Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Good Numbers

I'm not much one for numbers and statistics, because it's too easy to look at the negative side of them or imagine that they speak an absolute truth instead of a possible trend, but these numbers represent some good news:

Over the last 10 years or so, deaths and complications from blood cancers (leukemias and lymphomas) have dropped significantly. The article from HealthDay is here.

Researchers from the Fred Hutchinson Cancer Center in Seattle (a major lymphoma treatment and research center) looked at 2500 blood cancer patients between the early 90s and 2007, and found over that time a 41% drop in mortality (along with other positive trends -- read the article for more details).

The study looked especially at bone marrow and stem-cell transplants, and pointed to advances in understanding how those transplants work, how to avoid complications like infections and organ damage, and how to best deal with complications that do arise.

Pretty significant stuff. Right now, transplants are used a lot of times as a kind of last resort (or close to last resort) for lots of blood cancer patients, including those with Follicular NHL. It's a pretty aggressive treatment usually, involving some heavy duty chemo, although more recently, transplants have evolved to sometimes not require such nasty conditioning.

It's all yet another positive trend in lymphoma treatment. We're getting better from both ends: the most aggressive treatments and the least aggressive (targeted therapies like monoclonal antibodies). All more reasons to be hopeful.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

From ASH

Next week, the annual ASH conference takes place in Orlando. That's the American Society of Hematology -- all those great researchers who are working on blood diseases, including lymphomas. There are usually a ton of great papers every year reporting on research related to follicular lymphoma. I'm going to try to highlight some over the next week or so.

This first one doesn't necessarily affect me anymore, but I think it's pretty significant. It's called "An Intergroup Randomised Trial of Rituximab Versus a Watch and Wait Strategy In Patients with Stage II, III, IV, Asymptomatic, Non-Bulky Follicular Lymphoma (Grades 1, 2 and 3a). A Preliminary Analysis." When the title is that long, you can just imagine how complicated the rest of the abstract is, huh?

But really, it's pretty simple. The researchers wanted to investigate a question that's been asked about a long time. The question is, If watching and waiting is meant to buy some time between treatments, is it still necessary now that Rituxan can do such a great job buying time for us instead?

The researchers looked at 3 groups of patients who might traditionally employ a watch and wait strategy. One group did watch and wait, the second was given 4 rounds of Rituxan, and the third was given 4 rounds of Rituxan and then Rituxan maintenance (more every 6 months). You can read the abstract for yourself, but basically, those who had Rituxan went longer than the watchers until they needed treatment again.

So, as I said, it's not something that affects me anymore, but it's important for fNHL folks in general, especially newbies. The study isn't definitive, but it's going to be enough to get oncologists thinking about their strategy, I'm sure. And it's one more reason to be impressed with Rituxan.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


This past weekend could charitably be called "crazy." We're in that tough part of our lives where the kids are too old to need naps, too young to drive, and just the right age to have lots going on in their lives. Isabel and I, on the other hand, have plenty of our own going on, are just the right age for naps, and sick of driving around.


Friday night I had a stomach bug. I felt much better Saturday morning, but I skipped my Saturday run. Instead, I moped around and waited for everyone else to get up. I checked the calendar for the day: the kids had altar server training at 9:00. At 11:00, we needed to all go to the school to set up for Sunday's advent wreath workshop, which Isabel had been roped into organizing a month ago. Then at 3:00, we had tickets to the Quinnipiac University basketball game, which we got for $1 each, since QU students had left town for their week-long Thanksgiving holiday, which I knew about from my niece.

On top of that, I had promised the kids a couple of things: that we'd rake leaves on Saturday, but leave them in piles so they and the dog could jump into them (we'd save the bagging for Sunday). I also promised Catherine that she and I would (finally) make some homemade pasta for Sunday dinner, something we'd been talking about for a while.

Then I got a very early morning e-mail from the editor of a journal: an article I'd been writing needed to be finished by Monday so it had time to be edited and sent to the printer. I'd been putting that off for a few weeks because I didn't like the changes they were asking me to make.

I added one more item to the list: buy a turkey. I'd seen in the newspaper on Friday that the Connecticut Food Bank was holding a "stuff a bus" event from 10 to 7 on Saturday outside a grocery store down the street from us. I try to participate every year. We've already donated to about 5 food drives so far this holiday season, but donating a whole turkey just seems to mean so much more. I think about families that are having it tough this year, have had their lives up-ended by losing a job or something, and maybe a turkey on Thanksgiving will make things feel just a little bit more normal for one day.

So I added "buy and deliver turkey" to the calendar.


When Isabel woke up, she reminded me that the advent wreath workshop was also going to include a bake sale to raise money for the school parents' group, and that we'd promised to make some allergy-safe treats. So while Isabel took a shower, I ran to the grocery store to get the ingredients for cupcakes and brownies. I told her I was going to buy the turkey, too, while I was there. "The food collection doesn't start until 10," she said. "Where are you going to put it until then?" I checked the freezer, which was pretty full, and agreed that we 'd be better off stopping for the turkey later, when we could drop it off right away.

So I went to the grocery store while Isabel showered and got the kids up and ready. But she let John sleep; he'd been up early complaining of stomach problems. The same stomach bug I had? Ugh. That would certainly put a cramp (ha) in our busy day.

Isabel took Peter and Catherine to the altar server workshop at 9:00 while I did some baking and John slept. In between filling cupcake holders, I tried to sneak off to my laptop to work on the article that was due Monday.

About 10:15, Isabel came home with Peter and Catherine, and woke up John, just as the brownies were coming out of the oven. We had a few minutes to feed John (who felt much better) and get up to the school to set up for the next day's Advent wreath workshop. This meant setting up tables, counting out greens (90 pounds of tree branch tips from a local greenhouse), and making 19 wreaths for people who wouldn't be able to join the other 100 families that signed up for the workshop. We realized we would probably be short on greens, so I volunteered to drive to Branford to get another 80 pounds (I had the only minivan in the group) while Isabel supervised the rest of the work. We were finally done with all of that by about 1:30. We ate lunch, Isabel took a quick nap, and I chipped away some more at my article.

At least until Strudel begged me to take her outside and play for a few minutes, since she'd been inside the house all day with no exercise.

I hadn't planned on all of that taking quite as long as it did, so there was no time to rake leaves. And I still hadn't forgotten about buying that turkey.....


At 2:30, we piled into the car and drove to the basketball game. Which was fun. QU fell behind big, but came back with 2 minutes left. Too little, too late, though -- they lost by 4. But every kids youth sports group in town was offered those $1 tickets, so we saw about a hundred people we knew, which was nice for everyone. It was a good time.

(I think it was not so much a basketball game as a celebration by the people of Hamden that the QU students had left town for a week....)

The game was over at 5:00, and the kids were hungry, so we stopped for dinner on the way home -- the best hot dogs in the state. I still hadn't forgotten my turkey, so we made the kids eat quickly. They wanted to stop for ice cream, but I really wanted to get to the store and drop off the turkey (I knew they were only collecting until 7:00), so I said I'd buy ice cream at the grocery store and we could eat it at home.

As we pulled into the grocery store lot, Isabel asked me what the smallest turkey they had was likely to be. I had no idea, but "15 pounds" kind of sparked a memory. "Why do you ask?" I said. "Never mind," Isabel said. "What's going on?" I asked. She said she missed Thanksgiving leftovers, since we often travel far for Thanksgiving, and she thought a small turkey that we could make ourselves when we got back would give her the turkey sandwich fix that she'd need next week. I promised to look for a small one.

I did find a small 12 pound turkey for us, plus a bigger one to give to the Food Bank, plus ice cream for John, and then ice cream for the other two kids. Actually, I got two containers of ice cream for the other two, since they were on sale, and they had egg nog ice cream, which Peter loves, and Catherine wanted chocolate. So I left the grocery store with a whole lot of frozen stuff to carry.


I got back in the car and we drove across the street to where the Food Bank stuff-a-bus was located. We saw the school bus and the big tent that's used to keep the volunteers warm all day.

But the tent was dark, and the refrigerated truck was gone.

We found someone cleaning up in the back. He said he thought the Food Bank event was the day before.

We hauled our frozen turkey back to the car.


I knew the guy wasn't right. Why would they hold a day-long food drive on a Friday when everyone is working? makes no sense. So when we got home, we fixed ice cream for the kids and then I looked up the Food Bank web site. Sure enough, the stuff-a-bus event was supposed to have been until 7:00, but they were all gone by 6:30.

I like being right, but now I had a turkey to deal with. I looked up the web site of the radio station that was sponsoring the stuff-a-bus event, and they, too, said the event would end at 7:00. Their site also said something like, "Everyone loves to drop off a couple of cans of corn, but to be honest, we'd rather have the cash. $5 will buy 17 meals."

I get that. But now I was annoyed at having a turkey on my hands, and doubly annoyed that they didn't seem to want it to begin with, and that they would have preferred that I just gave them cash.

We somehow managed to find room in the freezer for 28 pounds of turkey and three containers of ice cream.

And I still had to keep my promise to make pasta with Catherine. We mixed and kneaded the pasta, and while it rested for 20 minutes, I worked a little bit more on that article. Then she and I took turns cranking the pasta machine while we made spaghetti. I was exhausted when I finally went to bed. We all were.

We never did get to the leaves.


Sunday, Isabel had to get up early -- much earlier than usual -- to go to church so she could be free all morning to help run the wreath-making workshop. As I got breakfast ready, I tried to figure out what to do with this turkey that nobody seemed to want. I looked again at the Food Bank website: there was another stuff-a-bus event about 40 minutes away. Plus, the Food Bank headquarters had special Sunday hours for the holiday, and would take the drop-off. That was only 30 minutes away.

After breakfast, the kids and I went to church, and then I took the kids to the wreath-making workshop. Peter was scheduled to help out (he needs the service hours as part of his National Junior Honor Society membership). So I made the wreath with John and Catherine, trying to keep John focused on what he was doing, and trying to get Catherine to stop begging me for money so she could buy just one more brownie at the bake sale. With the two of them distracted, our wreath looked a little like Charlie Brown's Christmas tree, but with a little more trimming and adding, it looked OK by the time we left.

We were done by about 11:00. I took the wreath and John and Catherine home while Isabel and Peter stayed to help at the workshop. On the way out, I saw the woman who runs our church's food basket drive for the holiday. I asked her if she needed a turkey. She said they don't do turkeys (too difficult to deliver -- they give grocery store gift cards along with non-perishable items) but that she thought the town's food bank was collecting food that day back at the same grocery store parking lot we were at the night before.

So I drove the kids to the grocery store, hoping I could avoid a long drive to give away The Turkey That Nobody Wanted. there was no sign of any food collection. So we went back home and I looked up the town food bank's website to see if maybe they were collecting at a different spot that day. But their web site had nothing about food drives, and neither did the local paper.

"OK kids," I said the John and Catherine. "We're driving to the Food Bank." They groaned.

As we were leaving to get back into the car (I decided we'd go for the 30 minute drive to the Food Bank headquarters instead of the 40 minute drive to the other stuff-a-bus event), my mom called. I hadn't spoken to her in a week, and I hated to cut her off, but I had to deliver The Turkey That I Couldn't Give Away Despite Four Attempts, and I wasn't sure if Isabel would need help when the wreath-making workshop was over at 1:30. Sorry, Mom.


The Food Bank website's directions weren't great, but they did at least acknowledge which streets didn't have signs, so I had to drive slowly and count traffic lights and hope I found the place OK. Which I did.

As I was driving, I started thinking, "What if they don't take turkeys?" I'd seen ads for a bunch of food drives over the weekend, but they were all for non-perishable items only. What if this was one of them? But then I convinced myself that they would take it. This was the Food Bank headquarters. This had to be the place where the turkey would have ended up anyway. Right?

When I finally handed off the Turkey That Nobody Wanted, I was kind of hoping the volunteer who took it would make a bigger deal about the donation. She did give me an enthusiastic "Thank You," but that was about it. I started to tell her about the stuff-a-bus event closing early, but decided I wouldn't bother. Probably not a whole lot she could do about it anyway. No sense in taking out my frustration on volunteers.


Later that day, we raked leaves. Then we ate a homemade spaghetti dinner. With homemade sauce and homemade meatballs. Then I finished my article. And in the end, that turkey will go to a good home.


This is my third Thanksgiving since I've been diagnosed, and the third time I've tried to take the time to think and write about what I'm thankful for. To be honest, I had a hard time with it this year. I have plenty to be thankful for, but I don't like rattling off the same things. Too easy. I like to put more thought into it for myself.

As I was driving home from the Food Bank headquarters after dropping off the turkey, I finally had a chance to take a deep breath. The kids were telling me that they were hungry and tired and would have preferred to not be in the car. I knew part of their crankiness was the "sugar high" from the bake sale wearing off, and I tried to patiently explain why it was important that we took time out of the day to deliver the turkey, and why we had to try a fifth time to give it away (and not just because we didn't have freezer space).

Which is when I knew what I'd write about for the Thanksgiving blog post.


I'm thankful that, despite having a cancer that's harder to get rid of than a Food Bank Turkey, I'm still a pretty healthy person -- healthy enough to run around like I did all weekend and still do a decent job teaching on Monday morning.

I'm thankful that I have a good job, one that's pretty secure, even at a time when our governor-elect is talking about state employees bracing themselves for cuts. I'm thankful that it's a job I love, one that lets me do things that I really enjoy and get some fulfillment from, like teaching on Monday mornings, or writing articles for journals whose editors e-mail at 6:00am on Saturday mornings to remind me to finish up the writing I promised I'd finish.

I'm thankful that I'm not one of those people who needs a turkey today. I'm thankful I have a minivan with a tank full of gas that lets me drive around to five different places to try to drop off that turkey, not to mention drive out to a greenhouse four towns over to pick up 80 pounds of evergreen tips.

I'm thankful that I have a brother and sister-in-law who care enough to send their daughter to a school like Quinnipiac, even when those QU students block the aisle at the grocery store debating which cheap beer to buy. I'm thankful I live someplace with a grocery store nearby, not a convenience store that would charge twice what I can pay now for stuff that I need.

I'm thankful for parents who call once a week when I'm too busy to call them, to see how I'm doing. I'm thankful they were probably also calling to ask what they could get the kids for Christmas.

I'm thankful for three healthy, beautiful children who jump in leaf piles and play with the dog and ask if we can make homemade pasta and are patient enough to keep asking when we're too busy to do it. I'm thankful that they are smart enough to be in National Junior Honor Societies and talented enough to be in bands.

I'm thankful for a wife that shows the kids that giving up a weekend to help others is a really good way to spend a weekend. And I'm thankful that when she and I have only about five minutes to spare over that weekend, she wants to spend it with me.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Helping Dad

Saw this video, and had to pass it along. It's a clip from a talk show, where the host describes a 911 call from a 5 year old girl, along with clips from the call.

The little girl's father was having chest pains and breathing problems, and tried to call 911, but couldn't. The little girl took over.

She's an amazing mix of what seems like a calm 16 year old, plus the 5 year old girl that she is.

The whole 911 call is here
if you want to hear it all, but you get the gist from the one above.

Such a funny, touching video just before Thanksgiving....

Saturday, November 20, 2010

More from Mukherjee

A couple of days ago, USA Today ran a piece on Dr. Siddhartha Mukherjee's book, The Emperor of All Maladies. The piece is called "We'll Learn to Live with Cancer, Suggests New Book," and it focuses on the history of cancer and its treatments. As the title suggests, Mukherjee believes that we may not cure all cancer, but we'll continue to get closer and closer. Ultimately, we'll have to look at cancer as a chronic disease, one that might not go away completely, but which we can control for a long time.

Which is, in some ways, how we're dealing with Follicular NHL. Newer treatments for all cancers are genetically-based, taking advantage of what we know about gene mutations and their effects on cancer. Follicular NHL is no different, and some treatments like Velcade seem to work for a while and then need to be repeated. Not ideal, but dealable, I guess.

This book is getting quite a bit of attention. NPR's show Fresh Air did a segment with the author earier this week. He's a pretty brilliant guy. Recommended listening.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Our Evil Twin

Slate Magazine has a review of a new book called The Emperor of All Maladies: A Biography of Cancer by Siddhartha Mukherjee, an oncologist and researcher. The review is called "Is Cancer Our Evil, Smarter Twin? A New Metaphor May Tell us What We Need to Know about the Disease." The book itself seems like a pretty straightforward history of cancer and its treatments (from what I have read about it), though written in a very compelling way.

What I find interesting in the Slate review is the idea of the new metaphor for thinking about cancer. Metaphors are comparisons that we use to understand things that we don't always understand, and the implications of that comparison can influence how we feel about that thing we're trying to understand. So when I try to explain blogging to my students who have never blogged, I could say "Think of a blog as an online diary." That "diary" metaphor is one that will emphasize for them the personal aspects of a blog. But I could also say "Imagine a blog as an online party where one person tells a story and then a bunch of others add their own stories or comment about how much they loved (or were offended by) that story." Obviously, that choice of metaphor is going to get my students to understand blogs in a different way, and to react to blogs in a very different way.

And so it is with cancer. The word "cancer" comes from Latin, meaning "crab." That's why people born under the zodiac sign of cancer have a crab for their symbol. And using that metaphor for cancer -- something that grabs hold and causes pain -- says something about the way we think of cancer. Nobody thinks very happy thoughts about cancer, but if you extend that metaphor, then cancer becomes something that invades from outside. Think "Attack of the Crab Monsters" (a really horrible horror movie from 1957 that's so bad that it's awesome).

For researchers, that kind of metaphor has meant something important: a tumor is an outsider invader that needs to be counter-attacked with everything we've got. This is why chemo became so popular after World War II. Take no prisoners. Collateral damage to healthy cells is a sacrifice we have to make. The important thing is, we killed those invading crab monsters.

Mukherjee's metaphor for cancer is something very different than what we are used to: cancer, he says, is a "more perfect versions of ourselves."

Whoa. A more perfect version of ourselves? Cancer is perfection?

Well, yes. Think about it. Cancer cells aren't outside invaders; they are copies of our own cells. My B-cell lymphocytes didn't get injected or inhaled -- they are created in my own bone marrow. And they are perfect: they have managed to reprogram themselves so they don't die on their own. For a cell, what could be more perfect? Eternal life with limitless copies of yourself. (The narcissistic little bastards.....)

And that "perfect copy" metaphor has implications for researchers that are as important as the crab metaphor had for previous generations. Trying to kill the crab means killing ourselves -- along with that perfect version of ourselves. As brave and noble as that sacrifice might sound, it's kind of pointless. We need to find treatments that kill off the evil twin without killing ourselves as well.

Thinking of cancer in this new way leads researchers back to the genetic basis for lots of cancers, including follicular lymphoma: we need to find a way to make cancer cells imperfect.

And that's exactly what so many new, targeted treatments are trying to do. The Slate review mentions some treatments that involve ways of making the body's own immune system take on and defeat the cancer -- like the vaccines I've been reading so much about, or the monoclonal antibodies that induce self-death, or the Velcade-type treatments that make the cells forget to take out the garbage. That's the future of cancer research. And the new metaphor might be the thing that makes us patients think about cancer in new ways, too.

Sounds like a fascinating book. Kind of a weird Christmas request, but I'm putting it on my list anyway.....

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Bexxar Problems

I've written a lot about RadioImmunoTherapy (RIT), particularly one of the two types, Zevalin. I don't mean to ignore the other type of RIT, Bexxar, but there's been so much more news about Zevalin in the past few years that it's been easy to ignore Bexxar.

Which brings us to a problem: drug maker GlaxoSmithKline announced last week that it will severely cut back on its production of Bexxar, which will make it very difficult for some patients to get access to it.

This is not good. Bexxar and Zevalin work in similar ways, but they are pretty different -- different enough that losing Bexxar will create potential problems for lots of patients. For example, both types of RIT are essentially monoclonal antibodies with a bit of radiation attached to them, so when they bind to a specific protein on a lymphoma cell, the radiation can zap it. (Here are some other differences between Bexxar and Zevalin, courtesy of lymphomation.com)

Here's where the problem lies: Zevalin is basically radioactive Rituxan, currently the most commonly-used monoclonal antibody. But many patients who use Rituxan alone and as part of chemo can become resistant to Rituxan. So there's a chance that they will be resistant to Zevalin, too. Having another RIT option like Bexxar may save them (as it has saved many others) when Rituxan-containing treatments stop working.

Naturally, the NHL community is up in arms about this. GSK has every right to cut down or stop production if people aren't using Bexxar. However, GSK hasn't done a whole lot to market Bexxar, either, so NHLers are feeling a little betrayed. And they've become very vocal about this. For example, it didn't take too long to reach 1200 signatures on a petition to GSK to save Bexxar.

I think they're unlikely to change their minds. RIT, for all kinds of reasons I've discussed here in the past, just isn't widely used, despite its well-documented successes. I think what we can hope for is that GSK sells Bexxar to someone who's more willing to push it. That's exactly what's happened to Zevalin, and sales picked up as a result.

Keep your fingers and lymph nodes crossed....

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Another Ignite Video

A few weeks ago, I posted an Ignite video by Tom Music, a member of my online support group.

Here's another one from another member of the group, Tony Hines. It's called "How Lucky Underwear Helped Me Battle Lymphoma."

You may remember that Ignite presentations are 5 minutes long, and while the speaker is doing his or her thing, the big screen behind them changes the images every 15 seconds. Makes for a lively presentation.

In his presentation,Tony mentions statistics and how being hit by statistics when he was first diagnosed was a very bad thing for him. I was in the same position -- almost every time I've been saddened by my situation, it's because I've looked at -- and dwelt on -- statistics. I decided long ago to just avoid them. But it was actually an explanation to the support group from Tony (who also has Follicular NHL) that helped me to not just avoid statistics, but to actually step back and look at them with a clear mind -- clear enough to challenge them. I wrote about that a while back.

As a thank you to Tony, I'm going to plug his web page. It's got a really nice section called "The Lymphoma Files" with a diary describing his treatment. At the top of the page are links to his books (he's a novelist), plus his blog and podcasts.

Nice video. And really nice underwear.....

Monday, November 8, 2010

From Strudel

Okay, is me, ja?

I want to show you a video. Iss right here.

Is video from this year's Standard Schnauzer Club of America annual competition to find the best standard schnauzer in Amerika.

Thass hard, ja? So many great Schnauzers.

So on the wideo, they show the winner. His name is who cares.
But then at the 2:30 of the video, they show the "Best of Opposite Sex." The winner was a male, so this means they show the best female. This is the one you care. Iss Oakwood Steel Magnolia. She is my half-sister. Listen to her parents -- her dad is my dad too, Oakwood Von Ryan's Express.

She very pretty, no?

But she from that part of the family that iss not too bright, ja? When she comes for Thanksgiving, everyone take a deep breath, yu know wass I mean? Walks into walls, eats the plastic fruit from der cornucopia center piece, that kind of thing. Not the sharpest knife in the drawer, ja?

Still, we proud of her, even if -- how you say? Die Panade fällt ihr Schnitzel? She can't keep the breading on her schnitzel? You know what I mean. You have one those in your family, too. Everybody does.

Thanks for letting me write, Cancer Boy. Get back to your work.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Snuggie Update

The Snuggie that my brother got for me last winter has gotten some excellent use. All through the winter and into the spring, it typically ended up stolen from me by one of the kids as they watched TV. We've already broken it out this year; it came in handy a few weeks ago when an (otherwise dignified) houseguest wore it during a chilly afternoon soccer game.

Of course, it had reached its apex when I wore it during my Rituxan treatments. The monoclonal antibody, you will recall, is made from mice genes, and in my Benadryl-induced haze had me fantasizing about my wife dressed up as Minnie Mouse.....

Well, now that it's Snuggie season again, I thought I'd give you a quick update on what's been happening in the world of Snuggies.

Apparently, the new trend in pub crawls (moving from bar to bar over the course of an evening) is the "Snuggie Pub Craw"l; this web site is devoted to the practice -- pictures, video, a schedule of upcoming events...very impressive.

According to the site, there was a Snuggie Pub Crawl in New Haven, sponsored by the Yale School of Medicine class of 2011. Which doesn't give me much hope for my medical future.

You will also find a large variety of Snuggie rip-offs in the world. Don't be fooled -- only the original Snuggie will keep you warm and cozy. Still, I have to admire those who go beyond the Snuggie, who can take that basic concept and make it into something special. Which is why I admire the Peekaru, a kind of fleece blanket that envelopes a baby being carried kangaroo-style by mom. Hard to describe, but it looks like this:

Isn't that awesome? When I was a baby, I was just cold all the time. And my poor kids didn't have it much better. I remember going to a Chicago Cubs game at Wrigley Field with Isabel and Peter, when Peter was only 11 months old. It was early April, and we had cheap seats, way up under the roof, out of the sun. Must have been 45 degrees. And Chicago-windy. Peter had lost his mittens somewhere along Michigan Avenue, so we put a little pair of socks on his hands and fed him his first hot dog while we all froze.

I'm just saying, a Peekaru would have been really nice back then.

Especially in leopard-print.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Video: Uncertainty

One more from Betsy de Parry's webcast series (which is now finished):

Dr. Michelle Riba on "Sustaining Hope. Coping with Uncertainty." Dr. Riba is a psychologist specializing in oncology. After you click the link, scroll down to the bottom of the page. Or better yet, stop and listen to the other weblinks first.

A lot of what Betsy and Dr. Riba discuss in this webcast has to do with post-treatment psychology -- how survivors deal with the changes in their lives, now that cancer is gone. And a big part of that has to do with the worry that the cancer will come back. It's a complex discussion on a complex issue; Dr. Riba doesn't offer any easy answers.

But she does offer lots of reasons for hope. And maybe, given my recent visit to Dr. R, that's a nice thing. I can see parallels between my own (and other fNHL patients') long-term uncertainty and other post-treatment lymphoma patients' uncertainty.

And, all things considered, I think I've dealt with the uncertainty pretty well over these past almost-three-years. I think I can deal with anything when I know what I'm dealing with, and that's why the visit with Dr. R was helpful. Now I know what to look for -- how he defines the line that will be crossed before he considers the next round of treatment.

Dr. Riba talks a lot about the challenges of moving on with our lives, and I'm happy to give that a try. It helps to be so dang busy with work and family.

Betsy isn't promising a third webcast series, but here's my vote that she continue. (Do you hear me, LRF?)

Monday, November 1, 2010


Oh, it's that time of year: Movember.

If you aren't aware, "Mo" is short for moustache, and November is the month dedicated to promoting men's health. So when you encourage men to grow moustaches for the month to promote men's health, you get Movember.

The Movember Foundation uses the month to ask men to grow a moustache. Instead a small ribbon on the lapel, this amounts to a man-made ribbon on the face. The foundation asks men to grow and donate (grownate?), and the money raised goes to the Prostate Cancer Foundation and Lance Armstrong's LiveStrong Foundation.

It's a good cause.

And it's probably easier to grow a mo than to, say, ride a bike for 180 miles....

(And if you're looking for inspiration, check out these bloggers' lists of the Best and Worst Moustaches in the Movies, The 20 greatest moustaches in sports, and Probably the 10 Best Moutaches EVER!)