Wednesday, December 5, 2012

December 5- Day Plus 5 Years!

Today is December 5, 2012 – my fifth re-birthday.

Five years ago today, I was in a hospital bed wondering if the stem cell transplant would kill me or cure me.

Five years ago today, after seven days of intensive chemotherapy, my energy level and my blood counts were on their way to zero.

Five years ago today, I received my clean stem cells back after having my Cancer-damaged cells annihilated, along with all of the good ones that made up my immune system.

Five years ago today, that first stem cell found its way back into my bone marrow, followed by millions more, and began the regeneration of my immune system.

Five years ago today, although I could not physically walk, I took my first step back into my life.

It is hard to believe that it has been five years.  Some days, it seems like five decades, and others like five months. 

A LOT has happened in those five years.  We did scans and checkups every three months for the first year.  EVERY time was a mental strain, always wondering what it would mean if I relapsed yet again.  The second year, we did scans and checkups every six months.  With every successive checkup, my confidence grew that I may have actually beaten this thing.  In the third year, we started annual checkups. 

Before every one of these checkups, my mind would wander and send me into a frenzied panic at the potential of another relapse.  With every “all clear,” we would have a thankful celebration at Champs Sports Bar.  As quickly as the panic would run up leading into a checkup, it would subside with a few tall Coors Lights.

In the early days, the time between checkups felt like bonus time in the old Pole Position video game.  As the days progressed from the last checkup, I found my thoughts about my health would fade and it would drop on my list of mental priorities.  Eventually, we would enter a window where I would start focusing on the next checkup and it would quickly rise to the top of my mental priorities.

As I achieved more Pole Position bonus time (i.e. bigger windows between checkups), I was able to live more freely for longer periods of time.  I took advantage of one of those windows to get engaged, another to get married, and yet another to have a child – a beautiful baby girl.  We named her, Ani, after my mom who lost her battle to the very same Cancer that afflicted me.  She was born six months ago today, a happening that I do not think is pure coincidence.

At five years, I think I am technically clinically cured.  I don’t go for my annual checkup for another couple of months, so I am holding out the formal celebration until then. 

At my wedding, I referenced a quote from a movie that helped me when I was at my lowest points in my battle.  The quote helped me to pick myself up and to set my mind straight.  They are quite simple words, and they still motivate me today.  The movie was The Shawshank Redemption, and the quote was “Get busy living, or get busy dying.”  In the spirit of these words, I continue to “live” each and every day!

If, by chance, you have come back to this blog for another read, thanks for checking in.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Day Plus.... Three years

It's hard to believe that it's been three years since my last post. A lot has changed in that time, including a great 2010 in which I got engaged and married!

While it has been three years, I can truly say that my memory of my fight remains crystal clear. The fear and uncertainty flows right back to me whenever my (now annual) checkups roll around. They're not as terrifying as they once were, but they still inevitably send my mind off down unfortunate paths.

My most recent checkup was two weeks ago. My wife, Kara, joined us this time around, but struggled to understand the superstitious routine that we've developed - Friday afternoon checkups, meet in the same part of the parking structure, go through the same door, take the stairs, not the elevator, sit in the same place...  whatever works.

Still clear at three years!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Birthday #1

It's been a great summer. I got an all clear at 100 days, which gave me a whole summer to have fun and not have to worry about health issues. This is quite a contrast to the last two summers - chemo in 2006 and mind-numbing worry, and ultimate confirmation, about a relapse.

Once Labor Day passed, the panic drill started. With some swelling in my leg and miscellaneous unexplained aches and pains around my body, I prepared myself for the worst at my 9 month checkup. I don't think I have ever been in such a frenzy in my life. My blood pressure was 180 over 90. As I paced the patient room waiting for the doctor to come in, the door opened and he peeked in. He apologized and said he would nbe back. I was convinced that he didn't realize that it was me in the room and he needed to regroup to figure out how he was going to give me the bad news. As I continued to pace for a couple more minutes (which seemed like an hour), he peeked back in and told me to stop pacing - he had looked at my scans and I was perfectly fine!

Sunday, January 6, 2008

February 4 - Day Plus ?


With great relief, I stopped counting days at day 30, which was over a month ago (January 4). After checkups with both of my doctors in early January, I was released from house arrest and cleared to go back into public. You can be sure that Costco and Home Depot revenues have been up sharply since.

I did a set of scans just after day 30 to set a baseline for comparison for later scans. They came back clear, as expected, but it was nerve-wracking process just the same. At this point, my counts are normal and I am pretty much clear to go anywhere I want, eat whatever I want, and drink whatever I want. Remember that Coors ticker (TAP)? In fact, I have been feeling reasonably normal for a couple of weeks. My energy level is back and the afternoon naps have ceased. With all of this solid progress, I am heading back to work after being out for about two and a half months.

It's hard to believe that I am ready to walk back into my life and take control of it again. 2007 was a tough year, as was 2006. God willing, the physical part of this nightmare is over. Now the mental part begins as I go through checkup scans every three months. The next checkpoint is in April. I am slowly finding myself starting to look forward again. When life deals you a blow and you lose control of things, it's hard to look out beyond a few days, let alone a few weeks or months.


Since I have been home from the hospital, I have continued to watch the Price is Right, but I have been Tivo-ing it and watching it in delay. By doing so, I can zip through the Sam Bernstein and HoverRound commercials, as well as the down time on the show. I can watch and hour-long episode in about 35 minutes, which is about the length of my attention span for the show when I am not sitting in a hospital bed.

I am planning a baseball trip to Southern California in June. I hope to get tickets to the show and, with a stroke of luck, actually be a contestant. I'll need to do a little research into the prices of campers and boats so I can do well in the Showcase Showdown. On that note, one of the contestants bid $8,500 for her showcase last week. They have not had a showcase under $10,000 since the 80s. I was disappointed to find out that the people that get called up to Contestants Row from the audience are NOT randomly selected. Rather, people are pre-screened while they are standing in line based on some criteria (apparently some mix of age, stupidity, and insanity).


As promised when I first began writing in this blog, I researched what you can do to get yourself registered in the National Bone Marrow Registry. It's a very simple process and requires a small, tax deductible donation to the Registry to cover the cost of the testing. By getting tested and registered, you could end up saving somebody's life.

The are two ways to get a testing kit. Call 1-800-MARROW2 (800-627-7692) and request a kit. Alternatively, visit and click on the "Join" link. There are a series of questions you'll need to answer before you can request a kit. A $52 donation (tax deductible) is required to complete the process.

Once you've received the kit, a simple swab of your cheek is all it takes to capture the necessary sample to complete an HLA test on you. When you send the testing materials back to the Registry, they will type you and enter you into the national database. If you think you may already be in the Registry from a previous drive, call 800-MARROW2 and ask them if you are already registered. I called and found that I was already in the database from a previous drive at Church.

If you decide to get yourself registered, please let me know how the process went and if there was anything I missed in the instructions above. You can send me an email at or

Once again, thanks for your thoughts and prayers and for checking in.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

January 1 - Day Plus 27 - New Years

Well, the new year is off to a good start. Michigan pulled out an exciting win in a relatively meaningless bowl game this afternoon. It was nice to beat Florida, though, after their coach whined his way into the national championship game last year. Importantly, they won despite Lloyd Carr's best efforts to give the game away at the end.

Only a Michigan fan would truly understand, but here's how the end of the game went down. Michigan only needed one first down to seal the victory. Instead of relying on their offense to deliver the first down, they ran the ball three times and kicked a field goal. This gave Florida, and their Heisman Trophy-winning quarterback, the ball back with about two minutes to go and only down six points. Carr relied on a defense that lost to Appalachian State rather than an offense that has three potential first round draft choices. It worked this time, but I can think of countless other times it has not. I digress... thanks for the national championship in '97 Lloyd - and 10 subsequent years of conservative football that consistently undercapitalized on the tremendous talent on the team. It's a good day for Michigan football.

Speaking of the new year, welcome 2008 and good riddance 2007. God willing, 2008 will be a better year.

On that note, I continue to feel better with each day. I am getting plenty of rest - so much so that I am actually sleeping through the Price is Right. I am going to have to TIVO it tomorrow in case I sleep in late again.

I am starting to get my energy back and am itching to get out of the house. I hope that my house arrest sentence will be reduced at the end of the week and I'll be cleared to go back in public again. We'll see.

That's all for now. Happy new year to all and thanks for checking in.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

December 25 - Day Plus 20 - Christmas

This year, I have a greater appreciation for the phrase, "I'll be home for Christmas." Although I have been cooped up in the house for the last week, it has been a great week. Every day I am getting strength back and feeling better - still not great, but better.

I have been fighting a minor head cold, but it appears to be subsiding. Food is starting to taste better, just in time for the wonderful Christmas Eve and Christmas dinners that my aunts prepare.

I am able to get out of the house without a mask as long as I go to a "controlled" environment where I know who is sick and who is not. It feels great to just drive again.

With not much else to do, I am still watching the Price is Right. It was a pretty bad week for Christmas Week. Usually they kick up the prizes for the shows taped to be aired the week before Christmas. This year, they were nothing special. I guess the economy is hitting everything.

Merry Christmas and thanks for checking in.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

December 19 - Day Plus 14

I took a day off from posting and just enjoyed being at home and relaxing. I guess it was quite appropriate that the movie Castaway was on tonight. Unlike Tom Hanks' character in the movie, I was not sad to say goodbye to my Wilson.

After three weeks in a hospital bed, my legs are like noodles. It will take some time to get my strength back. Without Wilson the IV, I can pace comfortably again. That should help build my legs back up. I've been feeling OK and eating pretty regularly. Things don't taste quite right yet. It'll probably be a couple more weeks until that's back to normal.

I owe you a Price is Right update from Monday. There was a priceless moment. A lady was in contestants' row trying to come up with a bid. She was absolutely clueless and kept turning around for help from the audience. Another lady in the first row told her what to bid, and she ended up winning. She turned around, put her hand up in the air, and began jumping up and down in celebration. Her pants fell down! No kidding! They didn't just come down a bit. They came down far enough that CBS had to blur out her backside - a classic moment.

I'll continue to post to this site periodically as I continue on the road to recovery. I cannot tell you how great it is to just be home. Thank you all for the countless emails, phone calls, thoughts, and prayers. Words cannot express my appreciation.

Thanks again for checking in.