Monday, June 30, 2008

Cancer-Based Social Networking Sites

I have found a couple of great social networking websites designated for people with cancer or people with loved ones who have cancer. One of those sites is called Planet Cancer. Planet Cancer is designed for people in their 20's & 30's who have cancer. It's a great site because it creates the space for people diagnosed with cancer to connect with and support one another. And perusing the site can also be a painful experience as you start to notice the various ages and how young some of these people are. The bottom line is that it is available and it is making a difference for a lot of people.

Another social networking site for folks with cancer is called My Crazy Sexy Life. This site was created by Kris Karr who I have referred to before (based on her book & film Crazy Sexy Cancer). It's very female oriented - makes sense since it was created by a woman - yet there is still plenty available for men who are dealing with cancer. Both of these sites are in part about being empowered in your relationship to cancer and getting the support you need to stay there. They're really great.

Free of Chemo Side Effects

I believe I am finally free of the chemo side effects. My sleep schedule is still way off (it's 3:50 AM right now) but I'll turn that around in time. Having the side effects gone has allowed me to enjoy cold and frozen foods which is quite nice during this hot weather. And it's a strange feeling to not be experiencing side effects of even detox flare ups. Most of the last year has been filled with one form or another of pain. Fortunately, standing for more than a minute or so is relatively painful, so I can feel all the pain I need when ever I feel like I'm going without. Just kidding...

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Getting Closer

Last night I watched the Fresno State Bulldogs beat the Georgia Bulldogs in the 3rd and final game of the NCAA World Series. Fresno was the underdog, so to watch them win was such a treat. I was rooting for them from the beginning of the series and I was thrilled when they won. As I watched them celebrate, I soaked up their excitement just as I did when the Celtics won the NBA Championship. To watch anyone take on huge odds and win is an amazing experience and right now at this point, I'm going to soak up as much of that as I can!

Today I met with my Dr. Cagir & Nan Walsh (my surgeon and his "right hand"/Nurse Practitioner) and some other hospital staff to complete the pre-surgery intake for my upcoming exam and then surgery to follow. It was a lot of questions about my current health as well as an EKG and chest a x-ray. My surgeon will do a exam along with an ultrasound on Wednesday July 2nd to have a last look at the tumor. Due to the pain I would experience were I to be conscious, I will be anesthetized. I am not looking forward to the pain that will follow for a few days following his exploratory exam, but it's in my best interest so it's what I will do.

I'll have a CT scan the following week and then the big surgery will be on July 16th. No, I am not looking forward to that. They say the pain management will be excellent, but I've always been the type to believe it when I see it. So, I'll let you know if they were right come the 16th or as soon as I can post a blog entry.

In the mean time, I will do my best to keep a cool head. Daniela and her Dad have both reminded me that the pain is always worse in our minds because pain can not actually be remembered - we can only remember our reaction to it and imagine what is to come. And as they say so, I recall that it generally does go that way. I'll try to keep that in mind as the date gets closer.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Chemo Induced Dreams

The chemo side effects that I am most familiar with - flu symptoms & feeling toxic - seem to be less prevalent this time around. However, my most recent side effects have been dreams that seem to go on and on with no end in sight to the point that I feel exhausted when I wake up.

Last night - or more accurately this morning, since I woke up from the dream a little before 7 AM - I dreamt of the world as I knew it coming to an end as a result of humans who lost their sense of self and then inflicted the same misery on anyone they could find. Kind of like one of those zombie movies where the victim gets infected with the plague that makes s/he become one of the attackers.

The dream was actually completely illogical because no matter how many times I found myself cornered by these mindless people - or whatever they were - I always found a way out of their grip and I would be back on the run from them again. And each time I escaped what seemed like their inevitable capture, the solution would fail and I would be forced back on the run again. For instance, at one point in the dream, I realized that if I could find and collect enough 1/4" screws - screws that were being used to connect conduit [conduit is steel pipe used for protecting electric wires or cables] - I would be able to escape this terrible fate. Yet every time I had almost enough of screws to free myself (???), I would find myself losing them or throwing them at the people coming after me and I would have to start all over again.

Yeah. It made no sense once I woke up, but it did an excellent job of keeping me caught up in a never ending, unresolvable and deadly situation that was, to tell you the truth, quite exhausting once I woke from it. And, this is not the first time I had a dream that was never ending and exhausting. These dreams started shortly after I began this latest round of chemotherapy.

Now that I think about it, it seems the dream may have been a reflection of my subconscious fears of having continuous dealings with cancer in the future. There is always the possibility the cancer can return and then more treatments must be done. It also reminds me of what I have learned of the ego and its desperate grasping for permanence in the present form that it recognizes, i.e., Bert Scholl on June 24, 2008 at 10:25 AM and all of my past in this lifetime - the "me" that the ego thinks it is. The reason I have interpreted it this way, is that the topic of the ego has been on my mind lately. So, looking back at it, my dream consistently brought me to a place where death was inevitable, but then I would find myself once again fully alive and trying to evade death - kind of like a skip in a record. It just kept repeating over and over. It seemed like an expression of the ego's inability to truly conceive its own impermanence or you could say, the permanence of death (at least in the physical realm) and therefore my dream may have represented my egos struggle to remain in charge in a realm where it simply can not exist. And it seems that in my dream, the only way it can do that is to stop at the moment before death and return to the only form it recognizes.

Eckhart Tolle does an excellent job (and in fact far better than me) of explaining the ego's struggle for survival is his newest book A New Earth - Awakening to Your Life's Purpose. Believe it or not, Oprah Winfrey & Eckhart Tolle created an on-line course based upon the teachings in the book. I have viewed the first class of the series and I am quite impressed.

...and that's what you get when you mix my brain with a healthy serving of chemotherapy!

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Trudging Through the Side Effects

Well, those lovely chemotherapy side effects kicked in yesterday afternoon. My folks arrived around 1 PM and I really enjoyed talking with them and having them here at the house. I am blessed to have my folks live only an hour from us. Then fatigue hit me. I went into the other room to lay down - just for a moment - and outside of getting up to eat - I didn't leave the couch until 4 AM. It was around 3 AM when I finally fell asleep. So what were my side effects this time? I was wide awake and had flu symptoms, specifically, muscle & joint aches.

Thank goodness for cable. I was able to watch NCAA Baseball Playoffs late into the night...and into the morning for that matter. I love being able to watch the playoffs at some absurd hour when I can't sleep. Plenty of channels seem to be pretty good about replaying the games late at night. And not only do I truly enjoy the playoffs of almost any sport, but I love watching college level playoffs. These kids are putting everything they've got into the game. And keep in mind that I have not had cable (or antennae for that matter) since 1995.

Without a television I don't get too involved in sports because reading about games doesn't do it for me if it's the only access I have to the game. And without a television, I learned to tune in to the Oakland Raiders on KSFO 560 AM via the internet. And a couple of World Series ago, I tuned off the lights, closed my eyes and tuned in on the radio. What a great way to catch a game.

Now it's the Boston Red Sox LIVE on cable as often as they will run the games. I laugh when I see commercials for Reality TV. Live Sports on TV is the greatest reality TV I have ever seen. And lately, with my brain and body so heavy with chemo, my only goal is to make it through the day and televised sports is a great way to pass the time. My big goal or should I say gift to myself is to to get myself to Fenway Park at the end of September and catch a Red Sox game. They're playing the New York Yankees on the last weekend of September and since my step-son is a Yankees fan, I think it will be a great game for the two of us to see. Heck, it's probably been over 20 years since I've seen the Red Sox play at Fenway Park. Should I be in good shape by the end of September, I will do what ever I can to get the two of us to that game. Boy won't that be a blast!

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Summer Vacation...well, kind of.

Strangely enough, I feel pretty good right now and that's odd. The Saturdays following my last two chemo treatments were not pleasant. And, the symptoms seem to come and go without warning. By the time I finish this entry, I could be feeling quite lousy. Yesterday afternoon I was hit with a pretty unpleasant bout of nausea. I took am anit-nausea pill and fell asleep. I woke up feeling lousy, but not nauseous and hat was a plus.

On a different note, it sure was great to have the chemo pump removed yesterday, knowing I am not scheduled to receive any more chemotherapy until early September. I feel like I am on Summer Vacation...well, kind of. The weather is beautiful and the sound of the water flowing over the waterfall and through the creek is such a soothing sound. People sometimes ask if we even notice the sound of the water anymore, since we hear it every day. The answer is YES. Absolutely. It's an incredibly relaxing environment to be in and I am quite grateful to be blessed with it.

Today is the second day of the Ithaca Festival. This will be the second year in a row that I will not perform in the festival with my band or singing in a friends in his band. I always enjoy performing at the Ithaca Festival. Once I'm back on my feet, it will be nice to get back up on stage. And I am not in a rush. One thing I have learned in the last year is to do what ever it is my body tells me to do. And right now my body is saying, "Go soak in a hot tub." So that's what I'm going to do.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Fingers Crossed

It's 1:20 AM and I just took an anti-nausea pill. I am clear how very fortunate I have been to be without the nausea side effect up until this point. I took anit-nausea pills shortly following my last round of chemo, but that was only after I felt the slightest nausea sensation in my stomach.

This time I am actually feeling nauseas. Man-oh-man, I am sure I am not alone when I say this is one side effect I want absolutely nothing to do with. My stomach feels nauseas and my face is tingling a bit and feeling hot. As long as my mouth doesn't start watering [fingers crossed] I think I should be okay...

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Strange Things

Today has been a heck of a day. For starters, I am experiencing chemotherapy induced cold-sensitivity for the first time. I picked up a jar of salsa that had recently been in the refrigerator and touching it gave my fingers a sensation very similar to "pins & needles." The same thing happened when I held my hands under cool water running from the faucet. I sure as heck am not about to eat anything cold. The sensation is supposed to be similar to "brain freeze" - pass!

I am also experiencing a stinging in my jaw muscles whenever I take the first bite of what ever it is I am eating.

On quite a different scale, today has been a day filled with cynicism for me. My attitude has been quite negative, but not about anything particularly important. I was in the midst of a conversation with Daniela, sharing my concerns with her, concerns that I can now see were honestly, quite irrelevant. After listening, she quite tactfully asked me if my current perspective on things might be a side effect of the chemotherapy. I listened, thought about it and then smiled at her. She was right. The chemotherapy is definitely taking my emotions for a ride.

It's the strangest thing to have my emotions altered from chemotherapy. I totally get that when I'm feeling "sick" from the chemo, I may as a result, have a less than positive attitude. But when the chemo leads me to question myself and where I am in life...that's strange. So, I just avoid those thoughts. I essentially thank my emotions for sharing and move ahead. And, I'm not feeling 100% positive at the moment, but I'm to the point that I'm just keeping to myself for the most part.

It brought me back to one of my Mom's favorite sayings when I was a kid: "If you don't have anything nice to say, please don't say anything at all." It may have taken 38 years for it to finally sink in, but it has sunk in. Now I can pass it on to my kids. I'm sure they'll be thrilled!

I took a short break from this entry to play catch with Beau. We tossed his favorite ball back and forth. Once he had decided to move on, I found my fingers to be tingling. Another side effect of the chemotherapy. Strange things are happening in my body...

I'm really glad that this will be my last treatment for a while. And I hope as my journey continues into the Fall and I return to chemotherapy, that I might be so lucky as to receive a treatment with gentler side effects. You know? Maybe my journey will not require me to experience some miserable....well...who knows. We'll see.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Mission Accomplished

I received my chemotherapy this afternoon.

I don't feel all that bad, but I think the side effects will be on their way soon. Actually, I felt some nausea just a couple of hours ago. Fortunately, it's only the third time I have experienced it. I received confirmation from the doctor-on-call that I could take a Kytril (chemo-nausea medicine) even though I received Emend via IV this afternoon.

I still have a little nausea, but it seems to be contained. I had a good day at the hospital, believe it or not. I had some really great conversations with the staff about attitude and about creating the lives we want to live. Great Stuff.

Finding My Way Through it All

In a little over eight hours I will be on my way to receive my final chemotherapy infusion and will not receive another until, at the soonest, early September. Yes, I am indeed counting the hours until I receive my treatment. And definitely excited about being free of those side effects once I get through this last treatment.

To tell you the truth, right now I'm watching the Boston Celtics absolutely thrilled, spraying one another with champagne as they celebrate their championship victory and I'm soaking up as much of their joy as I possibly can. I love seeing people absolutely thrilled about their victories. It's contagious and I fell like I am celebrating a victory my own.

Many times as I type a blog entry, it's as I type it that I begin to see what I have learned from my experience. And it's been these most recent blog entries that have provided me the opportunity to distinguish what I am truly committed to outside of my #1 commitment which is my family. I'm really excited to transform our current cultural conversation about cancer. How am I going to do it? I don't know and I'm clear I don't need to know right now. Because what's possible for people with cancer, should the cultural conversation become a positive and exciting one, is way too thrilling to not give it everything I have. I'll just put one foot in front of the other and find my way as each opportunity reveals itself. And they always do.

And I've said it bfore and I'll say it again. I'm not talking about "being happy 24/7" because that's not real to me. It's about each time coming back to what I'm committed to and choosing to find the joy in my life right now, regardless of my circumstances, because I will always have circumstances that provide all the proof I need to be miserable. Life is never short of tragedy. "The News" has all the misery and pain you could ever ask for. They'll even give you seconds and you don't even have to behave yourself to get 'em. And I will continue to choose to find the gift in whatever circumstances come my way. And by the way, help me out when you see me losing sight of it all, because I'm still pretty new to the idea and I'm clear I can't do it on my own. I need a lot more practice. And you know, if you didn't read the blog, I would have no reason to write it. I would still write in my journal, but sharing my experience, openly from my heart with you and every one else to see, is what provides me so much peace and inspiration. It wouldn't be available were it not for you. So, thank you.

And it's those blog comments that just warm my heart. I love hearing from you. I have the blog set up to send me an email each time a comment is entered in the blog. And each time I see I have another blog comment email to review, I open up the email like a little kid unwrapping a gift on Christmas morning. And no, it doesn't have to be an inspirational message. I just love hearing from you. It makes this process far easier for me and I thank you for that.

So, I'll go in tomorrow for my chemo treatment and I will come home with the 5-FU pump attached to my port and I will return to the hospital on Friday to have it removed. And then I will find my way through the week or so of side effects that follow. Maybe I'll do a blog entry or two. It's tough to find the energy to do it immediately following the chemotherapy. But I don't want you to think anything is wrong, which often happens when I don't post an entry for a while. And honestly, I really appreciate that. I would want to know you were okay if the tables were turned. So, I'll make sure to get something posted. Minimally, to let you know that I'm okay and simply finding my way through it all.

Monday, June 16, 2008

The Cancer Conversation

I believe I have found a clear and concise way to articulate my current relationship to cancer:

My commitment is to transform our current cultural conversation about cancer from one of fear and dread to a conversation that leaves all involved empowered to live our lives to our full potential and love the life that we have right now!

My life did not stop the day I was diagnosed with cancer. I simply woke up to what matters most to me and I came that much more alive.

At this moment I am looking at the couch I laid on the morning after I received my diagnosis. Daniela had gone to work. I told her I was okay to be alone and said it would probably do me some good. After she left, I found myself laying on that couch. I looked up at the ceiling and I screamed, "WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY? WHY??????????" Tears ran down my face. My body ached from head to toe. I was filled with sadness and fear. In that moment, coming alive was painful. I felt like I had been cracked wide open and what was now exposed, hurt from being exposed to the air.

I went for a long walk with our dogs. It was a beautiful wind filled sunny day. I had my cell phone with me and called my friend Carlos who had helped his mother heal from the "sickness" that resulted from her cancer treatment. I knew I needed to talk to him and as it turned out, our conversation was at the perfect time. He assured me there was more than one way to treat cancer. He provided me a greater understanding of the power of food - its healing effects as well as its toxic effects. Then I went to my hair appointment with my friend Michelle and the two of us talked and hugged one another and cried a whole lot.

I'm so grateful that I am able to cry. As I have said before, there was a point in my life that I was not able to cry. I was so deeply rooted in the myth that strong men don't cry, that I couldn't cry if my life depended on it. I had no problem being sad, but I genuinely couldn't figure out how to let it out. I had to train myself. The best I can describe what learning to cry was like, is comparing it to learning how to whistle. Granted there's a whole lot more to crying than just making a sound. But if you don't even know how to make the sound itself or put another way, how to open that emotional door and allow for some vulnerability to seep in, all that emotion just stays trapped inside you and i don't think that's too healthy. Nowadays, I'm so tuned into my heart, crying is no different than laughing. It's no monumental moment. It's just another form of self-expression. The way I see it, it's just as it should be.

So, as I spoke with Michelle, I told her that I did not fear death, but then I stopped speaking. I couldn't figure out what was missing. She looked at me and said, "Yes Bert. But you want to live." That's when the flood gates fell and a whole lot of tears began to flow or should I say pour. Her partner Sue came in and put her arms around me and we cried a little more. Michelle only trimmed my sideburns that day. We had used all of my time talking and...did I mention crying?

Having the space to let it all out and express whatever is there regardless of how rational it is has provided me so much freedom since Day 1. Freedom from fear and freedom to be okay with however I am in any given moment. Kris Karr, who is now somewhat of a cancer celebrity (like Randy Pausch) has what is referred to as an incurable Stage IV cancer diagnosis. I find her to be tremendously inspiring because she is incredibly committed to transforming cancer treatment and our relationship to it as something empowering and fulfilling. And she is willing to be vulnerable and share from her heart. She is clear that her self-expression is key in her healing process.

And with all that being said, I must confess, I sometimes fear what I will do should I receive a phone call from a loved one telling me they have cancer. It's so odd. I am committed to transforming the current "cancer conversation" and yet at this moment I do not want to have it with anyone new. I want all of you to live to a ripe old age of whatever suites you without any worries. And, I know myself better than that. I have already had people in my life receive a cancer diagnosis or their family member received it and I was on the phone with them in no time. Worrying about how a conversation will turn out is always far more painful in our minds then it is once we take that step forward and actually have the conversation. I know I will be just fine.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Three Days From Now

So, Wednesday I will go in for another round of chemotherapy. I am not looking forward to it. And, most folks who receive the chemotherapy I'm on receive a total of twelve treatments. I will only receive three and this Wednesday is my third treatment. In that regard I should consider myself fortunate.

Following Wednesday's treatment, I will spend six days feeling like hell - if I'm lucky. Following the last two treatments, I felt poisoned (I still haven't figured out quite how to describe it), had random but consistent bouts of flu symptoms - specifically, aching joints and muscles - serious lethargy and chemo-brain. Chemo-brain is a term that staff and patients alike use to describe the way the stuff makes your brain feel. Fried. Extra-crispy. I have difficulty with short-term memory and I feel as though I have been sedated which leaves me feeling anxious and uncertrain.

Another symptom showed up following my last treatment. I would feel cold, so I cover myself with a blanket and in no time I feel over-heated and have to remove the blanket. It's back and forth over and over until the symptom goes away. It happens when I'm awake and wakes me up when I'm asleep.

So, I will enjoy the next two days of comfort - now there's a relative statement, huh? - and play a little more with Beau, because come Wednesday, all my fun will be over for a little while. And more chemotherapy until once I recover from surgery. And recovery from surgery will be a minimum of six weeks, so that's pretty cool. That means no more chemotherapy until some time in September. And that chemotherapy treatment will be determined following my surgery. Getting a first hand look at the tumor will provide my doctors with the information they need to determine what type of chemotherapy I will receive. Let's hope it's something easy. Yeah, Doc. Give the easy chemo, would ya?

Friday, June 13, 2008

An Incredible Wake Up Call, Pt. II

When I woke up this morning, it dawned on me that my previous post, An Incredible Wake Up Call really lit me up and was very exciting, but it didn't refer to anything tangible regarding where I plan to go with it. Like, "Okay Bert, you're clearly inspired but what the hell are you talking about? What is it specifically that you intend to "bring to the world?"

What I am talking about is a context for living my life. A commitment to viewing all that I receive in life as a gift is a way to be empowered by my experiences as opposed to being the victim of them. It's real easy to get into the "Why me?" way of looking at life. Hell it's a great question and I'd love to know the answer. But guess what - there's nothing empowering about that. And as far as I can see, it's a trap and an ugly one at that.

When I don't feel empowered in life, I choose to stop right there and ask myself why. It's often the context from which I'm viewing the circumstances. Is what I am doing occurring like a burden? Maybe I need to shift the context by looking at what it provides me.

So, I am committed to "bring to the world" a different conversation than the one I'm used to having. The old conversation is "Why me? Why do I have cancer? This is terrible." Well I don't think anybody is going to argue with me about that. But here's the deal: that conversation has me become a victim of cancer and I'm not interested in living my life as a victim.

Now viewing all I receive in life as a gift does not mean I give up being mad, sad, heartbroken, scared, etc. These feelings will always show up. I am certain life's circumstances are going to be pretty difficult now and again. But it's who I am and what I do in the face of those circumstances that makes the difference.

So my commitment is to take on that conversation and forget the old one. I find the big life altering problems an exciting opportunity to take on life powerfully, once I've gotten through the emotions and gotten some perspective. It was a lot easier to look at cancer as a gift then it was for me to look at a particular person who I would find myself often angry with as a gift. And I intend to slowly close that gap and be the change I want to see in the world.

So that's what I'm talking about. I hope that provided the sufficient tangible example that I missed in the first entry.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

An Incredible Wake Up Call

I am so grateful for all of your emails and blog comments. Many times, the simplest message from someone I least expect to hear from can turn my day around. If you can imagine yourself in my shoes... Well that's a start right there. I never was able to do that.

I would hear that someone had cancer and I would do my best to imagine what it was like - usually how terrible it must be - and then I would turn my mind away from it because I didn't want to even imagine something like cancer coming in to my life. And, I thought I didn't need to worry about cancer. Other people get it. Like old people and sickly folks and those who don't take care of themselves. Now that I look back, I can see that my thoughts were actually quite arrogant. I thought it was a disease that showed up in other people. And I generally avoided talking to people with cancer. Too intense. I don't know you well enough. Or I discussed it from the perspective of a interested and thoughtful observer (Arrogant!!!).

Now I look at my life and the lives of other people with cancer and I am inspired. I saw Kris Karr on television today and suddenly remembered where I was emotionally and spiritually before this chemotherapy knocked me down as it has. I thought of my friend Bill, who recently died after a 16-month battle with brain cancer, and the incredible opportunities we took advantage of as we simply sat and talked about anything - the incredible camaraderie we felt always with the knowledge that the other had been branded with a diagnosis of cancer and faced complete uncertainty. I never thought having cancer would be like this. I never imagined my experience would be filled with so much joy and transformation. It never occurred to me that so much beauty, happiness and peacefulness could show up in my life and in my mind & my heart as a result of being told by a doctor, "Mr. Scholl, I'm sorry but you have Stage II Rectal Cancer." [I still can't believe it had to be in my rectum. Nobody wants to talk about their rectum!!!] Anyway...

I thought people with cancer trudged along, doing their best to stay hopeful - always afraid - with death keeping a close eye on them, watching them from a distance. I have no idea where I got these images and ideas from. Probably television and the sad but quiet stories I would hear when folks spoke of someone they knew who was diagnosed with cancer. Nothing from someone who was actually dealing with it. Again, I avoided those conversations like the plague. Check please!

I had no idea that shortly after diagnosis Daniela & I would be dying laughing, having a wonderful time being inspired by the countless gifts and new relationships that this diagnosis provides us. I never imagined our 10 year old doing a silly "cancer dance" that would have Daniela & me rolling with laughter and that I would be doing that same dance days later at my benefit. I had no idea that Daniela & I could have such a powerful relationship to cancer and that as a result of that relationship, so many new and wonderful people would come into our lives. And the more beauty we discover in this journey, the more beauty we experience in our relationships.

On a different note, I didn't think that one of my dearest friends would all but disappear from my life once I went public with my diagnosis. However, that was how I responded to someone dear to me once I learned of her diagnosis. Having responded that way myself allowed me to be compassionate (though I will confess I do feel a touch of resentment now and again) in response to my friends decision to "disappear." Yeah, perfection is indeed a wee bit far from my grasp.

And I'll tell you something else. There is no way I am going to simply go back to my "regular old life" once I am cancer-free. Healing myself of cancer has been a gift of immeasurable proportion that has lifted me up to heights I would never have imagined and I would be out of my mind not to do everything I can to share this gift with the world. Yet, however much I am able to appreciate this gift, I sure as hell ain't lookin' forward to anymore gifts of this type and I'm hoping none of you ever find it under your Christmas tree [non-Christians please refer to your traditional gift giving holidays.]

As I reflect on it right now, cancer is by no means the gift. Cancer created an opening and that opening allowed us to choose a perspective or a context that is incredibly empowering, thus bringing the extraordinary into our lives. Daniela has little card on top of one of our three refrigerators [Gerson's footprint] that says, "LIFE ISN'T ABOUT FINDING YOURSELF. LIFE IS ABOUT CREATING YOURSELF." When became aware that I had cancer, I heard a little voice say, "Okay, You have cancer. Now what are you going create with that?" And THAT inspires me.

Having to heal myself of cancer reminds me of how in the past I would push myself to do more and more with little rest. Finally I would begin to feel sick and stressed with hints of cold & flu showing up in my muscles and joints - the impact that being so driven had on my body. Eventually, I would give in and rest and soak myself in a nice hot tub. And as I relaxed and let go of my need to push myself to no end, I would hear this little voice in my head say to me, "Do I have to make you physically ill in order for you to slow you down and soak in a hot tub and experience some peacefulness?" Cancer has done the same for me in countless ways. An incredible wake up call.

There are still days where many tears are shed. Sometimes from me. Other times from someone telling me they love me. And it only makes the experience that much richer and felt that much deeper in my heart.


Tuesday, June 10, 2008

The Many Topics We Will Come Across

Today I realized that I miss Daniela. But it's not so much Daniela I miss, because I see her every day. I miss the Daniela who I knew prior to my being deep inside a Stage II Rectal Cancer treatment. Who she has to be - or chooses to be actually - as my care taker is absolutely extraordinary as I have acknowledged on more than one occasion. I wouldn't change a thing. You're the greatest, sweetheart!

I'm not sure if I can articulate these feelings, but I will do my best.

I miss the Daniela who I joined on Saturday evening trips to the books store. I miss the Daniela who took walks with me in the evening or late at night in awe of the stars. It's the conversations that were different. Our current conversations often revolve around what often occurs as a very "heavy" subject - my cancer treatment. Now make no mistake, I believe who we are and who we will be in the future is powerfully and quite positively influenced by this cancer experience. But I look forward to having conversations about how we can contribute to our community and what ways we can truly make a difference in the world. And how we can be the change we want in the world. Not just what we can do to make this cancer treatment process and experience work more efficiently and effectively.

I miss the woman who didn't look at the pain and discomfort I experience with sadness and a wish that I have more relief. I miss the woman who was free to be someone who to be quite honest, wouldn't be appropriate right now. We must take this healing on as a powerful team and I believe we do. And I look forward to when we can look back at this and remember what it was like and discuss it as one of the many topics we come across.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Little to No Side 3 AM!

I am amazed. I feel really great right now. It's fascinating how these side effects can come and go so fast. And emotionally, I feel very strong right now. Last night Daniela and I watched the movie Deep Impact. There's a few scenes in the film where parents are saying goodbye to their spouses and babies and...yeah, I'm crying and then of course imagining having to say goodbye to Beau as a result of the cancer. Now don't worry. It was a good thing.

When I first thought about watching the film, something in me said, "Watch it." My next thought was "I don't need to see people dying and saying goodbye to their loved ones because they know they're going to die." However, I pay a lot of attention to my initial thoughts and watching the movie provided me something pretty sweet. I was left with how clear I am that I will not be saying goodbye to anyone any time soon - at least not as a result of my going anywhere. I don't have a concern about whether I will live a long life. This cancer is only a big old "bump in the road" - and then add a car with pitiful suspension! Oddly, it was nice to be reminded of my own confidence.

I began this entry at 11:30 this morning. I didn't post it when I was done because the chemo side effects got bad. Again, it's fascinating how they come and go. I felt really lousy in the late morning/early afternoon and then I took a nap from 2 PM until 6:30 this evening. That is one of the reasons I am up right now - it's 2:49 AM and I'm wide awake. The other reason is that the side effects seem to go away late at night - they're almost nonexistent right now and I have a hard time going to sleep when I'm finally feeling well. Yet, since it's almost 3 AM, I'm going to open up my book and hope that my eyes get tired so I can fall asleep. Tired or not, it's near 3 AM and it just doesn't feel right to be awake this late when my family is going to be awake not too many hours from now. Not to mention, I can only watch Sports Center so many times...

Side Effects

Not much to report other than that the side effects from the chemotherapy are ever so present. Fortunately I've had next to no nausea. I had a hint of it and took a anti-nausea medication and it was gone. The predominant side effect is what I can only describe as feeling toxic - like having chemically induced flu symptoms, specifically aching throughout my body. Lot's of fun.

The side effects do seem to be less present at night which is why I am able to complete this entry right now - I'm finally feeling well enough. Earlier today there was no way I was going to do anything at the computer. Not to mention I slept from about noon until 4 pm. Another chemotherapy side effect. Looking forward to a little relief.

Thursday, June 5, 2008


I am very tired today - definitely a chemotherapy side effect. I took a nap for a few hours and I still feel quite tired. I only got up because I was hungry. Tomorrow I will go to Guthrie in Sayre, PA and have the 5-FU pump removed from my port and then spend the next 12 days recovering until I have my next treatment. It's supposed to be nice and hot tomorrow. I am definitely looking forward to it.

In the mean time, I am going back to the couch to rest. It is so odd to feel so exhausted. And, I am only scheduled for four more weeks of this. That puts a smile on my face.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Always Letting Go

My blood & platelet counts were excellent, so I was given the go ahead to receive my next round of chemotherapy treatment today. I arrived home by 3:30 PM and I believe I was asleep by 4:30 or 5 and woke up just a little while ago at 7 PM. I only slept five hours last night and then add todays' treatment and I am definitely fatigued. Another interesting side effect is the tingling sensation in my fingers, which got a little more intense when I ran cold water over my hands. It was quite a strange sensation. It felt like my finger tips fell asleep - more like "pins & needles" than tingling. I don't dare touch anything cold.

My Nurse Practitioner, Sue (forgot her last name) is very cool. She's positive and she has a sharp personality. When I asked her about the side effects, she informed me that they will increase now that I have received this second chemotherapy treatment. The good news is she believes it will only be an increase in fatigue and hand and foot numbness & tingling. She believes I will not experience an increase in nausea. That will be wonderful if she is correct because my nausea was pretty minimal last time and I definitely stayed on top of it last time and took the anti-nausea medicine as soon as I felt the slightest sensation in my stomach - before it even got to nausea. Then add that very effective homeopathic remedy and I think I should fare pretty well.

And I believe this is all a result of one very powerful choice - letting go of how I believe life should be and living it as it comes, moment by moment. I received that advice my friend Mary when she was my coach in an incredibly powerful leadership program and it has probably been one of the most effective tools I have ever had the privilege of making my own. She said something along the lines of, "Bert, you are in a river right now and your hanging on to the edge fighting the current. Just let go and trust that things are going exactly as they should, that all is well and trust yourself to make the right choice when the time comes." That single conversation with Mary has had an extraordinarily positive impact on how I view my life and well prepared me for the path where I currently am in life.

Thanks Mary. I love you and miss you.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Time for Round 2

On Wednesday June 4th, I go in for another chemotherapy infusion...I think it's called an infusion...? Anyway, after a few hours of the chemo "drip," a nurse will attach to me a pump with 5-FU and I'll wear it until Friday afternoon at which point it will be detached and I will have another 11 days until my next treatment.

I'm not exactly looking forward to the next three or four days, but I'm doing what I need to do and that's all that matters. A friend provided me with a homeopathic remedy that takes away the side effects from the chemotherapy. Last time I used it, 90% of the side effects disappeared, so my hope is to have the same results this time. We'll see.