As the title says this blog is one man’s effort to make sense out of his journey fighting melanoma. I have enjoyed reading some of my fellow melanoma warriors’ blogs and thought it might be an interesting way to share what this journey has been like for me. If you find this interesting great, if not that’s great also. Selfishly this is more about me getting this out and moving on from being a cancer patient to being a cancer survivor.

Let’s clear up a few things. Yes, I know how to use spell check and no I don’t always use it. I majored in accounting, not english. I have always been a below average writer, which is why I find the therapeutic value of doing this surprising. I think for this blog to make any sense you pretty much have to go to the archive and start from the beginning which is titled “Life Is Good”

I am not a doctor or medial professional of any type. My blog is not endorsed by any medical professional or facility mentioned in it. Every decision I have made about my care was done after careful consultation with my medical team. Decisions I have made were right for me but should not in any instance be considered right for anybody else. I don't recommend taking medical advice from an accountant.

Key West

Key West

Saturday, July 16, 2011

I’m a cancer survivor; now what?

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I really enjoyed this article and found it a great read.  It always makes me feel better when I realize I am not alone in how I feel or think.  I commented that I could relate and felt like one of those animals you see on Nat Geo that they dart from a helicopter and then release back into the wild feeling groggy and wondering what the hell just happened to me.  There is this expectation from people that the day you finish treatment you are “cured” and the birds start chirping, the sun starts shining, and you just float back to your old life as if nothing happened.  Ironically a year ago I was one of those people.  I remember when my friend Reuben called me to tell me he had been diagnosed with prostate cancer.  I was shocked at the news and kept in touch with him during his surgeries and treatments but once he finished I figured, well he is cured and should be back to his old self.   When I was diagnosed he was the first person to call and welcome me to the club.  The point of this seemingly senseless rambling is to update where I am at today.  For the most part I feel good.  Physically I am still getting my strength back but feel better all the time.  The side effects of the interferon continue to lessen and my outlook is better every day.  I guess an area where I still have a lot of work to do is anger.  I am just pissed at this disease.  Angry at what I have put my family through, angry at what it has cost me, angry at the toll it took on my personal life, angry at the time I have lost.   Well meaning people tell me how I should feel now.  Honestly I feel guilty that I don’t feel as happy go lucky as they think I should.  I know they are right.  Many people don’t get a second chance.   Early on in my diagnosis one of my doctors said to me that I will most likely only get once chance to fight this disease.    For reasons known only to god I seem to be winning so far.  Others, some of them better people than I for sure, have not been so fortunate and that knowledge is always with me.  I think Lance Armstrong calls it the duty of the survivors or something along those lines.  I take this duty seriously and eagerly.   I am determined to support others involved in this battle, support cancer charities to whatever extent I can, and educate people about cancer and maybe by sharing my story I can help somebody.  I am a huge supporter of the LIvestrong foundation and believe strongly in their purpose.  Their manifesto is nearly scripture to me.   I am still trying to get a feel for my new reality but it does get more comfortable as time goes by.  I enjoy life more than before.  My visits with my children feel more special, watching my granddaughter play or hearing her tell me about what she learned at school that day brings me the greatest pleasure.   Just the energy that I absorb from being around her makes me happy.   I look forward to visiting my youngest in Colorado next month after she starts college, my next plate of sushi with my middle daughter, the next story of adventure from my son in Alaska.  I look forward to visiting my brother in Atlanta to watch my mighty Jayhawks battle the Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets in football this September in what I am calling the boy I wish it was basketball season again bowl, and my next visit to New York to do whatever seems like fun at the time.  I will never again take for granted visits with my nieces and nephews or my sisters and brother.   My mom and dad continue to be the rocks I lean against when I need them.  I look forward to roaming The Strip with my mom again when she gets her knee repaired, and taking dad to another race weekend at Kansas Speedway.   I look forward to seeing my teammates/coworkers when I return to New Jersey every week.  They have been great therapist to me and probably don’t even know it.   I also have bad days, more than I care to admit to,  when I think about what if the next scan isn’t so favorable, what if one of my new friends who are also engaged in this battle gets bad news.   What if some clown runs me over tomorrow while I am out riding my bike.   It’s easy to say I won’t live in fear; it’s harder to do it.  Fear and anger, two powerful emotions that I struggle to keep in check.  The journey continues to take twist and turns, and there continues to be highs and lows but the best part of the journey I realize is that it continues.  I don’t have much control over how long but I do control how much I enjoy the ride.   
Now for the more direct part of my post, the dreaded medical update.  I had my normal 90 day check up with my dermatologist last week and for the first time ever he didn’t find anything to carve off of me.  No suspicious areas or problem spots to biopsy so that’s one less stressful phone call for me to wait on.  90 more days of peace and monthly self exams.     He also recapped my last visit since I really don’t remember being there.  My last visit there was towards the end of my interferon treatments.  The other news on the medical front is that I had my first needle biopsy last week.   Let’s just say I have had more enjoyable experiences.  I should get the results back from that next week sometime.  That is the follow up to the follow up to the follow up to my last PET scan.  I jokingly told Dr. M last week that I will still be doing follow ups when I get my next scan.  He was able to find the spot they noticed on my scan and did the needed biopsy.   Dr. M is the nicest guy and I really feel lucky to have had him for my surgeon.  He moved the monitor so I could see what he was looking at and watch as he worked the biopsy needle into the mass in question and took a piece out.  It really was interesting to watch.  It made me think of my son who is deathly afraid of needles.  To me it’s just another Dr Visit and two hours later I was at 30k feet winging my back to Jersey.  He didn’t think it looked suspicious but wanted to do the biopsy anyway just to be safe. 
It has been a crazy weekend, I think I am actually home about 35 hours before I head back to the airport and return to Jersey.  Again, I love what I do and the people I work with but I do miss being home and having a more normal life.   The good news is that after next week I will be Gold Elite with Continental and Marriott.  Pretty exciting