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Monday, January 27, 2014

It's Been Too Long

Yes, it's been too long since I have posted an update to this blog.  It's not as if nothing has transpired, but I just haven't felt the urge to write until now.  I'll explain my sudden enthusiasm to express myself later.

Last week I had my annual visit to my dermatologist, Dr. Reohr.  I had suspected there would be some issues, as I have had a couple of open sores on my face and right arm that haven't healed over the last couple of months.  Sure enough, she found three areas that were worthy of taking biopsies: my face, my arm, and back of my neck.  It will be a couple of weeks before the biopsy results are back.  If any are positive, I will be back for appropriate surgery.  I've been through this more than a few times before, so it's really no big deal.  If any of the biopsies are positive, I'm pretty sure they will be either basal cell or squamous cell carcinomas, which are easily treated.

Dr. Reohr had an intern following her around that day, and I think she wanted to impress him with her thoroughness.  So she decided to mercilessly attack every possible unexplained protuberance or keratosis on my face.  (Keratoses are either benign or pre-malignant growths on the skin.)  She grabbed a metal bottle and peppered all over my face with freezing sprays of liquid nitrogen, called "cryogenic surgery".  Thanks, doc.  Not only was that not a lot of fun, but my face now looks like I stuck it in a meat grinder.  Fortunately, the scabs are just starting to fall off.  Anyway, with my history of skin cancer, I have to be diligent in keeping on top of this stuff.  And yes, I regret all those times I let myself get burned to a crisp on a beach.

In December, I blogged about Betsy and Joel, whom I met at the Patient Symposium at the Farber.  Their son, Ethan, has been diagnosed with MM at the tender age of 22, and is scheduled for a stem cell transplant in May.  Yesterday, Gretchen and I met the two of them for lunch in Portsmouth, NH.  They are a delightful couple and we had a wonderful lunch together.  My heart goes out to them for the fear and uncertainty they are dealing with.  It's one thing for an old fart like me to contract MM, but a young kid?  Not fair!  Anyway, he seems to be doing very well with his treatment so far.  Betsy and Joel are hosting a fundraiser for the Jimmy Fund next week at a restaurant in Kittery, Maine.  Gretchen and I plan to attend, and we hope to meet Ethan there.  Just before his bone lesion problems with MM surfaced, Ethan ran a marathon in Spain last summer.  As a tribute,  his mother, Betsy, is planning to run the Boston Marathon this year to raise money for the Jimmy Fund.  Go Betsy!  I have to say, with this MM journey, one really meets some wonderful people along the way.

Now I will explain my sudden impulse to update my blog.  Today I went to Farber, but it was to nourish my mind, not my body.  I attended the monthly meeting of the Writing Workshop, hosted by Amy Boesky, a literature professor at Boston College.  This is my third year of going to this workshop.  I can't tell you how humble and grateful I am to be able to share this time with this talented and inspirational group of cancer survivors or caregivers.  Today, there were about a dozen people there, and I left there feeling very enriched in my life.

The workshop is a challenge, because Amy gives us a prompt, usually based on the premise of a poem, and asks us to write something addressing the prompt in five minutes.  Today, the prompt was from a wonderful poem by Billy Collins, entitled, "Consolation".  The prompt was to think of something considered pleasant that we don't have to do, and counter it with being that it is enough to be doing what we are doing.

I volunteered to be the first to read what I wrote.  I volunteered first for a reason.  I didn't want to follow someone with something really good to make a bad comparison.  Anyway, here it is:

"How fortunate I am not to be at the indoor golf facility today, launching golf balls into a screen using a simulated golf course.  I glad I don't have to be practicing my new golf grip, stance, or follow through that I just learned at my lesson last week.

Instead, I am enjoying the cameraderie of my fellow workshop attendees and was able to catch up with Eric over lunch, rather than trying to figure out why I still can't control my wicked slice.

And too, I am relieved that I don't have to be at the Peabody Essex Museum today viewing the new exhibit featuring birds and guitars, marveling at the musical cacophony that they randomly produce.

It's better that I am sitting here in the comfortable ambiance of Amy's workshop, trying to do the impossible:  write something meaningful in five minutes."

I'm glad I went first, because there were some beautiful and inspired writings by some of the others.  Most were much deeper more serious than my flippant entry.  Some people had offerings that were prepared already.  One contribution from a previous seminar was from Phil, who is about to enter Divinity School.  He described his journey trying to help people and to understand God.  It was so powerful and moving that when he finished, no one could speak:  most of us were fighting back tears (me too).  And I'm not at all religious.  Wow!

Anyway, I learned a lot today and was inspired by this experience to keep writing and to update my blog more frequently.  Even if I don't have anything important to say about my MM, maybe I can offer something to those who read my blog that they may find of interest or of value.

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