  Even as I sit here typing this, I have to admit that 22 months ago, I would not have guessed that I would be alive today.   Each day, there is a part of me that wonders if, in fact, I *am* going to be the 1 in 5 that beats this disease.

Since tomorrow is a school day (and we have a scout event in the evening) we celebrated my birthday today.  My younger son, apparently, is watching too much Food Network, because he wanted to make a full  sheet birthday cake with people made out of rice-crispy treat and covered with fondant.  He ended up making a 9″ round cake, with a single fondant covered person (me) out pastillage.  Check out these pictures:

By the way, I heard back from the cardiologist and my echocardiogram was normal (the wall of my left atrium is on the high side of normal, but still normal.  All things considered, things are good!

Cheers,

Merle

If it’s not one thing…

You know, the life of a cancer patient is often, out of necessity, one involving multiple, repeated visits to doctors, clinics, and/or hospitals.   As I have documented here, though, I had moved to a place in which I was not going to the doctor nearly as frequently (and I was loving it).  Of course, having such regular visits to my oncologist, I had not been to my general practitioner in several years.  Well, a couple of weeks ago, I decided to go back.

I like my GP.  She’s the wife of the gastroenterologist who first started treating me back in August, 2007.  She is pleasant and amiable and pretty darn conservative.  The last time I went to the GP (again, back in ’07), after my checkup, she sent me to a cardiologist to follow-up on an aberrant EKG and a dermatologist for a spot on my back.  Both follow-up appointments led to negative findings (meaning, that neither the cardiologist nor the dermatologist found anything amiss).

Fast forward to a couple of weeks ago.  I ventured back to the GP for my (what had become) bi-annual physical.  She gave me the general once over.  I was surprised, though, that she did not do a rectal exam given my family history with prostate cancer.  I will follow-up with her about that later.  She did, however, once again refer me to a cardiologist; apparently, the computer interpreted the EKG output as having a blocked something-or-other in my left thing-a-ma-jig.  The cardiologist said he didn’t think there was anything wrong but ordered an echocardiogram (I’m still waiting for the results of those).

Meanwhile, my GP asked me to come in again to re-do my blood work; apparently there was something wacky in my white blood count or something.  Well, I did that last week and I got a call back from the GP asking for the fax number of my oncologist (there was still something hinky in my labs and she wanted to show them to Dr. Kauh).  She also sent me a packet to collect a stool sample (including a self-address, stamped envelope to mail it back; poor postal worker).

All in all, then, it seems that my out of warranty body continues to show the effects of wear and tear.  I still, generally, feel fine.  We’ll see what the various tests say in the end.

Cheers,

Merle

Doing the Beaver dance…

Last week, I got some bad news; a member of my Wood Badge patrol (we were the Beaver patrol) from two years ago, had been killed a week ago.  Richard Schoek (there was an article in the Atlanta Journal Constitution if you are interested in more information).  Yesterday, I joined his family and friends and a group of close to 75 cub scouts, boy scouts, and scout leaders at his funeral.

It was doubly hard for me (for obvious reasons).  On the one hand, I had lost a friend and brother in scouting.  Richard and I did not keep in close contact, but we always were able to find time to chat at scout gatherings.  By all accounts, Richard was a great husband, father, son, and brother.  Clearly, he was loved, as the church was filled with those of us coming to pay our last respects.

On the other hand, however, I could not sit there and not think about my situation.  As I listened to the people extol the virtues of Richard, I questioned if such positive qualities could be attributed to me, as well.  This is not fishing for compliments, but more a reflection on my past and wondering if I have (as I always said I tried to do) done more good than harm during my life.  The judge is still out on that one.

I will say, as I did when my Dad died, that I hope that when I do pass, that if people are crying it’s because they are laughing so hard at the stories being told about me.  I fully expect that my brother Sid will regale the crowd with a description of the time he “pantsed” me while we were setting up for a party.  I was standing on a chair; family members (including my father and step-mother) were sitting on the couch watching, as my brother grabbed my shorts (and apparently my underwear, too) and pulled.  One good thing about my cancer is that I was able to get my brother to agree not to pants me anymore until April, 2013 (when I hit the 5-year survival mark).

I will leave you with one of my lasting memories of Richard.  During Wood Badge, Richard taught us the Beaver song:

Beaver One, Beaver all; Let’s all do the Beaver crawl

Beaver Two, Beaver Three; Let’s all climb the Beaver tree

Beaver Four; Beaver Five; Let’s all do the Beaver jive

Beaver Six; Beaver Seven; Let’s all go to Beaver Heaven

Beaver Eight; Beaver Nine; STOP!  It’s Beaver Time

Go Beaver! Go Beaver! Go Beaver!

Now imagine 8 adults singing that in front of several dozen other scouters!  Richard was able to get us to do that and we had everyone in stitches!

I’m sure Richard is up in Beaver Heaven right now, singing away.  He will be missed.

Merle

Snow! Snow! Everywhere…

Once again, I find myself having not blogged sufficiently.   When I was first diagnosed, blogging was therapeutic — allowing me to express (in writing) thoughts and feelings that I was having difficulty expressing verbally.  As I continue to successfully battle pancreatic cancer, though, this blog has become less about the cancer and more about my life.  That’s okay and all, but sometimes, I am just not inspired to write.  Again, I think it’s a great thing that I have progressed so much that I am not constantly thinking about the cancer, but not doing so makes finding blog topics more challenging.

To bring you all up to date, yes!  My family and I made it back from NJ after Mom’s birthday.  Things didn’t work out quite the way I had anticipated, but Mom was very happy and that was what was MOST important.  Keeping with the snow theme, last weekend I (and 3 other adults) took a group of 15 boy scouts up to Beech Mountain, NC for a ski trip.  Now, the original plan was to leave mid-day on Friday; ski all day Saturday and Sunday; ski a half day on Monday and then come home (the kids were supposed to have Friday and Monday off from school).  Well, as I mentioned here previously, Atlanta has had some extreme weather this year (including flooding that closed the schools for 2 days and one snow storm that did the same).  As a result, the student holidays this past Friday and Monday were used as flood and snow make up days.

We adjusted our plans to leave to Friday night and, ironically, it snowed on Friday.  Unfortunately, as many of you know, folks in the south do NOT know how to drive on the snow.  Now Beech Mountain is about 240 miles away from Atlanta and we were estimating it would take us about 5 hours to get there.  Because of the inclement weather, though, the first 4 hours of our drive were spent sitting in traffic making its way out of Atlanta; more specifically, we drove perhaps 30 miles in those first 4 hours.  We had expected to get to our cabin by 11p — we got there at 4:00a (by the time all were settled and I got to sleep, it was probably around 5a).

The next morning (2.5 hours later), we got up, ate breakfast, and were ready to head to the slopes (all of us were excited, because the ski slope had gotten over a foot and a half of fresh snow in the last couple of days — best skiing there in years).  Now, being boy scouts, we had actually prepared for driving our cars on the snowy roads.  All of the drivers had gone out and gotten snow cables for our tires.  For those of you who do not know, snow cables are twisted metal cables with round metal discs that are supposed (operational word here) to provide traction on snowy roads.  Unfortunately, the performance of the cables was suboptimal (mine actually broke) and the scouts and leaders ended up having to push the cars up the road to get to the slope.

Once we were at the slope (no easy feat, I will tell you), I called around and was able to find a service that would come to the ski resort and put chains on my car so that I could get around.  Once the chain issue was handled (my car handled much better, btw), I hit the slopes.  I had a good time skiing with other scout leaders, but I had the most fun skiing with my younger son, who had improved dramatically from last year.  I was proud of his progression and look forward to his continued improvement.  I have family in Stowe, VT and I have been told that it’s about time that my family and I (or at least my son) take a trip to ski on “real” ski slopes!  ;-)

Despite the ugly looking bruise on my left hip (the result of a gigantic ball of ice at the top of one of the chair lifts  — EVERYONE who got off the time I rode up fell on that ice), I am looking forward to our next trip.  Once again, I enjoyed the trip, largely because I did not think of myself as the guy with cancer.  I was able to enjoy the moment without worry about what the future might hold.  The good thing is, those moments are coming more and more frequently!!

Merle

p.s. Don’t forget, TumorPalooza 2 — August 14!

It was a dark and stormy night…

My family and I traveled to South Jersey to gather with my sibilings and their families to celebrate the 46th anniversary of my mother’s 29th birthday.  (If you ask her, she’ll tell you that she is barely passed pubescence…yeah, whatever!)

We had grand plans.  This morning was supposed to start with a grand buffet of eggs and bacon and croissant and orange juice and fruit.  A veritable cornucopia of food at Mom’s place.  After fully indulging in  brunch, the family was going to go ice skating (with Granny watching, rather than participating).  Yes, it’s been almost 30 years since I donned a pair of ice skates (I was involved with figure skating in high school, because I had a crush on one of the skaters, who unfortunately had less of an ability to express her emotions for me, and thus we never really understood how we felt about each other.  Nevertheless, that is a story for another time.)  After ice skating, we were going to have a HUGE family style dinner at Maggiano’s restaurant, in which our families, in addition to several of my mother’s friends, would gather and eat and celebrate her 46th anniversary of her 29th birthday.  After dinner, my Mom wished merely to see the movie Avatar in 3D, for which we had pre-purchased tickets.

Well, that was the plan.  Of course, then Mother Nature struck (again) and for the second time in 3 months, in which my family traveled to the Northeast, we are trapped under a blanket of snow 18-24″ in depth.  Guess what?  The ice rink is closed.  The restaurant is closed.  The movie theater is closed.  In fact, the whole county has been declared in a state of emergency.  Luckily for us, even though the county is in a state of emergency, necessary businesses remain open; and thus, my brother, niece (Samantha) and I braved the challenging roads to make a run to Traino’s Liquor store to get necessary supplies for waiting out such a snow emergency.

So I sit here, enjoying my adult beverages (as are several of the other adults in the group), throwing our plans to the winds and making dinner at my sisters.  It may not be Maggiano’s, but what’s really important to me is that most of our family (my brother Chip was unable to make it because Baltimore received even more snow than we got), is together and “enjoying” each other’s company.  Sure, my mom is downstairs “watching” the movie (meaning , her eyes are closed and she is breathing deeply and evenly and, if you were an impartial judge, you might suggest she was asleep) with her grandchildren.

We will have dinner lovingly prepared by my sister, my wife, and my brother-in-law.  We will celebrate my Mom’s birthday together and regardless of whether we stick to the plan or not, we are together and that is more important than what we do.  I love that we have come together to celebrate my mother.  She has given all of us so much (each in her own way).  My sibilings and I are so very different in many ways, but we all share a similar love for our mother.  Happy Birthday, Mom.  We love you.  We would not be who we are without your influence.

Now, the big question is whether we will actually be able to fly out tomorrow.  I have to admit that I would not mind being stuck another day, as we could then watch the Superbowl with my family.  However, if we fly back tomorrow, it will be with the knowledge that, for at least this weekend, we were able to come together and celebrate the matriarch of our family.

Thank you for your continued support.

Love to all!

Merle

Happy February

How is it that the month of January has already come and gone? It seems like it was only yesterday that we were celebrating New Years with my mother. I’m just saying!

You know, I seem to get on here every week and talk about how I feel fine and today is no different. I had a great workout today, in particular, I was able to run for a full 27 minutes (though, I had to break it up into a 24 minute run, a 3 minute walk — and breath — and then another 3 minute run). I’m excited that I am slowly working my way back to being able to run a full 5k.

As odd as it sounds, though, feeling “okay” is something of an enigma. You see, as I continue to feel okay, I start to think that I do not need to take my pancreatic enzymes (like I did yesterday). Guess what? I still need to take them (as my body is telling me today). I guess the upside of this is that my needing to take the enzymes has more to do (I presume) with the my Whipple surgery rather than the cancer itself.

Putting my daughter to bed this evening somewhat more sobering than normal. When she hopped into bed, the book she wanted me to read was, “When Dinosaurs Die” — it was a book about understanding death. It was hard to read to her, but luckily my daughter did not seem to connect the book with my cancer. Thank goodness for small favors.

More later!

Merle