Can’t Stop… the Music…

First off, I have to say I have no idea why I have “American Pie” stuck in my head right now. I must have done something really bad in a previous life, so this is my punishment. Well, this and that cancer thing.

I’m currently awake not because of Don McLean, but rather because of my head swirling into another deep depressing “I’ve got cancer” spiral. I’m not sure how I got to thinking about my previous career as an x-ray tech (in February it will be ten years since I’ve taken an x-ray. Man, I’m old), but somehow it spiraled and coalesced into more greiving about my current situation.

Perhaps grieving is too strong a word. This is nothing like last Wednesday’s breakdown. Merely more of a tired re-pondering of my current life. In the movie world, I’m somewhere between “Snakes. Why did it have to be snakes.” and “I’m getting too old for this shit.” So yeah, more tired than sad. In either case, it’s keeping me awake right now.

On Thursday, I saw SuperCoop to get the rundown on what’s happening to me next and when. All of the fun starts next Thursday, the 6th of July. It’ll be much as we expected way back in February – high dose chemo (BEAM) followed by the stem cell transplant. About a month after the SCT, I’ll get some high dose tightly collimated radiation to my mediastinum. For those of you who are scratching your heads, that means I’ll be getting a tight beam of radiation to the center of my chest. Here’s sort of what my upcoming schedule looks like:

Day -6: receive the “B” of the BEAM chemo: BCNU. I already forget what that stands for, but it’s long.
Days -5 through -2: I get the “EA” portion – Etoposide & Cytarabine. I think the Cytarabine is the “A.” I know, but what can you do? I get the drugs at the clinic in the morning, then again at night at home by a home care nurse. Two of the treatments are on Saturday and Sunday, so morning and night doses will be given at home.
Day -1: I get the “M” drug, Melphalan.
Day 0: I get my stem cells back. SuperCoop says it won’t take me as long as most, as we collected all of my stem cells in one day, which means they should be in one bag. They give me the cells back and super-hydrate me to help my body get rid of the extra red blood cells that were in with the stem cells. Once there’s no more blood in my urine, I’m free to go. One other thing to note, I will reek of creamed corn due to the preservatives they kept my stem cells in. Good thing I already hate the stuff.
Day +1: Rest day. As long as I feel okay, I don’t have to go anywhere.
Day +2 through Day +12: Show up at the clinic each morning for bloodwork, IV fluids, neupogen (yay.), anti-nausea meds and anything else they might need to pump into me.

After that, everything pretty much depends on how I’m feeling and how my counts are doing. Yay.

In happier news, we’re continuing to get our nest padded and organized here at Dogwood Place. It’s a weird experience after Whitney Street. In Hartford, we spent so much time just making it liveable that by the time we were able to live in it, we had already decided to get it ready to sell. Rather than making it a home, we began making it ready for someone else to live in.

Now we have our real home and what should be our last one. It feels so much different when we’re doing things here, because every action has a certain… permanence. I was going to say “finality,” but us cancer patients shy away from that word. “Permanence” gets the point across though, I think. The things we’re doing to this house are not to increase the selling value, they’re to increase our enjoyment and comfort. As I’m lying on the floor, upgrading our electrical system from two prongs to three, the thought hits me that this may be the last time I ever do this in our house. Once every outlet has three prongs, I’m done with that job. We won’t be moving on to another place that I have to do electrical work on.

The thought astounds me.

I think the idea of permanence has really helped out my perfectionism as well, at least in the arena of home repair. While there’s still a needling need for doing things perfectly, since this is Our House, I can now sometimes take the broad overview and say to myself “It isn’t absolutely perfect, but it’s good enough to last for twenty or thirty years until it drives me crazy and I have to make it perfect.”

That being said, I still have yet to get everything moved into my workshop, as everything there naturally has to be “just so.” I tell myself it’s just because it’s a small space and I have to make sure I have enough room to do what I want, but deep down I know the real reason.

He’s Back Again

Hey Gang

Well, we’re finally back on the net at the new house, so I can go back to keeping everyone up to date on what’s happening in the World of Me.

I made it out of the hospital the Friday before last, though it was a bit touch and go due to the recovering heroin addict sharing my part of CCU. Apparently wherever they go to dry out was full, so they were keeping him there with a 24 hour a day babysitter. I wake up the first morning hearing “Here’s your Ativan… and here’s your methadone.” Lovely. He did okay the first day, but then started flipping out more and more as the week went on. I didn’t get a lot of rest.

To top it off, it was astounding how slow time moved in CCU. Barb stopped by the first morning and then headed off to work. As the hours passed, I figured she must have said something to me about stopping by after work. Maybe she had a meeting or something for lunch. So I slept and I laid there and I waited and I waited. Finally, 5:00 must have arrived, because Barb was back! That’s the good news. The bad news was that she was indeed back for lunch. Rather than an eight hour wait, she had only been gone for about two hours. This time disjointing continued all through the week, with the nighttime being the worst of it all. Especially when the junkie would decide he needed to sweep around his bed at midnight.

So everything happened pretty quickly after that, getting the catheter out, the chest tubes later and eventually being plopped out on the street. I got to come home and recuperate in the new house and it was a very good thing. We were still planning on me overseeing the movers on the following Monday (last Monday), but Sunday night my fever started spiking, so Barb had to be in charge of the move. I must be worn out from all the chemo and such to not be able to follow around movers two days after being released from the hospital, right?

So Monday came and the movers did a fanTAStic job. They were incredibly nice and friendly, fast and strong. If you have to do any kind of house move, give Joyce Van Lines a call. I believe they’re based here in Connecticut, but give them a try if you’re elsewhere too. We had heard lots of horror stories about movers and moving companies, and not a single one of them came true with these folks.

So now we’re going through the whole unpacking thing. Between Barb and Bev and Mary, the first floor’s starting to look pretty presentable. I think I’m finally healed up enough to start lifting things, so I’ll be able to help out more as well. There’s nothing more frustrating to me right now than having all of these people (and mostly women at that) buzzing around me, doing all of this work and not being able to join in. Not to mention getting yelled at for trying to help out. Yes, I’m supposed to be resting and healing, but come on.

On Wednesday, SuperCoop gave me a call. He had the biopsy results, which showed Hodgkin’s Disease in the thymus. He said the best result we could have hoped for would be either an active thymus (the thymic rebound thing) or a thymoma. The one good thing about HD being found was that Dr. Detterbeck was able to remove about 90% of what he found, so that means a good portion of the HD has been physically removed from my body. Plus, hopefully that area won’t light up on PET scans anymore.

SuperCoop told me that depending on what Detterbeck thought about my healing, we could go right into the high dose chemo and stem cell transplant. He said that could be as early as this week or the next.

I thought I was okay with this, but a few hours later, the magnitude of it all finally hit me. Going through chemo again. This time, going through something worse than any of the others I’ve been on. The long road to recovery. The side effects. I had myself a pretty good little breakdown. I’m just so tired of it all. Tired of recovering. Tired of weird things happening to me and thinking it’s probably just a side effect of some drug I’m on. Tired of being a happy little soldier. Tired of fighting.

So now, I’m taking my own mini-break from cancer. I’m not going to be looking in on the Hodgkin’s forum every few minutes. I’m not going to think about cancer. I’m not going to think about the future or the past. I’m just going to be. I saw Detterbeck on Friday and he said SuperCoop can start on the new stuff whenever he wants. I see SuperCoop at 5 on Thursday to get the gameplan. Until then, I’m going to do my best to forget I’ve got cancer.

I’ll still be posting stuff out here, of course, but for the next few days, it’ll more than likely be non-cancer related. Thursday will be here soon enough. In the meantime, there’s plenty to be doing here around the house. Unpacking, storing, organizing, building… and if all else fails, I just sit and watch the squirrels.

It’s Not a Home Without Home Improvement

This has become Barb’s mantra over the past week.

Finally time for an update, as we have the DSL all hooked up, though our desks are still in Hartford, so I’m typing this from the floor.

Things have been progressing bumpily with the new house. Our closing went well and we got our intial things into the new place, along with the AeroBed from Hell. It had a two hour leak, where after about two hours you’d discover you’re lying on the floor. Not a very restful night, that first night. The next day we went to Hartford and picked up a matress to sleep on. Much better.

As for the house itself, we had three rooms that needed painting: living room, office and master bedroom. The office and living room went without a hitch. The master bedroom, however…

We started with taking up the carpet in the room. That was no biggie and wound up being a great thing to do. The house has nice hardwood floors throughout, so we figured that’s what would be under the carpet. Sure enough, the floor’s beautiful. We just had to pull up a whole mess of staples and the floor’s taken care of. The ceiling, however…

So Barb decides we need to paint the ceiling. We go down to Benjamin Moore (we decided this house is getting the best paint around, not that Home Depot/Behr crap we used in Hartford) and spend around $350 for our three rooms of paint. Barb and her mom get started on the bedroom ceiling when Barb notices the paint bubbling. She rolls over one of the spots and the paint peels right off the ceiling. Uh oh. Back to Benjamin Moore she goes with an unpainted paint chip and the paint guy tells her it’s because of a chemical that was mixed in with the plaster on houses built before 1950. Calcimide? Something like that. I’ll correct it later when I read the paint bucket.

Anyway, this stuff will just randomly decide to reject latex paint over a period of time and that period was now. He gave us some special oil-based calcimide-blocker primer to put up there, and said that later on we could apply latex over the primer and it would be okay.

At this point, we have rather large patches of missing paint, so we decide I should soften up the edges with some joint compound. It turns out that the part of latex paint that the clacimide reacts with is the water. And what’s in joint compound, kids? Water. I apply a bit to one spot, move on to the next and turn around to see the paint at the first spot drooping to the ground. Once I realize it’s the water, I relay my findings and suggest we just apply water to the ceiling to get the old paint off. Barb’s Aunt Sis comes up with the brilliant idea of applying the water with a paint roller and the fun begins.

Of course, that means we have to wait for the plaster to dry. Then Barb and her mom paint the primer. Then we wait for the primer to dry. Then the paint can actually be applied. So what was originally a full day’s work turned into a three or four day long nightmare. Whee!

But now everything’s painted and we’re anxious to get our stuff moved in. The movers are coming to pick up everything from Hartford on Monday, so Barb has to do a lot of packing between now and then. My surgery’s in about two hours, so I probably won’t be able to help out much. I stopped by the house yesterday and loaded up all of my lumber (a full pickup’s worth) so no one else would have to deal with it and it just destroyed me. Many, many trips up and down the basement stairs.

But now my resting time begins. Wink wink. My thymus gets taken out in a couple of hours and then I get to float on clouds of painkillers for awhile. The whole idea of this process continues to weird me out. I mean, there’s something inside me right now, and in five hours or so, it’s going to be gone. Weeeeeird. One thing I’ve been wondering that I’m going to ask the doc about is, what happens to the space that used to hold the thymus? Sure, we’re all just big bags of goo, but which bits of goo will fill the void? I’m especially wondering about when big organs get taken out, like your spleen. I’ll let you know what he says if I can remember the answer afterwards.

Well, I’d better go get ready for the hospital. Barb’s coming by in about an hour to pick me up. Then all of the fun begins!

The Last Post from Hartford

Finally, finally, the last typing I’ll be doing in Hartford. We close on the new house in two and a half hours! So, in that frame of mind, I’ll mention that I’ll be out of email contact for the next few days as we wait to get the DSL going at the new place. And I’ll be back under radio silence as far as the site’s concerned. With any luck I’ll have everything back up and online before the surgery (on Wednesday), but if not, one of us will find a way to update you all on what’s happening.

It’s moving time, baby!

Finally, an Update

Yes, I’m still alive. Wouldn’t that’ve been just my luck, to write a post about how I wasn’t going to give up, then die shortly after?

Anyways, I’ve been under radio silence until I got all of the news straight as to what’s going to be happening next. Plus, we had an AWESOME thunderstorm here last night and I had to shut everything down. This was like West Texas style thunder mixed with rain forest style downpours. Much cheering and supportive yelling was coming from the Whitney Street porch.

Back to the cancer thing. I saw Dr. Detterbeck, chief of thoracic oncology, yesterday morning. Seemed to be a pretty nice guy. He has looked at all of my various exams and originally felt that what was lighting up could be a thymoma rather than Hodgkin’s. Since my itching has come back, he replied “Okay, maybe it’s Hodgkin’s then.” Basically, we won’t know until my thymus is out and ground into a fine paste. Due to the possibility of a thymoma and the fact that this sucker just keeps lighting up on the PET scan, he’s going to take out the entire thymus gland. Otherwise, we could take out a piece, discover it’s a thymoma, then have to go back in and remove it. Since it’s not a necessary organ, it’s best to just remove it all.

The procedure itself is done thorascopically. He’ll make three incisions on the right side of my chest between ribs. In those incisions will go a camera, a cutting thing and a grabbing thing. Sorry to use complex medical terminology here, but I don’t know what you laypeople would call them. I’ll be under general anaesthesia, so they’ll keep me for a little while afterwards to make sure I handled being knocked out okay, as well as make sure I’m not in too much pain.

He’s new to my case, so he doesn’t know I’m a badass.

So they’ll hang on to me until they see I’m handling the pain okay, then they’ll send me home. All of this will be happening on the fourteenth of June. I’ll have to go in at some point before that to get my pre-surgical checkout and I’m going in Monday morning (the fifth) for a chest CT. The Beckster said I should be back to “normal” for sure after about two weeks, at which point he told SuperCoop it would be okay to go ahead with the high dose chemo/SCT.

What does it all mean? Well, the timing of things is still working in our favor, as our closing on the new house is next week. The surgery will be happening almost a week after that. I won’t have the SCT stuff for a couple of weeks after that, so I’ll be firmly ensonced in the new house by that point. Pllus, it means I’ll have a little over a MONTH before I have to do any more chemo. Sweet! I think this will be the longest break in chemo I’ve had since this all started over a year ago.

I’m going to try to go back to work a little bit next week, though the CT scan’s going to throw things a little out of whack. Plus, I’m still fatigued pretty easily, though I’ve been doing better with each passing day. I’ll probably do some half days or something until I’m sure I can make it. Today I had to go to Wallingford to get our insurance and electricity settled for the new house, then I stopped by Lowe’s to look for some stuff to clean the jacuzzi tub with (since that needs to be available IMMEDIATELY). Then I came home and slept for a bit. Three errands and I’m spent. Woof.

Early Mornings, Melted Goodbars

“It’s three thirty in the frickin’ morning. What are you doing awake?”

Well, the short answer, would be “typing softly so as not to wake up sleeping beauty in the next room.” That’s one good thing about the new house – the office is down the hall and around a corner from the master bedroom. That should help mask my late night typing jaunts.

The long answer? Well, that’s somewhat. Um… longer.

You know how sometimes people get reflective on their lives when they have cancer? And how others get reflective when they take part in someone else’s life event, like a wedding or a funeral? And how others still get in the mood when they have a birthday? I hit the trifecta this weekend, baby! A wedding on Saturday, my birthday on Sunday and, well, you know about the cancer thing already.

I guess this would be a good point to post a warning. I don’t really know where this post is going, but it probably won’t be to a shiny happy place. If you’re newly diagnosed with Hodgkin’s, you might want to stop reading here and go read some of my happier posts. Mom, this might not be one you want to print out for Nanny to read. Or maybe it will be – we’ll see where I go with this. At the very least, it will be long and rambling and kill a lot of trees. Be patient, everybody.

Strangely enough, the thing that convinced me to risk waking Barb was an early morning snack. I’ve been awake this whole time and crossed that border between tired and hungry. I came upstairs to do some of my usual random websurfing, checking up on the Hodgkin’s board, some blogs and my Flickr account (new photos added a couple of days ago that I neglected to mention). As I sat here numbly clicking through the world, I realized I had a giant Mr. Goodbar in the left hand drawer of my desk.

Interesting that all of my candy resides on the sinister side of my desk.

One thing about the Whitney Street house – while it’s pretty cold in the winter, it gets hot quickly in the summer. We came home from the birthday celebrating to find the second floor quite stuffy. We didn’t risk the third floor. I opened the windows in the bedroom, so hopefully it had cooled off in there before Barb turned in.

The office, however, has not. Not much anyway. You see, the two windows here don’t have screens. Well, one definitely doesn’t and I’m almost certain the other doesn’t either. Something for the new owners to concern themselves with, whoever those new owners wind up being.

None of this was going through my head as I opened the left hand drawer of my desk. I think what was going through my head was something along the lines of “Food. Eat. Now. Good.” I took out the Mr. Goodbar and proceeded to break it into its component rectangles as I always do. At least, I tried to. The bar wasn’t gooey, but it wasn’t breakable. Just a really pliable in-between state.

So I’m sitting at my desk, eating my Play-Doh textured Goodbar and something poignant and relevant comes to mind. Some grandiose statement on life, death, melted chocolate and Doing Things. Something to make all of you say “Holy CRAP! I’ve got to read this guy more often! He’s DEEP!”

Sadly, that poignant, grandiose statement is lost to the ether, eaten away by ADD, early morning and chocolate satiation. I promise it was really good too. Both the idea and the chocolate.

Even though I haven’t the slightest notion what my early notion was, it got my typing and I figure I should keep going. This is the part that makes me think I’m going to get into trouble. Not trouble exactly. Maybe more along the lines of uncomfortable. Different? Maybe. Depressed? Possibly. Boring? God, I hope not. Rambling? What, are you new here?

Whatever my thought may have been as I was trying to lick the melted chocolate off my fingers, it had something to do in no small way with This Thing I’m Dealing With. You know: the cancer.

Where does my head want me to begin? Let’s start with an update that I forgot to post, then you’ll be able to follow along with the bouncing ball that is my brain. Here’s what I posted over on the Hodgkin’s forum (partially edited so it doesn’t seem weird and stupid over here) :

I do have some good news this morning to add on to all the drama.

1) Barb has done some wrangling and made some phone calls and has managed to move our closing date on the new house up to June 9th. We’re both overanxious to get into the new place and really tired of being in the old place. She told me last night that she’s gotten to the point where having to come home to this place just wears her out and crushes her spirit. Then she realized that she feels like this coming home from work, but I’m having to spend 24 hours a day here. We might have to pay two mortgages for a little while, but we’ll figure something out to make it work.

2) I forgot to mention yesterday (I dunno why, something must have been on my mind), but my bloodwork is finally back to normal. Still a tiny bit lower than it should be, but no more mask for me! WOO HOO!

3) Last night Barb took me out to Outback for a “No more MOPP” celebration dinner. Incidentally, if you’re on MOPP a word of advice: Even though you can eat cheese again 14 days later, this is apparently something you should ease back into, as my intestines will attest. Anyway, as we were getting ready to leave, my phone rang and it was SuperCoop. It always amazes me when doctors call and talk to me themselves.

He said he had talked to the chest radiologist and the nuclear medicine radiologist and they both agree that it could be pretty much anything that’s lighting up on the PET. So he’s going to be talking to a “very very good” thoracic surgeon about getting that biopsy done. He thinks it’ll probably happen next week and said what will be done to me is called the Chamberlain Procedure (bottom of the page). Apparently I’m going to be a really good basketball player when it’s all said and done. When the surgeon calls, I’m going to see if he can do a Gretzky Procedure on me instead.

So there’s where things are standing now. We’re overjoyed that we’ll be moving into the house soon and super happy that we’re gonna be cutting part of this sucker out to see what’s going on. That’s all I would need is to go through the whole SCT process and still have the same thing light up just because it’s born from the nether regions of Mars. Now I just sit and wait for the thoracic surgeon to call.

That was Thursday morning. I haven’t heard anything from the thoracic surgeon yet, so I’m going to call my SCT coordinator and see who I need to bug about the biopsy. So all this means that there’s a possibility that I’m in remission, and might have been for some time. Except for one thing.

The Itch is back.

It started three days ago, on my back for the first time. Sunday morning, the old familiar itching of the hands came back. Mom, Dad – close your eyes for this next line.


Yes, my number one symptom of the Hodge seems to be reasserting itself. It’s not as bad or as maddening as it was for a year and a half before diagnosis, but it didn’t start out that maddening then either. Am I angry? Not really. Sad? Maybe a little maudlin. More than anything, I’m just tired.

I’m tired of these early morning nights, too itchy to sleep, to tired to think.

I’m tired of putting my body through the wringer. I’ve been on one form of chemotherapy or another for a full year, for a disease that usually takes six months of chemo.

I’m tired of being tired. I can’t help anyone anymore and can barely help myself on the bad days. On the good days, I can sit down and type.

I’m tired of being emotional. Barb will walk into the room to find me bawling my eyes out and all she sees on the TV is a frickin’ long distance commercial. I was quite proud of myself for holding it together all through the wedding Saturday, though there were quite a few close calls. Interestingly enough, as much as I cry about external things, I can’t seem to bring the tears up for my own plight. In fact, thinking about myself is often a surefire way to make the tears dry up. How messed up is that? My theory is that some part of me knows that the other things I’m crying for are short term with a definite ending. If I start crying for myself, where will I stop?

I’m tired of waiting. My whole life has been on hold for the past year, particularly the last six months or so. While things are indeed happening, the majority of my life is in “sit and wait” mode.

I’m tired of scratching. I’ve already got scars from the first round of itching, all of the places where I clawed at my skin until I bled. I’m ready to heal now, not open up more wounds.

I’m tired of my brain not working. Sure, I’ve been doing Sudoku like nobody’s business, and I’m not a complete gibbering idiot just yet, but there are still frustrating short circuits I’ve been having to deal with. For example, I was reading a description of our house which mentioned the linoleum that had been installed “on the cellar floor.” I couldn’t read that correctly until the fourth or fifth time. On all of the initial tries, the line said “cellar roof,” which made no sense to me and caused me to keep rereading the sentence to myself. And this wasn’t just a simple misreading mistake. On those first three or four tries, the paper actually had the word “roof” typed on it, according to my brain. On that last attempt, the word finally changed into what was actually there. That was even scary than the now-usual random mistyping, where I’ll say, replace all of my “f”s with “p”s or something equally bizarre.

I guess most of all, I’m tired of this ever-looming and slowly growing specter of death hanging above me. Sure, Hodgkin’s is the most curable cancer out there. Sure, it’s the “easy” cancer to have. But guess what – the cure rate’s not at one hundred percent. And a good portion of the percentage of people who kick this thing beat it down with ABVD alone. With each different form of chemo I’m taking in and each new procedure being performed, I’m moving more and more into the “special case” category. The one time it pays to be average, I have to go and be different.

I’m often asked how I do it. How I get through the day, each day, every day. How I cope with this thing hanging over my head and the constant, crushing letdowns I’ve had through the course of this stupid disease. Well, there are a few things that have helped me up to this point.

One of the most important things is my ADD. This is one of the very few times it’s helped me out in life. If you’re distracted by shiny objects whenever you start to think Bad Cancer Thoughts, you don’t have a long enough string of Bad Cancer Thoughts to break through your clueless hide. Sure, I’m constantly reminded and remind myself of the fact I have cancer several times an hour. But there’s so much other stuff in the world to cram into my head that it’s easy to put the cancer thing on the back burner often, especially since it won’t stay back there. I mean, sure this cancer thing’s important, but look – tinsel!

That’s the easy, happy answer I most readily give out to people. And while it’s an easy, happy answer, that doesn’t mean it’s untrue. At most, it’s a lie of omission. Forgetfulness is a large part of my Cancer Sanity Program, but that’s not the whole story. It’s just the easiest story.

The next part of the story would be that indefinable trait of human nature known as me. While I can have my dark, brooding depressed moments, it’s not in me to blather on about them to other people. He says as he blathers on to other people. I guess what I’m trying to say is that most often when I’m around other people, I don’t tend to be exceedingly serious. Quiet, certainly, but it’s my nature to be quietly funny. I like to put the people around me at ease, and it’s easier to do that by making fun of this stupid creature than it is to whine about my life’s injustice. There are enough people doing that in the world already – we don’t need one more voice.

As difficult as things may get for me, I always keep in mind that there are so many who have it worse than I do. No matter how I want to look at it, I can always think of people in worse situations. Yeah, I have cancer, but it’s not brain cancer. Or colon cancer. I could easily be in much, much worse shape than I am right now. I could be in a third world country with no available resources for cancer treatment. I could be in this first world country with no insurance. I could have no support. I could be alone. I could be dead.

Aside from that, I really get sick of one-downsmanship. I mean, here I sit with the trump card for almost any one-downsmanship faceoff, and I refuse to play it. In public, at least. In my head, I’m thinking “Oh you poor thing, there with your sore throat you’ve been whining about for the past three hours. I’m glad I only have CANCER to deal with!” Not that I’ve become a less caring person, but come on.

Another large part of my story is support. A big thing that keeps me going are the supportive emails I get from all of you out there, whether family, longtime friends, newfound friends or random folks who stumbled across the site. Each word of encouragement helps me lift my head and prepare to fight the next battle. When I see folks in person and they give their support, I get lifted a little higher yet. You people play a big part in keeping me going, and I do thank you for that.

The last thing is a world premiere. I’m pretty sure I gave Barb a sneak preview awhile back, but as Barb is basically a part of me, this is the first time I consider it to be telling someone else. The biggest secret that keeps me going was a revelation I had awhile back. I don’t remember when it was exactly, but Barb probably knows. She’s the part of me that remembers things.

One day, I was thinking about this whole Cancer Experience. I was thinking about fighting, I was thinking about winning and I was thinking about losing. Mostly, I was thinking about giving up. Let me rephrase that. I wasn’t thinking about actually doing the deed and giving up, more like I was thinking about what “giving up” required. What thing in your body or your mind would have to change to make you quit. I’ve heard of people with other cancers who have relapsed, often multiple times, and have decided to just let the cancer take them. The treatment was worse than the illness, so they’d rather enjoy things while they could, rather than go through the agony of more chemo or more radiation.

I was reading someone’s blog or maybe just a story about someone with some other kind of cancer. One of the bad ones. They had recently made this decision themselves and were going through the process of dying. Something in their story or in their words finally made a connection fuse in my brain.

You see, up until that point, I was fighting this thing under a major misconception. Not an actively thought out one, mind you. Just working under a notion I hadn’t thought about or thought all the way through. Up until I finished that story, I thought of the death option as a light switch. If I got to the point where I decided to give up and let the cancer take me, it would be over. As if the mere act of giving up and deciding to die would flick this life/death switch to “death” and it would be all over and done with.

I should interject at this point that I’m not a stupid person. I’m merely of an age where I’ve never really thought about death from illness. People in my little world died from car crashes and hurricanes and freak accidents and heart attacks – things that take you rather quickly. Therefore, the people dying from cancer and old age and disease all went the same way in my mind. Sure, I know these aren’t quick deaths, but I never really sat down and pondered what one of these would be like. Have you, little Mister/Miss Healthypants?

Once I thought about it, I was stunned at just how idiotic my subconscious notions were. Giving up on this thing isn’t an easy out. Dying from cancer is a horrifying process. To die from cancer is to lose pieces of yourself little by little each and every day until there’s nothing left. Not only does it steal you away from your loved ones, it steals you away from yourself.

Above all else, this has become my primary driving factor. Not necessarily a will to live, or an urge to not die, but a definitive goal to specifically not die from cancer. I have no fears of being shot or stabbed or killed in a horrendous car wreck. Drowning and burning are still in the top three of ways I don’t want to go, however. But more than anything else, I’ve made a vow to myself that I’m not letting cancer take me. I am not going to give in to disease. I am not going to waste away. I am not going to lose myself. No matter how dark the night, how early the morning or how dismal the test results, there is one thing I can promise to both you and myself with no doubts in my mind or heart.

I will not give up.

He’s Out of Controooool!

I’m liking this new Flickr-fied me. The previous owners had a set of photos on the kitchen counter for the open house that they graciously let us take home and scan so everyone can see what it looks like with stuff in it. Go take a look.

I’m gonna be gettin’ my money’s worth out of this pro account, baby!

I’m Growing as a Person

Well, if there’s one thing this cancer’s doing, it’s building my character. Or maybe chipping it away. Either way, it’s starting to help me let go of stuff.

You know how awhile back, I came up with my new “It’s not Art” mantra? Well, sometimes saying is easier than doing.

I had gathered up all of our photos from the house inspection and started building a site to show them off. I came up with a nice clean, design. Then I decided I needed a graphic of a dogwood flower. A little research and some hunting for sharpies ensued. Then I had to find some paper. Next comes the dismantling of a picture frame so I can make an impromptu lightbox (don’t tell Barb). Then comes the scanning and touching up in Photoshop. A couple of hours after I get the idea, I have a flower I’m happy with. Of course, a flower that nice needs a better looking site, so I work on that a bit more.

All the while, I’m complimenting myself on following my mantra because even though I knew a few pixels weren’t in perfect alignment, I was going to let it go and not obsess.

I eventually came up with something I liked, only to realize that I had taken off designing without taking the 800×600 folks into consideration (a small part of my constituency, but an important one – all of our parents). So then I started creating two site versions, one for the 6x8s and one for the rest of us.

Because I wasn’t obsessing.

Finally the Hodge reared its head and sent me to bed. As I lay there thinking about how my arms had no energy and my head was spinny and hating the whole Hodge thing, something in my head clicked. That tiny little rational voice in my head that usually gets overwhelmed by Elivs Costello lyrics and all the other voices in there finally cleared its throat and stepped to the front of the queue.

“Hey – that whole ‘It’s not Art’ thing? That’s not what you’re doing. You’re still thinking like Very Important Design People are going to be coming by and judging you. Get over yourself and just get the photos posted, stupid.”

This made enough sense to me to actually drag myself out of bed and come back to the computer. I grabbed the inspection photos, upgraded my Flickr account and threw them all up there. Done. I’m keeping my layout concepts for the house’s site, because at some point, I’ll come back and make that. After all, it is real purty. So from now on, I have a new method for my madness:

1) Take photos
2) Try not to obsess over making them all pretty
3) Upload to Flickr
4) Worry about a pretty site some other day

Sure, people do this all the time. I, however, am a slow learner and this is a huge step for me. You can’t imagine how huge, but I’m sure Barb could tell you. Revel in the new me – I know I will be.

Now that I’ve said what I needed to, you can go look at our new house.

I Guess I’m an Oilers Fan Now

Well, sadly, I was right. The Devils lost Game 5, playing much the same way they did in games 1-3. You know, I was just saying they wouldn’t win so that they would – they didn’t have to prove me right. So now I’ll cheer for Edmonton. Sure, the Ducks brought some more purple into the league, but they took my Neidermeyer, so they get no support. Besides, that Edmonton arena ROCKS!

ATTENTION DAD! Be sure and watch the San Jose/Edmonton game this Wednesday at 8 EST on OLN. They’ll be playing in Edmonton and you’ll get to hear what I was telling you about on Sunday. Plus, if they win and close out the series, the place is going to go bonkers.

In other news, I masked up and we went over to the new house for the inspection. There were a couple of minor issues, mostly with the fireplace. That actually makes it sound worse than it is. Basically, the fireplace needed some cleaning and a good inspecting from a chimney guy. The top of the chimney needs a little mortar and we couldn’t find the cleanout for the furnace side of the chimney. Other than that, a semi-screwy attic fan and little touch ups here and there, the place passed with flying colors. I took a few photos of everything and I’m in the process of throwing them all together for you to see. Expect another post by the end of the day.

Another realtor brought someone by our house while we were at the new house. They didn’t say anything bad about the place, which is a step in the right direction, but we don’t have an offer yet, and that’s what counts.

One last thing – I’m going to be reworking my email delivery system in a little bit. Shouldn’t mean too much to you folks out there, but if you send me an email today and I don’t reply for awhile (like, even longer than it usually takes me), send me a note via the contact form and I’ll let you know if I’m just being lazy. It goes to a different address, so shouldn’t be affected. Assuming, of course, that I don’t do something really stupid.

Nope, They’re Still Not Gonna Make It

I’m not sure if it’s the hockey gods trying to make me look like an idiot or if they just needed me to post about them to win, but the Devs put on a really impressive show yesterday. They finally looked like themselves, even though Gionta still hasn’t gotten a point in this series. I’ll declare this right now – Cam Janssen is my cancer watchdog. Now whenever I’m feeling low from the chemo, I’m just picturing a million Cams skating through my system knocking the Hodge on its ass. Let’s hear it for positive visualization.

So whichever thing I did yesterday to make them win, I’ll do it again today. Let’s see…

The way the Devils are looking right now, I would not be surprised in the least if they lose on Saturday Sunday and are swept beaten 4-1. Being the team they are and on the cusp of elimination, I would also not be surprised if they win on Saturday Sunday. But the way they’ve been playing in this series and, more importantly, the way the Hurricanes have been playing, I don’t see the Devils making it through to the next round. Still, the playoffs are where the miracles happen, right?

Man, it’s hard being a fan…

Cancer-wise, I’m feeling slightly better. My sleeping habits are still hosed from the prednisone and I have bacne like you wouldn’t believe, but I’m slowly getting to where I don’t dread climbing the stairs. I’m still not that fond of them and they still wear me out, but I’m getting there. I’m spending Mother’s Day here alone at the house to be away from the crowd at Bev’s house today. The weather’s being crappy and rainy and everyone’s going to have to stay huddled inside and I really don’t like that stupid little mask. So, I’ll do some more lying around the house today and wait for the hockey game at 7, when I get to climb all the way up to the third floor. I think I’ll pack some provisions and start the journey around 6.

Hmmm… today feels like a Big Lebowski day. I wonder which moving box we’ve stashed that in… Oooo! Maybe a Coen Brothers marathon! Though, I’m pretty sure I sent the Hudsucker Proxy to storage. My life is so full…

Speaking of storage and such, another realtor came by to show off the house yesterday. They were here for about a half hour or so, but no word yet on what the potential buyers thought. Our house inspection for the new place is on Monday, so it’ll be great to get to see our new place again. We’ve got another open house for this place coming up next Sunday, so I’ve got a whole week to maniacally shuffle around the house hiding anything of value. There’s just something about random strangers walking around my house alone that gives me the heebie jeebies, especially in this neighborhood.

I mean… this is a GREAT neighborhood! Buy our house!