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. 

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.

Another Twist, Another Turn

October 1, 2020 – Today I started a new treatment regimen: immunotherapy. For those of you following my blog, a lot has happened since my last post (The Verdict Is In). Needless to say, we’ve taken a new path in my melanoma journey; hence, the title of this post.

A Quick Recap

After confirmation that melanoma had spread to my right adrenal gland, we were faced with a couple of options: remain on Gleevec and receive radiation therapy or try something new – immunotherapy (described below).

A New Twist

Waiting on treatment.

Initially, we opted to try radiation therapy. The idea was to target the adrenal gland, which would be – we assumed – less invasive that starting an entirely new regimen. After meeting with the radiation oncologists and consulting with some other folks, we decided against that route. There were too many outcome variables and too many negatives (potential damage to surrounding tissue and organs).

We just couldn’t get comfortable with that option.

Cabin in the Woods

Up until we left on our Blue Ridge vacation (see Facebook), we continued to struggle with our first option. Several online consultations, emails with others in the melanoma community, and, simply, time to reflect brought us to a new decision: no radiation therapy, stop the current oral chemotherapy, and start immunotherapy once we returned from vacation.

I feel good about the decision. Vicki feels better about the decision to go with immunotherapy. And our oncologist assures us that if immunotherapy doesn’t work, we can always go another route.

Immunotherapy Explained

According to the American Cancer Society, immunotherapy medicines stimulate a person’s own immune system to recognize and destroy cancer cells more effectively. Several types of immunotherapy can be used to treat melanoma.

Immunotherapy medicines are given intravenously, so that’s another turn in my treatment. Today, I started Keytruda (pembrolizumab), which will help my body fight the melanoma without destroying any existing, healthy (normal) cells. 

A new turn in my journey.

What About Your Lungs?

Another positive aspect of our decision is that Keytruda will also fight the tiny melanoma tumors in my lungs. There’s no guarantee that they will be completely gone, but our hope is that they continue to stay small, or even shrink a little more.

Thanks, Again

Thanks, once again, for your thoughts and support. We truly appreciate it. As my treatment journey continues, there will likely be more frequent updates.

Everyone should have a view like this.

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. 

In the Eye of the Storm

August 28, 2020 – Earlier today, Facebook alerted me to a memory from 2017. I’d almost forgotten about the post until today’s notice. What I haven’t forgotten, unfortunately, was the crappy comment that came from a former high school classmate.

Note: Yes, on Facebook yesterday, I mentioned the fluke that this 2017 memory popped up right after Hurricane Laura came ashore in Louisiana. 

2017 – A Little Background

On August 28, 2017, Hurricane Harvey, after slamming into the Texas coast, drenched the Houston area for several days, causing major flooding. Vicki and I have close friends who live in that area. We were on vacation in Snowmass, Colorado. Obviously concerned about friends and 

After Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Texas.

extended family, I posted our thoughts on my Facebook feed.

I received the typical Facebook feedback (see below) – Likes, Loves, and a couple of shares.

One person, however, had to rain on my goodwill. I realize it’s a minor thing – especially with everything going on right now in our world – yet, three years later, the comment angers me.

And saddens me.

People, Nowadays

Let’s start with today’s internet, a digital Pandora’s Box that has destroyed civility as we know it. Or, what was known as being polite, courteous, and considerate.
Nowadays, almost no one thinks before typing a comment or responding to an online post. Who cares about being snarky? Hateful? Insensitive?
It’s my opinion and I’m going to express it, regardless of the ramifications. Or, the hurt I cause.
Never did hear back.

The Comment

At first glance, the commenter appears to appreciate my concern and that I expressed my concern. It’s the final sentence (underlined in the screen shot) that, frankly, still pisses me off.
This is more than a notion… 
There’s a host of emotions – along with my reaction – in that part of the comment. I’ve read it countless times. In fact, I waited a day or two before responding (see below). Never heard back, by the way.
When reading the entire comment, it becomes apparent that the commenter does not believe simply reflecting upon the situation or showing concern for those impacted by a disaster is up-to-snuff until one prays about it, or, more accurately, states that one will pray for others. You know, “Thoughts and Prayers…”
In today’s environment, people say “Thoughts and Prayers” much like “How are you?” is used as a greeting. It’s automatic. Almost robotic. There’s no substance behind the phrase. Just something to say, or post, when bad things happen. 
What angers me is the comment’s tone. I’m being admonished for not including the word “Pray” in my post. As if that’s an oversight that somehow lessens my concern for others. My intentions judged based on someone else’s standards or ideals.
I simply wanted to express my concern for others. Apparently, that wasn’t good enough.

My Response

Below is my (edited) response, which, at that time, I felt was measured and thoughtful. I never heard back. Now, I don’t really care. I’m venting. Perhaps that’s the first step towards finding peace (for me).

One of the definitions of “thinking” is that of thoughtful reflection. In fact, another definition states that “thinking” (as a verb) is to employ one’s mind rationally and objectively in evaluating or dealing with a given situation. So, I’ll continue “thinking” about those of you in Texas and Florida who are dealing with the aftermath of hurricanes and floods. 

I will also continue to hope that everyone’s situation improves and that they do not face long-term problems. I will use my words on MY Facebook feed. You are free to use your words on yours.

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.

They Say It’s Your Birthday!

May 22, 2020 – To say that my birthday (May 20th) helped restore my faith in humanity would be a bit hyperbolic. I would say, however, that the outpouring of well wishes and Happy Birthdays from friends, colleagues, and family meant so much to me. Obviously, I enjoyed the attention, and it left me with some great memories along with a warm feeling deep inside my restless soul.

I posted my thanks on Facebook, but I wanted to mention my thanks here on my blog.

Once again, thanks to everyone for making my birthday special. 

I’ll leave you with some of the lyrics to the Beatles Birthday song, which is one of my favorite Beatles’ songs…

They say it’s your birthday
We’re gonna have a good time
I’m glad it’s your birthday
Happy birthday to you


May 31, 2020 – It’s been a little more than ten days since my birthday, obviously. I’ve been a bit unmotivated to write and/or complete any blog posts (hence the lag in posting dates). I finished the last two posts for my Corona Blues series (Parts 3 and 4), and, as you can see above, my birthday thank you post. In that ten days, however, our world has become even more surreal, so its understandable that my motivation has been lacking. All I will say is this – as a society we need to come together and figure some things out. I’ve said something similar before, but it really rings true for these past five or six days. We have some terrible problems that are going to continue tearing this country apart.

That’s all, for now…just a small vent.

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.