Monday, December 12, 2011

Are You Listening?

I found this article that I not only have to share but inspired me to get back on the blog.

The line that got me the most––"that's not a good way to die, before you've told the end of your story." I read that and instantly began thinking of my Mother's passing this past October. You could probably tell I haven't posted much since then. Her passing has jolted me more than I expected. I didn't get to talk to her much, as my Mother was always on the go and was somewhat of a nomad her last year+ in her life. But when we did talk my Mom would tell me stories about her friends, her work or some situation she got herself into that she couldn't figure out how to mitigate.

It wasn't unusual for me to say, "hi, Mom. How are you?" and get my next chance to say something to her about 20-30 minutes later. And this happened my whole life. When I was younger I would wait up for her when she went out. Being a young, single Mother I fully understood and accepted her need to have fun with people her own age. We were only 17 years apart in age so as I grew older my listening became more important as our ages seems to come closer together. While it always seemed "cool" to have such a young Mom it was also tough as I became more "grown-up" faster and that meant I didn't always want to listen.

Now for those of you who know me and can't fathom me just sitting there and listening, it's true. I like to think that I'm a good listener. I believe that part of that is listening to my body, which was telling me 4 1/2 years ago that I had cancer. I also believe in my heart my Mom's trip in the Fall of 2010 to my house was her way of wanting me to listen again, even closer this time. I spent as much time as I could with her, happy she was with us yet concerned that she didn't look or act very well during her stay. And the next time I saw her was in the hospital after her massive stroke. It was hard to listen to her because I think she was trying to finish her story, tell me all about it.

I'm still here, ready to listen as always.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Forgetting What I Forgot

I was talking to a co-worker this morning about my memory, or lack thereof, since I was treated for head & neck cancer.

If you've been reading my blog since July of 2008––thank you if you have, and you can always go back and read ALL of my posts––you've seen me write about "chemo brain" and how real it really is. As I'm getting older chronologically––because those that know me know I'm Peter Pan in disguise––I've been wondering where the intersection of radiation and chemo damage and old age will be. And am I at that dreaded 4 corner intersection without a clue as to where I go? I also think of the multiple concussions I've had in my life––at least 3, that I can remember––numerous blows to the head in football, elbows in basketball and a few baseballs off the noggin' in the box or on the base paths in baseball. Oh, and then there's the stitches I took in the head when I was 4 years-old and the year of Judo-Jujitsu that knocked me around a bit.

As far back as I remember, I wanted to make my living with my brain. First it was a lawyer––until I found out I had to go to school forever––then a poet (it was the 60's), a sportswriter (good thing I didn't go down that path now) and eventually a writer of some sorts which is what I am today. The long, extended point is, my brain is my livelihood. I make dozens of business decisions a day, create multiple ideas for my clients and our company and try to stay even with this whole web-thing that is really catching on (insert sarcasm here).

I also get to thinking if I'm ever going to stop thinking about my survival from cancer. And what/how much I will remember of the entire diagnosis, treatment and recovery. Teresa will tell you she just wants to forget all of it, especially the scary parts she saw me go through. I want to remember and then again I don't. I'd like to able to forget what I want to forget and remember what I want to remember.

If only I could remember to do that every day.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011


A little over 4 years ago, I finished my last cancer treatment. It was a Friday––I called it the "cancer combo" as chemo & radiation were both on Fridays for 7 weeks––and I was done.

I was talking to a friend at work about my "milestone", as this person is also a cancer survivor. I was starting to wonder about my recovery & remission and what does it all really mean. Total remission is supposed to be 5 years from your treatments. But then what? Do I go and checked? When? How? After calming myself down I realized I have just as many questions now as I did when I heard the "c" word. While the now yearly check-ups/tests/blood work are filled with wait & worry for me and my family, they are also very comforting in knowing I'm going to find out what's going on inside my body. It sucks to get it done but does it suck more not knowing?

I keep thinking back to my friend and fellow cancer survivor Matt, who helped me more than he'll ever know. He told me you'll "just live" one day, after your 5 years have come and gone. I know it will always be in the back of my mind. Because I DON'T want to forget. Sounds ridiculous––that's for you, Teresa––but I feel by remembering what cancer did to me, I will know if/when it comes back again. cancer also made me a better person in some weird ways. And I want to hold on to the "better Greg." So totally forgetting is really not healthy. I know, I can be a sick bastard. But I also know that milestones are there for me to give thanks and praise to those who were and have been with me through the good and bad. Because it never really goes away.

You just hit another milestone.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Trick Or Treat

This being Halloween and all, I thought it was appropriate to post about blood. My blood, to be exact.

After flying back and forth to the West Coast and points in between over the Summer––what Summer?––I was having some cramping in my leg. Of course, the first thing that comes to mind is "blood clot." (Ricardo, I was thinking of you when it happened). Then it gets real weird and my whole left leg starts vibrating, as if an electric current is running through my veins not the cartoonish "electric shock" but I'm sure I could run a 10 watt light bulb from the bottom of my foot.

Then again, it has been 4 years since my last chemo treatment––well almost, Nov 3 is the exact date––and maybe new side effects were taking place. The chemo I was given had just been cleared through clinical trials so what historical evidence did they have? Was a real shock to the nervous system a side effect? Was I just healing? WTF? So I reluctantly called my Doctor. (I was reluctant because I can never see him quickly as he's busy as hell and because I just came off of 7 days away from work for my Mom's funeral and service). I got lucky and saw him at the end of the week. "It could be blood, your veins or maybe even something wrong with your back." Great, the trifecta. Needles in my arm for drawing blood. Poking around and getting MORE radiation from an MRI. And, some ultrasound of the Doppler (where am I going, to a meteorologist?) and Venous Doppler/Lower Extremity.

Now I'm thinking I'm so DONE with giving blood. Messes my ass up like you wouldn't believe. And you would think after all the needles and pumping and draining cancer patients and survivors go through, I'd be OK with it all. Wrong. The trick for me is to not look and prepare for the 10 day rash that always comes from the needle.

The treat will be in the results. I hope.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Tears On My Keyboard

My Mother passed away Tuesday, October 4, 2011.

Today is her viewing. And I have to admit the last month it's been hard for me to write because the emotions having been flowing faster than my brain and fingers can move. Collecting my thoughts haven't been this hard since my battle with cancer began 4 yours ago.

I could write volumes about my Mom. She truly was one of a kind in many ways, if that makes sense. But in the next few days, hours and greetings from family, friends and the many people who were touched by my Mom's life, I'm choosing to save it for her eulogy tomorrow. I will tell everyone who will hear the amazing things my Mother, Mary Grace, did for countless numbers of people who came in and out of her life.

She died too young--70--not because the number 70 is now the new 60. Because she was young at heart. Always looking to laugh, dance or sing. Always thinking she was a lot younger than her chronological age. And now she'll get to sing with Elvis, dance to Marvin and be with her Joseph Bear and Ruby Marie. If you don't know who those people are/were, you didn't know Mary Grace.

And that's a loss for all of us.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Short But Hopeful

Today I wish for a safe transport of my Mother from Las Vegas to Southern California. Too emotional to write anything else.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

What's Going On?

My Mother is still hanging in there but still in the hospital. It really doesn't look good for a recovery.

But sometimes forces greater than us have a way of bringing a smile to a situation that has an inevitable and sorrow-filled ending. That's why you see Marvin Gaye's picture above. My Mother loved to party––but she was NOT a drinker, she just liked to have a good time. That good time was focused on dancing to the music. She loved music, especially Elvis and Motown. And she could dance her ass off all night. I know from firsthand experience. She would take my Sister and I to our very close friends of the family––we do call them family––Joe and Annie's place in the mid to late '60's and early '70's. Can't find a babysitter? We would go and hang out with their kids and the adults until we would get bored or go to sleep. And my Mom was usually the life of the party, dancing, laughing and just having a clean good time.

The other significance of Marvin Gaye is his album, "What's Going On?", was the first album I can remember seeing and listening to––we had tons of 45's, which had an A and B side and were much cheaper than an LP, a long playing record. So we listened to Marvin Gaye ALL the time because we could hear more than one song. I also learned to listen to the words and not just the music because of Mr. Gaye's storytelling ability. I could feel his despair, pain, agony and joy in his voice and his words. Without knowing it at the time, he (along with Edwin Jackson, songwriter/singer of "War") hooked me in the power and purpose of the written and spoken word. So when I looked at this poster, hanging on the side of Hitsville, USA, the old Motown records "studio", his eyes touched my soul. I saw the despair, pain and the essence of his soul in this photo. And while it made me smile at first because it brought good times with my Mom to mind, I also felt something extremely deeper.

The pain my Mom must be going through now. Love you, Mom.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Keeping Perspective

It's been a tumultuous month.

My Mom suffered a stroke and heart attack. Blood pressure––top number––was over 240. She's lucky to still be alive. But she's still not out of the woods, as she's spent the last 4-5 weeks in and out of critical condition and back and forth from hospital to rehab to back to ICU. Thank God she is fighting to stay alive. Next week is a quadruple bypass for her. Always a risk but there's no alternative as she has only 30% capacity of blood flow through her heart.

I'm writing this very personal post about someone other than myself because it's brought up the inevitable part of life––what if Mom doesn't make it? As my family, close friends––thanks, Ben & Tim––and others have discussed the possibilities, I've noticed something very different about me from the rest of the family. While I'm very sad and know my Mom is in the fight of her life, I've also come to grips with mortality. I talked to my Dad about this the other day––he is also a cancer survivor––and he totally understood. I can only equate this to something I know millions of cancer survivors have gone through and perhaps have a better understanding because of their own face-to-face meeting with death.

I believe when you've stared death in the face––and I'm not talking about thrill seekers who looks for the rush––you find out a lot about yourself. I've written before that there were a few times I didn't think I was going to make it through the night, so I would stay awake to see the sun come through my window. I used to think, "I lived. Now to live another day." It may seem somewhat of a morbid thought. But the power of positive thinking is truly powerful and extremely helpful in the fight against cancer. Even if you don't make it, you die knowing you fought to live to the bitter end.

I love my Mom and selfishly want her to be around for another 70 years. But I also know that death is the most unfortunate part of life and inevitable. That doesn't make it any easier when a loved one, dear friend or anyone else who has been a part of my life passes away.

Right now, it's helping me keep my perspective right where it should be.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

cancer Tips

Yes, an odd headline for a post. But in celebration of three years being alive to blog––I started this blog July 19, 2008––words cannot express my joy in being able to share.

1. Smile. A lot. It doesn't hurt at all. Unless you have a tube in your mouth at the time (which has happened to me).

2. Share. Love. Happiness. Stories. The last bite of a delicious desert.

3. Walk with ease. Enjoy the fact you can walk and don't take it for granted.

4. Scream. It clears your lungs and also reminds you why you shouldn't do it very often. Unless you're screaming with pleasure.

5. Tell someone you love them. Tell more than one person a day you love them. You know who those people are.

6. Be kind. It's an amazing feeling that you can't buy.

7. Pass along knowledge. You'll be amazed at what you get in return.

8. Ask someone how they are doing and really mean it. If you don't, don't do it. But you'll be much poorer if you don't.

9. Give someone a hug. Or if you don't have anyone to hug, hug your pet. No pets? Hug a pillow. Surely you have a pillow somewhere in your life.

10. Put down your electronic device when someone is talking to you. You might learn something or start a new relationship that's been missing from your life.

11. Say please. And thank you.

12. Open the door for someone. Literally and/or figuratively.

13. Don't wait for tomorrow. Tomorrow never really comes. All we have is today.

14. Thank your higher power for being alive.

15. Remember that everyone has their own shit to deal with. It just comes in many different forms.

16. Read. Words are timeless.

17. End your day with love, a smile, a hug and one happy thought. That's a full day in itself.

Love to all of you who take the time to read my ramblings.

Thank you.

Friday, July 8, 2011

No Time To Celebrate

I got the good news on Wednesday, June 29, that the cancer has not come back.

This was completely tempered by the fact that 2 days earlier, my Mom had a heart attack, stroke and a blood clot near her kidney and was in ICU clear across the country from me. So there I was, struggling with the decision of when to hop on the next plane while I was waiting to hear what my fate was going to be with cancer. You can imagine the thoughts and feelings that were racing through my head––worry, anxiety, sadness, guilt, happy, concern, confusion, conflict––that were ringing in my brain at various levels.  I was like, "c'mon, really? Someone or some thing thinks I can handle all this crap, all at once?

I got on a plane Friday morning, not knowing what to expect once I was able to see my Mom. The reports from my Cousin and Sister were not encouraging. And unfortunately, this was looking like a life altering incident. I didn't know if I was going to able to handle it. I remember the last time I rushed back home to the West Coast to see my Grandmother. She was barley hanging on when I got there. I got to tell her I love her, hold her hand and kiss her on the cheek and forehead. I also told her that if she needed to go, it was OK. You held on until I got to see you. And I'll never forget her face––she had a peaceful look even though she was catatonic. She passed away a couple of hours later.

We take for granted that life is fragile. Precious. And it will end. For myself, having stared death right in the eye and telling it to "go screw yourself, I'm not ready" was an experience I hope I never have to go through again. But if I had to, I know I can and will fight to win at all costs. And that's the scariest part of watching my Mom in her current situation. I'm not sure if she's willing or able to fight––her brain is damaged from the stroke and her anxiety disorder has kicked in to high gear. I wish I could do something for her to make her better.

Until then, celebrations are on hold.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

The Post Before The Exam

I always try to be careful of what I write during my check-ups, post cancer.

No really, I do. I know some of you follow my blog to "check-up" on me and I greatly appreciate that. It's one of the reasons I filter my news of my day-to-day battle with keeping cancer away from my physical being. And a big reason why my posts slow down during the testing period.

Tomorrow is the last leg of my Doctor visits. Or so I hope. My CT scan showed an increase in size in one of my lymph nodes. And I want to know why/what does it mean/what's next for me and my family. I believe our greatest fears are dealing with the unknown. (No shit, Greg). I'm all about resolution. Let's get to it, now. All I got is right now. So this waiting between exams/check-ups/tests is more excruciating than knowing if it the cancer has come back or not. (Looks like I'm getting close to the writer's record for using backslashes in one post). I want to live today to the fullest. And know what today will look like after tomorrow. OK, now I'm confused. Now you know what goes through my mind while I'm waiting for resolution.

It's been almost four years to the day––8/7/07––when I first heard my name associated with cancer. I'm going to the same Doctor who immediately sent me to a Pathologist that fateful day. So that's giving me a little concern. But I also know if the news isn't what I want to hear I'll be ready to kick it's ass again.

So I can keep posting.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Around 2 o'clock it hit me. It was only Wednesday.

And that's the problem. I have strayed from enjoying every day as if it's my last day. After cancer that's what's changed about me. Well, OK, when I was 11-12 years I was crazy as if it's my last day. And 13-14. I make sure I take those things we take for granted. My Wife has nurtured a beautiful and plentiful garden. Lots of beauty to see. So when I'm pissing and moaning about it only being Wednesday, that's got to change.

Two Wednesdays from today, I'll be at Dr. Lee's for the ENT phase of my annual tests and Doctor visits. I'll ask her to tell me what is "normal range growth" or something like that. Which is a way to say that a lymph ndoe has grown since last year but is with normal range. There's those two words who independently are good things. Together they scare the shit out of me. But that was my first reaction when I was told the news. I'm in the OK-let's-get-the-final-Jeopardy answer as soon as I can. I'll be doing that soon.

On a Wednesday.

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Not Great, Not Scary

My posts have been MIA for a few weeks due to the annual tests for cancer, so sorry if you thought I was dead.

I've posted before about the eerie silence of a cancer blogger/patient. Ii freaks people out, at least those who follow me. I've often wondered if anyone would update my blog with my death. Yeah, I know, this post is getting off to a morbid start but some things need to be said and I've never been shy in addressing those subjects that make people uncomfortable.

I found out 3 days ago that while my cancer (sounds like it's a pet when I say "my cancer") is not back, one of my lymph nodes has increased in size since last year's CT scan. I was told "it's in the normal range". The normal range of what? That's what I'll ask my ENT, who is the last stop on The cancer Check-Up Tour. She'll tell it to me straight and what I need to do. Probably nothing, but maybe I'll need to get a needle biopsy to ease my mind. Yep, I'm having a hard time with this bit of news even thought the Docs have said it's OK. The bitch of the whole thing is worrying only makes everything worse––some call worry "stress", which is a feeder to cancer.

I'm not going to lie, this is a shot to the gut. I had a feeling that something had changed––I get those feelings whether I want to or not. So I'm going to go hug my Wife and spend some time with my family.

That always makes me feel better.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Dr. Feelgood

I'm in the middle of check-ups, so naturally my thoughts turn to mortality. (Or maybe it's just natural to me).

I've graduated to once a year, as 8/7/07 gets smaller in my virtual rear view mirror. Once a year I get checked up to see if I'm winning or losing the battle with cancer. And yes, it is a battle. Why? Anything worth having is worth fighting for. In my case, my battle is making the side effects seem "normal" and staying ahead or at least keeping even with the work I do for a living. It's realizing that "normal" is not normal and my normal is just fine with me. It sure beats the alternative. But now that I've diverted your attention and haven't really written about "doctors", it's time to tell you why my Docs make me feel better.

My GP, Dr. Plescia, started this off by giving me a full physical, with the usual blood, urine and uh, ahem, a probe or two. Hey, cancer can strike anywhere. Dr. Plescia is that rare Doctor who actually knows something about you beyond the chart. He and I are the same age, which helps when he says, "guys our age have to do these things and get these things checked out. I go through it with my Doctor." Yeah, that's right. Doctors have Doctors. At least the good ones do, as they stay away from total self-diagnosis. Dr. Plescia is the one who recommended Dr. Lee, my ENT. Dr. Lee––who is a no-nonsense, straight shooter, just how I like them–– recommended Dr. Felice.

Dr. Felice, my Oncologist, is the kind of person you'd have a beer or two with. He's a big Mets fan and sports fan in general. And he ends every visit with a magic trick––yes, the best trick would be to make cancer disappear but not even Chris Angel can do that––that puts a smile on your face as you leave his office. Card tricks are his forte but he does this thing with a bottle cap and a bottle that blows you away. I go see him this week to get the usual poking, prodding and draining so I know if the cancer is back anywhere. And while I don't know if that's the case until I get my results, I do know one thing.

I'll walk out of there with a smile on my face courtesy of my Doctor.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Why I'm Not Celebrating Death

If you're a cancer survivor, you'll understand why I'm not celebrating the death of Osama Bin Laden.

In no way shape or form do I feel pity or sorrow for him. I was in New York on 9/11/01, watching the destruction and reactions across the city up close and personal. I'll tell the whole story in another post. If I never get to post the story, so be it. But what I saw that day was almost 6 years to the day BEFORE I was diagnosed with head & neck cancer in 2007. Shaking hands with death changes your perspective.

Every now and then I catch myself taking life for granted. I have a wonderful and loving family. I'm fortunate to live where the seasons change and see all it's beauty. I have a job that is a job I've been looking for ever since I left Chiat/Day in 1986. I live in a great neighborhood. But sometimes, I get caught up in too many things that in the grand scheme of things, are really unimportant and a waste of time. Life itself is precious in every way, every second of the day. Death, while inevitable, is a marker for those who come after us. Our lives are then reduced to stories––some true, some embellished and some absolutely too ridiculous to believe––passed on from generation to generation and more recently, over the Internet.

What I am celebrating is hoping that we ask ourselves how/why one person can influence others to kill another human being, especially those people who believe "it is God's will" to take another person's life. Now I know I'm treading on dangerous territory for many reasons. That is not my intent. I can't get you to believe the way I do nor should I try––you are your own person. And so am I. But as I said earlier in this post, I'm a cancer survivor. If you've ever heard the words, "I wish I had better news but you have (fill in ANY cancer here). Best of luck to you", the first thought/question is 99.9% of the time, "am I going to die?"

When you can answer that question with living proof, then maybe you'll understand why I'm not celebrating death.

Friday, April 29, 2011

More Radiation, Please

I was recently scanned by TSA at the airport.

When they told me to "put your feet here, face this way and raise your arms over your head" I said, "yeah I got it. Just what I need after 35 radiation treatments for cancer." My comment went over like a wet fart in church reverberating against the wooden pew. I got a look that was half stern and half WTF. It also jarred my memory that I needed to schedule my next scan. Even more radiation. More arms over my head. More prayers for a clean scan with no cancer growing in my body.

My good friend Matt––another cancer survivor of over 15 years––and I talked about the lasting emotional and mental scars that cancer treatment "gives" you. I asked him, "when will I not think about cancer every day?" He said, "you'll get there eventually". And I have. After only 3 and a-half-years since my diagnosis I don't think of "my cancer" every day. (I'm getting really close to a writer's world record for quotation marks in one space). But this time of year, I have to make my follow-up appointments with my team of Doctors. I started with the easy one, my GP. It's gets more invasive from here, with needles, radiation and tubes with cameras up my nose and down my throat.

If Mr. Sunshine at the TSA showed any form of human interaction with me, I would've asked him, "does the scan show if I'm cancer free or not." I'm sure that would have put the whole airport on lockdown and I would've missed my plane. And I would have demanded that they show me the x-ray so I could take it to my Doctors and see if I could skip the whole scanning process. Could you imagine the press having a field day with this headline, "Former cancer patient tries to use his x-rays from TSA for treatment." For sure I'd get radiated EVERY time I went through airport security.

That would suck.

Monday, April 25, 2011

Just Try Not To Be An Asshole

This was all I had to do for Easter Sunday.

My lovely Wife reminded me that when I'm tired I'm a real asshole. And I agree, my assholed-ness gets pretty high when I have been able to sleep and I'm running on empty. No one knows this better than me or at least that's what I thought until my Wife reminded me. And while I know this is me, I at least thought I could fall into the "lovable asshole" category. You know someone like that, don't you? Yes, you do.

Since my fall off the ladder, I've been in pain and not sleeping––at least until Thursday night, when I had my pain killer prescription in hand. Or should I say in my body. So sleep was not an option until Thursday night. And since I was till a little loopy Friday morning, I didn't take any until Friday afternoon. Which knocked me out and I didn't let me sleep much that night because, well, I already had 4 good hours of sleep. You see the pattern here?

So when Sunday rolls around, I'm pretty wiped out from all the pills––I've gone from taking 1 pill to now taking 4 pills a day and it sucks big time––and all the highs and lows that the medication gives me and with the lack of saliva that the cancer has left me with. (By the way, one of the side effects of my pain medication is dry mouth. If my mouth was any drier I would be spitting sand every time I talked). And I can't lift anything, move anything or do anything more than walk because I'm in pain or in a drug stupor.  Which means I'm stuck with nothing physical to do except run my mouth. Nice, huh?

Not if I'm trying NOT to be an asshole.

Friday, April 22, 2011

The Fall

I fell off a ladder last Sunday and this is was "flashed" in my head in 5 seconds or less.

We had a bad storm the night before––35-40 mph winds with rain––so a few trees around my house took a beating. Especially the one in front of my house, at the end of the porch and hanging over my driveway. A branch was cracked and it would seem only hours or minutes away from falling right on the hood of my Wife's car, affectionately called "Honey" by my her. Which meant I had to cut it down––after I moved the cars out of the driveway.

I got my 4' ladder out––I have 3 ladders of various sizes for such things––and climbed to the safest/highest spot on the ladder. With a reciprocating saw in my hand. I was extra careful so as not to: kill the plants below me, break any garden statues and wear my work boots with the steel toes in case the saw falls out of my hands. I secured the ladder and up I went. Things were falling into place. Little did I know I would be falling as well.

Now for the flashbacks. With the big branch cut and covering the driveway, I started to get down––no, not like that––I got down from the ladder. And that's when my life did a quick review in me head. The ladder sunk into the soft ground and started to lean left. I, however, was heading right. I was still holding the saw. I was starting to fall and tried to gain my balance. Until my right foot slid across the rung and got stuck IN BETWEEN the rungs. There I was, falling backwards, with a saw in my hands and no one home to help if I really got hurt. This started this "video" in my head––I'm falling with a saw in my hands, please God don't let it cut me, shit my foot is stuck, SOB I'm going to hit the porch railing, no I'm going to gore myself on the pruners I just noticed, I think my ankle is going to break, don't fall, don't fall, don't fall, SHIT there's no one home what happens if I hit my head on the porch railing or cut my jugular vein or break my back, FUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUCCCCCCCCCKKKKKK.

Fortunately, I just scrapped the crap out of my right arm (had to get a tetanus shot) and tweaked the hell out of my back. I did bounce off the railing of the porch. And my back was in a knot, so much so that I finally went and got some 'killers for the pain that had been constant since Sunday. I also had an interesting though sitting in the Doctor's office yesterdayt: after all the chemo, radiation and surgeries I survived during cancer treatments I could have died falling 4 feet off a ladder.

That would've sucked.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Save The Planet Or Myself?

I had a rather interesting "discussion" with someone at work about my use of a plastic water bottle.

We were talking about "rethink, recycle, reuse" when this person pointed out in a meeting with others that I "could get rid of the water bottle. That's a big part of our problem." To which I replied, "I need these water bottles." Then it got interesting. As we walked out of the meeting together I then told this fellow employee I needed water to survive because of caner. This person proceeded to admonish me, saying I could use a permanent water bottle, made of steel––I can't because of the metal reaction that occurs in my mouth––or I could use a Brita water filter––I do, at home and at work, filling my water bottle that I use for the day over and over and use it until the next morning. I've tried glass water bottles––I have broken two––and plastic bottles as well.

The treatments I had for Head & Neck cancer were extensive––if you've read this before, sorry––and included 4 oral surgeries, replacement fillings in 4 of my teeth, surgery to insert a feeding tube, 35 radiation treatments over 7 weeks and 13 chemo treatments, one a week for 13 weeks. While I'm thankfully still alive––no ghost writing here––the side effects are permanent. Especially the damage to my salivary glands. I produce about 25-30% of the saliva I used to produce. Which means I need water by my side 24/7/365. Not just because of constant dry mouth and throat. But as a result of not producing enough saliva, I now have acid reflux. And sometimes I start choking because I'm too dry and have mucous stuck in my throat––at least that's just one of the things that make me choke or cough at any moment. Swallowing? An adventure in itself.

Now I'm not looking for any sympathy. It just struck me odd that someone would not even listen to my situation. I did say under my breath, "if I didn't have cancer I'd be drinking out of a glass just like you" but when I was asked what I said I just replied "nothing." Because this person either didn't care or understand or is just a douche bag and nothing I said was going to change their mind. This person was determined to save the planet starting with me. I have no problem with that other than it got me thinking.

Today, I'll save myself so I can help save the planet.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Would You Like Dizziness As One Of Your Sides?

After all the cancer treatments I've had, I was only taking one medication. Note the word WAS.

A recent trip to my Doctor––my GP––and some blood work revealed that my cholesterol was sky high. And that I had a Vitamin D deficiency. And that I was growing breasts. (Just kidding. Put that in there to see if you're paying attention). So now I have to swallow more pills. Which means having to navigate the side effect of head & neck cancer that mess me up the most––the inability to produce saliva. Sometimes I feel like a snake who has swallowed a rat whole, expecting to see the pills stick out the side of my neck because they are caught in my throat. (Nice visual, huh?).

By taking more pills comes more side effects. First it was dizziness. Then it was fatigue. Then it was a desire to dress up like Elizabeth Taylor. (Again, paying attention? RIP Liz). These are the side effects from the cholesterol medication. I don't need any more side effects. Especially fatigue. Fatigue was the first indication that I had cancer––I had no energy no matter what I did and I didn't think that was normal––and made me to go see my GP to see if it was all in my head. Which in a strange and twisted way, it was. And it's strange to think this is supposed to happen. Which makes me question the validity or effectiveness of the medication. There's got to be a better way to lower my cholesterol––yes, I do exercise but not enough and I do eat good food but probably not enough. And after all the crap I've been through, really? Can't I just live on my "extra time" here on Earth?

Have to go now. I'm getting dizzy.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Voices Of The Angels

I have to thank cancer––yeah, I know that sounds awful––for making me appreciate the things in life I used to take for granted.

While the line above seems weird, awkward and maybe even somewhat stupid, I now treat every day as a blessing. You may have read some of my earlier posts that describe my beliefs. If you haven't, it's as simple as this––I am more spiritual than religious and believe in a higher power much greater than me. That means I believe in God in the way and manner I am comfortable with and don't try to convert or dismiss others who believe in the God of their choice. Choice being the winning word. (Thanks, Charlie). I have been face-to-face with death as I was going through chemo and radiation for 3 months. Not only is it terrifying but also somewhat unexplainable. And while I know my will to live and fight certainly helped me, I also knew that I would die some day. I just didn't want it to happen because of cancer. In an even stranger thought process as I was going through treatment, I also knew that I had no control of when death would decide it's time for me to go.

OK, Greg, what about the angel voices? No, I didn't hear whispers in my ear. But I did hear the most moving, powerful and spiritual voices in my life in a church in the center of the city of Detroit. These men and women sang from their SOULS. They literally brought tears to my eyes. Sent chills up and down my spine. Made me realize the power of the spirit in our lives. I was humbled. Honored. And extremely thankful that a higher power allowed me to experience this in person and right in front of me. They made me realize what was really important, in a tough day for me and my friends in the business I am in.

We are more than the jobs we do. The clothes we wear. The cars we drive. We are more than expensive homes. The number of followers we have. The titles on our business cards. How do I know?

The angels told me.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

The Gods Of Communication

We're in a world where information is at our fingertips on any subject, anywhere at any time. We communicate via text, Facebook, Twitter and loads of other online or handheld portals, devices and screens. And that scares the shit out of me.


Because face-to-face communication suffers. Things are lost in translation or meaning when it's in an email or text or on a social media platform of your choice. We're so connected we've actually lost connection. For me, personally, it has made me communicate in shorter messages (thanks, Twitter), utilize more electronic devices and become desensitized to personal relationships by just firing off my POV and tons of words flowing out of my mouth like the Red River overflowing. And I fucking hate it. I've allowed the work I do to creep into my home life––something I've worked hard to avoid for the last 30 years so I can have a healthy and happy relationship with my family.

Now maybe this means I'm just getting old(er) or I'll just have to suck it up and roll with it because this type of communication is here to stay––"this" being a multi-tasking, ADD-ish, living online or on the cellie all the time while always worrying about missing something––as those who are younger than me will some day rule the world whether I like it or not. (Even my cancer Doctors communicate via email and share info electronically constantly). But as I write this post I've gone back to the realization that it's ME who chooses how/when/where/why/what I communicate. I'm the one who controls what comes out of my mouth––yeah, I can hear those of you who know me saying stuff about my mouth and the lack of control I really have––and that's something I can work on every day.

Can I get a collective "Thank God"?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Blood Work

I've been waiting to write about my latest round of check-ups.

Why? When you have cancer––or did have, in my case––you have to get checked on by ALL your Doctors, get poked, drained, pee in a cup, x-rayed, put in a tube for 25+ minutes, probed, pinched, weighed, measured (am I still growing or am I shrinking?) have a tube shoved up your nose and down your neck and get undressed and dressed about a dozen times in front of complete strangers and open windows.

I'm about one-third of the way through my rounds. I started by going to my GP––Dr. Marc Plescia, the angel who looked at the lump on the right side of my jaw and said, "I don't like this. Let's get you to see Dr. Lee right away."––who always does a thorough job. He's also the Doctor who gets the ball rolling by ordering blood work. Now if you've read my blog and posts before, you know how much I hate needles. And if you've ever had blood taken from your body after you've had cancer, they take a LOT. I felt like I was at a gas station, only they were pumping blood out of me as I was filling up test tube after test tube of blood samples. (I think there were 6 big vials, as I only looked at my arm and what was happening after I was told to "hold this and press here for 30 seconds).

I did this while I was in town for 2 days––purposely for seeing the Doctor and getting the check-ups started––knowing I would be back on the road and that traveling would keep my mind off of the inevitable results report. And that's exactly happened. I forgot to look at my mail. I forgot about the bloodletting. I even forgot about the rash on my arm that I always get from the needle and tape. So how did I remember? My Wife went to pick-up her medication and was promptly handed 2 prescriptions for ME. Vitamin D and cholesterol medication. WTF?

I then went to my stack of mail and pulled out the fat envelope––not to be confused with a phat envelope of some shit I'd really like––and opened. White blood cell count––excellent. Sodium? Cool. 25 other symbols and checks and other crap that was all good. Until I hit LDL and HDL. I guess the road was full of "good eating". And I was full of bad cholesterol. Fucking great. But it did remind me of the time when I asked my oncologist during my chemo treatments about my cholesterol levels and should I be worried about it. Dr. Felice just smiled and said, "we're putting enough stuff into your body where your cholesterol levels should be the least of your worries". So it's either another round of chemo––no thank you––or taking medication.

I think I'll let the medication work through my blood for a while.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Life, As The Road Sees It.

I write this post from the back of a rock 'n roll tour bus, somewhere in Mississippi. And yes, it's as cool and different for me as it sounds. (Never been to Mississippi before. Had a great lunch in Meridian).

I was just thinking how fortunate I am to have been able to not only take this trip but also have my Wife, Teresa, along for the ride from Nashville to New Orleans. I've been on the road for most of November, December and January. Missing our special times on the weekends. Missing out on a family meal or two. Just missing, period.

I did manage to start my annual cancer check-ups when I was home for a hot minute. But it's just the start, as I still have to get poked and prodded and shot with needles a few more times. And shoved in tube for 20-25 minutes to see if the cancer has come back. I have graduated to once a year check-ups. So that's a great thing. And despite all the traveling, 4 hours of sleep a night and waking up more than a few times thinking "where the hell am I?, it's been a life experience I'll never forget.

Thank God I'm alive to take it all in.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Head Shots

I've been seeing the great USA for the past few months. Which means I've been on the road. Which means I've slept in many hotel beds. Which means way too much time form my Wife and family. Especially since most of the time I've been gone on the weekends. (World record for "I've been" in one paragraph).

Once cancer snuck into my head & neck, I remember thinking that I need to do stuff I always wanted to do––this was part of my "fuck you cancer" plan––because all we really have is this moment. So seeing the sights of America and meeting people all over the Midwest and East Coast has been "work" but a labor of love as well. (Start humming/singing/singing in your head Johnny Cash's "I've Been Everywhere). I've been––there it is again––to the Duesenburg Museum in Auburn, IN, to Dave's Cosmic Subs SOMEWHERE in Indiana, to Heinz Field in The 'Burgh, Cleveland, The D, Indy and Gino's East for some deep dish in Chicago.

But the coolest part of my adventure was the Pro Football Hall Of Fame. If you are a history buff or sports fan or just want to go to a place that is absolutely cool, then make your way to Canton, Ohio and take the tour. Give yourself 3-4 hours and you can even grab a bite to eat there––I saw a Dad and his 9-10 year-old Son eating among others––at the end of the tour before you head out. Why was this the coolest?

Sports has been a generational connection in my family. My Dad was a two-sport star in High School. Mom was a High School basketball player. My Wife was an accomplished swimmer and diver. I had played semi-pro baseball and basketball in college back in the day. And my 4 kids were all athletes in high school––football, basketball, baseball, volleyball and lacrosse––with my Daughter playing LAX in college and had a great 4 year career. My Son & Daughter have both been High School coaches. So when we all get together, we share sports stories, talk about the people we played with and against in our respective playing eras and have a strong work ethic and discipline due to sports.

I thought as I left the HOF that this would be a great trip for my Dad, my Kids and my Wife to take. (When the weather is much better than 12 degrees and snowing). I need to make that happen when soon. I need to do the things that bring all of us some great memories. Show them where I've been.

The photo above is a start.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Chasing Energy

I've been on an extremely challenging "road" the last two months. I've been traveling way too much and working 18 hours days.

I'm trying to be very careful of how much I work. But the same drive and passion I put into my work is the very same drive and passion that helped me make it through the hell of cancer. Thank God I have the greatest Wife in the world who keeps reminding me that I'm not Superman and I need to take care of myself––so much so, that I hear her voice even though she's not physically with me. The struggle to find a balance is constant for all of us. For me, it sometimes seems as if I'm trying to get as much as I can done today because I know that tomorrow I may not be of this Earth.

Yeah, I know that sounds weird––and don't freak out, I totally plan on waking up tomorrow. In Pittsburgh,  if you can believe that. But it's a drive that keeps me going and is also draining my energy at the same time. (Yeah, I know I'm fucked up in the head). I have this overwhelming feeling of missing something. And when death is crawling around in your body looking to take over any minute, that can be the first step to letting my resistance down. I need energy. Not in a 5-hour bottle. Not in a bull can that tastes like bull shit. I need to find the energy in the only place it can be.

Where the hell is that?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

So, How Did That List Thing Work Out?

Yeah, that was a planned post string that died an untimely death. Actually, I totally went off the grid the last 2 weeks. So this will be my first list of 2011. And the last of 2010.

This was inspired by talking to a friend of mine today. It's a little raw and dark.

Things That Go Through Your Head After cancer Diagnosis

1. When am I going to die?
2. Am I going to lose my mind?
3. What am I going to tell my Wife, my family?
4. What are they going to do if I die?
5. WTF
6. I wonder how people are going to take the news.
7. Well, I guess that organ donor donation on my driver's license will be ignored now.
8. It would be absolutely ridiculous if I got in a car accident and died on the way home.
9. I think I forgot how to breathe.
10. What did they just say? I think I need to go back in there.
11. WTF
12. I'll give myself a day to cry, wallow in my self-pity and be left alone with my thoughts.
13. cancer will NOT get me. I'm gonna kick it right in the crotch and beat the shit outta of it.

Happy Healthy New Year.