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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

 

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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.

‘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.