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.

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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.

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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. 

2020 – We Deserve a Happy Ending

December 29, 2020 – SiriusXM is set to B.B. King’s Bluesville. I’m driving east on Neshoba Road, headed to the Germantown Community Library to return several books. The volume’s slightly low, so I’m not really listening. I’m a bit distracted. As I stop at the traffic light on Germantown Parkway, I catch part of the lyrics to We Deserve a Happy Ending by The Reverend Peyton’s Big Damn Band. We Deserve...is basically a love song (in spite of the odd music video), but the song’s title sums up exactly my sentiments about 2020 and – most importantly – about my family.

Men at work.

A Nice, Simple Christmas

As I said a few moments ago, I was a bit distracted driving to the library. An hour earlier, Zach, our son, hit the road to return to his apartment in Midtown Atlanta. He’s lived and worked in Atlanta for the last three years. It was an emotional goodbye. Zach had been with us for almost eleven days – the most we’ve been together as a family since before Zach graduated from Georgia Tech (2018).

So Christmas 2020 was nice and simple. The four of us were content to hangout
at home and do nothing. We read a lot, played board games, occasionally watched
football, and baked goodies.
Lazy days together.

We were in our own little world, and I love it. Pandemic or not, I love the time we spent together as a family unit. It reinforced how special our being together truly is and how fortunate we are. 

‘Tis the Season

The holidays always bring out a little melancholy in me, but this year was different. Maybe it was having both Emily and Zach at home for an extended period of time. Maybe it was the realization that every holiday season the four of us spend together is a gift and I should cherish it. Maybe it’s also the reality that as our kids get older, eventually, our time spent together will change or diminish. Who knows?

‘Tis the Season

What I do know is that I wouldn’t trade spending the past several weeks – going back to Thanksgiving – with Vicki and the kids for anything.

You can have your Caribbean cruises, your Disney World excursions, your time at the beach, et al. I’ll take my family time…all the time. My family deserves everything I can give them…and time is the one thing I can still give them. I wish I could give them more of it.

We Deserve a Happy Ending

Everyone deserves a happy ending after everything we’ve endured in 2020. Vicki and the kids are no exception. Frankly, dealing with cancer is tiresome – physically, mentally, and emotionally. It’s draining. It’s draining for everyone involved, especially family and loved ones.
We’ve been through a lot, and 2020 presented us with new challenges and new worries (see The Verdict Is In). I simply want a happy ending for Vicki, Emily, and Zach.
Quiet…a bit eerie.

That’s my Christmas Wish.

Health Update: Immunotherapy Blues

It’s 7:15 Christmas Eve morning. I’m waiting on the third floor of the West Cancer Center for my lab work. My three-week infusion schedule landed on December 24th. It’s quiet in here. Empty. Kind of eerie. I’ve never seen it so empty. 

But I’m not alone. Emily is here with me. I’m thankful for that.

This is my fifth infusion of Keytruda. While my December 3rd lab results showed that my internal organs are tolerating this immunotherapy treatment (see ‘Some Pretty Good News‘), the side effects are getting the better of me.

Fatigue, tiredness, sore and weary muscles, aches and pains, constant itchiness, and neuropathy in my hands and joints. Not fun. Not fun at all. Like I mentioned a moment ago, having cancer is a drain – not only on the patient, but on those around him.

Ready for 2020 to end.

But if it keeps me going…allows me to spend more time with my family…then I’ll put up with it.

Maybe someday I’ll have a happy ending.

Happy New Year to everyone. Thanks, as always, for listening.


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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. 

‘Some Pretty Good News’

December 3, 2020 – My oncologist walked into the examination room and, as he sat down, proclaimed, “Well…we have some pretty good news.”

Yes, I’m smiling.

The good news? Today’s CT scan showed that one of the tumors in my lungs had a 30 to 40 percent reduction. The other key lung tumor remained just about the same, and the tumor/blood mass around my right adrenal gland stayed pretty much the same. Yes, pretty good news indeed.

A Systematic Boost

Immunotherapy medicines, such as Keytruda, are meant to boost the body’s natural immune system in order to fight cancer–melanoma, in my case. These medicines, however, can have some serious side effects. My blood work showed that I am tolerating this new drug fairly well. That is another bit of good news!

Another Round on Me

A grumpy old man.

Today was also my fourth round of treatment (infusion). The immunotherapy infusion process is fairly quick and easy. As I stated in Science, Real Science, the preparation process takes longer than the infusion. Today, however, the West Cancer Center was on-the-ball, so we were in and out in less than four hours. 

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly

While my lab work showed good tolerance of Keytruda, my body’s response has been all over the place. I have really good days – lots of energy with little pain – and I have some really bad days when I’m unable to do much without a lot of effort. Fortunately, I’ve only had a couple of “ugly” episodes. My hope is that those episodes are few and far between.

I’ll trade the fatigue, lethargy, minor pain, and everything else if it means my cancer is under-control.

On wings of hope.

New Year…New Hope?

Finally, 2020 has been a helluva year – to say the least. My hope is that everything gets better, or back to ‘normal’ or something. It’s got to be better than what we have right now.

I hope you have a wonderful holiday season and a Happy New Year. I plan to. And I plan to celebrate many more New Years to come.

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. 


Science, Real Science

October 23, 2020 – This afternoon, I completed my second round (infusion) of Keytruda (pembrolizumab) at West Cancer Center’s main campus. Keytruda, as I’ve explained previously, is an immunotherapy medicine – meaning it boosts the body’s natural immune defenses in order to fight cancer.

My new treatment regimen is based on science, real science. Not conspiracy theories, not voodoo doctors who believe in alien DNA, not off-the-cuff comments about drinking bleach to kill a virus. Real science.

Up the steps to the
unknown.

Immunotherapy treatments are relatively new. Keytruda was FDA-approved in 2014 and by 2017 was in use for solid metastatic tumors, like melanoma. The U.S. approval and testing process is long and somewhat complex. Clinical trials can take years to complete. 

Giving Back

I volunteer my time by working on scientific review panels that evaluate research proposals for possible funding grants. I’ve been a part of this process for a couple of years now, and it is a tremendous honor to be a “consumer advocate” and share my impressions (and concerns) with cancer doctors and researchers. This is one of the many ways I give back to the melanoma (skin cancer) community.

I want to ensure that melanoma prevention and treatment moves forward towards a potential cure and the funding of this research remains apolitical. Scientists need to be able to do their work – without threats and without undue influence.

A long day.

Infusion Blues

Although the Keytruda infusion typically lasts only thirty minutes, my October 23rd visit was over three hours. Blood work, IV insertion, oncologist visit, scheduling (and re-scheduling), waiting on lab results, pharmacy prep work, a flu shot – all took place before my infusion.

Sitting in the third-floor infusion area was both odd and sad. Memories of waiting in this area while Emily received her chemotherapy treatments brought a flood of emotions. I’ve been a stage IV cancer patient for a long time, but I’ve never had intravenous treatment. The infusion area is a dull, sterile environment. It’s sad watching folks from all walks of life undergoing treatment. We have one thing in common–however–we all have cancer.

At the same time, watching other patients hooked up to IV machines and monitors reminded me that we’re fortunate to have researchers, scientists, technicians, nurses and doctors working hard to find new and better treatment options and, maybe one day, a cure.

Real research. Real progress. Not just talking points during a political campaign.

Real science.

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.