Thursday, December 2, 2010

Circle (Part Four)

"I always knew if you had the chance, you'd want to learn to fly. You have so much of your grandfather in you..."

I'd approached the subject cautiously. I'd flown to Farmington twice in the past two days, and was due to fly up there again Monday. Those flights were like nothing I'd experienced before, and I wanted to learn more. And -- though I planned to pursue lessons even if Mom had expressed reservations -- I was greatly relieved to have her blessing to do it.

Serendipity played a role in what followed. The pilot I'd flown up to Farmington with had a friend who'd just earned his flight instructor certification, and was looking for a student. A friend graciously loaned me some money to get started. Soon, under his tutelage, I was plying the skies in a variety of Cessna Skyhawks, some lessons learned more quickly than others.

I soloed for the first time in N62507 at Belen Alexander Airport (E80) on July 24, 2004. One week later, I drove a U-Haul moving van with all my earthly belongings to Dallas. Eleven months before I'd left DMC to take a customer service position at a building materials company called American Gypsum. That company was now relocating its home office from Albuquerque to North Texas. The fat moving stipend I received kept me in the air, and I soloed a second time from Collin County Regional Airport (TKI) the following November.

If the path I was on had been fortuitous up to that point, the road that followed was nothing short of a miracle. One day in May 2005, I was browsing aviation headlines on a website called Aero-News Network, and came across an article about the search for unpaid "stringers" to help cover the annual AirVenture gathering in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On a lark I submitted some writings of mine. One in particular caught their attention, and soon I was off to Wittman Field to learn how to be an aviation writer.

I was a quick study. Within two months I was writing for ANN on weekends... and on October 28, I left American Gypsum to pursue a full-time career as an aviation journalist.

Aero-News opened new horizons for me, and was a welcome and earnest distraction from my fears throughout a bout with testicular cancer. The job allowed me to earn my Sport Pilot license, in April 2008. Alas, good things don't always last, and within a year -- thanks in equal part to the economy, and the need for health insurance -- I was back where I started.

Back at DMC. And, really... that's about right, isn't it?

It seems like I've been here before;
I can't remember when;
But I have this funny feeling;
That we'll all be together again.

No straight lines make up my life;
And all my roads have bends;
There's no clear-cut beginnings;
And so far no dead-ends.
-Harry Chapin

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Circle (Part Three)

"You don't have to be so gingerly on the controls. The plane can handle more -- see?"

I distinctly recall yelping as the pilot on my August 2002 flight to Farmington pitched the little Cessna 310 into a quick 50 degree bank, then just as quickly returned us to level flight. That was accompanied by a death grip on both the seat armrests.

Up to that point, I'd done a passable job of holding N591DM on-course towards Four Corners Regional Airport, and at our assigned altitude of 8,500 feet. Denver Center hadn't peeped since our handoff from Albuquerque, which meant I'd managed to abide by the rules under VFR flight following.

Maintaining straight-and-level flight is among the most difficult tasks for a student pilot, but it suited me fine. Steep banking, on the other hand...

"Can we not do that again, please?" I asked.

The pilot chuckled. "Your airplane." Despite this formal "handoff" of the controls, I noticed his attention never wavered from what I was doing.

After a few more minutes, I was happy to turn the controls back over, and watch outside the window as we descended over the San Juan River, south of the airport. Four Corners Regional sits on a plateau overlooking the city of Farmington; on this crystal-clear morning, it was hard to miss.

I listened intently as the pilot described his actions prior to landing. "Tower cleared us onto the downwind for Runway 5, which you can see over there. We're flying parallel to it. Now I'm dropping the gear... three green, all good. Next we'll turn base leg... time for GUMPS. Gas, check, both fuel valves are open and clear. Undercarriage down. Mixture set. Props at correct pitch for landing. Seatbelts fastened --"

"Chartran 104, cleared to land Runway Five, winds zero-four-zero at seven."

The pilot clicked the radio button at the top of the yoke. "Cleared to land on five, Chartran 104... Okay, there's a very slight crosswind from left, not much of a factor," the pilot explained. "I want our wheels to touch down right on those white bars you see on the runway. And... there we go! Rollout, no brakes yet -- let the plane slow down on its own -- and, here comes the nosewheel."

Under the pilot's expert guidance, November-five-niner-one-delta-mike gracefully turned off the runway, and made its way over to the freight ramp at fast taxi speed. As we settled to a stop, I remembered why I was there -- to cover a route. I tried to push my mind back into "work" mode.

That lasted all of three seconds. "See you later!" the pilot grinned. I knew at that moment that I was hooked. I had to learn how to do this flying thing myself.


I flew to Farmington three more times after that. I took the controls a couple of times, but mostly I focused on what I could see. I realized what a wonderful experience flying could be when you're able to see what's in front of you, versus out of a tiny side window in a cramped passenger cabin.

After the second day, I had to make an admission to my parents -- particularly to my mom. I never knew her father, my Grandpa Darmody, but those who knew him said I reminded them of him. I shared his passion for building models of cars, and airplanes... and, now, of flying.

Even though I was 27, and well past the age of seeking my parents' permission... I still had to find a way to tell Mom that. She lost her father to a midair collision over Nevada in April 1958... and now, I had to tell her that her only son wanted to follow him into the sky.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Circle (Part Two)

We left off in April 2002, just after my promotion. From 04:00 to 14:00, Monday through Friday, I had full responsibility for DMC's warehouse and distribution operations in Albuquerque and northern New Mexico. This included receiving and sorting the day's pharmaceutical shipments, dispatching our aircraft to all corners of New Mexico, and overseeing the driver who had taken over my Los Alamos route. In practice, I was often at work by 03:30 and didn't leave until closer to 5 pm. There was seldom time to even sit down on the job, unless I needed to grab an Aspire and cover for an absent driver.

It didn't take very long at all for me to tire of this routine. Everything I'd appreciated as a driver -- the open road, the people -- was absent from my new position, and I soon determined the bump in pay wasn't really worth the added stress. I knew I was near the end of my rope, but I didn't want to leave the company outright. I truly had grown to appreciate the job we did, and the people I worked with.

Fortunately, I'd made an impression on the manager who oversaw the Customer Service department. A fair amount of lobbying on her part convinced Ops to let me transfer over, though not until the middle of August -- about three weeks away. I agreed to suffer through it; at least there was light at the end of the tunnel.
However, it was just three days later that my world changed forever, with the words "we need you to cover a route in Farmington." Our regular driver needed to take some time off, and no spare drivers were available to fill in. Considering my lame-duck status in my current position, I was the obvious choice.

I thought I'd be driving a van up there and back -- making for a very long day -- but instead the Site Manager handed me a spare headset. "You'll fly up and back on the 104," he said, "and use her truck while you're up there."

This made me a little nervous. I'd always been fascinated by airplanes, but I'd never flown on a plane smaller than a 737. (For that matter, I was 16 before I flew for the first time -- on United, from Albuquerque to Omaha and back.) Plus, I'd seen our planes. Hangar queens they're not.

Nevertheless, a sense of adventure followed me to the airport early the next morning. As I parked my Focus in the Seven Bar parking lot, a FedEx cargo jet (an Airbus A300) roared down the runway, its twin turbofans shaking the ground for a few seconds. A flush came over me; that seemed like a good omen.

That feeling changed somewhat as I walked up to the twin-engined aerial chariot that would take me to the Four Corners. N591DM had clearly seen better days over its 33 years, the once-proud white-and-burgundy paint job severely faded and chipping almost everywhere. I knew outer beauty wasn't necessarily an indication of how well the plane was maintained... but, well, some shiny paint and gleaming propellers still would have been nice.

I shook hands with the pilot, then stepped aside as he loaded the freight and did his preflight check. I watched with some alarm as he struggled with the starboard landing light, which refused to descend from its housing under the right tip tank; a solid smack with the palm of his hand finally coerced the light downward.

With his preflight complete, the pilot motioned for me to climb in after him. Both cabin doors on the Cessna 310 are on the right side; after I was seated, the pilot reached across me and slammed the door shut. "I have better leverage than you would," he explained. "It takes a solid pull to latch it all the way."

For all the worrisome quirks One-Delta-Mike had presented so far, I was heartened when both engines fired up on cue. I followed along as best I could as the pilot first called Clearance Delivery to obtain our route to Farmington, then ground control for our taxi instructions. I could feel my heart racing as we rolled closer to the departure end of the runway. I wasn't scared, really, but at the same time I honestly didn't know what to expect. In a sense, that pretty much described how I'd lived my life up to that point -- not knowing what to expect, not necessarily scared, but only because I wasn't really expecting very much.

Years later, I would write how we can spend our lives "drifting idly through our existence... down the paths of least resistance and lesser stimulation, focusing only on those things that ensure we have enough novelty in our lives so that we may want to survive to see tomorrow, that give us just enough momentary satisfaction to continue on down the road to Who Cares What." It sounds pretentious (because it is) but that entire sentence came from experience. That was me the morning of August 8, 2002, as we taxied into position for takeoff...

...And that same wandering, pessimistic, rudderless approach to life ended, for me, the moment the wheels of that Cessna 310Q lifted off Runway 3.

Monday, November 29, 2010

Circle (Part One)

All my life's a circle;
Sunrise and sundown;
Moon rolls thru the nighttime;
Till the daybreak comes around.

All my life's a circle;
But I can't tell you why;
Seasons spinning round again;
The years keep rollin' by...
"Circle," by Harry Chapin

Today was a pretty crummy day at work. The kind of day in which all the victories I've managed to amass in the past six months now feel completely hollow, useless, and not worth the effort. Time will tell whether that feeling sticks around (past history tells me it won't) but suffice to say I felt a dark cloud surrounding me as I walked out the door tonight.

However, the cloud did manage to lift as I left the miles behind me. Part of that was thanks to listening to some old podcasts of mine -- reliving past glories, I guess, from back when I was at least somewhat relevant to aviation journalism -- but most of the doom and gloom waned as I reflected on the series of events that have brought me to this point in time.

It's kind of a neat story, really, and telling it always makes me appreciate life. And, as is often the case, it all started with a girl. And a breakup.


July 2001. I'm living in my rented guest house on El Pueblo. I'm 25, unemployed, living off savings (along with more than a few parental handouts) and feeling generally sorry for myself. I've also just broken-up with a girl... for the second time. After reentering my orbit for a few fleeting moments earlier that summer, she'd found me very much the same insecure, awkward and needy mess I'd been before. I'm self-aware enough to know that... and to realize I'm depressed, directionless, and in desperate need of a shower.

Others see that, too. "Get out of the house," my friends say. "Go find something to do... preferably something that also pays at least a little money!" my folks add. "OK, seriously, are you ever going to leave your house again?" my landlady asks, with more than a little worry in her voice.

Finally, those messages ring through. My friend Lee recommends a job he only recently left, as a courier for a company called DMC. "It's great if you like to drive... which you do... and like to talk to people... which you used to," he says.

With a copy of my driving record in-hand, I fill out an application... and am immediately interviewed by the manager, Carlos. I'm sure that interview consisted of more than, "have you ever been convicted of any felonies and can you drive a 5-speed?" but that's the part of it I remember. A few days later -- July 25 -- I'm riding along in a van filled with bank bags and medical totes, heading up to Los Alamos and Espanola in the wee hours of the morning. By the following Monday, Route 112 is mine.

Me & 333, outside the Radisson Santa Fe. February 2002
The next eight months are rather fulfilling, and seldom dull. The long drive from Albuquerque suits me well; I average right around 250 miles round-trip, five-days-a-week. Some days take me as far North as Angel Fire. Most days I'm in a brand-new Toyota Tacoma (shown above) that I soon adopt as my own. I'm more proud of that truck than I am of my POS LeBaron convertible, and keep it spotless -- even waxing it during my hour of down-time in Espanola. Playing old cassettes in the tape deck helps me work on my singing voice... and work through some personal issues as well.

I also rediscover how much I enjoy talking to people, and find the challenge of keeping on a tight schedule to be invigorating (particularly in winter, while maneuvering a lightly-loaded Econoline up the hill to Los Alamos.)

Driving that route was just what I needed at that time in my life. By April 2002, however, I felt that time had mostly passed. So, I went after a promotion, to morning warehouse supervisor. I got the job...

...And soon realized that was a big, big mistake. But that's a story for tomorrow.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

In Thanks

Sunday morning, I woke up in a hotel room in Dallas. I knew immediately where I was. Low-hanging cloud cover spread outside my window on the 24th floor, and even in the air-conditioned suite I could still feel the telltale heaviness of humidity permeating the atmosphere.

I tried to soak it in all I could... because, as I have on each visit back since I moved back to New Mexico in July 2007, I truly felt I was back home.

I don't fit Albuquerque well. I've always known that; at first I held that against the city, and its citizens. I'm mature enough now to realize we're simply not a good match for one another. I just don't function well in the Land of Manana. I much prefer a fast-paced environment and being surrounded by five million people.

While I certainly appreciate the beauty that New Mexico has to offer -- and acknowledge all the faults of a big city -- I still prefer concrete, freeways, and even traffic jams over the Sandia mountains. I wish I still lived in Dallas. Alas, I've also resigned myself to being back in Albuquerque for the foreseeable future, due to sheer necessity.

My family doesn't function very well when it's spread apart. Again, I also used to hold that against them... but today there's simply too little room for resentment to creep in. My parents are as loving, as supportive, and as gracious with what they have as anyone could ever ask for. They are worth the sacrifices I've had to make. Period.

I am also mindful of the sacrifices others have had to make, and the simple truth that it could be worse. Much as it was in December 2009, things still remain very difficult for a good many people. For all the talk of a rebounding economy, few I know have seen those signs yet.

And even those I know who don't fear where the next paycheck will come from are dealing with more personal losses. A good friend lost her mother to breast cancer earlier this year... and just last week, her brother died suddenly from a brain aneurysm. I wouldn't trade places with her... while also knowing all-too well the years ahead will bring similar tragedies for those close to me, due solely to the cruel passage of time.

But that time is, hopefully, far off... and today I chose to focus on the positives, and what I have to be thankful for this year. I still have my health, my heart, and my happiness. This year has also shown me that I have some wonderful, caring friends.

So, yeah, things could be better... but then again, how many people have flown to Scottsdale in a B-17 this year?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Today is Veterans Day

On November 11, 2005, (ir)regular Aero-News correspondent, features writer, and all-around good guy Kevin R.C. "Hognose" O'Brien wrote a short and simple note on the meaning of Veterans Day to our country... and, perhaps, what it should be.

Hognose -- who has seen action in some of the crummiest parts of the world, in faithful service to the United States Army -- has a way of capturing pure emotion in relatively few words. He wrote this article quickly, almost a "throwaway" even, in the short time between the end of that year's AOPA Expo and the start of the National Business Aviation Association conference in Orlando.

Back then, I was just 11 days into my job at Aero-News, and "green" in almost every sense of the word. I'll admit that on that day in 2005, I was probably more grateful for the content to post on the site, than I actually considered the meaning of the words themselves... but I did recognize this as a special piece, which is why for every year after I made a point to repost Kevin's article on Veterans Day.

That small tradition of mine ended with the end of my tenure in Zoomland. That saddens me... but at least I may still link to it here. It's my small tribute to our veterans, and to our active soldiers. I will never know the challenges they face each and every day... but I can pause, remember, and contemplate. 

May we earn this...

Sunday, September 19, 2010

...On 35

"Too many of my life experiences seem to relate to Counting Crows songs... "All My Friends" is the perfect anthem for a single guy approaching his 30s."

When I wrote those words on January 11, 2005, they seemed appropriate for the disconnect and ennui I was feeling at that time, on the cusp of a new year in an unfamiliar but exciting land. I was both hopeful and wary of what lay ahead.

My uneasiness was largely unjustified. Despite the loss of my grandfather and the first signs of a worrying health issue, 2005 ended as one of the best years of my life. And now, over five years later... I realize I didn't know the half of it then. I'm now two hours in to my 35th year, and I have no idea what the future holds.

All I know is the present is nothing like what I'd planned, and the future doesn't feel quite as exciting as I used to believe it to be.

Thought I might get a rocket ride
When I was a child, but it was a lie
That I told myself when I needed something good
At 17 had a better dream, but now I'm 33 and it isn't me
But I'd think of something better if I could

Even more so now than in the past, my life is largely my work. Thanks to a tough economy and -- well, frankly, lousy timing -- my current job is far removed from my passion for aviation. That's both a blessing and a curse, and my perception of the situation varies day-to-day. I'm hardly alone there, of course, but it still comes as a sometimes-harsh realization when I remember what I used to do for a living.

And yet... I take tremendous satisfaction in knowing that I'm doing something good for the company I work for, the same company that introduced me to flying in the first place. The symmetry of my situation often brings a smile to my face, and I feel I've now proven a few things to a few people I didn't really impress my first time around.

Is that why I came back here? I don't know. Is this what I want to be doing five years from now? I don't know that, either. The possibility doesn't frighten me, as much as the fact at the moment I don't see any other options. That's what I fear the most. I'd better be happy where I'm at, because it's literally all I've got.

All my friends and lovers leave me behind
And I'm still looking for the girl
One way or another
I'm just hoping to find a way
To put my feet out in the world

As for "the girl"... well, my most recent relationship ended three years ago. I can't believe it's been that long, really. There isn't another one even remotely on the horizon... and frankly, given the choice between a girlfriend and an airplane, I'd probably take a Cessna.

I'm rather content being single, though I admit it does sting a little. Most of my friends are married, and even more have kids. Even an ex I absolutely, positively thought would never married -- I mean, never -- is not only happily married, but she also a son and a stepson. 

She's also now my "friend" on Facebook. Life is weird.

Caught some grief from a falling leaf
As she tumbled down to the dirty ground
said I should have put her back there if I could
Well everyone needs a better day
And I'm tryin' to find me a better way
To get from the things I do... to the things I should

In experience and sensibility, I feel more 25 than 35. There's a lingering immaturity in a lot of what I do and say, that I know I shouldn't still have. I also perceive myself as a younger man, immediately subservient to others in a group... even when I've been proclaimed the "leader." I think I do manage to correct that perception, and I know I'm capable of rallying others -- I've done it before, and enjoy the challenge -- but it still troubles me my first instinct is, "wait, really... are you sure you want me for this?"

And though I've always leaned to the right on most political issues, over the past year I've found myself becoming a fervent, almost militant conservative. Maybe not a Tea-Partier per se, but definitely a believer in small government, and forcing everyone to fend for themselves over relying on federal assistance. 

That's not so unique in this day and age... but what I find odd, and disquieting, is that some of my all-time heroes were passionate liberals. Robert Kennedy. MLK. At the top of that list is all-time favorite songwriter, Harry Chapin... who himself idolized Pete Seeger, and who donated all his earnings to fight world hunger. When did my attitude shift to "let the hungry feed themselves, we've all got our own problems to worry about?"

All my friends and lovers leave me alone
To try to have a little fun
One way or another
I just wish I had known
To go out walking in the sun
To find out if you were the one

I'm a pilot who hasn't flown in almost two years. I'm a dreamer who can't really remember the last dream I had. I'm a writer who seldom posts on my blog, and can't remember the last letter I wrote to my grandmother. (I'll bet she remembers, though, because it's so damnably rare.) 

I've let friendships evaporate because keeping them up was too much trouble, too taxing, too emotionally trying.

All you want is a beauty queen
Not a superstar... but everybody's dream machine
All you want is a place to lay your head
You go to sleep dreamin' how you would
Be a different kind if you thought you could
But you come awake the way you are instead

More than ever at 35 I realize the disconnect between how I perceive myself, and how others perceive me. I'm a fat guy with a thin self-image... until I look in the mirror and see with my own eyes how much I've let myself go over the past two years, and witness how much my girth has worn the fabric on the side of the driver's seat in the 6.

All my friends and lovers
They shine like the sun
Well I just turn and walk away
One way or another
I'm not comin' undone
I'm just waiting for the day

And, on 35, I find myself asking... when will the day get here? Or have I already let it pass by?

Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Karma Kar

Big news! An abbreviated version of this blog post ran on the popular automotive site "The Truth About Cars" on October 23, 2010. Not so big news! A poster to that forum correctly pointed out Mazda never offered a six-speed manual with the V6 engine - it was a five-speed I almost bought. Those who know me well know how much that relatively minor oversight bugs the heck out of me... RF

I fully intended to buy a new car on August 26, 2006. A loaded Mazda 6S Grand Touring with the 6-speed manual, Dark Cherry Red over beige leather, with in-dash CD changer and moonroof. I justified the extravagance as a reward to myself for getting through the last seven months following a health scare. Diagnosed with testicular cancer that January, I had been extremely fortunate in the time since the initial surgery. Monthly observation scans had shown no additional tumors, which meant no radiation or chemo.

The deal wasn't done that Saturday, though. The dealer's numbers were still a bit too high for my tastes, so I left that day in my Grand Am. I wasn't too worried, as I expected the dealer to come around in a day or two. The plan changed two days later, during the monthly consult with my oncologist.

I was still a nervous patient, and I sweated each CT, X-ray, blood test, and follow-up. Dr. Bhogaraju was extremely understanding of that fear, and it was his custom to greet me with the reassuring statement "you're OK." He didn't say it that day.

Instead, my latest CT had revealed an 8 mm growth on my left lung, and inflamed lymph nodes nearby. "We need to run some more tests," said Dr. B. "It's rare for TC to spread to the lungs, but it's possible. I'm recommending a PET scan, which will show us how 'hot' the inflammations are. We'll take it from there."

In the middle of all this was that red Mazda. Sure enough, the dealer did call that afternoon to say essentially, "you win." But now I was in no condition at all to buy a new car. In a daze, I told the salesman it looked like my cancer had come back, and I was not willing to sign my life away to anything for another five years.

Days without action turned into weeks, as my insurance company was reluctant to approve the expensive PET scan. I was a nervous wreck. A second CT was approved, and it showed the lung nodule had grown to 10 mm. My oncologist pushed for a surgical biopsy, and starting talking about the possibility of going on chemotherapy.

"But this could still be nothing," he told me more than once. The one positive was, my blood work showed no tumor markers... but that wasn't a guarantee it wasn't cancer. I didn't believe him. I felt I had already used up my positive karma for the year.

I come from an extremely close family. My mother planned to come to Dallas to stay with me during the surgery, and for however long after. This posed a problem; she couldn't drive my 5-speed Pontiac, and I certainly didn't want her renting a car for what could be a months-long stay. There was probably a better, cheaper solution to that quandary, but my addled mind couldn't grasp it... so, in mid-September I called the Mazda dealership again and asked about an automatic-equipped 6.

As it happened, there were several loaded models available with automatics. The dealer was even willing to 'split the difference' for the additional cost of the auto. Fear about my medical situation, however, instilled a newfound frugality. I told my salesman I wanted only a base V6 with an automatic. No sunroof, cloth seats.

I drove off the dealership the evening of September 16 with a Pebble Ash Metallic 6S, and a sense of resignation. I looked back sadly at my still-pristine Grand Am as I left. It had been the first car I'd purchased with the exact equipment I wanted -- the only Navy Blue 5-speed SE1 to be found in the entire DFW metroplex -- versus the compromise I now owned.

But the funny thing is... this story isn't really about that.


My new license plates arrived at the dealership on September 28. The dealer still owed me the delivery prep car wash -- it had been too late for the detail area to clean the car when I bought it -- so I made an afternoon of it. By that time, Blue Cross had finally approved the PET scan, for the first week in October. I was existing in a dream-like state, detached from my surroundings.

As I waited on the showroom floor for my car to come out of the service lane, one of the sales managers walked up to me. "Hey, got a second?"

We chatted a bit about the new showroom fixtures being installed at the dealership, as per Mazda dictate ("I think it's all just a way for Mazda to sell furniture," he quipped.) After a moment, he lowered his voice.

"Just so you know... I went through what you're now going through about 10 years ago," he said. It took me a second to understand what he was talking about. "TC. I had it, and had my last round of chemo right before my 35th birthday."

He told me about his experience. How he discovered he had it, and how it affected him. He told me about the "fucking asshole" urologist who had told him "he had good news and bad news"... where the good news was it was treatable. And he answered my questions... all of which were much more personal than the typical "car salesman/customer" relationship normally allows. 

He told me about his experience being on chemo... the hair loss ("I looked like Grasshopper from the Kung Fu movies"), the sickness, the smell. "And here it is 10 years later -- I got testicular cancer before it was 'cool' -- and I'm doing fine. It's never come back."

I was dazed. He didn't have to say anything; it's not a story a lot of men feel comfortable sharing with a stranger. Instead he chose to share his story, because he felt it would help me. And it did. I drove off the dealership lot that day more confident -- more heartened -- than I had felt since August 28.

Describing the experience to my friends and family later, I could only think of one phrase to capture that feeling. Though I am not particularly religious -- that was especially true at that time -- I felt that God spoke in that moment.

All because I bought a car... three weeks later than I'd planned to.


By divine intervention or just sheer luck, from that day onward... things started looking up. The PET was encouraging; the lung nodule had not increased further in size, and two of the three lymph nodes had actually shrunk. A surgical biopsy October 11 confirmed it wasn't cancer; this was all due to a comparatively minor respiratory infection. Antibiotics cleared it up.

It wasn't cancer. "I told you it was probably nothing," Dr. B said, grinning, at my next consultation. "By the way, did you ever get that car?"

My 'Karma Kar' just turned 40,000 miles last week, eight days shy of four years under my care. I don't plan on getting rid of it any time soon. And, so far, I'm still cancer-free today.

As you might be able to tell, I'm reluctant to say that's purely a coincidence.