My Cancer Archives

The following archive is from the My Cancer blog authored by Leroy Sievers, which originally appeared on the National Public Radio (NPR) Web site.  The “My Cancer”  blog and companion audio commentaries were originally commissioned by NPR, and are used with the permission of NPR.

Commentary: Funny the Things You Think About
DATE: 02/16/2006 07:19:00 AM
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BODY:
The following is a commentary that aired on Morning Edition, February 16, 2006: Death and I are hardly strangers. In my career as a journalist, I’ve covered 14 wars, genocides, natural disasters. I’ve seen tens of thousands of people die in front of me. Most of those deaths were sudden, brutal, painful, often without dignity.

There were times I thought I was going to be killed, too. Never really had time to think about it much, though. In those situations, you’re usually pretty busy trying not to die. And journalists who go into those situations will always tell you they know that’s not the way they’re going to die. They just know it.

Then a while ago, I noticed I was slurring my words. One side of my face began to droop. I finally ended up in the emergency room for a brain scan. When I was being wheeled back into the ER, I caught the eye of the doctor, and I knew. I’d seen that look once before.

Four years ago, I came to after a routine colonoscopy to see my doctor’s face, and I knew then, too. Cancer. So, I had surgery and had been clean for four years. I was the poster child for early detection and treatment. Until now.

Sure enough, there was a mass in my brain. A brain tumor, and the next day, another body blow: lung cancer. I pushed my doctor for the worst-case scenario, so he gave it to me. Six months.

Funny the things you think about. I’d been meaning to get my eyes checked. Should I still bother?

But what’s truly amazing is that you can get through something you were certain you couldn’t get through. Within a week, they operated to remove the brain tumor. The next morning, I was up and walking around. Truly a miracle.

Granted, I had a line of staples down the side of my head, but that tumor is gone. If it had been Halloween, I would’ve won a prize. But my friends and family were kind enough to lie to me, saying the staples weren’t all that noticeable.

All those times when I was covering the deaths of other people, I always looked for the lessons that I felt were there, but that I was somehow missing. Now I realize I was looking for the wrong thing.

I don’t have any great insight into death, but maybe I’ve learned something about life. It takes courage to get through life. The courage of doctors and nurses who can work magic with their hands, the courage of those keeping a lonely vigil at the bedside of a loved one. The courage of the ill, fighting with everything they have, not just to cheat death, but to live.

I have a long road ahead, but things have started to break my way. My cancer’s the type most susceptible to treatment. I’ve started chemotherapy. And now I live in a different world than most of you. The world of cancer. In my world now, when you meet another patient, you don’t ask, “What do you do?” Or, “where are you from?” You ask, “What do you have?” And, “What are you taking?”

Unfortunately, it’s a much bigger world than you might think, because one way or another, cancer touches all of us.  I’m not spending my time thinking why me, though. I don’t have the time. I think about the old saying, “We aren’t given the burdens we deserve, we’re given the burdens we can bear.” I have work to do, because I’m going to fight like hell.
COMMENTs:
AUTHOR: J. Ron
DATE: 06/26/2006 04:20:00 PM
On April 8, 2006, I received the diagnosis of thyroid cancer.

A thyroidectomy and last week’s radioactive iodine therapy treatment are Memorial Sloane Ketterings protocol treatment. I am grateful to the MSK community for their professionalism and humanity.

Thyroid cancer is considered the best/most curable cancer to get, as well as the fastest growing cancer in women. I’m in good company and have a terrific network of support.

Regardless of the excellent prognosis, I have been thrust into and choose to create several parallel universes.

My brother died fifteen years ago after a harrowing battle with male breast cancer. His immediate family will always feel the catastrophic impact of his illness. In some ways, I prefer being on the patient end rather than the loved-ones’ end of this disease.

Different versions of my story? Yes, several, including the version I was forced to tell my parents — in their mid ’80s, holocaust survivors and forever grieving the loss of their son I had to tell them about the surgery after loosing my voice for several weeks after surgery. However, the don’t ask, don’t tell rule regarding the C word held fast and true. As my teaching job is up for review, administration was also spared the specifics. I forced myself to return to work sooner than prescribed and still pooh-pooh thyroid cancer as a “bad cold” in comparison to the other more aggressive and lethal forms. I am grateful, though, and enabled by my diagnosis to explore new universes.

Thanks, Leroy, (we are afforded first name familiarity), for sharing your courageous insight.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Denise Crie
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:20:00 AM
I was diagnosed with a brain tumor three years ago, possibly a “side effect” of being treated with chemo and radiation therapy for leukemia in 1976… studies are beginning to show this as a new “trend”?

I can really relate to what you said about how everyone is somehow personally affected by this heinous disease…
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Joseph Larrance
DATE: 06/27/2006 02:31:00 PM
When I heard Leroy speak, it brought back a memory that still haunts me.  A few years back the man who owned the lawn sprinkling business that serviced our business came in and announced that this is the new guy who will be taking care of us from now on, because “I am dying of cancer and will not be around.”  Being able to say that to relative strangers had to be unbelievably hard and his words have never left me.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Kent Foster
DATE: 06/28/2006 08:59:00 AM
Leroy, you were very kind to join my sister, Mary Claude, and my family two years ago in the celebration of my father’s life after he died at seventy-five years following treatment for a stage four brain tumor at Johns Hopkins.  We now join you in your fight to beat the odds with cancer. Thanks for sharing your journey with us!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Oscar Sida
DATE: 06/28/2006 01:50:00 PM
How are you? I mean it! How are you today? My father was diagnosed with prostate cancer more than twelve years ago. He never under went the suggested surgery or any chemotherapy. He has a large mistrust of the medical community and consulted an American doctor practicing in Mexico prescribing alternative treatments, namely diet, and supplements. I have used the time with my father to speak to him, to learn who he is, and where it is I come from. I have tried to find the meaning in his illness it has taught me patience, love and understanding for a man who has offered his son everything he has to offer if it were not for this I may have never ventured to treat my father and respect such an honorable man truly deserves. I have read from your struggle it has opened your eyes and tested your soul. Your story has moved me and reminded me of the most important thing life has to offer us the connection and experience to each other. Please accept my humble appreciation and my hope that you will survive.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Maris Rabolini
DATE: 06/30/2006 08:56:00 AM
Hello!  I’ve read your current blog writings from my home here in The Hague.  As a long-standing expat, I am sorry to say that your name was unfamiliar to me.  I was struck initially by how articulate you are, and of course, by your major health challenges and your reaction to them.  Much of what you wrote struck a chord I recently flew to Chicago to visit a friend battling ovarian cancer. We are both 59.

I wish you well with your efforts to fight this disease with determination,and a generous amount of courage and humor and honesty. I look forward to reading your blog for a very long time to come.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Dorothy   Chen
DATE: 06/30/2006 02:08:00 PM
Thank you for sharing. My heart goes out to you. You have captured in words what I have not been able to the grasp of my mother’s emotional and mental state as she battles her own lung cancer. I see the same strength here on the thread of comments that I see in my own mother.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Craig Doerner
DATE: 07/04/2006 11:33:00 AM
Cancer is scary and at the same time it can teach us so much about life that we would otherwise miss. There are a lot of wonderful alternative therapies out in the world that can help not only cancer patients but all people. Unfortunately mainstream medicine does not want to recognize these therapies for fear of what I do not know, perhaps it is money, but I believe that doctors are truly wanting to help. I would like to share with you a resource that I hope will help you in this time of learning. Please check out, my friend, Chris Wollam’s website, and explore and learn about the many ways to beat cancer and for those who don’t have cancer yet see how you can prevent or at least reduce your chances of getting it. I wish you all well.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Lisa Martin
DATE: 07/06/2006 02:26:00 PM
As a woman with a Stage  IV metastatic breast cancer diagnosis, there is so much that I relate to in what you’ve written. I was diagnosed two and a half years ago at the age of 43 with a husband and three boys, one age 12 and twins who were 10. Considered “incurable,” around 96-98% of individuals diagnosed with this die between 18-36 months post-diagnosis. I was fortunate within several months I was accepted into a clinical trial at NIH, where you get incredible care and experience this wellspring of hope and compassion.

Those are the facts.

This is my life: everyday I just feel so grateful for another day with my husband and boys, family and friends, clients (I am a psychotherapist) and the opportunity to make a difference in the world somehow.  I cannot recall at the moment who said it, but this I believe to be the absolute truth: we all die, but not everyone truly lives. It has taken me all this time to come to peace with what is and to live as though I am going to live, even though I still have my moments. The parallel universe of cancer can be crazy-making.  But when you can get to a different place where you realize it’s not about dying, it’s about living, somehow it all changes and peace creeps in. There ARE many blessings in a situation like this and all we have to do is look for them…for instance, you realize how truly loving and compassionate people can be.

I’ve found that you get to your bottom line eventually, that all the crap gets sifted out. For me the bottom line is living my faith out on a daily basis and being able to feel God’s presence in my life. There is no time other than the present moment that we have, and now I am learning to be in that moment and use it to live out God’s will. The bottom line is different for everyone, but to be able to get there and be in it is an incredibly liberating experience. I can hear in your writings the longing to make sense, to put the pieces together so that a picture emerges and so I know you are on the journey. This is good. Know you are not alone. And that your search will bring you to your bottom line where all the crap has been sifted away and your life is simply what you intend it to be.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: bryan grehan
DATE: 12/04/2007 09:40:25 PM
Hi Leroy, on feb 3 199 i had a massive stroke, doctors said i certainly wold NEVER  walk afgain, i can now fo 12 klms ast a stretch, then i had a heart attack but luckilly found out i had a hole in the heart whioch probably caused the stroke so i got it fixed and felt terrific. WEarlier this year i was diagnosed with agressive prostate cancer, had a prostatctomy but thy missed the cancer, but aftre having a bladder ressection following a staph infection they found my cancer
p.s.a. has dropped to.07 and no problems expected, so miracles happen, but you must believe. keep it up.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Rivka with a capital A
DATE: 03/31/2008 05:44:19 PM
I was the poster child for early detection for breast cancer (discoverd at stage 0 during my yearly check-up)… until, two years later, when I was diagnosed with stage 4, and no one could explain it.

I’m a statistical anomoly.  I wasn’t even supposed to have a recurrance (I had a mastectomy and clear lymph nodes), but now I have metastasis in my bones, liver and lungs.

I’m looking to connect with other young, “healthy” women (I’m 42) with stage 4.  (I’m ER/PR negative and HER2 positive)

I’ll be on chemo for the rest of my life.  So, my plan is to be on chemo for a LONG time.

Anyone looking to contact me can visit my blog: coffeeandchemo.blogspot.com

Commentary: A Difficult Line to Walk
DATE: 05/11/2006 06:40:00 AM

The following is a commentary that aired on Morning Edition, May 11, 2006: My doctors are trying to poison me. Oh, they have the best intentions. They call the process chemotherapy. The idea is to poison the body enough to kill the cancer, but not quite kill the patient. Best I can tell, it’s a difficult line to walk.

Just before Christmas I had a brain tumor removed, but then more bad news. They found tumors in my lungs and in my liver too. A lot of drama. I was given a couple of prognoses, all of which were pretty depressing: six months, 12, 20 on the outside. The latter prognosis was the one that was supposed to make me happy.

But I kept asking the same question: So what’s going to happen? What will kill me? Like a lot of cancer patients, I’ve been told I may never have symptoms. It turns out that the chemo will probably play as big a role in killing me as the cancer does. Maybe more. They’re trying to destroy my body in order to save it.

When I had cancer the first time, four years ago, I never used the term survivor. I simply had a disease, like having the chicken pox when you’re young, and then I didn’t. It wasn’t who I am. It wasn’t my life. Now that’s changed.

It has taken over my life to a huge degree. Every three weeks, I go up to the hospital at Johns Hopkins and I end up in a big room full of overstuffed chairs. People just sit there plugged into their machines. There are TVs. The Price is Right seems to be a favorite. I’m a regular now. Some people I recognize and they recognize me, too. I feel bad when the hospital garage is full; that means there are a lot of sick people in today.

I laugh at the T-shirts and coffee mugs they sell in the store, next to the wigs and hats, the ones that say “Cancer Sucks.” They got that right. And I’m sort of getting used to always feeling bad. The pills make my stomach queasy. One strange side effect makes me intolerant of cold food. And of course, as soon as you’re told you can’t have something, that’s all you want. The thin mints in the freezer haunt my dreams.

Now, the only reason I feel sick is because of the chemo. I have never had any physical indication that I have tumors in my chest. If I stopped the chemo today I’d probably feel great. But I can’t. Or can I?

We don’t know if it’s working. If it is, great. If not, then what? Quit? Try something new? Go to Hawaii, slap down my credit card and tell them to keep the mai tais coming?

It’s exhausting, debilitating, depressing. After a while you forget what it feels like to not feel sick. My friends are all going on with their lives: new jobs, new relationships, new plans. And in the dark hours of the night, God help me, I resent that so much. But I have a different task now. I have to try to take my body just up to the point that it can’t take anymore, and then hope I can step back from that chemical abyss.

I’m a gambler, always have been. But I have to admit, I never thought Russian roulette would be my game.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: EMILIA ROSADO
DATE: 05/08/2007 11:33:38 AM
saw the program again on monday, is this going to be available in dvd?

thank you for your candid view on your condition.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Joyce Lindsey
DATE: 05/08/2007 10:25:45 PM
Will “Living With Cancer” be shown again on TV?  I missed part of it and
would like to see all of it from the
very beginning. I am having chemo for
advanced breast cancer.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: mAVIS aDAMS
DATE: 05/09/2007 11:40:01 AM

WILL lIVING WITH cANCER BE ON TV AGAIN, AND WHEN.  A LOT OF FRIENDS WOULD LIKE TO SEE THIS.  MY GRANDDAUGHTER HAS BEEN FIGHTING CANCER FOUR YEARS, SHE IS NOT 20.  HER DOCTOR IS NOT IN FAVOR OF RESEARCH AND DIDN’T RESPOND TO US CONCERNING THE PROCEDURES USED ON MR. SIEVERS.
WHAT WAS THE DOCTOR’S NAME AT JOHN HOPKINS?
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: claire d kaufman
DATE: 05/09/2007 06:54:37 PM
I am a bone marrow multiple myeloma cancer survivor of 5 years plus.  Today May 9th I had my 16th bone marrow biopsy. Painful debilitating but necesary as my body does not exhibit what is happening with the cancer in any other way such as blood or urine. I am lucky to be alive; Time span for such cancers is 3 years.  I have quite a life story to tell you but on another email when I am more coherent.  I would like to converse with you in the near future and hope this vacation in Hawaii is wonderful for you.  I have continued to travel through all my travails and take advantage of this beautiful world and the many people I meet who enhance my days.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Patti Aven
DATE: 05/11/2007 11:02:24 PM
Hi Leroy,

I saw you on the Discovery channel with Ted Koppel – you’re the first person I could finally relate to about my Cancer.  I’m 48 and in early 2005, I was diagnosed with Non-Hodgkins Lymphoma, Follicular, Stage 4, Grade 3.  By the time they diagnosed it, it had gone through my skin, hit the bladder, femurs, groin area and a few ribs.  Prognosis – not too good and statistics said it had a 95% chance of returning (typically in the brain or lung – both of which you can relate to).  Since then, I have undergone six grueling months of chemotherapy – radiation is not an option due to the widespread places.  Don’t know if that’s a blessing or not – radiation can’t be fun, either.  Just started feeling hopeful again – could totally relate to your statement on waiting for PET/CTs, MRIs, X-Rays, blood tests and living with feet in two different worlds – was actually feeling pretty hopeful when it came back in Nov 2006.  I am currently undergoing additional chemo at a far reduced regimen (I even get to keep my hair this time – at least for now). Too early to get hopeful again.
Was writing to find out if I could get a copy of the transcripts from your Discovery show – I’d really like to show that to some of my family that really don’t understand.  Is there a chance of this?  I admire your strength and insight and appreciate what you’re doing for the rest of us.

Sincerely,

Patti Aven
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: cindy correira
DATE: 07/08/2007 02:42:58 PM
boy can I identify! i am in remission from colon cancer stage 3c. i don`t like being recognized for being “the one with cancer”. i am more then that! keep on keeping on!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Tia Licata
DATE: 10/17/2007 12:59:09 PM
Russian Roulette ‘is’ their game.  I have been diagnosed with triple negative agressive breast cancer with lymphnode involvement.  I have undergone a total of 4 surgeries todate along with only 4 treatments of chemotherapy.  Only 4 you ask?  My feet, hands and face were burned so badly I could not walk or even feed myself!  I also had thrush in my mouth and in my throat!  I couldn’t even eat if I had the use of my hands! My temperature soared to 105 for three days. Passing out upon waking up! Why did that happen? I told my friend I was going to die today! I thought certainly my body wants out of this poision and will escape any which way it can… What is one to do with a chemo patient in emergency???  NOTHING!!!  To much liability.  What do I say to this.  I am so uncertain about chemotherapy I have turned vegan eating raw foods in hopes that the internal chemistry does change and places my cancer in a hold pattern for the rest of my ‘natural’ life.  The doctors all tell me it could be ONE cell floating in my body that could kill me since it is so agressive.  If it should leave my breast, there is nothing they could do!!! I can’t stand hearing that since it is the Roulette Theory I am going through…Now I am suppose to return for chemo tomorrow.  I am so freightened that my doctor will kill me with chemo…I so relate to your story…I’m warned, I have tops 5 years to live…diagnosed with triple negative agressive breast cancer February 14th, 2006…I am here for now and fighting for my QOL (quality of life) I only wish the medical industry would ‘PRACTICE MEDICINE’ instead of quickly administering so much poision. Health insurance companies seem to rule over our doctors.  Will someone out there help?  CANCER & CHEMO SUCK – I live to ride…and now I ride to live (my motorcycle is the only thing that takes me out of this hell.)  I wish you the very best.  And don’t forget…Stop along the way to smell the flowers! Hugs from a ‘Survivor’& a biker. (we all have our ways) xoxo
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: gloria NYC
DATE: 11/02/2007 06:25:02 PM
claire, would really appreciate hearing fomr you as my mother has just been diagnosed with MM stage 3c. It was detected in her urine, blood and bone marrow.  Her bones,, calcium and hemoglobin are normal.She looks and feels great. She’s 86 and has had a good life. The dr. is pushing chemo, and we’re not so sure it would be better than just letting it take its natural course.

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DATE: 05/19/2006 11:54:54 AM
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Marilyn Trujillo
DATE: 05/04/2007 08:01:03 PM
When I told a friend of mine that I had breast cancer, she said, “Find the humor in it.”  And although that seemed a bizarre comment at the time, I found that that’s what got me through it: humor.  How can that be?  Well, when you look like a Chia Pet after chemo when you hair starts back — that’s funny!  And when you negotiate for the next mammogram to be half-price — that’s funny!  This isn’t to say that it has its serious side, as we know; but finding a light side in such a dark circumstance can help.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: David Andrews – Lake Havasu City, Arizona
DATE: 05/07/2007 11:03:14 AM
With great sympathy, interest, and understanding, my wife, a cancer patient, and I, her care-giver, watched the 3-hour, Ted Koppel special on cancer. It did provoke some specific questions from us as to:
1) Why wasn’t any mention made of the Cancer Treatment Centers of America (???) which, in our opinion, is the leader in patient care, concern, and understanding of all of them!!
2) Why was LeRoy portrayed as receiving chemotherapy without the usage of a “port” which is the accepted method of infusion, everywhere today?
Cancer Treatment Centers of America is exactly what Mr. Armstrong was referring to when he stated that what is needed most are treatment facilities that view the “patient” as a “person”. CTCA believes that attitude is just as important as physical treatment and that the mind can greatly aid in healing the body.
Getting there within 5 days the way to recovery and “taking her life back”. Her progress is amazing by comparison. I only wish that LeRoy had been treated at CTCA. Possibly the content of Mr. Koppel’s TV special would have been much different.
Amazing to me is the difficulty and outright opposition that this wonderful organization faces in opening each new faciltiy wherever they go. Are the insurance companies really that afraid of them?
Is it really all about the money? How sad…
One mention, during the entire 3 hours, by either Mr. Armstrong or Mr. Koppel of Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and the nation would have been made aware of something totally unique and available to all.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ann Cavalier
DATE: 05/07/2007 11:03:34 AM
I so agree.  My kids thought I was morbid when I would make sarcastic remarks about dying etc……  For me, if I could not joke or laugh anymore then my life really was almost over!  Besides, I figured God has a good sense of humor too, He gave me mine, and I got my period the day I started chemo and radiation.  I thought that was funny in a not-so-funny way.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: MIMI
DATE: 05/07/2007 02:51:50 PM
I UNDERSTAND!!  Breat cancer was diagnosed  15 yrs ago – since then I have had it 4 more times!!  It is attacking my bones – twice now in my spine …the pain is incrdeble – I can’t use a pain patch I am allergic to it – pain meds makes me very nauseaus….I meditate – pray – see a pshychiatrist and truly believe in acupuncture. I also do all the connventional – taditional treatments – chemo – radiation – hormone therapy….somehow I am still here to tell you my story – it amazes even me – A Dr. at Dana Farber last year told me I had outlived my life expectancy by ATLEAST 5 yrs or more – so now it’s 6!  I have lived to see my daughter marry a wonderful man and have 2 gorgeous granddaughters.  My son is now engaged to a beautiful young woman..I count my blessings every day and night and in between…..I thank God – I cry – I laugh and I go on!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Linda Graffius
DATE: 05/07/2007 03:24:38 PM
The show was very well done. Thank You. The key is education. My husband has Prostate cancer with mets to the bone. He knew his PSA was high but didn’t take the time to go to the urologist and when he did he didn’t like him. Talk about treating your patients like people. Finally he had no choice and by that time it was too late for surgery. His oncologist hasn’t given up and neither have I. But, the pain that my husband is in is awful. We have 3 sons and they are aware to start getting their PSA’s checked at 30 yrs. of age. Thank you for the tribute to nurses. This was especially moving since I am a RN and this is National Nurses week. Also, why can’t their be ONE fund for cancer research instead of certain types getting more money and publicity than  others. Thank you.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Cathy Parks
DATE: 05/08/2007 02:05:02 AM
Just finished watching Ted Koppel’s show on Living with Cancer.  I do not have cancer, but have seen my sister-in-law go through breast cancer treatment over the last 2 years and now I finally have some small insight as to what she experienced.  She did not generally discuss her cancer – my brother was her main rock and support system – and I always wanted to respect her privacy about it, but also wanted to tell her how much her courage meant to me.  I will indeed tell her now…especially now since I understand, even though cancer free now, she has that threat always over her head.

Because I am generally a “terrible patient” when it comes to being sick, I always thought I could never endure all the months of chemo, radiation, etc.if I should ever be diagnosed, but now I believe maybe I could – especially after seeing your courage to endure and understand there can be a light at the end of the tunnell – and it is not always a freight train!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Eden Jones, Portland, Oregon
DATE: 05/08/2007 12:02:09 PM
I was diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor almost a year ago, at age 39.  It was very helpful to me and my husband to watch the “Living with Cancer” special. It helped me to know that I’m not alone on this emotional rollercoaster that is my illness, and I think it helped my husband understand me a little better. Thanks for the important discussion.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ken Jezowski
DATE: 05/09/2007 12:02:41 PM
Just watched the special by Ted Koppel and was very moved.  I have been dealing with terminal cancer since oct. 2006 and im 42 yrs old.  My mind goes 100 mph with ideas and plans etc and it seems nothing gets accomplished. The hardest part i believe is looking at my significant other Patty and how she deals with me dealing with the pain and treatments etc. Im feeling so guilty that im holding her back or something.  I just want to thank Leroy Sievers and the Ted Koppel special for opening my eyes on somethings.  I know i want to make a difference in this world before i leave it.  I would also like if people could look at our little novice website and blog etc.  I know just reading about others has helped me in a lot of ways. God Bless to all and Leroy keep up the good work you do . I will be a new reader and follower of your stuff.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: MJ
DATE: 05/10/2007 08:01:44 AM
This is a suggestion/idea.  I am a thyca survivor, and have a sister who’s survived breast cancer and GIST (our mom died of breast cancer mets).  Despite that, and all the other folks I know who’ve had cancer, when I found out this morning that a dear friend who’d survived testicular cancer as a young man now has prostate cancer, I couldn’t think of anything better to say than the usual platitudes….I’m sorry, let me know if there’s anything I can do, etc.  A bit more difficult as we’re geographically separated – a hug can say a lot.  Have others run into this, or has it become easier to find good things to say when you hear this kind of news?  I almost find it harder to think of things to say – I won’t say “you’ll be fine”, I don’t have enough details to be able to support his choices.  Everything I think of seems utterly inadequate or inappropriate.  We’ve talked about what people want to hear and don’t (I know I commented on that posting!) so I tried to stick to those guidelines, but it felt completely insufficient.  Perhaps others have better things to say?  Thanks to all.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Pat C
DATE: 05/10/2007 08:59:06 PM
I love Hawaii too.  I’ve been there many times over the years, and it is where I take myself in my mind on my worst days.

I watched the Ted Koppel special this last week and was inspired by the goodness that was present in the audience. It was a good dose of medicine for me, and came at a time when I needed some encouragement.

I am a bladder cancer patient. I was diagnosed in Feb. 05 and since my last surgery this past February I have felt beaten and defeated. I am now in search of my third urologist.  After watch the special “Living with Cancer” I am now motivated to move forward.

I have been following your blog for a while now, but this is my first comment.  Thank you for all that you do.

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: joane
DATE: 05/17/2007 08:23:57 AM
My husband wasn’t so sure that I should watch the show, but I did.  You said so many things that I’ve thought.  I’m dealing with lung cancer and am doing ok at the moment, but who knows what will be around the corner.  Please keep talking.  Its so difficult to explain to family and others what you are going thru and you have been so eloquent.  How do you explain your treatment is YOUR treatment?  Everyone seems to have an opinion.  You do the best you can.  You seek out the best facility and the best doctors and the best treatment.  Then you trust and pray.
Enjoy Hawaii!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: John Carr
DATE: 05/17/2007 11:09:32 AM
I was recently diagnosed with stage IV cancer of the prostate with mets to the lymph nodes. I am inspired by your blog to begin my own blog. I am in my 70’s and feel that my viewpoint regarding death, etc., would be different than yours. Most of what I have read online is by younger people than I also. But I love to read your blog and plan to catch up with the archives. The television presentation was wonderful.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Cindy Geile
DATE: 05/17/2007 02:01:38 PM
Your decision to keep writing while on vacation was a blessing to me.  I was diagnosed with kidney cancer on April 4th and have my first appointment with my oncologist tomorrow.  Fear, trepidation, and hope are all morphed into one really strange emotion.  I am grateful that you have the courage to share your experience in this blog and in the documentary, and I am glad I had the courage to watch it.  It has helped me.
Thank you–
Cindy Geile
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: James Wallman
DATE: 05/18/2007 06:57:14 PM
THE JOYS OF CANCER…..Got your attention? It dawned on me a year ago that whenever I do die a part of me will be thankful for this experience. If I’d have had a choice, of course, I’d have passed on the cancer, but I didn’t. When I was far away from home getting treatment for 3 months, people in the community of 2000 where I live donated $3000.00 to help with expenses. You can’t buy an experience like that, to be shown that people, neighbors, friends, and others, care about you has an extraordinary effect. I would have never experienced that. In all my 62 years I’ve never seen so many beautiful sunrises and sunsets as in the last 2 and 1/2 years. The swallows returned yesterday, spring is here, another new season.My sense of what is important has never been clearer. Does cancer suck? We know it does. Today my glass is half full….there are half empty days, too. Like when I focus on how the radiation on my chest probably saved my life…..and also caused the pulmonary fibrosis that will certainly kill me. Like it’s a race between the cancer and the P.F……there is even humor there on a glass-half-full day. Thanks for listening.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Heart of Venus
DATE: 05/25/2007 01:27:41 AM
I am having a devil of a time not to show my anger to my daughter.  She just had her cancerous left lung removed.  She has smoked and drank since the age of 13.  It is hard to show compassion for her disease. Please comment.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Lisa Adams
DATE: 06/19/2007 09:58:10 AM
Hi Leroy and everyone else. This is my first comment on this site…and it’s the only column I read about cancer… a testament to you, Leroy… when someone can write and speak eloquently it is such a gift. Over the past months I do feel you are part of my community, and I follow your daily trials and tribulations (along with the too-infrequent celebrations) lately. In fact, I foudn it sureal to sit during my last round of chemo yesterday reading your column on “non-choices” on my Treo and thereby experienced your sorrow and frustration while I was having my own personal little victory at having finished these chemo sessions. At 37 with breast cancer and 3 small children, after I had a double mastectomy, I feared chemo more than anything. I have learned that this was an irrational fear. It is a choice, it is a hope, it is a gift. It is, as you say, when the choices are not “which treatment should I do?” but “should I do anything?” then inaction becomes a choice, a new plan of attack. You attack your remaining life, you find the joys in it you didn’t see before, and value the things on your list, as you say, which likely aren’t places to go that are far away, or things to buy that are expensive. They are the more intangibles, the things you can get for free. When my daughter sees me in my scarf on my head and says I look pretty, that is a gift. When I get my appetite back and show up for a latte or a chocolate treat at the gourmet shop, that taste is priceless. And feeling okay for an extra few hours or finding out you don’t need an extra shot that week can be a great day. You redefine your life, your blessings, your everything. That’s as it should be. That’s the gift I have found in cancer. It has taken from me. For sure. It has taken from you, Leroy. But the gift you give to us every day, people mostly whom you will never know, is a gift uniquely provided by cancer as you know. I also tell people more now that they are special to me. I hope today I can be that person to you, and let you know I admire, respect, and will follow your treatment, or your decision to just enjoy the time we have together in this community. Today is a good day for me, and I will appreciate it knowing what tomorrow might bring. I thank you for sharing your story.
Lisa Adams
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Cliff Trimble, Jr, Tucson, AZ
DATE: 06/19/2007 09:32:39 PM
I am a throat cancer survivor 3 yrs now and am in my 3d session (3mos ea) of chemo for colorectal cancer that has gone to the liver.  I can’t thank all the wonderful folks and especially Leroy & Mr Koppell’s documentary “Living with Cancer”, at near 63 I couldn’t find the words to tell my 85 yr old parents about the experiences I am going through and as we watched the show together, through many tears, we are all on the same “page” so to speak.  Thanks sooo much to all.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Linda Graffius
DATE: 06/28/2007 08:17:53 PM
This is my second posting after viewing your TV special. My husband is not very computer literate so I print your e-mails that I receive. He reads them all and appreciates the fact that you are writing about things that he is feeling. Thank you and we continue to remember you and all others that are fighting this disease.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Karen
DATE: 07/01/2007 11:36:29 PM
Leroy, I love reading your daily post. It helps me to keep things in perspective.  When I first found out I have breast cancer I was really scared. I lost my Mom to breast cancer, and my Dad to cancer of the esophagus.  I had a bilateral mastectomy one month ago.  Every time I start feeling sorry for myself and whining about the pain, I think of what you have gone through, and all of the chemo and radiation my parents went through.  It has helped me to find the strength to get through this.  I count my blessings that I am alive, and I am learning to appreciate things that I have taken for granted in the past.  Keep up the good work, it means alot to so many people.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sheila McCanna
DATE: 07/23/2007 11:49:35 AM
Leroy: This morning your always interesting comment on NPR spoke about Control and that second between the doctor’s words,(as they were spoken to me in 1997),”You have a fatal disease” when your brain screams “NO!” but the tears from your eyes reveal your knowledge of that truth. I suffered through the loss of control, through the chemicals and constant awareness of the inevitability of my early death. As you’ve described, the occupation with the ever more awful treatments,your family’s emotional needs and the many decisions quickly become your new reality.  Was life ever otherwise? No one spoke of recovery-just staying alive which was losing its appeal.    Loss of control just was. One morning someone I had a business transaction with came to my door and told me about  something I could do for myself that   might provide help. He looked at my pitiful condition and said, “You have nothing to lose”.  Now, that was Truth! I gave my body nutrients it was obviously missing and 10 years later I enjoy full, vibrant health. Control! I have it now!
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Mary Ellen
DATE: 09/04/2007 10:41:02 AM
Hello, good people. I’m curious about your reactions to this query from a reporter for a national network:

“I’m looking for a psychologist, oncologist or other doctor to discuss why it may or may not be healthy to date when you’re undergoing treatment for breast cancer. Are you more vulnerable? Is there a possibility that your relationship may be under some sort of “Florence Nightengale” effect?”

I am not happy about this person’s viewpoint that people with cancer can’t have “a life” without endangering themselves, that we must ask an oncologist’s permission to find happiness and love. Am I overreacting, or is this reporter pushing “Movie of the Week” victim-think?
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Bobbie Hollis
DATE: 09/18/2007 01:31:59 AM
I saw that wonderful program everyone above has mentioned and it gave me a booster shot of hope.  I am an ovarian cancer survivor …, well, at least since October 24, 2006.  I knew it was probably cancer and so did the doctors.  That Oct day, I went in for a 4 hr. surgery.  I weighed less that 95 pounds.  They removed the mass, both ovaries, two lymph nodes, a portion of my sigmoid colon (I have a lovely little colostomy), and … my gall bladder (that is another story). The cancer had spread to some of the lymph glands within my abdomen.  Chemo cycles lasted from Jan 3, 07, to Jun 07, I managed to last through 8 cycles of Taxol and Carboplatin with shots of Neulasta and Aranesp to help my blood counts.  At the 5th CT Scan neither doctor found any signs of cancer.  Now I am in the 3 mo. waiting game to see if the cancer is in remission or just waiting for a return engagement.  Yes, cancer sucks.

My biggest lesson learned throughout this experience is to grit my teeth, acknowledge all those feelings and then figuratively speaking “stand” and fight the good fight.  During all that, my mind became aware of moments of pure wicked amusement that is possible.  The humour is there, but it is sometimes too dark to see, but I found it among the hair falling out and the nausea and the chemobrain.  As my hair began to fall out I found this odd feeling of celebration that the chemo was doing something, that is, as long as it was killing cancer cells along with what normal cells I knew were getting clobbered.  For my family members who would rather not see my colostomy stoma as I replace the wafer and pouch, I announce, “It’s back in its cage.”

Cancer patients live a bizarre existence, but then so do so many others with other diseases which may or may not be fatal now or years later. The joyful thing is that we find each other in places like these blogs, in events like AMC Relay for Life, groups, and we should be thankful for people like Mr. Sievers who literally let each of us know we aren’t alone in this fight.  Thank you.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: antoinette comprelli
DATE: 09/20/2007 11:38:51 AM
I posted a comment this morning and appreciate it being posted, however at the end when converted it changed the apostrophe to ??? which would make it seem as if I question Bobby fighting the disease. I wouldn’t want that to be misinterpreted. I didn’t know any other way to reach you.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Helen Drab
DATE: 10/12/2007 11:23:05 AM
Even though my husband lost his battle to colon cancer three years ago, I read your column and know that I am cheering you on daily! A teacher friend’s husband was told his colon cancer has returned, I encourged her to read your column.I find it a source of therapy for me, You resemble my Jim, you’re just 5 inches taller! Never, never, never give up!
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Judy
DATE: 01/25/2008 05:48:20 PM
I’ve walked the cancer walk.  I read your words every morning.  What I am struck with is your preference not to talk about death but perhaps you think about it but don’t want to talk about it.  Even with hospice coming you don’t talk about that as if it is a preparation for dying. True, we do not know the day of our dying.  For myself, it would be much too devastating to deal with death all at one time. Through my years of remission, I’ve spent some time thinking and reading about death.  But this has been only because I know I do not deal with things easily.  I will never forget how it felt when I first got my diagnosis. I was brought to my knees with the emotional kick in the gut.  It feels better for me to give it all some thought.  I doubt that I can totally prepare, but I know it is not as daunting as it was when I never thought about it, when I denied to myself that this was likely my reality.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Anthony Sorce
DATE: 02/13/2008 12:03:27 PM
Go LEROY Go
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 02/21/2008 08:55:19 AM
Dear Leroy and Laura,  I cannot tell you how much this blog, and you
Leroy mean to me.  I’m a so-far-
so-good breast cancer survivor and my husband is now battling pancreatic
cancer.  Your courage,
wonderful writing, fantastic humor strength me everyday.

Cheering you on everyday – stay strong and FIGHT IT.

Sincerely,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 02/21/2008 08:57:40 AM
Dear Leroy and Laurie,

Many thanks – forever I’ll be grateful- for all your blog postings.

As a breast cancer survivor for 4 years and now the caregiver of my
husband who has pancreatic cancer
your writing is a lifeline.

Sending you all the best and oceans of energy and mountains of strength.
Most Sincerely Yours,
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 02/21/2008 09:04:35 AM
YES!!  We need this so much-  and there is no telling how much
“alternative/ complementary” medicine
does for all of us.  Patient and caregiver and all those who care so
much.

We care greatly Leroy and Laurie and blessings on this wonderful doctor!
Nothing is so good as
exquisite compassion.

Penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 02/23/2008 07:33:05 PM
Dear Leory,
Today was a hard day for you and for me too.  I’ve been at a loss to think of words worthy of your struggle.  As I live my life in hopes that my cancer does not return and as caregiver for my beloved husband who suffers from pancreatic cancer I try hard to just “get through ” the hard days and recover quickly so I can treasure each day with him.
We endeavor to persevere and know you are doing the same.  Your courage and dignity help all of us more than you know.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny freppon
DATE: 02/26/2008 10:09:30 AM
Dear Leroy,

I read your glowing report about your physical therapy session today and it reminded me of my husband’s recovery from a stroke that paralyzed him totally on his left side.  This guy, like you is simply wonderful- he worked hard and recovered completely ( only to be stricken by cancer two years later – he is fighting that just as bravely!).
One’s mind/body capacities are more than amazing, you WILL regain your abilities to walk, do stairs, and run.
Your friend: Cheering you on every day!  Can you hear the din?

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 03/07/2008 09:29:28 PM
Dear Leroy,

Just a note to keep in touch – you seem like an old friend and I hope such communication feels this way to you.  Your blog today about the terrible padding on the hospital tables reminded me of the most unpleasant device I have to put my chest into for my MRIs.  It really hurts and sometimes lying face down my arms go to sleep.  It’s funny how such discomforts “get to one”  – with all the needle stick, surgery, chemos, and radiation the discomfort of the hard tables, and poor excuses for pillows looms large.  Let’s hope the hospital administrators and researchers are listening.  Some creature comforts along this cancer road would help!
Keep lying down and be well.
In friendship and continued, everlasting hope for your recovery,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny freppon
DATE: 03/18/2008 04:32:25 PM
Dear Leroy,

Your message today remarked on how one adjusts to having cancer – it seems that one does this fairly readily. In a matter of months, no matter how terrifying and taxing it is, it seems the daily  cancer routine becomes just that.
As a cancer survivor ( so far so good ) myself and now as caregiver for my husband with his cancer I’ve thought about this adjustment stuff and had the thought that perhaps our ability to make hairpin turns ( Laurie’s phrase) and sudden moves that challenge us more than I could have imagined is innate?

As a species this capacity seems essential to survival. What with our relative lack of physical strength, poison, huge teeth, etc. we had to have to be able to adjust fast and adapt to changes in may ways.  Thus, our brains – and perhaps their an innate capacity saved us.  Keep on being enabled Leroy, we care so much and cheer you on every day.
penny

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 03/20/2008 09:53:47 PM
Dear Leroy,
All in all your message of today is heartening.  Decisions are hard and it surely seems to me that you have made a very good one.  Get that radiation ( take a good pain pill before lying on that table!) and the cancer will again be stopped.
We think of you and just this past week I spoke to a fellow caregiver who’s husband has the same cancer as mine and she said she never misses your blog. She feels very close to you as I do and is grateful for your brave messages along with your wit and encouraging ways.
Leroy you are a gift.
FIGHT IT.
hug you,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Retha
DATE: 03/24/2008 01:14:34 PM
Fight on Leroy, just as your mother taught you to do by example…what a great teacher she must have been! All these years later and you’re still trying to “put out fires”, one by one, as you battle cancer!
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 03/24/2008 02:44:34 PM
Dear Leroy,

Your mother sounds wonderful – it’s pretty obvious that she loved you so and was a woman of great character!  My son has an illness that I passed onto him, so I know how the guilt happens and how challenging this is.  But I know as did your mom that we truly are not responsible for such things.  none of us gets to self-select our genes.
As much as you miss your mother I hope your memories such as the one you described today are your strongest thoughts.  My hunch is you have many of them.
Take best care.
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 03/28/2008 01:16:00 PM
Dear Leroy,

It will be a long time yet and you will get beyond this radiation and have more time.
Thanks for your courage, your reaching out with wonderful writing, and most of all for being you!
Cheering you on everyday, in every way.
Take best care,
pennny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 04/03/2008 03:15:42 PM
Dear Leroy,

Your blog today, 4/3/08 is so on the mark!  Yes, keep cancer cowering and keep your strong fight going, fight it day and night.  It’s on the run again and will continue, I’m right with you.  Walking beside the walker and in the highest  chair, late night TV isn’t bad either.
Your incredible heart, excellent humor, superb writing helps carry so many of us.
A thousand thanks.

p.s. how are those super shakes coming ?

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 04/09/2008 07:24:09 PM
Dear Leroy and other Friends,

I’m getting very angry.  There should not be this much pain!!!  Pain on the XRay and radiation tables is one thing but pain after getting home, etc, etc, etc, is not to be tolerated. Leroy, to you have your pain doctor’s ear?  Something must be done – please don’t let this go on, I have to believe there is more help than you are getting.
Please, excuse what may seem like a venting – I don’t mean to do it but this hurt all of us who care for you and who have had cancer ( me) and who are caregivers ( me).  Is this the perfect excuse?

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sandra Malone
DATE: 04/14/2008 02:22:19 PM
I’ve always believed in medical self-care and naturopathic medicine, so when Kaiser Permanente doctors prescribed radiation/tamoxifan/mastectomy after removing a lump from my breast, I just walked away. Eight years later, I’m healthier than ever. Unfortunately, my dear brother, who underwent radiation and chemotherapy to treat his throat cancer, passed away before the treatments were complete. I often wonder if patients like my brother succumbed to the treatments (which kill healthy cells and are carcinogenic themselves) rather than the cancer.

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 04/17/2008 09:23:26 AM
Dear Leroy, Dear Friend,

Yes, patience is very hard to come by for us.  I understand so well – my husband had to wait 5 weeks to “let the radiation” do it’s work before rescanning his tumor.  It was a relief to get back home ( we’d been living at MDA for months) but hard too.
Have that glass of wine, if it’s okay, my husband is now having one drink a day and it helps!  Feels normal and we really need THAT, and of course, he enjoys it 😉
We are with you, caring for you, and cheering you on every day in every way.

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
ATE: 04/20/2008 02:24:04 PM
Hey!

Leroy I know exactly what you mean- physical therapy can restore our faith in our selves and renew our respect for our bodies.
PT s are very good at working us hard and helping us feel physically strong again – it’s good to sweat, makes me feel mighty!  You too I hope;-)
Keep up this VERY good work and feel your strength return.  We’ll be watching listening for your growth chart!

All the Best,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 04/23/2008 08:49:55 PM
Leroy,  you ARE going to feel better and it’s great that you are doing so already.  From my expiernce it takes quite a while to bounce back radiation 😉
Thus, there are lots more ‘feeling better ‘ days ahead.

Best Regards,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 04/30/2008 09:04:35 PM
Dear Leroy,

Good for you!  Sleep knits up the raveled sleeve of care….as we all know so, it’s great that you are sleeping better.
My husband and I just came back from a trip to the Cleveland Clinic after a consult with a wonderful doctor there.  He, Dr.Pelley, was excellent in ever way – just what we needed to make some hard decisions about more treatment at this point.

So now that this is done I am going to go to Liberia in a week or so to teach teachers.  I look forward to the trip although I know it won’t be without it’s challenges 😉

Best of all you are feeling better and we hope to have a summer with little to no treatment and that during this time my husband will continue to be stable.

I’ll be off line for a number of weeks but already look forward to talking with you again.  Time goes by so quickly.

Continue to gain strength – keep that good sleep going.

You and yours are in my thoughts.

All the Best,
penny

—-
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 05/03/2008 04:00:51 PM
Dear Leroy,

I’m not out of town quite yet and wanted to reply to your message about a painful day and hearing the bird sing – how it made you smile.

I recall an event somewhat similiar when I had just had breast cancer surgery and treatment.  One early morning I walked down the stairs and heard the washing machine going and the tea pot whistling. and suddenly I was overcome with happiness and a somewhat odd humbling feeling.  Hearing the ordinary sounds of home struck me hard.  I smiled too.
We are in a very special community that is most unfortunate but is also enriched in ways others, we hope, will never experience

All the Best,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Mary Jo McClintic
DATE: 05/05/2008 09:47:41 AM
Hi Leroy.  I’m curenly recovering from colon cancer (surgery, concurrent chemo/radiaiton and then more chemo).  I read your article every morning and find that it helps me continue on the journey.  I also have the neuropathy in my hands and feet that might not go away.  My doctor called it “sock and glove syndrome” becasue it feels like I’m wearing socks and gloves all the time.  It makes life a little harder.  I struggle with small tasks like turning the page of a book, or putting on earrings.  I’ve also been know to walk out of my flip flops.  I’m okay with the trade off as long as the cancer stays away.  It IS annoying.  I realize how much I took for grated before my illness.  Simple tasks that others probably don’t even think about performing are now challenging to me.  Thanks for sharing your story.  I pray for you after I read each article.  Stay strong.
Mary Jo
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Retha
DATE: 05/15/2008 09:15:38 AM
May God bless you Leroy, as your “vacation” from poking, prodding and “picture taking ends.” Whatever unfolds, I pray that you’ll be given the strength you need to take the next step, knowing that you have helped so many through your steadfast writing over the course of your illness.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Lisa Lake
DATE: 05/16/2008 02:42:10 PM
Leroy,I have been reading your entries for months and am traveling a similar chronic cancer path. Your experience is so parallel to mine in so many psychogical dimensions that it is eery but very comforting in my loneliness.I have refractory Hodgkins Lymphoma (dx.2003),have undergone continuous chemotherapy,radiation,two bone marrow transplants with no remission.I face what you face-chronic metastatic disease with a “new normal”I don’t like.I too continue to “hope” for continued life.I find the pschological battle over time to be the hardest.You have comforted me,encouraged me and made me realize I do not walk alone.You are a godsend.Thank you.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Miriam Freiter
DATE: 05/17/2008 12:03:30 AM
Leroy, I have been following your blog for years, but now it has a new meaning for me.  This year, we learned that my 34-year-old daughter has brain cancer, stage III.  Our family at first was devastated by the news, but now we are beginning to deal with everyday life again.  She has finished radiation and the first stage of chemo, and is being treated with much heavier doses than at first.  At this point, we also have hope.  Come to think of it, one always has hope.  You have become a lifeline to many.  Thank you.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Page hendryx
DATE: 05/22/2008 07:00:21 PM
I was sadden to hear yesterday that Ted Kennedy’s diagnosis was cancer. Everyone was asking “how long?”. I myself am a Breast Cancer Survior, I asked myself the same question. I am finish with treatment and doing well, with no reocurrence at this time. None of us knows “how long”, we don’t get to choose, God does. So I live each day as a gift. We must think positive. Page
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ann
DATE: 06/12/2008 09:29:39 AM
Leroy, I want to share one of my favorite poems with you. Its by ee cummings.
i carry your heart with me(i carry in
my heart)i am never without it(anywhere i go you go,my dear;and whatever is done by only me is your doing,my darling)
i fear no fate(for you are my fate, my sweet)i want no world(for beautiful you are my world,my true)
and its you are whatever the moon has always meant and whatever a sun will always sing is you.

here is the deepest secret nobody knows
(here is the root of the root and the bud of the bud and the sky of the sky of the tree called life;which grows higher than the soul can hope or mind can hide) and this is the wonder that’s keeping the stars apart
i carry your heart(i carry it in my heart)

Leroy, Laurie, we carry your hearts, we carry them in our hearts.

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Lakshmi Narayan
DATE: 06/12/2008 02:33:27 PM
Dear Leroy:
I have been receiving your posts for months, and for the last few weeks I have been receiving an inner prompting to share a poem that I wrote some time ago. The poem was profound for me to write, and perhaps it will be profound for you to read. So here it is. Its called ‘His Story’.
Myths are our own pronouncements of destiny
We are the myth-makers and our stories
Are our personal legends of the Fall,
the Resurrection, and the Promised Land
These are all contained within a lifetime
Love and Fear stand side-by-side
Angels, guarding the doors of Heaven
And Hell.

I live inside my history.
It becomes me as I become it.
But my myth is really my
Opportunity
A port, with an old sailor whistling
a tune on the dock
And he’s whistling an ode to the ferryman
Because you cannot cross the river without Him.

And the ferryman is Death
Death of a loved one.
Death of a child.
Death of a relationship.

Walking into the valley of the shadow of death
I descend into wholeness again
and start another cycle, a new age.

Where does my story begin and yours end?
Does it begin and end with what I am able to
know about you?
Sometimes you are completely transparent to me
At other times dense as a doorknob.

Our stories slide one on top of the other
Creating innumerable opportunities
For the Eternal Truth to dart
Between the letters,
Between the keystrokes,
Between the lashes,
Between the tweens,
Between being able to catch yourself
at the moment you begin to imitate yourself,
And between being afraid that you won’t.

I’ve tasted death enough times
to know that this body too will die.
Just as the stories of my life have been
willed and impelled and compelled
by the uncertain logic of who Me is,
This body too is a story,
a figment of a divine dream,
And this body too must die.

But the eternal truth remains that I AM
neither story nor storyteller.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
DATE: 06/13/2008 03:10:11 PM
Dear Leroy,  I agree, it is a mystery — this life and will power is a likely, huge, factor.

You go guy!!

Here are some movies I think you’ll enjoy.

Songcatcher

The Station Master

The Girl in the Cafe

The Two Family House

……if you haven’t already see them;-)

ALL THE BEST,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: bclinda
DATE: 06/17/2008 03:46:53 AM
Hi Leroy, I am sorry you are facing this..but very impressed with your strength. I wonder if you ever visit MPIP a melanoma board at  <a href=”http://www.mpip.org/bb/bbindex.html” rel=”nofollow”>http://www.mpip.org/bb/bbindex.html</a>  We have a few posters currently dealing with multiple brain mets. You may find it interesting to compare notes, even get some ideas.  All the very best to you Leroy, take care, linda

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: steve Henderson
EMAIL: steveandthu@sdccu.net
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 06/17/2008 09:37:41 PM
As a crew chief on a Huey in Vietnam I saw death in violent ways. Later in life my father and others died…It was bearable but when my grand niece who was a twin that I loved deeply was diagnosed with brain stem cancer and lived for a heartbreaking year and a half before passing on…has shown me the pain that individuals suffer throughout the world when the loved one’s are taken at an early age.  I know that God is there always but loosing a loved one can be very difficult at times.  May we always respect all people in the world who are having a difficult time
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 06/20/2008 01:50:16 PM
Hey Leroy!
What great news, lots of treatment and in one day!

Rather than forgive you I thank you for making my day.

Good movies:
Once ( you’ve probable seen it but I’m always behind)
All or nothing at all.

As usual,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jeanne
EMAIL: HavingFaith@hughes.net
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 06/26/2008 07:57:05 AM
I heard Leroy on NPR this morning.  Cancer is an ugly thing.  The chemo & radiation is just killing your body.  It’s bad. It’s good to get your affairs in order.  I have some suggestions for you — Can you see yourself better without the cancer?  Can you see yourself healed?  Try visualising, with your eyes closed, a ray of beautiful light (perhaps Jesus Christ) coming into your body and healing it.  Start at your heart and move His healing power around in your body.  Yeah, I know this sounds hoaxy; but, don’t accept the cancer anymore.  Accept perfect healing — perfect power of Jesus Christ.  Check out  Hippocrates Health Institute in West Palm Beach, they are there to teach you how your magnificent body can heal itself by eating “WHOLE” foods.  I saw so many incredible things while I was there on my 3-week stay — cancers going into remission, bodies being healed, incredible — mind-blowing healing.  Good luck to you and God bless you.  John 3:16
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: D. Julian Montelbano
EMAIL: julian.montelbano@hotmail.com
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 06/27/2008 03:37:36 PM
Leroy,
With your permission, I, fortuitously, do not have cancer.

Since the beginning of your blog, I have checked in a couple of times each week to gain some insight of what dealing with a life threating illness is like.  I have rooted for you from the sidelines and prayed for you during your low periods.

Whilst driveing into work earlier this week, with the radio on, I heard of your latest health challenge.  It hit me like a ton of bricks. I felt like you were a personal friend of mine.  Odd, I know.  I felt helpless to assist you (which I am) and angry @ your cancer @ the same time.  I still don’t know what to do but to wish you grace & strenght as you continute this fight.

Be strong Leroy.  Be strong.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 07/03/2008 12:49:43 PM
Dear Leroy and Laurie,

Sorry, I’ve not written in a while.  We are doing okay…so far so good.  My beloved husband is able to do some fly fishing, his passion !  And I think I’m happier than he is about this;-)
The latest scan showed a still stable pancreatic tumor – this is as good as it gets.

How is the movie viewing going?  Here is another recommend.  It’s an old one but sweet; try Crossing Delancy (sp?  Delancy is the name of a street- netfllix will likely bring it up)

CR, which I think is consumers’ reports is doing a story on couples willing to be interviewed about how cancer has impacted their relationship.
My wellness center in Ohio has sent out an email for those willing to be interviewed.  I’ll send another message as soon as I’m sure about the magazine and some details.

We are with you, everyday in every way, cheering you on.  It’s a terrible thing that has happened to all of us in the cancer world but…Leroy you make it easier, more human, deeply enriched, and easier to bear.
With you and people like you we are never alone.

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: shar
EMAIL: sfnm87505@lycos.com
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 07/05/2008 01:35:19 PM
I just happened upon this blog this morning, and wanted to say thank you.

I probably have breast cancer, given what I’ve read about it, which I noticed last fall.  I haven’t told anyone – until now – and haven’t seen a doctor.  Don’t have the money for treatment, don’t have the money to take off from work (I’m self-employed) but even more importantly, I don’t have what it takes for the medical procedures.  Too many bad experiences with doctors, and needles, and the 2 small surgeries I had years ago, so even if I had all the money in the world, I still wouldn’t do chemo, or radiation, etc.  I’ve know this about myself for years, long before this, and have tried to keep myself as healthy as possible because I never want to spend a night in a hospital, or have another surgery.

I know this is a different way to respond to such a situation, but it feels right to me.  I’ve got no assumptions about what’s going to happen, just trying to live my life more consciously, regardless.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Pat S.
EMAIL: pschaniel@citlink.net
IP: 172.31.2.6
URL:
DATE: 07/09/2008 05:42:11 PM
Leroy, I enjoyed your appearance on NPR and the audio blog afterward. I’m the one who asked if you missed work.

One of your blogs (the one about talking about normal things, not about cancer) reminded me of something my grandmother told me two weeks before she died.

My grandmother was my world, the one most awesome person I’ve ever known. She had breast cancer, then 5 years cancer free, before being diagnosed with metastatic cancer.  (She had 89 years of life to her credit).

But here’s the thing she said, to what you might relate. I was sitting at my grandmother’s feet on the floor in front of the recliner she was resting in. We were looking at old pictures I’d found in a closet; pictures of my mom when she was 18 and 19, pictures of my grandmother when she was a teenager and a young woman, old pictures, from before I was born, when my grandmother was not a grandmother– when she was a lively, beautiful, energetic young woman, and my mother was a teenager or a young woman.

My grandmother, who was sitting in the recliner in her robe looking at the photos over my shoulder, with a shawl over her shoulders, looked down and me and said “Patty, It’s ME in here!”

You know, that did not make so much sense to me then (though I thought I understood), but I realize now, she was saying, the essence of what made her what she was, and who she was, was unchanged and unspoiled, although the container that bore her spirit was such a hindrance. She wanted me to know that she was that lady from those pictures, no matter what my eyes reported. I suppose you feel that too, sometimes, no matter what your body does, no matter who calls you “patient” or “survivor” or whatever, the reality is, you are still you.

When people come and visit, and they leave the cancer outside the door, and you talk about stuff you enjoy (like my grandmother and her love for Raymond Burr, which never went away), you are being you, and your friends are allowing you to just be you, with the same loves, and hates, and hopes and fears and enjoyments you ever had. Those friends have found a way to overcome their discomfort and fear and they are vising Leroy, not a person with cancer. They bring you the gift of pure friendship. What a marvelous gift!

That was the last day I saw my grandmother, and I took a picture of her. I had to return home the next day. She passed away two weeks later.

But I’ll always remember that the lady I saw was the one from the pictures, the one that used to do things with us. She was still my Grandmother, no matter what she was wearing and no matter what she could or couldn’t do. And she loved just being who she was, not a patient. I’m so glad she showed that to me. You are still Leroy with all the same likes and dislikes, hopes and fears, your body nevermind.

We are not our disease. We are who we were before, just with that additional thing to deal with. I think you understand..it’s YOU in there. Thanks for doing the blog, and the program, I know it had to tire you out, but it obviously means a lot to many people. You’re just doing what you’ve always done, it’s just a different war on a different battlefield, but you’re still bringing it to us, aren’t you?
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.6
URL:
DATE: 07/14/2008 12:05:17 PM
Dear Laurie and Leroy,

Your blog always sparks a surge of emotion, today I’m moved to tears.

I can feel the love between the two of you and know what a great love such as your is like.  I, we have this love too.

From penny:

I want him back….and somedays, some moments, or an hour, or even an afternoon or morning can bring him back.

This weekend I saw him delight in a grand child, laughing again.

I saw him eat with some hint of pleasure…

I watched as suddendly he picked up a pen and worked on his manuscript for a while – I could not take my eyes off this oh so rare event…..for a little while I had him back.

Sometimes he is back reciting the sports news while I pretend to be truly interested and ask dumb questions.

All the time I’m so grateful that you two wonderful people are so incredibly good to us, to share your lives, your bravery, wisdom, and true caring with those of us who have had cancer ( me) and who now lives with a tumor that will never be removed
(my beloved).

Stay strong,
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.6
URL:
DATE: 07/23/2008 06:18:38 PM
Dear Leroy and Laurie,

I’ve been remiss in writing- many apologies!

I really enjoyed the message of a few days ago, the one where you again ” take on the cancer” in a grand combative style that you do so well.

Too, blogs about hospice and home care help- at some point we will have to face the same decisions and manage care, I so hope it will be at home.
Today’s lifting  in and out of bed instructions, help too and so again for likely the hundredth time I thank you.

You, the you we have come to know and care for comes to us through your writing….through this blog.  Keep it coming!!

Laurie, I hope to hear from you again too.

Cheering you on everyday, in everyway.

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.6
URL:
DATE: 07/29/2008 02:35:25 PM
Dear Leroy and Laurie,

Yes!  Feeling and looking normal is important, good for you both!

How we feel and how we keep on keeping on keeping the beast at bay is what we do.

Sending you oceans of energy and true, deep, caring.  Hug you both.

Keep writing, stay strong, we need and appreciate you so much!

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 08/07/2008 02:54:29 PM
Dear Leroy and Laurie,

Again, I’m catching up !  We’ve been busy with some troubling news.  My husband’s disease, pancreatic cancer, has begun to progress.  So we are back on chemo that we hope will help us beat the beast back into submission for a time. I’m fairly terrified.

We are in a mountain place we love to come in the summer time and the doc/ treatment/ radiology, etc, is 2 hours away (one way!) so we are on the road a great deal and able to take care of basic needs such as eating and sleeping the past few days.

I’ve wanted to write and say ” YES!  lots of donuts Laurie and cookies Leroy, my favorite is double chocolate Milano.  I find myself eating more and more of them of late. ”
Also, I wanted to reply, “Varoom, Varoom, and more Varooms!!  in response to your note about your jeep Leroy.  I have an 01 PT Cruiser – I wanted it badly because it has a sort of classic older car look and I love old cars!  It doesn’t have much Varoom, however, it’s look suits me.  At first I gave the PT wave to others I passed on the street, but after a while I got little if any response. Must be that PT drivers are not as cool as Jeep drivers. Ya think?

As we drove the long drive to chemo yesterday Don and I were talking about fish, the various kinds in our mountain area. Don is an expert and totally dedicated fly fisher ….he’s been practicing it for years and does catch and release only of mountain trout and bone fish ( in two different places of course!).  Fishing makes him happy and that makes me happy too.

To the point,  I mentioned a specific fish on our drive and he said he didn’t much like catching them. He said ” They don’t fight well..and are too gullible.”

If you fish you might find this amusing 😉 at least I hope so.  It would be wonderful bring you a smile.
Don is very funny like you Leroy, you would very much enjoy one another – I can tell.

penny

—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Morton Dean
EMAIL: MortonNDean@aol.com
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 08/18/2008 10:42:15 AM
Leroy was a kid working the desk at CBS News when I first met him. He was a big kid! Looked like a football player. Big in other respects,too. He had a big heart,a huge capacity for hard work & an unrelenting desire to hone the skills neccessary to become the great journalist he turned out to be. He was a rare bird – Over the years, as his career took him to the heights, the qualities that made him a good person never left him. In fact they became more & more a part of who he was. He understood the value of friendship, compassion & charity. And like all great American journalists Leroy did not retreat from  battling to uphold the old virtues of a profession he loved.
Leroy I’m honored to have known you.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Theresa Kingman
EMAIL: theresakingman@yahoo.com
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 08/18/2008 10:59:34 AM
I participated in my first triathlon yesterday – the Danskin in Seattle, WA.  There were many breast cancer survivors – part of Team Survivor- who did the same course I did.  I was awed and inspired and proud to be part of that team. I am saddened by LeRoy’s death, but know he and his words and courage will touch many for a long long time.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 08/22/2008 10:31:17 PM
Dear Laurie,

I’ve not written in days, I regret that.

After hearing of Leroy’s death I though the only thing I could say is “I’m sorry, so sorry, sorry.”

Sorry for your loss and for all his friends and family, sorry for me and all of us on this blog. Just sorry.
The world is not nearly as nice a place without him.
We needed him, still do.

There is no rhyme or reason to have him, of all of us, to have suffered and died.  None.

Laurie I’m trying to lift.
I know you will survive this loss, that you are strong, that you are a terrific person – why else would you and Leroy have been together ?

We are all just passing through this world together, we come and we go.  We all do.  But this doesn’t make losing Leroy any easier.

It’s been wonderful to have Leroy and this blog, and to have you join in. Thanks be to him and to you.

I hope hard that you will write again and again, and I also understand if you don’t.
However, you handle this transition is something I respect.  Do what is good, the best you can for yourself.  Be gentle with you.

I can’t receive any reply from you, just as I didn’t from Leroy. It made writing odd.   But I am most grateful for his courage and yours and our ” correspondance,”

I wonder we spend our growing up year and our growing older years becoming strong enough to bear what is coming?  I often think that.

Laurie know that people care.  I do.

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Cindy Antonelli
EMAIL: cinjohn@ec.rr.com
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 08/24/2008 08:11:03 PM
Dear Laurie,
I just checked your blog after not reading it for 10 days.  You and Leroy have been an inspiration.  My father was diagnosed with neuroendocrine cancer in January.  Leroy gave me hope.  If he can survive with cancer, maybe my dad can too.  I’m so sorry to hear Leroy died.  My father also died on August 12th – just 6 days after his 73rd birthday.  I hope they meet in Heaven.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 09/03/2008 07:21:47 PM
Dear Laurie,

I’m reading your blog now, just as I read Leroy’s and yours and Leroy’s.  I am assuming you read our comments.

Thank you for writing, the message about moving back into the world, saying how important it is to say I love you in living time and your blog of today that I’m yet to read helps.

My husband is  going back to MDA for more radiation soon, the beast is raising hell and I’m scared.

Know that you are very important to me and all of us.

Thanks for your courage and stay strong.
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 09/05/2008 03:49:22 PM
Laurie,

I wonder what your meeting about Leroy was about…let us correspondents know if you can.

Other wise, good for you!!  You are very strong, and a tribute to Leroy. He knew it every day, in every way.
penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny Freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 09/17/2008 12:38:21 PM
Dear Laurie,

I just read your eating ice cream alone blog and continue to appreciate you and your writing greatly.
Thank you.

This journey is so odd, one can make no sense of it.
Waking in the morning and for an instant “it’s fine”
then the dread and overwhelming grief.

We’ve been in route on our journey for two years, nothing to compare to your and Leroy’s seven but still a while knowing all the time there is no cure.

Then, out of the blue yesterday I had a good cry in the shower thinking and saying out loud, “It can’t be him, it can’t happen to HIM .”   Totally irrational.

But then grief is not rational. It’s an altered state of being…sort of like a mental illness, or disorder.  I once read that in the early newness of falling in love one is in a state of mental disorder…walking on air and all the rest.  Fantastic.

We humans seem to survive it all, as you will.  You are an incredibly strong woman, such a very good person, I’m reaching out to you and so hope you know it.

Cheering you on every day, in every way.

penny
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: penny freppon
EMAIL: penny.freppon@uc.edu
IP: 172.31.2.5
URL:
DATE: 09/26/2008 08:27:45 PM
Dear Laurie,

As we prepare to return to MD Anderson in Houston in just 3 days, I continue to read your bloggs, the stuff about empty bags that held medicine to battle cancer, your open wound and the eventual healing that will come, and the scar that will endure for the rest of your life.   It does me good to continue to correspond with you, as odd as it is with no direct communication.
Again, I thank you and hope you are well.  Keep up the good work; I have no doubt that it is a great deal of work to morn, to grieve as you are.
As usual, penny,
wishing you oceans of energy and continued.

——–
Commentary: Breaking the News
DATE: 06/26/2006 06:37:00 AM
—–
BODY:
The following is a commentary from Morning Edition, June 26, 2006:”How are you?” That’s one of those throwaway lines, just part of the ritual. You don’t really need to answer.  But I was at a party recently, and when a woman I know reasonably well asked how I was, I froze. Because the honest answer would have been, “Not too well. Cancer, a lot of it. Chemo makes me sick most days. Prognosis: not so good.” Not exactly party chitchat.

By now, most of my friends know about my cancer, but not all. In that moment, I didn’t know if this woman knew. So what to say?

I hesitated for only a second or two, although it seemed like much longer. Then I said something vague like, “Pretty good, how are you?” To this day, I have no idea if she knew I was sick, and was really asking how I was, or if she was just being polite.

When I was first diagnosed, I called some very close friends and e-mailed others. I hated doing that; it just seemed too impersonal. But to be honest, I was having trouble getting through those early conversations. It was bad news. Bad for them to hear, bad for me to say. You can’t really back into something like that. So I just sort of bulled my way through, “Listen, I have some bad news.” A number of friends broke down in tears, and I found myself comforting them, which seemed an odd role reversal.

Some people even have trouble saying the word “cancer.” When I had it the first time about five years ago, I was getting a CAT scan, and the technician said cheerfully, “well, we’re looking for ‘C.A.’ today.” I had no idea what she was talking about. Turned out she couldn’t, or wouldn’t, say the word. Cancer. But it’s just a disease. We have to be able to talk about it.

That first time I was still working at Nightline, and had to hold a staff meeting to tell everyone at once. That was tough. There were tears as I looked around the room at my friends and colleagues. I tried not to make eye contact, because it seemed important to me to not break down. I needed to let them know that it would all be OK.

These days I pretty much have it down to a science. I have different versions of my story. A really honest, detailed one for close friends, whom I want to know the truth, all of it. For people I barely know, but who are kind enough to ask, I have a version that’s pretty vague. I’m not sure they want to know everything. I don’t want to share it all with everyone either. And then I have a couple of versions in between.

It’s still difficult to tell people for the first time. I believe honesty’s important. But… there’s honesty, and then there’s honesty. I tell people as much as I think they want, or that they can handle. And I worry about becoming boring, that cancer is the only thing I talk about. I still want to talk about Iraq, politics, the latest plot twists on 24 and the craziness of American Idol. The other day a friend said, “If I didn’t know you were sick, I wouldn’t know you were sick.” And that’s fine with me. I have things to do, a life to live. Cancer is not an excuse for quitting. So sometimes when people ask, “How are you?” the answer is just, “I’m OK.”
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Diana Sherman
DATE: 06/26/2006 10:33:00 AM
I just read the article in the St. Pete Times by Eric Deggans about your war with cancer.  I, too, have been fighting for two years now.  I was diagnosed with breast cancer, which spread to the liver, lymph nodes, and bones.  I underwent chemo for six months, then went into remission for another six months before those “tumor markers” started moving up again.  The second chemo was horrible &mdash; it didn’t work for me, and it seized up my bowel for a while, along with the usual mouth sores, etc.  The tumor markers continued to move up, and I insisted the doctor change the chemo.  He did finally, but then around Christmas, I noticed I was becoming increasingly dizzy.  It was difficult to continue working.  I was sent for a brain MRI which showed numerous spots of cancer!  I was devastated when the doctor told me that chemo doesn’t work on the brain.  I thought, if that was the case, why didn’t they periodically give me a brain MRI?  I had fourteen sessions of radiation of the brain, along with steroids, which puffed up my face!  It’s still puffy, and I hate the way I look!  I’m still getting chemo, but a lower dose.  My eyes are ruined by it, and I’m having problems with my teeth!  I had to leave my job and take early retirement disability.  I’m on a fixed income now that just covers my bills.  If Citizens Insurance hits me up for another horrendous increase, I’ll be forced to sell my house.  I’m a sixty-one-year-old female who raised two infants as a single mother.  I always had a sufficient income, but now I’ll be poor!  I see that I’m rambling &mdash; sorry &mdash; meant to make this short! Your comment about “quality of life” really hit home.  I think of my life before as the normal life.  Now it’s the abnormal life.  I’m always “waiting to exhale” after another test or doctor’s visit!  I got the results of my brain MRI from last week, and it showed only two spots remaining out of numerous spots.  I’m holding my breath for the October MRI and worrying that in the meantime, it will start up again!So after I got the results, I went out and bought the prescription sunglasses I needed.  You’re right about buying things &mdash; I haven’t bought myself any clothes in a long time! Wanted to let you know that when I was diagnosed in June 2004, all the doctors in the hospital looked at me like I was a goner.  My cancer was so widespread and my tumor markers were off the chart.  Even my oncology doctor tells me now that he didn’t expect me to live this long.  (He’s got to get me off chemo again because I’m so saturated with it, and my markers are down to forty-one!)  Remission time, I hope!  Please hang in there; it’s a roller coaster ride I wouldn’t wish on anyone.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Will Chrissley
DATE: 06/26/2006 10:36:00 AM
My wife is battling breast cancer and I wanted to offer you this website. After three bounds of chemo and radiation, it seems there is not much hope from a conventional view. Natural supplementation is the only other course. It is worth the read. I have started my wife on some of the products… I have placed this under “it cant hurt to try”. Good luck.
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Peter Angelo
DATE: 06/26/2006 10:51:00 AM
On February 2004, I had brain surgery for a myoblastoma multiforma.  I was told that most people die within six months. That was over two years ago.I had radiation after the surgery and have been on a regimen of Temodar for two years.  I just had an MRI and there is no cancer or tumor. I am normal except for the five days a month that I take the Temador.  Only the first day is uncomfortable, with vomiting in the morning.  After that, it really isn’t a problem. After the surgery I noticed that my loved ones and friends treated me as if they were at my wake ; as if I were already dead.  That is no longer the case.  I am back to normal life and they are simply amazed that I am so healthy.  I’m not amazed at all. I never considered myself sick; ever. I have been here to see my first grandson born (on my birthday), and I just came from my eldest grand daughters’ thirteenth birthday party. I was in stage IV with the most virulent brain cancer there is, and I am “cured.” My doctor, Dr. Gade, at Morton Plant Hospital, has proven to me that the healthcare system works.  I am not rich and had no insurance; yet I am receiving top care.Your “chemo” sounds debilitating.  Temador has never been more than a mild nuisance; less than a week of menstruating. Here’s to both of us.Ain’t life grand?
—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Free Polazzo
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:02:00 AM
Thanks for writing about how you broke the news to your community about your cancer.  It’s a commentary on our society’s fear of death that we are dealing with ; IMHO.I also was diagonosed with cancer and I chose to tell everyone I knew, except my customers, about my diagnosis and the prognosis.  I used the internet to tell my friends and family.  Some replied and others did not.   Some visited and others did not.   After each visit with my oncologist, I would write to my “list” and tell them what had happened.   Part of the reason for doing so was to help educate the people I knew about how cancer is treated and how one can deal with it.   I may not be a Lance Armstrong, but we all can be models for others by not hiding our reality. We are the people who face death, more than the rest of us.   We are not able to pretend that we won’t ever die.  Or pretend that we can put off dealing with what is important to us unitl “later.”  Because there may be no later.   Of course, anyone on my list could have died well before me.  Car accidents kill way more people than cancer does.  My biological dad died from a fall in his shower that gave him a blood clot.  He died the same day, while in the second emergency room, awaiting treatment for his bruised head.  🙁 Not many of us can deal with the reality that we will be dying… later or sooner.   I was “fortunate” in that my family is made up of survivors, and children of survivors of the holocaust. I grew up hearing about death every day. I learned that every day was the last day of the rest of my life.   The problem with that outlook is that your retirement fund doesn’t look so good when you make it to sixty!  So keep up the writing.  Tell us what it’s like to face death every day, while others are in denial.  We need to be there for each other in the moment.  Nobody really knows when they will pass on.  And nobody should have to handle this alone.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Tom
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:09:00 AM
In October 1979, I discovered that I had melanoma cancer of the lymph system. Doctors said I had only six months to live! What kept me alive for twenty-seven years? Good medical care in Helsinki Finland Hospitals, kind and caring family and friends, and the prayers of Christians from many parts of the world. This gave me a positive attitude to plan to live and not plan to die. Now over twenty-seven years later I am still alive with no cancer. A positive attitude is very necessary to overcome cancer of any disease, but I believe the prayers of hundreds of friends were the main factor in my recovery.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sharie Stranathan
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:17:00 AM
Keep on handling things just the way you are.  It has to be your way or no way at all.  I had cancer in 1994. I remember all too well having to tell people. Telling my parents was the worst.  I remember the process of who to tell and who not to tell. I really didn’t feel it was everyone’s right to know.My three children were very small. Just four, two, and nine months. The struggle to protect them was the most important thing to me.  I am okay now. The kids were actually shocked when they found out. They had no idea at the time. They just spent almost one entire summer at Grandma’s house. That felt like winning to me… that I protected them so thoroughly! Now we live in the very real reality that the cancer could, probably will, re-emerge sometime. But the battle is fought one minute, hour, day, month; sometimes years at a time.  Each one is a gift and a victory.  Live well!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Susan Lindau
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:23:00 AM
Last year, I had what was to have been a perfectly routine endoscopy; the examination of the opposite end of the colonoscopy.  As I regained consciousness, the MD told me that she had found a “mass” and that I should immediately go for a CT scan.  What’s a “mass”?  After all, she didn’t use the word “cancer”, and it wasn’t until my primary care MD called me to tell me the names of the surgeon and oncologist with whom I should immediately schedule appointments, that I realized they were telling me I had cancer.  I understand exactly the experience Leroy Sievers is describing.  Because I am single, I felt a great deal of pressure to create an “army of handholders”; people who would be with me through the cutting-edge treatment that I received.  There were friends who supported me through chemo, all the prep for surgery and even the awful chemo after surgery.  Other people couldn’t tolerate my needs and simply dropped out.  Out of all the processes through which I progressed to reach my current state of good health, there was one major change in my life.  My sisters, with whom I have had a cordial but not close relationship, were with me when I was at my most vulnerable. I had a brush with my own mortality.The most important change out of discovering how short life really is, is my willingness to respect what really matters: true friends and loving sisters.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Betty New
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:26:00 AM
My husband, Herbert New, had lung cancer last year, brain cancer 4 mg diagnosed two weeks ago. He had a Vanderbilt neurosurgeon take the cancer from the cerebellum (21 stitches). This surgery was June 23. He came home yesterday, June 25, and is like a new man. We both know it was not a long time but it is comforting to see a two-day turnaround. He is retired Army, bronze and silver star, purple heart, and never gives up. I am able to be strong just by seeing him each day and each hour. I hope this will give someone else hope for quality of life. I overheard a lady at Vanderbilt say, “I believe because it is so damn hard not to.” I agree.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sharon Hindus
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:30:00 AM
I am a lung cancer survivor diagnosed with advanced non-small cell lung cancer on Jan. 3, 2002.  My favorite saying is, “I’m not dying of lung cancer, I’m living with it.”  My friends, family and I have been fighting this disease.  I’ve gone from a terminal illness to a chronic one.  My doctor told me at my last visit that he thought I was in remission.  I never thought that I’d hear that.  Now, what to do with the rest of my life?  Since January 2006, Ive become a phone buddy for the Lung Cancer Alliance – I talk to five people right now.  It’s always very rewarding even though sometimes scary and sad.Leroy, thank you for making your journey with cancer a public one.  It’s so important for all of us to understand that dealing with a life-threatening disease doesn’t just impact people physically.  It’s not just about the chemo (although some days it is) &mdash; it’s about being a cancer survivor and going on with your life.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sandra Yudilevich
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:32:00 AM
Allowing yourself to love and be loved! What a gift to give to yourself and to others. Will be thinking about you &mdash; particularly as my very good friend, recently diagnosed with cancer, allows me to continue to befriend her.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Anne
DATE: 06/26/2006 11:53:00 AM
Thank you for your honest and quite correct view on living with cancer. It’s a part of life, your life, but so is the jam-up in traffic this morning, the funny thing the cat did, and your next scan appointment.  It’s not (and shouldn’t be) your entire life. Eighteen years of oncology nursing has taught me that.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Mary Stewart
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:01:00 PM
Leroy,Thanks for doing this.  I am a cancer survivor for twenty-plus years.  It’s okay now for me but when I was going through it, no one would talk about it.  People need to know that it is okay to talk. I will be reading…
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Dan Robbins
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:07:00 PM
I just read your column (then heard on the air it a few minutes later) in which you describe how you tell people about your cancer.A couple of years ago, I began my trip on a similar learning curve. In my case, it was an advanced squamous cell carcinoma at the base of my tongue.To a large extent, I agree with you about telling people no more than we think they can handle. But, I also think that we have a certain obligation to draw them; the people whom we don’t think can handle “full disclosure”, into the light of honesty and openness about this disease.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Terri Driscoll
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:17:00 PM
Thank you for using your talents to articulate events and emotions that for some of us cancer survivors is difficult and cumbersome to write about.You are in my thoughts and prayers. Fight the good fight.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Didier
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:19:00 PM
I was very touched hearing your letter on NPR this morning. I am very lucky not to be in the same predicament, but if I ever find myself there, I hope I will have the strength of character to handle it as well as you do. I wish the very best for you.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Gerald Jerry
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:23:00 PM
Done that! 2002 colon, PET, CAT, Ultra Sound, chemo, scopes out the *.*, surgery, bag, more surgery, no bag, more chemo.  I told concerned friends this disease was nothing more than a pimple and it would heal.  I do know now is the time to be concerned and to be current on all the tests.  Best of luck to you and most of all, be positive.  Your radio piece was absolutely dead on.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Loren Ray
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:47:00 PM
My mother just died of metastatic cancer on June 3rd, and I want to tell you how I loved your story. Even though it was my mom who had the cancer diagnosis, I found both her and I had the same difficulty you are describing about telling people about the cancer. Certainly I still pause when people ask me “How are you?”, because I haven’t yet healed from it all. Thank you for letting your audience hear what you have to say. It really helps us and I hope you get some benefit as well.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Susan Beadle
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:49:00 PM
I was on my way to work following my daily 7:30 a.m. radiation when I heard Leroy’s piece. My hair is just growing back after four months of chemotherapy and as it does, it’s made me wonder about the resiliency of the human bodyand also about the resiliency of the breast cancer cells that were discovered during a routine mamogram last December. My goal during chemo was just to get through it as I found it so debilitating.  Now that chemo is over, I’ve faced the long-term question of survival.  I have a very good prognosis and I chose aggressive treatment so I have every reason to be hopeful. On occasion however, fear creeps in.Leroy, I look forward to following your story and am hopeful for your outcome as well.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Maryann
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:52:00 PM
Thank you for sharing something as personal as your battle with cancer.  I am not sure if it was true of the other wars you have covered as a journalist, but I am sure that this coverage will contribute to our winning this war.  We need to raise awareness so that resources are used to win. Again, thank you and good luck!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Donna Schaper
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:54:00 PM

After my breast cancer five years ago (November 15 is my fifth anniversary), I had to write. I had to write about all the gifts that came my way.  I wrote a little book “HOLY VULNERABILITY: A SPIRITUAL PATH THROUGH CANCER”, which is published by ACTA.  It allowed me to talk about the gifts that came to me as a parish pastor, working in a parish where I was supposed to be taking care of them! What a reversal. And what a time of grace it was for me.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Frank Carbone
DATE: 06/26/2006 12:55:00 PM
Thank you for your contribution to Morning Edition today.  I had started to block the radio waves after the Iraq militia story.My first cancer was in 1992 when I was twenty-nine (I have the honor to be the only person in medical literature to have NHL and then Hodgkins).  I had forgotten the awkwardness of “telling”, multiple storylines for parents, siblings, friends, aquaintances and neighbors having to tell staff.  My mother recently died and as I was comforting strangers and family. I also remembered the ironic role reversals life requires at times. Maybe we do only get what we can handle.  I’m sending positive energy towards Baltimore.  Best to you.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Joyce Schroeder
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:01:00 PM
I’ve heard people say, “Cancer is the best thing that ever happened to me.”  I can’t say that.  What I can say is cancer is an opportunity for a new life, not a death sentence.  I’ve grown and those around me have grown in response to my illness.   Someone gave me a great piece of advice when I found out my diagnosis.  She said, “80% of getting well is what the doctors do, 20% is what you do.”  Keeping that in mind,  I started voice lessons.  I auditioned for a chorale group, rehearsed with them every week, and performed at a glorious Christmas concert.  I joined a support group and worked on my spiritual life.  My company was great.  I worked from home and went to the office when I could.    I brought friends and family with me to my chemo treatments and we played games.  Sometimes we laughed so much, we got strange looks from the other patients and their families. To the outside world, I didn’t look sick. I kept up my appearance and wore the best wig.  I looked so good, people who didn’t know I was sick would comment on my new hair style.>I finished my last chemo treatment in December. I am back at work full time and I began an online graduate program.  Having cancer gets your priorities straight.  You realize what is important.  You can’t worry about the future because you lose the beauty of the present moment. Although I am in remission, I can’t help but view the world through the lens of cancer.  I feel like I have joined a club that I never wanted to join.  But I am so impressed by its members.  Their stories, like Mr. Sievers’, remind me to stay the course and welcome this blip in my life as an opportunity for a more glorious life.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jewell Nagy
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:03:00 PM
Thank you for the comments ; your comments are “right on” and I know, because I have cancer too.Twenty-eight months ago (March 17, 2004 at 11:22 e.s.t.) I was told I have Multiple Myeloma &mdash; cancer of the plasma cell.I am glad you are beating the odds as hope you will continue to tell us about your journey.I especially like the “do they know” conversation when someone asks “how you are”. You never know whether they want the “truth” or just the polite “fine.”I am very frank about my cancer ; tell everyone whatever they want and never hide the fact.  I also like the consoling story &mdash; happens so much, you try to make them feel better about your cancer. Heres a neat article along that line.Thanks and catch up with you later.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Kerry Kleiber
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:09:00 PM
I’m a Catholic Eucharist minister who takes the Eucharist to shut-ins. Ive had two people pass away in the past two months. (I think about now, there’s some who don’t want to hear that I’m on my way.)The point I want to make, however, is that both of these people knew they didn’t have long to live on this earth. However, both of them continued living every day. Sort of like the Leroy’s friend said, you wouldn’t know they were dying if you didn’t know they were dying.Although at fifty-seven, I certainly hope that I have many years to live. I know that it might end even before I finish this. In some sense, everyone needs to be aware of this. Not, mind you, to dwell on it nor to stop you from living, but, rather, to make living more meaningful.I hope what I’m saying is making sense. There are times when I talk about this subject, I really don’t know…
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ira Mintz
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:11:00 PM
I was at a party just yesterday and when someone asked how I was, I didn’t know what to say.  They found a mass on my kidney in April and I had it removed in May.  I have been very open about it at work and at a Jewish school that I lead.  Cancer shouldn’t be a dirty word.  It’s what is happening to millions of people every day.  If I had a broken leg in a cast, I wouldn’t be hesitant to talk about it.  But to tell someone who hardly knows you at a party seems to be a big downer and is probably more than they were asking for when they posed the casual “How are you”?  On the other hand, when someone asks me how I’m doing, my cancer is exactly what takes over my mind, so to say “fine” just doesn’t feel honest.  I too find myself saying, “OK,” or “Not bad.”  So I am still trying to find the balance between wanting to be honest and not wanting to be too self-absorbed.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sheara Whalley
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:17:00 PM
In my twenty-five-plus years of listening to NPR stories, yours has been the first to move me to respond. Every phrase in your story, and in your previous posts, rings true with my own experiences as a “newbie” to this world… I’m presently undergoing chemotherapy for an advanced cancer diagnosis three and a half months ago. Learning to live with this disease is indeed all-consuming at first, and an entirely new life perespective from here on out. I look forward to all of your future broadcasts.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jolie Rosenberg
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:18:00 PM
Leroy, wishing you the best that you can be. I’m a cancer survivor of eighteen years and know the struggle of chemo. Try taking yourself out of yourself by meditating. That’s what I did, and it helped. I, like you, wanted to be treated “normally” and didn’t want to talk only about my health. I understand your feelings.Know I’ll be thinking of you! I’ve enjoyed your journalism over the years.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ann Blesz
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:23:00 PM
I feel very fortunate to have been one of the thousands of nurses that have administered chemo and held washbasins (emesis pans are way too small!) for the endless vomiting and retching. Thank god for the lovely men and women who researched and trialed ondansetron (Zofran), the real wonder drug of the ’90s! I have swept hair off of the pillow so it doesn’t end up in the eyes or mouth. I have badgered patients to rinse their mouth with the best remedy of all: salt water rinses, to prevent all-consuming mouth sores. I love this work. I have cried, laughed’ and prayed with the finest people I have ever known. We share recipes, how to raise teenagers, and how (not) to buy a prom dress. I have held mothers my own age as they kiss their sons good bye and I have listened to a heartbeat speed up as a husband listened to his wife whisper in his ear that she loved him… I have also had to deflect the questions of: “Why do you do this? How can you do this? Isnt it hard?” I have tried NOT to do this work, and I gravitate back to my first love in nursing, even if it is having the recurring dream of having to give my own husband Adriamyacin (a cheery koolaid looking chemo that gives cancer patients the willies, because it is so potent). I do not, nor do my fellow oncology nurses feel, we are “special”. I may have been called. I might have fallen into it naturally, or by accident. But I love it dearly. I have learned more from my patients than I have ever given to them.  I promise to them as I throw confetti in the air on their last treatment day, or as I am pushing a syringe of morphine to ease their pain that I will never forget them. I thank them for how much they taught me. I tell them I will miss them. I tell them that they are now a part of me, and I will take them with me to the next patient I serve. What a legacy they leave me! I consider myself blessed.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Shelley List
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:49:00 PM
I’m glad you’re blogging your cancer. I have many parallel experiences, and some that are distinctly different: my blog is “Crazy Little Thing Called Breast Cancer.”
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Carl Strand
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:52:00 PM
I’m a thirteen year survivor of laryngeal cancer and I, too, had it twice.  I am a laryngectomee and speak with a voice prosthesis.  But, the important point is that cancer or being a cancer survivor does not define me.  A good many of my laryngectomee acquaintances are defined by their cancer and I think that’s sad.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Hwei Yin
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:54:00 PM
I used to hate that question too.  My answer was to chuckle and say, “Oh, I’m working on it,” or “Well, you know me… I’m a work in progress,” or if I was feeling existentialist, I would just say, “I am… are you?  Well then, pleased to be!”

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sherry Wall
DATE: 06/26/2006 01:59:00 PM
You are so on the money; “cancer opens up a whole new world: a parallel universe… like the regular world, but it’s very, very different.”Even those of us who have not been diagnosed with “terminal” cancers (and you will now be included on my prayer list) sometimes live with the “chronic” side effects of adjuvant cancer drugs which may or may not prevent recurrences.  I often wonder, why should I take these if there are no guarantees?  In my case, I’m very sensitive to the cancer drug(s) I take, so I take drugs to counteract the side effects and on and on, ad nauseam.  And after a while when people ask how am I, all I want to respond is “okay”, because even I get tired of hearing about my cancer “war stories.”So why do I continue if there are no guarantees and when I personally question the efficacy of my cancer drug?  I have children and grandchildren,  and I have to be able to say to them, “I do what I can to be here with you to celebrate weddings, first homes, baby showers, promotions, first days of school, games, parties”; you understand;the “life events” that come with having a family or friends. And then too, I say to my God, for whatever perverted reason, I’ve been closer to you with my pain than without.  Cancer has been/is a paradox in my, yes, “parallel universe ; but very, very different.”
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Howard Paul
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:02:00 PM
When my father was in the third grade (this would be about 1923) he mentioned at the dinner table that his class at school had a substitute teacher.  His mother asked why the regular teacher was out, and he stated that she was ill with cancer.  His mother jumped up from the table and ran around and grabbed him by the collar and dragged him into the kitchen, where she literally washed his mouth out with soap.  She made it absolutely clear to him that no one, most especially not a child, was allowed to say that word out loud.When something’s name cannot be spoken, that gives that something a power that is awesome.  One of the many things I loathed about Ronald Reagan was the fact that it was not until his second term of office that the word “AIDS” finally passed his lips.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Tom
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:03:00 PM
My dad died from cancer when I was fifteen, my mom last year when I was thirty-five. One of my memories of my dad’s illness is that whenever he was asked how he was doing the answer was “pretty good” and oftentimes he managed a brief smile to go along with it, almost as if he was trying to convince all of us. One time while he was hemorrhaging, the ER doc asked how he was doing… same response, “pretty good.” Doc said, “I dont think so,” and we actually got a little chuckle out of it. Mom, on the other hand, always told you exactly how she was. I would cringe when someone asked “hi, how are you?” Even on her good days the response was pretty grim.Some will tell you that once you have been diagnosed with cancer that it becomes your life. This should not be. After my mom’s diagnosis, she was a cancer patient, and then a cancer survivor, a cancer patient once again and finally a cancer victim. This shouldn’t be &mdash; she was a mom, a teacher and a grandmother that happened to have cancer. For seven years Mom thought of herself as a cancer patient and none of these other things seemed to matter. I lost my mom to cancer seven years before she died.  As you said, you have a life to live and things to do.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Joni Ramsey
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:15:00 PM
I was diagnosed with breast cancer five years ago. After surgery, chemo, and radiation, I was cancer-free for about two years. When the cancer came back it moved into my liver and bones, as well as my chest wall. I’ve tried multiple chemos and targeted therapies during the past three years. Some have helped for a short period of time’ others have done nothing. I decided I have “smart” cancer it figures out how to mutate and become drug-resistant pretty fast. I have a wonderful oncologist and benefit from the incredible people at my local Gildas Club.When I was first diagnosed with cancer, I thought that I’d be cancer-free after treatment or die because it didn’t work. The real world is much more gray, isn’t it?I hate the side effects of treatment and the endless doctors appointments, but most of all I hate to see the people I love suffer because of my disease. My husband worries endlessly, but tries to remain the optimist. My eleven-year-old daughter just tries to be eleven.I have benefited greatly from cancer also. I’m much more focused on “today” and have been able to let go of many things that really arent that important (like housework!).I recently went on anti-depressants after five years. It has become too difficult living at the edge under my own power. “I have become comfortably numb,” as Pink Floyd says.I’m seeing my oncologist tomorrow morning. I had scans last week and learned on Friday that the Phase I clinical trial that I had been on wasn’t working. More choices, none of them too great probably. Cancer sucks. Take care of yourself.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Terre Cavalier
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:18:00 PM
Thank you for your story this morning.  I, myself, was diagnosed with thyroid cancer this past week. I’m having my thyroid taken out tomorrow.  It’s been interesting telling close friends; what to tell, what not to tell, who to tell. I could relate very well to your story.  There is a very good chance they will get all of the cancer, so I am not so worried.  Anyway, I, like you, feel that I am on the course of life and can’t stop living.  I think that is important to get across.  I also have also told my friends not to feel sorry for me, dote on me and call me three time a day.  I want to talk about other than health issues, since they seem to go on and on about their own now. Thanks again and I hope to keep up with your articles here on-line.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Rosemary Delaney
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:27:00 PM
I was very touched by Mr. Sievers’ report.  I understand exactly how he felt.  I was just recently diagnosed with CML (chronic myloid leukemia), and the hardest part was letting my friends and loved ones know about my diagnosis.  I am not someone who likes to draw attention to myself except if it is for a laugh, so this was exceptionally hard.   I can say cancer &mdash; I have worked with cancer for a good part of my professional career, which is very ironic. I do find that when I talk to my mom and sister it makes them more comfortable if I say “blood disorder.”  Thank you for your report.  I look forward to more.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Baarbara Mitchell
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:47:00 PM
I wish you the best of luck with your cancer. All I can say is, learn all you can about your disease and ask questions and talk to as many experts as you can to benefit from the different answers they will inevitably give you.  Search some of the well-respected like Healthcare from MD Anderson Hospital and the one from the Mayo Clinic; both of which are excellent. They both have a vast network of resources and strong following from other readers with their own creative solutiions.  Above all, dont give up; new ideas are being presented to the medical community almost daily.  Look into cllinical trials and see if any of them are applicable for you.  Gather your friends and family and let them help be your ears and eyes.  Just taking charge of your treatments can be beneficial.  Eat well and healthy. Take small getaways to see nature (visit a botanic garden or the seashore).  Keep a positive attitude… every little bit helps.   I too am a cancer survivor and undergoing chemo and before this happened, was a nurse of many years working with cancer patients.   Those who appeared the most content were those who felt they were taking control of their disease, continuing to make friends, continiuing to care about what was happening to others around the city and the world, and most of all, keeping themselves surrounded by a large and even growing number of supportive friends.  People want to reach out and help you… let them.  That in itself helps form and keep bonds.  Don’t feel that you are any different than you were before you were diagnosed.  You are the same person &mdash; only now stronger because you have seen another side of life up close.  Cheers mate, keep up the good fight and I hope to be in contact with you five or ten years down the road.  I think the goal for both of us is to get our disease down to the smallest bit possible and boost our natural immune systems with healthy foods, activity, positive thoughts, etc and let our own healthy cells fight the remnants of disease that medicine cant.  My mantra is “I am healthy, my body is strong, and my cells know what to do”.  Please feel free to borrow it and share it with others.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Carol Ludden
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:50:00 PM
As someone with primary CNS lymphomia I appreciate the words of another person whose experience is similar to mine and commend you for this series.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: John Clark
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:53:00 PM
Thank you for sharing. I was recently (two weeks ago) diagnosed with cancer and already I’m sick to death of people being “supportive”; “You have to be strong!, you can beat this, etc. I haven’t even come to grips with the cancer yet and I’m having to listen to the incessant “cheerleading.” I do have a few friends that listen and care without feeling the need to tell me what I must do and they are so refreshing. For them, I’m as good as can be expected.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jane Alexander
DATE: 06/26/2006 02:55:00 PM
I wish you and all commenters on this site the very best.  I know that I’m one of the lucky ones &mdash; my breast cancer at age thirty-four was caught very early.  That was fifteen years ago.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Judith Guy
DATE: 06/26/2006 03:00:00 PM
I was most interested to hear your commentary on NPR today. My husband recently concluded his cancer blog after about fourteen months of posting (Confronting My Cancer). It was a great tool for sharing information, but it became a conduit for more than medical updates. People told me that they read his blog every day. I read it every day too, even though I presumably knew what he would be writing about. It was an amazing read, and his ability to articulate on the page became an important part of our on-going conversations about the present and the future.Lots of people thanked him for sharing his story, and for doing it so honestly and thoughtfully. I thank you for the same thing; I’ll be reading, listening, commiserating, and learning.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jackie Matlock
DATE: 06/26/2006 03:04:00 PM
My forty-two-year-old daughter was treated successfully for Hodgkins last year.  She in Germany, me in North Carolina.  She relied on her dear friends and great physician for her needs.  Soon after her diagnosis, a good friend age seventy-four was diagnosed with lung cancer and passed away within six months, now another good friend is starting treatment for melanoma. All these women are stronger than they ever imagined possible.  My role as I see it, is to help keep life normal in the ways it can be but to understand what was said about it never being the same again.  A friend supports all manner of modes and needs, and must be ready to “be there” what ever is needed and to do it with love, compassion and always with the awareness that you can’t begin to imagine how they really feel.  Just love the patient, be aware and help where you can.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Dan Bammes
DATE: 06/26/2006 03:09:00 PM

You sound like a person of very strong will.  You vow to “fight like hell,” and considering the circumstances, that’s probably the right approach.  But practitioners of jiujitsu know that you can fight by using an opponents’ strength to your advantage. I’m coming up on three years since a stem cell transplant put my cancer into remission, and what’s amazing is how the momentum of that battle has propelled me in directions I never guessed.  If I had insisted that everything go my own way, I would have closed myself to experiences and people who have made my life richer.  Cancer (multiple myeloma) has changed my life, but many of the changes are good and welcome.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Constance Longacher
DATE: 06/26/2006 03:14:00 PM
I couldn’t believe it when I was told I had cancer.  After all, I had always done all the right things:  eaten right, exercised, never smoked, drank maybe one drink every two-three months or so, etc.  My first thought after I heard the news was, “I’m going to die”.  My second thought after realizing my face was going to be carved up was, “I’m going to scare my grandchildren”.  That was all nine years ago.  After chemo therapy, radiation therapy, and major surgery on my head and face, I can report that neither of my two thoughts have come true, at least not yet.  One never knows the next chapter with cancer, but so far I’m living happily and wholly as a cancer surviver.  When I expressed concern to my surgeon on a subsequent checkup that the cancer might recur, he said, “No one can say for sure that any cancer will never recur.  But I can tell you that if you let the fear of cancer recurring consume you, cancer will have beaten you whether or not it ever comes back.”  I have tried to live each day since with the thought that I am alive now, feel wonderful, and thats all I’m guaranteed in any event.  Thank God for excellent and caring doctors and nurses.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Joe McCarthy
DATE: 06/26/2006 03:35:00 PM
I agree with your observation that “it’s just a disease. We have to be able to talk about it.”My wife was diagnosed with stage 1 anal cancer a year ago, and we faced similar dilemmas about who knows what, and how much people wanted to know.  We suspected a number of people wanted to know more, but were afraid to ask.I decided to start blogging about the cancer, not only as a form of therapy for myself, but as a means of opening up the lines of communication; figuring that if people knew I was blogging about it publicly, we’d be happy (well, at least willing, depending on the context) to talk privately about it with friends and family.The blog itself opened up new communication channels (through comments and email) both with existing friends and family and with new friends; people who discovered the blog &mdash; just as you are making new friends through your willingness to be open, honest and vulnerable through the series you started today.As far as we (and the doctors) can tell, the cancer is in remission and my wife continues to heal from the treatment.   Best wishes to you and all the others reading and writing on this blog thread ; may you rise to meet the challenges before you!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jeri Magid
DATE: 06/26/2006 03:59:00 PM
My husband is going through his second bout with cancer &mdash; first one in 1992, second was just diagnosed in March of this year.  We are still in the process of treatment.  On the way from the hospital to work I was listening to NPR and heard your story.  I thought that this could be a good way for me to have an alliance with someone going through the same thing and for me to just vent.It goes without saying how I wish you the very best. Its amazing to me how after fourteen years between cancers the feeling and fears are still so fresh.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Janis Fitzgerald
DATE: 06/26/2006 04:01:00 PM
Every time I hear your stories, I am in tune to everything you say and express.  I, too, am a cancer survivor. Age forty-one, mother of twin five-year-old boys.  People think that living with cancer that we are brave or have some special insight on life, or even worse, that we deserved it somehow.  When we share our stories it truly helps other cancer survivors out there. As long as we are alive we are survivors.Thank you for sharing.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: George Brandt
DATE: 06/26/2006 04:06:00 PM
I was shocked to learn, just before Christmas, that I had Prostate cancer. I will never forget the empty, panicky feeling that engulfed me upon hearing, what I considered to be a death sentence. My sister had brain cancer and died a year after her diagnosis, so I thought that I was doomed. Fortunately, I had excellent medical advice and a supportive family to help me through the process of dealing with my cancer. There were several treatment options to deal with the cancer and I agonized over the decision. I settled on a plan that provided for twenty-five external beam radiation treatments and then surgery to insert about one hundred radioactive seeds into my prostate gland. The process was unsettling, but the professionals at The Gibbs Cancer Center at Spartanburg Regional Medical Center were superb. I only missed one day of work and I never felt bad. I feel guilty about this when I read or hear about the experiences of others. I would also like to say that my friends (and total strangers) have been great. I do not know what the future holds for me. I hope that I am cured, but I will not know for sometime. In the meantime, I live my life and ignore my cancer. However, I do keep on my desk and on the wall in my kitchen, a heavy metal insert that was made specifically to allow the radiation to be properly administered to me. I want the physical reminder in front of me all the time to remind me to live a full life.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Anita Joy
DATE: 06/26/2006 04:40:00 PM
Telling people at the beginning was not the issue for me; I was incredibly upbeat, and it has been nearly ten years.  But during that ten years have been a host of other “chronic” illnesses including another type of cancer.  My friends and family treat me like a regular person, which is good, but also expect me to be tough, perky, and informed; which I can not always be.  Lately I have been plain old depressed, and friends and family just dont understand that.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Terri Dilts
DATE: 06/26/2006 04:44:00 PM

Thank you for sharing your story. I was listening to NPR this morning (as usual) when “your cancer” caught my attention. I’m real in tune to cancer stories, ready to hear/read about the latest and greatest, wondering how it relates to me. I, too, am dealing with a second diagnosis of cancer. A metastatist of breast cancer to my spine, skull and hip. The good news is that none of my vital organs are involved yet. Though I have difficulty processing that “metastitist is incurable,” I haven’t asked “how long.” I just want to focus on a quality of life as long as possible. I have two relatively young girls (14, 11) to raise to adults. I’ve recently completed radiation, twelve rounds of chemo and am grateful to have my life back after that difficult time. I’m still a cancer patient, I go in every three weeks for cardiotoxic medicine. I take pills every day and all this I do to prolong my time here. “Breaking the news” ; I can relate to. We found out about my cancer most recent diagnosis in mid-December of 2005 and decided to wait until the new year to tell everyone, as this cancer cast such a cloud over our holidays, we didn’t want to share that with our loved ones. My stock reply now as to how I’m feeling is, “I’m hanging in there”. Thank you for your insights. Your blog speaks to me as well as for me. Though I am sad to have so many in our world, I am glad to have you to chat with. I wish a miraculous remission and cure for us all.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Susan Albrecht
DATE: 06/26/2006 04:56:00 PM
Like you say, we are all directly impacted by cancer. When my best friend was diagnosed with metastatic melanoma, I learned first-hand how hard and terrifying the cancer fight can be. My friend passed away, but I have other friends who have fought cancer and so far, won! I respect your efforts to help others through this blog.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Anonymous
DATE: 06/26/2006 05:04:00 PM

I heard your story on NPR this morning and because it resonated with me so much, I had to write. This is the first time I’m writing to anyone about it, that is, except for the one e mail, which I now regret sending, to two of my siblings to inform them of my diagnosis. Unfortunately for now, I must write under an assumed name and alternate e mail address for reasons I will explain. Perhaps sometime soon I can give you my real name. Maybe one of the few close friends and relatives who know my story will recognize it’s me but I hope others wont. I guess I’ll risk that for now, just to have the chance to talk to someone else. I can’t give you my name because I am about to look for a new job and ‘Im concerned that the news of my diagnosis could jeapordize the chances of finding that job. I am currently employed but I have no medical benefits and must look for a new one. I’m also concerned about what would happen if my current employer found out about my diagnosis. I think employers are not supposed to discriminate that way, but I’m sure they do. In fact, I know they do. That’s one of the reasons we should be talking and writing about this subject, to bring to light the fact that the diagnosis of cancer, especially certain types, doesn’t mean impending death and no matter what it means, many of us want to try to live a “normal” life in the meantime.  I’m actually one of the lucky ones, at least that’s what they tell me. This past December I was diagnosed with CML, a form of Leukemia which is currently being held at bay with a miracle drug. For now, other than the swelling around my eyes and a little bit of occasional stomach upset, I am otherwise symptom-free. While I was pretty scared for months after the diagnosis, it is now just starting to become a relatively mundane part of life. It seems so weird to be taking these pills once a day and see the doctor to have my blood drawn periodically, but not be feeling any pain or doing anything to fight this disease. I’m starting to get better at not thinking about it, but I know it’s there and I know the possibility exists that the meds could stop working and I could be in big trouble someday. For now, I must concentrate more than ever on just looking forward and hoping for the best. Prayer is helping too.Among the many challeges I faced these last few months, I left my job of twenty-seven years, voluntarily but under great pressure and duress. (Perhaps I’ll explain more about that in another writing.) Within two weeks of that event I was hospitalized with a punctured duodenum, the results of an ulcer I was unaware I had. The leukemia diagosis was only picked up after my hospital stay because my white cell count never became normal again even after I healed from the ulcer. Thank God for ulcers!I don’t like carrying this secret around. Like you I think, I don’t like telling people, some with whom I’m fairly close, that “I’m fine.” I mean, for now, I really am fine and compared to so many others, very lucky. But it still weighs on me. You know what I mean. Thanks so much for bringing this out of me. Perhaps we’ll talk/write some more. By the way, I’ll add your name to my prayers. I happen to believe it helps.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Bebbie Minter
DATE: 06/26/2006 05:06:00 PM
My husband was diagnosed twenty months ago with a moderately aggressive form of prostate cancer. We opted for the surgery, but the PSA went up. Thirty-nine radiation treatments later, it went up again. He took one Lupron shot a year ago, and it has not gone up again.They told us that the treatment they could offer is paliative rather than curative, and that the average time is five years. When well-meaning people whine, “Well, there are always miracles,” I smilingly respond, “Yes! It is a miracle that we found each other, that we have had eleven wonderful years together, and that we awaken each day to enjoy it. We are true believers in miracles!”Whenever one of us will leave this life, it will be too soon for us. But cancer has taught us some very valuable lessons, and we know that, no matter what, love never ends. We have learned how to treasure every moment with which we are blessed. I wish, pray and hope this miracle for every family living with cancer!
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Stephanie Dornbrook
DATE: 06/26/2006 05:15:00 PM
I completely identify with your comments on “How are you?”  It seems like such an innocent question, a mere formality.  Now, it is enough send me into a tizzy.  And there are times that I worry about it before a social event, and then breeze through it with no problems.  Thank you for writing so clearly about cancer.  I know I am not alone, but it is nice to have that affirmed.  I will keep reading.Pancreatic cancer, surgery, chemo and radiation.  I have only been able to receive 25% of my chemo due to low white blood cell count.  But each day, I wake up and see how I am doing.  For the most part, I feel great, now that I have recovered from the treatments.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Angelo Balistreri
DATE: 06/27/2006 08:56:00 AM
I thank you for your open commentary and your writings. Like you and many others, I am afflicted by cancer. It would have been impossible for me to say it straight when I was first diagnosed two years ago. What changed me, I don’t know, but I like it. I see life from a perspective I never did before. I discovered love and sympathy, happiness, and the meaning of deep sorrow. I have made so many dear friends at the UMC (Tucson, AZ) and I go see them even when I am not scheduled for chemo. I know just how they feel to see me when we both hug and look into our watery eyes. Is this the way God opened my eyes to the world? If so, be it. Wish everyone of you, my friends, nothing but the very best and God to be our guide.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jane Guttman
DATE: 06/27/2006 08:59:00 AM
Here are some thoughts: Bernie Siegel in Love, Medicine, and Miracles has said that no matter what kind of cancer you have, and no matter what happened to others with that cancer, you can survive!  Sounds to me like you are one of his so-called exceptional patients who expect to be well and to show proof by living.  I am in your corner and deeply believe that cancer can be survived.  Deepak Chopra says to get the diagnosis from your doctor, but not the prognosis.  Leave that to your wonderful immune system and to a higher being if you wish.  Perhaps you’ll include some natural therapies into your medical care.  I look forward to watching the blog for years to come!  Be well.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Amy Jo Stackawitz
DATE: 06/27/2006 09:03:00 AM
On not being able to say the c-word, I can relate. I had cervical cancer at twenty-six and still receive follow-up care. My encounter with people who do not want to say the c-word is a double whammy.  Besides people having a difficult time using the word cancer around me, saying the words cervical or vagina proved to be impossible for most. Friends asked how I was with “everything” while looking “down there.” A male co-worker asked about my plumbing and many just referred to it as my “woman issues.” I just call it what it is.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jessie
DATE: 06/27/2006 09:37:00 AM
I would just like to say how incredibly familiar your commentary on “Breaking the News” was for me. Last year my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer, and while it was difficult for me to watch while she suffered, it was also challenging to talk about it publicly. Even now, months away from chemo, I have trouble discussing it. Not knowing who knows what, and how much they can handle. I tend to launch into a bit, which involves glossing over the sickness with a positive spin. It’s just nice to know I’m not the only one who struggles with this. I wish you good luck and I think youre very brave to share you experience with us all. Thanks.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Bob Maimone
DATE: 06/27/2006 09:44:00 AM

I fall into the category of “recently diagnosed” among the respondents here, and found out last week that I have tumors in both rectum and liver. I don’t remember anything about the colonscopy I received, but found the gastroenterologists report the following morning on the dining room table with the words “RECTAL CA” in red letters.  Each subsequent visit for another scan and another consult last week gave news that was worse than the one before.  So as a person with cancer, you get the double-whammy of not only receiving bad news, but the added curse of how to convey it on to loved ones and coworkers.  Mr. Sievers’ story has hit my situation perfectly. Today, I’m in the process of having to tell a wider and wider circle of friends, co-workers, and customers of my situation. If anything, the process of telling others is helping me at least come to terms with the difficult battle that I’m only just starting. I’ve been able to tell people that I’m pretty sure that this is going to be the worst summer I’ve ever had, but I’m hoping that next summer will be a lot better.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Pamela Craig, MD
DATE: 06/27/2006 09:49:00 AM
I remember when my breast cancer was diagnosed, I found myself (I am an MD, PhD, and a breast surgeon) comforting others, too, when I told them of my diagnosis. I remember thinking, “Hey, I want the comfort and consolation.” Eventually, I talked and talked and let the word cancer (not C.A., which we often use glibly in the medical world) out frequently. I decided to diminish the power of the word by saying it often. I don’t know if it works. When I was in medical school thirty-plus years ago, we were supposed to learn to talk about patients sexual problems more openly (the ’70’s, I guess). I remember a young male classmate sitting next to me during porno movies which we were shown (they showed them to us medical students because the theory was, the more you saw, the less power it would have). After one or two he quickly excused himself saying that he couldn’t take this any more. Bottom line &mdash; there are some things that never lose their power no matter how much “exposure.” Cancer may be one of those things. My heart goes out to you.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Leslie
DATE: 06/27/2006 09:53:00 AM
All the best with your cancer treatments. This is scary stuff. Those of us in this large club of unwilling participants can pretty well understand what you are going through -? both the big picture and the smaller day-to-day details, like what to tell and how to tell your friends. The big picture: survival, life-threatening disease, and the treatment that each of us chooses to try to ensure life. I was diagnosed about a year and a half ago, and survival meant undergoing an aggressive chemo regimen. I continued to live my life as I could during treatment and was lucky enough to be able to work and exercise fairly regularly. I had good days and bad. On good days, I decorated my bald head with wigs of many styles and unnatural colors, and wore Batman and Barbie bandaids around all my fingers to protect my sore nails. On bad days, I was on the couch.I also remember filtering what I said to various people. Sometimes it seemed too tiring to get into the story with acquaintances, though family and friends often got more information than they may have wanted. I would always burst into tears upon first telling someone that I had cancer, probably because that reminded me again that I really did have the disease. Cancer has been an emotional and physical roller coaster, possibly with more ups than downs. I have made wonderful new friends, strengthened my love for family and old friends, been blown away by the generosity of my medical team, strangers and casual acquaintances. Coming eyeball to eyeball with my own mortality has forced me to reevaluate my life, get my priorities straight and focus on what?s important to me. That has been a huge benefit. I have made many small changes to my life, and it has become all the more rich and joyous because of that.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Audrey Burgess
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:01:00 AM
I wanted to say how much your experiences and thoughts, Leroy, reflect mine when I was diagnosed and then getting treatment. Listening to your essay today on NPR, I thought, “wow, I’ve been there.” I’m glad people ask, but it’s such an automatic question that, like you said, it’s impossible sometimes to know what they are really asking. My cancer resulted in a colostomy so when people would ask me how I was doing, I would always be tempted to pull the front of my pants down a bit to reveal my colostomy bag and ask them “how the hell do you think I’m doing?” Lots of anger. But you’re so right that you’ve got to gauge how much to tell depending on whos asking. And lots of times I don’t say anything even to close friends because I don’t want to be “cancer girl”. There’s nothing more tedious than someone who over-identifies with their illness. It was a struggle trying to re-establish my identity, and it was mainly myself that I had to convince. And now that I’ve been in remission for about a year, I have an ever-present fear that its going to happen again. It’s like, once the worst thing imaginable happens to you, you can’t go back to that innocent time when bad things only happened to “other people”. Thanks a lot for your essays. They are so validating! I wish you luck, happiness, warmth, and comfort—–
COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Richard Sharp
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:05:00 AM
Not a day goes by that I don’t think of the cancer I was diagnosed with almost ten years ago; the four reoccurrances, the surgeries at Sloan-Kettering as well of the growing dread of every three month CT scans.  I’ve lived almost 20% of my life in three month blocks and I find most people’s view of their unlimited future sweetly naive.  Cancer, to paraphrase the old joke, has a marvelous way of focusing your attention on what is most important; living.  Not so much on filling the day, but in appreciating it.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Sonja Howle
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:12:00 AM
It just sucks, doesn’t it?I’m also part of the NPR family – in corporate relations (KSTX in San Antonio).I’m also a two-time survivor.  I have a blog and someone e-mailed me and asked me to write about it.  I asked, as politely as I could via e-mail, “Well, who are you? and why would anyone care?”When he explained that he was a gentleman in his ’60s who lost his wife to breast cancer fourteen years ago, and has many friends in the same fight, and that they needed hope, my heart softened and I wrote. I made a commitment to write a story a day for fourteen days.  I didnt want to ; but about half-way through I realized the gift was for me too.Yes – if we don’t talk about it, Leroy, who will?  p.s.  If you’d like to peak into my world of cancer, scroll down on the right to “Gifts from a Cancer Survivor.”
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jim Borland
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:17:00 AM
Leroy, wishing you the best that you can be. I’m a cancer survivor of twenty years and know the struggle of chemo. I, like you, wanted to be treated “normally” and didn’t want to talk only about my health. I understand your feelings.The choosing how much to tell and how little to tell depending on the person, for me I continue my life in progress… once I completed the surgery, chomo, radiation and the tattoo.That marks the spot to aim the radiation machine. I would simply keep going despite tests every two years to make sure things are not growing anymore then normal. So cheers fellow survivors!Keep your head held high, we have more living to do Thanks for sharing a personal experience with the rest of us.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Lori Hendricks
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:27:00 AM
I know two people who are battling this dreaded disease also.  I am forever a fan of Ted Koppel and Nightline.  I appreciate your contribution to us by bringing us truth and integrity in journalism
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Denise Lee
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:32:00 AM
Thank you for your commentary on telling people about your cancer. I remember telling people about my stage 3 breast cancer in 2002. Having to deal with their reactions often added to my fear. I’ve been writing a blog about cancer survivorship that may be helpful to other breast cancer survivors.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: William Atsumi
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:55:00 AM
I am really shocked. I just found out about your new journey through the Night Line daily email. I used to read your emails regularly and was saddened about your departure then. And now… my thoughts and praryers are with you and I will be sure to mention your plight next Sunday at All Saints Church, Pasadena. Yeah! That one. We really have movers and shakers here so take heart! And by the way start eating a lot soy products, if you haven’t done so already. They are good for chasing those lousy free radicals that cause cancer. I mean you need all the help you can get, right? There are the beans themselves, then, (ugh) tofu, and soy milk, which isn’t bad at all.So there! Take care! My thoughts and prayers are always with you.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ruth
DATE: 06/27/2006 10:58:00 AM
Leroy, thank you for doing your blog.  It means a lot to hear from you and other cancer victims.  You’re right; one cannot talk about cancer to non-cancerous people, they really don’t want to hear all the gloom and doom and cannot relate anyway.  I have cancer again, this time esophagus/abdomen.  Ten years ago I had lung cancer, eleven years ago I had breast cancer and had a mastectomy. In 1990 I had hodgkins.  You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it’s always a very scary, scary, thing.  I’m waiting to find out what my treatment plan will be this time.  Wish me luck. Thank you again.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Greg Sheryl
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:01:00 AM
First of all, let me say how very sorry I am that you have cancer. I certainly remember you from past years, and remember your first diagnosis five years ago. It certainly is not something a person would choose for themselves. My mother had cancer, so I know second-hand some of what it can be like.I will go for now I have more to say, but, for now, I just want to say, “Im so sorry.”
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Greg Stewart
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:04:00 AM
I just wanted to send you a note to say thank you for your candor in the face of this and for all of the excellent work youve done over the years.  When I was driving to work this morning and heard your name, I immediately knew that you were the former producer of NIGHTLINE (whose e-mails I get every day) and I had wondered where you were after the inevitable shuffle on the show in the wake of Ted Koppel’s departure. I’m a big fan of the news; of real news anyway; and NIGHTLINE under the joint efforts of you and Ted Koppel continued to buck the trend and present informative, touching and often brilliant programs in true counter programming form for Leno and Letterman… and in sharp contrast to most of the drivel that sadly now passes for network news.I’ve lost a few friends to cancer and I can’t for the life of me ever understand why it seems that the good ones, who have so much to offer their friends and family; and even the world &mdash; are taken early or made to suffer so.  But, for a guy out on the west coast who cares deeply about people and the world and the sad state of affairs, I applaud you and thank you for your contributions in your work.  You have touched more people than you could ever know.  And I wish you only the best as you journey through your parallel universe and whatever the outcome (and Ill still cross my fingers for the best), I hope it’s peaceful and with grace abounding.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Kimberly Cole
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:11:00 AM
I enjoy listening to your commentaries because you are so honest. Thanks for sharing your experience.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Shosh
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:12:00 AM
In the four-plus months since receiving my diagnosis of breast cancer, it seems as though I’ve heard the word “cancer” on the radio or television at least daily, if not multiple times daily.  I can’t help but respond… sometimes with tears, sometimes with a simple acknowledgment of shared experience.I have not yet joined any support groups, but I’m starting to feel the need to talk with others whove gone or are going through this.  Listening to your commentary this morning; I deliberately rushed to my office so that I could listen a second time &mdash; and then reading online gave me something I desperately needed… the opportunity to hear thoughts expressed, that in so many ways resemble my own, but by someone else.  When talking with friends, even those who are exceptionally sensitive, I often feel as though I’m engaging in “show and tell.”  Sometimes there’s a sense of voyeurism.  Sometimes a total disinclination to reveal anything other than whats most obvious, i.e., my physical symptoms.  It’s obvious that I have no hair, no eyelashes, my fingernails have become striated.  Its not obvious that my fingertips and toes tingle, or even sometimes my entire foot.  Like you, I have my war wounds.  Mine is a scar on my left leg, from where my soleus muscle had to be removed, because it had become necrotic this compartment syndrome was the consequence of an allergic reaction to one of the drugs accompanying my chemo. Unlike you, I decided not to make the announcement myself to my co-workers.  Instead, I asked my boss, who is one of my best friends, to let them know.  And I asked her to tell them that I didn’t want to be bombarded with emails or visits of sympathy.  I wanted them to let me continue to work, to try to keep things as normal as possible.  So far, they’ve respected my wishes.  On Friday I visited an acquaintance who had surgery for her type of cancer.  I needed to visit her as “payback” for all the many visits I received during my own stay in the hospital.  I wanted to be a visitor who would make her feel better, by giving her a venue to say whatever she needed to say, not to offer trite phrases about her chances being so much better than those of people who were diagnosed 20 years ago or to tell her “to be strong.”  When people tell me to be strong, I try to realize that they mean well and dont know what to say.  At the same time, I find myself resentful.  I think to myself, “Don’t tell me what to fell!  I’m going be strong sometimes, and Im going be weak sometimes, and I think I have the right to choose which Ill be at a particular instance.”   There have also been those who seem to view my illness as an opportunity to demonstrate how sympathetic they are, even though I havent asked for their sympathy.  They gaze at me with woeful eyes and, when saying goodbye, do it as though were parting forever.  I think to myself, “Stuff it, ‘Im not yet in my coffin!”  And, so, I have a large circle of well-wishers, but a much smaller circle of people that give me what I most need – a sense that I am still very much part of life.  And most of all we share laughter and a sense of amazement of what being human encompasses.Unlike you, I’m still a novice at this.  My chemo isn’t done, and I’ll need to have a mastectomy, followed by radiology.  After that, who knows?  If I’ve learned anything it’s that my ability to exercise any sort of control is limited.  What I can control is my response to what happens, so I try to take things in my stride, I try to create normalcy.  I’ve never had the sense, “Why me?  Rather, why not me?”  At the same time, my natural optimism buoys me, says I’ll be a survivor… though sometimes I think that’s merely a reflection of the egos inability to admit that it’s not the center of the world.In any case, I thank you for sharing your story, your insights.  I will be sure to check in weekly, and I send you my heartfelt best wishes.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ann Regan
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:22:00 AM
Enjoyed your commentary this morning on Morning Edition on my drive to work. I am enjoying my life as a “cancer free” patient for the past year. Cancer free, chemo free, radiation free, I feel as free and light as a bird. Every single day is a miracle, why did I used to waste my time complaining about the weather? But I too wonder every time I meet a person who asks “How are you?” and I’m thinking, “Do they know?” How should I answer this: A full blown detailed explanation complete with side effects? Or just “Fine, thanks, how are you?”

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Nora Cox
DATE: 06/27/2006 11:23:00 AM
“If this has spread, it’s 100 percent fatal.” That’s what I heard from my dermatologist three years ago. It hadn’t, and it wasn’t but not a day passes when I don’t check myself for more traitorous tissue. We all live with these fears of course but that diagnosis bisects life in an important way. Thanks for sharing your story with others of us who have heard and so far survived some bad days.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Andrea Grefe
DATE: 06/27/2006 01:52:00 PM
I just read my email today re whats on “Nightline” and heard the awful news about your illness.  I immedately went to the blog.I must confess that although I skim the Nightline emails, I pretty much stopped reading them and almost completely stopped enjoying them when you left the show and stopped writing them.  Over the years I wrote to you a number of times telling you how much I appreciated your emails.  My recollection is that a couple of times you wrote back.I am so distressed to learn that you are ill, and wanted to send this immediately. I will go back and read the blog and then probably subscribe to the podcast as well.I really just wanted to tell you that you are in my thoughts and prayers.  I dont know whether you are a religious person or not, but even if not, I hope you will accept my desire to do something.  At the moment the only thing I can think to do is pray.  I am a Reform Jew and reasonably observant, although a Conservative or Orthodox Jew would probably not agree.  My interest in and involvement with my faith has increased as I have gotten older (I think I am a few years older than you are) and probably reached some sort of critical mass three years ago when I watched my father die over a period of 2-3 months and I saw what tremendous support my congregation in Houston (where I grew up) gave to my mother and my father (and my brother and me).  I’m rambling… just know you are in my thoughts and prayers.  I wish there were something more practical I could do to help.  I’ll keep reading and praying.  You please keep trying to get well.  Many, many people must feel about you the same way I do… I wish you recovery, goodhealth, joy and many, many more years of life.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Jeanne Rakowski
DATE: 06/27/2006 02:24:00 PM
I, too, sat on the doctors, table and heard the dreaded words: “I am almost 99 percent certain that you have cancer and I want you in the hospital ASAP to confirm my diagnosis.  I would like to speak with your husband.”That began my journey; twenty-three years ago!I believe that we make too much of that word. It takes over your life, if you let it. After all, we are all terminal.I am still here, always waiting for the “other shoe to drop” but getting on with my life (minus one breast)!  You can, you must not let it take over your entire being.


COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Kenneth Sievers
DATE: 06/27/2006 02:30:00 PM
My father died of cancer when he was four years younger than I am now. Our names are Sievers also. I heard your piece on NPR while driving to work for  the last time before retirement from thirty-two years of working as a custodian at an elememtary school. My last thoughts about that long chapter in my life will be forever tied up with your own last thoughts.Thank you for sharing your life with us.If you’re ever in Santa Cruz, you have a place to stay.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Ruth
DATE: 06/27/2006 02:34:00 PM
Leroy, thank you for doing your blog.  It means a lot to hear from you and other cancer victims.  You’re right; one cannot talk about cancer to non-cancerous people, they really don’t want to hear all the gloom and doom and cannot relate anyway.  I have cancer again, this time esophagus/abdomen.  Ten years ago I had lung cancer, eleven years ago I had breast cancer and had a mastectomy and in 1990 I had hodgkins.  You’d think I’d be used to it by now, but it’s always a very scary, scary, thing.  I’m waiting to find out what my treatment plan will be this time.  Wish me luck. Thank you again.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Paul Siegel
DATE: 06/27/2006 02:36:00 PM
I grieve about a passing tangentially related to Mr. Sievers postings here; i.e., the passing of Nightline.  I don’t know if Mr. Siever or ABC/Nightline has archived anywhere the daily email postings he sent to subscribers. I hope so.  It seems to be there is a book to be written using them as primary resource materials, a contemporary re-imagining of the classic, deciding what’s news.  Mr. Sievers daily briefings were highly eloquent and candid looks into the newsmaking and news reporting process.  I miss them almost as much as I miss Mr. Koppel.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Helen Patton
DATE: 06/27/2006 02:50:00 PM
I am sitting in my office at work crying and I thank you.  My mother died two years ago due to complications of breast cancer.  I haven’t cried over her death in months and I needed another good cry.  Thank you again, although I am not sure my co-workers would agree with my sentiments of thanks.  I went onto NPR’s website to look up another story I heard this morning and stumbled upon your blog.  Your words are heart felt and powerful.  When my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer in 2000, she would have appreciated your honesty and frankness.  Funny, she had a similar experience about a hospital worker referring to cancer as CA.  I found it interesting that in the initial days of telling everyone, she, like you, was comforting us.  She also became the strength for us as we watched her endure two surgeries, chemo and radiation.  I feel privileged that my mom asked me to attend her weekly cancer meetings with her.  Every Tuesday night we went to the hospital and talked with doctors, counselors, nurses and other patients.  What a life altering experience for me.  Not only did I learn the strength that my mother had, but I learned the strength and will of others.  I noticed as time went on that asking why and trying to find answers became less important.  I discovered through my mom that just being with her was the most important thing for me to do.  To this day, I am amazed at what the human body can endure without dampering the human spirit.  I would encourage all cancer patients and their families to attend a similar group for support.  Again, thank you for sharing your story and your heart felt words.  I wish you strength and courage.  I wish your family and friends faith… in you.

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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Eric Kingson
DATE: 06/27/2006 03:25:00 PM
I have walked down a similar path with my late wife, Joan, who was diagnosed with advanced colon cancer in 1998. No time carries more meaning for me.  Joan approached her illness in a way that allowed her to live and grow and be present for our two teenage children.  These were very difficult times (understatement).  Still, she managed to teach many, as you are, that it is how you live your life and care for others, not necessarily how long you live, that is important.  Shortly after being diagnosed with liver metastases she commented, “Thank God I haven’t been a.  I cant imagine having this diagnosis and thinking I wasted my life being a jerk.” Joan would say that she didn’t want to die, but if she must, she wanted to teach others that dying was not something to be so greatly feared.  She did this well.There is much more I could tell and have told about her experience in a book I authored &mdash; Lessons from Joan, Living and Loving with Cancer, A Husband’s Story, Syracuse University Press, November 2005.Please let me know if you would like me to send a copy.Wishing you improved health, but more importantly, good days, warmth of family and friends and appreciation for the many good things you have done and have yet to do.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Christy Granderson
DATE: 06/28/2006 12:46:00 PM
On September 7, 2005, I received the most devastating news imaginable.  My mom had colon cancer!  I knew she had been sick, but was hoping for a diagnosis that was not as deadly.  Months prior to the confirmed diagnosis, I noticed how sick she was and how she had lost her energy and spunk.  When she had, what I thought would just be a routine appointment turned out to be the day that would change my life forever.  When I arrived home from work on September 7, 2005, I remembered walking in the house and my mom was standing at the kitchen sink, I walked in and asked her how did her appointment go, but something didn’t feel right as she turned to me, her voice was trembling and she told me that she would have to have chemotherapy.  At that precise moment, I felt like someone had sucked the life right out of me.  I remember feeling shortness of breath, almost like I was a twilight zone.  I remember saying to myself, this can’t be happening!  I could vividly see the fear in her eyes and the fear on her face.  I recall telling her that everything was going to be okay, even though I was frightened to death of her diagnosis, but I did not want her to see me stressed out.  I then went into my room and sat on the edge of my bed and cried and prayed.  The next few days, were really a blur.  I had so many emotional meltdowns for the next few weeks that I was so scared was on the verge of a nervous breakdown and I knew that I would have to pull it together for my mother because she would need me now, more than ever.  I don’t think I have ever felt so fearful in my life.  When in doubt about anything, I always pray and I knew that my Lord and Savior were with me during this time because he gave me unimaginable strength.  I talked to the Lord daily about this situation and he gave me the strength to be accepting of his will.  I had no clue what was in store for my family and me because I had heard so many horror stories about chemotherapy and the thought of watching my mother be so ill weighed on me heavily.  I could not concentrate on very much because my mind was constantly on my mother.  I remember the day she had her port surgically inserted (which is a device used for the chemotherapy to work though her body) I knew right then and there, that this was going to be a tedious journey for my mom physically and emotionally.  My mother has always been a mild and meek woman, so I was so concerned what toll this would take on her.  As my family nervously waited her first chemotherapy session, I recall, allowing myself to cherish each precious moment with her because once the chemo started I did not know what condition she would be in.  Her first session was September 14, 2005.  I had taken off work to be there for her first treatment and sat with her for a while, while the chemo was being administered.  To my amazement, I guess I was oblivious to the fact that so many families are coping with this dreaded disease, as the doctor?s office was packed full.  I remembered thinking, “I am not alone.”  My heart was so heavy watching the family members and in particular, the cancer patients.  I used to have an idea of bravery, but that has totally changed, as those individuals that go through chemotherapy are the bravest souls I know.  It was startling to see the resiliency in these people and thankfully, my mom was one of them.  I remember my father bringing her home after her first session and she was in such good spirits, not what I expected at all!  She was obviously drained, but all in all, I could not have asked for a better first session.  As time went on she would have good days and bad days.  The first month of chemo went pretty well.  In October, things started to take a toll I started to see physical changes in my mom.  She was very tired and would experience bouts of nausea.  My mom was doing chemo every other week, and the weeks that she would actually have chemo started to get pretty tough, as time progressed.  The end of October, my siblings and I planned a surprise party for my parent’s 40th wedding anniversary and although my mom took chemo the week of the party, we managed to pull off the surprise, flawlessly and she managed to muster enough strength to be there and enjoy the occasion.  It was great to see her spirits lifted because I knew at that point that the chemo was draining her.  In November, my mother had her first follow up scan since starting chemo and the scan didn?t really reveal any changes in her condition, which was very disconcerting for me.  The rest of November was okay, however, Thanksgiving, is a big family event and chemo happened to fall on the week of Thanksgiving.  My sister and I were concerned that we would have to cook Thanksgiving dinner, but God managed to give my mother the strength to help prepare our Thanksgiving dinner.  Thanksgiving 2005, we definitely had a lot to be thankful for because the year had been pretty rough for us all.  I remember a bible verse in particular that reads, “In everything give thanks for this is the will of Christ Jesus concerning you” and this verse gave me the strength to carry on and to continue to be strong for my mom.December was very memorable because Christmas is a time for love and togetherness and this holiday in particular, is my mom’s favorite.  I can remember from the time I was a little girl, my mother made holidays so special for our family.  She always made Christmas such a magical time and that never changed, even as I got older.  Christmas 2005, she had chemo the week of Christmas and it was a very melancholy time for me because I was so used to her liveliness during this time of year, but this year she was not well.  I remember December 23, 2005 I was up late wrapping gifts because she had gone to bed early.  I remember crying as I wrapped those gifts because my mind went back to happier times when we would laugh, talk and wrap gifts together but this year, she simply did not have the energy.  I thought at that moment this would be a Christmas unlike any other, because she was sick and it really broke my heart to see her be in so much pain.  On December 24, 2005, I remember awaking to her cooking breakfast and thinking to myself, God is so good because he gave her enough strength to enjoy the holiday with the family.  We enjoyed the day and not only did she have a pretty good day she was able to celebrate and socialize with the family and I knew that the presence of the Lord was with us.  January 2006, my mom did well, but it was apparent that she was becoming more sluggish as each treatment became a lot more aggressive.  On January 31, 2006, she actually became very sick during her chemo session and had to be given a shot for vomiting and nausea.  When my Dad called to tell me that she had gotten sick, I remember feeling so much anxiety because I didn?t know that the session thereafter, would mimic the session on 1/31/06.  The session she had on the following week went well although she felt lethargic I was relieved she didn?t get sick as sick as she did before.  As each week passed her condition fluctuated, but in February, we finally got some good news, her CEA Level (antigen in the blood that detects cancer) was starting to lower and for first time, I started to see a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel.  By March her CEA level was 4.7, at the beginning of chemo, her level was 37.4 and the normal number is between 1 and 2!  Her numbers were drastically improving and we were so hopeful that things would continue to get better.  My mom had another following up with her oncologist on April 4, 2006 and I received news that was truly music to my ears, her CEA level was 2.4, which was in the normal range and was told she only had 2 more chemo cycles left.  I remember leaving the doctor?s office so happy and I remember the day being so beautiful and sunny, as I got in my car, I cried, this time tears of joy.  My prayers were answered!  With my mom having 2 more treatments left, that would make her last treatment fall on the week of Easter and I remember thinking, how ironic, that her chemo would be ending after Resurrection Sunday!  What better way to know and believe that the Savior Lives!  Her last treatment was a day of celebration, but it was bittersweet because I couldn?t help, but think of the other people I have seen in the Cancer Care Center over the course of the past few months.  I don’t know these people by name, but they are in my prayers everyday, I pray that they know God and have unwavering faith because that was the only thing that sustained me during this time.  I know it may sound strange, but the Christian journey is one full of twists and turns, but in all honesty, this experience has given me a closer and more intimate relationship with God and what a precious gift!  My daily talks with Jesus gives me strength that I never knew I had in me.  I am a lot stronger than I would have ever imagined.  More importantly, it has proven to me just how strong my mother is.  I have always thought of her a strong woman, but she was a warrior throughout this journey.  Her strength through this adversity gave me strength.  I am amazed at how she never questioned God’s purpose for her life.  I am amazed at how she was so accepting of God’s will.  Now, I am much more mindful of complaining about small things because I know, just how selfish it is now.  I now have a better definition of the word “blessed.”  The word “blessed” in my own person vocabulary simply means that circumstances can be worse than they are so I thank God for my “mountain moments” and my “valley moments.”  I have a better comprehension of cleaving to God in good times and in bad times.  I am reminded of a sermon that my minister preached entitled from, “From Bitter to Better” he examined Exodus 15: 22-29, “The Waters of Marah and Elim,” when Moses led Israel from the Red Sea and they traveled to the Desert of Shur and went three days without water.  The people were angry with Moses because they were thirsty and water of Marah was too bitter to drink and riddled with diseases.    Moses then cried out to the Lord for help and the Lord showed him a piece of wood, which he threw in the water and the water became sweet enough to drink.  God?s commandment in verses 25-26 of that chapter states, “There the Lord made a decree and a law for them, and there he tested them.  He said, “If you listen carefully to the voice of the Lord your God and do what is right in his eyes, if you pay attention to his commands and keep all his decrees, I will not bring on you any diseases … for I am the Lord, who heals you.”I now better understand the Savior’s purpose for my life.  I now feel such a connection to a disease I once dreaded and feared!  I am thankful that I was able to be with my mom, every step of the way.  I am thankful for this journey that I am on now.  I don?t know what the future holds for my mother, as far as her cancer is concerned, but I know that the blood of Jesus covers her and in that, I find peace, comfort and security.  Her prognosis now is good, she goes every other week for Avastin (a drug used to starve the blood supply to colon cancer tumors) and she will continue on this for the next few months, but we are just thankful the chemotherapy part is over.  It has been a few weeks since her last chemotherapy treatment and I can already see subtle changes.    She gaining more of her energy back and she is more like her former self.  I feel it is made my relationship with her much more meaningful because you never know the day when you will receive news that will change your life forever, so I cherish every moment of everyday, that I have her in my life.  My life will never be the same, but I have gained so much from this experience and have learned many valuable lessons.  I have amazing people around me and I know that helped, as well.  God has blessed me to have wonderful and family and friends.  It was beautiful to see the love of God in so many people.  My mother had many prayers lifted up on her behalf, through these people.  I have had special people who came into my life, during this time, who were so supportive and caring to my mother and I am thankful for those individuals, as well.  I know that God is an ever-present force in my life and I hope that anyone who goes through a similar experience will lean on the heavenly Father for solace because “Everyone who calls on the name of the Lord, shall be saved” ; Romans 10:13.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Denise Meeks
DATE: 06/29/2006 08:53:00 AM
Our son was diagnosed with B-cell leukemia when he was just two years of age.  The 3 year 4 month nightmare of chemo began (his roadmap made other cancer treatments look like a cake walk), but ended as a blessing.  He is alive (age 8 1/2), doing great and the joy of our lives.  I never felt sorry for him; either he would live and we would rejoice or he would die and we would rejoice that he was with Christ.  It was us family members that carried the burden.  Although my heart ached at the pain from his treatments, and like other parents with a child with cancer, wed switch places in an instant, I knew either alternative for him was magical.  When I would start to feel sorry for myself, somehow God would always kick me in the butt.  (We would end up in-patient with a kid who had brain CA).  Hard to feel bad for yourself when the kid next to you is going to die.  Anyway, what I am trying to say, is that there really is a blessing in all this.  You begin to appreciate all the blessings you have had in your life.  You even begin to envy those people who are terminal &mdash; they get to go to heaven while we remain stuck here on earth with all its problems and brokenness.  God speed your journey, whichever route you take.
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Alan Magazine
DATE: 07/04/2006 11:39:00 AM
Hi, Leroy, I’m sure these articles are helping a lot of people. There must be thousands of people going through what you’re going through and they must take great comfort in hearing you give voice to exactly what they are thinking.Let us know if there is ANYTHING we can do.Alan Magazine
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Trudi Glatt
DATE: 07/04/2006 11:48:00 AM
I am an anomaly. I have uterine cancer. The doctors said it was very early, grade one and the slowest growing. After my hysterectomy, they said all my lymph nodes and frozen section were clean. Yeah!!A week later, I was told that it had spread to my lungs by my bloodstream. It responds to chemo better than if it were lung cancer, but I don’t feel like I have a chance. I am so depressed having gone from cured to stage IV uterine cancer in a week. Everytime I look at my 7 great-nieces and nephews, and my nephews and nieces, who I am so close with; that they are all paying my doctors bills; I feel that I will never get a chance to see the 7 little ones grow up.I have a wonderful, supportive, loving husband that adores me, and I have a son who loves me, like he thinks I walk on water. But he is 31 and I think I will never get to see him get married and have kids. My dog, a Maltese, that I love soo much just woke me up in bed last week and snuggled with me. I told him I loved him and kissed him and snuggled. Then I didn’t hear him breathing. He died in my arms.

I am a 6th grade math teacher. All of my kids wrote me cards and letters. Some of them were so moving you couldn’t believe a child wrote it. It seems that I am one of the most loved teachers in my school. My kids score super high on the statewide tests and they tell me I am so much fun and so caring and that they love me.

So why me? I know this is long but I know I am such a good person. So many friends have visited and called but everyone thinks I should “think positive.” How can I? I don’t smoke. I eat right. I’m active. I have a very high IQ – which they say is supposed to mean something about living longer. I responded to the first drop of blood in a cancer that, when detected, is 90% curable and they told me it was early; yet I’m already metastatic. I have so much love in my life and I can’t keep positive. I feel smited.

I pray and pray and I don’t feel anything gets answered. I have a brilliant and loving older sister who cancels everything to come to every appointment I have. I have a multimillionaire nephew who would pay any bill I have, but does not want me to say thank you. I told him I had good news: my new doctor at Sloan-Kettering is covered under my health insurance. He said “Oh, I thought you meant good news about your health. I don’t care what it costs; the money means nothing to me.”I can’t be positive, I can’t think positive. When I cry I try to hide it from everyone except my husband.Anyone have any ideas?
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COMMENT:
AUTHOR: Khadeeja
DATE: 07/04/2006 12:23:00 PM
I just want to share with all you people one of the sayings that has been said by a famous doctor that if they asked him what disease he would prefer his son to get between diabetes or cancer, he would choose cancer because you can treat it easily unlike diabetes, and you can just handle it.
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lsievers
I Wasn’t Supposed to Be the Story…
DATE: 06/26/2006 06:54:00 AM
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BODY:
I was supposed to have died last month. That’s what the doctors told me six months ago when I was diagnosed with cancer for the second time. Now that was mostly my fault. I kept badgering the doctor for a prognosis. After all, when you get news like that, there’s really only one question that everyone wants to ask. “How long?” Of course, no one really wants the answer.

So I’ve beaten their first prognosis, and now I’m working on the second one. I’ve learned a lot in these last six months. One of the real surprises is that the doctors really don’t know what’s going to happen. I am being treated at Johns Hopkins, one of the best hospitals in the world. I have some of the best doctors in the world. But even they don’t know the answers to some of the most basic questions. Will chemo work? Would a different drug be more effective? What will happen next? What should I do? And of course, that original question just keeps coming back. How long? They really can’t answer that one either. They have studies, and averages, and that’s what they tell you. “A person with your disease, on average, will live this long…” But that has nothing to do with your individual case.

So you pretty much have to just blunder through all this. It’s not easy. But cancer affects everyone. I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a loved one, a family member, colleague, friend of a friend, who has cancer.

But for those of us directly affected, cancer opens up a whole new world. I like to call it a parallel universe. It looks like the regular world, but it’s very, very different. It’s populated by other patients with whom you share war stories. “What drugs are you on?” “How are your side effects?”

And there are the doctors and nurses who fight like hell to save patients when they know that they will lose virtually all of them.

And there are the loved ones, and no matter how hard you try, there’s really no way to comfort them.

This is a new thing for me. I’ve been a journalist for more than 25 years. In covering more than a dozen wars, I’ve seen my share of death, but I never thought I’d be talking about my own. I wasn’t supposed to be the story. But all that’s changed. Now, a number of you have already heard part of my story on Morning Edition. But starting today, on this blog, and in a weekly podcast, we’re going to be able to go much further.

I’m going to be talking about my experiences, and I hope that many of you will write in with your own stories, suggestions, complaints, or just send a note when you’re feeling overwhelmed by all of this and just need to vent a little. I’m sure you’ll all get tired of hearing just about me, so my goal is to turn this into a real dialogue. I hope you’ll be back here tomorrow.

Unanswered Questions
DATE: 06/27/2006 07:07:00 AM
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BODY:
Why me? That’s the obvious question. That’s the question that, sooner or later, everyone who gets cancer asks. But there’s no answer. Oh, I know some of the medical reasons: a family history, genetic predisposition and all that. But that’s not really what that question is asking.

Five years ago, I had a routine colonoscopy, and, to everyone’s surprise, they found cancer. I had surgery, took a couple of weeks off from work, and then came back. Everything was clean. My lymph nodes, the body system that cancer cells use to travel around, were clean. Now they say that after five years, if the cancer doesn’t come back, you’re “cured.” Well, I was clean for more than four years, and then it came back. Why me?

Anger is the reaction most people expect. But who, or what, can I be angry at? I guess I could go outside and shake my fist at the universe, but really, aside from scaring the neighbors, what is that going to accomplish?

Much to my surprise, I’m pretty much at peace with this, at least most of the time. I’ve had a full life. I’ve done and seen things that very few people get to do. I’ve lived the adventure. So now I’m not looking to go climb Mt. Everest or go bungee jumping or anything like that. I don’t have anything else to prove. But I’m definitely not ready to die. There’s nothing specific that I want to do; I just have more living to do. I’m not ready.

I want to read the last Harry Potter book and find out what all of that is about. I want to watch 24, and find out how Jack Bauer saves the world yet again. And I want to find out who Meredith Grey finally chooses on Grey’s Anatomy. And I want to spend time with my friends, have good conversations, drink a good bottle of wine, enjoy a good meal.

So I’m not so much angry as sad. Sad because, if the doctors are right, my life has become narrower. Until the cancer was diagnosed last December, the world was still wide open to me. There were unlimited possibilities. Okay, I just turned 51, so maybe the possibilities weren’t exactly unlimited, but you know what I mean. Now I have to come to grips with the fact that that’s no longer the case.

Is this unfair? I can’t really say that either, without wishing the disease on someone else, and I’m not willing to do that. And I look around and see people who are having a much harder time than me. I’ll never forget sitting in the chemo waiting room when a young man came in with three small boys. Then his wife came in. She was pregnant. And she was the one who was there for chemo. I can’t imagine what they are going through.

So, angry? No. It wouldn’t do much good, and quite honestly, I just don’t have the time for that. I still have things to do.

See you tomorrow.

‘Blundering Through This Together…’
DATE: 06/28/2006 07:10:00 AM
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BODY:
The party’s over. I’m back on chemo, after about a three-week break. Before, I was taking two drugs: one that I got from about a three-hour injection and then pills twice a day for two weeks. That first drug was the worst, so hopefully just taking the one drug will be easier, although I’m already feeling the side effects; fatigue and nausea that never really go away.

Before, I had been resistant to the idea of taking a break, even though my doctors were advising me to.  I was worried that even taking a couple of weeks off might allow the cancer to start growing again. Then I would have gone through five months of chemo; and the side effects; for nothing. It struck me a little bit like the little Dutch boy taking his finger out of the dike and saying, “It’s just for a little while. I’ll see what happens.”

The problem is, no one knows what’s going to happen when you take a break. Will the cancer grow? Will it stay the same? No one has those answers.  So how do you make an informed decision? The answer is: you don’t. Even the doctors can’t tell you what will happen. It really comes down to the question of how you feel.

And being off the chemo, even for a short time, felt great. For the first time in almost six months, I felt like myself. Taking chemo is like having the flu, except it never goes away. It’s not much fun.

But there is a larger issue here. How the heck do you make these decisions? I’m a big fan of  Grey’s Anatomy on TV. When they’re not trying to decide who to sleep with, the doctors on that show always seem to know what to do, at least medically. Well that’s not the way it works in reality. Cancer, and the fight against it, is full of unknowns. Will this chemo work? Should I try a different set of drugs? Surgery? Radiation? Nothing?

I have said before that I have some of the best doctors in the world on my team. I have absolute faith in them. But they don’t have the answers. They can’t tell me what will happen. I was shocked the first time they told me I had to make a decision about what course of treatment to follow. I was expecting them to tell me. I guess we’re all sort of blundering through this together.

The bottom line is it really comes down to how much you can take. The current plan is for me to take this drug as long as I can stand it. When the side effects just become too much to take any longer, I’ll stop. And then we wait and watch. When &mdash; not if &mdash; the cancer begins to spread, then we will try a different set of drugs, and see if they’re more effective. If they don’t work, there are other drugs to try, and finally, out of desperation, I could try to get into a clinical trial of an unproven drug.

I have always been used to being the master of my own destiny. I like to know what’s going on, and I like to be able to control what’s happening to me. Well, that was my old life. These days, I look down at my chest, and just wonder what the heck is going on inside there. It’s not a comfortable feeling.

‘Encouraged and Strengthened’ by Your Responses
DATE: 06/29/2006 06:46:00 AM
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BODY:
I’m sitting at my computer with tears in my eyes. I have just read all of the e-mails that you all sent in. They are stunning in their eloquence, their courage, their determination. So many of them were from people who have just been diagnosed recently; “newbies,” as one writer called himself. Others have been fighting this battle for years, after having been told that their time was short. And there are so many people who have been affected.

Some stand out. The woman who said she would gladly die “a thousand deaths” if that would cure her child’s cancer. There are those who spoke of their newfound determination to appreciate every moment of life they have. And there were so many who were honest enough to admit that they were scared. That’s not easy to do.

Some wrote of the fear they feel with every checkup. Will the cancer be back? Will it have grown? Good news is a rare gem for cancer patients. There’s not a lot of it.  The bad news however, comes hot and heavy. And preparing yourself for the worst really doesn’t work. I know, I’ve tried it. As much as you tell yourself to expect the worst, that little voice in your mind keeps hoping for something good, something to hang on to, only to be disappointed so often.

But after reading them all, tears aside, I have to admit that I don’t feel sad or hopeless. On the contrary, I am encouraged and strengthened. Having a terminal disease does change you. It changes everything, but not always for the worst. Everyone who wrote in; and the countless others who are fighting this war alone or silently; everyone of them shows strength that they probably didn’t know they had before that awful day they got the diagnosis.

I have to admit that this morning wasn’t great. I was feeling nauseous, tired; the usual. And yes, I was feeling a little sorry for myself. But reading the words written by those who are going through the same things that I am changed that. It wasn’t just their words of concern or encouragement. I guess it was being reminded once again that I am not alone in this. Quite the contrary, I consider myself incredibly fortunate to find myself in such good company.

It Doesn’t Seem Real…
DATE: 06/30/2006 06:41:00 AM
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BODY:

Denial is a wonderful tool. We learn that early in life. In high school, when you call up that girl to invite her to the dance and she says, “Don’t ever call me again,” and slams down the phone? Well, all guys know that means she really cares. Later in life, when your boss says, “You’re a great worker… we hate to let you go. You’re fired,” most of us only hear the first part.

I’m guessing that everyone who has cancer has gone through some serious denial. I know I have. I don’t look sick. I don’t feel sick, except when I’m on chemo. I still walk five miles a couple of times a week. A friend recently said, “If I didn’t know you were sick, I wouldn’t know you were sick.” So how can I have cancer?

I’ve seen the scans. I saw the white circle on the brain scan that was my tumor. The doctors said it was golf ball-sized, but I think they say that about every tumor. And I knew that one was there, because it made me slur my words. But the tumors in my lungs? I had no clue. Still don’t.

You go at this in a couple of different ways. The first is outright denial. How can I have cancer? That’s what happens to our grandparents or our parents. But it doesn’t happen to us. To me. Well, unfortunately, when it comes to some types of cancer, the fact that it happens to our grandparents and our parents is one of the reasons it happens to us. Genetics. My grandmother had colon cancer. My mother had it. Now I have it.

When I wake up in the morning, sometimes, just for a minute or two, I forget. Then it comes back to me and pretty much never leaves me again. But I have no symptoms. Could it have been a mistake? A smudge on the scan somehow? They switched my scans with someone else? There has to be some other explanation.

Because when I look down at my chest, I know that somewhere in there are evil, malignant tumors that are trying to kill me. My own body is betraying me. But it doesn’t seem real somehow. I’m not asking for symptoms, believe me. But sometimes it just seems like my cancer is intellectual, an idea, not something you can see or touch. But then I stop kidding myself. I know it’s in there. I know that, most likely, it will kill me.

But that doesn’t stop me from dreaming. I still think about things I’d like to be doing in ten years, five years, next year. I haven’t bought any new clothes since I was diagnosed this time. I wasn’t sure if I would ever need them or get the chance to wear them. But you can’t quit. Life goes on.

Still, when a colleague of mine recently asked me, “Do you really have cancer? ‘Cause you don’t look like it.” I was tempted to say, “No, it’s all a terrible mistake. ” But that’s not true. I can’t see it, or feel it, but I know it’s in there. So I answered her the only way I could: “Yes, I really do have cancer.”

Commentary: Quality vs. Quantity
DATE: 07/03/2006

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BODY:
It’s probably the toughest decision a cancer patient has to make. It’s a question that most people don’t ever expect to face; I know I didn’t. And it really cuts to the heart of who we are and how we want to live. The question is: Quality vs. quantity… of life?

The treatments for cancer are not pleasant, to put it mildly. Surgery? That may be the easiest; you have it done, you heal, you move on. Not a lot of fun, but at least you can sort of see an end to the discomfort. Radiation? I haven’t had it, but it doesn’t sound like much fun either.

And chemo? Definitely not fun. Debilitating, depressing, exhausting? and more. But you go through it because you hope that, if it doesn’t destroy the cancer, then at least it will hold it at bay and buy you more time. And that’s really what doctors are trying to do; buy you more time. There’s usually very little talk of curing you of cancer; at least there wasn’t for me. The only time it really came up was when my doctors told me not to expect a cure.

Instead, they want to do everything they can to prolong your life. Increasingly, cancer is treated as a chronic disease, like diabetes. Something you have, but that you can also live with. And that all sounds fine the first time you hear it. Even if there is no cure, this approach holds out the promise of longer life; maybe a much longer life. The hope is that cancer does not have to be a death sentence.  But after you’ve taken the drugs, or had the radiation, it may not be so attractive. So it comes down to that one basic question: Would you rather have quality of life, or quantity? Is it worth it to live longer, even if the treatments that make that possible also make you miserable? Or would you rather have a better quality of life, even if that means a shorter life? I never expected to face a dilemma like that.

It’s actually pretty simple though. There are two choices. Undergo treatment, feel miserable, but live another six months. (Is that time so precious that it’s worth any amount of discomfort?) Or don’t take the treatment, feel pretty good for a few months, but know that untreated, the cancer will probably kill you sooner.

If you had given me those choices before my diagnosis, I, like most people, would probably have said that living longer is the top priority. No question. Easy answer. But now I’m not so sure. I’m in no rush to die, believe me. But another few months of feeling bad; is that really the way I want to live? Is it worth it?

I don’t know. And it’s more complicated than just what I want. Is it fair to my friends and loved ones? Do I owe it to them to try to live as long as possible, no matter what the quality of that life is? Or is it more cruel to make them suffer through those painful treatments along with me? Is it selfish? Or is it my decision alone?

I go back and forth on this. Stopping treatment seems like a slow form of suicide. At the same time, having just taken a short break from chemo, the idea of not feeling sick is very appealing. But even if it means a shorter life?

I don’t know how to answer this one. I hope that I won’t actually have to make that decision any time soon, but I know that I will have to make it at some point. I wonder, when that time comes, if I will be wise enough to make the right choice.

Commentary: Living to Fight Another Day
DATE: 07/03/2006 07:02:00 AM

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BODY:
“You’re very courageous.”

I’ve heard that a fair amount recently. It’s nice to hear, but I don’t think it’s really true. Friends have said they think that I am courageous for speaking out about having cancer. For not giving up. For laughing about it sometimes.

It doesn’t take a lot of courage to have a disease and fight it. You don’t have much choice. Giving up is really not an option. So you just do the best you can to continue to fight, to live to fight another day.

But I do know something about courage. In covering too many wars, I’ve seen courage under fire, the type of courage that the men and women in Iraq and Afghanistan have to find within themselves every day. Sometimes in a firefight, it takes all the courage you can muster just to move a few feet while someone is shooting at you. That’s one type of courage.

The people down on the Gulf Coast, some still living in the ruins of their lives, have a different kind of courage. Sometimes just trying to live a normal life is the bravest thing you can do. Just getting up and facing another day can take everything you’ve got. Some people crack under that strain.

There’s also the type of courage that compels someone to do the right thing, in spite of the consequences. Not a lot of that kind of courage in Washington these days.

There’s plenty of courage to be seen every day in the war on cancer. There are the doctors and nurses who use all of their knowledge, experience and skills to fight to save their patients, when they know that they will lose many of them. And yet they find the courage to come in the next day and get into the fight again.

There is the quiet courage shown by people keeping a lonely vigil at the bedside of a loved one who’s sick. It takes real courage to somehow find a smile to comfort them, when deep inside you just want to cry.

And it takes courage not to turn away from people in need, whatever the reason.

I think that real courage may mean doing the right thing when you have a choice. When doing the right thing isn’t the easy thing. When it’s possible to run or hide or close your eyes. That’s courage. It’s in all of us. Some of us will never be tested, but others are tested every day.

So no, I don’t think that I’m all that courageous. I’m just trying to stay alive another day.

Commentary: Reassessing Your Place in the Universe
DATE: 07/05/2006

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BODY:
“A thief and a murderer.”

That’s how one reader described his cancer. And he’s right. The “murderer” part is obvious, but as another writer noted, we’re all terminal. It’s the “thief” part that may be the most painful. Cancer steals parts of our lives that we’ll never get back.

One man wrote in using a false name. He was worried about the impact of his diagnosis on his job. That’s easy to understand. When I was diagnosed last December, I was in the middle of some serious job-hunting. At each interview, I would be totally honest about my situation. At the time, I really didn’t have much choice. One-quarter of my head had been shaved for the operation to remove my brain tumor and I had a line of shiny staples on the side of my head. Sorta tough to ignore.

Everyone was very kind in saying that the cancer wasn’t an issue, and I appreciated that. At the same time, I’m sure that it was an issue. I’m not sure, if our positions had been reversed, that I would have hired me. After all, how would they know whether I could physically do the job? Would I be absent a lot? Would I be too sick to work? Would they have to fill the job again in the near future? No one could, or would, ever ask those questions out loud, but I can’t believe that they weren’t thinking them. And I don’t blame them.

The theft of my career, or at least part of it, was very real. For most of my life, I’ve gone into crisis situations that are physically and mentally demanding. That’s pretty much a thing of the past. I don’t expect to go back to Iraq any time soon, lugging my chemo drugs in a little khaki bag. That’s just not going to happen. So the cancer has stolen that part of my work.

And even if I didn’t go on that kind of trip anymore, I always liked to tell myself that I still could. But now my world has narrowed. The adventures that so defined me are pretty much a thing of the past. And yes, I resent that.

Cancer also steals our control over our own lives. I — like many others, I’m sure — used to consider myself the master of my own destiny. No longer. Now there are nurses and doctors and technicians, and they all have a lot to say about how I live my life. And while I resist the effects as much as I can, the drugs, too, have a way of controlling my life.

But maybe I was too arrogant in thinking that I was in control. A cancer diagnosis certainly makes you think about and ask the big questions. And whether you find those answers through religion or meditation or any number of other ways, this disease really does make you reassess your place in the universe.

So yes, I do resent what cancer has stolen from me, but it hasn’t been entirely a one-way street. I’m not sure that it has made me a better person, but I certainly hope so. And if I have learned the lessons that are out there, if I make better use of however much time I have left, if I can use my experiences to make the lives of others in my situation better, then I think it’s a fair trade.

Commentary: The Little Pleasures
DATE: 07/06/2006

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BODY:
It’s all about the attitude. Sometimes in the chemo waiting room—not a happy place at the best of times— I can tell who’s given up. You can see it in their faces, in their body language, even in their skin color. I don’t blame them. God knows there have been days where I’ve felt like that. But I think that if you really do give up, then it’s over.

Not that a good attitude is enough to cure you. It’s not. But there is a sense among cancer patients that the disease is somehow sensitive to things like attitude. If you fight, then you have a better chance of winning.

Now I haven’t given up. And I hope that my cancer cells die a slow and painful death. I want them to suffer. I hope they can sense that somehow. They deserve no mercy.

But what else can you do to better your odds? A lot of people talk about diet. No more red meat. Lots of raw foods or vegetables. One man wrote in to suggest that I eat a lot more soy. Beans, milk, and so on. While I appreciate his advice, (even he seemed less than enthusiastic about the taste of those things) I don’t think I’m going to follow it.

I do exercise. I try to walk five miles several times a week. I do Tai Chi, which to my surprise, is less about being calm and all that, and more about beating people up. I didn’t know that before I started taking classes.

But I’m not going to change my diet. Eating well is one of life’s great pleasures. A great bottle of wine. A nice meal. A great big greasy cheeseburger. I’m not willing to give that up. Maybe it would be better for me healthwise if I did, but I’m not willing to give up any more of my life to the cancer. That’s where I draw the line.

If someone told me that I would live another month if I never had a hot fudge sundae again, well, you can probably guess what my decision would be. Cancer takes so much away from all of us,  but we have to hold on to the little pleasures. Because, let’s face it, when you don’t feel well because of the chemo and you’re depressed about the future and you just want to scream, well, a hot fudge sundae or a cheeseburger or whatever your favorite food vice may be — those things can go a long way towards cheering you up. And they’re also a reminder that our lives do go on. That we haven’t lost everything.

I found that when I felt really nauseous from the chemo, chocolate helped calm my stomach. Okay, confession time. I’m a major chocaholic, so maybe I just used that as an excuse. But whatever the reason, I felt better.

So my advice is go ahead, indulge yourself. For those of you who are friends or loved ones of cancer patients, every once in a while, get them something that maybe you don’t think they should have. They’ll love you for it. And yes, I think I —will— have fries with that.

Commentary: Shattered Illusions
DATE: 07/07/2006

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BODY:
We’re not victims. I might have used that word before, but reading all of your e-mails, it’s clear that we— and by “we,” I mean people with cancer and our loved ones —we are much more than that. I’ve talked before about how strange it is to have cancer, but not show it. One woman wrote in with something that stuck with me. She, too, said she doesn’t look like a cancer patient. She wrote, “In this world, I can pretend to be normal and healthy. In the world of hospitals, those illusions are shattered.”

I know exactly what she means. When I sit in the chemo waiting area, I wonder what people think when they pass by. “Is he a patient? Family member? He doesn’t look sick.” But then I realize that there are subtle clues, or not so subtle ones, that I now recognize in an instant in other patients. If you’ve had blood taken, somewhere— an arm, a hand —you’ll have a little bit of cotton covered by tape. If you’re having scans or some sort of procedure, you’ll have a wristband with a bar code on it. Makes you feel a little like an item in a grocery store checkout. Those are all reminders to us, and to others, of just why we’re there. I can spot a cancer patient across a room now. I wonder if they see the same thing when they look at me.

There’s a very subtle contest that goes on in hospitals. I’m not sure that “contest” is the right word, but I don’t know how else to describe it. Who’s worse off? Or, if you’re a cup half-full kind of person, who’s better off? You can see it in the eyes of other patients and their families. They size up other patients pretty quickly, and then look away just as quickly. Is that person better, or worse off, than my patient?

Now, if you’re a visitor to the hospital, you’ve probably done the same thing. Maybe you feel pity, maybe relief, maybe sorrow. But until you’ve been a contestant, it doesn’t really mean much. When you see that pity, that relief, that sorrow, in the eyes of people looking at you, then it becomes painful.

You want to scream, “I’m OK!” “I’m not that sick!” “I’ll get better!” I got pretty good at the game myself. As you are wheeled around the corridors of the hospital, on your way to this test or that one, you pass a lot of people. There’s a lot of waiting in hospitals— it’s called “hospital time.” That MRI scheduled for noon? You’ll be lucky to be in there by 4:00. And a lot of the time, you’re just parked in the hallways to wait.

Shortly after my brain surgery, I was on a gurney on my way to some sort of test. My bandage was off, and the scar and the line of staples were there in plain sight. As I was wheeled down a corridor, I passed two women sitting together, clearly waiting for a patient.

As I rolled past these two women, I saw their eyes. They saw my head, reacted, their eyes wider for an instant, and then they looked away. I could almost feel their relief. “Thank God he’s not ours” is what I saw in their faces. And I probably do the same thing, too, although with a little more understanding of what I’m seeing. But almost everyone looks away quickly, like they have been caught looking at a dirty magazine. You don’t want to stare.

But when you realize that the pity, the sorrow, is directed at you, it hurts. It’s just another sign that you’ve crossed the line into another world.

I was always used to feeling the pity, not receiving it.

Living Life to the Fullest
DATE: 07/10/2006

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BODY:
I want to thank all of you who have written in with your own stories, and with words of hope and encouragement. A couple of e-mails have stood out in my mind. There was one from a woman who lost her mother to cancer. She remembers that feeling of time—time slipping away, a time limit on life— that is so much a part of the world of cancer.

She said that she and her husband did something unique. They figured out how many weeks it would be until they turned 90. She ordered that number of marbles, and every week, she and her husband move one marble from a vase to a dish.

I have to admit that when I first read that, I thought it was a horrible idea. It was clock-watching taken to the extreme. Just counting down the days and weeks until you die. But then she said that the two of them take that moment as an opportunity to pause and ask if they have lived that week to the best of their abilities. They ask each other what they have done to enjoy that time together.

I think that’s brilliant. We all say that we want to live life to the fullest, to make the most of every day we have. But that’s not always easy to do. We can get lost in the rush of everyday life, work, schedules, appointments, and all the things that conspire to eat up our days. But this couple takes that one moment each week to stop, take a deep breath, and ask themselves how they have lived. To me, that’s not morbid, that’s a reaffirmation of life.

I wear a bracelet made up of beads. By coincidence, the number of beads is the same as the number of months that I have been given to live. As each month passes, I look at those beads, and now I’m going to ask myself the same question that woman posed? have I lived life to the best of my ability? Have I tried to make a difference? Have I tried to make this a better world?

I haven’t figured out what I’m going to do with the bracelet when I pass that last month. Throw it in the ocean? Start the countdown over again? Get a new one? Or just laugh, take a deep breath, and enjoy that day, and the next one, and the one after that?

I don’t feel like the clock is running out for me. The prognoses that doctors give you are notoriously vague. I’m pretty sure that the cancer is going to kill me at some point. But whenever that time comes, whether it’s weeks or months or hopefully years, well, I hope that when I ask myself that question one last time: “Have I lived my life to the fullest?” I hope that my answer will be yes.

Commentary: What Are We Really Scared Of?
DATE: 07/10/2006 07:12:00 AM

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BODY:
So many people have written in to the My Cancer blog to talk about their fears. What will the next test show? Will cancer that was gone come back? Will there be more bad news? We’ve all been there— Those dark hours in the night when it can feel like all we have is fear.

People with cancer get used to bad news. After all, they get a lot of practice. And the doctors are very good at breaking bad news. But no matter what the words are, the patient can usually tell ahead of time. It’s a look the doctors get, the way they back into the bad news.

Now, you can tell yourself to expect the worst. Trouble is, with cancer, you’re rarely disappointed.  And let’s face it, we all know when we’re lying to ourselves. Even when we say we’re expecting the worst, there’s still a little part of us that remains hopeful, in spite of our own best efforts. This time, maybe there really will be good news… It takes a lot to beat back hope.

But what are we really scared of? Are we all scared of death? It comes for everyone. And in many cases, death brings peace. Maybe what we’re really afraid of is the physical act of dying. Will it be painful? Will it be slow? Will it be scary?

When I was first diagnosed, I was terribly afraid. I couldn’t really explain what I was scared of. The unknown probably. I just know that I was very, very frightened.

But now I think my fears are different.

Now I worry about my loved ones, how they will do after I’m gone. I fear that I am being tested by this disease, but that I may not learn the right lessons.  And yes, I’m afraid that my death, when it comes, will be painful —and not just for me. Maybe the biggest difference for people with cancer is that we have so much time to think about our deaths.

I listen to the radio in the morning for the weather and traffic mostly. And every once in a while I’ll hear the traffic reporter say that there’s been a fatal accident. Some people probably react angrily—another delay, late for work. But that’s truly a tragedy. Some man or woman got up, had coffee, read the newspaper, got dressed, left for work. And never made it. No time to think about it. No blogs or podcasts about their thoughts.

But cancer patients live with the spectre of their own deaths always hovering nearby. Maybe time diminishes the fears a little bit. Maybe after living with them so long, those fears lose their power. I hope so, for my sake, and for the sake of all of you who have talked about your fears, and those of you who haven’t.

I guess in the end, maybe there really isn’t anything that we should fear. It’s going to be okay. Really

Commentary: Good Days, Bad Days
DATE: 07/11/2006

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BODY:
On the bad days, I get tired.  That’s one of the side effects of the chemo: You just feel worn out. I try to fight it and lead as normal a life as possible. But some days, one thing — just one thing— is all I can do. One business lunch, a trip to the office, something like that. Afterwards, I’m just beat. I hate that.

I used to walk a lot. On the good days, I go down to the park along the Potomac River and walk five miles or so. Can usually do it in just a little over an hour. But on the bad days, I know I’ll never make it that far. My chest feels tight; I just don’t have the wind I used to. On the bad days, just walking a couple of blocks can be exhausting.

It’s not sleepy tired. A nap really doesn’t solve the problem. It’s more just physical exhaustion. I tell myself that it’s just my body, using its resources to fight the disease. I hope that’s true. But there are times where I lie down for what I think will be a short nap and wake up hours later.

But it’s more than just being physically tired. You get tired mentally. You get tired of fighting sometimes. Tired of telling yourself it will be OK. Tired of telling your friends that you’re fine, and acting like it’s true. Just tired of dealing with it all: the doctors, the shots, the pills, the cancer.

OK, so much for feeling sorry for myself. There are good days, too. Those are the days when you feel like yourself. When your body can do all the things it used to do. When the cancer’s not weighing you down. Those are the days you treasure.

It’s funny — the hospitals try to prepare you for all this. They give you notebooks of material, there are books and Web sites and meetings… you name it. One of the problems with the books is that they have to be written for all cancer patients. And we are not all the same. Some of you have written in to this blog talking about cancers I’ve never even heard of. I’m pretty sure you hadn’t, either, before the diagnosis.

But we all react differently to the cancer, to the treatments. So the books will say things like “you’ll be lethargic, or have plenty of energy.” “You’ll have no appetite, or you’ll be famished.” “You’ll sleep most of the day, or you’ll have insomnia.” Sounds pretty much like life to me.

Good days and bad days— that’s what our lives are made of.

Commentary: I Am Not My Disease
DATE: 07/12/2006

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BODY:
Getting cancer turned out to be a good career move for me. That’s a joke I’ve told a number of times, but it does have the ring of truth to it. Because of my disease, I have this blog, the podcasts, the commentaries. And I have a unique and valuable forum to talk to all of you. I wouldn’t have this if I wasn’t sick.

Writing these pieces every day is an interesting experience. I love to write and I think that I do have some things to say. Actually, I’ve been given the opportunity to say the things that so many cancer patients have been thinking all along. A privilege and a responsibility.

But it also forces me to face my cancer every day, to think about what it has done to my life. But I refuse to let that be my only identity. I’m more than my disease.

I’ve had a fairly successful career as a journalist. I had the privilege of working with some of the best in the business. I was able to see and do things that very few people ever get to see and do. Running Nightline was one of the highlights of my life. But just for fun, the other day I Googled myself. Oh c’mon, we’ve all done that, right? And so many of the entries now have to do with cancer.

And I have probably gotten a greater response to the My Cancer project than just about anything else I have done as a journalist. I’ve heard from old friends with whom I had lost touch— some, for decades. I have heard from current friends. And I have heard from strangers, from all of you, whose lives have so much in common with mine.

I think I’ve said before that when I had cancer the first time, when I had my surgery and pretty much thought I was cured, I never liked to use the term “survivor.” That wasn’t who I was. I wasn’t going to let the cancer take over my identity. I was too busy for that. I was doing too many things.

But now, in spite of my best efforts, I may have lost that fight. In the end, I may very well be best remembered as a cancer victim. That’s strange to me. I don’t think I like it very much. The cancer has changed just about everything. My life, my career, my body. But aside from that, I am still, at the core, the same person I was before. Maybe a little wiser, but the same person.

And so I guess this is the time to say something that I sometimes feel like shouting out loud. I hope I speak for all of you out there who have this disease when I say, “I am not my disease.” We, all of us, are much much more than that.

Commentary: Instilling Memories
DATE: 07/13/2006

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BODY:
How do we want to be remembered? One woman wrote in to say that she is fighting her battle with cancer not just to live longer, but for her children. They are only 1 and 3, she wrote, and she is trying to hang on long enough to instill memories of her within them. She is fighting to be remembered, not in any particular way, just as herself. As their mother.

Her e-mail stuck with me. We all want to make our mark in the world somehow. Doesn’t have to be high profile. Although if someone wants to be remembered for curing cancer, let me know—we’ll all help. But most of us are not going to be famous. Our lives —or our deaths— will not be on the front pages of the newspaper. And that’s just fine with me.

I’ve thought about what kind of mark I will have left. I’m pretty well known within the journalistic community. Lots of awards, statues on a shelf, all of that. But that’s not really who I am. That’s what I do. I’m afraid that I’ll be remembered mostly for my laugh. It’s pretty loud. OK, really loud. But I guess there are worse things to be remembered for.

It’s like the old saying: The only funeral you really want to attend is the only one you can’t. People always say nice things about the deceased, but the deceased never get to hear them. It’s tempting to leave some sort of farewell message, but actually, I think that’s a little creepy.

No, I would like to be remembered as someone who was a good friend. Someone who fought for what he believed in. Someone who spoke for those who couldn’t speak for themselves. And I’d like to be remembered as being much slimmer than I really am—and with more hair.

But the more I think about it, the more I think that woman who wrote in is right. She wants her children to remember their mother. Just for who she is. I guess I would want the same thing. I would like to be remembered for who I am—the good parts and the bad parts, too. As another person who just tried to do his best. That’s enough.

They say that when you die, you live on in the memories of your friends. I can’t think of a better resting place.

Commentary: Sometimes All You Can Do Is Laugh

DATE: 07/14/2006
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BODY:
There are times in all of this that you just have to laugh. Because some of the things that happen really are funny. When I went into the ER last December and they found the brain tumor, it was a pretty bleak time. I was sitting there, feeling like I had been hit with a two-by-four.

They always bring you something to drink in a hospital. They’re actually very persistent. And always with a straw. So a nice man brought me some ginger ale.

I tried to take a drink through the straw and got nothing. I panicked. My first thought was, “This is the brain tumor. I can’t make suction. That must be one of the symptoms! Why haven’t I heard of this? Why didn’t they warn me?”

Well the straw was split. A big hole in it. That gave us the first laugh in a long evening. So for those of you who are worried, not being able to drink through a straw is not a symptom of a brain tumor.

I’ve said before that I’m a big guy. But there are a lot of people my size out there. It’s taken hospitals a while to realize that. When I had the first operation five years ago, I had an extension in my bed and I was given the largest hospital gown they had. I never even tried the slippers.

But the thing I remember most about that is when I was in the OR right before the operation. They were already pumping drugs into me, and I was getting pretty groggy. I was sitting on the operating table, and there was a tiny nurse — she couldn’t have been much over five feet—standing in front of me.

She said that she was there to catch me if I fell. Through my drug-induced haze, I wondered why she would need to catch me, but I was still awake enough to know that if I fell, she would be crushed.

As I started to go under, the last thing I heard was someone yell, “What are we going to do with his feet?” I was too long for the operating table. I never did find out what they did about that.

But the strangest thing by far was on the trip from a Washington hospital up to Johns Hopkins in Baltimore. I had to go by ambulance— liability and all that. I was certainly mobile, so I was sitting up in the front. It was Christmas time, the party season. As we were getting on the highway, we saw a woman lying on the ground next to an SUV at the side of the beltway. Cars were whizzing by.

My ambulance crew had no choice but to stop. It turned out the woman and her husband had been at a Christmas party. There had been a lot of drinking. A woman said something to her husband, he replied and apparently, it turned into a huge argument. So on the way home, the woman, angry, declared that she was going to commit suicide by jumping out of the car on the freeway.

We were all stunned. The EMTs had no choice but to stay with her. I was thinking, “I’m the guy with the brain tumor—this is supposed to be all about me.” But she was adamant. If she got back in the car, she’d jump out. It was her car and she had the keys. Everyone was shaking his head. Finally the cops arrived and we left. I have no idea what happened. I hope she’s OK.

But sometimes all you can do is laugh

Commentary: In This Together
DATE: 07/17/2006

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BODY:
A woman named Kathryn recently wrote in.  She lost her partner, father and brother to cancer. And she said a couple of things that are well worth sharing. I’ve written before that I don’t feel pressure to go climb Mt. Everest or anything like that. I just want to enjoy lif —normal life—with its ups and downs. And the key to that is my friends. I can’t thank them enough for all that they have done for me since I was diagnosed. And maybe I owe the most to those with whom I have conversations where cancer never comes up. That may be their greatest gift to me.

Kathryn and many others of you have come to realize the same thing. She wrote: “I’ve also come to realize how much my enjoyment of leisure activities was really in the company I kept, not the activity itself.”

I also want to thank all of my friends for being patient with me they may not even realize they are. “How are you feeling?” “How about now?” “You still OK?” Those are the obvious questions. We get them a lot. There are really no other questions to ask. But sometimes that just gets so annoying. I get frustrated with them sometimes and I know that I show it, even though I try not to.

I have to stop and remind myself that those questions are the right ones and that they are asking out of genuine concern. Because they feel helpless. There’s not a lot more they can do. And sometimes that desire and that need to help can be overpowering. Again, I want to quote Kathryn’s e-mail and the message she wanted to send to all of us who have this disease: “Please let your loved ones help you and don’t feel guilty when they do. We cannot take away this disease, so let us do what we can to help enhance the quality of your lives, and by doing so, enhance ours.”

So, to all of my friends and to all of you out there who are fighting this disease along with your loved ones, thank you. Like it or not, we’re all in this together.

Commentary: You Never Leave the Room
DATE: 07/17/2006

We all like to joke that it’s “all about me.” And to a great degree, the My Cancer project is mostly about me. I’m the one with cancer, after all. But that doesn’t even come close to the reality of all this. I’m not the only victim.

For twenty years, Laurie Singer, also a journalist, and I have lived together. And all those years, she has waited and worried while I went off to cover some war somewhere. These days, she waits and worries while I fight another war, not in some far-off desert or jungle, but in a hospital. In the chemo room.

The room is crowded, hardly a space for family members or friends to hang out. When you go there, you want to be supportive. Your life has changed too. In Leroy’s case, life was chugging along at warp speed. He was in his dream job at Nightline.

Then a routine colonoscopy almost five years ago sucked the air right out of our world.

Maybe you’ve seen “the look.”  I don’t think the doctors and nurses mean to have it. They certainly don’t practice it in the mirror in the morning. But it seeps through the layers of their eyes. A mixture of dread, sadness and distress—and it happens in a flash. I saw it on the nurse who summoned me to the room where Leroy was resting, post-colonoscopy.

A few minutes later, the doctor carried in vivid images of the cancerous tumor that will haunt Leroy for the rest of his life. It would have to come out —a major resectioning of his colon. And along with it, lots of lymph nodes to biopsy. This is the way they think they can tell if the cancer has spread. The nodes were clean. No chemo ordered. Go home and heal. Have a good life.

Until you’re sitting in a restaurant one night, as we were a few years later, when I noticed Leroy’s face was drooping. The face of cancer was staring back at me.  Leroy had MRIs in the ER and we saw “the look” again. This time, it came from the doctor who read the tests.

Then it was brain surgery—one tumor gone, but CT scans revealed more tumors.  There were new doctors. A cancer center and a road map to the chemo room.

This is a place that sets medicine back to the Dark Ages. The medicine they pump into the patients is better than ever, but it’s the way they present it that boggles the mind. A big room filled with old recliners, t-stands with IV bags hanging, pumps ticking away as the drops of poison pass through the yards of clear plastic tubing. The conversations among the folks forced to come here vary from “What do you have?” to “How far have you come to get it?” The skin tones of the patients speak louder than any of their answers. And those of us who come to give our support, we do our best not to look around the room. At the same time, it’s hard to look at the person we’ve come with, because it’s hard to imagine that this is really happening to us.

In Leroy’s case, he looks like he should be anywhere but in a room full of cancer patients. He sticks out, and it’s not because he’s 6 feet 5. His skin is pink and healthy, the chemo hasn’t taken away his hair, he hasn’t lost weight. He’s the anti-chemo poster boy.  But there he is, with that damn needle in his arm, sitting there for hours waiting for that last drop of poison to drip into his blood stream.

We’ve made many trips to the chemo room now. Sometimes I leave and walk the brick-lined streets of Baltimore, Stop at a bakery where they make some great cookies that have a huge chocolate drop on top— a Leroy favorite. The only good thing about being on chemo? Cookies with big chocolate drops on top move to the top of the food pyramid!

But the room and the image of him sitting there never leaves my mind. I can walk those streets, people-watch and see the world moving on.  But my world is back in that room where Leroy is fighting with every healthy cell in his body to live.

There’s not a song on the iPod that can drown out that image, not a chapter in the best book that can create an escape route. Even on the other side of chemo, you never leave that room.

Commentary: On the Other Side
DATE: 07/18/2006
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BODY:
I had an amazing experience the other night and I’m still trying to make sense of it all. A friend of mine is an EMT on the local volunteer rescue squad. She invited me to ride along one night. Now, I’ve spent a lot of time riding with police and fire units, but I had never ridden with an ambulance crew.

The first call was a man who’d had a stroke a few days earlier and whose blood sugar was dangerously low. But some dextrose or glucose  I’m not sure which it was  brought him around almost immediately.

The second call of the night was a woman who was clearly in distress. She was nauseous and dizzy and my friend was worried that she was having a heart attack. She was in the back of her house in a room too small for the gurney, so she had to be carried out on a stretcher. I ended up helping to carry her. And the whole time I was thinking, here I am, carrying a woman who is nowhere near as sick as I am supposed to be, out to an ambulance.

We took her, by chance, to the ER where I was first treated back in December. That’s where I went when I was having symptoms of the brain tumor, although we didn’t know that at the time. It was so strange being back there. I felt that I had somehow switched sides. I was hanging out with the other EMTs, the nurses and doctors. For them, it was just another night on the job; they were talking about vacations and other normal stuff. But then I would look into the cubicles and see the patients, the looks on their faces and on the faces of their loved ones. Looks of sheer terror, but also that confusion when you realize you have lost control of your life. It was weird to be on the outside looking in.

And then across the ER, I saw a familiar face. The doctor who had treated me that first night. The doctor who told me I had a brain tumor. I went up to reintroduce myself. I figured that with the number of patients he must see, he would not remember me. But to my surprise, he did. He said that he had wondered what had happened to me. He explained that ER doctors see people come through and then they go off somewhere and no one in the ER ever knows what happens to them.

When I last saw him, I had a brain tumor and had been given six months to live. I’m sure he was surprised to see me. We had a great talk. I told him what was happening with me. I don’t quite know how to explain why that conversation meant so much to me, but it did.

When the shift was over, it was a hot Washington night, so I drove home with the windows open and the music blasting. It all was sort of overwhelming, being back in the ER, seeing the patients and the looks on their faces, and being, in their eyes, on the other side, one of the people who was supposed to help them. It was almost too much to make sense of. But I wouldn’t have missed it for anything.

Commentary: You Might As Well Keep Trying
DATE: 07/19/2006

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BODY:
As I write this entry for the blog, I feel like… well, you know. I’m back on the chemo and I’m sick. It’s a strange sort of “sick,” though. It’s artificial. When I take the pills, I get sick. When I stop, I get better. That’s so different than a normal illness.

Usually, if you get the flu or something, there are things you can do to feel better and to get better. But chemo sickness is different. There’s the fatigue that no nap can cure. The nausea that no hot tea can soothe. And the overall blah feeling that even chicken soup can’t make go away. There’s nothing that can make this better, other than reaching the bottom of this bottle of pills and taking the last ones. Then, for a week, I’m well.

But that doesn’t stop you from trying to find something that will help. I try all sorts of different foods. Different things to drink. I nap, ’cause I have to, although like I said, it doesn’t bring relief. It’s a little frustrating, but it does remind me of a funny story.

Five years ago, the first time I had cancer, I was in the hospital after surgery. I was given an epidural, an injection in my back, and I was numb from the waist down. In my drug haze, I somehow became worried that they had made a mistake and that I was going to be numb forever. But, also fueled by the drugs, I came up with a plan.

If I kept moving my feet, I reasonednone too clearlythat I could work the drugs out of my system. So I lay there in bed, moving my feet back and forth. Of course, since the drugs were being pumped nonstop into my body, my plan was doomed to failure. But that didn’t dampen my enthusiasm.

Until one of the nurses came in and saw my feet moving. She looked at me with some concern and asked, “You’re doing that on purpose, right?” It made me laugh.

But it was just another one of those things you try to control to try to feel better. It may not work, but you might as well keep trying.

Commentary: You Don’t Get a Pass
DATE: 07/20/2006

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BODY:
I was on the phone with a friend of mine the other day and she said something that I have heard a million times by now. “My problems are nothing compared to yours.”  I know what she meant, but she’s wrong.

Life doesn’t stop just because someone gets sick. It hasn’t stopped for me. I still have job issues, I’m looking at a stack of bills, the house was leaking after the last big storms all the usual stuff. None of that stops. You don’t get a pass once you’re diagnosed with cancer.

And that’s more than true for everyone else in our lives. The fact that I have a disease doesn’t mean that my friends can’t still have job problems, relationship crises, their own medical issues. Life goes on. I guess what I want to say today is for all of the people reading this who don’t have cancer.

You don’t have to apologize. Your problems are real. They were real before anyone you know got sick and they will continue to be real. I’m not offended when someone wants to complain about something. This isn’t some twisted game of one-upmanship. I’m not going to say, “Well, that’s nothing. I’ve got cancer.”

I’m still a friend, I still want to help if I can and just lend a shoulder if that’s all I can do. I want to listen to complaints. I want to still be able to be sympathetic, to maybe offer some advice. In short, I still want to be the person I was before I got sick.

Maybe that’s who we are at our best. People who care about others. Whether that is affected by this disease or not, it’s still a big part of who we are, or who we strive to be. Don’t take that away from us. We still want to be your friends, just as all of you have stood by us when we needed you. That’s just the way this all works. The act of sharing a problem shows that we have value as friends. No matter what, we need to hold onto that.

Commentary: Different World, Different Me
DATE: 07/21/2006

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BODY:
I am learning a lot from this whole blog thing. First of all, I knew it already, but it’s still shocking to me just how many of us there are out there. Too many. It seems that we have conquered so many other diseases that used to kill people; maybe cancer is one of the last ones left. But it strikes so many people.

But I am also reminded every day, in your notes and e-mails, just how wise and strong people are. It’s reassuring. I’m sure that many actually all of us would have preferred not to be tested this way, but we weren’t given a choice.

Every day, people write things that are worth thinking about. A woman named Jeri wrote in and talked about the joy found in a few minutes, or even hours, when cancer “goes away,” forgotten. She called it returning to the “pre-diagnosis stage, where nothing can hurt you.” That made me stop. It’s only been about eight months for me, but it’s hard to remember what life was like before. What did I worry about? How did I feel? Different world, different me.

But Jeri is right. There are times when you forget or are distracted and life is just normal for a while. And then it comes back. You can push it away, try to hold it down, but it always comes back.

A woman named Lisa wrote in and in a single phrase, described what I was trying to say the other day in talking about other people and how they feel that their problems are somehow less significant. Lisa talked about “the guilt of living.”

That’s something that soldiers know after a battle. That survivors of a disaster feel as they try to make sense of what happened. Why did I survive? Why did someone else die, and I didn’t? Why was my loved one given this burden and not me? But Lisa was right when she said that the “guilt of living” is something to fear.

There is no sense to it. It can only eat away at you. When I was spending a lot of time overseas usually in bad places we used to always talk about the “luck of the draw.” Walk down one road and live. Walk down another and die. Be born in the U.S. and lead a wonderful life. Be born in parts of Africa and know only starvation and death. It’s all the luck of the draw. But to beat the poker references to death, all we can do in life is play the cards we’re dealt.

So for all of you out there who may be feeling the “guilt of living,” don’t. Please.

Commentary: Don’t Forget the Wounded
DATE: 07/24/2006

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BODY:
My nurses are really very good. They stick a needle in your arm, draw blood and have it out almost before you know it. I’ve become friends with several of them. I was something of a curiosity at first, because apparently the veins in my arms go crosswise instead of lengthwise. I’m not sure what, if anything, that means, but they seemed interested.

I was in this morning for bloodwork. They always draw blood into a couple of color-coded tubes. About an hour later, I’m given a printout with numbers that I really don’t understand. I usually just ask my chemo nurse if there’s anything to worry about.

I was talking with the nurse who drew my blood this morning. It was the usual: complaining about the heat, traffic and all that. But then she said that she was going to a meeting where, for the first time, they were going to offer counseling to the nurses.

She said that it is so hard for them because they lose virtually all of their patients. They only deal with cancer patients. She said that one man came in yesterday who was her age. She started to cry. It was worse a couple of years ago, she said, when the sadness and grief became almost too much to bear.

I’ve wondered about this a lot. The nurses and doctors do so much to try to save cancer patients even when they know that in most cases, it’s a losing battle. They make friends with patients only to lose them, but then they are replaced by new patients, and new ones after them as the cancer epidemic just continues to roll.

How do they deal with it? How are they able to get up each morning and come to work? I don’t know. I don’t know where they get the strength.

I guess like any other war, when we talk about the war on cancer, we tend to focus on the fatalities. But like any other war, we need to make sure that we don’t forget the wounded.

Commentary: Commentary: Waiting for Test Results
DATE: 07/24/2006

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BODY:
The following is a commentary from Morning Edition, July 24, 2006:

It’s the waiting that’s the worst. Or maybe it’s the fear of the unknown that’s worse. Maybe it’s all just bad. The life of someone who has cancer plays to a very different rhythm. You go from one cycle of chemo to the next. You don’t know if it’s working. It just takes on a life of its own. You get a little shortsighted, counting the days until your next break.

In some ways, taking chemo is an act of faith. Until the doctors take a look, you just have to hope or maybe even believe that it’s working. Because as unpleasant as it can be, it would be doubly unpleasant if all the nausea, all the fatigue, all that was for nothing.

Now there’s a blood test for a cancer marker that you take every couple of months. When I started chemo, I had a score of 21. Then it went to 14, and then seven. Zero, of course, means no cancer. I was excited, the doctors were excited. Everything seemed to be going in the right direction. Until they did the scans. No change in the tumors. That blood test can mean a lot of different things. In my case, it meant nothing.

The scans are the real markers. Those you have every couple of months, too.  They’re  painless, except you have to drink a really foul mixture of chemicals and raspberry-flavored drink. I assume someone at the hospital thought the raspberry drink would make the concoction go down easier. It doesn’t. Trust me.

Basically you get run through a machine for a while.  And then the games begin. The technicians are instructed to tell the patients nothing.  Trained radiologists have to read the scans, and they don’t want a technician to give the patient bad information. The official results don’t come in for hours. So of course, you, as the patient, try to trick, beg or grovel to get some kind of hint.  You try to look at the screen over the tech’s shoulders, as if you had any idea what you were looking at. You ask if they see anything big. Usually, though, they go by their training and give you nothing.

And then, after hours that seem like days, the doctor will come to tell you what he or she saw. Again, you’re desperately trying to read the clues, sort of like in a poker game.  Except it’s a game where the other player has all the cards. The doctor knows.

And then you know, for good or bad. And even if the news is bad, it really is better to finally know.  At least that’s what I tell myself. These days, I don’t really get nervous until the doctor comes in. The news is usually so uniformly bad that every time, you just hope for a little bit of hope.

Why am I thinking about all this? Because I have my scans next week. And maybe there’ll be some good news, right?

Commentary:Waiting for the Cavalry
DATE: 07/25/2006

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BODY:
Wait for the cavalry. They should be here any minute. Or month. Or year. That’s sort of the advice that many cancer patients are given. Just hang on as long as you can. People are working on this. There should be a breakthrough any day now.

There have been tremendous advances in the treatment of cancer. And new research offers new hope. So doctors will tell you to just try to hang on, try to live as long as you can and maybe the cavalry will get here in time.

It’s sort of amazing that with all of the money, time and knowledge that has been poured into the war on cancer, there still isn’t a cure.  How could that be? Is it really that tough? Apparently so.

Some solutions are tantalizingly close. There’s something called the Gamma Knife. It’s radiation, focused as precisely as a laser beam. It’s used on the brain. I had the procedure done to clean up residual cancer cells after I had my brain tumor removed.

It’s truly an amazing procedure. The worst part is that they literally screw your head into a metal framework so that they can immobilize your brain. After that, it’s painless. You see nothing, hear nothing. The doctors map out very precisely what they need the machine to do, and then it’s done. Easy.

Well, at least it’s easy on the brain, which can be immobilized. If they could figure out how to use that on the lungs, for instance, which are constantly moving, then I could go in tomorrow and be done with all this. This is an engineering problem, not a medical one. Somewhere, someone has to be able to figure out how to do this.

Genetics, stem cells, cloning. Who knows what will finally offer the solution? They are finding new chemo drugs that will hopefully be more effective and less debilitating. Somewhere, some grad student in a basement may have the answer. And so the doctors repeat their mantra: Just hang on. Help is on the way. There could be a breakthrough any day.

Well, I have just one bit of advice for the cavalry. Ride faster.

How Much Do You Tell?
DATE: 07/26/2006

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BODY:
Honesty is the best policy. Isn’t that what we’re taught from childhood? OK, so the whole story about George Washington and the cherry tree was a lie, but it’s the thought that counts. I’ve written before about the whole issue of honesty and many of you have commented about it, too. How much do you tell? Should you tell everything? Can peopleto quote Jack Nicholson in A Few Good Men “handle the truth?”

Here’s what a woman named Cherie wrote in to say:

“I have stage four colorectal cancer with liver mets.  This is a strange journey, one I am not entirely sure I can share with my loved ones.  I am scared it might rob them of the hope I see in their eyes. The hope which I sometimes don’t believe in.”

For those of you who may not know the jargon of cancer, a little bit of translation: Stage four is the worst, last stage of cancer. “Mets” is short for metastasized, meaning that the cancer has spread in Cherie’s case, to her liver. I’m a stage four, too, with lung and brain mets, although the brain tumor was cut out. The doctors thought I had a liver met, too, but it turned out that whatever it was that they saw, it wasn’t a tumor.

Not that it matters much. When I was first told I had five tumors in my lungs, I was devastated. But then one of my doctors explained that, one tumor or five, there really isn’t that much difference. Chemo will attack them all. I guess having cancer is like the old line that you can’t be a little bit pregnant. You can’t have a little cancer either you do or you don’t.

But Cherie’s main point is that she doesn’t want to let the truth rob her friends of their hope.  I agree completely. I learned that lesson early on, when I told too many people what my early prognoses were. I stopped doing that. It’s important that they have hope.

But what about hope for the patient? Not talking about it and keeping it all inside or at least a lot of it can make you pretty lonely. How do you balance the need to talk about what is happening to you with the tears of a close friend when you tell him or her the truth? There’s no simple answer.

I guess it’s up to us to try to decide as best we can. Jack Nicholson may have been right, but those of us with cancer were never asked whether we could handle the truth.

The Tingling Side Effects of Chemo
DATE: 07/27/2006

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BODY:

“We still want you to be able to button your shirt.” That’s what my doctor said. He was talking about neuropathy, something I had never heard of eight months ago, but something that is now part of my daily life.

Neuropathy is a side effect of the chemo. Just about everyone on chemo gets it and sometimes it lasts long after the chemo is stopped. It’s a tingling in the hands and feet. Not a pleasant kind of tingling. It’s actually pretty annoying. My feet tingle a good part of the time. There’s nothing I can do about it. Nothing can make it stop or go away, except stopping the chemo.

As for my hands, they don’t tingle. But it feels like someone is squeezing the tips of my fingers and they don’t stop. I can’t really say that you get used to it. I certainly haven’t, but I guess you learn to tolerate it.

I finished my original round of chemo and now I’m on a lesser regimen, sort of a maintenance program. That can go on as long as I want, or, as my doctor put it, “as long as I can stand it.” It’s the neuropathy that’s the key. When that becomes bad enough or annoying enough, then I can stop taking the drug.

The nausea from chemo comes and goes. For me, it’s worse in the morning, but it passes. But the neuropathy is always there, like a toothache. It’s a virtually constant reminder of what’s going on. I can live with it for now. It’s a little annoying when I type, like I’m doing now, but otherwise, I can still button my shirt.

I can’t imagine how bad it will have to get to drive me to stop the chemo. And in many cases, it doesn’t go away immediately. It can linger for months. In the overall picture, it’s a minor annoyance, but an annoyance it is. I guess if people see me wearing only T-shirts or polo shirts shirts that don’t need to be buttoned then it will be time to stop. After all, style is still important.

Commentary: It’s Not Always Easy to Find the Strength
DATE: 07/28/2006

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BODY:
I wish I could answer all of the e-mails that come in. I can’t, unfortunately, but I do read them all. And they are amazing, like the people that write them. So many are full of courage, determination, humor and above all, humanity. But there are some that just grab you.

A woman named Ruth wrote in. She had started chemo but had to stop because the side effects were just too much.

“I want to beat this, but I just couldn’t do the medicine. Tomorrow I go back to find out what they will put me on next time. I used to have a positive attitudewhat happened to me? I don’t want to die, of course, but I’m so scared and confused.”

Ruth, we’re all scared and confused, at least part of the time. It’s not easy to find the strength that we all need every day. There are always moments sometimes when you wake up, or out of nowhere in the middle of the day, or in the dark hours of the nightwhen the fear can become almost too much to bear.

And we all ask ourselves the questions that have no answers. Why is this happening? What’s going to happen? When? What should I do? We are being tested in the most difficult way. But I also believe that all of us have the strength and if we don’t have it, our loved ones may have it for us to get through this.

I wish there was more I could say to Ruth, but I’m sure she’s heard it all before. Each of us fighting this disease has to find the ways to cope that work best for us.  For some, it’s religion; for others diet, humor or just plain old determination. But we all stumble. Those facades that we so carefully construct and try to maintain do crack or crumble sometimes. And that’s just part of life.

So for Ruth and for everyone else out there who feels that fear, sadness or even hopelessness, I just have this to say: Don’t give up. You’re not alone.

Commentary:Advice for Friends
DATE: 07/31/2006

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BODY:
A man named Erick wrote in the other day. His best friend has been diagnosed with lymphoma.

“I’ve been strong as nails for him through all the onslaught of doctors and tests, but this one I don’t know how to prepare myself. I almost asked the hospital if I could volunteer in a chemotherapy center just to see what I’ll be facing, but I don’t know. I guess what I’m looking for from anyone is answers. As someone supporting a loved one through this fight, what can I expect? His appearance, his mood, etc. Anything will help.”

I wish I had the answers. It’s funny, the other day a friend asked me for advice on how to deal with an illness in her family. I’m not an expert. I’m just someone who’s on the same journey. We all react differently, but at the same time, I guess we all react the same way.

Expect tears, yours and his. This is scary stuff. There are times when all you can do is cry. Don’t be afraid to show your own tears, and don’t be afraid to see his.

Fatigue. He’ll get tired out by the treatment. And, in some ways, sleep is a refuge. Go to sleep and you just don’t have to face all this, at least for a little while.

He may get impatient, become short with people around him. I know I did. I got so tired of people asking me how I was feeling at that moment. But I had to remind myself that they meant well, that they wanted to help and that was really the only way they could. He’ll learn that too.

Normalcy. That’s the greatest gift you can give. His world has changed in an instantit will never be the same again. Ever. If you can stand it, and it’s going to be hard, try to give him a little bit of his life the way it used to be. Go to a restaurant or a movie. Talk about sports, politics, TV, anything… but don’t mention that elephant in the room. Those few minutes when you forget about having cancer, those are golden.

But don’t be afraid to talk about it when he wants to or when you need to. That’s equally important. It may be difficult to hear his thoughts, especially on the bad days, but he needs to be able to express them.

But really, it all comes down to one bit of advice that you already know. Just be his friend, the friend that you were before this happened. That’s all. That’s enough.

Commentary: Watching War
DATE: 07/31/2006

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BODY:
The following essay is from the NPR My Cancer

I’m going to talk about a different subject today or at least slightly different. But bear with me. I will get around to making a point eventually. I promise.

The My Cancer project has been going for a month now, and I have to say that I have been overwhelmed by the response. Not so much in terms of numbers, but in what all of you have been saying. The eloquence, courage and intelligence of what you have said is truly inspiring.

And the common theme of what you have written and what I have tried to say all comes down to one thing: life. We are all fighting to live. It’s not just about living longer, although I don’t think any of us would argue with that. It’s about how we live. Each day is precious, whether you have cancer or not. Sometimes we forget that.

I pretty much made my career off of the deaths of others. I’ve covered more than a dozen wars. For whatever reasons, it turned out that I was pretty good at it. And I was also willing to go. That was a big part of it.

Over the last quarter century or so, I have literally seen tens of thousands of people die. From the jungles of Central and South America to the desert and street fighting of the Middle East to the killing fields of Africa that’s what I did. I went and watched while other people died. Sometimes there were so many you couldn’t really grasp what was happening. A mass grave is truly an example of mankind at its worst.

And there are some individuals whose deaths I will never forget. The tiny boy in a Rwandan hell, who died at my feet while I looked in his eyes. He’s with me every moment of every day.

And now I watch the news and see war again. People killing each other with great efficiency and enthusiasm. What’s wrong with all of us?

I guess that my cancer has made me think of death in a different way a much more personal way. On a battlefield, you can almost feel it when Death is on the prowl. You, like everyone else there, just hope that this time, he’ll pass you by. Mine most likely won’t be a death on some foreign field. It won’t be random. It will be personal and private. That’s something that’s denied to a lot of people.

I’ve come to hate war. No, hate is not a strong enough word. I despise it. And yet it just goes on and on.  I’m working on a television project that may very well take me back to Iraq and Afghanistan. I wonder, first of all, if I would be up to it physically. But I also wonder how I’d handle it mentally. I’ve changed. Death and I are hardly strangers. I’ve seen his work up close. I guess I just wonder if our relationship has changed

Commentary: Bad News and Difficult Decisions
DATE: 08/01/2006

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BODY:
I had my scans today. They were training a new nurse who couldn’t find the vein in my hand for the IV. These days, that passes as a minor annoyance. We were going to meet my oncologist in the corridor to just go over some logistics about future appointments.

When he showed up, he said, “Let’s find someplace to talk.” I’m sure you all know what that meant. Sure enough, the news was bad. I had been on just one chemo drug for the last couple of weeks, in the hopes that it would hold the tumors in place. Well, it didn’t. The tumors in my lungs have grown. All that happened in the eight weeks since I stopped the major chemotherapy. My cancer just turns out to be pretty aggressive.

That had always been my worry about taking a break. Would taking a break or taking just the one drug allow the cancer to spread, undoing whatever good the chemo had done? Well, unfortunately, I was right to worry. One step forward, three steps back. The tumors are now bigger than they were when I first started chemo back in January. How could everything I went through the nausea, all the side effects be for nothing? I guess there’s no good answer to that.

And then it got worse. In those same eight weeks or so, it appears that the cancer has spread to my spine.  I have to admit I am shocked. That one never occurred to me. The strange thing is that I still have no symptoms.

I’m sure most of you know where I am now. Your ears are sort of buzzing; you don’t know what to do. There’s really very little you can do, except maybe shake your head at the way things turn out. I had tried to steel myself for bad news, but that never really works. It certainly didn’t today.

And so I face some difficult decisions that have to be made pretty quickly. Do I try a new combination of chemo drugs? That may be more effective, but then it might not. And if it’s not, as fast-moving as my cancer appears to be, that time lost could be catastrophic. Do I go back on the old chemo drugs, which we know held the tumors in check? That may be safe, but then I’d still have that nagging thought in the back of my mind: Would the other drugs have been more effective? Would they have shrunk the tumors? There’s no way to know. This is crapshoot medicine. You pick one course and take your chances. Turns out that the timeline for either choice is about the same, in terms of survival.

Or I could do nothing, opt for a better quality of life in the short-term, but know that, unchecked, the cancer will be merciless. So what to do? I’m looking at a lot more tests this weekbone scans, brain scans and so on. But in the end, I’m simply going to have to make a choice. And for the life of me, no pun intended, I just don’t know what to do.

Commentary: Ready for the Next Shot
DATE: 08/02/2006

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BODY:
Remember those inflatable punching bags we had as kids? You’d hit one as hard as you could, it would fall back and then pop right back up to take another shot. I think most of those bags had clown images on them, although I don’t know why someone thought it was a good idea to teach kids to beat up clowns.

But that’s sort of what it’s like to be a cancer patient. You get kicked in the gut, fall down and then pop back up again, ready for the next shot. At least you try to be ready. That’s pretty much the way I feel as I write this.

Yesterday I got the bad news that my cancer has spread. But I woke up today and I feel the same as I did yesterday. I look the same. I still have things to do. Life goes on, whether it’s convenient to us or not.

I still haven’t made my decision as to how to proceed. Obviously, I’m thinking about it all the time, but I think that the right choice will become clear in the next day or so. The doctors are supposed to call later today to give me their thoughts, but I already pretty much know what their positions are. In the end, this is one I’m going to have to make.

It’s tempting sometimes to just curl up on the floor and give up. I know that every once in a while, the thought will come crashing into my head that maybe it would be better to just lay my burdens down. But that thought only lingers for an instant.

I want to thank all of you who wrote in with such kind words of encouragement. Those notes mean the world to me.  I hope that for someone out there who’s feeling like they just can’t take another punch, that my words might encourage you to keep fighting.

I remember that after enough punches and kicks, those inflatable things usually sprung a leak and deflated for good. It’s likely that in the end, my cancer will win. But I’m going to keep popping back up after each punch as long as I can. I’m sure as hell not going to make it easy for the tumors. I’m going to make them work to get me.

Commentary: The Load We Carry
DATE: 08/03/2006

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BODY:
There’s a wonderful book called The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien. I read it again every couple of years and always get something new out of it. It’s about Vietnam, but it’s also about much, much more. O’Brien writes about the things that soldiers carried, the things they had to weapons and equipment and the little things that they carried just for themselves.

I have a confession to make: I have stolen his idea before. Sitting in the Kuwaiti desert waiting for the invasion of Iraq to begin, we were out of ideas for stories. But then I remembered the book, and we went around asking soldiers what they were carrying. Letters from home, pictures, good-luck pieces even a surprising number of teddy bears. It was one of my favorite pieces.

And as I sit here, writing about cancer and the struggles that we are all going through, I started to think about the things we carry. All of our actions, good and bad. Words spoken that shouldn’t have been. Words not spoken that should have been. Loves, found and lost, and those that never were. Times we were at our best, our worst, and when we were just plain human. Memories, wishes, dreams. It’s a heavy load.

O’Brien also talks about the term “humping.” It’s a term that I think started in Vietnam, but may have been around much longer. It means to carry something, usually something heavy, over rough terrain. Or just to travel that tough path.

Journalists have adopted the term. “Just hump your gear over to the plane,” or something like that. For those of us with cancer, sometimes the burdens can seem extra heavy. We carry no, we hump the pain, the anxiety, the fear and our loved ones, too. All of that on our backs, or at least, it can feel like that.

It’s tempting sometimes to think that we should discard some of the load, or maybe even set the whole burden down. But those things that we carry are what make us who we are. Each one is precious.

I think I can hump my load a little while longer.

Commentary: A Frosty Toast to the Future
DATE: 08/04/2006

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BODY:

Ice cream. Iced tea with lots of ice. Frozen drinks. Cold beer in a frosty mug. Those are my plans for this weekend, because come Monday, all of that stops. I’m going back on chemo. We’ve gone back and forth on which chemo to try: a new one that has pretty awful side effects, or the old one that also has awful side effects, but that we know held the tumors in check.

So after a lot of conversations with the doctors and just thinking about it on my own, we’re going to go with the old chemo. Here’s why. We know that the original chemo drugs were somewhat effective. Hopefully, they will be again. By trying that first, we hold the other drug combination in reserve. If this one doesn’t work, we’ll switch to that one and there’s another one to try after that.

The worst side effect of the original chemo is an intolerance for cold things. No cold drinks. Nothing straight out of the refrigerator. That lasts about a week. And, of course, we’re in the middle of a heat wave. Timing is everything.

I’m fine with this decision. As so many of you have written, make the decision and then don’t look back. But there is one thing that I do worry about. This chemo regimen should last about five months. If it doesn’t work, then we’ll try the other one, and ideally, that would also last about five months. But I’ve already been on chemo for most of the last eight months. I wonder if I’ll be able to get through another ten.

At a certain point, as most of you know, the side effects can just get to be too much, and you have to stop. I also now know the dangers of stopping for very long. But that’s something to worry about in the future.

Before I have to sit back down in the chair on Monday and be hooked up to that machine again, I’m going to enjoy every cold thing I can find. I’ll lift my ice cream, cold drink, beer, or whatever to all of you and to the future.

And before I forget, thanks to all of you who listened to me on Talk of the Nation (http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=5613381) and thanks to all those who called in. I hope we can do that again.

Commentary: The Traditional and the Not So Traditional Treatments
DATE: 08/07/2006

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BODY:
So far I’ve relied on traditional medicine—chemotherapy, radiation and so on. There are new drugs being tested all the time, and some of them show real promise. They are all variations on the chemo theme, but many of the new ones hold out the promise of fewer side effects.

I had my brain tumor removed by traditional surgery, and the area in the brain where the lump had been was cleaned up by radiation that was very tightly focused. But those are really the three legs of current medical practice: chemo, radiation, and surgery.

Are there other ways to attack this? Of course there are. Many people believe that diet is the key. I’ve already rejected that one. I’m not about to give up the foods that make me happy. If a hot fudge sundae shortens my life, that’s a trade I’m willing to make.

Some people turn to acupuncture as a way to lessen the side effects of chemo. It wasn’t that long ago that acupuncture was thought to be out on the fringes. No more. Now hospitals offer it to their patients as part of the overall medical treatment.

Years ago, Laetrile, made from peach pits, was thought by some to be a miracle cure. People went down to Mexico to get it, but in the end, it turned out to be a bust. But there are lots of other things out there today. Certain fruits, mushrooms and even scorpion poison are being looked at as possible weapons in this fight.

So as a patient, what do you choose? I guess I’m a traditionalist at heart. I’m putting my faith in the doctors up at Hopkins. But I think each of us has to choose the path that’s right for us. I worry sometimes that people are being taken by some of these “cures.” Are they frauds? Ways to cheat those who have already been cheated by cancer?

One of the things that virtually all cancer patients believe is that attitude is so important. Maybe just believing in the power of whatever treatment you are taking is key. And let’s face it, if traditional medicine doesn’t seem to be working, some people will turn to non-traditional treatments out of desperation, willing to try something— anything.

I’m not going to criticize any of them. Quite honestly, I don’t know a lot about many of the non-traditional treatments. Maybe I should, but I think if it gives hope to the patient— real hope — then why not try it?

Commentary: No One Can Help You Decide
DATE: 08/07/2006 07:11:00 AM

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BODY:
I trust my doctors. I think they are doing everything they can for me. But one of the most shocking things in this whole process was the first time I heard the doctors say, “We don’t know.” How could that be? I always thought the doctors would know exactly what to do. But they don’t.

That’s not a criticism. It’s just that, in the world of cancer, no one can know ahead of time how you will react to a given drug or treatment. They have studies, they have averages, but none of those things help when it comes down to one individualwhen it comes down to me.

They lay out the options, give their recommendations and then ask, “So what do you want to do?” How can you make that decision? There is a relatively new drug that shows real promise in fighting colon cancer. But some studies seem to show that it can cause bleeding in the brain in people who had brain tumors before. Like me. You don’t need to know much about medicine to know that bleeding in the brain is a bad thing.

This coming Friday, I’m going to have another brain scan. If it’s clean, then my doctors are suggesting that I consider that drug. They think that the chance of bleeding would be minimal. That’s the easy part. Here’s the hard part. Bleeding in the brain essentially means stroke. That’s pretty scary. A stroke on top of cancer would be more than anyone could probably take.

So how do I decide? How do you weigh the risks of shrinking the tumors versus a stroke? In the end after all the words, the studies, the graphs you’re left alone with a decision to make.

A lot of you wrote in to my blog last week when I found out that my cancer had spread. The notes were all wonderful. I had written that I had to decide between two different types of chemotherapy, each with its own unpleasant side effects. Again, it’s sort of unclear whether either will be all that effective, you really don’t know until you try.

But all of you were unanimous on one thing. Just make the best decision you can, and then move forward and don’t look back. Don’t agonize over the decision once you make it. No second-guessing.

I’ve always been a pretty decisive person. When I was running Nightline, I would try to make decisions right away. Part of the reason was that there was always another decision that had to be made after that, and another one after that one. But those were decisions about journalism, which I do know something about.

These cancer decisions are different. You search your heart and your head, and wait for the right course to make itself known to you. Or you simply flip a coin, roll the dice, pick your metaphor. No one else can really help you decide. And yes, some of these can be life and death decisions.

At least on this one, I have about another week to think about it. But a stroke? I’m willing to gamble, but that’s about as high stakes a game as you’ll ever find.

Commentary: The Warriors Need a Better Plan
DATE: 08/08/2006

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BODY:
Play to win. That’s pretty much the way I’ve tried to live my life. It’s not enough to win the game you have to beat the opponent. Yes, I’m a pretty competitive guy. And playing to win means taking a gamble, going for it, being bold.

Well, I started chemo again today. As I write this, my right forearm is numb and my hand, where the IV went in, is pretty sore. But the game plan has changed. We’re not really playing to win. Early on, the doctors were brutally honest with me. They said that “cure” and “remission” probably weren’t going to end up in my file. The cancer had progressed too far. Doesn’t mean it can’t happen, but it’s pretty unlikely.

So I find myself playing “not to lose.”  If a win isn’t in the cards, I’m stalling, playing for time, trying to go as long as I can without losing. We know the chemo I went back to held the tumors in check last time. We’re all hoping that the same thing will happen this time. But again, that’s just buying time, hoping for a breakthrough, hoping the next thing we try will work. This is, after all, a field where a new treatment leading to an additional four months of life is seen as a victory. That’s what my doctor said today.

I understand the way this game is played. But you know, in my heart, I still want to play to win. I don’t want to just survive; I want to beat this thing into submission. Humiliate it on its own court. OK, sorry, getting a little carried away. But playing it safe, watching the clock, hasn’t really been my way. I’m finding it hard to play by different rules now. In fact, I don’t think I will. There’s still time on the clock who knows what can happen?

So while I have been butchering sports metaphors, Laurie, who has spoken about her feelings here before, has been thinking about the war on cancer, and she’s a little angry.

“War is nasty business. We are in one that we can’t seem to make much of a dent in, and there is clearly no way out. It’s the same old story.  Our armor isn’t up to the task. We’re made little progress. Small victories in hot spots have saved a few lives, but in the places where the enemy is entrenched, we’re still behind the eight-ball. In many battles, we’re still fighting with decades-old equipment. The men and women who are leading the fight in this war talk the good fight.  They have great credentials, but for some reason, there hasn’t been the breakthrough we’ve needed to stomp out this pervasive enemy. ”

We have to rely on our troops to get results.  They are fighting with everything they’ve got, just to surviveonly to face the same battle again and again. I have one of those warriors living with me.  Every day he goes into battle against this enemy. Every single day.

“I watch him and can’t imagine having that kind of strength, mind and body. So, let’s hear it for the warriors. They are the tip of the spear in this war.  It’s time for the folks in the white lab coats to take their places on the front lines.  The warriors need a better plan.”

Commentary: Looking for New Tricks
DATE: 08/09/2006

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BODY:
What gets you through the day? I write almost every day about what’s happening with me, but today I’m going to ask for your help. How do you cope? I’m sitting here on the second day of this round of chemo, and quite honestly, I don’t feel great. Oh, the side effects are familiar, like that unwanted relative who comes to visit every year. There aren’t any surprises. And I know that time will simply have to run its course. In about two or three days, my arm will stop hurting. In another three days after that, I should be able to have cold things again. It’s just a question of getting through each day.

So I want to hear from you. I want to know about your tricks. What gets each of you through the days? Is it food, a particular treat? My current one is Oreos they help the pills go down easier. At least that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it.

How about a particular song or CD? A favorite movie? A book that’s become an old friend to be read and re-read? Or a quotesomething you read or heard or that someone said to you? A friend of mine just sent me her lucky charmsomething that she was given years agoand she felt I could use the luck. I will treasure it. So is there something in your pockets or purses? What’s lucky? A favorite piece of clothing?

This is a time to share. I do this out of curiosity, but quite frankly, I’m sort of running out of tricks myself. I’m looking for some new ones. So please, take this opportunity to share some of the things you have learned or discovered. I can’t wait to see the responses

The Boxing Coach
DATE: 08/10/2006
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BODY:
Our friends. We’ve talked a lot about them. How to tell them, how much to tell them. What we need from them and those friends who stand by us, and those who, for their own reasons, find that impossible to do. When I was on Talk of the Nation last week, one man called in to ask how he could help his friend. He wanted to help so badly, but didn’t know how.

But we really haven’t heard from those people that we rely on so much. I can’t imagine what it’s like for them to get that call, or e-mail, or face-to-face talk when we deliver the news. I have a friend named Joan Lynch. She made me promise to describe her as “tall.” She’s one of my friends who gets the whole unvarnished truth from me, whether she wants it or not. Unfortunately, I am not the first person in her life to face a terminal illness. So I asked her for her thoughts on being a friend in need.

I feel like a pinball. I feel like people can see that I’m only partially functioning. Coping is a great word. But the thing is, people kid themselves into believing that they are coping. Often, they (we) aren’t. We’re surviving. And we’ve all heard of survivor guilt.  It’s about pretending to be stronger than you really are. It’s about finding what it is that you can actually provide.

I liken it to the role of a boxing coach.  Standing in the corner of the ring, watching, cringing, imagining you can feel the pain of the person fighting the fight. In some weak moments, you look away and wish for it all to end because it looks so brutally hard. But then you realize what that means. It means you might not believe in the fighter. It means you may not be sure they can take so many hits. It means you might have doubt. It means admitting just how hard it is for you to helplessly watch. So you regain your composure and once again begin to root the fighter on. And then come those quick, highly stressful moments in between rounds when you have the privilege and responsibility to look into the eyes of the fighter, to wipe away their sweat, blood, tears. You tell them how strong they look and how they are bigger and better than the opponent and will obviously emerge victorious. And then, when the fighter goes back in for yet another round, and the noise in the crowd (your head) is so freaking loud, you hope that no one can tell that you are in complete agony. And you hope it’s not obvious that you don’t really know if you’ve helped them in any way prepare for a possible loss.

When something like this happens, society tells you that you are supposed to protect and support the person going through it. Your first instinct is to take care of your friend. The second, which follows closely behind, is a feeling of “who’s gonna protect ME from this?”  The struggle is really selfish, but it’s human. It’s what causes us to be strong for our friends and then go home and curl up in the fetal position when no one can see. And the worst part is that the person you want to support you in your struggle is the person who has a much bigger fight to fight.

No one really tells you that mourning the loss of the friendship in its current state is OK and sometimes necessary. Friendships do change because of illness. They become stronger or they go away depending on the person. People need to prepare themselves for that as much as they need to prepare themselves for a possible loss.

Having been through this with my friend Arlene (she died at 39, leaving behind three kids) I will say this: People get nervous around the idea of death, even though it’s inevitable. But when you love someone and you are given the gift of being able to be a part of something so intimate, you learn more about the strengths of your loved ones than you ever thought was possible. And IF the disease takes the life of someone you love, there are equal amounts of brutal sadness and a profound respect for your friend who actually fought the fight

Commentary: Playing ‘Normal’
DATE: 08/11/2006

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BODY:
Well I sorta told a lie today. Actually, it wasn’t really a lie, I just didn’t tell the whole truth. I was talking to a guy at one of the places I work. He needed a tape that I had, but I just didn’t feel up to taking it into the office today. This round of chemo has hit me pretty hard, at least so far. I’m tired, my stomach is upset, and it’s tempting to feel a little sorry for myself.

So I told him that I was sick. That’s true, certainly. But I didn’t say why. This was someone that I didn’t really know, and quite honestly, I just didn’t feel like going through the whole conversation. It was easier to say, “I’m just not feeling good today,” than it would have been to say, “I feel really crappy today because I’m undergoing chemo for Stage IV colorectal cancer with lung and spine mets.”

And I think doing that wouldn’t have been fair to him, either. There was no reason to put him on the spot. He doesn’t know me, so why bring it up at all? We’ve talked before on this blog about what and how much to tell others, for their own sakes. But sometimes I don’t say anything for my sake. I just don’t want to have “The Conversation” again.

All I really wanted was to just be someone who couldn’t go into the office today because he wasn’t feeling good. Something that happens every day, that happens to everyone. I didn’t want to be special, I didn’t want to be a Patient with a capital “P.” I didn’t want to be terminal. Not today. I just wanted to be like anyone else.

Maybe he even thought I was slacking off, playing hooky. There’s some satisfaction in that, too. There are a lot of cliches that sort of apply to this: The bell can’t be unrung, the genie can’t be put back into the bottle, and so on. Once you tell someone your diagnosis, they’ll never look at you the same way again.

I guess I wonder sometimes if my friends and colleagues ever think about me as Leroy, not Leroy Cancer Patient. That’s not a criticism of them in any way. I just hope that sometimes they don’t think about it, either.

Commentary: A Skeleton Scan Comes Into View
DATE: 08/14/2006

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BODY:
Well, my brain scan was clean, and I got to see my skeleton today. Now I have to admit, that in all my years of writing, that’s a sentence that I never thought I would write. Today was another scan day, MRI on the brain and a complete bone scan, that was a new one. And I learned a lot.

First, I learned that I am still too large for most hospital machines. I just didn’t fit in the bone scan tube, they had to do a separate picture of my feet. I can’t imagine what they do if someone really big comes in. Where do football and basketball players go?

But the doctor was kind enough to let me look at my skeleton. I had been badgering her about what the scans showed, and she was adamant that she couldn’t tell me anything. That’s drilled into all of them, and rightly so. But she did let me look, probably just to shut me up. It was pretty cool. I didn’t really know what I was seeing, beyond the skeleton itself, it takes a trained professional to really read it. I did see the bright white spot on my spine though, that was obvious. There was the tumor. </p><p>There was one strange thing that happened. Another doctor came in while I was on the machine and said she wanted to go over my history. She had it all right, the original tumor, the brain tumor, the spread, and so on. And then she started talking about my bone pain and the problem with my left hip. I don’t have a problem with my left hip. My first thought, of course, was now I do. But it turned out she was thinking about another patient, but that kind of thing scares you. It’s hard not to think, maybe she was right?

The MRI’s are old hat now. I do fit in that machine, although it’s a little snug. You lie there and are bombarded by really strange sounds. Again, I tried to pump the radiologists, but they didn’t give up a thing. I was expecting my doctor to call me on Monday with the results, and trying to tell myself it was no big deal, I could wait, but then I got a surprise call and an early read. The brain was clean. That’s some of the first good news I’ve gotten in a while.

Oh yeah, the cold intolerance hasn’t been so bad. I had ice cream last night. So all in all, not a bad day.

Commentary: Garlic Cheese Bread (and Other Acts of Defiance)
DATE: 08/14/2006

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BODY:

The day I was first diagnosed with colon cancer, back in 2001, was pretty much a blur. I remember waking up from the colonoscopy, and seeing my doctor’s face. I remember his words. I was still pretty groggy from the drugs. He finally sent me home, as he told me later, after I asked him for about the 10th time if I was going to die. I don’t remember doing that at all.

We went out to dinner that night, a local seafood place. Nice, but not one of my favorites, luckily, because we never went back there again. It was forbidden. Not even worth talking about. It didn’t bother me so much, although I did like their popcorn shrimp.

Five years later, we were out to dinner again this time at one of my favorite Italian restaurants. That’s when Laurie realized that my face was starting to droop. It turned out to be a symptom of a brain tumor. We never finished that dinner. We went straight to the emergency room, and I didn’t go home for a couple of weeks.

But this Italian restaurant was one I didn’t want to lose. They have great garlic cheese bread. I didn’t see a reason to let cancer stand between me and that bread. So two weeks ago, the night before I went back in for scans that were pretty important, we were back at that restaurant, back at the very same table.

I’ve already talked about the results of the scans the next day. They weren’t good. Of course that has nothing to do with where I had dinner. But this isn’t as frivolous as it sounds.  Because that dinner wasn’t just a superstitious gesture, it was an act of defiance.

Now I’m sure that sounds silly to some of you.  But I think a lot of you will understand, those who share the journey I’m on. You lose control of so much when you’re diagnosed with cancer. So you try to hold on to as much control as you can, even if it’s just where you go for dinner. In so many ways, large and small, you want to show yourself if not the worldthat you haven’t lost yet. You’re still in charge.

Your act of defiance can be small (and maybe petty) or large. It doesn’t matter. What matters is that you make it. The cancer may not be paying attention, but I sort of hope it is somehow. After all, I want it to be uncomfortable. I want things to be unpleasant for those tumors. I want them to know that I’m not going quietly. And I want them to know that sometimes, garlic cheese bread is more than just an appetizer

Commentary: Did We Try to Make a Difference?
DATE: 08/15/2006

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BODY:
We all talk about the “war on cancer.” The “fight against cancer.” People call cancer patients “warriors,” “fighters,” and so on. I’ve used those same terms. But a woman wrote in to the blog the other day, and what she said made me pause.

She lost her daughter to cancer. She asked if there is a “war on cancer,” does that mean her daughter lost? That she somehow failed?  That was a couple of days ago, and I’ve been thinking about it ever since. And I still don’t know how to answer her.

Of course she didn’t fail. A while back, I was talking to one of my doctors about the spread of my cancer. He said something like, “Well, when you failed the chemo the first time…” At the time, I thought that that was a harsh way to put it, but within a second, he corrected himself, saying, “When the chemo failed you.”

For many of us, the outcome of this fight and yes, it is a fightis not going to be any surprise. The cancer, in the end, will most likely be what causes our deaths. But everyone dies. If you want to put it that way, everyone loses that one fight.

And this is a fight for which there is no shame in losing. It’s how you live, how you fight, that matters. For some people, they give it everything they have, fighting and struggling for every day. Others come to peace with what is happening, and choose not to fight any longer. There’s no right or wrong in either of those positions, or anywhere in between.

What makes any of us win, is what we do with the time we have the same as for people that don’t have this disease. Did we try to make a difference? Try to do the right thing, especially when it wasn’t the easy thing? Did we try to leave the world a better place? Did we speak out for those with no voice? Those, to me, are the questions that determine whether or not we win, not the war with cancer, but whether or not we win in life.