Wednesday, December 14, 2016


After nine and a half years I am finally FINALLY IN REMISSION [fill in the blank with your favorite celebratory profanity. Yes Mom that includes you as well, if you like because this is a big deal. Plus I won't tell anybody]. Right up until I heard the news, I didn't know how I'd feel. It wasn't until I told my mom that I was clear how I would respond. I'm overjoyed and starting to sink into relief, wondering what life without all these appointments will be like.

I'm on the bus right now headed back to Ithaca as I type this. I opened Spotify to put on some tunes while I found my way through how I would express the thoughts I have going on in my head and I couldn't think of what I wanted to listen to. I really wanted to listen to something but nothing came to mind. Like nothing. It was really weird. I just stared at the screen and then I thought of Men at Work Business As Usual and thought "What?! This is what I want to celebrate remission with?!?" So I thought about that.

I was eleven years old when Business as Usual was released. I played that cassette in my Walkman until it was too warped to tolerate, while I delivered my morning papers.

I only like dreaming all the day long
Where no one is screaming 
Be good be good 
Be good be good be good 
Be good be good be good
Be good Johnny

What kind neighbors I had. I took forever to get my papers delivered. Pulling around a two wheel basket loaded with papers because I took on a second paper route, making patterns in the snow with the wheels by turning the cart around in different directions, almost never meeting the required 6:15 AM deadline. What I am talking about "almost." More like never. Hahahaha! Perhaps the album speaks to me because back around that time I still had a little innocence remaining, before a rather abrupt crash course into the realities of the world. For me the early 80's were a time when I still believed anything was possible. It was incredible. And every once in a while, the music of the 80's will bring me back there.

So yeah, after nine and a half years (nine years and nine months actually) I am in remission. Dr. Kemeny immediately said I can have my, Hepatic Artery Pump aka the Kemeny Pump removed. When the pump is removed, it can never be installed again, so there's a risk. I asked what the odds of recurrence are and she said something along the lines of very, very low. Highly unlikely. And she immediately followed it with a story about a patient of hers who had a recurrence in his liver five years after his pumped was removed. She laughed as she told me because it was so absurd that it even happened. I essentialy have as much chance of a a cancer diagnosis as you do. And Americans have a one in four chance of being diagnosed with cancer. What's different for me is that if I have the pump removed and then I have a recurrence and it's in my liver, I won't have the option of the Kemeny Pump, the most direct way to attack liver tumors.

Before I met with her, I was talking to guy who went a year without recurrence and now he's back for treatment for a few inoperable tumors. Talking to him was easy because he's clear that any time he has now, one year or twenty years, it's all bonus. Because it is. I suppose any time on earth for anyone is bonus time, but you just tend to be aware of it more frequently when you've been faced with the high probability of death. What wasn't easy a little later in the day was sitting just feet away from a few folks sitting together trying not to cry, barely able to take their eyes off the floor, let alone look at each other. You can always tell when a family is at Memorial Sloan Kettering for the first time. Most of us looked like that. Awestruck, heart-broken and terrified. When I made eye contact with two of  the three who were even willing to look up from the floor, they quickly looked away. I made myself available to talk with them because I wanted them to know the suffering can go away or be greatly reduced but it was clear they just didn't have it in them. I get it. It's really hard for most folks to talk with people when they're anxoiusly awaiting the doctor's prognosis. God bless em.

So, for a few years now I've been chewing on whether our not to remove the pump once I'm in remission. Naturally I want this thing out of my body. And my highest priority is the two kids in my life I want to be around for and I don't like the idea of reducing those odds. I could also wrap myself in bubble wrap every time I go outside or simply never leave the house. I told her I'd think about it, but at the moment my loudest thought is to remove it and move on. To walk away from the pump maintenance that's required of me every eight weeks. It's a lot to think about and I'm in no rush. I've just been told it's highly likely that I won't be dying of cancer anytime soon.

Sunday, January 17, 2016

The News I've Been Anicipating

On Wednesday I received the good news I have been anticipating since September. The indeterminable spots the radiologist claimed to have seen on my CT scan on one of my lungs in September were nowhere to be found this time round. So I have put aside any concerns about a recurrence in my lungs [huge sigh of relief] and can say I am officially four years cancer-free. In addition, Dr. Kemeny said I am done with quarterly scans and said she would see me again in six months. I told her I was so happy I could hug her. She looked at her staff and said, "He said he could hug us," then as she walked past me smiling, she rubbed the top of my forearm with her fingers. When it comes to Dr. Kemeny, that was a hug.

Not surprisingly, only five minutes after hearing the good news, my mind started in, wondering what possible risks there are in waiting six months until my next scan. A few minutes later I was laughing at myself. As soon as I get news about the clear scan and the need for fewer scans each year, my mind starts right in at the first opportunity to knock me down. The mind is unbelievable. Or perhaps a better word: predictable.

I'm thrilled right now. In nine months, if I am still cancer-free, I will have reached the five year mark and be considered in remission. My hepatic pump and port can then be removed, although since the hepatic pump can never be reinstalled again, part of me isn't in a hurry to get rid of it. It's an odd catch 22. And I'm not going to give it a lot of thought for now. Right now I'm feeling incredibly grateful to not have a recurrence in my lungs not to mention anywhere else in my body. Wednesday was a good day.