Saturday, January 29, 2011

What a difference a year makes...

Portuguese Man Of War hoping to get washed back out to sea... If stung by one of these things, apparently it feels like a cigarette being put out on your skin, yikes!

Still can't get over how much better I'm doing compared to being down here last year! Things are going pretty well, back pain is under control, energy is decent and I'm keeping myself busy with mostly fun stuff :)

I guess you could say life is good at the moment :) I feel really blessed...

To my friends (and families of those friends) who are having a hard time right now, you are constantly in my thoughts.


Sunday, January 23, 2011

Sunday's thoughts...

Just lying under my covers trying to stay warm on a freezing Sunday night. I've been trying to find and seal off all of the drafts in this place but since it was built in 1926 and it's on a crawl space, there's no way to make it cozy in here without blasting the furnace.

With that, I'm excited to say that I'll be moving into a new place in about a month or so! I'd been watching this house 8 doors down on the other (park) side of the street. It was up for short sale which seemed like forever and after calling the agent, felt I might be able to offer a super low price as nobody had even been over there to see it because of picky and difficult renters. Since I lived right down the street and not working, I was able to arrange a look as soon as the tenants were good and ready. The bank and I traded offeres back and forth before we decided to close. The place needs work but not a ton and there's some nice character to it. Most importantly, it has a basement and as a bonus, an upstairs (the two bedrooms and bath are up there). The original oak floors are intact (but need sanding and refinishing) and it needs some remodeling but it's no big deal to me as I've remodeled a couple of houses already.

It's unbelievable to me that I was able to get the house for less than the average price of a new car! I decided to cash in one of my 401K accounts thinking that the money wasn't doing me a whole lot of good sitting there and knowing I couldn't take it with me if something were to happen.

I'm so excited to get started on it! It's great because during the nice months, I can take chili out to the yard then open my gate at the back of the yard then let her go run around in this huge park which the house backs up to. There's always soccer matches, there's a basketball and hockey court as well as picnic tables and BBQ's. I've always wanted to have a big softball game / party and think I might try and make it happen this summer. Who knows, maybe I can even figure out a way to make it into a Hodgkins research fundraiser...

So, obviously I'm excited about this development! I'm also excited to say that I'm leaving this cold again and headed down to Soflo. Part of me wants to stay here so I can get started on all my projects but my rational side kicks in and tells me that the Vitamin D from the sun and the beach will continue to aid in my healing and the house will be there when I get back!

As I promised a few weeks ago (now that I know this has a happy ending), I wanted to tell the story of my narrowly averted tragedy about two and a half weeks ago. I briefly mentioned in a previous blog about me not being able to take a trip without something crazy happening. Well, this time it wasn't me but Jackie's dog Gomez who would wind up in the precarious situation.

It was super early in the morning, something like 5 a.m. It was my last day of watching little G Money and just had to get to the airport. What I didn't realize is that I left around 6-7 of my Dronabinol pills on my comforter as I was packing for my trip. I was going to give these couple of pills to a friend of mine as they help her sleep. They're prescribed to me to help combat nausea and to help stimulate my appetite (both side effects from the trial I'm on). The only thing is they make you feel pretty loopy for the first hour or so after you take one. This makes sense since Dronabinol is actually synthetic THC without all of the different chemicals that are found in Marijuana (i.e. canabinoids). Well, because I was so drowsy, I forgot that I had them laying on my bed and went to sleep without putting them in a bag to leave on my counter. Of course, as per ritual, G jumped up on the bed and crashed with me. Little did I know that he was going to take the trip of a lifetime right after that! That's right, little G Dog decided to eat 6 of the 7 pills. I'm not certain he ate six, it's just that I could only find one on the floor. So of course, with it being 5 a.m and realizing what just happened, I completely freaked out. I mean, the dog only weighs 14 pounds! If you do the math, it's like me taking around 350 of those pills, oy vey! I couldn't even begin to imagine what might have been going on in the poor little guys mind. So, of course, it was time to go to the animal hospital where they gave him charcoal in his blood and gave him stuff to make him empty his bowels... With that, there was no guarantee he was going to make it as the vet told me he took a "highly toxic dose". I debated canceling my trip but Jackie was very understanding and told me to go anyway and we'd just keep in contact over the phone. I was a nervous wreck getting on that plane...

When I got the report that he was mostly out of the woods it felt like a thousand pounds had been lifted off of my shoulders! The G Man had to walk around with a lampshade for around 24 hours and was probably out of it for a few days after but thankfully made it out ok! The joke about Gomez now is that he's not a dog but a cat with 9 lives. More like a Dat I guess you could say. After this episode, he's pretty much on his 4th life after almost dying from a pneumonia when he was first adopted then the whole getting hit by a car story while I was watching him previously. That's right, I've almost killed the most luvable cutest dog ever, twice, yikes! To think, I don't know of too many people that love animals like I do plus he wasn't my dog which I think maybe makes it even worse. I had just gotten over all the chili trauma where she got her paw slammed in a trunk but it was still pretty fresh in my mind.

All's I have to say is that if only that dog could talk, the stories he'd be able to share, ahh.... I can say that he is one tough little hombre both physically and now obviously mentally. I tried to put myself in Gomez's spot thinking of how I would feel after eating 350 of those pills and lets just say it's a place that I never want to visit!

"Where in the %$#&*&@ am I"? "Why all of the sudden do I crave Doritos and have the urge to listen to reggae" (thinks Gomez). Poor little guy...

On to a bit of bad news (for real) unfortunately... I found out last night from my buddy Dan that his friend (and a friend of mine, although I didn't know him as well) died of a heart attack. His name is Ivan and I wrote about him last year. He was a great guitar player / singer / songwriter. He was also a great guy, ugh... I wrote about how Ivan had serious heart problems back then. We used to talk about how each of our lives were tenuous because of our health issues and shared a zest for enjoying every moment. Fittingly, Ivan died doing something he really loved and that is disc golf. In fact, he had started his own disc golf merchandising company and from what I knew, was doing fairly well with it. I'm bummed that I'll never be able to see or talk to the guy again, this sucks...

Talk about being full of life... We would sit outside at Danny's quad and Ivan would just belt out tunes of his own or covers like the Gypsy Kings or other cool stuff... He was way too young, very sad...

Cheers to Ivan and Gomez! I hope you rest in Peace Ivan, God bless ya brother...

Your buddy Chris

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Rockin 54,000 Platelets!

That's right, scored 54K on the first try today, yee haw! Of course my new secret weapon, Pineapple had a little to do with it. Yes indeed, pineapple! I heard from the Reeds that Mike did the same thing before his blood test and it got him over the hump too. I've always loved pineapple and now I love it even more ;)

The nicest thing is once I found out they were at 54K, I immediately reached into my meds and grabbed a couple of Naproxen and within an hour, my back was feeling much better. In fact, I anticipate being able to sleep most of the night tonight without being awaken by sharp pain, awesome!

So, it was nice to see the crew at Karmanos in Detroit today. When I was getting my blood drawn, one of my friends who used to always bring me newspapers, stuff to drink, etc. (and always asked me when I was going to get married ;) gathered up all the nurses that used to treat me and they all came in the room to say hello. It was a very nice moment and made me feel good that they remembered me and were so glad to see me. It's gotta be weird not knowing if a patient you used to treat is still out there kicking and can see why they would be happy to see one of theirs doing relatively well. Like I've said before though, all of the nurses at Karmanos (especially the soul sisters) are so awesome and can always put a smile on my face :)

I'm glad I get to go back to Karmanos in between visits to NYU now :) Even though it may not be the best cancer center in the world (although it's surely far from the worst) the warmth of the staff there is enough to make you look forward to visit which says a lot...). Plus, it gives me an excuse to go downtown Detroit which I always enjoy.

Anyway, that's a quick update for now. Time to start cycle 14, amazing...

Gotta keep it going!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Catchin Up

I Haven't been overly inspired to blog lately... While I'm having a nice relaxing time down here (I went on my first bike ride today in over a year :), I'm pretty exhausted from not being able to sleep a whole lot the last few nights. My back is pretty messed up, to the point where it's almost impossible to get any quality sleep right now. I take pain meds before bed but to have any effect or any chance at R.E.M., I have to take double the amount I would normally take. The result is something that resembles sleep but is more like a half conscious drug induced weird feeling (don't know how else to describe it). I can't take the naproxen because of my platelet count problem and a pending blood draw this Thursday. It's quite the conundrum and hopefully will be better by the time the weekend rolls around.

Now that I've vented, I just remembered a story I saw on the sports recap last night. There was this lady at the Green Bay airport who happens to be a cancer survivor in treatment. Apparently she is a major Packer fan and thus a big fan of their quarterback Aaron Rogers. I guess he was coming into the airport to travel to Chicago for the game and she was standing there with her bald head and a pink jersey on, pretty obvious she was battling cancer. As she asked Rogers for his autograph, he pretended not to see her and walked right by her. On it's face, the video looks pretty bad. Here's a guy who's supposed to be an icon or role model (whatever) and he disses an obvious cancer survivor and it's all caught on tape. I'm not going to bash him as he's only human and maybe he was just in a hurry... He's not obligated to sign anything obviously. Turns out he actually signed some stuff for her in the past (although the story did mention how other players did stop to sign autographs for her moments later).

I think the media really blew this thing up as our society seems to pay more attention to the bad (or perceived bad) things people do as opposed to the good. I guess drama sells...

When asked how she felt about what happened, her response was one of compassion and understanding for the quarterback. She actually felt bad that everyone was bashing the guy. She said she doesn't want anyone to feel sorry for her and didn't expect special treatment.

I have to say that I feel the same way regarding expecting special treatment and people feeling sorry for you. I think most cancer survivors will tell you that they don't expect special treatment and definitely don't want people to feel sorry for us.

However, I must say (and sure the woman would probably agree) that it is nice when people do recognize what you go through (when dealing with cancer) and do make the effort to try and understand what it's like. It's kinda what separates the people that really care about you from those that are just "passers by" if you know what I mean.

I guess I'm writing this post for a couple of reasons. The first of course is to vent about this awful back pain (because there's not a whole heck of a lot else to do about it). Secondly and most importantly is to again thank those of you who go out of your way to "understand" and support my struggle and the struggle every cancer survivor goes through at some point.

So, because I didn't know if I was going to have to go to New York when I booked this trip, I'm leaving tomorrow for the Michigan tundra. Nice thing is, I get to come back down next Monday (thank God for Spirit Airlines $9 fare club!). I'll be here until Feb 10th where I'll then fly to New York for my required 6 week clinic visit.

The saga continues, ha!


Thursday, January 13, 2011

Time to think...

So, it's been an enjoyable relaxing time in Soflo so far. I'm really grateful for the sunshine hearing about all of the snow all over the country...

Been feeling relatively well (think the nice weather helps this). If I could only get rid of the little knife that is constantly in my back. I don't think it will ever go away so I'm trying to learn how to be friends with it. It's tough because we really don't get along and sometimes it makes me grumpy. Not to mention, sometimes it causes me to lash out when it's probably best to keep my mouth shut. It's a constant struggle that I'm always trying to stay on top of. I think I'm going to give my little buddy (sometimes buddy's in my para-spinal area) a name. Something like Dick, Asshole, Jackass or even Shithead (stole that from Steve Martin's dog's name in "The Jerk", that movie was hilarious but I digress).

It is what it is however and I'm still truly blessed to be living the life that I am right now.

I don't know what it is but every time I come down here during season, I feel like an old fart! Everywhere I go during the day, I'm surrounded by retirees. It's pretty surreal. I went to this place called Faith Farm Ministries today as it's a huge resale complex run by people who have given their life to God (at least that's what they say) and those seeking God after prison or rehab. These people get to live on this rather large complex out in the country in exchange for work and of course good behavior. Anyway, they have an amazing inventory of resale clothing, furniture, appliances, etc. I'm in the market for a little microwave and always looking to add to my art collection with cheap finds. The only thing is I have to fight off all of the geezers! (When I say geezers, I mean the not so cool old folks. I know plenty of hip old folks!) Anyway, these people are really aggressive not only trying to get a parking spot in the lot but trying to look through some of the paintings that were donated. I had this lady grab something right out of my hand! I liked this little oil painting and before I could blink, the little old lady snatched it right out of my hand, lol! Since I was on her turf, I just put my hands up and said "it's all yours!". I then had this almost incoherent old guy come up to me a couple of times within 5 minutes asking me "where the pens were". He must have thought I worked there, lol! Who goes to a resale shop to buy pens? Sometimes I feel like I'm in the twilight zone down here but I roll with it and have fun with it.

So, I've been trying to do my laps in the pool as I haven't looked for a place to take yoga yet. I went and bought some goggles and they make all the difference in the world. That is, I can swim a straight line now whereas before I'd be zigzagging as I did my laps with my eyes closed! Apparently, doing laps in the pool is also a popular thing for the retired crowd so the goggles are necessary when I have to share the pool ;)

I forgot to update on this but I was finally notified that I can stretch my New York visits out to every six weeks!! What a relief both mentally and for my pocket book. I do a lot of walking when I go to Manhattan and after my last experience with the snow not to mention the craziness at La Guardia this is a major blessing!

That said, I'm due back for a clinic visit Feb. 10th. We've decided to just let my body tell me whats going on and take a little break from PET scans. You know PET scans can't be good for you when they tell you to stay away from children and pregnant women for 24 hours...

So, that's pretty much it for now. Just doing my best to get through winter. I feel bad for my fellow Northerners who have to deal with all the hassle of cold weather and snow. I think the people that have it the worst are those who don't have a garage and have to scrape their windshields in the morning or even worse, walk to work. Believe me, I don't take wearing shorts and flip flops for granted and hope I never have to deal with the cold again with all the crap my body has been through.

By the way, I wanted to mention something exciting that my friend Marsha has been talking about on our Hodgkins board. Apparently, there is a treatment out there right now that's been showing good success in refractory patients who carry the Epstein Barr virus (one of the only known possible causes of Hodgkins). I need to get a tumor sample over to Baylor university where they apparently take a chunk and test it. It takes six months for the test results (they have to grow something in a test tube). I really hope I have the virus as this could be my next step.

Well, that's all I've got for now. I've been holding off talking about politics and social issues lately in the spirit of keeping things lite. That's right Sarah Palin, I'm giving you a free pass on the whole cross hairs/reloading thing in the wake of the Arizona shootings. To think, this lady could have been our vice president...

I couldn't resist ;)



Sunday, January 9, 2011

Dust is Settling...

Hello Everyone,

Sorry for no posts for a while, I've been going non-stop since early last week and just now getting a little breather.

I know I never mentioned this but I was able to continue on the trial after getting my platelets to go up 12,000 points in one day! I'm not going to swear by this yet but this is the second time I've eaten a bunch of pineapple before a blood test and had my platelets go up so dramatically. I mean, never before have they gone up so much in one day. You know that for sure I'm going to be eating at least a pound of pineapple before every future blood draw (except the days where I have to fast for scans).

So the holidays were great, had a nice mellow new year and think I did my birthday up pretty well. It all started at the last Lions game where my buddy and I got some cheap seats and snuck into club level. They convincingly beat the Vikings for their fourth straight victory to end up the season. With a couple of breaks here and there and if we were able to have our #1 quarterback available to the whole season, I think the Detroit Lions would have made the playoffs, that's right, the f'n playoffs! I am going to stick my neck out and say that next year, even if Stafford doesn't come back, we are still going to make the playoffs and maybe make some noise. I just watched Green Bay beat Philadelphia and we just beat Green Bay and gave Philadelphia a great game. I also watched the Jets win and remember we should have beat them too... The Bears who are also in the playoffs should have lost to us twice! Let's just say I'm really excited for next year and I haven't been able to say that since Barry Sanders played for us.

My actual birthday was really nice. Unfortunately, I don't have any pictures to post yet though... I met all of my family at this restaurant called Tin Fish in Macomb Twp. I've never semi planned my own birthday party before but wanted my family who has been so supportive of me through my hard times around. I truly didn't think I was going to make it to 40 when I was going through my toughest times and it seemed like a big deal. I requested to my Mom to spread around that I didn't want any gifts but my family doesn't roll like that! All I can say is that to all of you who put something in your card, I am forever grateful and plan to use the money to take a vacation to Hawaii or somewhere exotic! It'll most likely be Hawaii as now I have two people to visit, cuz Jeff on Oahu and buddy Mike on the big Island (as of a few days ago).

So the next morning I had to pull myself together and pack and catch a 10:30 flight. Because it was a flight, there had to be a near tragedy but I'll save this story for another time because it would take an entire blog to explain what happened...

Glad to say that I did make it to Delray however and it couldn't be nicer! I'm entertaining a buddy and it's always nice when you have guests and the weather cooperates.

Made a trip down to South Beach Miami where everything in colorful, even the life guard shacks on the beach!

Lotsa Flavah in South Beach :)

Everybody is so festive (tasteful body painting show at Clevelander Hotel)

Lots of interesting characters everywhere (quite a contrast to the above pic!)

Had lunch at the Clevelander Hotel and watched a little football.

An ants view from the beach!

This week is my week to start putting my ducks back in a row and plan for 2011 (the best that I can).

Looking forward to hopefully a great year!

Cheers :o)


Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Lordy Lordy, look who's...

Yep, that's right, the big 4 oh today, yikes! Sorry I haven't updated in a while. I plan to do so when I get some free time down in Florida.

I hope everyone had a great holiday and Happy New Year!

Chris :)