A Tribute To Merle

Click on the link below to see a tribute to Merle’s life:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wK8FpG5h7fY

He led a good dash. http://www.merlehamburger.net/2008/11/counting-our-blessings

It’s funny…

I have a confession to make, this blog has never been for the readers.  It’s always been a way for me to express in writing things I have felt or experienced during my fight against pancreatic cancer.  I wrote a lot early on, but as I adapted (and, to a large extent, got used) to having cancer, the need to write diminished.  I think that is one reason why my posts over the last year have similarly diminished.  Having said that, as I was thinking about what to write, I wondered to myself if anyone is even reading this blog anymore (granted, my updates have been more sporadic, so I understand why people stopped reading, but…).  Nevertheless, the blog must go on!  ;-)

Now, before I get into my rambling post for the day, I want to thank everyone who has donated to my fund raising efforts for PanCan.  I set a modest goal (compared to 2008) and I am well on my way to eclipsing it in, essentially, under a week.  Thank you, SO MUCH!  I’m pleased to report that, with your help, I have been able to significantly contribute to helping Team Pausch reach its fundraising goals, which means a lot to me.  Again, thank you! 

If you haven’t already (and you are able), please consider making a donation.  Every little bit helps!

As I mentioned earlier this week, MaryBeth and I went out to celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary last night (our actual anniversary is today)!  I really wanted to do something special, but it turns out, nothing really happens on Wednesday nights in Atlanta.  I looked for shows at the Fox Theater, at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center (and arena); I looked for comedy shows at the Punchline and the Funny Farm; I even thought we’d go crazy and go see a <gasp> first run movie (but it turns out all the movies that we’re both interested in, like The Sorcerer’s Apprentice and The (new) Karate Kid, are coming out later in the summer).  So instead, we went to the dollar movie theater and watched Percy Jackson and the Olympians: The Lightning Thief.  It was entertaining, but as my older son reported, the movie felt as if it was rushing and left a lot out, so MaryBeth and I will be reading the book(s) next.

After the movie, we went to dinner at Pappadeux’s, which is a lovely New Orleans themed restaurant with very yummy food (we’re actually planning on getting some of the food for TumorPalooza 2 from there).  Now, my point for recounting our evening last night was to say that during dinner I was struck by the fact that I am still alive; that despite all the odds, I’m still here.  When people bring that fact up, I usually tend to brush it off, but last night, it seemed more profound.  I usually focus on what will happen in the future; last night I was able to marvel at what I have accomplished, thus far. Pretty cool.

Again, thank you (those of you still around) for your continued support.

Merle

ps You know, I have been concerned that my weight has slowly been increasing over the last couple of years (not dramatically, but more than I would like).  I am happy to report, however, that I am not the biggest Hamburger out there.  :-)

Odds -n- Sods

Today’s post is a little bit of this and a little bit of that; no particularly cohesive theme, but instead a series of thoughts I’ve been having over the course of the last couple of days.

I am wearing my ‘No Rain – No Rainbows’ t-shirt at work today (what can I say, I’m a rebel — I’ve got my Birkenstocks on, too!  I know! CRAZY!).  For those of you who do not remember, that saying comes from a t-shirt I bought when MaryBeth and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in Hawaii (we try to forget the bought of diverticulitis that I had which led to my hospitalization for 3 days; do a Google search for “Kimo’s Rules” and you can find the whole list)!

I realized the other day that I have tried to live by this rule for a long time, but particularly over the past year.  MaryBeth and I try to have a night where we go out, ALONE, and have a quiet meal.  As we were driving home, I mentioned that I was pleased that we spent a lot of time this past year DOING things.  We went to Disney World; we visited Florida; we went to DC and visited with relatives up north; we visited my Mom and family twice (once in December and once in February — both times it snowed upwards of 2 feet); we’ve made a much more concerted effort to BE together (both as a family and MaryBeth and me as a couple).  MaryBeth than reminded me that I was not allowed to get sick again and that I still had to live until I was 104.

Another random thought: Barium Sulfate tastes yucky (though, not nearly as bad as phosphosoda).  As I mentioned earlier this week, I had my most recent scans on Tuesday, during which I had to drink about 32 oz. of barium (which helps provide contrast on the CT for the radiologist).  As I was finishing up, I asked the technician why I got to drink the lemonade-ish flavored drink last time, but barium this time.  He told me that they use the barium when they really want to show stuff in and around the pancreas.  Not that I have an overactive imagination, but I wonder if the CT did not show anything last time because I didn’t drink the stuff that really shows what’s going on in the pancreas.

As a friend of mine reminded me (again) though, the results I get on Tuesday will only tell me what has already happened.  It may be bad news;  I am expecting good news, but either way I will try to remember that without my diagnosis amost 2 years ago, I would not appreciate my life, my family, and the world around me quite as much as I do now.  It may sound superficial, but I have found that I did not appreciate what I had until I was faced with the possibility of dying prematurely.

Cheers,

Merle

A Bit of Anxiety

So I know that I said in an earlier post that I’m not terribly anxious about getting the results of my last scan from my doctor and all that, but as I sit here, I realize that I am a bit more anxious than usual.  There is no reason to expect that anything has changed and that the cancer has come back; I’m feeling generally okay;  I’m getting my stamina back (particularly as it relates to my exercising); I’m getting back into the swing of life on this side of cancer treatment.

Nevertheless, I think despite my efforts to the contrary, I will always experience anxiety the day before I get test results from the doctor; at least for the time being.  Perhaps after a year or two of getting clean bills of health, I will learn to relax.  The joys of being an overthinking scientist.

Otherwise, the family is re-adjusting to post-Disney life.  The kids and MaryBeth are back at school and I am back at work.  This past weekend, we celebrated Passover on Friday with a seder at our house (we invited my friend Luis and his family to join us) and then celebrated Easter on Sunday.  It was nice to have that family time together.

Merle

Slowly Recovering

As those of you who are long term readers of my blog know, I hold Dr. Randy Pausch in some pretty high regard.  I hope that I have been able to live my life with cancer as eloquently as he did his life.  I remember reading in his “blog” that when he finished his chemotherapy, he posted the following picture:

I have to say, I felt much the same reaction on March 18th as I left the hospital for my last treatment (okay, perhaps not on the 18th, as I recall I felt pretty yucky that day, but the feeling was the same).  The reality, though, is that MY mission is just starting.  I might not be able to do anything more (at the moment), but we (my doctors and I) will remain vigilant for the next…oh…4 years!  :-)

I find that as time moves along, that I am feeling more and more like myself.  Things that I have noticed: I have (a little) more stamina in the gym — I’m able to run for about 15 minutes (broken up into sections at the moment) — and my hair is growing faster.  For the latter, I had stopped shaving my head before Christmas, but my hair just didn’t really grow that much.  Now that I’m done with chemo, I have actually begun needing to use a brush / comb on my hair.  Woo Hoo!  Other big news is that I was able to delete the recurring appointment to get my chemo from my Outlook calendar (it’s not a big thing, but it was certainly meaningful to me).

What’s on the horizon.  The biggie is that I have my post-treatment, restaging CT scan (and bloodwork) tomorrow, with a follow-up appointment with my oncologist next Wednesday.  As with my scan in February, I do not expect that anything will be there, but knowing me as I do, I am sure there will be some anxiety tomorrow.

I still want to have a party to celebrate my finishing up with chemo, but my weekends are pretty busy (with scouts and family stuff) for the next couple of months.  We’ll see.  On the other hand, one could argue that we celebrated my being done with chemo by going to Disney World, which was very cool.

Thanks for checking in.

Merle

Pictures from Day 7 at Disney

As promised, here is the slideshow from our last day at Disney (the last 2 pictures has some guy modeling the shirt we got signed by the Disney characters).

We made it home safely and everyone was glad to be home (even if it meant going back to school).  Unfortunately for my family, I turned around and headed to Denver (where I currently am) for a business trip.

I am doing well (if not recovering from eating a little too much while on vacation — back to the gym on Monday).  On the cancer front, I am dealing with the “wait and see” stuff pretty well.  I have a CT scan scheduled for April 10, to serve as my post-treatment baseline.  I will then have subsequent scans every 2 months.  Here’s to no changes, eh?

More later!

Merle

Post-Disney Visit

Just a quick update.  Yesterday marked the end of our adventures at Disney World.  We focused on the “left-side” of the park, visiting primarily Adventureland and Frontierland.  The highlight (for my daughter) was getting to actually meet with Ariel (pictures soon); we waited in line for 60 minutes, but we got to see Ariel (for those of you who scoff, it’s much like waiting in line at a Six Flags for the newest rollercoaster that last for only a few minutes).  Other excitement included a ride on the Jungle Boat, the Peter Pan ride, and “It’s a Small World” (which I would have been happy to avoid, but my daughter and younger son really enjoyed the ride).

Much of the joy of the trip was watching my daughter as she took it all in.  Everything was exciting and magical and that, as much as anything, made the trip a success.  Of course, the kids immediately asked when we were going back, and my response was that we’d go back in 2013, to celebrate my 5-year survivorship.

We are currently visiting with my father and step-mother.  My dad continues to have breathing problems (though, from what I can tell, the doctors are not completely sure what’s going on).  As a result, he gets winded easily and appears much more fragile than I know he is.  Nevertheless, I am glad that we can add this visit onto our family vacation.  Tomorrow we head back home and real life.  I’m not sure I’m ready for that.  I much prefer having to worry about important things like which park to go to or which rides to do.

As I said, I’ll have pictures from the last day up for your viewing pleasure shortly.  Thank you for “joining” us on our family vacation.  You are all invited to join us in 2013, in person, if you would like.

Cheers,

Merle 

Epcot – Part Deux

Today was our second day at Epcot.  As with Disney Hollywood Studios, much of Epcot (particularly the World Showcase) is designed to be experienced.  The morning was spent in the front half of Epcot (Future World, I believe) in the Innovention and Imagination pavilions.  We came back to the condo in the afternoon to give the kids an opportunity to rest (which none of them did).  MaryBeth took the kids swimming (except my oldest, who had some homework to complete).

We headed back to Epcot after dinner in the condo and strolled about the World Showcase.  We stayed until the end, getting an opportunity to watch Illuminations (the Epcot finale laser light and fireworks display).  Tomorrow is our <sniff> last day at Disney, and we’ll be spending out time at the Magic Kingdom.  We’ll be leaving Disney late in the afternoon to head over to Sarasota to spend time with my father and step-mother, before heading back to Atlanta.

As you can see in some of the pictures (as always, you can view the embedded slideshow below or view the slideshow in a separate, larger window), the Epcot horticulturalists do a great job creating topiaries of the various Disney Princesses.

Not sure I’ll blog tomorrow night or the rest of the weekend.  If not, I’ll have something for you on Monday (before I head out to Denver for work).

Cheers,

Merle

Disney Hollywood Studios – Part Deux

So today was spent back at DHS: the morning and early afternoon with the whole family and the late afternoon and evening with just my younger son.  The morning was spent walking from location to location trying to find characters for signatures (we did better today than the last time we were at DHS).  I’m bummed, though, that the one autograph we did not get was Woody’s (the line to see Woody was always really quite long).  The morning was spent on the Great Movie Ride (again), the Disney Animation Studio tour (where we saw the Incredibles), and going to Beauty and the Beast, the Musical (a hit with the whole family).

By the time we had done all that, it was time to head back to the condo for lunch.  MaryBeth and I decided that our daughter could use another low key afternoon/evening, so they stayed home, swam, played on the play ground and generally took it easy.  My older son also chose to stay home, ostensibly to play the new DS game he bought with his souvenir money.  I think, however, that he was also overstimulated and needed the time away from the crowds.

So my younger son and I went back and did all the shows and rides that we did not think was appropriate for our daughter.  We rode the Tower of Terror (twice), the Rockin’ Roller Coaster (twice — my fave), and Toy Story Mania (twice).  We also went to the Lights, Motor, Action Extreme Stunt Spectacular (a vehicular stunt show), the Indiana Jones Stunt Spectacular, and Fantasmic (the big Finale program at DHS).  So all in all, I had an afternoon and evening of quality (I think) alone time with my younger son.

I know I haven’t really mentioned this previously, but our condo is located wonderfully close to all the parks.  This evening, we got out of our last ride at 10:05p.  We had to walk to the park entrance, take the tram to our parking spot, walk to our car from the tram spot, and drive back to the condo; when all was said and done, we were home by 10:25p.  We couldn’t ask for a closer condo (unless we were actually ON Disney property).

I only had my camera with me for the 1st half of the day, so there are only 10 pictures (embedded below or accessible through this link).

Merle

Day 4 – Animal Kingdom

It’s all about one’s frame of reference. Today we went to Disney’s Animal Kingdom and in our pre-trip research, we had read basically two different reviews of the park.  On the one hand, there are those who said that people could do the whole park in 1/2 a day and then there are those who say it’s a full day (plus) kinda park.  One reviewer summed it up by saying that the trick to enjoying the park is to remember that Animal Kingdom is all about “BEING” and not about “DOING.”  I went to the park, expecting to look at animals, enjoy some shows, and maybe ride some rides (as opposed to expecting to ride rides and maybe do a show or two) and you know, that’s what we did.

The day started out racing to the back of the park to take the Safari.  For those of you who don’t know, Animal Kingdom is essentially a zoo; a Disney-fied zoo, to be sure, but a zoo nonetheless.  The Safari runs through a wildlife preserve and we got to see a bunch of animals.  There weren’t any animals you couldn’t see at any respectable zoo, but Disney puts a nice spin on it by including a storyline for the tour.

We spent a large portion of the day walking about looking at animals (including a petting zoo in which folks could groom / brush the animals — mostly goats) and watching shows (the bird show, Finding Nemo, The Musical), but we also were able to get in several rides, including a roller coaster.  One funny story — I have a thing about getting wet at theme parks, but when my family all said they wanted to go on the raging rapids boat ride, I said sure.  As we were seated in the boat, a woman from another family sat next to me and I told her that I had incredibly bad luck with these kind of rides.  Sure enough, *I* got soaked.  I finally dried out by the time we left the park.

On the autograph side, we got a couple of new ones, including Baloo and King Louie, Pocahontas, Jimminy Cricket, and Rafiki.  Interesting story about Baloo and King Louie: the cast member in charge of the pair made it a point to say that only Baloo would sign; however, when we got up there and MB asked Baloo to sign my shirt (explaining what the shirt says), King Louie decided he wanted to sign too.  Now, King Louie’s costume doesn’t have flexible fingers, so the cast member wedged the pen into the hand and Louie gave me his autograph.  The cast member said this is only the 3rd time she had ever seen King Louie do that.  I guess there are some benefits to having cancer, but, truth be told, I’d be willing to give up Louie’s (and even Buzz’s) autograph in lieu of having cancer.

I told MaryBeth that we’ll come back to Disney in 2013 to celebrate my 5-year survival of this cancer.  You see, Disney is all about people celebrating something — your first time to the parks, your birthday or anniversary, even your un-birthday.  I have a button that says I am celebrating finishing chemo.  Several people have congratulated me and today, I had the opportunity to chat with another cancer survivor.

Tomorrow, we head back to Disney Hollywood Studios; the whole family will go for the first half of the day, but MaryBeth and my daughter will stay home in the afternoon / evening, so I can ride some of the more scary rides with the boys.

And lest you think I forgot, here is the link to the pictures from today, as well as the embedded slideshow.  Enjoy.

Merle