Friday, June 15, 2007

So many things to say

Well, my 5 day stay at the hospital has come to an end, and the news that seems so unlikely and too good to be true turns out to be real afterall. Free and clear. No melanoma.

It feels- amazing. Amazingly like it used to before I knew what a cancer diagnosis was like. Like I went and had my first mole removed and the path report was negative, and now I can go on with my life without the worry of all the stuff that coulda been. Like life never got scary. Amazing. I still tear up when I talk about it.

Now, I know that I'm still a survivor, and I still must be vigilant, and I know all that comes with that. I'm sure that in a few weeks or months when it's time for scans again, that I'll be scared until the results come back, and that I'll still panic over new moles or strange pigments or funny aches and pains. But I feel, today, like I've won the lottery and I've no limit to what I can do with the gift I've been given of "no evidence of disease." Free and clear.

And, yet, of course, I am hurt, too, by the fact that we have all lost Sarah. I simply can't believe she's gone.

Since February of this year, I have lost four people to cancer. I can't say how it hurts to write that.
Cancer is almost always a whirlwind of a mixture of the strangest feelings- joy at the good results, pain with the bad. Grieving the loss of all you had in your life (or at least you thought you had) before the diagnosis, and rejoicing in all you've learned and figured out about life since then- like the precious gift of a single moment. There's the joy of meeting the most amazing people on Earth, making friends across the country, drawing strength from their journeys- and- the flip side of that- is hearing that this stupid disease beat their spirit once and for all.

A few weeks ago, I wrote about Oscar, and I said that my first instinct when I thought about his death was a sense of relief that he was finally out of pain, out of the battle. At ease. And, after that feeling, it was simply a matter of getting past the missing him. I know that everyone that knew Sarah is probably feeling this same thing right now. But I can't tell you how much strength I drew from her advice. And I'm angry in the selfish way that she deserved so much more. I read her blog again and it's like I'm reading the story of a superhero, who put her private self out there so other people could learn. Amazing how she never gave up and she fought her way through the system to make sure she'd find a doctor who would treat her to fight melanoma till her last breath. And now that she's gone, it's stranger than ever.

So, again today, is the whirlwind. And I am just soaking it all up- the ache for Sarah and Derek and the joy of the gift that I know I have been given. It never makes sense, but I think to seek reasoning or consolation or an explanation is only inviting a conflict that I can't resolve.

Once again, no tidy wrap-up, but a quick petition to the higher power that is (or is not) ruling all this: thank you for my time knowing Sarah, thank you for lending Sarah to the world for a while, and thank you for the grace I've been offered, too.


Tuesday, June 12, 2007


Ok, we are stunned, speechless, literally.
Not only did the oncologist just come in to check on Lori, he also brought the path report.


When the oncologist did the PET scan, he was 99% sure it was melanoma. 1% baby, crazy odds, but we'll take 'em!

We don't know what to say or think. We didn't expect any news until Friday. We can't thank everyone enough for all of your prayers, thoughts and well wishes.

Stunned. Completely Stunned.
More to come...

Saturday, June 09, 2007

A small view into the life of melanoma

Guest post, Bobby here.

Holy Crap!!! I have a little story for any of you cancer survivors out there, heck even those of you that are loved ones, friends, family, pizza delivery guy, whatever.

I have a little story for you and it goes something like this. It may wander, but it has a point, trust me.

When I was but a little lad my dad took me on a fishing trip. On said fishing trip, I, being the manly type (not really) took my shirt off for the day. If you don't know me, I'm a freckly type kid, now freckly type adult. Yes, I got a sunburn, a BAD one on that fishing trip. My shoulders and back were especially toasted. I got home and my mom freaked. She was screaming about skin cancer and how you don't want that. I thought, eh, no big deal.

Flash forward to a couple of months ago when Lori and I were checking each other for moles, let's keep it clean people. Anyway, she said there was a couple I should have checked. So, I made an appointment with her dermatologist, the aforementioned Dr. Beautiful in a previous post.

I rescheduled a handful of times and I know why. I was scared. "What if's" were running through my head. So, I finally made an appointment and kept it. I told Dr. B. the story and he said take off my shirt, unlike Dr. Gomez who can have your pants off in under 2 seconds...I digress.

He takes a look and says "Oh yeah, we've got a couple of winners here. They need to come off." Now, if we compared pain tolerances, mine would be in the wimpy section while Lori's is in the tough as nails section. Anyway, I didn't know he was going to do it right then and there. But he did. He froze one off that's a rather large area on my shoulder, said it was fine and it will fall off. Still hasn't, but I think it's getting there.

But the other one on my lower back was suspect and he wanted to cut it off and send it out for diagnosis.

Now, this is where this blog will tie together. They said in about a week I would know the results and I'll be honest, I tried not to think about it. So, a week later I get a phone call from a number I don't recognize which I don't answer, standard procedure. But as it's going to voicemail I get this nervous sensation and I thought it was the Dr.'s office calling. It was.

Here's what the nurse said on my voicemail: "Hello Mr. Frrrriiissskkeee, this is the nurse from Dr. Beautiful's office. I need to talk to you about your results from the mole we sent off for testing."

AAAAGGGHH!!! My anxiety went through the roof. The last time I had to wait for results like that, I of course didn't answer and on my voicemail they said everything was fine.

This was crazy anxiety. I don't think I've experienced it before like this. So, I quickly call back and the nurse is at lunch. So, now I have to wait until she gets back.

Heart pounding, check.
Nervous sweats, check.
Freaking out...priceless

When she calls I'm practically shaking. She tells me it's mild dysplastic nevus (spelling?) and everything was fine, but to keep an eye on it. whew.

What I'm trying to get across to people who don't have cancer is, I cannot believe the amount of anxiety something like this produces. It was enough to make me a nervous wreck for one tiny mole. And you people here that are fighting cancer, waiting for diagnosis, updates, pet scans, MRI's, doctors reports or even just waiting after treatment... Well, it takes a special person to take all of this in stride and us people need to realize how much of a toll it can take on our loved ones fighting this crappy disease.

Lori's getting ready to go in for surgery and I'm still dumbfounded by how she can take this in stride. I would be a nervous wreck, instead I'm in denial, that's supposed to be funny, but true.

I have (another) whole new take on how things are.
I hope that makes sense.

A quick Lori update... She'll probably be in 3-5 days depending on how things go. The wonderful Mandy, best friend of Lori's and all around good person is coming in from Cali to help out.

After Lori recovers she's heading to Cali with Mandy and hopefully we're all going to meet up in Vegas sometime before school starts back up.

Lori sends her love. To all of the people out there who cancer has affected, I say this,



Sunday, June 03, 2007

Great Quote

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us.
Nelson Mandela

Our Blessed Lady of Surgery: The Patron Saint of No More Friggin' Melanoma

So surgery has been officially set, and I get a little time off from school before hand, so I'm fairly happy with that. Yes, it sucks that this is what my vacation fund is going to, and it sucks that this is what I'm doing the first part of this summer, but such is life, I suppose. And considering what's going on with all the people around me, I really feel like I should be counting my blessings.

Just in the last week or so have I come to the realization of just how scary this surgery is to me. Maybe I knew all along and just didn't want to think about it, but one night Bobby and I were sitting, watching tv, and it just hit me that I knew why it makes me so nervous that it's so quickly approaching. When I started to talk about it, I got butterflies and that adrenally feeling like I do just before they roll me into the operating room. In reality, I know that things will be a lot better than my last surgery, and that I'll be in the hospital where meds will be available and I'll be able to recover well. My last surgery was the removal of all my lymph nodes in my right groin. The incision started about half way down my thigh, crossed over just above my hip, and stopped about 3 inches above the hip bone. They also removed my little pinky toe and a small part of my foot at the same time. It was, how do you say?, intensely painful, especially since I didn't have insurance at the time and had to do a "day surgery," which basically meant that after I came to, I had to get the hee-haw outta there. That meant getting out of the bed and into a wheelchair, out of the wheelchair and into a car, out of the car and walking into the house. Ouch. Yes, there were pain meds, but nothing really prepares you for walking (or should I say attempting to walk? more like dragging myself on crutches) just hours after they staple (87 staples, by the way) you shut. A full 10 on the one-to-ten pain scale. I didn't even know that pain like that could exist. Forget childbirth, if that's what it's like.
So there's something to be thankful for right there, kids- I won't be doing THAT this time around. I plan to use that to my full advantage, too, and to bask in the gratitude. But yes, I am a bummed about having to do this again. I'm also pretty bummed about the fact that I was just starting a half-marathon training program, and am running 3 miles fairly effortlessly these days, and now that's going to be shot all to hell. I really wanted this summer to be an opportunity to get back in the habit of working out 5 days a week, and I know what this surgery means for all that. My doc is hopeful that maybe I can pick up bike riding a few weeks after (I need to contact Holly about this, by the way), so that I can be up and moving and squashing the chance of a blood clot, and I'm all for that, too. But running has always been a real passion of mine and I'm sad that it's not going to be around for a while. I'm really sad, actually. And let's just say it, I'm pissed, too. I'm pissed even though I know things could be so much worse for me, and yes, I'm struggling with that, too. But since I'm being real, I'll just break it down for you.

I'm only out from Interferon 8 months, which has been about enough time for me to get things back together, to get to a place where I feel physically and emotionally like I'm finally back on track. And it's taken me all this time just to get my body used to running again, even though I do struggle with lymphadema and such, it is so much better than it was, and with the right tools, I've found it's even manageable. Now, now that I'm here, guess what? It's back.
That's just so wrong. I just want to scream (at who, I'm not really sure- or what?- my body???) "Leave me alone! I just want to live my normal life!" And yes, this is the reality of life after cancer- a constant maintaining of one's self, a constant "on guard" status. In reality, there is no life after cancer, there is only life after diagnosis, which means you do scans and you check yourself and you see docs regulary and you just accept that it could one day manifest itself again. That becomes a reality of daily life, that cancer could be back any day. But until it recurrs, I guess you just fool yourself into thinking that you did your time and you can get on with your life again. And if it happens, you'll face whatever comes when you get to it. Which is what I did. But I don't want this. I want to be able to work out and have a summer vacation and spend time away from work without having to live my life around cancer. I don't want to spend 6 weeks recovering from surgery, and then another who knows how many weeks trying to build up some sort of physical endurance again. For that year on Interferon of forced coach-potatoe-hood, I just packed on the pounds, even though everyone around kept saying, "You barely eat anything. I don't understand how you're gaining weight." Alas, I am a medical marvel. Part of that was how my body reacted to Interferon, and part of that was an infamously low metabolism that picks up dramatically when I commit myself to working out regularly. Interferon pushing me into pre-menopausal world didn't help with that issue, either. And now, I am scared of weight gain happening again. I know that sounds silly in the big scope of things, but this is part of my health, too, and I am tired of having so little choice in what is going on with my body. I don't even want to think about having to start all over, trying to get back to a normal physical state. And this isn't even normal. This is the starting over. After surgery, that will be the starting over from the last starting over.
More trivial things to complain about, you say? Sure, I've got them! I don't want to give up my favorite hobby and learn another sport. I don't want all of this damn money I've worked so hard for to go to something I care so little about. Life is too damn short. I want to live each day to the fullest without being confined to a hospital room or a bed! I want life without staples, without surgery, without 6 weeks recovery time.

And yet, most of that life is gone. I still grieve for that life sometimes, though most days I've accepted this new life, and can see the benefits of it, too. Would I trade all I've learned if I had a chance at getting my old life back? Today, yes. Yet, once again I must acknowledge how lucky I am indeed, to have all that I have, to be dealing with one tiny lymph node instead of other things, to be where I am today, to have the support that surrounds me. And I've committed to living life fully, no matter my circumstances. I'll do everything I can to live as normally as possible while I'm recovering, and I'm pretty sure that won't be as bad as I'm making it out to be tonight.

That's all for now, kids. Tune in next week, same Bat-time, same Bat-channel.

And please don't forget to keep Sarah and Shannon in your thoughts and prayers.



I'm Too Young For This!