Sunday, March 27, 2011

Human Nature

A few weeks ago I was over at a friend's house with a group of guys I've known for over twenty years.  The night went in two phases.  The first part of the night was filled with joking, reminiscing and making fun of each other.  Pretty standard stuff for people that have known each other for twenty plus years.  The second part of the night was a bit different than usual.  We had some very serious discussions about Human Nature and what it was.  It's not like we said, 'hey, what is human nature?'  but everything we started talking about came back to human nature.  These are conversations I never would have had when I met these guys in high school.  We weren't capable of such in depth conversations.  After all we didn't have the life lessons that have been taught to us over the last twenty (pushing twenty five now).  So, what is human nature and is it the link that binds us historically to our ancestors more than anything else?

According to Human Nature is:
the psychological and social qualities that characterize humankind, especially in contrast with other living things.

What does that mean?  My take on it is this, it's basically what makes us, as humans, unique from anything else on this planet.  A lot of it is how we react with the knowledge we know.  George Santayana's famous (often misquoted) saying "Those who can not remember the past are condemned to repeat it." is very thought provoking.  I'd like to take it one step further.  Even if we know history and the past, we see the mistakes and blunders of others, we often repeat them.  Why?  Not because we are stupid, if we were stupid we would have been extinct long ago.  But because we have human nature.  We make many choices based on our emotions.  Even if that does not make sense.  Why do you think it is said that hind sight is 20/20?  Because, looking back on situations in retrospect is usually done with less emotion and more of an analytical mind.  I feel our strong sense of emotions are one of the things that make us human.  So maybe the mistakes we make aren't really mistakes, they are just us doing what we do as human race.  

Tell me what you think?  Do you like to hear that your mistakes are part of who you are?  It also means your successes are part of who you are.   Have a great week and I'll hopefully post more later this week.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

The brown grass is turning greener!! (AKA: Brown Grass part II)

First off, congratulations to the Gathering Place for an incredibly fun and successful fundraiser at Crocker Park last week.  Dana and I had a great time working and playing there.  Once I find a link to some pictures I’ll post them so everyone locally can see what a great time it was and make a point to come out next year, if you couldn’t make it this year!!  Updated Sunday 8:50pm... Here is the link.

One of the deals you make with your doctors, after surviving cancer, is that you have to go back and see them periodically.  How often depends on a number of factors, what type of cancer and how long you’ve been finished with treatments are two determinants.  In my case I’ve been going back every three months since I’ve finished my treatments.  I’ll do that for two years.  After that I can cut down my follow up visits once every five to six months for a year or two.  Then after that I’ll go see them once a year.  This is all assuming there are no signs of cancer, which is what my doctors and I fully expect to find (or better said “not” find).

For my first few follow up visits it was always a relief to go see them.  I couldn’t wait for the next three months to go by.  I wanted and needed the reassurance that the once thing that threw my life into a tailspin was not coming back.  I craved those visits, wanted to hear the words from the doctors that everything was still fine and I’m doing great.  I heard it every time.  I didn’t care that those words sometimes needed to be accompanied by more tests, more needles, more lying still on a table for full body scans.  I didn’t care that I have to endure my all-time least favorite activity, “the nose scope”.  I craved those words like an addict craves his substance.

But now I’m fifteen months out.  The visits are getting routine.  I still enjoy going and love to hear those words that everything is OK.  But I don’t crave them with the same intensity.  Right after treatment you are like a newborn, who doesn’t understand what the future holds.  But, like a growing child, you gain more confidence in the results after every visit.  Going on my routine visit now is more like going to visit an old friend.  Even if I’ve only known these doctors for a couple years our circumstances for meeting and our connections thereafter were all very intense.  You can bond to them quickly.  Now that they are more in a monitoring phase, you kind of talk to them a bit differently and see them in a slightly different light.  I’m completely amazed at how brilliant they are at what they do.  Before cancer I knew that it went on.  Modern   Doctors have always worked tirelessly to save people’s lives from cancer.  During cancer you don’t think about it, you are in a partnership with them to get you through to tomorrow.  It’s not until after cancer, when the dust settles that the impact of what they do on a daily bases sinks in.  What a great feeling!!

I had one of these follow-up visits last Friday.  I am, once again, glad to hear that things are looking great for me.  I am still cancer free.   I am also glad to see my “old friends” again.  If for no other reason,  just to appreciate what they do.

Does anyone have any comments on visiting doctors for any type of follow-up visits?  What if you don’t get along with your doctors, or disagree with them?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Congratulations Discovery, you finished off strong.

Before I talk about the Space Shuttle Discovery I have a quick announcement.  If anyone reading this is in the Cleveland Area there is a great event going on this Saturday March 12th at Crocker Park.  It's a fundraiser  that benefits the Gathering Place.  The Gathering Place's mission is to support, educate and empower individuals and families touched by cancer through programs and services provided free of charge.  My family and I used their services a lot during my fight with cancer.  Click here for details.  I hope to see you there. Now, back to the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Space shuttle Discovery completed the orbiter's final mission this week.  It landed at the Kennedy Space Center this week for the final time.   Check out it's final landing here.

There are only two space shuttle flights left until NASA closes it's doors on a program that started thirty years ago on April 12, 1981.  The two remaining flights will launch soon.  Endeavour will fly it's last flight on April 19th and will be commanded by Mark Kelly,  the husband of Gabrielle Gifford, the congress woman who was shot in Arizona earlier this year.  The final shuttle mission will be flown by the space shuttle Atlantis on June 28.  This 

final flight from the Atlantis will be the 135th time a space shuttle has flown a mission.

According to NASA's website Discovery is named for two famous sailing ships; one sailed by Henry Hudson in 1610-11 to search for a northwest passage between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and the other by James Cook on a voyage during which he discovered the Hawaiian Islands.

Here are a few highlights from this incredible piece of machinery.
  • It's flown into space more than any other space vehicle.
  • Took the Hubble Telescope into space.
  • Launched countless satellites into space.
  • Ferried people and modules to and from the International Space Station.
  • Over 350 days in orbit.
  • Circled Earth over 5600 times.
  • Traveled over 143 million miles (That's to the Sun and 1/2 way back)
  • The first space shuttle to visit the Russian Space Station Mir.

One of the most important statistics in my mind is the role Discovery had in bringing people back into space after both the Challenger and the Columbia disasters.  It was the first shuttle to fly after each of these disasters, restoring America's pride and faith in the space program.  It reminded us and the world of the resolve the people of the United States have.  It was a symbol for determination and persistence and reminded us all that we must rise from the ashes of tragedies like these and keep moving forward.  If not, then the deaths of those astronauts would have been in vain.

The space shuttle program has always been an incredible source of pride for me, as I was too young to experience first-hand the rocket programs and moon landings so many decades before the first space shuttle ever lifted off.  I've grown up with the space shuttles and now that they are about to retire it gives me the same feeling I get when other great events in life are coming to an end.  Sadness that they are going yet excitement to see what their children and grandchildren will be like.  Congratulations and Farewell Discovery, you've had a great career and I enjoyed watching you over the last 30 years.

What are your thoughts of the Space Shuttle Discovery?  Is it something you enjoy or something you just don't care about?  Leave a comment or take the poll on the left side of this posting.  It's open until March 17th.

If you have time check out this video from NASA that is a great history of the Space Shuttle Discovery.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

A Cancer Survivor's View - The grass is always browner on the other side

Wow!! That's some brown grass.
I'm glad mine isn't that brown.
When I was going through chemotherapy and radiation, I often had to look internally for a pick up.  I had plenty of external support, probably more than, or at least as much as, most.  My wife and kids, my family, friends even my Doctor's throughout the whole process were telling me things were going great.  Sometimes, you just feel alone.  It's no ones fault.  That is just the way it is.  You tell me they are going great but I can't hear, taste, sleep, swallow, keep weight on or much more.  This vicious cycle has the potential to whittle away some of the positive attitude you brought in to the process with you.  How much more can a body take?  I found out that the body can take much more than mine went through,  if it had too.  As long as the mind enforces the fact that that this whole experience is temporary.  If it's six months or five years, there will be some times better than others and it will end.  This was especially true for me.  I was told, even before I started any treatments, that there would be a definite start and end to it.  There was a chance we would have to go further with more treatments but odds were it would be finished.  So what did I do to get me through, once my mind started getting taxed and frustrated?  I looked at the brown grass.

Sounds odd and even now thinking about it, it sounds very selfish.  But there is a point where you have to stop putting energy into pretending you are doing fine so everyone else is comfortable and just focus internally on what you have to do to get better.  Let me explain what I mean by "brown grass".  We all know the saying, the grass is always "greener" on the other side.  It implies that when you are having hard times, you look around you and see that other people are seemingly doing so much better than you.  That really seems to just get you down further, I never really understood that.  Here is how my "brown grass" theory works.

My radiation treatments were always at the same time.  Every day at 10:00 am.  As you can imagine many people have the same times for there appointments.  Maybe 9:45 or 10:15 but you start noticing the same people hanging out in the waiting room.  Over time, you make eye contact and smile, maybe strike up a conversation.  It's not too hard to strike up conversation, you know right off the bat that you have something in common.  One day, my wife and I were talking to Bill and his wife.  Bill had cancer in his neck too.  He was quite a few years older than I was and about three weeks ahead of me in treatments.  That means he had around fifteen more radiation treatments than I did at the time.  I was always amazed at how well Bill was doing.  He walked in every day, smiled at everyone and would strike up conversations.  He really seemed to be doing well.  Bill and I were talking about how things were changing physically for each of us.  I had a hard time hearing him because the chemo and radiation were doing a number on my hearing at that time.  I flat out told him, "Bill, you look like your doing great, but I can't really hear what you are saying."  In response Bill said, very loudly,  "Oh, that's OK that you can't hear me because I can't see you OR hear you."  When we realized we were both having similar issues, it struck us as funny and started laughing hysterically.

There was another guy I met, who was younger than Bill, probably just a few years older than me.  He was having a rough time because he always considered himself a 'Bull' in life. He was a real tough guy.  But the cancer treatments were really taking him down a notch.  The bull wasn't as tough as he initially thought.  None of us were.  But we were all getting through it.

Another friend, similar troubles and another and another.  But we were all getting through it somehow.  I realized, as bad as I felt other people were feeling just as bad (or worse) and they were getting through it, so I could too. "The grass is always browner on the other side,"  was born.  I may have been struggling through the experience, but to see Bill, the "Bull" and others struggling helped me realize I wasn't alone in my experience.  My hope is that by them seeing me struggle they could gain some strength from me as well.  I didn't care if they perceived me as doing 'worse' than they were.  In my perspective their brown grass helped me, but my brown grass was helping them too.

Over time we all lost touch with each other but I often think of them and how their lives are progressing. I only hope they are doing as well as I am.  It's time for the brown grass to turn green and give inspiration to others  in that way.

Have you dealt with getting through cancer treatments or any rough spots in your life?  How did you get through it, did you look to others with a similar situation and draw strength from them?

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Cardiac Sarcoma

Hearts are STRONG!!
Today’s post is to bring attention to a type of cancer that does not hit a lot of people.  I can relate to this. I can’t tell you how many people said to me ‘tonsil cancer, I’ve never heard of it’ when I was fighting cancer.    Actually I’ve never heard of tonsil cancer before it hit me.  However, when you are going through it, you get an intimate understanding of what it is and want everyone else to know that too.  This cancer I’m writing about today is called Cardiac Sarcoma.  It affects barely ten thousand people in the USA per year.  I’d be curious to find the world wide numbers.   Today’s posting is inspired by a friend of Dana’s (my wife) from high school.  His name is Joe and he was diagnosed with Cardiac Sarcoma and is currently battling it.  Take a moment and say a prayer, send positive thoughts or do whatever you can to help out Joe.  I had a lot of prayers said for me during my battle with tonsil cancer and I’m sure that is one of the main reasons I got through it.

I’ve been researching Cardiac Sarcoma to find out more about it and this is what I came up with.  This post is by no means a medical document and should not be read that way.

What is it?  Cardiac Sarcoma is basically a tumor that grows on the heart.  This is a malignant tumor so you can image how important and urgent treatment is, once diagnosed.  According to many sources, including the actual definition is:

Cardiac sarcoma is a type of tumor that occurs in the heart. Cardiac sarcoma is a primary malignant (cancerous) tumor. Tumors are considered to be either primary tumors or secondary tumors. A primary tumor is the original site of tumor growth. A secondary tumor originates from another tumor elsewhere in the body

From what I read if the tumor started it the heart it is most likely cancer.  However there are some sarcomas that start in other soft tissues of the body, usually those are not malignant.  Even if they eventually travel to the heart.  The type that starts elsewhere is considered a secondary tumor once in the heart.

What are the symptoms?  Well this is always tricky, but depending on where the tumor is located by (or in) the heart you can have the following (and more):
  • Coughing Up Blood
  • Fever
  • Unexplained Weight Loss
  • Chest Pain
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Always Tired
  • Irregular Heartbeats
  • Trouble Breathing
What is the Treatment?  Treatment seems to be the same treatment used for a lot of cancers including Surgery, Radiation and Chemotherapy.  The one treatment that is different is getting a heart transplant.  Treatments depend on a number of factors including how advanced the cancer is, your age,  expectations of the disease and your opinion.

Finishing Up:  Cancer sucks, plain and simple.  Heart issues suck.  When the two are put together ist seems like a terrifying combination.  However, the human spirit can overcome a lot.  Hang in there Joe and family.  You can take this cancer down.

Does anyone else know about Cardiac Sarcoma?  If so, tell me something I didn’t find by doing some research.  

Thursday, February 24, 2011

My rants on the Oscars 2011

Please be warned:  this is a complete rant.  If you want to read something serious about movies, you are in the wrong place. 

What do Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids are All Right, The King's Speech, 127 hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit and Winter's Bones have in common? If you said they are all nominated to win an Academy Award this year you are correct, good job.  That was an easy one, even I could get that one.  I have another question for you, if you took that same list of movies and took away Toy Story 3, what do those movies have in common?  Any guesses, come on.....  Answer: I haven't seen any of them.  Guess what?  I'm still llooking forward to the Oscars on Sunday night.  I'll probably watch most of the show and then either fall asleep on the couch or just throw in my towel and go to bed.  Even if I fall asleep or go to bed, I'll still know who won Best Movie, Best Director and Best Actor/Actress before morning.  I'll know because I have a wonderful wife, every man's dream.  Guess what she'll do after the Oscars are over with?  She'll crawl into bed and ever so seductively whisper in my ear who won.  Then we'll both crash so get your minds out of the gutter!! 

Even though I haven't seen those movies doesn't mean I won't.  At this period in our lives Dana and I are about one year or so behind seeing movies.  We'll catch a few in the theaters, but mostly we catch them after they are released to on-demand or DVD/Blue Ray.  I'm trying to think what the last movie she and I saw in the Theater's together was.... I'm seriously thinking here, um................................................................................thinking.........................................................................................
.....thinking.......................................  I give up.  OH Wait I know this one it was called DAMN it just slipped my mind, it was the one with Julia Roberts and Javier Bardem, I just opened up another tab in my browser and am going to look it up on  I can't believe I don't remember the name.  EAT PRAY LOVE!!! Yea I remember.  Sorry to let you down guys (people of the male persuasion that are reading this) , I know it was a chick flick, but you know what it was a nice date movie to watch with my wonderful wife.  Besides that, she now thinks she owes me one.  Of course she doesn't but I'm not going to throw away a free opportunity to watch some gratuitously violent, crazy man show.  Anyway, I actually liked Eat Pray Love it was an enjoyable movie.  I certainly digress.

Even though we don't see many movies in the theater's it's still nice to take some time out from reality and enjoy a good Oscars show.  Anne Hathaway and James Franco are a couple of cool kids, they could be great hosts.  Even if they flop, they are both nicer to look at than the Golden Globe host Ricky Gervais.  Although he had the humor thing going for him at the Golden Globes (most of the time).

This is really funny, I don't actually have a point to this posting, except to generally say that even though I don't see a lot of movies until they've left the big screen, I do enjoy them.  They are a better escape than drugs and alcohol, that's for sure.  One last point before I close up, I did see Tangled on the big screen.

With all the issues in the world right now, protests and riots in Libya, Bahrain, Tunisia, Egypt and all the protests (and soon to be riots)  in the US about collective bargaining for the Unions, if you are one of the people fortunate enough to have the night off from protests, rioting, worrying about gas prices, wars, finances, hunger, sickness, cancer or anything else go ahead and watch the Academy Awards.  Of course that basically excludes us all.  We all have something or someone in today's crazy world that is affected by something serious.  So if you are a movie buff, or just in the need of a couple hour escape, go ahead and do it.  Enjoy them... I will.

OK People Let's get your comments flowing.  Give me your votes on who is going to win the Big 4 - Best Movie, Best Director, Best Actor and Best Actress.

  • Black Swan
  • The Fighter
  • Inception
  • The Kids are All Right
  • The King's Speech
  • 127 Hours
  • The Social Network
  • Toy Story 3
  • True Grit
  • Winter's Bone
Best Director
  • Darren Aronofsky - Black Swan
  • David O. Russell - The Fighter
  • Tom Hooper - The King's Speech
  • David Finchner - The Social Network
  • Joel Coen and Ethan Coen - True Grit
Actor in a Leading Role
  • Javier Bardem - Biutiful
  • Jeff Bridges - True Grit
  • Jesse Eisenberg - The Social Network
  • Colin Firth - The King's Speech
  • James Franco - 127 Hours
Actress in a Leading Role
  • Annette Bening - The Kid's are All Right
  • Nicole Kidman - Rabbit Hole
  • Jennifer Lawrence - Winter's Bone
  • Natalie Portman - Black Swan
  • Michelle Williams - Blue Valentine

Sunday, February 20, 2011

President's Day - Let's take a moment to reflect.

Who knows what President's Day is?  In the United States most of us do.  It's to honor the nation's first President, George Washington, and one of the nation's most celebrated President's, Abraham Lincoln, right?  Both of their birthday's are in February, Abraham Lincoln's is February 12th while George Washington's birthday is either February 22nd or February 11th, depending on if you are using the "Gregorian" or "Julian" calendar (to see more on this click here).  Depending on what part of the country you are from it may be to honor all past and current Presidents.

I like President's Day.  It is supposed to be a time to reflect on why we, as a nation, are where we are at this point in time.  I've gotten more interested as time goes on in these two great historical figures.  No matter what the present and future hold for our great country, our past is set and these two men have shaped the nation in ways that I'm not sure they even would realize.  Do you think they ever thought that this country would have over three hundred million people in it?  I wonder if they ever thought about it.

George Washington, after his death was know as "first in war, first in peace, and first in the hearts of his countrymen."  You can't summarize someones life in one sentence, but that one sentence is pretty powerful when  put in the context of George Washington.  I'm not going to regurgitate what history books and scholars can convey  much better than I can about George Washington.  What I can add is when I think about what this man accomplished and all he overcame I can see a glimpse of what he must have been.  He must have been an incredibly intelligent, hard working, driven and gutsy person.  Do people in today's world stand up for what they believe in like he did?

Abraham Lincoln is known for many accomplishments as well.  His greatest feat was abolishing slavery in the United States of America while keeping his country from staying split in two.  While it was George Washington's fate to guide people in creating this nation, it was Abraham Lincoln's duty to keep it from going too far in the wrong  direction.  At the time of Abraham Lincoln's Presidency, a lot of politicians were hot on the Constitution and using that as the sole guideline for running the country.  Abraham Lincoln, focused more on the morality of the Declaration of Independence and it's emphasis on freedom and equality.  

So while most of the kids in our nation will be off school and some of the adults that work will not have to go into work for the day.  Take a moment and reflect why we are not working or at school.  Do a little research and   find out about these two men who helped put our nation where it is today.  Why not make it a goal to take a few minutes and look into some other presidents that you don't know much about.  

Lastly, I want you to comment on some facts you know about these two men.  Better yet, if you know any facts about any presidents that you would like to share.... do it now.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

My dear Watson, are you for real?

I had some help with today's posting.  My son Avery is a huge 'Watson' fan.  He helped me with picking pictures and posting this entry.  Thanks Avery!!

This is Watson.  The winner of Jeopardy
Did anyone watch the three days of Jeopardy earlier this week?  It took two of the biggest winners in Jeopardy history and pitted them against a computer named ‘Watson’ created by IBM.  The two humans involved were Ken Jennings and Brad Rutter.  Ken Jennings holds the title of most consecutive wins on Jeopardy.  In 2004 he won seventy four uninterrupted games of Jeopardy.  He won over 3.1 million dollars on Jeopardy not to mention another 300,000 dollars this week for coming in second place.  Brad Rutter holds the title for winning the most money on Jeopardy with over 3.2 million dollars (not to mention cars and other items) as well as winning 200,000 dollars this week for coming in third place.  These two champions have what it takes to win.  They have the intelligence to answer the questions correctly and the ability to play the game, not to mention nerves of steel.  So what about our third contestant and three day winner?  Watson is a computer that has the ability to understand the human language and answer questions asked of it.  It’s an artificial intelligence program that has very sophisticated algorithms to help it get to the correct answer.  An algorithm is like the computer’s thought process.  It is developed by the people who created Watson over at IBM.

Watson's body
It seems like the computer was just too much for our two human champions.  Although there were times that it came out with the wrong answer or would wager odd amounts in the daily double and final Jeopardy, overall it seemed to perform better than its human counterparts, at least on answering these sets of questions.  The three days were enjoyable to watch though.   Although the score seemed like a blowout, there were times when the humans were giving the computer a run for its money.  For instance at the end of day one, Brad was tied with Watson.  Then, during day three Ken was beating Watson for a while.   However, here is one huge advantage that Watson had, he didn’t get frustrated.  If it got beat to the buzzer five times in a row it would still have the same chance at getting question number six correct as it did before.  Brad and Ken were sometimes visibly frustrated when Watson would go on a question winning streak.  They would have to regain their composure, which they always did, to move on.  Watson never had composure to lose or regain.

Another picture of Watson's body
The creators of Watson did give him some personality.   The physical ‘Watson’ was made up of two basic parts, the computer and the representation of that computer.  The computer itself was huge and stored back stage, but his representation was an Avatar, as represented in the image above.  It looked like it had a head, and you could see when he was thinking and when he was frustrated or upset that he got a question wrong by watching the colors of the avatar change.  Of course he was never truly upset or frustrated or happy for that matter.   The creators just programmed that humanity in him so we would enjoy the show more.  So it boils down like this, we the audience saw a ‘human’ side of Watson with his changing colors, voice and perceived emotion.  Ken and Brad saw the ‘inhuman’ side of Watson with his ruthless ability and speed to answer questions over and over again, like the machine was designed to do.

Thinking Watson
Happy Watson
Overall it was a very enjoyable three days of Jeopardy.  I’m not a regular watcher because it seems like there is always something else going on, but we did make time for these days and we are glad we did.  It got me thinking though.   How far off is artificial intelligence from having a major role in human affairs?  Will the computers be tricky like ‘Hal’ from 2001 a space odyssey or ruthless like the robots from the Terminator movies?  Is this sci-fi coming to life or life becoming sci-fi?  Only time will tell.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Running, why do people like it?

We’ve all seen those insane people running in the middle of winter.  How about when you are going into work at 7:00am and you see that same person, running the same path with a big smile on their face.  There is this guy I see running every morning in the summer time.  He waves to every car as they drive by.  Are those smiles on runner’s faces or grimaces of pain?  Runners can easily disguise pain as pleasure because in the extreme forms of pain and pleasure your teeth show and no one knows if you are smiling or cursing.  Why do people run?

WAIT, all you runners don’t stop reading here.  I’m actually a proponent of running although it may not sound like it from above.  Let’s be strait here, there are different levels of running.  Some people look like they are born to run (my son Avery for one), others look like every step they take is a struggle (me for instance).  Then there are those who are somewhere in between.  The one thing to keep in mind is exercise is so good for you, if you aren’t into running that’s OK.  What I’m saying here can be applied to any exercise.  The key to exercise is to find something you will have fun doing.  If you aren’t training for some kind of competition, don’t worry about keeping stats and watching improvements.  If you keep consistently exercising you will improve.

I’ve always had a love/hate relationship with running and until recently I didn’t know why. I’m not talking about running with a ball in front of you like soccer or basketball, or running after you hit a ball like baseball.  I’m talking about running in its purest form.  For all you literary students think of the ‘Man vs. Himself’ conflict in literature.  I’ve found this to be my biggest challenge in running, myself.  At least it has been until now.  I only started to enjoy running when I did it for leisure a few years ago.  I’ll back up for a moment though.

My first memories of running were when I played soccer.  It was fun, but of course there was a ball in front of me.  Then I kept playing soccer.  All of the sudden when I got to high school the coaches wanted us to be in great shape.  “On your off days you should run ten miles to keep in shape.” They would say.  Wanting to be in great shape, so I could play soccer more, I ran.  It wasn’t very fun though.  Fast forward a few years.  I’m looking for an exercise I can do during lunchtime at work.  I worked downtown Cleveland at the time.  A friend and work colleague of mine said, let’s run together.  “Sure, let’s do that” I said.  Well, he was way above me in stamina and running skill so he would always get ahead of me and I would try to keep up, killing myself in the process.  Who likes this running thing?  I quickly bagged it for some other form of exercise that worked for me.  I thought my strait running days were over with.

Then a few years ago my son Avery heard about this cross country team from a local school.  He thought he would give it a try.  He is a natural runner and took to it quickly.  I would go to his practices and watch him.  It looked like he was having fun.  He actually told us that he finds peace while running.  It’s very calming for him.  What better endorsement than from a family member.  I decided to try it again, just for fun this time.  My first few times were a struggle.  Then it started to get easier.  Then I started to look around the trails and noticed the nature we were running through.  I was really breathing in the fresh air.  To top it off I was spending time with my son and some of his friends.  We carry on conversations while running.  I’ve met some great people.   I got to know other kids and parents from this group.  The running team is coached by the most positive coaches I’ve seen, ever.  What an incredible environment for the kids.  OK I’m hooked.  I actually like running.   Now I’m in mid-winter and have other forms of exercise to keep me busy but I’m getting the itch to start up running again.  I can’t wait until spring.  Nature, fresh air, camaraderie, I get it now.  As long as I keep the perspective of doing it for fun and not setting goals that I can’t keep, I’ll be running for a while.  I understand that most runners are smiling and not grimacing.  Do what works for you.

Do you like to run?  If so, do you run by yourself or with others?  Competition, social or fun running?  If you don’t run what is your reasoning?  

Thursday, February 10, 2011

What do you know about acupuncture?

I don’t know all the inner workings of acupuncture.   However I do understand the basic principles that it works on.  As most of us know acupuncture was first practiced in China and has been practiced there for thousands of years.  Acupuncturists believe there are meridians or channels that run up and down the body in which our vital energy flows.  This is not unlike how blood flows through series of blood vessels.  The vital energy is not blood and the meridians are not blood vessels but the concepts are similar.  Stuff, be it blood or energy, flows throughout the body.  When the energy flow is disrupted an imbalance is created and sickness occurs.  The purpose of acupuncture is to repair the disrupted flow and bring balance (and therefore health) back to the body.  To accomplish this, the acupuncturist uses a series of needles that are placed into the body, specifically the meridians, to restore the proper flow of energy.  When going through my cancer treatments I had acupuncture done to me to help relieve some of the side effects.  Do you think it was able to help me?  Can acupuncture help others that have to go through these treatments for cancer?

Cancer treatments like Chemotherapy and Radiation are designed to get rid of cancer cells, or at least keep them in check.  The problem is they don’t distinguish the healthy cells from the cancer cells.  So you lose plenty of the healthy cells too.  Once you start losing a significant amount of healthy cells you can start to see and feel the side effects of the treatments.  You can experience a wide range of side effects, anything from hair and appetite loss to weakness and fatigue.  The list goes on and on because your body is made of healthy cells.  Think of damaging or taking blocks of them away.  Let’s compare it to a decaying house.  Parts of the house start getting worse while others are standing strong, but eventually, if not attended to, the decay will take over and the house will fall down.  Once these cells start getting damaged the vital energy flow in your body is getting disrupted too.  There are many ways to minimize and relieve these side effects, with varying degrees of success.   Dana suggested I try acupuncture.  She used it in the past and had a positive experience.

I was lucky to find an acupuncturist that worked close by.  He has a place in the next city over from where I live.  It was only about a five minute drive.  Although he was not the acupuncturist that Dana used, he did have a great recommendation from a friend.  He is so busy that at the time he didn’t even take new patients without a recommendation.  Later he told us he can work twelve hours a day and still have people waiting.  He has three single patient rooms that he rotates between.  He pops in and out of the rooms constantly working on people.  He was born in China, so acupuncture has always been part of his culture and life.  He has been working for many years (twenty or more) as an acupuncturist.  However, he still goes to China every few years to continue his study.  He is as reputable as they come.

Every appointment I had with our acupuncturist was similar.  He always wanted me to bring my blood test results and would look them over before he treated me.  He also asked a series of questions which related to my general mental and physical health, energy and attitude.  Then he would pull the lower eyelid down and look at the blood vessels in my eye.  After that he knew how he would treat me for that day.  I can’t pretend to know how he made his decisions about treatment but I do know he had a very specific method.  He would assure us that the acupuncture would help.  He once told us that in China if someone has cancer and has to go through chemotherapy and radiation that it would be standard for them to also use acupuncture to help relieve the side effects.

I had seven weeks of radiation therapy with three chemotherapy sessions scattered throughout.  The main treatment for getting rid of the tumors was the radiation.  The chemo was supposed to enhance the effectiveness of the radiation and pickup any spare cancer cells that may have started spreading in regions beyond my neck.  I started the acupuncture close to the second of my three chemotherapy sessions.  The chemotherapy sessions were very intense so I would have one then I would wait for three to four weeks to have another one.  After my first session my white blood cells dropped so low that I couldn’t have my second one three or even four weeks later.  At this point I was in danger of not having enough time to fit my third treatment in.  Then came the acupuncture, not only did I fit my third chemotherapy session in, but I actually did it a week earlier than planned.  Usually toward the end of treatment your body would have more trouble generating enough white blood cells to have another chemotherapy session.  I also have to add that the doctor who was in charge of my radiation therapy said that he had never seen anyone handle it as well as I did.  He even called me superman.  Of course it’s not like I had an easy time with these treatments, I just find it curious that toward the end of my treatments I seemed to be doing better than most people expected me to be.  I can attribute that to my acupuncture.

The effectiveness of the acupuncture is a hard thing to measure.  I’ve never gone through cancer treatments without it to compare.  However, I believe that the acupuncture did help my body heal quicker and help me recuperate in enough time to fit in all of my cancer treatments.  I continued to use acupuncture for several months after my cancer treatments ended.  It helped my body restore it’s vitality in a quicker fashion that it would have without the acupuncture.

Who else out there has used acupuncture?  What did you use it for?  Do you think it had any effects on you?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Why are some days better than others?

Why does it seem that some days are better than others?  Is it fate, karma, luck, astrology or just plain randomness?  I got to thinking about this the other day when I had a “bad” day.  It was actually a bad few hours, but those few hours seemed like a day in length.  I remember thinking “when will this stop? “   The bad events did stop, as they always do.  Not only did they stop but something good came out of it.  I got another idea for a post on my blog.  I figured out why bad things aren’t always bad and I can tell you why.

Within a twelve hour period, all these things happened to me.
  • I was at a stop light and was hit from behind.
  • Found out both cars need tires and one needs breaks too.
  • The morning was extra hectic because my wife had somewhere to be and was in the shower.  Leaving me to battle the feisty kids and get them ready for school on my own.
  • My dog threw up all over her bed and herself.  Not just a little, I’m talking more vomit than I’ve ever seen come from a dog. 
  • My garage door broke.  So I couldn’t drive my ‘hit from behind’ car into work.
  • The toilet started leaking.
  • We noticed ants in our kitchen.  You have to remember it is January in Cleveland Ohio, I didn’t even know ants were around.
  • Five light bulbs blew within a two hour period.
Any of these things alone would be simple to handle.  Even looking back at that list now, it just doesn’t seem like a big deal for a twelve hour period of time.  Actually though it was more like three hours, because out of that twelve I was sleeping for seven, getting ready for sleep (and then work)  and showing for one, working out for one and helping the kids with a puzzle for one.  Those were the calm times in the twelve hour span.  But when they all happened together, in the order they did as fast as they did, my mind wanted to explode.  I eventually fixed my garage door enough so it would open and close.  I was just going to get a late start to the day.

This all happened on the Catholic feast day of St. Blaise.  He is the Patron Saint of throat illness.  It is said that St. Blaise, as a young man, healed a boy that came to him with a fish-bone stuck in his throat.  That is how he became the Patron Saint of throat illness.  Naturally, having gone through throat cancer, I wanted to go to mass that day and give thanks for having all that behind me, also to get my throat blessed again.  So on my way to mass, which I was late for because of my trying morning, I felt a sense of calm come over me that continued to intensify during the mass.

After mass I was lucky enough that it continued throughout the rest of the day.  But that morning and the evening before were something to behold.  In the drive to work I started thinking about how I was reacting to all of this.  I actually became thankful that these things happened.  I remembered that one year ago I was a zombie on the couch hoping that my body could recover from the trauma of chemotherapy and radiation treatments.  Everyone told me it would, but it sure didn’t feel like it.  At that time, if these ‘inconvenient events’ happened, I wouldn’t have been able to react at all.  

Point #1: I was alive and happy enough to react to these things happening to me.  Hey!! That’s great.  I survived cancer.  What about all the people currently going through life altering events like we were last year.  It made me think of the news story I saw about the streets of Mentor lined on both sides as a memorial to a fallen soldier.   Not only was this hero a soldier, but a father, husband, family member and many other titles, I’m sure of it.  OK, so a hit car and broken garage door isn’t that bad after all.

Point #2: Some of these “bad” events made me take a closer look at some things that needed attention anyway.  Sure the cars need tires and breaks, but that will help keep us safe.  The garage door may seem like an inconvenience to fix, but in these frigid temperatures, it’s better than having to get out of the car to open/close the garage door.

Point #3: Timing seems to be everything with these bad events.   Good events too, there will be a time when the pendulum swings the other way and we will get a ton of good news from different sources.  Most things are only as bad as you perceive them to be at the time.  I stress “most”.  

Tell me about something that happened to you recently that you considered “bad” or a major inconvenience and then after a few hours realized, it wasn’t as bad as first perceived.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Lance Armstrong. Is he really doping?

Lance Armstrong after his seventh TDF Win!!
Last Week Lance Armstrong finished his last international competition as a cyclist.  The Tour Down Under is an intense 470-mile race that runs through southern Australia.  It’s also where he made his return to competition, three years ago.  He finished in 67th place.  It makes you think, you mean 66 people finished before the supreme athlete who won seven Tour de Frances? A feat that no other human has ever accomplished.  Come on now, just the fact that he is still competing with people almost half his age is impressive.  He is still the juggernaut that he has always been in cycling.  He deals with the same thing we all deal with, if we’re lucky, aging.

I’m not commenting on his outstanding career as a cyclist today. Nor am I commenting on all the amazing accomplishments he has achieved.  Take a look for yourself on what he and his organization, Livestrong, have done for cancer research, prevention and cure. ( Today we are going to talk about the dead horse that people keep beating.  That’s right, ‘the doping scandal’ has started up again.

Let me start by saying, Lance has never tested positive for any type of performance enhancing drugs.  However, several people claim they have firsthand knowledge of his use.  Who are these people? Betsy Andreu, the wife of a former teammate of Armstrong’s, who has had an axe to grind with Armstrong for years.   Floyd Landis, a TDF winner who had his own title stripped from him for doping, another former teammate of Armstrong’s who now openly admits he was doping.  It’s just a case of someone lying, but who is it?  Even Sports Illustrated is getting in on the witch hunt as they reported that initial screenings of some tests in the 90’s showed excessive testosterone levels.  However, if I recall correctly the ‘B’ tests, which are taken at the same time as the original (A) tests as a backup, came up negative.  That’s why they have a ‘B’ test to disprove (or prove) positive ‘A’ results.  The SI reporter claims, as she was writing this story that she asked Armstrong for some information about this for two weeks and he never got back to her.  Finally, his lawyer responded.  Frankly, I would do the same thing, he has been bothered by this for years and come out innocent every time, why even give them the time of day?  Right, and by the way, Armstrong’s lawyer responded by sending the SI reporter documents with information that helps prove Armstrong’s innocence.  Those documents were never used in the SI report.  If you are going to report on a subject, do it with all the information available, or don’t do it at all.

The other thing that brings the intensity of this round of allegations up is that Armstrong and Landis were teammates on a cycling team sponsored by the U.S. Postal service, essentially making them government employees.  If things go the wrong way for Lance charges could come up against him that deal with defrauding the U.S. Government.   What are we missing here people?  If that is the case, wouldn’t Landis and all his other teammates need to have the same charges brought up against them?  After all the claim is that the whole team was doping, under Armstrong’s leadership.   There are even claims that in the 2004 TDF the team bus driver faked bus troubles on a remote road so the team could have time to undergo blood transfusions out of the public eye.  Really?  Wouldn’t that be the most watched team in the whole TDF?  This was the New York Yankees or the LA Lakers of the cycling world.

If you look at the extensive tests and results throughout the years, why would you even go after him again?  Why is there a certain group of people that think he is guilty?  Are they such bitter people that seeing some else succeed so much drives them to take him down?  On the other hand, a lot of the people that claim he was doping were at one time very close to him.  Maybe they know something we don’t.  I want to believe that doping was not how Armstrong had such a successful cycling career.  I can say with certainty that there is one man who knows for sure.  

There have been tests done on his body on why he is so good.  His lungs have an incredible ability to take in and use oxygen more efficiently than anyone else that have ever been tested.  Team that up with his other physical conditioning and his mental drive to succeed and I think we have an innocent cyclist.  Let’s think about all he’s accomplished outside of cycling.  When he was twenty five he had testicular cancer in such an advanced stage that his doctors gave him less than a forty percent chance of living.  I would say it takes some faith and drive to make it through that. For those that don’t know, that was before he even won one TDF yet.   Maybe he had this type of obsessive drive before or maybe it was formed in his fight against cancer.  Whenever he got it, he also used it in his professional cycling career.  I believe that is how he won the seven TDFs, not by doping.

I’m throwing my hat to the ‘innocent’ side.  I believe that Lance Armstrong did not take performance enhancing drugs during his professional cycling career.  What does anyone else think?  Do some research, post some comments on what you find.

What do you think?  Is Lance Armstrong the subject of unfair allegations year after year, or is he pulling off the biggest doping cover up in the history of sports?

Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Answer

Alright people, I’ve kept you waiting long enough.  I don’t like dragging things out.  After these many days of waiting (it’s been at least two weeks since I’ve started this blog) I’m going to comment on what the space between means to me and where the inspiration came from.  I’ve read many great comments on it, everything from Buber or Kierkegaard to Dave Matthews, “that moment of consciousness when you become ‘aware’”, “the space between my cancer diagnosis and cure”, “the moments between waking and sleeping and the conscious/unconscious shift into reality”, comparison to the importance of the space between the logs of a fire where oxygen is needed to fuel that fire, “the wisdom of life’s experiences that can open our eyes”.  All these are very thought provoking comments.   I’ve thought more than a minute on each of these. I’ve realized you guys are deep.  I’m going to have to dig deep into my mind to keep a crowd like this entertained and coming back. 

As one reader stated, and I agree... To this day I’m still singing the “Space Between” song by Dave Matthews.  It’s been stuck in my head since I started this blog.  It’s a great song but I may consider changing the name of the blog to see if helps get that song out of my head. 

As I’ve stated several times throughout my blog, including my ‘About’ section, the ‘Space Between’ for me can be anywhere I’m at where my brain has a down moment.  It is like an ‘Ah-Ha’ moment.  You aren’t thinking of anything in particular and a thought pops into your head.  A lot of times it’s a profound thought, sometimes though not so profound. 

I liken this to something I learned while studying Jeet Kune Do. <SIDEBAR> Jeet Kune Do is the style of Marital Arts the legendary martial artist and actor Bruce Lee developed.  He developed this devastating style after realizing that all the traditional styles of martial arts were not working for him.  Jeet Kune Do, compared to some of these more traditional styles, is very direct in its approach.  Every movement has deliberate meaning.  It has economy of motion because no movement is wasted.  However, I digress into the subject for another day’s post.<END SIDEBAR>  Why did I even bring Bruce Lee and Jeet Kune Do up?  Because one thing I learned in my JKD training was to never stop for a moment.  Better put “in emptiness, punch”.  Basically, for martial arts it means don’t dance around, don’t hesitate, don’t do anything but act.  There is no down time in a fight or match.  If you’re arms are staying still then punch.  “In Emptiness Punch”.  That’s how you get results.  I got to thinking about this one day, is that what happens when these thoughts pop into my head, but with the mental and not physical?  Restated: “In Emptiness Think.”   I may not consciously be doing it but the thoughts do pop into my head in emptiness.  I’m sure it happens to all of us, right?

I hope you’ve been enjoying reading this blog as much as I’ve been enjoying writing it.  I agree with what one of my readers told me offline.  Even as our technology continues to evolve making it theoretically easier to communicate with each other, a lot of people are becoming increasingly isolated.  Open dialog promotes people’s understanding, awareness and tolerance of each other.  You can’t hope to save the world with words alone but it’s a great start.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Is Michael Douglas truly doing well or is he just acting?

As of the time of this post the full interview with Michael Douglas is not on the internet.  If it becomes available I will post it here.  Take a look at the seven minute teaser if you missed the full interview and come back to see my comments.

This whole story is one I can sink my teeth into.  Besides the fact that I’ve always liked him as an actor and person,  the Michael Douglas cancer story and mine have many parallels.  I’ve kept tabs on it and was excited to see the recent interview with Matt Lauer that was aired on Sunday, January 23rd 2010 at 7:00 on Dateline.   Michael and I have a lot of similarities, we both had neck cancer, we had the same treatment regime and, to date, similar results.  Not to mention we are both good looking Hollywood Superstars.  Did I stretch our similarities a little bit?  I may not be a Hollywood Superstar, but I think I’m destined for that, just as soon as I change my career from I.T. to acting.  Was Michael’s experience similar to mine?  Is he doing as well as he seems?  

Did you see it?  Good.  Right off the bat I’ve got to say, he looks great.  The timing of his cancer discovery and treatments run about one year after mine.  I understand the place he is in right now.  When Matt Lauer asks him “How he feels now?”  His response is about how he feels about his cancer, he is relieved the tumor is gone and talks about his follow up visits.  Later in the interview he talks about how he is working out and getting healthy again.  He seems to be doing well.  What he probably does not realize (or maybe he does), is that he is going to feel even better in the months to come.  The physical and mental decline is pretty quick with this treatment regime.  Within a couple months you go from feeling normal (depending on your cancer) to feeling like last night’s leftovers heated in a microwave.  On the healing side, when treatments are done you think you are feeling better within a couple of months and that’s going to be the best you feel.  You are just grateful that you are making improvements.   However, to build up all the muscle, stamina and mental prowess takes time.  My doctors told me I should wait a year or more before I really determine how well I’m going to feel.  Now, at thirteen months out of treatment, I feel like a new man compared to two months out of treatment.  At that time thought I felt great.  We will see Michael continue to feel better.  My thoughts are that when he really starts feeling better he is going to want people to know and show his face a lot more.  Maybe even another movie.  Apparently he has those plans in the works, as he is going to play Liberace in a movie about the famous entertainer’s life.  Not a part without lots of singing.  

It disturbs me that he had to experience what he calls the “macabre enjoyment of watching me go down”, by the paparazzi.  It’s like they wanted to see and record his decline.  Hopefully, they can redeem themselves by recording his rise from the ashes as well!!  That’s one aspect I’ve never had to go through, the photographers. I wonder if being in the spotlight like that helps the healing process because you want to prove that you are doing better or if it makes you want to hide more.

Another part of his process that I could relate to is the level of support from his wife and kids.  I know it sounds weird to say that.  After all, families are supposed to support each other in bad times.  But when you actually experience it happening to you, it humbles you.  I think he got that point across pretty well during his interview.  I loved to hear how he handled the kids, they actually went to see some of his radiation treatments, as did mine.  Sometimes the fear of the unknown is worse than the truth about the treatments.  Children are very literal and appreciate the strait talk. 

He touched on how hard it is to go through something like this but never went into detail about it.  Most people probably don’t want to hear that.  I did though.  For one, I would be able to relate on a personal level.  I also think it would be doing a good service for other people that are going to have this type (and any type) of cancer.
Michael has been presented with an opportunity to be a spokesman for something that he probably never thought about before.  He can use his celebrity to really bring awareness to cancer.  He can be a poster boy for showing the positive that can come from this terrible disease.  Lastly, his public profile can bring hope to many who have yet to travel the same tough road that he had to go down.

I can say I’m overjoyed that Michael Douglas is doing as well as it seems.  I wish he and his family continued healing and success.   Even though he didn’t elaborate too much during his interview, I am certain that he thinks about all the people that aren’t as fortunate as he and I.

I’m curious what your thoughts are.  Were you a Michael Douglas fan before this?  Are you now?  Did his experience change that view?  Or maybe you just don’t care about this. 

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Someone I Love is Sick - Book Review

One of the scariest things to handle when I was diagnosed with cancer was how to tell my children.  I have two kids, my son Avery is nine and my daughter Gracie is seven.  When I was diagnosed they were six and eight (almost).  Even before we accepted that I had cancer I was thinking about the kids.  How would I tell them?  How much would we let them know?  Do we feed them the information piece by piece or do we tell them all at once?  This wasn’t something we could hide, but we needed serious help.  Enter a book called 'Someone I Love is Sick’ written by Kathleen McCue, MA, LSW, CCLS…  I’m going to write about this book and how it eased one small, but very important, aspect of our whole cancer experience.
When Dana and I started having kids we decided that she would stay at home while they were young and raise them.  That just seemed to work the best for us.  What this meant is that I was the sole financial provider for the family.  Not a problem, as long as I could keep working.  Enter cancer.  As a typical man I was devastated that I couldn’t actively provide the things I needed for my family.  Remember men, by definition,  are the fix it guys We don’t need no stinkin’ help because we can do it all ourselves.  I had a reality check, which created another motto of mine.  ‘Don’t be afraid to accept help when needed and always give help when you are in the position.’   The help we got in talking to the kids was in the form of ‘Someone I Love is Sick’ by Kathleen McCue.
We are lucky enough to live by a great Cancer Center in Cleveland Ohio called the Gathering Place.   They help families of people that are touched by cancer.  You can find out more about my experience with them in a future post.  In the meantime, give them a look at  Anyway, we got involved in going up there through a friend of ours, Meghan,  who had cancer the year before I did.  Meghan also introduced us to this book.  She used it to tell her kids about her cancer.  To make the circle complete we find out that the author of this book, Kathleen also works at the Gathering Place. 

Let’s just start out with the mechanics of this book.  It’s very simple reading geared toward children.  It is in a binder form so you can customize the book to fit your situation.  You start with a stack of pages and only use what is applicable to your situation.  In our case it was me (the Dad in the book) who had cancer, so we took out all the pages that had anything to do with the Mom having cancer.  I was going to go through chemo and radiation so we included those pages in the book.  You get the idea.  Once customized it was time to read it to our kids, and hopefully get the conversation started about how this was going to change our lives.  Our help was here.
One night at dinner we read the book to the kids.  It was very understandable to them and had pictures in it as well.  We actually were preparing the kids on how to deal with this.  We even had a laugh, one of the pages was about ‘why Mommy is always on the phone now that Daddy has cancer’.  The kids made the comment that she was always on the phone anyway, so nothing there would be different.  More importantly than a laugh was the ability that this book has to bring out conversations with young kids.  The kids were asking questions that we wouldn’t even have thought of because our minds were in a different place.  Questions like ‘Did I cause this?’ and ‘Can I catch it from you?’. 
In writing this book, Kathleen expertly handles how to approach this sensitive  subject with the most important people in your lives, your kids. I highly recommend this book for anyone who needs help on how to break devastating news like this to your kids.  Just remember, keep positive, it’s just as scary for them as it is for you.  Maybe more so.
Kathleen also wrote the book How to Help Children Through a Parent's Serious Illness.
Has anyone else had to deal with telling their kids some difficult news?  How did you handle it?

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Two Faces of Cancer and Nutrition

I’d like to start out by thanking everyone that commented on my first post.  I appreciate your attention and time.  ‘The Space Between’ contest is still on for a bit.  Any other thoughts on that title are welcome.
The other day I started using Picasa.  It’s a photo editing tool from Google.  You can do a lot of fun stuff with your digital pictures.  You can organize, label, make collages, make web albums for sharing and many other fun features that I’m sure I’m not even aware of yet.  The first time I used it, I noticed it was scanning my computer for images to group into folders.  One of the cool things it does when it finds pictures is scan all the faces on those pictures, then it groups them in a special place for you to label.  It’s pretty cool to see a grouping of pictures of one person’s face.  The different expressions they have, how they may change over time and so on.  So I was looking at the face pictures of me and two of them were side by side.  One was pre-cancer and one was post-cancer.  There was quite a difference.  The obvious loss of weight made me think  about my struggle to get and keep good nutrients in my body while I was going through Chemo and Radiation.  First have a look at the pictures.

 A picture is worth a thousand words, right?  The cancer I had was in a tonsil.  The standard course of treatment for this type of cancer is Chemotherapy and Radiation, at least at the Cleveland Clinic where I was treated.  People react differently to the different treatments.  For me the chemotherapy made me throw up and the radiation (which was aimed at my neck) made a wreck of my entire mouth and neck.  Not only couldn’t I chew or swallow because of the radiation, but the chemo made me throw up anything I did take in. 
The first thing Dana and I noticed when we walked in the radiation station is that a lot of patients who had been there a while had to use feeding tubes.  That first day I said to Dana, one of my goals during  these treatments  is to stay away from the feeding tube.  Well I didn’t need a feeding tube, but looking back in retrospect, it was more a mental challenge for me to stay away from the feeding tube than anything else.  I mean, I got to the point where most of my nutrition was from cans of high-calorie liquid anyway.  Having a tube may have been the logical choice to get the food in but keeping away from it may have mentally helped me get through the treatments.
Radiation and chemo destroy good cells along with cancer cells.  Let’s think about what someone’s body is going through in a time like this.  The body is fighting off the cancer cells as it is trying to repair the healthy cells that are getting damaged from the treatment.  Your body expends a lot of energy to accomplish this almost conflicting goal. Fight and Save, Fight and Save. Good nutrition is necessary for the body to create the energy to accomplish all it had to do.  I had to consciously remind myself of this throughout my treatments.  Even with all this effort to get nutrition in my body, I was losing weight at an alarming rate.  If I had to endure another few weeks of treatment, I’m not sure I could have kept up the nutrition part without the help of a feeding tube.
Besides the obvious advantage of getting rid of the cancer I did have a few other good things happen as a result of the treatments.  I am more aware and can appreciate good nutrition.  Every day I pack my lunch for work, the main part of it is fruits and vegetables.  It’s the same with my breakfast.  I’m more aware of what we give to our kids to eat too.  Convenience is nice but rarely the healthiest choice.  We cook at home almost all nights.  Lastly, I got off my blood pressure medicine.  Probably because the weight drop, but it’s like I’ve been given a second chance to keep my body healthy.  I’m not going to waste that chance.
Think of nutrition like your financial emergency fund.  You don’t know when you’ll need it so build up while you can.  You don’t know when you are going to put your body though the ringer, so keep it healthy now.