Wednesday, December 23, 2009

What's Next

Every year for the last 10 or so I have written goals and objectives for myself for the new year. The last two years those have been very very simple, 2008 was get out of pain ( that was berfore I knew what was causing the pain) and 2009 was recover. In years previous I have organized my goals up into personal, professional, athletic and spiritual. For 2010, now that I am mostly recovered, I am going back to the old way.

I have been thinking a lot about my athletic goals. I am waaaaaay out of shape. It is hard coming from where I was two years ago to now, to not beat myself up about my fitness. As a true puddin' I have always been pretty good abouyt only doing things that are funn and have immeditae reward. That is why it is much easier right now to watch House DVDs drink rum and eat bacon. I am already at 195 pounds which is 10 pounds heavier than I have ever been and 20 more than my fighting weight. On the psoitive side it is better than the 127 pounds that I weighed 14 months ago. The fact of th matter is that I just cant stand seeing the spare tire that has developed around my waist. There is no way that I am going to go out and buy another set of pants the next size up.
I haven't really gotten back on the bike yet. For some reason I am really having trouble with feeling ready for it. At the same time I really want it. So for now I am spending time in the gym on the walking/ running machine and the rowing machine. I am enjoying that, as well as the free weights and core work. I do feel like it is too early tgo set a big goal. No Death Ride this year. I would be really stoked if I could ride a century by next fall but I really don't know if that is realistic.
One of my goals is to be able to paddle Giant Gap this year. I think the hike in would truly be the biggest challenge for me. Not to say that the whitewater would not be a challenge. As a result I am alreaddy working on walking and getting my legs strong for downhills. I am also trying to figure out what boat to paddle... I am open to suggestions.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Outlive the Bastards

Billy posted something on facebook that made a memory come flooding back. His quote was "drink deep." Which brought to mind my favorite quote by Edward Abbey:

One final paragraph of advice: do not burn yourselves out. Be as I am — a
reluctant enthusiast... a part-time crusader, a half-hearted fanatic. Save the
other half of yourselves and your lives for pleasure and adventure. It is not
enough to fight for the land; it is even more important to enjoy it. While you
can. While it’s still here. So get out there and hunt and fish and mess around
with your friends, ramble out yonder and explore the forests, climb the
mountains, bag the peaks, run the rivers, breathe deep of that yet sweet and
lucid air, sit quietly for a while and contemplate the precious stillness, the
lovely, mysterious, and awesome space. Enjoy yourselves, keep your brain in your
head and your head firmly attached to the body, the body active and alive, and I
promise you this much; I promise you this one sweet victory over our enemies,
over those desk-bound men and women with their hearts in a safe deposit box, and
their eyes hypnotized by desk calculators. I promise you this; You will outlive
the bastards.
Like may I read Abbey voraciously when I was young. He helped me form many of my attitudes. Especially the curmudgeonly environmentalist and passionate recreationalist. The quote says to me that it is important not to take any of your work too seriously, or better yet to realize that nothing is really that important in the grand scheme of things. Rambling out yonder is just a important as the most important brain surgery because what it is to save life if life cannot be enjoyed?

That is part of the essence of what it means to be a puddin'.

So that is my thought for the day... It feels good to be writing again. I took a long hiatus, who knows when I will post again but I've got a new spark for this blog. I'm gonna make a puddin' attempt at keeping it up.
Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Toughest Person I know

For over a year I have had a link posted to Check on KK. That is Kelley Kalafatich. She is recoverinng from a terrible disease called transverse mylitis. It has left her paralized and in lots of pain. Every day she wakes up to a pretty rough life. Every day she work on her goals. She doesn't complain and she always asks how you are doing.

Many people tell me that I handled my illness with grace. Thanks. I used Kelley as my role model. She has a video on You tube the link is here: See the video If you feel inspired by her story. Please think about donating a few bucks to her cause... and thanks for reading.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

What a great summer it has been. The last three weeks have been a whirlwind of fun. The family went to the Wausakee Club in Wisconsin as guest of Dr. KT and Mr. Bevridge. It was a wonderful trip with sailing, dining swimming fishing, canoeing, napping on the screen porch and more dining. It was such a great way to spend time withthe family. The girls never really stopped playing until we put them to bed at the end of the day.

Then we came home and had a visit from Mark K. and his fmaily Sierra and Jen. In the middle of that the girls had thier first day of school. The visit culminated with the whitewater voyages reunion. The raft company that the Chickenhawk and I worked for 15-20 years ago threw a party inculding a day on the water for all the old guides and thier families. It was so great to get together with all the old folks. Most of the old guides have moved away from this area so we hosted a party at our house one night.

Now Jim M. and his kids are visiting and we are having a great time again. It is such a blessing to have so many great friends and to be in touch with them after so many years. I love that much of the reuniting has been catalized by facebook. I have been spending a ton of time there finding out what is happening with people that I have know my whole life and with my current group of friends. It has really chenaged the way I stay in touch with people and I am pleased.

Work is good, my health is fine and life is the best.

That's it for now.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Zen and the Art of Kayak Rolling

I have always had some sort of sport that I focus much of my extra attention on. Recreation is a very important part of my life. Some have religion, some have art, I have outdoor recreation in one form or another. I think we all need something to help our spirits transcend the beat-down of daily life. For me, it is usually one sport at a time and I focus like a laser.

Right now it seems that post cancer and during recovery, whitewater kayaking is it. I "paddled" for many years before we had kids and stopped because riding was getting my attention. I am a rider, but I think I have always, first and foremost been a waterman. The call of the surf, the river and the sea are a siren song for me. The feeling of getting a boat or board up on a plane, when you are moving so fast that the water becomes almost a solid and the rules of interaction between you and it change is irresistible to me.

Water is a basic element. It holds the wisdom of the universe. Tom Robbins said, "Water invented humans as a means to transport itself across land." I buy that. I know that I have learned a lot from my time spent in and around the water. Much of it could be encapsulated in the basic magic trick of rolling a kayak.

Rolling is one of the strangest things that you can do. Think just about the physics of it, An upside-down kayak is just like a ship with a keel. The center of gravity is below the surface of the water by the pure fact that your body is hanging from it. Then using an ancient and amazing series of body language you flip the boat upright. That sounds interesting, but there is more to it than that.

Just like in so many challenges, the psychological aspect is much more daunting than the physical. Unlike the teachings of Yoga, meditation, or the basic human need, the first thing that rolling requires is the ability to hold one's breath; like a surfer being help down by a wave. Like and action hero finding sunken treasure. Like Jim on Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom fighting an 800 pound 10 foot crocodile. You have to hold your breath under the stress of wondering when you are going to get to breath again, while performing a wicked series of unnatural, upside down movements.

When a beginning kayaker learns to roll they usually start in a pool. It is warm, calm, and there are people near by to help out. Once they have the basics down, they have a "pool roll." The next step is to go to the river acquire a "combat roll." For anyone, their first combat roll is a joyous moment. Since the alternative is swimming out of the boat, through a rapid, getting banged up and cold, emptying the boat, finding all the lost gear, and getting back in the boat. Just rolling up is a much preferred alternative.

The next step is to acquire a 'bomb proof roll." In other words you can roll just about anywhere, anytime, with or without a paddle. That is to become a Jedi of the kayak roll. It is to become a master of ones fear and basic desires; one who has the patience to wait or the foresight to jump on the moment to act. A master has the ability to face the dragon calmly and with a rational mind. A master knows, even upside down and backward where they are in a complex rapid. A master of the roll can go years without swimming. They become more and more proficient in their paddling. More and confident. However, the reality is that all kayakers are between swims. The master knows that ultimately, the river is in charge.

River running- kayaking, for me are analogous to life. After being a master of the roll, I am back to being a student. In the past few days of paddling, I have swam a couple of times. Two swims, many rolls. What stands out for me is the swims, not the rolls. I am not mad at myself. I am excited to go back to the basics. To work in the pool until my body, my muscle memory finds that bomb proof roll. And that, for me, is recreation.

Thanks for reading

Sunday, July 19, 2009

It was a good day

I got out and ran Chili Bar yesterday. What a great day! Adrienne, and Brett went and so did Deanna. It was as hot as it gets in Coloma and when it gets like that, the only place to be is on the river. A dry top with capilene was too much clothing so I rolled over a lot. I also rolled up a lot.
We stopped to pick blackberries a couple of times. They were sweet and juicy down by the river where the plants get constant water.
There was a bit of carnage with our group, a swim or two... no names mentioned. But everyone stayed safe and happy.
We rescued a guy from another group that had swam and cut a big chunk out of his ear. It was weird because the other people in his group didn't do anything. They just let us do the rescue. Young kayakers... they don't have any sense.

After paddling we went back to the ranch and grilled more steak and chicken than we could eat. Also had roasted potatoes, corn on the cob cafe mahjaic style, a huge salad, roasted red bell peppers, lots of ice water and a bit of beer as well. Doc KT came and joined us after work and then they went to the art walk in Pville while Brett and I cleaned up and caught up on 2 years of not seeing each other.

KT and Aidee came back from the art walk and we had some New York Super Fudge Chunk.
A perfect day all around.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Gettin' Out

After a month of fevers and fatigue, I am feeling better. I am sure the high doses of prednisone are doing the trick and I'll pay for that later. It is 5:45 and there is a steely glow over the blond grey valley where the sun will look over the canyon rim. It has been hot. The weatherman says 104 in Sac valley but my thermometer said it 107 on the patio yesterday.
Right now there is a down canyon breeze knocking doors shut and shaking the tops of the live oak. Cold air dumping down to the valley following the snaking path of least resistance that we call the South Fork of the American.

A month ago I was paddling her. I sure liked it but she seemed fairly indifferent to the caresses of my paddle and boat. The recent illness set me back, but I am ready to go back again soon. Phil loaned me a cool new playboat called the All Star. It has been sitting under a tarp in my yard begging me to take it out. All I can say is soon, jackass, soon.

The ChickenHawk is up in Bend visitng the clan up there. She also went to visit Dave, Suzi and Joey last night. Life is good. The kiddles are camping with Nana and Papa and their cousins. Life is good. I am back at work. LIG. Work is busy. LIG.

I made a killer dinner for old neighbor Seth last night. Tri tip, BBQ corn smothered in melted butter, salt and pepper, and potato salad. His kids and wife are out of town as well. We went over and I got to see the new house they bought a year ago when I was sick. Life is Good.

Tonite I am going out with KT. Bill is out of town. Looking forward to that. LIG.
Ok so it is a slogan off a T shirt but it is working for me.

Mr. Waddles and Mr. Wag Tail are up now and asking for the morning meal. They are the ducks that came to stay at our house this summer. They are really cute. Two males. This is California so they can't be married but they act like they are. I'll post a picture later. I'm gonna go feed them and get on with my day.
Thanks for reading.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

The Big Eddy

You can tell something is up when I am not blogging. Either that or life is too boring. I've got a combo of that going on right now. I went back into the big house, that's what I am calling the hospital now, on June 13th. I had a fever and bad cough all weekend so I went and checked in with Pneumonia. I got rid of that in four days and went home. Since then I have been battling fevers, fatigue and lung issues. I believe it is toxicity induced pneumonitis, something that is a rebound from last september's bone marrow transplant. The treatment is prednisone and that is what I am doing with tacit doctor approval. They have not officially diagnosed it yet but it makes the fevers go away and I can deal with life a bit better. My lung capacity feels like it is at about 20%. I can walk, slowly. I went down our road (a fairly steep hill) and it took me about 20 minutes to hike back up with about four stops to catch my breath. I used to be able to ride up that hill in the mid gears. I am a long way from that now.

There is more to this. For the last 4 weeks I have been mostly in the house feeling sick and debilitated. The kids are out of school and the ChickenHawk is wrangling them really well. They have gone on camping trips and have been playing in the pool. I have been trying to participate as much as possible but I don't have enough energy for camping and much of the time all I can do is watch or, just go take a nap. This is a hard place to be. It is like looking at my life through a glass wall. I am painfully aware of my absences as a father and a husband. It drives me nuts.

Work is kind of the same thing. I want to be there doing my job but I just cant quite muster the health or the energy for the last week. I am almost there but not quite. And the illness is not really being treated yet, just diagnosed, it is not feeling like I am moving forward. I feel like I've been stuck in an eddy for a month.

All of this brings me to a realization. My life has changed in so many ways that I often don't feel like it is my life. What I mean is that the transition from normal person to cancer patient to recovering cancer patient has got my head spinning. I need to embrace the latest version of me and stop worrying about how I used to be. To that end, I am in search of cancer support groups and friends that have been through what I have. I need some new peers for this unwanted identity.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Back in the Boat

Hey Y'all. Once again I've been gone way too long but I've been busy. Not sitting around in pain and a fog of morphine. I have crossed over to feeling more recovered than recovering. My weight is back on, I've gone for a couple of easy bike rides. Moreover I am back running whitewater in my kayak! I cant tell you how much better it is to be sitting in a little boat than a hospital bed. I am not strong at all but my time in the boat has built good technique so I can fake it. I still have the goal of Leadvillle 100 at some point in the next couple years but for now running Chili Bar is the best.

Things round the house are getting better. It has been a dog tough year and a half for all of us. The level of PTSD that we have been feeling is decreasing. We are planning vacations and enjoying each other's company again.

Work is great. I am getting back into the swing of things and reconnecting with old friends that started as clients. In fact kayaking and work seem to coincide... The other day I was paddling with two different friends that started as clients. Thanks for the paddling Ray and Traci.

Gratitude is the name of the game. I feel good almost all the time, even when I feel bad. I had a headache this morning and I didn't really care. I have had a cold for a week or two and I don't really care. I am alive and there is so much to do! Anyone want to go paddling? Drop me a line. I'll try to get some paddling pics to post

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Back to Work

I am back at work! In many ways it has been a great homecoming almost more like coming home than coming home was. I am constantly counting my blessings that I work in such a great place. They held my office and job for me while I took 14 months to fight cancer. My co-worker Matt kept in touch with all of my clients and helped them when they needed it. To me that was one of biggest gifts that I have ever received.

I work as mortgage consultant for Bentley Mortgage and Real Estate Services. I have to say that I picked the best possible 14 months to take off of work. Everyone that isn't living under a rock knows, the mortgage and housing industry did almost the same thing I did; It took a trip to the brink of death and then started to come back again. Thanks to the efforts of the Obama administration and sagging economy, business is back up for us. I returned to a busier office than I have seen in several years.

Much like myself the industry has changed as well. The mortgage industry was suffering from lack of regulation greed and the bad behavior that comes with a lack of discipline. I think of it like a room full of 5th graders when the teacher leaves for too long and there is an unlimited supply of candy in cupboard. Some of the kids are going to take full advantage of the situation to do whatever they want to do. Other kids are going to behave the way they know they should and just wait for the teacher to come back.

Now the teacher is back and she brought the principal and the superintendent of schools and the school board and they are doing a study as to why the kids acted the way that they did. They have cracked down and reinstated all of the rules that they should have been enforcing in the first place, plus some more that don't make sense. The thing is, anyone knows what happens when you leave a group of kids alone in a room with no supervision and lots of temptation.

I was there for the end of the party and missed the big bust. Now, as I come back, all the rules have changed and I have to re-learn my job. The basics are all the same but there all sorts of new nuances. Of course, that follows the same theme that I have been living since the Bone Marrow Transplant. I have new body as well. It is 30 pounds lighter, significantly more weak, and can't remember random things.

I also have a fairly new outlook on life. I've always been grateful for what I've got. Now I am even more that way. I also am living life day to day, moment to moment, doing what I can, when I can and trying to do my best at everything. Even though I am in remission, I will most likely die from complications from multiple myeloma at some point. Maybe next year, maybe 20 years from now. The point is, I (just like you) have a limited amount of time left in this life and I am more aware of that now.

I am all about quality time. Time with my kids. Time with my friends. Time doing things for myself. Time helping other people. Time enjoying the beauty that the universe has to offer.

Thanks for reading

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Installing Love

I just picked this up as an email from Phil and Mary. I am not the kind to forward cute emails but I had to share this one, it is just too good.

"The Installation of Love"Installing Love on the Human Computer: Tech Support: Yes, how can I help you?
Customer: Well, after much consideration, I've decided toinstall Love. Can you guide me through the process?
Tech Support: Yes. I can help you. Are you ready to proceed?
Customer: Well, I'm not very technical, but I think I'm ready. What do I do first?
Tech Support: The first step is to open your Heart. Have you located your Heart?
Customer: Yes, but there are several other programs running now. Is it okay to install Love while they are running?
Tech Support: What programs are running ?
Customer: Let's see, I have Past Hurt, Low Self-Esteem, Grudge and Resentment running right now.
Tech Support: No problem, Love will gradually erase Past Hurt from your current operating system. It may remain in your permanent memory but it will no longer disrupt other programs. Love will eventually override Low Self-Esteem with a module of its own called High Self-Esteem. However, you have to completely turn off Grudge and Resentment. Those programs prevent Love from being properly installed. Can you turn those off ?
Customer: I don't know how to turn them off. Can you tell mehow?
Tech Support: With pleasure. Go to your start menu and invoke Forgiveness. Do this as many times as necessary until Grudge and Resentment have beencompletely erased.
Customer: Okay, done! Love has started installing itself. Is that normal?
Tech Support: Yes, but remember that you have only the base program. You need to begin connecting to other Hearts in order to get the upgrades.
Customer: Oops! I have an error message already. It says, "Error - Program not run on external components." What should I do?
Tech Support: Don't worry. It means that the Love program is set up to run on Internal Hearts, but has not yet been run on your Heart. In non-technical terms, it simply means you have to Love yourself beforeyou can Love others.
Customer: So, what should I do?
Tech Support: Pull down Self-Acceptance; then click on the following files: Forgive-Self; Realize Your Worth; and Acknowledge your Limitations.
Customer: Okay, done.
Tech Support: Now, copy them to the "My Heart" directory. The system will overwrite any conflicting files and begin patching faulty programming.Also, you need to delete Verbose Self-Criticism from all directories and empty your Recycle Bin to make sure it is completely gone and never comes back.
Customer: Got it. Hey! My heart is filling up with new files. Smile is playing on my monitor and Peace and Contentment are copying themselves all over My Heart. Is this normal?
Tech Support: Sometimes. For others it takes awhile, but eventually everything gets it at the proper time. So Love is installed and running.One more thing before we hang up. Love is Freeware. Be sure to give it and its various modules to everyone you meet. They will in turn share it with others and return some cool modules back to you.
Customer: Thank you, God.
God/Tech Support: You're welcome, anytime.

In other news. I have started working again. Mostly mornings. I tfeels great to go back into the office. I am feeling good and sticking with the workout plan.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Back Home

I am back in Coloma and it is good to be home. I am trying like heck to stay with the fitness plan that I started in AZ. Lifting weights, walking and yoga. I feel like I am getting stronger. I can finally pick my kids up. I went to work yesterday and plan to on Monday and Tuesday as well. My stamina is good. I can keep going all day as long as I am doing easy stuff most of the time. I feel like I can kiss day time TV goodbye. That is a wonderful thing. My yard needs weed whacking in a big way. Anyone want to trade weed for weed whacking? There is no way I can do it myself. It used to wear me out before I got cancer. I'm not even gonna touch the weed whacker.
Life is good. I am living day to day and having a great time. We'll see what's next.
Thanks for checking in.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

You Got to Move

When the Lord Gets Ready,
You Got to Move.

I'm In Tucson hanging with my Mom in her retirement community. It is great she lives on the border of the desert and there is all kinds of wildlife. We just got back from the gym where I was whaling on my pencil thin arms bony shoulder and scrawny back. My goal: to look good naked. Just like Kevin Spacey in American Beauty. I love that movie. Not sure how many times I've quoted it here but it must be a lot.
Who'd believe that this is my life up until now? Cancer survivin' is a real pain in the ass but it lets you get away with all kinds of mischief as well. I wish I could tell the stories here but I wont. Ask me offline.
I am doing really really well. I walked about a mile this AM! I could have done more. What is for lunch?

I think it is going to take me at least another year to get into shape at this rate. Leadville beckons.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Gratitude Again

After spending another week in the big house and taking a big step backward in my fitness I was feeling really angry, really depressed. It probably didn't help that I was kicking morphine and anti depressants at the same time. I was pissed off at everyone and everything last week. Especially myself. Then I heard a story about a guy that has terminal cancer. He lives somewhere in the middle of the Nevada desert off the grid, by himself. His prognosis is that he should have died two years ago. He is a medical and spiritual miracle. He is happy. He is ready to die. He is at peace and grateful for what he's got.
That used to be me. I lost it somewhere along the way. The anger and self pity took over. When I heard that guy speak I realized I have not been myself. I had forgotten to count my blessing instead of my problems and pains. Once I realized that it was an easy shift back to being me. I am the luckiest man in the world. I have the best family and community that a man could hope for. I have a second chance at life. I have a body that works. I am not in pain. What else is there?
What are you grateful for?
Goal: Leadville 100 not sure what year, anyone wanna do it with me?

Monday, March 30, 2009

Well... where do I start. I got home from the big house, the kaiser hotel, the hospital on Friday. It was another week long stay. The boredom was grinding, the procedures were disgusting and kicking morphine was a nightmare approaching the worst thing I have ever done.

I am tired as all hell. I've lost about 10lbs that I didn't have to lose. Fitness is back in the toilet. I got out of breath fixing a flat on the Chickenhawk's mountain bike.

I did get my long lost sense of smell back. Funny though, I can only smell one thing and I smell it all the time. It sort of smells like electrical fire.

As you might guess, I am filled with mixed feelings.
  • I am off of morphine and anti depressants.
  • I am home.
  • It is spring in the foothills, and all those other life affirming things.
  • On some level, I want morphine.
  • I now feel the highs and lows of life. The lows are dark and evil. The highs are great.
  • I have taken a big step backward in my ability to function.
  • Despite the above, my expectations of myself are high
  • I can take 10 mgs of ambien and still not sleep.

It is all temporary. I am in the moment, this is just another step forward, even if it feels backward.

OK I have a big list of stuff to get done. Thanks for reading

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Coloma Goes Boi-yoi-yoing

This is it. One of the many reasons I live here. Coloma in the Spring time. There is nothing like it. All the south facing slopes are covered with poppies and the lupine is coming out too. Here is the view from my patio looking across the river:

OK it isnt the best pic but if you look close you can see the poppies up there on the left and in the middle.

I went for a bike ride the other day. My first one since you know what. Downhill was great. I felt like I hadn't missed a minute. Uphill on the other hand... and we are talking very slight up hill sucked. I have no strength to turn the pedals. I think I'll wait a while before I ride again. I did enjoy my bike hugely. I took my cyclocross bike, a bianchi axis. Note the fresh yellow bar tape. I didn't win a tour stage and I am not in the yellow jersey. I think what I did was a little harder, certainly more unpleasant. So I gave myself a bit of yellow.

I've also got a few pics to wrap up the vacation. These are on the penultimate day at Refugio State Beach.

The girls spent hours running around in the waves. Note Dana is soaked. She did a faceplant right before this shot was taken.

The beach was beautiful and the temps were in the low 70's. Note, you can check out my Facebook page for a lot more pictures.

There we are making smores on the last night.

One last comment. I am sitting here listening to talk radio, NPR's talk of the nation. The subject is populist outrage over the bonuses at AIG. What the hell!? Where was everyone 4 years ago when this mess started brewing. Oh yeah, we were cashing out the equity on our homes and living fat and happy. No one was looking at what the Bushies and their corporate buddies were perpetrating on the economy. This has been going on for years. Pay attention my friends, the people with the money are counting on us looking the other way. What are they doing right now while we are worrying about the bonuses. Look at the magician's other hand. I'll bet there is something nefarious happening while we are thinking about AIG.

Whatever... It is all small potatoes to me. I am alive and I get to spend time with my family. It is spring and I am going to go paddling right now.

Love you. thanks for reading.


Sunday, March 8, 2009

La Vida Dolce

Do you know the feeling?

The trip is winding down, your body is starting to feel a bit worn from the exertion, you are more familiar with the other people on the trip. Everything is still going great but you know in a couple of days it’ll be over. And you’ll remember it forever. Do you know that feeling? It has bee a great trip with the girls. RVing is a blast.

We went to Disneyland on Friday with Aunt Chris and Uncle Mike. The girls had a great time and we got to do EVERYTHING that we wanted to and some 2x or 3x. Thunder Mountain was the biggest hit with the so yes we did it 3x. I rode in a wheel chair most of the day and that got us past most of the lines. Our trip through the park was a 12 hour whirlwind. Dana said it was the most fun she’s had in her life.

Now it is Sunday and we are at Newport Dunes RV park in Newport Beach. It is the ritziest RV park in the world with a bay, clubhouse, workout, pool, and Jacuzzi. Not to mention WiFi.
Aunt Chris had a breakfast party at her place in HB yesterday and we got to see all the cousins: Danny, Matt, Rachel, Joey, James and Jeff as well as Christie and Amy and of course aunt Cindy. It was the biggest reunion that we’ve had in some time. Thanks little blue schwin and Uncle Mike for putting that together!

We are tired and the CH is pooped. Our intended destination for tonight is Goleta’s Refugio Campground. Then home tomorrow. The weather is in the 70’s and clear with windy afternoons.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Life Goes On

Welcome to the next post; a pretty momentous occasion. We are on vacation. We rented an RV from a company in Cameron Park and drove over Echo Summit on Friday. We camped that first night at the base of Monitor Pass. Just pulled over at about 11pm and went to sleep. In th emonring we toured down 395 along the Walker River through Bridgeport and past Mono Lake; one of my favorite drives.

Then we stopped at “the hot tub,” a hot spring in the middle of the Owens Valley where we all had a mid morning soak. The water wasn’t too hot or too cold. The view could not be beat. After the soak we continued southward to Bishop and Schat’s Bakery for Shepherder Bread (the worlds greatest bread) and donuts, raisin bread and strude. l should have got some Garlic Cheese bread too, what was I thinking?

At Independence we turned east and into Death Valley National Park. I haven’t really been here since 5th grade. It hasn’t changed much. We camped the second night at Stovepipe Wells, a giant flat gravel parking lot with parking bars to mark the “campsites.” The only redeeming naturalness to it was the tent campsites around the perimeter of the campsite. The girls played in the sand and made a “mole mountain.” I drank my first beer in 12 months. It was a Corona Light and I fell asleep after drinking it.
Sunday morning was partly cloudy and in the 70’s. We played in the sand dunes near-by. I hiked with the family all the way out to the dunes, climbed the steep dunes and even slid down them. The girls had a great time jumping off the tops of the dunes. I must have walked over one mile. That was huge for me, I felt like I had done a big ride when we got back to the RV. I did one of those straight to the kitchen and make a big sandwich post workout maneuvers. Then we went for another hike up Mosaic Canyon. It is a beautiful slot canyon the required a bit of advanced hiking. I went as far as I was comfortable and then headed back to the RV for some shade and a cool drink.
It feels really really good to be on the road and having an adventure. It has been 1.5 years since we went somewhere as a family. The girls are great travelers and are having a great time. I am already looking forward to our next trip, whatever it might be.

The RV is perfect for us and our current situation and considering the time of year. We are totally self contained. We can pull over and sleep anywhere. All the food is right with us and you can make a sandwich rolling down the road. We’ve got tons of food and have yet to go out for a meal. The RV drives like a pig, but that is what you get.
Then we turned the nose of our 24’ RV north to Ubehebe Crater. It is a big hole in the ground created by volcanic action. The girls took the steep trail down into the crater while I watched and shot photo’s. The wind at the top of the crater was intense. At times I had to lean into it to stay standing. Dana pooped out at the bottom of the crater so the Chickenhawk piggybacked her out of the hole. It was amazing to watch that tough woman schlepping the 40 pound rug-rat like she was a small load. I amazed at how tough that woman is.
We camped at the northish end of the park at Mesquite Springs which much more resembles a campground, with benches and fire pits and toilets that aren’t a ½ mile away. We are now at Scotty’s Castle.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

One Year

Sunday was my birthday. I kept it quiet and with the family. It was about the best day I have had in the last year. This is the anniversary of my being diagnosed with multiple myeloma. I wasn't sure how I would feel. What feeling would come up. I just wanted to be in the moment.

On Sunday night, I woke up with an incredible feeling of accomplishment; I did it! I did it! I kept saying to myself as a cried tears of relief and gratitude. I said I would beat the cancer and I did. I didn't do it by myself though.

As I felt my self grow weaker and more sick, I got into action. I talked to Adam and other freinds to let them know what was happening and asked for their help. I knew I was asking a lot. Within days a support group of more than 100 freinds family and neighbors was mustered. I was surrounded by a team of folks that were going to take care of me and all of the responsibilities that I wouldn't be able to take care of myself. I felt incredible gratitude.

With the security of knowing everything was OK I went into patient mode. I went to countless doctors appointments. I started taking drugs that are essentially poison. The pain I was experiencing grew greater and greater. I slipped into a fog of morphine use. I was furniture in the room instead of a contributing member of my family. I was a liability. I got nauseous and started loosing weight. Leaving the house became a major hardship and a trial of pain. Walking to the bathroom was my limit, sometimes more than I could do.

The whole time the Chickenhawk was taking care of me. She was talking to the doctors and understanding what they were saying. I just couldn't do it. She took me everywhere. She cleaned up my puke and poop and piss. Her family rallied around her. Her Mom and Dad came and ran our house for weeks, feeding the kids, taking them to school. Her Sisters either came to help or took the kids for weeks at a time or both. We missed our girls terribly.

My community stood up around me. We had a work day in which 50 people showed up to do all the yard work and projects that I would have done for the next year and cleaned the house from top to bottom. So much happened in that one day it was amazing. Friends brought meals, planted the garden with herbs to ease the pain, made music, made art, made bread, just sat with me while I rambled my morphine/ nausea/ pain ramble.

The original treatment plan stopped working. The doctors recommended plan b, a stem cell transplant. We began the long process in June. I started chemotherapy. Long painful drives to Stanford, overnight stays in grungy motels or hospital beds became the norm. I'd get filled with poison and drive four hours home. The nausea got worse. I puked all the time. I lost weight. I got hospitalized. Then I got more Chemo and the whole thing started again, home, sick, hospital I cant remember it all.

Then came the actual stem cell transplant. For the first three weeks I was really bad. Almost died. Weeks were like days. Minutes felt like hours. KT, Adam, Billy, David, Mom and the Chickenhawk stayed by bed the whole way through. It was a trip to hell. I walked out the hospital 2 months after going in.
My body was wasted, I could barely walk. I had to have supplemental O2. My dad sat with me in the medical apartment and patiently took care of me. We went for walks... up to 100 yards!

I finally came home. I was still a liability but I was getting better. I had to re-learn so many things. I was really weak. I was with my kids! I started driving again. I got sick. I got better with out spending the night in the hospital. Then I got sick again, and recovered again. I started feeling good. I found out the cancer was gone! I started getting off of the drugs and my brain came back. I walked out of the fog. I started caring about things other than my health. I started exercising my body. I got stronger. I slept less. I spent more time with my girls. I felt love. I feel love. I made it. Thank you, everyone that helped me. I couldn't have done it without you.

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Good Intelligence is Key

Well... three weeks since I last posted. Lots of stuff happening. First I want to lay some cool stuff that I've come across on ya . Both are NPR reports. One gives a lot of hope and the other just makes me say wtf? Check them out tell me what you think.

Morning Edition, January 29, 2009 · The chances of surviving cancer have been increasing in recent years. One of the most dramatic success stories in cancer care involves a little-known cancer called multiple myeloma that had been among the deadliest types of the disease. Listen or read here: Link

When I was in school this is the last type of illegal drug we had on our minds.
Morning Edition, February 5, 2009 · They're commonly called "smart drugs" or "study drugs." Scientists call them "cognitive enhancers." Drugs like Adderall and Ritalin, generally prescribed for attention-deficit disorder, are increasingly being used by college students to help them study despite serious side effects, researchers say. Link

Now you not only have to worry about the dopers in the peleton but you have to look out for them in the cube next to you. They really have a pill for everything now.

Today I am sitting around waiting for my oncologist to call. Yesterday he called and left a message. "Your lab results are in and I need to talk to you as soon as possible." was his message. It is now 24 hours since he called and I have left him 4 messages since but no return call. What is up with my test results? I am not too worried because my mole at Kaiser has gone into my records and found the test results. Something in there is a bit askew but we (my mole, the Chickenhawk and I) don't know how to interpret the numbers on the test. The cancer markers are still in the "best we could hope for range." So I am chillin'.

If I didn't have a mole inside the Kaiser organization gathering intelligence I would probably be pushing the threat level into the Red range right now. Good intelligence is key in the war against Kaiser. If I don't hear from them by 2:30 I am going to make a frontal assault on their voice mail system in an attempt to talk to a human. You know, they discourage that. Talking to humans...
Post script: the doc called at 2:10. everything is fine.

I am doing great. Dennis Eagan has been really helping me a lot. With his instruction I have regained a lot of strength and balance. I am walking almost normally now and getting stronger. I still need to make more time to exercise but it is working out. I am still having troubles getting off of prednisone and it is big pain in the butt that I don't care to elaborate on. Everything is good right now and I am healthier and feel better than I was a year ago.

BTW I have discovered Facebook and am enjoying it. Come find me there and check in.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

When North is South and South is North

I have written before about the insults of cancer. I.V.s , needles, poop tests, pee tests, anything that comes out of your body, they’ll collect it and test it. I have to take about 60-70 pills a day at four different sittings. I say sitting because you can’t really do much else when you’ve got a little dish of 16 pills that you have to gulp down. It takes concentration to dole them all out in the right amount and then take one at a time. Pill goes to tongue, water glass comes to lips, surround pill with water, swallow. Sounds simple right? Well once in a while concentration gets broken at the wrong moment and things can go really, really wrong. So I am cautious about my pill taking. You would be too.

In the past I have swallowed a little wrong and the pill scrapes my throat on the way down. It feels like a sore throat for a couple of hours. About once a day the pill just goes down wrong and I get indigestion and burps for 15 minutes.

But the worst, the absolute worst, is when a pill goes up your nose. That’s right it has happened three times now, out of several thousand pills I have consumed in the last year. It happened tonight; I was all prepped: pill on the right spot on the tongue, water in the right proportion, and the pill was on its way. Suddenly to my left someone says something that I must turn towards and that medium sized phosphorus pill goes up my right sinus hole. You know, the little tunnel that connects your mouth to your nose? It is the reason that 6th graders at the lunch table can make their friend’s milk come out of their nose if they tell a joke with perfect timing.

So the little pill goes up my nose hole and gets wedged. It is painful instantly. Stupidly, the first thing I did was blow my nose (wrong direction) thereby wedging it farther up there. Then we ran for the nose flusher. The nose flusher is one of those cold prevention gimmicks; a little plastic 2oz. squirt bottle that comes with little packet of special medicine (salt). It has a top that fits in your nostril and you squeeze the salt water in and flush the boogies out. Or in my case the Urocit K potassium supplement tablet.

The first time it happened I was home alone and had no idea what to do. All I knew is that my sinuses were on fire and something was pushing against my brain right behind my eye. After a few minutes of whimpering I remembered the sinus flusher. I went looking for it but could not find it. It is hard to look for things when you are in agony. Luckily the Chickenhawk had her cell phone with her AND knew where the thing was.

This evening she saw the look on my face and went and got the flusher for me. I flushed and I flushed but nothing would come out, well not the pill anyway. I did start to feel relief so I took a break and finished taking all my other pills. As I did, the pain welled back up and I went back to the flusher. After a few more vigorous tries, the partially dissolved pill fell into the back of my throat and the pain was gone.
Another day in the life…

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Community Through Suffering

Well it has been a lot longer than I would have liked… apologies. I have been working on another writing project that has dominated my time. It is over now and I am glad to have it done and very happy with the outcome. I was writing a letter of recommendation for a friend of mine who is applying to Stanford’s MBA program. I am really proud of him and hope that gets in to that very competitive program.
I thought I would share what is on my mind lately. I have been a bit of a hermit. I’ve really only spent time with my immediate family for the last couple of weeks. I am not sure why but I have wanted to keep things low key. The people that I have talked with have all been very complimentary with me about how I have handled the last year. It has been nice but at a certain point I get uncomfortable with a lot of praise. The fact of the matter is that I did what anyone else would do in my position. I fought with everything I had. I think the only thing I did differently than the average cancer patient is that I shared as much as I could. I stated my goals almost as soon as I got diagnosed. I wanted to share the experience with as many people as I could and bring them in to it as much as they wanted to go. I got a real benefit from doing that. In fact I think it saved my life. The people that got involved with my illness stepped up and gave help of all sorts. It was an amazing showing of support. Everyone that got involved, over 100 people, contributed in the way that they knew how. Some folks worked on our house, some stayed with me sometimes for days and days so that the ChickenHawk could get out, some watched the kids, a garden was made, some brought meals, some came and ran our house for a week or two, some just gave us money, countless tasks that we just couldn’t get to were taken care of.
My Cancer became a community event in the Coloma Lotus Valley with many hands making light work. We all did it we all got me through the cancer. The Chickenhawk and I did the heavy lifting but we all did it. When I was in the hospital during the dark days of the transplant, I had a poster in my room. It was an enlarged group photo from the burrito party that we threw right before I went into the hospital for the BMT. There are about 60 people from the community in the picture. It made me feel really good. When I was deep in the pains of cancer, I would look up at that photo and feel the warmth of all the faces smiling at me and supporting me and telling me to come home. It really worked, I knew that I was loved and supported and I would redouble my effort at whatever I was doing at the moment. It was a group effort that got me through. So if you were one of the folks involved in the whole Spencer has Cancer Process, I want to say thank you for your help in saving my life.
The Latest Update:
I am continuing to feel better. I have been tapering my prednisone dose by smaller amounts and that seems to help with the withdrawals. My legs are working really well. I am starting to walk pretty much with a normal gate. My lungs are clear but still impaired. I am doing yoga, riding the stationary bike and doing some resistance workouts. I am still dealing with major fatigue, I slept 13 hours the night before last. I often just shut down and snooze so no long drives… The pain in my ribs and shoulder is almost gone.
I am starting to think about going for a bike ride, I wonder if I still remember how or will it be another thing I have to re-learn.