Saturday, December 31, 2011

Long Time Coming

I intended to post this picture several weeks ago, i.e. in mid-November. The reason it wasn't posted is that I seem to have misplaced the cable I use to transfer pictures from my camera to my computer. Could it be that there is still some chemo-brain lingering, or is it old age? Doesn't really matter.

I took this picture at Dutch Gap near Richmond VA on November 12. Earlier in the year, I took a kayak tour of this area and when this picture was taken, I was riding my bicycle on a 5 mile loop around the area. I stopped to rest and soak in the view. Ironically, 3 years earlier, on November 12, I was taking in another view while seated in a comfortable chair. I was watching the TV in the chemo room while the nurse began to administer my first chemo treatment. Even though I initially regarded that day as the beginning of something bad, I now look back on it with a different view.

Maybe the cancer diagnosis I was given was not the beginning of an end, but, like Christmas, the beginning of a beginning. I think of all the times I have heard, "Now that Christmas is over....." in the past few days. Maybe all of the tasks associated with the preparation for the events that occur on December 25 are indeed completed, but Christmas really isn't over. It would be the same as mining the ore, refining it, shaping it into pieces of steel, cutting those pieces into parts, assembling them into a car, filling the car tank with gasoline and then letting it sit in your driveway without ever driving it. 

The same with getting treatment for cancer. Sure, the process is cumbersome and for some folks completely awful. The point of it however, is not to die or look back on how hideous the process may have been, but to be able to....well, as I type this, I am listening to the voice of Boris Karloff...

"And they'll shriek squeaks and squeals, racing 'round on their wheels.
They'll dance with jingtinglers tied onto their heels.
They'll blow their floofloovers. 
They'll bang their tartookas.
They'll blow their whohoopers. 
They'll bang their gardookas.
They'll spin their trumtookas. 
They'll slam their slooslunkas.
They'll beat their blumbloopas. 
They'll wham their whowonkas.
And they'll play noisy games like zoozittacarzay,
A roller-skate type of lacrosse and croquet!
And then they'll make ear-splitting noises galooks
On their great big electro whocarnio flooks!
Then the Whos, young and old, will sit down to a feast.
And they'll feast! And they'll feast! And they'll FEAST! FEAST! FEAST! FEAST!" **

My friends, remember to feast - as a host and as a guest. That's what we do after Christmas.

** Text by Theodor Seuss Geisel, Bob Ogle and Irv Spector.

Friday, December 23, 2011

And To All....

The newspaper editor of whom I spoke in my previous post has this image on his website this week.

I am proud of him.

In this glorious Holiday Season, may you know which gifts can be placed in a box and which ones can not.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

What Once Was Lost

Somewhere in the history of this blog, I mentioned something I wrote about my response to "Merry Christmas." I couldn't find it at the time. I found it while looking for something else. Here it is...

          Give Christmas Away

            Voices are ringing this year. They are at every pitch and every personality a voice can have. There are shouts, returned greetings, wishes followed by handshakes or hugs, all delivering the wishes of all the events and occasions that take place in this time at the start of the season of winter.

            Some of those voices have also been ringing with the dismay that the greeting of “Merry Christmas” has been replaced with “Happy Holidays.” A small town newspaper editor in the December 8, 2005 edition of his paper related, “We Americans are expected to respect the cultures, traditions, and practices of other nations and peoples, and rightfully so. But what about our culture, and our traditions, and our practices? “

            Who are “we?” Are “we” the Native Americans who inhabited this land before our Spanish and Anglo Saxon ancestors came here to explore? Are “we” the African Americans who were deposited here by descendants of “our” Anglo Saxon ancestors? Are “we” any of the immigrants who gazed upon the message held high by the Statue of Liberty in New York harbor?

            To feel that “we” are the ones being persecuted by not being made to feel comfortable in saying “Merry Christmas” is missing the entire foundation of the Christmas Holiday. If the observers of Christmas were to be true to the holiday, evergreens in houses would have to disappear (actually, some of “our” Puritan ancestors outlawed Christmas observances in the mid 1800's in “our” country). The lights on “our” houses, the wrapping paper, the sending of Christmas cards were not part of the origin of Christmas. “We” have added all that.

            Maybe saying “Happy Holidays” does diminish the amount of times we get to say the word “Christmas.” Even the word, “Christmas” wasn’t used until several centuries after the event it commemorates. Its use came about from some of “our” ancestors trying to tie in the observance of the birth of Christ to existing festivals and holidays with origins in the Roman Empire. “Our” ancestors actually caused the existing observances of Saturnalia, Yule, and the flight of Oden to be diminished or eliminated by the evolution of the Christmas holiday.

            With all the compassion and joy that the Holidays observed in this time frame intend to generate, I will wish the appropriate greeting of “Merry Christmas,” “Happy Hanukah,” or “Joyous Kwanza,” when I know what greeting is appropriate. If I am not sure, I will wish “Happy Holidays” with the same compassion and joy. I don’t worry that Christmas will be taken away from me if I don’t say “Merry Christmas.” I don’t think Christmas is mine or “ours” to keep. I think Christmas is to be given away. Maybe it’s time to bring everyone together again.

I think, one day we will get to see the creator of this world. I believe when we see the creator, we will see a form like we never could have imagined. We will ask, “How did you come up with that?” The reply will be, “You could have done the same. I gave you all the ingredients.”

May Peace, Joy, Grace and Love be in your life from now until you meet the creator of this world. Happy Holidays.

Thursday, October 27, 2011


3 years. Went to the doctor's office and left the annual "Anniversary Card" for my oncologist.

Spoke to all 3 of the people who encouraged me to go to the emergency room that afternoon and told two of them, "One of my life goals is no matter if you upset me on October 26, I will make it my mission to always shake your hand on October 27."

Go raibh maith Dia do grásta

Ich danke Gott für die Gnade

תודה לאל על החסד

نشكر الله على نعمة

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Comfort And Joy

In the past, I have been known to go camping in the fall. Usually around my birthday. As I haven't done it for at least 15 years, and since my birthday was on a Friday and was sharing the date with the rapture prediction by Harold ("Wait for it") Camping. I thought the irony was too great to pass up without an observance.

The scenes above are from Bear Creek Lake State Park near Cumberland, Virginia.

While there, some friends came and met me for some hiking and lunch. During our time together, I told them, "You know, there are times when I am doing some menial task at this time of year, like mowing the lawn or cleaning fallen pine needles out of my driveway, that I am reminded I was restricted from doing those kind of things for awhile and I turn them into a celebration as I am doing them. Even though I was absolutely spoiled during that time, the current status suits me fine."

Camping alone in the woods in the crisp fall air, with the scent of fallen and decomposing leaves, mixed in with the smell of a campfire, drinking fresh apple cider and eating camp food, are some of the bits of heaven I see on earth.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Know This Guy?

Seth Godin

I subscribe to his daily blog. On Friday, October 7, he posted this:

Eliminating the impulse to stall

My friend and colleague Amit Gupta is fighting off leukemia and the twittersphere is lighting up with expressions of support.

But the support he really needs is for you to get a Q-tip, stick it in your cheek and mail it back. The process is free and you can sign up right here.

The extraordinary thing about marketing is that a million people might see something or hear something or be sold something and only a thousand will actually take action. Even if it's free.

When you look at the long odds on marrow donation, it feels like a bit of a sweepstakes, but backwards. It's easy to fix if we just get everyone (regardless of ethnicity) to register.
How about if we gamify it? Here's the deal: if you are a match for Amit and the marrow donation happens, I'll profile you or the project of your choice on the blog and send you a check for $10,000 for you or the charity of your choice. Winner take all, no purchase necessary... (Even if you don't win, if you swab we all win).

I couldn't resist the opportunity to send him a note about an additional way to help Amit. That is, through the donation of blood platelets. As I have explained here, I explained to him how blood platelet donations would help Amit. To Seth's credit, he responded to me promptly with "Thanks Greg. I'm so glad you're here and caring."

Glad to help sir. Just showing up.

Godspeed to Amit.

"Look out for me, oh muddy water
Your mysteries are deep and wide
And I got a need for going some place
And I got a need to climb upon your back and ride." - Roger Miller

Monday, September 26, 2011

It Feels Kind Of Like....

My grand watermelon adventure of 2011 did not succeed. I had blooms and fruit, but the fruit did not yield solid watermelon flesh throughout. There was a spoonful of edible melon flesh in the fruits that were produced, but not the way I hoped they would turn out. Seems I may have planted them too late and in the heat of the summer, their growth was stunted. But, what I needed to know is what I know now. Next year, I know when I need to plant them and how to care for them so that they yield what I hope for.

Tomorrow morning, a friend that I made in the previous year will be admitted to the Bone Marrow Unit at MCV  here in Richmond. Wondering how her evening is going tonight, brought back some of my anxiety of my "Bone Marrow Eve," but I also remember the specifics of that evening included a great dinner with some friends, a drop off of a patented "bag of fun" to take to the hospital with me and shopping to get one more shirt to wear while in the hospital.

The next day was a big day. Probably the most significant day of the whole adventure. One of the thoughts in my mind was, "Here goes. This will either work or it won't." The only other day that was similar was the first day of chemo. Coincidentally, the same person gave me a ride to both events.

As the weather turns to be more like the days before my diagnosis and as the college football team I follow turned in a performance on Saturday very similar to a performance I witnessed from them a few weeks prior to being diagnosed in 2008, sometimes the head remembers how those days felt. However, since I now have a healthy appetite and it isn't painful to digest food at this point, it's all good.

The other week, I was talking to another person who is being treated for lung cancer. He's about my age and his diagnosis has a time frame associated with it. As we talked, I told him, "None of us do know when we will die. However, all of us can live every day until then."

I told him that my feeling is that a cancer patient has to deal with two cancers. The physical cancer is the one that is being attended to by doctors and nurses and the patient makes decisions based on the information being presented to them. That cancer may or may not be cured.

The other cancer is the one that goes on in the mind.

"That one," I told him, "is curable. You are, and will be, surrounded by a host of angels in this world that can and will help you with that."

It's not necessary that you  know the names of the people I write about in this blog post, but it would be cool if you could think about them and send a few "Godspeeds" their way.

Maybe then, someday when they look back on the seeds that were planted for them, they will be able to share the fruits of their harvest.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Irene And The Mercy Rule

Last Saturday, August 27, I was sitting in the kayak pictured above on the Cheat River, just south of Rowlesburg WV. I was checking off an item on my "bucket list." I wanted to float the river between Seven Islands (look it up on Google Maps, it's there) and Rowlesburg. When I contacted my cousins about it, they suggested we put our kayaks in the water at Seven Islands and go to the bridge where Route 50 crosses over the Cheat. That is what we did. Less than 10 minutes after putting our kayaks in the water, all 6 of us on the trip were saying to each other, "This is cool! What took us so long to finally do this?" Our trip was further enhanced by the appearance of a bald eagle and a blue heron flying ahead and over us.

At the same time that we were in the water, Hurricane Irene was pummeling North Carolina and Virginia. Frankly, I wouldn't have left town had I known what was really going to happen in Richmond, but when I got back, everything was fine except for being without electricity and some tree branches that I need to clean out of my yard. Neighbors in the back of me had trees fall on their house. 

But, the serenity of kayaking on the Cheat River was where I was placed that day. 

When I returned to Richmond on Monday, some traffic lights were out and as a result, the intersections became 4 way stops. That's the rule. Except for the ignorant. I mean that in the way that describes lack of knowledge and a little bit that describes those who are self-centered. Ultimately, it falls to the knowledgeable driver to be the one responsible for not causing an accident, when in that situation, someone proceeds through the intersection out of turn. That's the way it has to work, no matter how fierce a glare I shoot in the direction of the person not following the rules.

Tuesday evening, I cleaned up some of the debris in my yard and emptied my refrigerator. I then decided to purchase some batteries to use in the battery operated lamps at my house. As I left the neighborhood, I noticed that the heroes of the hurricane had arrived in our neighborhood to restore our electricity. In spite of that, I still decided to continue on the battery purchasing mission. On the way back, I stopped at a local convenience store and purchased a well earned treat - a chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwich - paying the same for it that I paid for an amazing steak and cheese sub at Mike's Pizza in Arbutus MD during my first semester of college. In spite of the chronological price shock, I proceeded to the counter to wait my place in line; the coveted #2 position. Until.....a gentleman walked in and created a new #2 position. I unsealed "the glare" and failed to catch his eye. He kept his head turned away from mine. I turned and looked at the person behind to see if they saw what I saw. They too were looking in another direction. I concluded that the person in the new #2 position most certainly failed to follow the rule of the 4 way stop on his way to the store. I created other scenarios. In my mind, I placed him in an income bracket. I chose his automobile. I chose his college (they wear neckties to their football games). 

Then, when the opening presented itself, he took his place at the counter. When he shifted his position, his face turned towards mine I was able to make a revised assessment of his background. He had physical features that could suggest he may have some form of intellectual disability. Geez.

Somewhere in my blog is a story about making sure I know the story behind another person's actions before I make any assessments.

The serenity of a normally calm river winding through a wooded mountain ridge; the raging power of a hurricane unleashing furious winds, while dropping rain to quench a forest fire; and another human, placed in a location to catch the eye and soul of another human; are what keep this home we call earth (and someday, Heaven) in motion.

"Do not forget to entertain strangers, for by so doing some people have entertained angels without knowing it."

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Four To Go

Told Annette yesterday, "You know, we only have four more of these bone marrow biopsies left over the next three years and that means we are well over halfway of the total number of them that you will have had to give me."

She seemed surprised that we were that far along, but I also now she was mostly relieved we at that point. Once again, she did a fantastic job of keeping the discomfort at a minimum. There were some "Ow's" that I recall from the past that I did not even experience yesterday.

I also told her, "I may do something really silly (not indecent, mind you) on the day of the final one in 2014." I have some ideas, but nothing concrete yet.

When it comes to that kind of thing, I don't think she has any fear.

Interesting medical fact......Every time she has performed a bone marrow biopsy on me, she comments about how strong my bones are and how tough it is for her to get through. Having a little of the "cancer paranoia," I asked what her take was on that. She explained that for older patients in their 60's-70's, as their bones are a little weaker, it is an easier process, but for patients in their 50's and younger, who are in relatively good health, the bone is a little harder to get through.

So I guess that's a good thing.

Ironically enough, I'm listening to the Mary Chapin Carpenter song, "I Feel Lucky," as I type this.

I would be even more excited to hear her singing "Passionate Kisses" to me in person.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Freshness Guaranteed

Now here's an idea you may never have thought of.....

If you ever have a friend who has surgery and will have a bandage covering the area where the surgery took place, and they want to be able to take a shower without getting the bandage wet.....

1) Buy them a handheld shower that will allow them to direct the water more precisely than a wall mounted shower head. You can get them at a starting cost of around $15.00 and up.

2) Here's the best thing you can do.....Buy them a roll or two of Glad Press and Seal. I'm breaking my own rule of inserting brand names, but it is the only product I've seen like it. In addition, the instructions that came from the hospital after I had my port removed, listed it by name. Tearing off a piece of it, larger than the bandaged area, and then applying it directly to your skin, allows you to take a shower without fear of soaking the dressing bandage. I've used it for the fourth time now since my "sabbatical" started and it works great! You shouldn't point the shower head directly at it, but it allows you to clean in the neighborhood.

Just throwing that out there.....

Monday, August 8, 2011

First MRSA And Now I'm A Biohazard

The port came out today, The Physician Assistant did a great job. No discomfort at all during the process. It probably took about 15-20 minutes. My question of, "Can I keep the port to show others what it looks like and how it works?," was answered with, "No, once it is removed it is considered medical waste and ultimately a bio hazard."

Somewhere in grade school I was probably accused of having "the cooties," but was never called a producer of bio hazard material. I consider it a promotion. Considering some of the stuff that traveled through the port, it is for the best that it now resides in a waste disposal facility at this moment.

Kudos, however, to how clean it looked after it was removed (they did let me look at it and say "goodbye."). I guess it speaks to the great shape of the neighborhood in which it resided since early November 2008. Seriously, I expected it to look like, well, like what the T-bone in a raw T-bone steak would look like after it had been eaten. Not so much. It looked as if it was brand new out of the package. The area where it was accessed (labeled as the "septum" in the picture below) was intact and I was unable to discern that any needles had ever penetrated it.

(actual size about the width of a quarter and about as thick as your thumbnail is wide)

One of the nurses asked me, "If you ever had a relapse, would you have another power port inserted?" "In a minute," I replied, "It sure beat getting stuck by an IV needle for every infusion, transfusion and collection."

However, for this port, it was time to let it go. The prime medical consideration for having it removed is that at any time, the body could reject it and create a "Graft vs. Host" situation.

So...........farewell my purple friend......thanks for helping me out........and for the members of your family that follow in the years to follow.....

Friday, July 29, 2011

Getting The Brain To Catch Up

Yesterday was the official 6 month follow up visit with my oncologist. She had reviewed the scans from last week and her first words to me as she entered the examination room were, "Your scans came back all clear." My blood work for the day is in the normal ranges - them darn platelets are still about where they were when I was first diagnosed - still in the normal range - but no where near where they were during treatments. Left on the schedule for the 6 month "routine" is a pulmonary function test and.....the bone marrow biopsy (over that anxiety a long time ago).

We also discussed that my power port will be scheduled to be removed. The official date for its removal is August 8 at 9AM. It is an outpatient procedure which I can drive myself to and from and go to work afterwards. I'm sure there will be some physical limitations for a few days afterwards. So be it. I guess it will be the week of taking things out of me as the following Friday (August 12) is t he bone marrow biopsy.

Interesting thoughts about the removal of the port. When I completed treatments, I immediately asked how quickly we could remove it. "Let's leave it in a little while," the doctor replied. I wondered why and developed scenarios, but ultimately it was a wise decision on her part as I needed the IVIG infusions between    November 2009 and July 2010. Leaving it in another year just to make sure blood levels were holding up now makes sense.

However, now that it's removal is inevitable, I have mixed thoughts about it. Wasn't sure why at first, but I think I figured it out.

When I went home after the first chemo treatment, when I left the hospital after the stem cell transplant, when my parents went home after staying with me two weeks straight when I was released from the hospital, when I went back to work full time, when I made my first out of town trip following my "sabbatical", and when I stepped back on stage as part of a theatrical cast, there was anxiety. It was because I had to let go of some sort of lifeline that I had been holding onto. My body was ready for the increased independence, but the brain wasn't in sync quite yet. With time, I accepted the independence and took a deep swallow of "normal."

So it goes with the power port. It is the last official physical thing that connects me to the care I received. I'm contemplating asking if I can have it after it is removed. Not so much to frame and hang on the wall, but rather to display to others and remove some of cancer's mystique. Initially, I didn't like why I had it in me, and  I didn't even look at it. Now, I look at it, but I won't intentionally touch the area of my skin where it resides underneath. Only by the cleansing ability of the water and soap that ran over that area of my skin is why there isn't a layer of grime on my skin in that area. Once the removal incision heals, I'll give that area a good scrub.

Funny story about the port....During the recent show I was in, my final scene on stage involved my getting shot at on stage and as a result, my character collapsed and died on stage. I would fall on my right side -where the port is. I never gave thought that I would fall on the port as I always fell on my shoulder and hip. Until the night before I knew my Nurse Practitioner would be in the audience the next day. I asked her after the show if the thought, "I hope he didn't fall on his port," went through her mind.

I got a look.

If they let me keep it, look for a picture of it here soon afterwards.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Was Yesterday

The second anniversary of my stem cell return.

How did I celebrate?

I went to a party. A party in honor of the person I spoke about in my December 31, 2010 post. She passed away in April. When I thought of her I remembered several comets that appeared in the sky during my teen years. I had never seen one before and a couple of them during that time were "no shows." Never saw them. I can't remember specifically which one I did see, but I did see it. The best time to observe it was sometime after midnight. As I usually went to bed in the 9:30-10:00 time frame, I didn't stay up to see it, but I did wake up sometime after midnight one night, looked at my clock and then went to the kitchen window of our house, which faced east, and I saw it in the sky. It wasn't the blazing ball of fire that I expected, but rather a slightly glowing streak that stretched from near the eastern horizon to somewhere almost directly overhead. "What a bust," I thought, "Maybe Halley's comet in a few years will beat it." I saw Halley's comet in 1986 and was not impressed.

As I remembered my friend yesterday, I remembered that I have two of her messages to me on my answering machine. I will not erase them. They were messages in which she called me her friend and a hero. Hero....hardly. I was fortunate enough to get to meet and know her in a short time frame (less than a year), but we shared conversations about our cancers (her cancer was different than mine) and how to deal with the mental challenges. During her cancer experience, she grasped life and lived it and it was never more demonstrated than in a picture of her that was at the party yesterday. It was a picture of her dancing on the beach in a sundress a few months after her diagnosis.

The comets in the sky were not so much. The bright light that shone in my friend and still shines in the hearts and memories of her family and friends......impressive.

 "It will not come by watching for it. It will not be said, 'Look here!' or 'Look there!'. Rather, the Father's kingdom is spread out upon the Earth, and people don't see it!"

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I Was That Close

To taking some homemade treats to my friends at the Bone Marrow Transplant Unit today to "celebrate" my second anniversary of meeting them.

Then I remembered that I was diagnosed with a MRSA infection a couple weeks ago (no idea how that came about, although I have some theories) and am finishing up my antibiotic regimen for that. Didn't want to take anything else down there except for some treats, so I'll wait and maybe go down on the anniversary of my release from there.

The MRSA thing, not a big concern. I initially thought it was some "adult puberty" in the form of a pimple on my forehead. Then, I realized that its initial appearance was a scab. Then, I thought it could be a spider bite. Was feeling pretty fatigued, headache that wouldn't go away and some cold chills in the middle of the night. I investigated on the internet - when will I learn NOT to do that. Went to the doctor and gave them my diagnosis and they gave me their diagnosis instead. I didn't ask for a second opinion. Treatment called for an antibiotic twice daily for 21 days and using a soap that medical professionals use to scrub my fingernails and forehead area.

My question for my oncologist, when I see here in a week and a half, will be, "Even though it has been over a year and a half, is my immune system still somewhat compromised?" We'll see.

Totally forgot last week that I have a regularly scheduled CT scan on Monday - until a reminder popped up on my computer calender to pick up the "Banana Smoothie" contrast solution yesterday. I actually called the hospital to confirm I had an appt. on Monday. I do. Would make sense that I do since I have an appt. with the doctor on the 28th to review the results of the scan.

A co-worker, who was very supportive of me during my "sabbatical" was diagnosed with a rare form of cancer in May and passed way on July 6. Was a bit of a shock and was especially difficult for him and his family as he was a few years younger than me, had a wife and two sons (one in high school and one in college). Made me start thinking as to whether a major illness is more difficult for a person in a relationship or for a single person. I have thoughts to share on that. Will be interested in yours. Will make it the subject of an upcoming post.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Andri (Part 2)

"You like that life? Kind of tough to settle in and make friends."

"Actually, I have lots of friends everywhere I've been. The best get to tell your stories and jokes new every time you relocate somewhere. I like to think I stay long enough to be considered boring and then I move on. It's been a rewarding experience. Someday, when I'm finished, I'll stop doing it. For now, I'll stick with it."

"Good for you."

Silence. Andri looked at the clock to see if it was 20 after or 20 until the hour. He had heard that when the silence happens in a conversation, for some reason it always occurs at that time in the hour. The clock showed 6:29.

"Not this time, " he whispered to himself.

"Not this time, what?" asked his new friend.

Andri relayed the story of the "clock silence" and expressed his belief that he had seen it happen more than once.

"Interesting. In some of the places I have been, I have heard the same story. Except, the time is different based on where I am. Some places, it is 10 after and 10 of, others are 15, some have been 7, etc., etc. Don't know why there is that variation, but I guess that is what makes humanity interesting. Similar, yet different."

"Guess so."

"Sir, your platelet counts are good today. Do you have time to give us a double?", Joni, the staff member asked, "You'll be in the chair about 75 minutes once we start collecting."

"Sure thing. Good way to impress you all on my first visit here."

"Thank you sir. We appreciate it."

"Andri, you'll be out of here in about an hour. However, your platelets will be used up before day end right here at the hospital."

"Excellent. Be out of your hair soon enough, I guess."

"Yes, but we will expect to see you back in a couple weeks."

Andri's collection went without a hitch and indeed he was finished in a little over an hour. He never really stuck around for the snacks afterwards. He had done this long enough to know he never experienced any side effects and his office was less than a mile away, so if he had any problems, there would be someone around to help.

"Catch you all later. Nice to meet you sir. See you around. Don't let these folks tell you they need to switch arms in the middle of  your collection. That is there favorite initiation ritual to new people."

"Get out of here, Andri. Don't lie to him."

"Someone needs to tell him the truth."

With that he was out the door and down the sidewalk.

"Good start to the day," he thought. He only hoped that the person receiving his platelets would have plenty more good days ahead.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Part Of Chapter 2


Andri was normally the first appointment of the day at The Blood Bank in University Hospital. He would arrive early, make his donation and then head off to work, arriving 15 minutes later than normal. He was surprised when he saw another person already in one of the chairs beginning the platelet donation process. He felt like the staff had “cheated” on him. He felt that he had developed a bond with them because of his early arrival time. Given the time of the day, there normally weren’t a lot of folks donating and in spite of the fact that he would bring along a book or a DVD to watch, he would usually end up talking to the staff for the two hours he was there. It was a time for him them to bond by sharing stories of vacations, celebrations and heartbreaks. In addition, they solved all of the worlds’ problems and in doing so, brought peace on earth. 

Andri knew of the value of platelet donations to those who ended up receiving them. He knew they were needed by those going through chemotherapy treatments for cancer. He wasn’t sure exactly how, but he had known too many people affected by his nemesis, cancer, and this was his way of striking back. In fact, his donation today was going to be used specifically for a current patient that he was matched to. He heard the stories of previous donors being matched and eventually meeting each other. He wished for that for himself, but it hadn’t happened yet. In addition, he also had signed up to be a bone marrow donor for the same reason.

Maybe even he was sometimes a little too proud of his mission. He always wondered if the others in the chairs next to him were as altruistic. Until the time he saw a donor a few chairs down nearly pass out as they began the process. Once the staff stabilized them, he asked quietly, “Are they OK?”

“They’re fine,” the staff member replied, “Can’t tell you their background due to HIPPA, but they are as dedicated as you to helping cancer patients. Let’s get you started. What arm do you want to use today?”


“Ha! That’s a new one.”

“From me?”

“Nope, first time I’ve ever heard that response. However, it doesn’t surprise me that it came from you.”

On this day, Andri was a little too tired from some long hours at work and restless nights to engage in too much wittiness. Plus, the guy in the next chair, well, something didn’t seem right about him. It was as if there were words poised on the tip of his tongue and in his countenance, but he wasn’t saying much.

“Maybe a first timer. Might need some calming,” Andri thought.

Suddenly, he spoke.

“Nervous?” he asked Andri.

“Nope. Done it many times before. Actually, this is my 40th time. Used to it. How about you.”

“Don’t know how many times or how long. Seems like it’s been forever. This is the first time here, however. Just moved to town.”

“Where did you move from?”

“Let’s see, where haven’t I lived? My job takes me all over the world. Last place I lived before moving here was Toulouse, in France”

“Gipsy Kings!”

“Close. Love those guys!”

“What were you doing over there?”

“I do missions world-wide. So now I’m here.”

“Interesting. How long are you here for?”

“Probably a few years. That’s been my history. Spend 3 years or so getting a project up and running, and then I move on to the next one.” (to be continued)

Friday, June 17, 2011

A Promise

Was reading some blog posts from last year and was reminded I promised this:

Thomas wanted a view. He wanted to see. The floor of the hospital where he was being treated had windows that faced east and windows that faced west.  The east facing windows looked out over a vista that stretched at least 5 miles from right to left and 3 miles straight ahead. There were multiple urban streets, an interstate highway, railroad tracks, a river and a view of one the nighttime city hotspots. Plenty to look at, plenty to see. Looking at the view confirmed that the city was alive. The trade off was that the room was smaller. It was a room that would have been considered a private room in its past. On this floor, all of the rooms were private, except that the west facing rooms were originally semi-private rooms and were somewhat larger.
Thomas’s view, out of the west facing rooms, was of adjoining hospital buildings of various architecture and construction. The buildings included the original hospital structure that was constructed as part of the WPA program.  The red brick and copper roof structure with a visually interesting personality stood in contrast to the concrete walls of the other buildings that created a non-descript canyon. Another building had what looked like to be a light blue rope light along the top edge that lit up at dusk and stayed on until dawn. He thought it to be of decorative intent, but wondered if it was also intended to help Medevac  pilots to find the adjoining building where the landing pad was located. It didn’t matter much. By the time the sun reached the point in the sky when it would shine directly into his room, Thomas would lower the blinds and take a visual siesta from the scene until the sun went beyond the man-made horizon. He would then raise the blind and keep it there until right before he fell asleep for the evening.
The view Thomas most wanted to see, he missed. Fourteen days after his admission for chemotherapy that required a stem cell transplant to “rescue” his immune system, Thomas would be infused with various blood products including whole blood, platelets and plasma. It was a non-invasive process with minimal risks, but there was always the possibility of his body rejecting the new guests in his system. At this point in his life, he was at his most susceptible to infections and viruses. Although he was alert and felt reasonably well, he literally was as close to death’s door as he had ever been in his life. A sobering thought for sure, but he looked at it as there was nowhere to go but up from here.
The infusion process would start somewhere around 11:00 PM and continue through the night. Thomas had accepted that it would be a restless night, but as he had nowhere to go the next day, he could make up for lost sleep during the day. He normally settled in for the night shortly after the 10:00 visit from the nurse when she would administer the prescribed medications, including his sleeping pill.
The next time his eyes opened, the nurse wakened him to take his vital signs.
“How we doing?” he asked the nurse.
“Not long until we are finished,” she replied.
“Are you taking my vital signs early because there is a problem?”
“No, it’s 4:15 and that’s the normal time I do it.”
“Seriously, I’ve slept through five hours of you changing infusion bags?”
“Yes sir.”
“A miracle,” he thought to himself.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Lets Hear It For The Boys

I like that you continue to ask about Bo and Hunter.

This is a picture of Mr. Bo and Miss Ally Baker from Easter morning:

And this is his latest news from his Caring Bridge site

This is a recent post from Hunter's Mothers Facebook page:
CANCER FREE....the two best words a mommy and daddy can ever hear!!!! Many thanks for all your prayers!!  

And this, from a recent article in The Richmond Times Dispatch about yet another oncology nurse from Richmond being a finalist in this year's Extraordinary Healer Contest, sponsored by CURE Magazine.

"That jukebox in the corner blasting out my favorite song
The nights are getting warmer, it won't be long
Won't be long till summer comes
Now that the boys are here again
The boys are back in town........

Spread the word around" - Thin Lizzy

Sunday, April 24, 2011

The Resurrection And Cancer

It's a given that when I have driving time, I also have thinking time. Sure, I have the tunes playing almost non-stop (the good part of having satellite radio), but during my extended drive time, I ponder.

Today being Easter, well.....

2 years ago, a different kind of Easter, for it was the weekend following my first round of chemo treatment #2 and I was on the "no out of town" driving restrictions. I stayed put and enjoyed the company of some friends here in town.

This year (and last year), a "normal" Easter.

Even though I was raised in the Christian tradition, sometimes I struggle with the church's message on the whole Easter thing. Seems there is a lot of focus on the Crucifixion (as evidenced by the presence of crosses in Christian sanctuaries) and the sacrifice made through the act. I've heard the message of  "Since Jesus conquered death, we no longer have to fear death. That's the gift of the Resurrection."

Really? Is that all there is to it?

Here I sit, no signs of cancerous activity in my body. So...I no longer have to fear cancer, or the potential of a relapse? There is the possibility that 3-1/2 years from now, I will be considered "cured" if there are no more signs of cancer in my body between now and then (technically, I would be cured of the Non Hodgkins "alien," but if a secondary cancer occurred, I would not be considered cured of all cancer).

However if you think I am saying that once I am cured of the "alien" I would no longer have to fear the "alien" and that would be the official end of my cancer experience, your thoughts are not necessarily where I am heading with this.

Once I experienced the "alien" and its impact on me, and also interacted with others experiencing their own "aliens," I learned that those of us in the cancer community (that would include you, even if you've never been diagnosed with it - the fact that you are reading this, makes you part of the community), not only can work to find a cure, but we can also work to make the lives of cancer patients better while they travel through their cancer journeys. Those of us who know you can LIVE through a cancer experience can deliver that hope and experience to others who are struggling. In my conversations with other patients, I never promise them that they will be cleared or cured of cancer. What I do promise them is that there are people in their lives, and people who will enter the lives, who will want to show them how and why to live.

To close, thought I'd resurrect this from a previous post:

"Drinking life 
That's the thing 
Makes a man want to suddenly sing 
Sing and dance 
And perchance 
Seeing life from a different stance 
When you learn how to live it 
Life is free of strife 
That is why I like life! 
That's the secret of living"Leslie Bricusse

Thursday, March 24, 2011

And I Paraphrase

I had a chance to hear Dr. George Church speak at The Richmond Forum last Saturday night. He is a soft-spoken man; very intelligent and very wise.

The statement he made that most struck me was when he was asked, "Do you believe in God?", he replied (and I paraphrase), "Most of my colleagues are atheists, but I do believe in God. I find what I do does not draw me away from God, but rather it increases my awe of God and creation."

Well said, Doctor.

I find myself with the same vision. I don't struggle with scientific research and the discoveries that are made. I have no problem with theories. If they conflict with Old Testament stories, I'm intrigued. However, that is not why I believe I am here. I have no interest in debating the details of the stories that are shared among numerous faith traditions. I'm here to, well, this comes to mind...

Blessed are the poor in spirit, 
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn, 
   for they will be comforted. 

Blessed are the meek, 
   for they will inherit the earth. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, 
   for they will be filled. 
Blessed are the merciful, 
   for they will be shown mercy. 
Blessed are the pure in heart, 
   for they will see God. 
Blessed are the peacemakers, 
   for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, 
   for theirs is the kingdom of heaven

I really don't read anything in there that instructs me to debate nonsensical topics. I was talking to someone yesterday whose daughter wants to go to college and study genomics. Her daughter has a pretty strong faith structure and is constantly asked about the "conflict" between her chosen field of study and her faith. I told her mother about Dr. Church's comment above. 

Here's my take...If some day, God reveals that we really did descend from one cell organisms (and I have to accept the humility of my ancestry), I will be amazed at how it happened. If God snapped his fingers like David Blaine and made things instantly happen, I'm good with that too.


Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Grand Day For You

Walking into the pub, Patick said to the bartender,
"Pour me astiff one, Sean. I just had another tiff with
the little woman."
"Oh yeah," said Sean. "And how did this one end?"
"Well I'll tell ya now when it was over," Patick replied, "herself came
to me on her hands and knees, she did."
"You don't say? Now that`s a switch! What did she say?" She said, "Come
out from under that bed, you gutless weasel!

A group of Americans was touring Ireland.
One of the women in the group was a real curmudgeon, constantly complaining.
The bus seats are uncomfortable. The food is terrible.
It's too hot. It's too cold. The accommodations are awful.
The group arrived at the site of the famous Blarney Stone.
"Good luck will be followin' ya all your days if you kiss the Blarney Stone,"the guide said.
"Unfortunately, it's being cleaned today and so no one will be able to kiss it.
Perhaps we can come back tomorrow."
"We can't be here tomorrow," the nasty woman shouted.
"We have some other boring tour to go on.
So I guess we can't kiss the stupid stone."
"Well now," the guide said, "it is said that if you kiss someone who has kissed the stone, you'll have the same good fortune."
"And I suppose you've kissed the stone," the woman scoffed.
"No, ma'am," the frustrated guide said, "but I've sat on it."

An Irishman walks into the pub and orders three pints of Guinness.  He   asks that they be brought over to him at the table.  The Irishman drinks   the pints one at a time and then leave.  This routine goes on for about   two months.  Finally, the bartender asks why the Irishman has the three  pints.  "Well'" he says, " The first pint is for me brudder in Amerikay and the second is for me brudder in England."  The bartender nods in   agreement and tells the lads at the bar who have witnessed the comings   and goings for the two months.  Several weeks latter, the Irishman  enters the pub and orders two pints.  As the bartender walks up to the  table with a pint in each hand, he says. "If you don't mind my asking, have you lost one of your brother?"  The Irishman pauses for a second, sees the two pints and says, "Oh forsakes no, me missus has me off the liquor.

O'Malley was leaving his favorite bar when he was run over by a bus. He gets to the gates of heaven and St. Peter tells him he cannot enter unless he passes a test. What choice did he have, O'Malley agrees to try as he never was the brightest bulb in the box.
St. Peter decides to go easy on him, 'What has 5 fingers and is made of black leather?' he asks. O'Malley scratches his head, thinks hard and finally gives up. 'It's a glove says St. Peter.' Let's try again. 'What has 10 fingers and is made of black leather?' asks St. Peter. O'Malley is clearly stumped. After a few minutes of pacing in a circle and scratching his head, O'Malley gives up. 'Why it's 2 gloves - don't you see 10 fingers, black leather, says St. Peter amazed.' Being in a generous mood, St. Peter decides to give O'Malley yet another chance but thinking of an even easier question.
'Who is the patron Saint of Ireland?' asks St. Peter, thinking he can't miss this.
'It wouldn't be 3-gloves, would it?' says O'Malley.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Follow The Bouncing Platelets

More learning. When I met with the doctor a few weeks back, my platelet count had dipped to just above the low end of normal. 4 days later, they had dipped to slightly below normal. I was pretty sensitive about it as they were at the levels they were at about a month before my "sabbatical" started. To appease me, my favorite Nurse Practitioner scheduled me for another blood test yesterday.

They are inching back up and are now slightly above normal. All other blood counts are fine and well within the normal range.

What happened?

I found out that normally, platelets bounce around pretty routinely for everyone. The decrease in my platelet count was not within a normal decrease in the amount of time that had passed (November - February). has been treated by antibiotics in that time frame. And I had. I had an upper respiratory infection in January (just so I would fit in with the rest of Richmond at the time as everyone seemed to have some sort of wheezing and coughing going on) and was prescribed an antibiotic. They will cause platelets to drop.

What a putz.

When Bill Clinton visited the Pope, he noticed a red
phone on a small table in the corner of the office.

After several minutes of conversation, Clinton asked
the Pope what the red phone was.

The Holy Father told him that it was a very special
phone with a direct line to God. However, the Pope
told Clinton he rarely used it because it cost
$20,000 a minute from the Vatican.

Clinton accepted this explanation without another thought.

Later, when Clinton visited Ireland, he saw another
red phone in the Archbishop’s office. Being curious,
Clinton asked the Archbishop what it was used for.

The Archbishop told Clinton it was a direct line to God,
and he used it whenever he had a puzzling question or concern.

Clinton asked if the calls were quite expensive since
the Pope had to pay $20,000 a minute when he used
his red phone in the Vatican.

"Oh no," replied the Archbishop, "In Ireland it’s a local call."

Friday, March 11, 2011

Maybe, Because....

I feel that you need to watch this video. It makes me happy to watch it.

I'm conflicted about posting it today because of the news from Japan. However, the video speaks to me as to why the news from Japan concerns us. There will be a lot of clean up work to do, bones to mend,structures to reconstruct, and fears to be calmed. Most of all, we grieve because there will also be bodies to find. Bodies that transported lives that were cut short.

The video is from a show titled, "Grand Hotel." I remembering seeing this performance on the Tony Awards some years back. A year or so later, I had the opportunity to see the show on Broadway. The only reason I wanted to see the show was because of this clip. I remember flying into New York and arriving at my hotel a little after 6PM. My hotel was about a 30 minute walk from the theatre. I called the theatre and asked them if they had one ticket for the evening's performance. They did and I was seated about 9 rows back from the stage in the center of the row. I will never forget that evening.

In the video, the character portrayed by Michael Jeter is ill and facing the end of his days. And yet, he takes part in a celebration.

Processing the news from Japan reminds us of our mortality and how there are things in this world over which we have no control.Yet, it is still our world in which to live.

We can say the world is going to hell in a hand basket, but to say it means we are holding the basket.

Or, we can help others live and live again.

Maybe even help them celebrate life.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A Small Bit Of News

My oncologist's nurse called me today. When I saw the phone number on caller ID, I knew it looked familiar, but wasn't able to place it.

When I answered and heard who it was, I caught my breath for a moment. As I've said before, when she calls, it usually means the doctor wants to see me to review something important.

Today's call was to tell me that my bone marrow biopsy results came back and they are all clear. Nothing of concern there. The only thing left is another check on the blood next Tuesday. Nothing major about that.

Next page.

I mentioned the other week I auditioned for a role in a local community theatre production of "Curtains." It's a musical that was on Broadway in 2007. Don't Google it to avoid spoiling the plot. I was cast and we open on May 6. I have to get back in the swing of things with the whole rehearsal schedule stuff. It's not bad and the cast is a great group of people (old and new friends).