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Saturday, September 3, 2016

Many Moons

It's been many moons since I last blogged.  Actually, there has been only one full moon since my last blog...August 18th, but there have been two new moons...August 2 and September 1.  So maybe it has been two moons since I last blogged.  Whatever.  Who's counting?  Anyway, it's been a really tough month, so I haven't been up to blogging about it until now.

I'm very sorry to report that our sister-in-law, Kathy, succumbed to lung cancer.  Her passing was a devastating shock to all of us who loved her.  It's almost inconceivable that this vibrant, beautiful, amazing woman was cut down by this devastating disease at such an early age.  Our whole family is reeling from this.  She was loved by so many and will be missed by so many.  It doesn't seem fair, but I guess life isn't always fair.  We will mourn her forever.  She has left a deep hole in our hearts that will never heal.

As much as Gretchen doesn't want me to talk about her, I think I have to.  After this tragedy, Gretchen had to go in for an esophagectomy on August 5.  The surgery went well, although it was very complicated and took about ten hours.  Her recovery had a few speed bumps, including fluid in her lungs and two atrial fibrillations.  I have to say that The Beth Israel Deaconess staff were great!  Every problem was dealt with immediately, and she got wonderful care there.  Now she is home and gradually recovering.  The best news is that they got all the cancer, so she won't be needing any followup therapy!  Hooray!  She is feeling a little better every day.  She was on a feeding tube, but that got clogged, so she is trying to eat normally now with soft foods.  We see her surgeon, Dr. Kent, next Tuesday, so maybe he will decide to remove the feeding tube then.

I have to tell you about some of her experiences.  In the ICU, everyone was terrific.  After the ICU on the floor, however, it wasn't quite as good.  At one time, she was short of breath, and one of the young nurses told her to vizualize her really happiest place and to breathe deeply.  Gretchen, who is a psychoanalyst, was like, "Are you kidding me?"  She then referred to her and some of the other nurses there as "toddlers".  She complained to Holly about the "toddlers", but she didn't see any children around.  Holly checked the halls to see if there were any children that should have been in the children's ward, but found none.  She and we finally all realized that the term "toddlers" referred to all the nurses there that just didn't get it!  Now that she's home, she still talks dismissively about the "toddlers".  I don't think I will ever think of toddlers in the same sense again.  Gretchen may have been sick, but she is not stupid.  My father used to tell me that he did not suffer fools gladly.  Neither does Gretchen.  Good for her!

As for me, I met with Dr. Connors, the hematologist at the Farber.  Based  on my low iron count numbers, she recommended another iron infusion, which I will take on my next visit on September 12.  I'm still not sure why my iron count keeps dropping, but I plan to schedule a colonoscopy and an endoscopy soon to try to figure out what's going on.  Maybe there is another problem here that I don't know about. 

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Pushy People

You may have noticed that I haven't updated my blog in quite a while.  I apologize for that, but I do have a bit of an explanation.  This blog is supposed to be about me, but although things have been going well for me lately, they haven't been going so well for my sister-in-law, Kathy, or Gretchen.  Kathy has advanced lung cancer and Gretchen has esophageal cancer.  Gretchen goes in for surgery on August 5 for an esophagectomy, which hopefully will be curative.  I haven't said much in my blog about all of this because this blog is supposed to be about me, not Kathy or Gretchen, and I want to respect their privacy.  But I feel guilty blogging about me when my family is not doing so well.

Anyway, as for me, my latest Farber visit was still good.  I met with Paul Richardson on July 18, and he reassured me about several concerns I had about my reduced iron levels, elevated free light chain Lambda levels, and my ongoing GI issues.  (I try to keep track of all my critical blood test parameters and look for any trends that look abnormal.)  He said I'm doing fine and gave me good guidance on all of the above.  I always feel better after meeting with him.  Based on his suggestion, I'm going to meet with the hematologist in a couple of weeks to deal with my iron deficiency, but Paul assured me that it is unrelated to my MM.  That's comforting.  By the way, I just passed my 5th anniversary of my MM diagnosis on July 13, and I'm still here.  Yay!

Sunset at Cuttyhunk
I just spent the last four days sailing with my friend, Lew, on his 35-foot sailboat.  We left Sunday from South Dartmouth, MA for Edgartown, Martha's Vineyard.  It was a wonderful getaway for me.  We had a great time!  After two nights in Edgartown, we sailed to Cuttyhunk.  We grilled a delicious meal of blackfish on the boat Tuesday.  Here is a picture of the sunset that evening.  Yesterday we came home.  The company was awesome and the food was great, as usual!

After we got our mooring in Edgartown, we listened to a broadcast from another visitor looking for a mooring.  She was a very pushy woman.  She practically demanded that the harbor master find her a mooring.  From her accent, I guessed where she was from, but to avoid being labeled as politically incorrect, just think of a big city between Boston and Philadelphia.  ;-)  He tried to help her, but she kept stridently demanding more and more specifics about where he wanted her to go.  After each transmission, his response time got longer and longer, and all of us listening could sense his annoyance and frustration.  Lew and I were thinking that if we had come on to him like that, he might have told us to go moor somewhere else.

Speaking of pushy people, after listening to this interchange, I imagined a scenario where Donald Trump was arriving looking for a mooring at Edgartown.  Here is my speculated interchange:

DT:  Edgartown Harbor Master, this is the yacht Gargantuan, over.
HM:  Go ahead Gargantuan.
DT:  I want a mooring, and I want it now and it has to be really great.
HM:  How big is your boat?
DT:  It's really big.  It's friggin' huge.  You wouldn't even believe how big it is.
HM:  I don't know if we have a space big enough for you.
DT:  Look here.  I want you to clear out about 200 feet around the best mooring you have to make enough room for my really huge unbelievably beautiful yacht.
HM:  I don't think I can do that.
DT:  Do you know who you are talking to?  This is Donald Trump, the next President of the United States.  You'd better do that and do it now!  Just tell those people to move and if any of them are immigrants, tell them to go back to where they came from, especially if there are any Muslims.
HM:  I'm sorry, Mr. Trump, but that would not be appropriate.
DT:  Oh really?  Then I'll just buy this harbor right now.  And you know what?  You're fired!  I really love saying that!  You'll never get another job, not even to sweep the floor of the lobby in Trump Tower!  Believe me.  This harbor used to be great, but it's really gone downhill.  I will make this harbor great again!  Then I can invite my good friend, Putin, to come for a visit.

It's really sad for me to think that this yahoo really could be our next president.  Sigh!





Tuesday, May 31, 2016

Belated Update

Okay, it's May 31 and I haven't updated my blog since right after the amazing 5K event.  I didn't want to miss another opportunity to post in the month of May, so here goes.  This will be short, since there is not a lot of news about myself to post.  My visit to the Farber last week went well, as I still seem to be in remission, thank goodness.  However, as I posted last month, there are some indicators that bother me a bit.  I already mentioned the increase in my bone marrow biopsy plasma cell count from 6% to 8% over the last year, but there are a couple of other things that are beginning to bother me.

First of all, my red blood cell (RBC) counts are dropping.  My hematocrit (HCT) dropped from 45.9 to 41.2 since last month.  It's still above the minimum level of 37.1, but I don't like the trend.  It's been really high since my iron infusion about a year and a half ago, but it's going in the wrong direction now.  I had stopped taking iron pills since my last prescription ran out, but I'm now back on a daily dose to try to reverse this trend.  I also notice that I get tired more easily and am taking more mid-day naps.

Another alarm bell for me is that my light chain Kappa numbers have been steadily increasing over the last year.  Last April, they were at 17.2 mg/l, and this April they had climbed to 27.0.  The normal range maximum is 19.4.  As you may remember, I have IgA Kappa MM, so my Kappa count is of some interest to me.  I talked to Mary McKenney about this last week, but she seemed unconcerned. Really?  Hmmm.  I think with all this going on, I'm going to have a chat with Paul Richardson some time in the near future.  I'm not panicking about these things, but I'm keeping a close eye on them.

The latest issue of the Farber newsletter revealed that Paul Richardson received the MM Achievement Award at the 2nd World Congress on Controversies in MM, held in Paris on April 28.  The award was awarded jointly to Paul and Antonio Columbo of the University of Torino for "innovative research and translational clinical work that has contributed significantly to the development of new therapies and important progress in MM during the last decade".  That's my doc!


Wednesday, May 4, 2016

Race Day

Team Epic for Bill Tent

The night before the big MMRF 5K run/walk race, we were a bit nervous, as we were about $450 short of our fundraising goal of $10,000.  But our son, Jason, was a savior.  He drove up from Connecticut Saturday night and dumped donations on the kitchen table that he had collected from his co-workers that day at his restaurant, Joey Garlic.  It came to $602 in cash!  I was stunned.  It was overwhelming, as I fought back the tears.  Those donations put us over the top.  We had done it!  We all went to bed that night knowing that we had reached our goal.  It was so very satisfying.

Wally, the Green Monster
Sunday was the big day.  We all converged on Carson Beach in South Boston for the race by 7:00 am (yawn).  We were thrilled that we had our own tent for Team Epic for Bill.  These tents were only made available by the MMRF for their biggest fundraisers.  There were 105 teams registered for this event, and Team Epic for Bill was the 8th largest fundraising team!  I'm very happy and grateful for all the contributions we got from our supporters.

Pam's sister, Michelle, provided Team Epic for Bill tee shirts for all of us to wear.  What a nice surprise!  Now we could stand out among the multitudes.  Thank you so much, Michelle!

There were about 2,500 runners/walkers there, which beat the previous record of 2,100 last year.  They also raised a record $520,000 for this event, surpassing last year's previous record of $475,000.  This event keeps growing every year. 

Paul Richardson & dog
My oncologist, Paul Richardson, is the honorary chairman of this event, and he gave an inspirational talk before the race about the current status of multiple myeloma research.  Two new drugs have been approved by the FDA so far in 2016, after a record number of approvals last year.

Paul comes to this event every year, and he ran this year with his dog.  I saw him on the course, and he was having a very respectable time.  I met with him afterwards and he told me that I look really good.  I found that very encouraging.

Our team then congregated at the starting line for this event.  The serious runners went to the front, while us slackers who were only walking hung back at the end.  We had several good athletes on our team, including Pam's cousin, Sam Whatley, who finished 14th out of 743 runners with a time of 20:08!  Wow!  I talked with Sam at the brunch after the event, and he told me that when the going got rough during the race, he thought about me and what I went through with my stem cell transplant, and it gave him the strength to push on.  Oh my!

Pre-walk
Many of the participants decided to walk with me, for which I was very grateful.  We started near the end of the line, after all the serious participants were on their way.  I have to say that it was a very special time for me having my family and close friends there supporting me and walking with me on that wonderful day.  There was a part of me that had wanted to run instead of walk, but my knee told me not to.  In retrospect, I'm glad, because I had a lot of my family and friends surrounding me as I walked the course.  I was elated.  Since we were near the end, my only goal was to finish before the clean-up truck came along to push me over the finish line.  I'm proud to say that I did.

 Afterwards, we hosted a brunch at the Coppersmith Restaurant in South Boston.  It was an awesome venue.  We had our own room with a great brunch menu.  Coppersmith was voted as the best place for Bloody Marys in Boston.  I had one, and I agree.  It was a great way to thank all the people who supported us in this effort.

This was one of the amazing events in my life.  I will never forget the overwhelming support from my family and friends.  Life is good!




Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Latest Results

Monday I paid my my monthly visit to the Farber.  The news is still good!  My blood work came out fine and I got the printout of my annual bone marrow biopsy pathology report.  In my last post, I mentioned that the bone marrow aspirate contained 7% plasma cells.  I lied.  Actually, it was 8%.  Last year it was 6%.  I asked Mary about this, and she said that Paul Richardson had reviewed the report and said it is no problem. Whew!  I still find that a little worrisome, however, since the standard criterion for complete remission is less than 5% plasma cells.  I might just have a little chat with Paul about this one of these days.

The best thing about the bone marrow pathology report was the conclusion:  "Diagnostic features of involvement by a plasma cell neoplasm are not seen".  I find it amusing to read doctor speak.  Notice the circumlocution and passive voice of this sentence.  It's as if the author doesn't want to take actual responsibility for this conclusion and chooses to cloak it in obfuscatory language (like what I did just now).

So what is a neoplasm anyway?  It sounds a bit ominous.  The term "neoplasm" is medical terminology for abnormal cell growth.  So why couldn't they just have said simply,  "We found no abnormal plasma cells"?  That would be straight to the point.  I guess that wouldn't sound erudite enough for the medical community, so they have to use pompous officious-sounding verbiage to impress one another.  I've gotten used to reading this kind of crappola over the last number of years of research and trying to translate it into understandable English.  Anyway, hurray!  I'm closing in on 5 years since my initial diagnosis and it's all good!

Only 4 days to go until the MMRF Boston 5K Walk/Run event in South Boston!  I'm overwhelmed that we have over 30 registered participants who plan to either run or walk with us in support of Team Epic for Bill on Sunday.  I'm also pleased that our fundraising is going very well, with over $9,000 of contributions to date.  We're still a little short of our $10,000 goal, but I am delighted with the outpouring of support we have gotten for this worthy cause.  I am very thankful for the many family members and friends who have made donations.  Because of our successful fundraising efforts, the MMRF has designated Team Epic for Bill as a "Top Team", so they will provide us with our own tent where our team can congregate.  Great!

It's still not too late to make a donation!  Here is the website:

http://support.themmrf.org/site/TR/RaceforResearch/General?team_id=41495&pg=team&fr_id=2362

The weather is supposed to be good on Sunday with no rain and temperatures in the 50s.  This should be a lot of fun!  After the race, we will host a brunch gathering at the Coppersmith restaurant in South Boston.  It's a way to say Thank You for those who are taking the time and effort to participate in this event.



Sunday, April 10, 2016

Florida Trip

Last weekend, we traveled to Fernandina Beach on Amelia Island, Florida to attend Pat Killingsworth's Myeloma Survival School.  It was a beautiful setting and what a wonderful time it was!  About 140 people attended from various parts of the country for this weekend event.  It was an awesome tribute to Pat's life.  Pat's wife, Pattie, was amazing!  She was so outgoing, upbeat and cheerful, and she made everyone there feel comfortable.  I can see why she was such an wonderful caregiver for Pat.  Her optimism and enthusiasm must have helped him greatly during his hardest times, and I'm sure she gave him extra energy to deal with his nearly constant pain and suffering. Wow! 

We met a number of very interesting people.  All were knowledgeable and well-informed.  It was an intellectually and socially stimulating experience.  I learned a lot by talking with patients and attending some of the seminars.  For example, some of the recent advances in gene expression profiling were very interesting, which could lead to individualized targeted therapies in the near future.  The Saturday night dinner was a tribute to Pat's amazing life, and it was a very fitting closure for those of us who miss him so much.  I hope and expect that they will continue to hold this event in years to come.  If so, we'd like to attend.

On Sunday, we drove down to Cape Coral, near Fort Myers, to visit with my college roommate, Steve, and his wife, Sue.  They have a really nice winter home on a canal which connects to the Gulf of Mexico.  It's a beautiful place.  We had a wonderful visit.  The weather was great!  Since it was cold and snowing in Boston then, it was a really good time for us to be in Florida.

Scott and Gretchen
We took an excursion on one of their friend's boat to cruise out into the Gulf.  On the way, we stopped for lunch at the Boat House Tiki Bar and Grill. They had a really good singer entertaining that day.  Gretchen started a conversation with him (surprise) and he happened to have family in Massachusetts.  When he told us that he grew up in Burlington, Mass., Gretchen told him that she did also.  It turned out that he graduated a couple of years behind her.  As an amazing coincidence, when she asked him if he knew her younger brother, John, he gasped and said, "Are you Gretchen?"  His name is Scotty and his brother is one of our best friends, Jeff Williamson.  Scotty spent a lot of time in John and Gretchen's home when he was young.  He told us that John taught him to play the guitar.  There were lots of hugs after that.  It's really a small world sometimes!  That was too much.  It's hard for me to get my head around that.

My bone marrow biopsy results are back, but when I try to access them through the Patient Gateway, there are no specific results posted.  I guess I'll have to wait until my next Farber visit to get the full results.  If I was really anxious, I would call, but I think I can wait.  One number that they did publish was the percentage of plasma in my bone marrow.  Last year it was 6%, but this time it is 7%.  That may not be a big deal, but that's not going in the right direction.  I'm slightly anxious to get the full report.


Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Bone Marrow Biopsy

Monday at the Farber was the time for my annual bone marrow biopsy.  Last year, I found the procedure to be extremely uncomfortable and painful, so they suggested that this time I could take an anesthetic to supplement the lidocaine, so I agreed.  I had Gretchen come with me so that she could drive us home.  However, this note wasn't in their system ahead of time, so I didn't get any prior instructions. Unknowingly, Gretchen and I went to the cafeteria for lunch before the procedure.  That was a mistake, because the IV they were planning to use required an empty stomach.  Oops!

One of the nurses came out to explain the remaining options.  I told her that none of this would be necessary if Zack was still there.  He moved out to California about two years ago, and everyone misses him.  I never had any issues with Zack doing my biopsy.  He was great!  The nurse said, "Let me tell you something.  The nurses here were the ones who trained Zack."  I replied, "Then he was a very good student."  She had to agree.  She gave me a couple of alternative options, including some anesthetic knockout pills, but in the end, I settled for just an Ativan to relax me.  That actually worked quite well.  I was able to relax more and this time was much better than last year.  I didn't feel any after effects at all, so I even drove home.  I think I'll opt for an Ativan (or 2) again next year.

Other than that, my numbers still look good.  I'll find out in the next couple of weeks whether the bone marrow biopsy confirms a deep remission.  My fingers are crossed.

We were planning to leave for Florida tomorrow to attend Pat Killingsworth's Myeloma Survival School in Amelia Island, north of Jacksonville.  It's so sad that Pat is no longer with us and I will never get a chance to meet him.  I'm looking forward though to giving my respects to his wife, Pattie, and meeting other MM survivors while there.  However, Gretchen isn't feeling well, so we changed our reservations to Friday instead.  I hope she feels better by then.

After that, we are planning to drive down to Cape Coral, Florida to visit Steve and Sue for a few days.  We are really looking forward to that.  The weather there is supposed to be in the 80's.  Yahoo! They told us to be sure to bring our bathing suits.  That sounds good to me!

Our fundraiser for the MMRF 5K Run/Walk is still doing pretty well.  We are over $6,000 in contributions so far, but we have a long way to go to meet our fundraising goal of $10,000.  If you haven't contributed yet, please consider making a donation to Team Epic for Bill.  Here is the website:

MMRF Boston 5K Walk/Run Team Epic for Bill

Thank you in advance!


Sunday, March 20, 2016

Birthday

Today marks the fourth birthday of my stem cell transplant on March 20, 2012, when I received my brand new immune system.  I now have two birthdays, December 2 and March 20.  I share the honor of having two birthdays with Queen Elizabeth, whose actual birthday is in April but whose official birthday is in June.  How many people can say they have two birthdays?  I feel so regal.  I think Liz and I share something special.  Maybe I'll give her a call tonight just to share this.  Maybe not though...she's probably asleep and it's too late to call.  Oh well, dream on.

Seriously though, I am very pleased to have reached the four year mark after transplant and still be in remission.  I am so grateful. 

I'm healing slowly from my facial surgeries for skin cell cancer.  I'm not too happy yet with the wounds, especially on my nose, but I go in tomorrow for a followup visit.  I just don't want to be horribly scarred for life, not that I'm planning on auditioning for any movie roles.  I'm not ready to call the surgeon a butcher yet, but we'll see.  Meanwhile, I've found a new dermatologist in Newburyport that I have heard good things about.  I may try to set up an appointment with her in the next couple of months.

We are getting ready for our trip to Florida.  Visiting Amelia Island to mourn Pat Killingsworth will be an emotional trip.  I'm sure I will meet some other MM patients whom I have either met with in person or communicated with online.  I want to pay proper respects to this most amazing person, who has been a beacon of hope and light to me throughout my MM journey, as he has been to so many others.

After that, we will visit my college roommate Steve and his wife Sue for a few relaxing days in south Florida.  After all the stuff that's been going on here, I think we can use the break.

Please help us raise funds for the MMRF Boston 5K Run/Walk event on May 1.  So far, we have raised over $4,000, but we have a ways to go to meet the Team Epic for Bill fundraising goal of $10,000.  Please help us raise money for this worthy cause, which will help to give hope to all of us multiple myeloma patients.  Here is the website:
http://support.themmrf.org/site/TR/RaceforResearch/General?team_id=41495&pg=team&fr_id=2362
Thank you for your support. 




Saturday, March 12, 2016

This and That

Last week at the Farber, everything came out normal again, thank goodness.  I'm very lucky to still be in remission at cycle 45 of my maintenance therapy.  Believe me, I don't take this for granted.

We are getting ready to head to Florida at the end of March to commemorate Pat Killingsworth's death at a memorial celebration for him at Amelia Island.  I'm still not over the shock of Pat's passing, as are most of his devoted followers.  I look forward to meeting in person some of those MM survivors with whom I have been in contact over the years, as well as new friends I don't yet know.  I hope this can be both a solemn memorial and a new dedication for us to move forward in his memory to find a cure for this insidious disease that took him from us.

Afterwards, we will then drive down to Cape Coral, FL for a few days to visit my college roommate and his wife, Steve and Sue. Even though this winter has been kind to us so far, we are really looking forward to getting away to the sunny south of Florida and spending time with our good friends.

Tuesday, I had some minor surgery on my face for a couple of skin cancers:  a squamous cell carcinoma on my jaw (Mohs surgery) and a basal cell carcinoma on my nose (scrape and burn).  I now look like I've been in a street fight as I sport my bandages (I'd like to think the other guy looks worse).  I'll spare you by not showing a selfie.  Anyway, this is the price I have to pay for the indiscretions of my Irish youth by basking in the sun without using enough sunscreen.  I'm sure there's more of these to come, but I plan to keep on top of this by frequent visits to my new (as yet to be named) dermatologist.

The big thing in our lives right now is my sister-in-law, Kathy.  I've been helping her with research and in finding her the best oncologist: Dr. Temel, Clinical Director of lung cancer at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.  Yesterday, she finished her 3 week regimen of whole brain radiation for her metastasized lung cancer.  She has been a real trouper, and has survived this phase amazingly well, with few side effects so far.  Her hair has now fallen out, but she is sporting a new wig, and she looks and sounds as great as ever.  She starts her chemotherapy on March 22.  If anybody can beat this down, Kathy, with her amazing health, energy, and incredibly positive attitude is a good bet to do this.  In the mean time, there are a lot of new therapies being tested that might give more favorable long-term prognoses to lung cancer patients like Kathy.  Let's just hope for her to live many more years along with those of us who love her.

I'm really looking forward to the MMRF 5K Run/Walk event on May 1.  We have 19 participants signed up to run or walk.  So far, we have raised about $4,000, but that is far short of our goal of $10,000.  I invite any of you who have not yet contributed to please make a contribution to this worthy cause.  I would really appreciate it.  Here is the website which you can copy and paste into your browser:

http://support.themmrf.org/site/TR/RaceforResearch/General?team_id=41495&pg=team&fr_id=2362

I thank you in advance.

Today I went to the gym to train for this event.  I am doing interval training, some walking and some jogging, to prepare myself in case I might want to run rather than walk.  I wasn't supposed to do any exertion after my surgery on Tuesday for a full week, but I felt I could run and walk today.  I did 25 minutes of combined walk and run.  My surgeries were fine.  Unfortunately, I forgot to put on my knee wrap today.  I got through the exercise fine, but afterwards, my right knee started hurting, and I have been hobbling ever since.  Shit!  Maybe I just screwed everything by pushing too hard today.  I don't know.  I have been using this 5K run/walk as an impetus to get myself in shape.  I hope I can still do this without screwing up my knee.  We'll see.




Friday, February 19, 2016

Cancer Sucks - Part 2

In my previous post with this title, I was worried about Pat Killingsworth, who tragically passed away last week.  I feel like I have lost a real friend, though we have never met.  However, I also had another reason to worry that is closer to home.  My sister-in-law, Kathy, has just been diagnosed with lung cancer!  By the way, she doesn't smoke and she is only 56 years old.  Our whole family is stunned.

Kathy had no symptoms, but she recently noticed an enlarged lymph node on her neck.  A biopsy then showed it to be adenocarcinoma.  A PET scan then showed several other cancerous lymph nodes near her lungs and a possible lesion in her lungs, so it was diagnosed as a Stage 4 lung cancer!  Furthermore, a follow-up MRI showed that it has metastasized to her brain.  Yikes!

Since I have been through this drill for myself, I have been helping her with online research and trying to help find her the best care possible.  Gretchen and I have been supporting her by attending her appointments.  Fortunately, with the help of other close friends, we have been able to direct her to one of the best lung cancer oncologists in the country,  Dr. Jennifer Temel, the Clinical Director of Thoracic Oncology at Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) in Boston.  She is now Kathy's oncologist.  MGH, along with the Farber, is one of the best cancer treatment centers in the world.  I think finding Dr. Temel at MGH is similar to my finding Dr. Richardson at the Farber.  She couldn't have found anybody better.  Starting next week, she will begin whole-brain radiation therapy for about 3 weeks, to be followed by chemotherapy.  Kathy is a real trouper, and she has been handling this extremely well with strength and optimism, which will help her greatly as she and her family and friends face the long road ahead.  Cancer sucks!

Another friend of ours, a cancer survivor, has recently been experiencing very low white blood cell counts.  She just had a bone marrow biopsy to determine if she has myelodisplastic syndrome (MDS).  If so, it could have been caused by her previous radiation and chemotherapy treatments.  We are awaiting these biopsy results, which should be available in another week.  Cancer sucks!

My daughter-in-law, Pam, phoned me two nights ago about a friend of her close friend in Holland who was just diagnosed with lung cancer.  He wants to come to the U.S. for treatment, and she wanted my inputs.  I am waiting to hear from him with more details, but I might be able to help set up appointments for him either at MGH or Dana Farber.  Cancer sucks!

On a much less dramatic note, I had an appointment with my dermatologist yesterday, and quite a few anomalies showed up.  She used liquid nitrogen spray to treat fifteen (!) pre-cancerous actinic keratoses on my scalp, face, and torso.  She also took two biopsies of sites on my face which she suspects are either basal cell carcinoma or squamous cell carcinoma.  I will get the results in a week or so, but I'm pretty sure I'm headed for more surgery.  All of this has occurred since my last visit 6 months ago, after which I had surgery to remove a squamous cell carcinoma from my forehead.  That's a lot of shit to happen in only 6 months!  After the biopsies, she suggested I make an appointment to come back in a year.  (!!!)  What the f**k!  I told her she had to be kidding me.  She looked shocked and asked if I wanted to come back sooner.  "Damn right I do", I responded, so she then scheduled an appointment for me to come back in 4 months.  I won't keep that appointment, however, since I plan to have a new dermatologist by then!  This is another example of how you have to take charge of your own health care.  Cancer sucks!

Tomorrow, I am headed to Ocean Isle Beach, N.C. for a week of golfing with my son, Jeff, my friend, Bobby, and about a dozen other old farts like me, all of whom are from the Pittsburgh area.  (Maybe I should leave my Patriots cap at home.)  After all the stuff going on around here, I think I need a break, although thoughts of Kathy won't be far from my mind.  I'll just hit the shit out of that little round ball and not care much about where it goes.

Oh yeah, and I think I will take some sunscreen along.

By the way, cancer sucks!