Summertime (Part 1)— Livin’ Easy

Writer’s Note—This entry is the first of a three-part series entitled Summertime, based on the classic song from the musical Porgy and Bess. If you’ve never heard Ella Fitzgerald’s version of this song, you should.

Here are some of the lyrics:
One of these mornings
You gonna rise up singin’
Yes, you’ll spread your wings
And you’ll take to the sky
Mm, but ’til that morning
There is nothin’ can harm you

Summer 2021—After my last CT scan in mid-June, the summer had its share of ups and downs. While I won’t bore you with every detail, here are a few key events to help you catch-up.

Same old, same old

As I mentioned in my last post (Lucky Number 13), my former oncologist moved on from the West Cancer Center in July. My new oncologist is great, and we’ve made some changes (improvements?) in my treatment regimen. The first, and most significant, is moving me from a three week infusion schedule to a six week schedule. The goal is to reduce the number of visits and, hopefully, lessen some of the side effects.

I’ll have my first six-week infusion in August.

Frozen Frustration

I don’t believe I’ve discussed this previously, but for most of 2021 I’ve been dealing with two (2) related orthopedic conditions: a torn rotator cuff (left side) and a frozen (left) shoulder. Extensive physical therapy, analysis, and home exercise has only slightly improved these problems (which are related). Throw in constant fatigue and sore muscles, and it’s been more than a little frustrating.

More to come on this topic.

Father’s Day Reflection

Another Father’s Day (June 20th) came and, eventually, went. We celebrated, enjoyed another delicious homemade carrot cake, and opened a couple presents (see below). I love my family, I love my life, and I love still being here to experience more Father’s Days.

But I continue to worry about what the next chapter will bring. Where will my journey take me? Take us?

Part of me hates that melanoma (cancer) has taken over so much of our lives. It’s a constant reminder of all the things that could have been, should have been. Then I remember those lyrics and Ella’s sweet, beautiful voice…

Mm, but ’til that morning

There is nothin’ can harm you

As always, thanks for stopping by and listening.

Note: Dinstuhl’s cherry sours…absolutely delicious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Lucky Number 13

June 11, 2021— For centuries, the number thirteen (13) has been considered unlucky, which developed an irrational fear of the number and anything associated with it. Some historians trace the stigma of “13” back to Judas Iscariot—think Last Supper—the biblical betrayer of Christ. Others note the fear may be attributed to October 13, 1307 when the Knights Templar were rounded up and imprisoned—or worse.

That date fell on a Friday, leading to the Friday the 13th superstition, along with a series of really terrible horror movies in the 1980s and 90s.

Lucky Number 13

On Thursday, June 10th, the date of my 13th infusion, we received some good news—some really good news: my tumors have shrunk anywhere from 10% (in my lungs) to 20% in and around my right adrenal gland.

Vicki and I were ecstatic. Now, after almost nine (9) months of treatment, Keytruda (my immunotherapy medicine) was beginning to turn-the-tide in the battle against my metastatic melanoma.

In addition, my oncologist told us that my lab work looked fantastic. The results, in his words, were like a “normal person’s.” I assumed he meant someone not undergoing cancer treatment. 

A Long Way to Go

While this is great news, we still have a long way to go. Thursday’s CT scan was the first one I’ve had since February (which showed no change), so, for now, we’ll continue immunotherapy treatments and monitor my blood work.

Bittersweet Morning

Even with all that good news, it was a bittersweet morning. My oncologist announced that he’d taken a new position—heading up a cancer center in Reno, Nevada—and would soon leave the West Cancer Center. While we’re sad to see him go, we know we’ll be in good hands with a new oncologist.

Sharing My Journey Story

In a weird coincidental twist, on Wednesday (June 9th), the West Center posted my melanoma journey story to their Facebook feed and on their website.

I received several FB comments of encouragement and support from strangers who are either West Center patients or their loved ones. As I wrote in a recent essay (see below), my goal with continuing to share my story is to provide hope and/or inspiration for others fighting cancer.

With Good Fortune Comes Greater Responsibility

So, after Thursday’s good news, my good fortune continues. I write that not with glee or contentment. I write it (repeatedly) to remind myself that there is so much more work to be done. So many goals I want to accomplish. So many people I want to help—directly and indirectly.

On June 4th, StoryBoard Memphis published my latest personal essay, Happy Birthday, Spiderman.  While the initial focus of the essay was about my birthday and the joy I feel celebrating another trip around the sun with my family and friends, it was also much more about the burden I carry—like many other cancer survivors—to never forget those who were less fortunate. Here’s a quote:

Sharing my journey story is both cathartic and purposeful. Those of us who are still in this fight remember all those who were less fortunate. Our grief and frustration are channeled into meaningful causes and activities. Ultimately, we want to change current behaviors, raise awareness, and stem the tide of suffering and pain.

I use my good fortune to help others whom, like me, have been saddled with this dreadful diagnosis. An advocate for skin cancer prevention and melanoma research, I volunteer with non-profit organizations by fundraising, lending my voice through personal testimonials and op-ed columns, mentoring other late-stage melanoma patients, engaging congressional staffers on the merits of upcoming appropriation bills (to fund more research), and, finally, by analyzing research proposals as a patient member of scientific review panels.

In my own words? With good fortune comes greater responsibility.

When you get the opportunity, go back and the read my story—either on Facebook or on StoryBoard Memphis. Thanks.

And, as always, thanks for listening.

Note:  If you want to leave a comment, just choose “Anonymous” from the Profile Selection drop down bar right below the Comment box. (It’s the very last choice.) Sorry for any confusion.

Also, please make sure you leave your name or sign-in somewhere in your comment. Thanks.

Writer’s Note – I’ll continue to update my blog on a periodic basis. No set schedule. So, I want to thank everyone who continues to stop by and check out my blog. Please leave a comment or message; I’d love to hear from you. 

I’m a Mess

April 28, 2021—The phlebotomy tech begins to poke an IV needle into a vein in my right hand. As part of the little stick portion of the process, he tries to distract me with small talk—a question about why I’m having an echo, questions about my overall health—and I give him a complete rundown of my present and past health woes. He looks at the plastic id cuff on my wrist and says, “You’re only 58.”

I laugh and tell him, yeah, I’m a mess, and my wife tells me I’m a mess, too.

I’m a Mess

I’m at Sutherland Cardiology today for an echocardiogram—there’s a minor concern about my heart function given that I’ve been on a new cancer treatment regimen (immunotherapy) for a while and that my blood pressure is higher than normal (for me). You may recall that I had a heart attack at the end of 2018 (see All I want for Christmas…).

As part of my rundown, I tell the tech that just this week I’ve been to Campbell Clinic for physical therapy, I’m here at Sutherland for my echo, and, tomorrow (Thursday), I’ll be at the West Cancer Center for my 11th infusion. I go on to explain about the last six weeks of PT for a torn rotator cuff and frozen shoulder, and my stage IV cancer diagnosis and treatment.

It’s enough to make your head spin…yeah, I’m a mess.

Delta Blues

Vicki and I took a four-day road trip into the heart of the Mississippi Delta. A great trip that I documented in two parts for StoryBoard Memphis, an online publication about arts, community, and cultural of Memphis and the MidSouth. I’m proud of these pieces (Delta Diaries) along with other articles I’ve written for StoryBoard. 

I’m excited that my writing has improved and is being recognized by others. I also have a short story that will appear in an upcoming local mystery anthology. (A second story is in the works for another anthology.) My long-term goal is to get a book published, and I feel closer to achieving that goal every day.

Number Eleven

Infusion number eleven (11) was the next day (April 29th) at the West Center. While there’s nothing new to report regarding my prognosis, we were excited when the nurse practitioner told us that my lab (blood) work looked great. Liver, kidney, and other internal functions all looked really good. Couple that with how I currently feel—which is also really good—and we’re very happy.

Now, let’s hope the adrenal gland tumor shrinks. We’ll know more on June 10th.

Melanoma Awareness Month

May is Skin Cancer and Melanoma Awareness Month. As an active advocate for prevention, treatment, and, eventually, a cure, I’m involved in a number of activities, initiatives, and fund-raisers—both locally and nationally.

You’ll see a lot of Facebook posts from me about donations, support, and, of course, taking care of your skin. For obvious reasons, this issue is important to me and my family.

While donations and support are special and mean a lot to me, it’s much more important that all of you make the effort to take care of yourselves and your loved ones—especially younger ones. Excessive sun exposure and sun damage when you’re young—even one sunburn—can impact your health years down the road.

Protect your skin!

Final Thoughts

The screen shot below is from the website of Aim at Melanoma, one of the national non profit groups that I work with. You’ll see a dark blue box on the top row (almost in the middle). That’s me and that’s my sincere sentiment. I could not survive or continue on my journey without all of you!

Thanks for everything…and thanks for listening.

Note:  If you want to leave a comment, just choose “Anonymous” from the Profile Selection drop down bar right below the Comment box. (It’s the very last choice.) Sorry for any confusion.

Also, please make sure you leave your name or sign-in somewhere in your comment. Thanks.

Writer’s Note – I’ll continue to update my blog on a periodic basis. No set schedule. So, I want to thank everyone who continues to stop by and check out my blog. Please leave a comment or message; I’d love to hear from you. 

Rollin’ Stone Week

Pre-excision

March 13, 2021— It’s been a week…man, it’s been a week. As many of you know, I love blues music, and this week has been one continuous blues song—full of highs and lows, and just about everything in-between. The theme of this post is dedicated to that legendary Mississippi Delta bluesman who made Chicago blues an international sensation: Muddy Waters.

Like Muddy’s iconic song, Rollin’ Stone, this week had me back, back down the road I’m goin’. In other words, every time I moved forward, I seemed to move even farther back.

A Shot in the arm

Monday I received my first Pfizer vaccine dose. I posted on Facebook that the process was fairly quick and well-organized. In fact, Muddy was there to accompany me (see bottom photo).  I’m glad to be closer to being fully-vaccinated and, hopefully, safer from the coronavirus.

Time after time

This week I started a new writing gig for StoryBoard Memphis. I now have a recurring column, currently titled Time Capsules. I’ll focus on personal essays, stories, and observations/commentary. My first column (Time Capsule) was published on Thursday, March 11th.

 

I’ve written several pieces for StoryBoard, and I’m excited about the opportunity to continue developing and improving my craft. In addition to the new column, I have two short stories that will be published (hopefully sooner than later) in a local mystery writers anthology.

Deja vu all over again—Warning: Yucky picture!

It was a little more than a year ago (see Don’t Believe the Gripe) that I had my ninth melanoma removed. Yes, nine melanomas! The 9th melanoma (in situ) was on my upper right ankle.

On Thursday of this year, my dermatologist informed me that the biopsy she took Tuesday morning was another melanoma in situ. So, on Friday, I had a wide local excision (see photo) on my lower left jaw.
That’s now ten melanomas removed. Ten! Like I said last year, I’m not a happy camper. Last year’s diagnosis came at the same time COVID exploded, so I was simply in a huge funk. Frankly, I was pissed.
I’m a little more philosophical this year. Perhaps it’s the overall timing—true, the irony is not lost on me—but, maybe, it’s that I feel a lot more comfortable dealing with these challenges because the world seems to be getting better.
Obviously, we have a ways to go—with many questions and concerns still unanswered. But, for me, the future looks brighter.
Funny thinking for a guy who—in 2020—had a melanoma removed, had (stage IV) melanoma spread to his right adrenal gland, lost a family member to COVID, self-quarantined at home for over three (3) months, and started a new treatment regimen.

It’s not only been a heck of week, it’s been a hell of a year!

Sure ‘nough, I’m a rollin’ stone

Next week, it’ll be more of the same. Infusion #9 on Thursday (March 18th). Story deadlines and edits to be made. Thinking about some place nearby to visit. Within driving distance. Isolated. Where to begin work on our gardens and what plants to buy.
So, I’ll leave you all with the last stanza of Rollin’ Stone—I think Muddy says it best…
Back, back down the road I’m goin’
Back down the road I’m goin’
Back down the road I’m goin’
Sure ‘nough back, sure ‘nough back

 

Thanks, as always, for listening.

 

Note:  If you want to leave a comment, just choose “Anonymous” from the Profile Selection drop down bar right below the Comment box. (It’s the very last choice.) Sorry for any confusion.

Also, please make sure you leave your name or sign-in somewhere in your comment. Thanks.
 
Writer’s Note – I’ll continue to update my blog on a periodic basis. No set schedule. So, I want to thank everyone who continues to stop by and check out my blog. Please leave a comment or message; I’d love to hear from you.

And The Beat Goes On…

February 4, 2021 – Before I get started, I want to say a big THANK YOU to everyone for your thoughts, prayers, support, and kind words. It means the world to me—and to my family.

Today’s message is The Beat Goes On, which, you might recall, is the title of a famous song (1967!) by Sonny & Cher. (You gotta love those haircuts and the furry vests in the song’s video.)

Waiting and Wondering

As I posted on Facebook, today’s scan results showed no changes—either positive or negative—and no new or questionable tumors. So, overall, it was a good day. I’ll certainly take “stable disease” over anything negative. Frankly, I was hoping to see some significant reduction in my right adrenal gland tumor, but immunotherapy treatments can be a long and exhausting fight.

So, the beat goes on.

Round 7

Today’s visit to the West Cancer Center was long but seemed to go by quickly. A lot of waiting and wondering. It was an afternoon filled with lab work, IV insertion, contrast dye, CT scan, office consultation, and, of course, my seventh infusion of Keytruda.

According to the nurse practitioner, my lab results (blood work, etc.) looked great, so my body continues to tolerate the Keytruda. As I’ve written previously, how your body processes the medicine is almost as important as whether or not the medicine is working. And, yes, I suffer from side effects—a lot of them—but they could be worse, much worse.

So, the beat goes on.

And The Beat Goes On…

So, the beat goes on…in my melanoma journey and in the world. As our lives get back to normal—or, what passes for normal nowadays—I sincerely hope that everyone remains healthy, happy, and safe. We all need to take a deep breath, slowly let it out, and look forward to enjoying the things that really matter.

Anyway, thanks for listening, and in the immortal words of Sony Bono…La de da de de, la de da de da.

And the beat goes on, yes, the beat goes on

And the beat goes on, and the beat goes on
The beat goes on, and the beat goes on

Note: My apologies if you end up with this song stuck in your head for the rest of the day.

Note:  If you want to leave a comment, just choose “Anonymous” from the Profile Selection drop down bar right below the Comment box. (It’s the very last choice.) Sorry for any confusion.

Also, please make sure you leave your name or sign-in somewhere in your comment. Thanks.

Writer’s Note – I’ll continue to update my blog on a periodic basis. No set schedule. So, I want to thank everyone who continues to stop by and check out my blog. Please leave a comment or message; I’d love to hear from you.