Saturday, December 31, 2016

The Year Without A Heart

Goodbye, 2016.

You were not the year I was hoping for when this whole thing started back on January 1st.

You were vicious, uncaring, dangerous, and vile.

From taking artists that helped shape who we are, to tearing apart hopes and dreams, to holding up a mirror forcing humanity to see the ugliness that had been previously hidden, to my own personal battle with monsters and demons.

I will not miss you, 2016.

One year ago I stated I would not be looking back fondly on 2015. My dad lost his battle with cancer while my wife fought her own battle with breast cancer. It was truly a shitty year. I was ready to move on to a better 2016.

As you all know, that didn't happen.

Instead, I received my own diagnosis of cancer.

Then I fought my own battle for a good portion of the year because the treatment was so difficult.

There are no words to describe what one goes through when battling cancer. It "sucks" and "fuck cancer" just don't quite do it justice, but it's about all we've got.

Fighting it becomes your life.

Both that you are literally fighting for your life and that your everyday life is about battling cancer.

Since I chronicled the experience as I was going through it, I won't rehash it again now. I'll just say, yes, the treatment was difficult both physically and mentally, but the added stress to our family because of the diagnoses (both my wife's the year before and mine this year), the treatment, my inability to be a functioning human being for months, and the fact that I was forbidden to drive for six months because I had a seizure on the operating table, all made the year even more difficult.

Then there were the friends that had their own battles with cancer this year. Some ongoing, others a new diagnosis.

I now relate to people learning they have cancer in a way I never knew existed. It can be a perfect stranger and I'll feel this overwhelming empathy for them.

When it's not a stranger, the feeling envelops me, swallows me whole, and then spits me out and leaves me a crumpled mess on the floor.

I said it in my first post regarding my cancer adventure, "I've joined the club no one wants a membership to."

But that's what it is, a membership.

And I am emotionally affected by others becoming new members.

I'm tired of cancer.

But it is what it is.

For now, I will not say I am "cured". (It just hasn't been that long since I was in the throws of battle.)

Instead, I say: according to the last scan, there is no evidence of cancer present.

And I am grateful for that.

So while my personal difficulties were quite challenging in 2016, there were also many other things going on in the world that made 2016 quite the shitty year. Everything from the climate to politics to ignorance to hatred.

It was the year a good portion of music died: Prince, Davide Bowie, Glenn Fry, Merle Haggard, George Michael, Maurice White, George Martin, and Leonard Cohen to name only a few.

Some others that were lost in 2016: Alan Rickman, Gene Wilder, Mohammad Ali, Florence Henderson, Ron Glass, Kenny Baker, George Kennedy, Gary Shandling, Patty Duke, Garry Marshall, Arnold Palmer, Alan Thicke, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Harper Lee, Morley Safer, Gordie Howe, Richard Adams, and of course, John Glenn.

Then, because 2016 wasn't finished fucking with us, we lost Carrie Fisher with four days remaining in this terrible, horrible, no good, very bad year.

The following day, her mother, Debbie Reynolds died.

Losing famous people often makes us realize our own mortality.

For a certain age group of people, we were given many opportunities this past year to have that realization.

It's sobering.

We know we're going to die but we rarely think about it. Then a famous person who had some impact on our lives dies and we realize, holy shit, that could be me. Particularly when that famous person is relatively close to our own age.

And/or we realize that all this, this bullshit that we war over, hate over, hurt others over is all just that: bullshit.

And/or we realize our childhood has been dead for many years and that we have far fewer years ahead of us than we do behind us.

Or we just don't give a fuck and we get right back to warring, hating, and hurting others.

Then it eventually passes and we move on to just trying to live through our busy lives, not giving another thought to death. That is, not until the next death of someone that has impacted our lives.

But while the year was filled with celebrity deaths, it was politics and world events that out shined everything else.

In the year 2016, humanity showed its true colors.

And they were not pretty to look at.

The disgusting U.S. Presidential election left most of us confused and despondent. Is this really the country we live in?

Apparently so.

Do so many fellow Americans harbor so much hatred?

Apparently so.

Then there was Brexit, Aleppo, Sudan, Russia, refugees, and the mass shooting at the Pulse Nightclub.

This is the world we've always lived in.

It is what it is, but I don't have to like it.

So I will not be looking back fondly on 2016, either.

It can not leave fast enough.

So good riddance 2016.

You personally brought me pain and took me way too close to death.

You brought many friends pain and fear.

And you tried to squash our hope with humanity's disgusting displays of violence, hatred, and killing.

It was the year full of hate
Where intolerance and ignorance did shine.
It was a year to never forget
As we crossed line after line after line.

It was the year full of death,
That needed to end right from the start.
It was the year full of pain.
It was the year without a heart.

Monday, December 5, 2016

I Don't Understand

I've seen the children
Die in the streets.
I've seen
Governments fall.
I've seen a doctor
Die in vain.
What has
Happened to us all?

I've seen the riots
I've seen the wars.
I've seen
I've seen them murder
We just don't believe.

Sometimes, I run.
Sometimes, I hide.
And sometimes,
I wish to Hell I didn't know.
Sometimes, I live.
Other times, I die.
And sometimes,
I just watch the hatred grow.

I've seen the women
Raped in their homes.
I've seen
Babies get sold.
I've seen the children
Just get raped by their own.
These are
Stories of old.

I've seen politicians
Stoke and incite fear.
I've seen
Truth lose to lies.
And God's often used
To justify atrocities,
To control who lives
And pronounce the very next to die.

Sometimes, I run.
Sometimes, I hide.
And sometimes,
I wish to Hell I didn't know.
Sometimes, I live.
Other times, I die.
And sometimes,
I just watch the hatred grow.

I've seen the government
Cater to the rich.
I've seen,
Jane and John Doe.
They live on a street
Where their soul's been sold,
To those that choose not to know.

I've seen the people
Who sell their skin.
I've seen
Sex end time.
I don't understand
This fucking world that I'm in.
But there we go
Crossing another line.

Sometimes, I run.
Sometimes, I hide.
And sometimes,
I wish to Hell I didn't know.
Sometimes, I live.
Other times, I die.
And sometimes,
I just watch the hatred grow.

--Randal D. Anderson
May 6, 2016

Thursday, December 1, 2016

The Long and Winding Road

I had a CT Scan a few weeks ago that looked good.

Today I learned the results of the Pet Scan I had recently.

I'm cancer free.

Obviously I'm thrilled to get this news.

Both the blood work and the scan looked good. I'll do it all again in three months.

I'm "probably cured" but I know cancer can return, or show up somewhere else, at any time. We just never know what lies in our future.

I'll be getting tested every three months for quite awhile, and there will always be that concern/worry of it returning or appearing somewhere else in/on my body.

It is what it is.

I'm grateful for the doctors, the treatment, and the science that helped me stay alive.

I'm very thankful for all my friends and family that helped during this most difficult time in my life. Your support, both physically and/or emotionally, was much appreciated.

Thank you.

I thank my wife for keeping the house together, taking care of the boys, driving me everywhere, and for pretty much everything else during these past months.

I love you.

I took the title for this post from one of my favorite Beatle's songs because yes, this road has been long, winding, and littered with pot holes. It's been the most difficult road I've ever traveled:

The no eating; the no sleeping; the pain; the vomiting; the nausea; the depression; the apathy; the chemotherapy; the radiation; the countless doctor's appointments; the surgeries; the seizure; the no driving for six months; the lying in bed for weeks; the lost weight; the exhaustion; the nurses visits; the PICC line; the G-Tube; the scars (both physically and mentally).

A road I hope none of you ever have to travel.

Wednesday, November 23, 2016

For Where I Am

On this eve of my 48th Thanksgiving, I'm thankful for where I am.

I have a pet scan next week. Yes, I'm a little nervous about it. Not the scan but more getting the results of the scan which I'll get a couple of days later. I'll probably get more nervous/anxious as that day gets closer.

For me anyway, now that I've been fighting cancer, every new "pain", every new blemish on my skin, everything that is new/different from the day before (both inside and on my body) causes me some anxiety.

It is what it is.

It's to be expected.

My tongue is feeling a little better. It doesn't hurt quite as much as it used to, though it does still hurt to eat. It even hurts when I yawn.

My neck is still pretty tight and tender, though even that has gotten somewhat better. I'm seeing a physical therapist for neck lymphedema massage exercises. Don't want lymphedema, now.

I still get tired pretty easily. Not much stamina to be on my feet for hours, but it's getting better. Last week I was up at campus for two days in a row. I was really tired during the second day. That's all new to me. Not used to being so tired from just being on campus, and not used to sucking air after climbing only three flights of stairs. That's what I climb to get to my office. That all should get better once they again become part of my daily routine. If all goes well with the pet scan next week, then that routine starts at the beginning of January. If the pet scan does not go well, then, we'll see where that leads.

This adventure has been long and, as you know, it has been extremely difficult. I don't know if it is ever truly "over" because there will always be that worry of recurrence or something new showing up during one of the many scans and blood draws that lie in my future.

But for now I'm thankful for where I am.

I'm thankful I made it through most of the chemo and all the radiation treatments.

I'm thankful for my wife helping me through such a difficult time in my/our life and for taking care of the boys when I couldn't get out of bed for weeks. It was very difficult on her, especially since she is still recovering from her bout with breast cancer last year. (Fucking cancer. We've had enough already.)

I'm thankful for the support of my family and friends. It is much appreciated. The texts, the messages, the gifts, the love. You all are wonderful.

I don't miss the days of pacing in my bedroom, literally just ten steps each way, over and over again to get some form of exercise but really just to pass the time.

I don't miss sitting in bed staring at the dresser for weeks. No music. No reading. No watching videos. Just staring at the dresser, suffering through depression.

I don't miss getting around 2-3 hours of sleep every day. If I was lucky I got 4 hours. I had to put a "can" in the tube every three hours or so. That included in the middle of the night. So while that interrupted any sleep I might have been getting, the bigger issue was that I just couldn't get to sleep. For months I had to sleep sitting in an upright position, which forced my wife to sleep in a different bed. I was often stuffy and couldn't breathe through my nose. My throat, tongue, and neck hurt. Badly. And the medication I was on caused insomnia.

Nope. Not gonna miss that.

And I hope I don't have to go through that shit again.


I don't miss having tubes sticking out of my body. I'm reminded of them every time I look in the mirror without a shirt on. The scars are a reminder of the Hell I went through.

But I'm thankful I have the scars.

For without the tubes I would've died weeks ago.

Without the scar on my neck, the cancer would've spread even further than it did.

And even though I'm scared shitless, I'm thankful I'm getting a scan next week. I refuse to bury my head in the sand and pretend everything is ok.

It's not ok.

I have cancer.

Stage-four cancer.

It may be gone now that I've gone through surgery and treatment.

But it may not be.

I need to know.

But for now I celebrate.

I celebrate with my family and friends.

We all have problems. For some it's health related, for others it might be financial, or with their relationships or employment or a myriad of other things that can go wrong in our lives. It saddens me to see such hatred still propagated throughout this country and throughout the world when all most of us are trying to do is to just live a happy life despite all these things that can go wrong.

Life is shorter than we can ever imagine.

Unless we've faced the real possibility of death, we don't really know how short.

Be kind.

Oppose hatred.

And live life to the fullest.

I'll update you next week when I get the results of the scan. I hope it goes well and the cancer is gone.

Regardless of the outcome, though, I am thankful for where I am today.

Take care.

Thursday, October 13, 2016

We Keep Moving Forward

I'm better now, but I had to make it through some very, very dark days.

Well, it's been awhile since I last posted. I just couldn't bring myself to write during the past month or so. For most of that time I didn't do much of anything. No reading, no watching movies/tv. I didn't even listen to music for quite awhile. I just sat in bed for many hours a day. For the first time in my life, I was suffering from depression.

It was awful.

There were some very dark days, days where I didn't think I could go on. Days where I didn't really want to go on. I couldn't eat, I felt horrible, I was still vomiting. I would lay in front of the toilet because the floor felt good and, well, I was close to the toilet. It was truly a horrible time in my life.

I think the main culprit may have been oxycodone. I took it for nine days about every two hours. That's a lot. But I thought I needed it because my throat hurt and while I was taking the oxycodone my throat wasn't hurting.

Then I had to go to the emergency room.

My g-tube was leaking more than usual, and it was a little loose. One of my closest friends came to visit me the day before I had to go the ER, and she and her partner, along with a friend that works at the hospital, stayed with me while I was there.

But I was like a zombie. Not a Night of the Living Dead or The Walking Dead zombie, no, I was apathetic, lethargic, and fairly unresponsive to those around me.

I didn't know it at the time, but it was because of the oxycodone.

We waited for quite awhile before I was called back, so it had been several hours since I had "eaten" (put a can in the tube) or taken oxycodone. Two things I thought I needed to do every couple of hours or so in order to survive. Well now it had been something like five hours and I wasn't really hungry, though I knew I needed to "eat", plus my throat wasn't hurting.

But wait, I need oxycodone to make sure my throat doesn't hurt?

Apparently, I didn't.

So I decided to stop taking oxycodone. Cold turkey.

I didn't know it at the time, but that might have been a mistake.

The next week, particularly the next four days, was the most difficult time of my life so far. Depression, vomiting, apathy ruled over me. I was lethargic and just stayed in bed or by the toilet. It was truly a horrible time.

It was also the first time in my life I had ever thought about suicide.

But I thought about it.

I wanted out.

I wanted my wife and kids to be free of the shit life I all of a sudden had.

I didn't think I'd ever be able to eat real food again.

I was terrified of my life.

If this was going to be the quality of my life then I didn't want any part of it.

So yes, I contemplated suicide. I had it all planned out. I even went as far as writing a letter to my wife for her to read when she found me.

I was planning on doing that on Friday, four days after the ER visit. She had gone to Costco and was headed to pick up the boys from school. I thought this is my time.

Then she spontaneously showed up at the house to drop off the frozen food before going to pick up the boys from school.

She was planning on taking the boys to get ice cream and asked if I wanted to join them.

Up to this point about the only time I had been out of the house was to go to the fucking cancer center or hospital. I guess I was going stir crazy, as well.

I said I'd love to join them and then put my shoes on.

I don't know if I really would have gone through with it or not, but I credit that moment with turning me around. While it has still been rough, I haven't thought about suicide since.

Today, there is no way in Hell I would contemplate it. That's not an option.

I really think the oxycodone was doing a number on my head. I was going through withdrawal. It took a few more days before I figured that out.

Oh yeah, we had a good time getting ice cream, though I didn't get any. Wasn't ready, yet.

Then the tube started leaking again and again became loose. At my next appointment with the oncologist I showed her. She thought it was infected and took a culture. Then she scheduled me to meet with the surgeon that Rachel and I like. The same one that took the tumor out of Rachel's breast last  year.

When I went to the ER, the ER doctor didn't have any experience with g-tubes but this surgeon happened to be working next door so he went and got her. She came over and fixed the tube from leaking, did a McGyver she called it, but it worked. She's awesome.

The culture came back negative but I kept my appointment with the surgeon.

A week or so later I had some ice cream at home. It was the first solid food I ate. I was terrified it would come back up, but it didn't. It wasn't much, and it hurt to swallow, but I ate it and it stayed down.

I slowly tried to eat other things over the next week but it was quite difficult. Plus, I didn't really have an appetite. I had way too much anxiety about eating. It scared the shit out of me.

But I continued.

Then I got to a point where I was eating solid food more than using the cans and the tube. I would use the tube during the night and eat solid food during the day.

Then came time to meet with the surgeon.

She came in and said that my oncologist thinks that she should take the tube out.

I was terrified. This was what had kept me alive for the past two months. It was difficult to think of not having it. I wasn't really eating terrifically and I was very worried about the middle of the night.

With a little peer pressure from the surgeon and my wife, I laid down on the table and she took the tube out. My anxiety was sky high.

Later we picked the boys up after school, and to celebrate me getting my tube out we went and got ice cream. I had a scoop and ate it all. I was very pleased.

Since then, I have been eating more. Peanut butter and jelly sandwiches and pasta are still pretty difficult to eat, but chicken, mashed potatoes and gravy, turkey sandwiches, scrambled eggs and pancakes are not.

I started seeing a therapist, because, well, this hasn't been the easiest trip for me. The first day we met we talked about food. I told her I didn't like yogurt but I thought it was something I could eat. She scheduled to meet with me again two days later and I was to bring two yogurts.

So two days later I met with her. I had a vanilla yogurt and a strawberry yogurt. I sat there in that room with her and ate the strawberry yogurt. It took 25 minutes. At the end I told her I was just tolerating eating it. That of course is ok, as long as I eat it.

After I finished she wanted me to try the vanilla just to see if I liked it better. I did, and now I eat at least one vanilla yogurt a day. I actually look forward to eating it. This is a major change in my eating habits.

So eating has gotten better. I've eaten a lot of chicken and mashed potatoes and gravy. Turkey sandwiches are slowly becoming a staple again. I'm even able to eat chips and hummus. Next is tacos!

Eating real food again has made me feel better and stronger. I'm out of bed more and interacting with my family and trying to help around the house. Every day I get a little bit closer to my normal. I am very thankful for that.

This past Monday we went to a restaurant for the first time since May. I didn't know how much of the two enchiladas, beans, and rice I could eat, but I was going to try.

I ended up eating all of it. That surprised me. And I wasn't feeling stuffed afterward. I guess my stomach is stretching back to its normal size.

While I'm still 30 pounds less then when this whole thing started back in May, I think I'll be able to gain some weight now. The cans and the tube just weren't cutting it.

I had a CT scan this past Monday that I'm a little nervous about. I get the results in a week. I am hoping I'm all clear.

So that's the update. Sorry it took so long, but I thank you for understanding. Things are much better now and I am mentally in a much better place than I was.

We keep moving forward.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

I Just Want To Heal

One thing is pretty sure: If I wouldn't have gotten then g-tube then there's a good chance I might not have made it. That's worst case scenario. Best case is that I would've missed some treatments. All of that is bad so I'm glad I went ahead and got the tube.

Yeah it's annoying as all Hell, but it's keeping me alive.

The worst thing right now, though, is the constant dry mouth. It's bad. Absolutely no saliva. That is difficult to deal with. When my mouth dries out then it hurts to swallow water. I try to drink water a lot in order to help, but it's right back to dry mouth. As dry as the desert.

Chemo has caused most of this but I'm sure radiation has contributed to it, as well. I just want a moist a mouth again. Looks like that'll be awhile.

So yes, I managed to get through 33 radiation treatments. That's quite a lot. About seven weeks. Glad it's over but still have to deal with side effects for a few more weeks. That is getting more difficult.

I'm restless but tired all the time. I just want to heal.

Back to patience.

That's getting more difficult to do: be patient.

Yesterday my doc and I decided we'd stop chemo treatments. So I'm finished with chemo and radiation. Now it's on to healing.

The chemo was not systemic treatment, it was to help radiation do it's thing. I asked her if she was worried about me stopping and she said no. That's good.

It looks like healing will be difficult. That is disappointing. You don't realize how much you take your mouth for granted until it's not functioning the way it is supposed. It feels like it did after surgery, hurts in the same spots, but it seems more intense. Maybe it's my imagination, who knows. I did eat a little bit of real food last night, not much mind you, but I did. It's definitely more dry than after surgery and that makes a big deal. I need saliva. Maybe start feeling better next week? Who knows? Everyone is different.

It does affect my sleep. Hard to sleep with dry mouth and then wake up, drink water, and hurt to swallow. Doesn't make me want to go to sleep. Some nights are better than others. Most nights suck badly.

So that's it. Pain, dry mouth, treatments complete, more pain.

Please start healing. Please feel better soon. Please.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

One Job

I used to have several jobs. I still do, but almost all of them have been relegated to the backseat because now my main job, the most important one, is to get calories in my body.

And that is a job.

Seems easy enough, right? Just eat.

Well it's not quite that easy. As you know, I can't really put food in my mouth with that whole going to make me throw up thing still going on. Although, let me say a few days ago I did walk in to the kitchen and Rachel had a Costco rotisserie chicken on the island, that Nathan had already devoured the two legs from, and I said I'll take some chicken. And for whatever reason, I could eat a little chicken on that particular day. That's been the extent though. And no, it didn't taste the way it should. So, in general, I still can't really eat food. Instead it's those "cans" of nutrition that I pour down my tube.

Several times a day.

This is the "job" part. It's what I have to do. It needs to be done. And it is annoying.

About every two and a half hours I have to get a can down the tube. Thus, I feel like I'm always pouring these cans into my stomach. "Didn't I just do this?" I ask a lot. And, yes, I did just do it, 2.5 hours ago.

That's not a lot of time between "meals".

It makes it difficult to leave the house because I can't be gone very long. Oh, I guess I could pour a can in out in public, but you know I'm not going to do that. Now I have it down to a routine and changing that routine would be a pain in the ass. Plus, no one wants to see me pour liquid into my tube while we're sitting at the local cafe. Not to mention that because of chemo I'm highly susceptible to catching a disease or something minor.

So forget it. I'm feeding at home.

This will affect my teaching job which starts in about a month. I'm trying to figure out how to handle that situation. A buddy of mine and I have a couple of good ideas. We'll see what plays out over the next couple weeks.

I need these calories. It's what my body uses to repair all this damage that is being done to it from the radiation and chemo. It's working, it's just such a pain in the ass to have to put a can in so often. That's really what I'm complaining about, here: the frequency.

I know it won't last for ever, and it's helping me get stronger every day.

But it is a job.

Not a job I enjoy, but it is what it is. I'll get the job done. I'll just be glad when I no longer have the tube and food hopefully tastes like it's supposed again.

Oh yeah, and I'll be glad when the radiation and chemo have eliminated my body of this cancer that I've been fighting.

Yeah, I'll be glad about that for sure.

Then this entire job will be completely worth all this effort.

Monday, August 15, 2016

Odds and Ends

We're finally down to single digits of radiation treatment left. Still have a long way to go, but it's nice to know I only have a few more treatments remaining.

My mouth is swollen and sunburned inside. If it gets too dry then it hurts to swallow water. I try to keep in moist. The tube feeds are going as well as can be expected. I mean, I'm just putting in calories along with everything else these things have that my body needs. I've been maintaining my weight. I think that's good. We'll see what the doctors say this week.

I have four more chemo treatments. Not looking forward to those. They wipe me out. Nausea has gotten somewhat better. I hope it stays that way or gets even better. I think the "feedings" have helped in that regard.

The constipation is better. Almost feel normal in that regard, but still pretty cautious.

Still don't want food in my mouth. Still trying to come to terms with smells. I want to be able to smell food without having to rush out of the room.


The boys wear me out. I can't really stay in the same room with them for very long before I need to seek seclusion from the chaos.

The chemo makes my nose get very dry, but the bigger issue is that it has wiped out any libido that I had. It's just gone. Side effect, I guess. At least for me. It's fine anyway, may not be fine with Rachel, but I don't have the energy for such activities anyway. It should return at a later date. At least I hope it does.

So I'm kind of in a staying pattern at the moment. Which is certainly better than the free-fall I was in earlier.

I do have a lot of work to do for my classes. It'll get done. Somehow. This is the last week of Summer Quarter so luckily that's about over.

In any case, this is just a quick update. I hope you all are doing well.

I'm doing the best I can do at the moment. I'll let you know if things change.

Tuesday, August 9, 2016


There is a light.

It's dim.

I can barely see it.

But it's there.

I know it's there.

And it'll get brighter each day.

But I'm not here to talk about that particular light today.

Instead, I need to talk about the dark days.

When I started journaling my cancer adventure, I made a promise to myself to always be honest in my writing. To tell my story truthfully, whatever that may entail. No matter how ugly this adventure may get, I intend to keep that promise.

This is the hardest fucking thing I've ever had to go through. I hate it. I hate the constant disgusting taste in my mouth. I hate that I can't eat real food and have to feed myself through a god damn tube. Smells, and even food in my mouth, make me vomit. I don't like to ride in the car because it can make me nauseous. It's just all shit and I hate it.

I'm constantly exhausted and spend a lot of time in bed. Part of that is probably related to my energy level, part from the actual treatment.

And the fucking treatment. Holy shit, the fucking treatment. It's one of the more rigorous treatments they give people. And it is brutal. It's brutal physically, mentally, and emotionally.

And all three are taking a toll on me.

Physically I don't look too bad. That's good. My neck looks pretty good but the inside of my mouth is very uncomfortable. I'm still expecting the pain inside to increase soon, though. As of today, I have 13 more radiation treatments. They get a little harder to do each time.

We received the "cans" of "food" a few days ago. This is the food that goes into my tube. I'm supposed to have 6-8 cans a day. Well, that didn't work. They don't keep me satiated very long, maybe two hours. Then, if I get too hungry, I get nauseous and have to run to the toilet and throw up. Yeah, fun times.

So I've changed to having a can about every 2-2.5 hours. At that rate, I'm having like 11 or 12 cans a day. And this shit is disgusting. It smells disgusting and tastes disgusting. I didn't think you were drinking it, you say. That is correct. But I've thrown it up. It's disgusting.

Mentally I am drained. Your whole job is to stay alive. That's a lot more mentally exhausting than you might imagine. I mean we do it every day, right? We try to stay alive. But this is different. This is taxing. A tremendous amount of effort is required because all your energy is being zapped away by the treatment.

But you have two options (at least I have two options), either dig deep and get through it, or die. There is not a gray area. This one is completely black and white. And even though the treatment they are putting me through has a good success rate, it is not 100%. So I must dig deep just to give myself a fairly decent chance of surviving. A fairly decent chance is better than no chance at all.

Emotionally I am a wreck. Lately I've been crying a lot. Mainly over how difficult this is on me. I know it sounds like a self-pity party, but that's not it. It's just so overwhelming. All of it. There's never a break because you're constantly battling something whether it be nausea, food, or even sleep.

And I burst into tears every single time I learn of someone, particularly someone I know but it doesn't have to be, who has just been diagnosed with cancer. It breaks my heart.

One of my dearest friends texted me the other day and I took that opportunity to just vent away. She said it was good to vent. It means I'm pissed off and fighting. So, yes, I'm angry.

I'm also sad, frustrated, scared, anxious, and at times depressed.

All of that is mentally and emotionally draining.

Oh, and the anti-nausea medications cause constipation. Yeah. This is the worst constipation I have ever had in my life. I literally put on surgical gloves, dip my finger in vaseline, and break up shit in my ass just to get it out. It's excruciatingly painful. It's getting better but it's a lot of work and pain. I'm hoping the Mirilax kicks in soon.

And of course, some days are better than others. Actually, it's some moments are better than others. There is no preparation for this. They don't teach you how to deal with this shit it in school.

Fuck you, cancer.

You have fucked up my life beyond comparison. You took my dad, you tried to take my wife, and you're currently trying to take several people I know.

Stop it!

And praying does not make cancer go away. If it did, don't you think the world would be free of cancer by now? People have been praying for cancer to go away for several millennia. Well it's not gone away. It seems to be everywhere. It's not going away, either. It's here to stay because every person's cancer is slightly different. That's why there'll never be a cure: because the cancers are all slightly different for each person.

That may be a hard pill to swallow, but it's the truth.

Have no doubt, though, that treatments will get better. So while the world will never be free of cancer, the way we fight it will keep improving and just may not be so bad in the future.

When Rachel was going through her breast cancer adventure, her thing became to tell everyone to check their breasts. At least once a month. And not just women because men can get breast cancer, too. The earlier breast cancer is found, the better. And that's one cancer that can usually be found early. So check your breasts. If you don't know how to do it, then learn.

My thing is if you're in the appropriate age range, then get the HPV vaccine. Both men and women. It can give both sexes several different cancers and we have a vaccine for it. That is awesome. So find out if you're a candidate for the vaccine, and if you are then get the god damn thing. It could prevent you from having to go through the shit I'm going through.

A few days ago I wrote a new short story. It helps to write. I'll post it soon.

I took the title of this post from one of my favorite Pink Floyd songs. Actually, it's two songs combined to make one, and Eclipse is the second part. I feel like I'm in an eclipse, waiting for the sun to come back and shine it's beautiful light on me again.

It will.

And I'll be here, ready to bask in its beauty.

Sunday, July 31, 2016


As parents, we learn to pick our battles with our children.

As people, we learn that sometimes we don't get to pick our battles. Many battles are forced upon us either from external or internal forces.

Battling cancer is a not a battle we choose to take on. It is forced upon us. It invades our life. Sometimes as fast as a freight train, other times as slow as a snail. Since getting cancer is rarely expected (I mean if you're smoking cigarettes then getting cancer should be expected) then when you learn you have it, it's like your head was clubbed with a two by four. It takes a long time to process everything you are being told. In many cases everything seems very urgent and things begin to move very fast. But your head is spinning with information. That's why it's very important to have someone with you when you have these doctor visits. This person should take notes (because you're really not in the frame of mind to do so) and ask questions if they have any. These supporters are our advocates. We need them. We need their strength.

Rachel's my rock. I would've floated off long ago had I not been tethered to her and her strength. She is by far the best note taker in the family. I suck at it. Badly. She has accompanied me to several of my doctor appointments and always does a fantastic job of taking notes. When she was battling breast cancer last year, she had good friends go with her and they would take copious notes. Yeah, I'm jealous of all these people who are capable of taking such good notes on the fly. I find it amazing.

If Rachel is unable to join us at the doctor visit, then we resort to using FaceTime during those appointments. So she's there. She hears the conversation and can ask pertinent questions. She's taking copious notes. (I think it's just something she really likes to do.)

Battling cancer could possibly be the most difficult thing you may have to do in your life.

In fact, it becomes your life.

Almost every thing you do revolves around your cancer and the corresponding treatment.

Literally, almost every thing you do.

Oftentimes it is overwhelming.

And while the battles between you, the mountain, the mountain lion, and the god damn bear are the main battles, more subtle ones begin to take place.

My newest battle: anxiety.

And it is achingly high.

It's prevented me from eating, has caused nausea, and even a little depression. These all become smaller, yet no less important battles that now have to be taken on. But we only have a limited amount of energy. You do the best you can. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't.

I've never had to really deal with high anxiety before, so it took awhile before I even figured out that's what was going on. It's a horrible feeling and I am trying to keep it at bay with medication and cannabis. Most of the time these work and I'll be able to eat some food. Not that the food tastes good, mind you, but at least my nausea isn't so bad at the time that I can get some food in.

Clearly I should have anxiety. I understand that. The next chemo treatment, even at 1/3 the original dosage, frightens me to no end. It's difficult to not think about this next bear attack, but it terrifies me. I can not overstate that enough. After what happened the first time, yes, I am terrified to get my next chemo treatment. So my anxiety hits the atmosphere when I think about the next one.

I think that's fairly normal. Think for a minute about what they are putting into the bloodstream. That shit is not supposed to be there, so you're body acts like it's supposed to act when a foreign body has entered. It tries to get rid of it. The anti-nausea and other medications are to trick the body into thinking this foreign body is ok and to help keep it in your body.

I guess most of the time they do a pretty good job. Unfortunately, that's not what happened in my case the first time. Here's to hoping for the best for the second time around.

Because of this battle I've been having with eating, I got a g-tube. The anxiety was high that day because what if I have seizure and they can't get the tube in? You know, all the things that can go wrong rifle through your head because you're scared shitless.

To do the procedure they needed to place an air tube up my nose, down my esophagus, and into my stomach. This allows them to blow air into my stomach so they can find it easier. Ok, that's a good thing. Wouldn't want this tube going into my liver.

Now I've had several ENTs scope my vocal chords and throat before. They use some numbing spray that works generally pretty well. The difference here is they don't use such numbing spray. Instead they use some numbing gel. And while the ENTs go to the back of my throat, this tube needed to go down my esophagus. So it has to go in at a different angle. I was told this is the part that most people have trouble with.


I literally screamed "Fuck that hurts!" as he got the tube past the painful part. And hurt it did. Like a burning stick being shoved, and that's the word "shoved", right up my nose. God damn that hurt.

Once we got past that, things settled down and the pain disappeared. So now I'm laying on the bed. with this tube sticking out of my nose. Here's what I looked like. You might click the picture and enlarge it so you can get the full effect.

They then did a CT scan to find my stomach and mark where it was. Then they wheeled me to radiology room where they did the procedure.

I was awake for the entire thing.

Oh they had me on a couple of drugs, but I was wide awake. The worst part (after the nose incident, of course) was when they deadened my stomach. The needles hurt a bit. Once that all kicked in, though, I didn't feel any pain. I could feel pressure, but no pain. I even made a joke during the procedure, so we all got a bit of a laugh during this stressful moment.

They then wheeled me back to my recovery room where Rachel and I waited until we got discharged.

Now the nurse pulled the tube out of my nose, and yes, it hurt just as bad as it did going in. It was not a fun afternoon.

A little while later later Rachel drove us home. Literally, as soon as she parked the truck in our driveway, I began throwing up.

I threw up for the next three hours.

And oh did my stomach hurt.

And this wasn't dry heaves either. My best guess was that when they put the tube in my nose it caused my nose to bleed (there was evidence of that). I think I may have swallowed a lot of blood, and that blood was needing to come back up. It did.

It murdered my stomach muscles. I couldn't move much so I laid by the toilet for around three hours. When the nurse got there later that evening I managed to get into bed. They gave me some meds and I went to sleep. Exhausted.

I know I said earlier that I did not want a g-tube. Mainly from fear of losing the ability to swallow on my own. But now that I have the tube, and Rachel and I are figuring it all out, I have to say that I was wrong. The g-tube has been very helpful. I'm stronger today than I was just a few days ago, and I owe all that to Rachel being able to get nutrients into me. (Of course she's never allowed to tell me what she puts in her concoctions. It's best that I don't know.)

Rachel was messing around with a new app and this was the picture we liked the best. It's the g-tube.

The effects of radiation are starting to kick in, and this week could be the week they increase in intensity. Not looking forward to that.

So that's the latest. Radiation treatments 14-18, and chemo treatment #2, are all this week. Looks like I'll battling high anxiety this week. Ugh.

I'll leave for now with the following:

"We can rebuild him. We have the technology. We can make him better, stronger, faster..."

Screw that! I'm just tired of being cut into!

P.S. I wonder how many people got my reference?

Saturday, July 23, 2016

This Was Not Part Of The Plan

Sometimes the pieces of your life inexplicably explode.

Most pieces land somewhere close around the edges, fairly easy to find and put back in place.

But some pieces are lost forever, leaving a hole for all eternity.

I wasn't terribly anxious about getting my first chemo treatment. After all, it wasn't that long ago that I watched Wonder Woman (My Wife) fight through her treatments, and in general she did fantastic. I used to make the joke that on chemo weeks she would be "useless" for about 4 days. It just knocked her out and the boys and I rarely saw her. But I was wrong. She wasn't useless because the could actually still do many things for herself. Sure she couldn't help with the boys (which practically made her useless to me) but in general she was still functional.

So, in kind of a bad way, I had an idea of what to "expect". I put the word expect in quotes because each cancer is different, each person reacts differently to their cancers and/or treatments, and, quite frankly, I was wrong.

Got the 4-hour chemo treatment. Then about 5:00pm I started feeling a little queasy. Not bad, just kind of uncomfortable. By the time Rachel got home from her Book Club meeting around 10:00pm or so, I was passed out (in bed asleep). No memory of her getting home. Slight memory of some quick conversation while she got ready for bed. Then nothing else.

It was like the walls of my life enclosed me, wrapping me in my own personal hell, all the while attempting to asphyxiate me.

I was going to delete the previous sentence, but I think I like it. It stays.

Anyway, the day after chemo was a living in Hell. Actually, I might have been a zombie in TWD. I would have preferred to be a zombie!

Rachel got me to my daily (the second one by this point) radiation treatment, but after I got done with that (which takes about 15 minutes total), she had amassed a team of doctors and nurses and I was being shuffled off to a room to get fluids.

Um, this was not part of today's plan.

Life with cancer.

Rachel and the boys picked me up four or so hours later and we headed home.

Now know that at no point have I actually vomited. This is all that nausea feeling that is kicking my ass.

I can eat. It all sounds disgusting. And now, the smell, sound (saying the word out loud), and even the word itself, vanilla, makes me queasy. This is painful. Part of the plan was to have vanilla milkshakes through this crap because it's my favorite flavor.

I should've known, this was not going to be part of the plan.

So vanilla is out. Can't do it at all. I hope that is not a permanent feature.

But everything I eat tastes disgusting. So much so that I often can't eat it and I have to look for something else.

I hate it.

Enough about food. It's going to make me wretch.

So after I received some fluids, for over four hours, we had the same plan we started with. Take the anti-nausea meds like clockwork.

Seems simple. I had already done what was recommended so it's not like I wasn't trying to stay ahead of the game. I even set an alarm for the middle of the night so I could continue taking my meds through the night. I was told that most people don't feel the nausea pains until day 4, and that's usually because they had not been already taking their anti-nausea meds.

My nausea began the same day I received my first dose of chemo.

And I was unable to recover.

What I've learned: I'm not "most people".

For five days I didn't get out of bed. I slept for literally 18-20 hours each freaking day. I didn't eat for days. (This of course made the whole nausea feeling worse.)

I was unable to really do much of anything for myself.

I began vomiting three days after treatment. The fourth day got worse. And the fifth day after treatment was the worst day (in terms of vomiting).

And as the days moved on, getting to the Cancer Center became more difficult for me. Riding in the truck was too much movement and caused vomiting. But I had to go.

The fourth and fifth radiation treatments, which corresponded to days 6 and 7 after my chemo treatment, I ended up vomiting while on the table to get treatment. Once after treatment was over, but once before it began, causing us to delay that day's treatment. I did end up getting radiation on that day, just a little while later.

Seven days after chemo, I was in bad shape. Again, couldn't really get out of bed except to get to radiation, and, I still haven't found any relief for my nausea. And, it's doctor day. So we meet with the radiation doctor and nurse.

Major concern is my weight loss.

Still haven't eaten anything substantial.

I lost about 10 pounds in a week. My weight gets much lower and we'll have to delay radiation. I'll be too weak.

The g-tube was discussed.

We went home.

Relatively speaking, it was the best day yet for getting food into me. (Not that I was able to get a lot into me, mind you.)

Then it all came back up around 6:00pm.

The g-tube wouldn't help my nausea.

And the nausea is what I need to stop.

Day eight after chemo:

Much worse day than the previous day. Woke up around 6:00am needing to wretch at the toilet. For over an hour. Dry heaves suck.

Got to radiation.

Got through radiation.

Met with Physician's Assistant. She was fantastic. Then met with chemo doctor.

The g-tube is again discussed.

Insertion of the g-tube is now scheduled.

It's not so much that I'm going to have a g-tube that bothers me, it's the fact that the g-tube isn't going to do anything for my nausea.

The PA writes out a plan, regarding anti-nausea, to administer after the next dose of chemo.

The next dose of chemo?

That scares the shit out of me.

The original plan was to have three doses of chemo throughout the whole thing. And these are big doses of powerful stuff. Cisplatin is famous for making people nauseous throughout its history. What's been surprising for all of us is that it hit me so fast and the anti-nausea drugs are not working.

So my nurse said we're not going to do that to you again.

And my doctor has now split those last two doses into six smaller doses. So for my next chemo treatment I'll be getting about a third of what I originally got on that first day.

That still scares the shit out of me.

A third of what I just went through, of what I am still going through, terrifies me to no end.

It was, and still is, that bad. My stomach is still in knots. I still have difficulty eating because everything tastes nasty (a side affect of chemo). I'm nauseous most of the time. I'm tired all the time. And we're 11 days out from when I had treatment. I can't feel good about having to endure only a third of that. It scares me.

Then a very good friend posted the following on Facebook:

What It's Like To Go Through Cancer Treatment

And all I can do is laugh and cry through the whole thing because it really is spot on. That is what it's like, at least for me. I'm fighting a god damn mountain lion with a bear that can only fight the lion by going through me.

So I'm getting mauled both inside and out.

The last 11 days have not been a roller coaster, there haven't been any "ups". Instead it's been a living hell. The bear just kicked my ass. I actually said to Rachel, "The chemo is killing me."

Then I went to the hospital (short stay) on the 8th day after chemo.

Doctors were very concerned about fluids. It takes 2 hours to deliver 1liter of fluids into my system. I was to get two liters that day.

The previous couple of days I began using MMJ to see if that would help with the nausea. I'm lucky and very grateful to live in a progressive state where we can do such things legally.

It worked.

At least it works when I am fully "medicated". If I'm only partially "medicated" then it doesn't work at all. So we've added this to our arsenal. Then we promptly ran out of the stuff that was actually working for me. I haven't found a replacement, yet, and so the nausea continues.

But I can tell you that I have rediscovered my love for Pink Floyd. ;-)

In any case, while in the hospital I wasn't feeling nauseous so I ordered pudding. I didn't quite finish it, there was still about an 1/8 left in the container, but when the nurse came in to see how I did eating it, I pointed at the container to show her the top 7/8 that was empty, and said "That's more than I have eaten all total in the last week."

Then I ordered lunch.

Ate half a ham, turkey, and cheese sandwich and part of a baked potato.

I began to worry that I was eating too much after going so long without eating, but everything stayed down. I actually felt pretty good.

On the tenth day after getting chemo I had someone other than Rachel take me to the Cancer Center so I could get my radiation treatment. It was the first time I felt like I could go with someone else. It went the way it was supposed to go: I get there, I lie on table, they put the mouth piece in my mouth and lock me down, they radiate me, I leave. Fifteen minutes.

Then I spent the rest of the day in bed.

That was yesterday. I'm still nauseous, probably at this point from hunger, and everything sounds like it's going to taste nasty, but at least today I am able to finish writing this entry.

So that's the update. I'm getting a g-tube soon, we're cutting the amount of chemo I'll be getting each treatment to a third of the original dosage, I'll be getting weekly chemo treatments, and oh yeah, all those side affects of radiation haven't even kicked in, yet.

Future challenges.

I'm an emotional wreck; I'm tired; I feel like shit; I feel bad for my kids; I feel bad that I can't do more for myself or my family; I cry; I sleep; I cry some more.

Then I run to the toilet to wretch.

This was certainly not part of the plan.

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

The Goal

"We're going for a cure."

Words I was grateful to hear.

Now that doesn't mean we'll be successful in getting that cure, but that's the goal.

And sometimes, all you need is the goal.

I'll be having thirty-three radiation treatments along with three chemo treatments. I guess the chemo they are using is pretty potent. It's really popular among those that like that nauseous feeling. (That would not be me.) They said I'll feel fine for the first three days because they give me some extremely powerful anti-nausea mediation when I get my chemo treatment, but come day four, well, that could get ugly. So, it's absolutely crucial that I take my anti-nausea medication at home. I guess some people feel so good during those first three days after treatment that they don't take the anti-nausea medication during those three days and then they really suffer come that fourth day.

We know this from experience.

Even though Rachel got different chemotherapy than what I'll be getting, she didn't take her anti-nausea medication those first few days after her first chemo treatment. Yes, she payed for it. Let's just say she learned her lesson, and I learned from watching her, and she took her anti-nausea medication correctly from then on out. The nausea situation was much better after that. She was more fatigued than nauseous.

I can live with fatigued a hell of a lot more than I can live with being nauseous. You can bet your britches I'll be taking that anti-nausea medication correctly from day one.

Then there's radiation.

Remember, radiation is the real cancer killer for my situation. The chemo treatment is to actually help the radiation work better. I lie down on the "bed", which is really a hard slab that slides back and forth in and out of, I guess I'll call it, the "radiation chamber".

After I lie down they put a personalized mouth guard in my mouth and then lock it down. This is what it looks like:

It's locked down because we don't want my head moving. Lasers are also used to pinpoint the area that is to be treated. We want to make sure the radiation is focused where it's supposed to be going every single time. It feels pretty crazy and the mouth guard tastes pretty bad, but it's remarkable we're even able to do this.

Now, one of the side effects of the radiation is that my goatee will go away because the hair will not be able to grow. So, here's what I have looked like for at least the past 15 years:

And here's what I look today:

They encouraged me to shave it off.

So there you have it.

I don't think I like it, but maybe it'll grow on me.

It's an aggressive cancer and we're fighting it aggressively with a brutal regiment of radiation and chemotherapy. It's nothing to look forward to, but it's all I've got. We all know the alternative and I'm not ready for that. So this is my shot, my attempt to rid my body of this disease.

All I can do is hope it works.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Yes, Mountains Move

Some days I feel like I can do anything. Kicking cancer's ass is of course at the top of that list, but in general I feel strong, empowered, and able to conquer any mountain that moves to block my progress.

And yes, mountains move.

Those days are great. I feel relaxed and ready to take on the world. Nothing can stop me.

Today is not one of those days.

Today I want to crawl into bed, get in the fetal position, and just cry. (And yes, real men cry.)

I got my PICC line today. It sucks. My arm hurts a little and the whole goddamn thing is just uncomfortable. I can't get it wet, so showers should be interesting. When I had a PICC line before I was so sick that I didn't give a shit about taking a shower, so they were fairly rare while I had the PICC line in. I think I may have resorted to a few quick baths. I hate baths. I'll probably have to resort to taking quick baths again. Ugh.

Here's what it looks like with the "sock" on it, you know, to help keep the end from flopping around:

And here's what it really looks like:

See those two ends on the right there? Yeah, I got a double one. Yay me.

Around 20% of all the people admitted to hospitals around the country end up getting a PICC line. That's pretty remarkable. However, I'm disappointed I'm in that 20%.

But I have to get my chemo treatments.

I have a few more lessons, blood draws, and dry runs before the actual treatments start. I'll have thirty-three radiation treatments and three chemo treatments over the next seven weeks. The chemo treatments are to help with the radiation treatments. The radiation treatments are what's going to kill the cancer.

I'm sure no one ever feels ready to begin this shit. I'm no different. I do want to start because I'm tired of waiting, I'm anxious, and the sooner I start then the sooner it'll be over.

But no, I'm not ready to begin this shit.

But it's been almost seven weeks since I had surgery to remove the tumor and lymph nodes. It will not be good if we wait much longer.

Luckily, the wait is almost over.

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Going Through Hell On A Roller Coaster

I had four medical appointments in three days. Two on Wednesday, two on Friday. So, Rachel and I decided to stay in Seattle three nights and have a day and a half of vacation, something we have not done in at least ten years. I hope to hell it's not another ten years before our next vacation.

Tuesday night: We arrive in Seattle at 10:30pm and check-in at the hotel. I thought this was a very good sign:

A perfect room number for a math teacher.

Wednesday morning: Met with the surgeon who did the original big surgery back at the end of May. This was a follow-up to get the go ahead to begin radiation. Everything looks good, so radiation is a go.

Right after he left we met with the speech therapist. I've met with her several times before as she has always been present during my appointments with the lady ENT at Swedish. She gave me some swallowing exercises because in the not too distant future (probably 2-3 weeks) I will have difficulty swallowing. The goal is to not get a g-tube so I need to be able to keep swallowing, no matter how painful it may be.

After we met with her, Rachel and I had lunch at Piroshkis. We'll probably go back again in the future. It was pretty good. Our good friend Jeff joined us there and then he dropped us off at Half-Price Books while he went back to his place to finish up his work for the day. I could spend hours in Half-Price Books. I love used bookstores. Yes, we found some good stuff.

Rachel and I, then, went for a little walk around the area we were in, actually headed to a real comic book store. It was nice to just walk with my wife on this beautiful day in the big city. I'm not a big comic book guy but it did give us an endpoint to walk toward. Jeff picked us up there and we all three headed to dinner. I don't remember the name of the place we went to for dinner, but man, that was some good Italian food. It was a good ending to a great day.

Thursday morning: Rachel and I slept in (when does that ever happen?). This was the day we had planned to be our "vacation" day. We were going to be tourists, so we headed to the EMP Museum. We spent a few hours around the Seattle Center, mainly at the EMP Museum. It was frivolous and it was fun. I really liked the history of the guitar exhibit. The Nirvana and Hendrix exhibits were cool, too, but, to me, not as cool as the guitar one.

I also really enjoyed the Science Fiction exhibit, Infinite Worlds. There was a lot of movie and television memorabilia. Stuff from Star Wars, Aliens, Dr. Who, and even Mork and Mindy.

The first exhibit we went to, though, was the Star Trek exhibit. On display were several costumes worn by the cast members during filming of the various TV shows and movies, props, such as weapons and miniatures, and even the bridge from the original series. What the exhibit really made me want to do was go home and watch all six Star Trek series. Yes, I'll probably do that. My kids need to watch those shows.

After spending a few hours at the EMP Museum we headed back to the hotel. Jeff picked us up a little while later and we hit, yet another used bookstore (I have an addiction), and then we had dinner.

I was only allowed to sleep four hours or less on Thursday night because I had an EEG scheduled on Friday morning. So while Rachel slept, I stayed up. I slept from 1:00am to 5:00am, and then waited for my wife to wake up and join the living. That took for what seemed like forever.

Friday morning: Had 24 electrodes placed on my head for the EEG. They flashed lights at me and then had me do some quick breathing, all in order to see if I would have a seizure. I didn't. Then I was to rest (sleep if I could) for the next half an hour. I actually did sleep for about 20 minutes. Then the tech woke me up, cleaned my head, and then I was done. Rachel, Jeff, and I then went and had lunch.

Friday afternoon: Met with the epileptologist. This is my third doctor at Swedish. All three have been fantastic. The EEG was normal. That's not really important, though. After all, it was just a quick snapshot, like 30 minutes, out of my day. But at least nothing was glaringly wrong.

The MRI, however, was not normal.

This was the MRI that was taken at the local hospital on the same day I had a seizure on the operating table. Recall that there were "spots" on my brain. We'll now call these "spots" lesions. I have several lesions on my brain. One in particular is located on my temporal lobe. This lesion is probably why I had a seizure.

Here's the best guess as to why I'm in this situation: When I had staph endocarditis back in 2003-2004 and was hospitalized for 17 days, I had petechiae several places on my body. They were like little hickeys except for the ones that ended up at the end of my finger and toe. Those areas ended up turning completely black as the blood vessels there burst.

Essentially what happened was the bacteria that was growing on my aortic heart valve started breaking off and traveling through my body because, you know, the circulatory system and everything. I remember getting an EKG (several actually why I was in the hospital during those 17 days) and actually seeing the bacteria, which looked huge on the screen, flopping around every time my heart pumped. It was amazing. The violent pumping of my heart made this bacteria flop around, literally like a fish out of water. It was pretty cool to see. Not to experience, mind you, but to see it was amazing.

I remember one of the many doctors I had during that adventure was doing the EKG on me one day. This was after the antibiotics had started working and I was starting to feel a little bit better. While he had the EKG gadget on my chest, he pointed at the screen and said, "See that. That's the bacteria." And it was violently flopping around with every pump. "We don't want that to break off your heart valve."

"Why?" I ask.

"We don't know where it might end up," he answered.

In other words, we don't know where it will go, but it could go somewhere that could kill you. Like my brain or my lungs.

A few days later I had another EKG done. When I looked at the screen I could see my two heart valves, but the bacteria that had been flopping around so violently before was no longer there. It had broken off my heart valve.

I was devastated.

When they got me back to my hospital room, I literally just sat on the edge of the bed and cried.

A nurse walked in on me and all I could do was hug her while I kept crying.

I knew I was dead.

Obviously I didn't die, but at the time, I thought that was it for me.

I had several MRI's during that hospital stay and they showed that I had petechiae on my brain. Several places on my brain, actually. And this is what we think caused those lesions that are now present on my brain, including the one that probably caused my seizure. The bacteria traveled to those places on my brain and caused the blood vessels to burst.

Very little is 100% positive in medical care, but this is our best guess as to what has happened.

So I now have a seizure disorder. All it takes is one seizure for you to meet the new definition. I'll probably be on anti-seizure medication for the rest of my life.

That's fine.

Essentially, I had a stroke and didn't even know it.

The really bad news, though, is that by law I am not allowed to drive for six months (provided I don't have another seizure). That's January at the earliest.

This will make things difficult for the Anderson household.

Chemo and radiation begin next week. Radiation is Monday-Friday which means I need to be at the Cancer Center on those days to get treatment. For the next seven weeks. Not being able to drive myself there has put a burden on our daily schedule. Despite this difficult situation, we'll figure something out. Getting to those treatments is the top priority for me and my family.

There's also no swimming or operating heavy equipment, but that's ok. It's just the no driving that is difficult to deal with.

I next see an expert on strokes to make sure there's nothing that's been missed. I'll be doing that after the chemo and radiation treatments have finished. At least that's the plan right now.

As you know, I was unable to get a chemo port because of the seizure. So now the plan is to get a PICC line. Yeah, I said I didn't want a PICC line, but that's what has to happen. I get that early next week because that's how they are going to administer the chemotherapy. I'm not thrilled about it, but it is what it is.

My dad told me once, when he was dealing with his cancer, that getting old is hell. He was making a joke at the time, but underlined that joke with the seriousness of his and my mom's health issues.

I think it's more like: Getting old is like going through hell on a roller coaster.

There are ups and downs and curves and sudden drops and giant hills to climb.

You know, it's just life.

If you're lucky you get to ride that roller coaster for quite awhile.

I'm strapped in, but I refuse to keep my arms and hands inside the car at all times.

Here we go.

Friday, July 1, 2016

I'm Angry, I'm Sad, And I'm Definitely Scared

I woke up, showered with the special cleansing fluid they want you to use before surgery, then, after Stacie got here, Rachel drove me to the hospital. It was to be a routine surgery to put my chemo port in, so, Rachel dropped me off and headed back home.

After meeting with the surgeon and the anesthesiologist they wheeled me to the operating room. I moved from the bed to the operating table, and that's the last thing I remember.

I awoke to nurses telling me I had a seizure during surgery so it was called off.

I'm instantly an emotional wreck.

"I need the fucking chemo port!" I yelled at them.

I know my time is running out. It's been five weeks since I had the big surgery to remove the tumor and lymph nodes. There is still a lot of shit that needs to get done before I can start chemo and radiation, and this aborted surgery is shortening the very little time that I have.

They try to calm me down but I'm having nothing to do with it. I just keep repeating that I need to get the chemo port. It's fairly chaotic in the recovery room but eventually the shock is so overwhelming that all I can do is stare off in space. I block out everything but my thoughts.

What do you mean I had a seizure? I've never had a seizure before. I need to start chemo and radiation soon. Do I now have brain cancer, a fucking tumor on my brain? What the fuck am I going to do now? Why can't I get a fucking break?

Frustration and fear overwhelm me.

All I can do is cry.

A nurse wipes away my tears with a tissue.

I continue to stare off in space.

Then my family doctor enters the room.

I've known this man for the past 15 years. He delivered both my kids and has helped Rachel and I deal with all the shit we've been through during that time. He was the one who saved my life when I was hospitalized for 17 days with staph endocarditis. He knows us very well and we have a terrific relationship with him.

We make eye contact.

The ability to control my emotions disappeared and all I can do is cry even more. Sob, actually. I'm just livid and sad and scared. Crying was all I could manage to do.

He touches my arm and says "I know, Randy."

Through anger and tears I reply, "I need my fucking chemo port, Rob."

A nurse wipes away more tears.

He had seen the report of the aborted surgery and he just wanted to come down and check on me.

That's who he is.

My family is lucky to have him as our doctor.

His presence helped ground me. Oh, I'm still pissed off and scared shitless, but I started feeling the ground under my feet again. He gets credit for helping that happen.

They want to keep me overnight to make sure I don't have another seizure. So after Rob leaves, they wheel me up to my room on the second floor.

Another shitty hospital room.

Another shitty hospital bed.

Another shitty fucking day.

Unbeknownst to me, our friend Stephanie, who is a nurse at the hospital and actually helped get me ready for surgery, called Rachel and told her that I had a seizure and she needed to get to the hospital.

The nurse is getting crap hooked up to me when Rachel enters the room. I think our friend Stacie, who also works at the hospital, is behind her but I can't see for sure.

The nurse walks out of the room for a minute.

Rachel says "How are you doing?"

I start punching the bed and screaming "I'm fucking pissed, that's how I'm doing! Fuck! Fuck! Fuck!"

She remains calm.

We're alone in the room. So if it was Stacie, she exited.

If I had had something to throw I would've thrown it. But I didn't, so I just kept saying I was pissed off and I needed my chemo port.

The nurse came back into the room.

Rachel and I stayed quiet, but I'm sure we both we're thinking the same thing: I have brain cancer. I'm a dead man.

A short while later they take me to get an MRI of my brain. That was fairly uneventful.

Then it was back to the hospital room.

There was a lot of just staring off into space.

I was in shock.

It was around noon or so now and I had expected to be home watching a soccer game. Instead, I'm staring at another hospital room wall.

Rachel wrote our goal/plan for the day:

It was a good goal.

By this time Stacie had joined us in the room. I think she and Rachel had lunch while I had the MRI. Doesn't seem like a fair deal, but anyway. I still hadn't eaten since 6pm the night before, so Stacie suggested ordering a ham and cheese sandwich for lunch. It's not on the menu. She says to order it anyway. Rachel calls in the order. Oh yeah, and a vanilla shake. They have recently become staples in my diet. Stacie was right, it was a pretty good ham and cheese sandwich. I devoured it fairly quickly. And the shake? Let's just say that I had three more of those before I left the hospital the next morning. (Of course I had one with breakfast. You think I'm foolish?)

The MRI results come back. No one could see a mass on my brain, but there are these strange spots on it. More spots than should be there for a 48 year old non-smoking, non-drinking male.

But the doctors are thinking I have brain cancer. They contact Swedish Hospital in Seattle and the plan is to transport me to Swedish because they have more tools to deal with my situation.

Wait. You're going to transport me to Swedish? Like, tonight? This is all moving way too fast.

By this time our friend Bonnie had joined us. When we got the news about being transported to Seattle, Rachel and Bonnie headed home. Rachel had to get things ready for the boys (and where they would stay because they certainly were not going to Seattle with us), handle what to do about the dog, and get stuff ready for us to go.

Stacie stayed with me. A good thing, because I was still livid about this whole situation. She kept my mind focused on other things.

Then our friend Laura, who happens to be a pediatric doctor and therefore knows most of the doctors in town, shows up and the three of us have a good conversation while we wait. Stacie has to leave, so it's just me and Laura when the doctor comes in.

The neurologist at Swedish had looked at the MRI scans and he didn't see a mass either.

That's good news.

Yes, he saw the spots, but he didn't think there was anything that required urgent care. In other words, he didn't think I needed to be transported to Swedish.

That's even better news.

So when Rachel and Bonnie showed up, Laura and I were in a fairly jovial mood. We had just had a great conversation about parenting. I know she understands the struggles that my family goes through, and I certainly understand hers.

We didn't do a very good job of explaining the situation to Rachel, so Laura went to get the doctor. She came in and updated Rachel on the situation and verified that we were not going to Seattle that night.

Finally, things slow down a bit.

I slept well, even though it was in a hospital bed. They put these pads all around the bed just in case I had a seizure.

See those blue pads. Yeah, I felt like I was in a padded room. At times this whole experience leaves me feeling insane, so maybe it's not far off the mark.

I only woke up a couple of times during the night, which for sleeping in a hospital room is pretty damn good. I was up for good around 5:00am. I just listened to music, watched the sunrise, and tried to come to terms with my thoughts.

Our family doctor, Rob, came in around 8:00am or so. One of the things I like about him is that he always stays calm. He tells it like it is but it is always in a calm, relaxing manner.

He had looked at the MRI, and just like everyone else, he didn't see a mass either. And just like everyone else, so far, he didn't know why I had a seizure.

But he did say I could no longer drive.


Tesla and Google need to hurry up so I can get one of those self-driving vehicles.

As usual, it was comforting to talk with him, especially when I am in crisis mode.

So, at the moment, no one is thinking brain cancer. The plan is to go to Swedish and have an EEG and discuss the situation with a neurologist (because I need, yet, another doctor). We'll do this soon. I need to know what's going on with my brain.

As far as I'm concerned, the plan for chemo and radiation is still on track. We'll see if they'll put a chemo port in over at Swedish. If not, then I'll get a pick-line to administer the chemo. I have experience with a pick-line, and I don't really want to go that route. They suck.

One good thing about my hospital room, though. The view:

It's hard to see, but yes, that's Canada across the water. Simply beautiful.

I am very grateful for Rachel, Stacie, Christine, Bonnie, and Laura. Rachel, because without her, well, there would be no me. Stacie, Christine, Bonnie, and Laura for all the help they offered during this most tumultuous time in my life. Christine, thank you for watching my kids. Stacie, Bonnie, and Laura, thank you for spending time with me in the hospital and for keeping me somewhat grounded when all I really wanted to do was scream, cry, throw things, and break anything I could find. I can not express my gratitude enough.

So, not what we expected when we woke up on Thursday morning, but, it is what it is.

You move forward or you give up.

I'm tired.

But I'm not ready to give up.

I'm angry. I'm sad. And I'm definitely scared.

But there is no way in Hell I'm giving up.

Sunday, June 19, 2016

The Line

There's a very thin line between doing okay and plunging over the edge into the dark, forbidding places that lurk within you.

Places that are ready to swallow you whole if given the slightest chance.

We all walk a slight variation of this line at some point in our lives, and unfortunately, sometimes we walk it more than once.

Everyone is different.

Some walk the line just fine, without falling one way or the other, and they get through to the other side where things are far better than just okay.

Praise them for that accomplishment.

Some struggle to walk the line. They teeter several times from okay to the dark places, but eventually, they too, make it to the other side.

Help them walk that line. Then praise them when they have succeeded.

Some are unable to walk the line and they plunge over the edge to those dark, forbidding places.

Carry them to other side. Praise them for letting you help them.

I've been walking this line since I learned I had cancer.

It would be very easy to just fall over and plunge to those dark places below.

But I fight it.

Yes, I want to crawl under a rock and just cry.

And sometimes I do.

I just refuse to stay there for very long.

I get back to walking that line, even though I can't see any light at the end.

But I'll keep walking.

I plan to make it to other side.

Monday, June 13, 2016


Life is a series of stages. These stages are of various lengths, and they can even be nested within one another. We go through each of these stages not really knowing when one stage ends and another begins because these stages bleed into one another making it seem like one continuous life. It's only when we reflect, look back on the events that made us who we have become, that we can see these individual stages.

But every once in awhile something will happen that is so traumatic that you know, right then at that very moment, that you've entered a new stage. It will be painfully obvious, and will probably scare you right down to your core.

Well, today, I enter a new stage.

It was pretty overwhelming to hear the words "Stage 4".

Everything went blurry and I needed a minute to refocus.

These are words we never expect to hear, yet, there they were, hanging in the air, no, make that choking the air, as I tried to comprehend them.

The tumor was the size of a walnut. Ok. But out of the total of 24 lymph nodes they removed from my neck, two of them had cancer.

That right there made it Stage 4.

If there had only been one lymph node with cancer, then it would've been Stage 3. I think she was trying to keep me from panicking. She did a pretty good job.

There was some cancer found in the deep margins around the tumor. But they couldn't get any better margins without seriously damaging me. That's not good.

And, one of the two lymph nodes was leaking.

Think of the lymph node as a balloon filling up with water. At some point, the balloon is going to burst and begin leaking. That's what happened with the lymph node, only it was filling up with cancer.

This means I still have cancer in my neck.

And that means radiation and chemotherapy are next on the agenda.

It's the radiation that scares me.

I haven't even been given the list of most of the side affects, yet, but I know to expect dry mouth, possible damage to my teeth and jaw, and, oh yeah, not being able to eat, you know, real food. It will become very difficult to swallow. In fact some people have a gastrostomy tube (g-tube) inserted through the abdomen to deliver nutrition because they can no longer swallow.





Fuck you, cancer.

I'm going to try to not go the g-tube route.

I hope I make it.

In any case, at the moment the plan is 6-7 weeks of chemo and radiation. Radiation every weekday during that time. I'll know more about all that fun stuff after I meet with the Medial Oncologist and the Radiation Oncologist. I'll meet with them soon.

So there you have it.

The hits keep on coming.

But I'm not down and out.

Life happens.

But life is worth enjoying to the fullest.

Even during those stages where enjoyment maybe difficult to come by.

This just happens to be one of those stages.

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Life Happens

I was supposed to get the seventeen staples taken out today.

Well, that didn't happen.

Last night, at dinner, my oldest son's lunch decided to evacuate his stomach and intermingle with the dinner he was currently eating.

Yeah, fun times.

Then, in the middle of the night, his other end decided to join in the fun.

So we didn't get much sleep.

We didn't want to risk taking him on an 8-9 hour trip to Seattle and back, plus I didn't think I'd be able to make the trip by myself because I hadn't been out of the house in about two weeks, so we decided to reschedule.

Life happens.

We were supposed to get the pathology results today, as well. But you know, it doesn't really matter. We're going to do whatever needs to be done next. If the results come back in the best case scenario then there will be nothing else to do. That would be ideal. But if the results come back saying we need to do radiation and/or chemotherapy, then that's what we do next. I'm not going to screw around. I'm going to give myself the best chance to beat this shit. But I need to be healed from my surgery before we can start radiation, and I'm not healed, yet. Hence, it's fine we don't yet know the pathology results. We'll know soon enough. I'm thinking if it was excruciatingly awful, then I'm sure they would have contacted me by now. When we know, we will let you all know soon thereafter.

In the meantime, here's what's been going on since I updated you all last:


Well, maybe not completely nothing.

For the first week home I spent many more hours in bed than I did out of bed. You know, that's not a good thing. My body ached. Legs, neck, back, shoulders, and arms. It sucked. Yeah, I'd get up and walk around every day, but then I'd have to head back to bed after I did my laps. It's just all I could do. Yes, I slept a lot. That was good for healing, but it was murder on the rest of my body. These things still ache today. I am so looking forward to seeing my massage therapist. She's awesome, but I know I'm going to be knocked out when she gets done. I'm that bad off.

Then this past Sunday (a full week being home and 11 days after surgery) I was pretty down. Not depressed, more like "I'm tired of this shit" but I was too tired to do much about it other than lie in bed and listen to music. Reading was too tiring, watching Netflix was too tiring, writing was too tiring. I just wanted to lay in bed and listen to music and beat myself with "I'm tired of this shit. When's my tongue going to feel better? When will I feel my face again? Damn, my arm hurts, my back hurts, my legs hurt. When will I be able to swallow without pain? Alexa, play the Milk Carton Kids again." Pretty exciting day.

But the next day, Monday, I woke up feeling better. It was the first day I spent more hours out of bed then I did in bed. Rachel took the little guy to school, then came home and took the big guy to his appointment, then afterward they headed to Costco.

So I had some time to myself. It was nice. I watched the last two episodes of Jessica Jones on Netflix, which by the way is a series that I really did enjoy. I followed that by watching the documentary "We're Twisted Fucking Sister". You know, it's the era I grew up in, and yes I did enjoy it.

The next day I was alone again (Yes, that's a Dokken song) and I finished watching the documentary "History of the Eagles Parts 1 and 2." I enjoyed that, as well.

But I didn't just sit down to watch these shows. Instead, I walked. I swayed. I tried to sit as little as possible. I don't think I've ever watched a television show by standing through about the entire show.

But it helped.

The standing and moving helped me feel better.

The music helped me feel better.

Knowing Jessica Jones and Luke Cage are far more fucked up than me helped me feel better.

It was all good.

But then on Monday afternoon, Rachel brings home liquid Tylenol. Well, I can't swallow pills. I'm trying to get off the oxycodone because I have a slight allergic reaction to it, plus, it's oxycodone people. I don't need to be on that stuff for a long period of time.

Anyway, the liquid Tylenol:

She pulls it out of the bag and it's blue.

Yeah, blue.

The flavor is called "Cool Burst".


"Cool" is not a flavor. Cool is Fonzie. (Look it up if you must.)

Look at that color.


And it tastes absolutely disgusting. Why is grape flavored reserved for kids Tylenol, while disgusting Cool Burst is for adults? Supposedly there's also Cherry Burst, but forget the "burst" thing, Tylenol, and just give me something fairly decent tasting to swallow. Don't try to be fancy. Ugh.

So around 5pm I decided to muster all the strength I had to get this down the hatch. The directions state to take 2 tablespoons of this stuff. I said screw that and took one tablespoon. I knew from the hospital stay that half the dose still worked for me.

And it did again.

About 30 minutes later my mouth was feeling pretty good. Not great, mind you. Not back to normal. But I felt I could swallow. So I decided to try these meatball things that Rachel got at Costco earlier. We had never had them before, but the boys had them when they stayed over at a friend's house while I was in the hospital. They ate them then, so Rachel thought she'd try it. I ate four of them. They were freaking tasty.

I took the Tylenol again the next night and then ate quite a bit of Chicken Alfredo. (Yes, this was the dinner my oldest got sick at.)

I was slowly getting actual food into me. Up to this point, breakfasts have consisted of one scrambled egg, while lunch, as well as several dinners, have consisted of tuna mixed with mayonnaise. It was good to eat something different.

On Wednesday, the day we were to head to Seattle to get the staples out and get the pathology report, I decided I had to leave the house. I hadn't driven or left the house in two weeks. My oldest was sick and so he was just going to lay around and watch television all day. Knowing that I was not going to want to watch what he wanted to watch, and that I didn't want to spend the day in bed, I dressed for the first time in two weeks and then headed to the college.

I missed my first class because I just couldn't get there any earlier. So I arrived during the middle of my second class. It was an absolute pleasure to see them and to see them diligently working. I got to help several of them with their math questions while I visited. It was nice to be back in the classroom.

Afterward, I visited with some colleagues and then left to pick up the little guy from school. He wasn't expecting me. I wasn't expecting to pick him up. But I needed to spend some time at the office, therapy and all, and ended up staying longer than I had anticipated.

All in all, I've had three pretty good days in a row. Each one slightly better than the day before. Maybe there is a light at the end of the tunnel. I just can't see it yet.

But I think I can feel it.