Thursday, January 31, 2008

Short 'n Sweet

Two years, without cancer. My original surgery was at 7:30 am CST, Tuesday, January 31, 2006. It hasn't come back. And the odds are, it never will.

Amen. Thank God.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

And Now, Back To Our Regular Programming

RE: my last post. Yeah, everything was fine. Dr. Rabinowitz affirmed this morning what the radiologist told me yesterday -- "all looks normal." The underlying message, "now stop needlessly worrying yourself to a panic, would you already?" was left unsaid, but evident.

Phew. And, for the record... January 31 will mark two years, to the day, that I've been cancer-free. I didn't feel confident making that statement two days ago, but there it is.

I didn't really even realize it at the time... but worrying about new (and imaginary) cancer symptoms has pretty much consumed my last two weeks, when there's really been a lot going on in my life aside from that. For example, on January 14 I was among a smattering of media types who attended a press conference at Eclipse Aviation, where officials announced a funding, assembly, and distribution partnership with a Danish investment concern, called ETIRC (e-TURK.) The deal means Eclipse 500s will one day be assembled in the Russian Federation, for the European market. We'll see if that happens... in the short term, the deal gives Eclipse a massive infusion of (ah, Russian) cash, which it needed badly to survive the year.

The conference was cooler than I thought it would be. For the first time ever in my time at ANN, I was able to interview The Man himself, Eclipse CEO Vern Raburn -- who, depending largely on who you talk to, is either a) One Of The World's Biggest Jerks, or b) One Of The World's Biggest Jerks, But Also A True Visionary, And A Force To Be Reckoned With.

I won't say which opinion I subscribe to (to his credit, Raburn would be the first to agree with those statements) and I still have my concerns whether Eclipse will ultimately be able to do all it promises -- the company's record so far has been less than perfect in that regard, and that's being charitable. But I hope they succeed. The building blocks are certainly there, now more than ever.

Two days later, I was on a Delta jet (well, two of them) heading to Jacksonville, en route to Sebring, FL for the annual US Sport Aviation Expo. Now in its fourth year, the show marks the unofficial start of the aviation trade show season. This was my second year... and the event seemed a lot more crowded this year than last. Part of that was due to what I think was a much-larger crowd turnout; all three days I was there, I marveled at the number of people. Helping the attendance totals was the fact most of the time, it was cool, cloudy and rainy -- great weather to beat the Florida sun, but lousy to fly in. Like I said in the last post, I didn't do any flying while I was there... maybe next time...

Another factor in how "crowded" the event felt, was the sheer number of light-sport aircraft that are now available on the US market. At last count -- and this number seems to multiply like rabbits at every turn -- there are 73 LSAs available for sale in the US market.

Many seem to be great little planes (most of you already know what I think of the SportStar, for example) but that's probably at least 45 more models than the market really needs, IMO. And Cessna and Cirrus haven't even added their planes (the China-built SkyCatcher and the German-sourced SRS, respectively) to the mix. This, ladies and gentlemen, is called a "glut."

Not sure what's coming next -- Heli-Expo is at the end of February, in Houston -- but two things are certain: one, I want to finally get my pilot training knocked out before Spring... and two, taking care of some niggling issues here at home (one of those things is the diet... which I'm happy to report/brag has been good for a 13-pound loss in the first month, according to my semi-reliable bathroom scale -- we'll call it 10 lbs, and one belt-notch, to be safe.)

It's time to start living again...

Thursday, January 24, 2008

'You Can Never Rejoice'

I had planned for this post to be a resounding call of victory. It's not going to be, at least not yet.
Two years ago today -- at around 8:45 in the morning, Dallas-time, I still remember every chilling detail vividly -- I was diagnosed with TC. That was the day the train of my life jumped the tracks. I cannot put into words how the sound of the words "it's cancer" hit my ears, how everything else that was said after that echoed.

I still remember walking, senses numbed and footsteps heavy, through the halls of Trinity Medical Center, across the parking lot, getting into the Grand Am, checking my cell phone.
The first person I told, oddly enough, was a co-worker, Pete... who had left a message asking about the podcast outline for the day. I returned his call as I sat in the lot... all I could say was "it's cancer." I called my parents next, after I got home. I don't remember the drive back to the apartment.

I still revisit these emotions often. I can't help not to. They are a part of me I will never, ever be able to get rid of. I've tried. Hopefully one day the memories won't resonate as sharply as they still do.

I thought I was over the paranoia, the suspicion of Something Dark lurking around the corner. I guess I'm not. The first twinges of suspicion came over two weeks ago, probably soon after I looked at a calendar. Something feels different. Was that bump there before?

What started as the quiet voice of nagging doubt -- confronted by the reassurance This Has Happened Four Times Before Over The Past Two Years, You've Gotten Panicky Before, And It's Always, ALWAYS Been Nothing -- turned increasingly towards I Don't Know For Sure, Maybe This Time It IS Something Really Wrong.

I carried those fears with me to Sebring last week. It was probably a good thing the weather was rotten for most of the time, removing all possibility of me going up in a plane. I haven't flown well before, or enjoyed it, when my mind has been elsewhere.

I resolved to email Dr. Rabinowitz when I got back home, to ask for his advice.

"Doctor, this is at least the fifth time I've noticed these types of 'changes' - and after more than few unneeded visits and ultrasounds, everything has always come back perfectly normal," I wrote yesterday. "...The rational part of my brain -- and my family, and my friends -- tell me this is almost overwhelmingly likely to be nothing to worry about. The panicky side of my brain, though, can't stop feeling for any new changes. which I'm sure isn't helping the situation."

Dr. Rabinowitz got back to me a few hours later. "What I think will be best is to order a repeat testicular ultrasound. This will set your mind at rest and give us a baseline study." The test is scheduled for Friday afternoon.

He added I'm not the first TC patient of his to experience these feelings. "I just had another TC patient of mine have exactly the same issue. An ultrasound of the testis relieved his concerns as well. Ian."

God bless him for that.

It's probably nothing. Hell, I'd bet my own money on it. Because it has been nothing before... and I don't really think God or the universe would be so cruel as to hit me with this again, especially two years (almost to the day) since it happened the first time.

The chances of a repeat TC occurrence are somewhere south of three percent. As I've said on this blog before -- when the rational side of my brain was doing the typing -- TC doesn't spread across, or down. If something new popped up on The Other One, it would be just that -- something new. That hardly, HARDLY ever happens.

And nothing short of the radiologist telling me "You're OK" tomorrow will convince me of that.
I honestly think in the two years since January 24, 2006, I've become a stronger, and better, person. Those around me would agree, I think... except when it comes to this. My Mom -- who, yes, will be going with me to the appointment tomorrow, and God bless her for that -- summed it up best, when we talked on the phone last week as I sat nervously in my motel room in Avon Park.

"The worst part of seeing you go through this is that you never feel confident you're OK," she said. "You can be grateful, and thankful things seem to have passed... but you can never rejoice."

Maybe tomorrow afternoon, I can come a little closer to that goal. I hope so.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

This... Is... Unacceptable!

OK, look. I understand that being on a diet plan automatically means your food choices are limited... and often, less than appetizing. Like I said in my last post, so far I've been impressed with what NutriSystem has to offer, given that I wasn't expecting very much. Some of the meals are actually more than OK, in fact; I've even developed a taste for the "BBQ Soy Chips."

But not... let me repeat, NOT... the "Mashed Potatoes with Meat Loaf and Tomato Sauce."

I shoulda copped wise to what was about to happen the moment I read the box. For starters... since when are the mashed potatoes listed first for that particular combination... or whenever you're talking about a "meat and potatoes" dish? But, OK, this is diet food, and perhaps for some reason the mashed potatoes are supposed to be the main course. Whatever.

Then I opened the package. As you can see, the meat loaf was the larger portion. Good thing, too, since the "mashed potatoes" consisted of a grayish lump of... something, that resembled congealed petroleum.

Wait. "Gray" isn't even the right word. "Taupe" would be more appropriate, since there was a definite, uniform brownish tinge to the ostensibly edible pile of foodstuff before me. Photos don't do the freakish scene justice.

Adventurous (stupid) soul that I am, I nuked the dish per the instructions on the box... which sports a photo of regular-looking mashed potatoes, by the way. Even as I prayed microwave radiation would somehow restore normal coloring to the potatoes, I read the ingredients. Yes, those are supposed to be real mashed potatoes... well, potato flakes, but if those are good enough to serve your parents at Thanksgiving then surely they're OK here, too...

The microwave dinged. The potatoes were the same, of course, except now steam was coming off them. Great. A grayish-brown, steaming glob of God-knows-what. Yum.

Yeah, I tasted it. I was in this far, I had to go all the way. Incidentally, it was with similar logic I moved to California with a woman I barely knew 10 years ago. So, precedent would appear to indicate that logic is seldom a wise choice. But I tasted the damn "potatoes" anyway.

It was a small taste. About a tablespoon. For a split-second, I detected the faintest hint of potato-flavor... which was soon replaced by what I would imagine to be the taste of hot, wet, clammy, liquified cardboard.

Thirty seconds later, paper towel in hand, I was cleaning the remnants of that one, (thankfully) small bite off my kitchen floor. Soon after, I tossed the entire meal into the garbage -- maybe the meat loaf was OK, I'll never know -- along with another unopened box.

Good news -- I lived to tell the tale, so apparently the "potatoes" weren't poisonous.

More good news -- So far, that's the only item I haven't been able to tolerate.

And still more good news -- Ten days into the diet, I've lost seven pounds. That's a proportion I'm more than happy with.

I'm also happy to say I started actually exercising this week, and I've made a point of walking around the block for at least 45 minutes every day. So far, the sense of accomplishment has kept me going in this routine. I'm motivated. I have a goal, which I think is realistic -- drop 15 pounds before Sun 'N Fun, which is in late April (and one week before my next cancer check-up.) Even allowing for the inevitable slowdown in progress, that should still be attainable. More would be a welcome bonus.

But keep me the hell away from the "mashed potatoes." I'll take more soy chips.

Friday, January 4, 2008

The Road Ahead

Happy Belated New Year, everybody. I'll keep this brief, since I'm busy doing what I've been doing since December 31... writing End-Of-Year features for ANN, and struggling to accept the reality of a strict diet. I'm trying out NutriSystem... we'll see if it helps.

I have noticed a difference already, in less than a week. Hard to say if that's because of the food, or just eating (a lot) less in general. Speaking of the food... it isn't bad, but it's loaded with preservatives and rather salty -- the better to keep it edible without resorting to freezing (the Army calls this application of food technology "MREs" -- meals, ready-to-eat.) So, this will be a brief excursion, I think, but I'm curious to see the results.

One other thing on the diet -- like I said, the meals are decent, but they've got some odd ingredients. On the label of most of the "meat" dishes, at the very end, is this disclaimer: "CONTAINS FISH (Anchovy, Sardine, Tilapia)."

Ugh. This is for a good reason, this is for a good reason... And it is. I admit over the past two years I haven't been taking very good care of myself... and it's time to change that.
So, again, happy new year to all. I think 2008 will be a good one -- I really do