Saturday, August 31, 2013


Constant Reader: I write this from a hospital bed, under the influence of a variety of medications. One happens to be Vicodin. I apologize in advance, should this post all-too-accurately reflect my clouded mind.

It started so simply, but I learned what my doctor meant when he said "complicated" on Thursday.

"Needle biopsy." Two words. Both understandible. The first is the pointy thing from which you cringe. The second thing is the thing that means "answers".

At this point, I'm far beyond my fear of needles, and I want answers, so "needle biopsy" isn't threatening, it's hopeful. I was looking forward to it. That's not a typo.

It was a long day. No food or water after midnight the night before, and I had stopped eating at 9:00. I expected to be taken for the procedure early in the morning. But—in the way of hospitals—early morning flowed into late morning, which eased into early afternoon in a glaze that mirrored the late-summer haze I could see over the East River as I gazed from my room's window.

The clock told me it had been a long wait, but the time passed without angst. I was where I was, ready to do what needed to be done, and it would happen when it would happen. I was surprised by my calm. Then, I wasn't. I realized I needed my energy for other things.

I got word that they would come to get me around 2:00. I didn't need to do anything to get ready, I was already 14 hours without water and 17 hours without food. I was in my hospital gown, with my ample arse hanging out the back. I was tubed to my IV—feeling fluids flow into my vein, keeping me leashed and hydrated. Let's roll, already.

Be Careful What You Ask For...

Transport came, and I was wheeled through the labyrinth. The paths familiar, but unknown.

You know the experience. You return after many years to a place where you've had a significant experience. You recognize the feel—the vibe—the aromas, or the sounds. The corridors look familiar, but you can't recall the directions. You can predict the turns, but you don't know why. Everything has the familiarity of a dream you once had, without the context. It's weird, but not unsettling. Yet it's not comforting. It's...something else.

The next 45 minutes crawled. For all the waiting I had done, this last little bit was the part that enhanced my white hair count.

It's like the final mile of a long roadtrip. You've been in the car for hours, and you've had to go to the bathroom for the past who-knows-how-long, but you held it, knowing that you're almost home. That last mile always takes forever, and every Sunday-driving, one-eyed-octogenerian tractor driver is in front of you—looking at the map and talking on the phone with one foot on the brake and one foot on the decelerator. You know, that mile.

That's what my 45-minute wait in the prep room was like.

Eons after arriving, the radiologist introduced himself. I never caught his name. It didn't matter. He's a young Tony Shaloub (circa "Big Night"). I had a maniac for a radiologist. Perfect!

He detailed the plan—what there was of it.

I would be laying on the gurney/bed/tray/slidy-thing and they would take a scan (CT). He would be looking for a clear path to the tumor/abscess/growth/alien. If he didn't find one, mission aborted and we would regroup. If he found one, I would be sedated. The then would take a long needle and insert it into my abdomen. Using frequent CT scans as guidance, he would work millimeter by millimeter to pierce the tumor/abscess/growth/alien. Once pierced, he would extract some fluid and take some samples of the tissue.

Finally, he would remove the needle, I would be revived, and we would all skip hand-in-hand down the yellow brick road. Please sign here.

Sounded good. I signed.

Yep, It's Complicated

Nurses made final preparations, and I was wheeled onto the bridge of the Starship Enterprise (the J.J . Abrams version).

Seriously, these rooms are unreal. They're lit with the light of the heavens, everything is white or metal, and Motown plays in the background. It's a Daft Punk video, and I'm the star.

I'm introduced to the team, I crack jokes, we all laugh, good times.

I'm placed on the gurney/bed/tray/slidy-thing, and I'm inserted into the tube. Thank the Gods that I'd already emptied my bladder...

Constant Reader: I'm claustrophobic. MRI machines are my personal hell. Some other time I will share those experiences. For now, suffice it to say that my palms are sweating as I type—just thinking about it.

Out. Breathe. Chat with nurse (cute!). And Dr. Shaloub comes out, thumbs down.

No path.

The Conversation

We needed to talk.

No clear path meant...what?

One option would be to go through my intestine.

Imagine an inflated, plastic grocery bag. Now imagine laying a fire hose across the top of it. The option at hand was to insert the needle through my skin and surface muscles, then through the fire hose (the small intestine) and into the grocery bag (the tumor/abscess/growth/alien). Take the samples. Get out, go away.

He said he needed to consult with his colleagues; I encouraged him—have fun!

While he returned to the control room behind the window, I flirted with my soon-to-be-married-and-moving-to-SanFran nurse.

Flirting works. It passes the time, releases pleasant brain chemicals, and—this it important!—gets the nurse to do  you favors, like turn you around so that if we go on with the procedure, my feet would enter the machine first, not my head.

I could have kissed her.

Meanwhile, a parade of scrubs-clad, unshaven radiologists of all shapes and sizes paraded through the control room. From our position on the Enterprise bridge, not only could we watch the parade, we could watch them navigate the CT image. They were playing with contrast, zooming in and out, and scrolling up and down my abdomen image. We were watching this on the giant, ceiling-mount monitors all around us. Cool. Creepy.

Then, it got surreal.

My dear soon-to-be-married-and-moving-to-SanFran nurse went to a wall control, and kicked up the volume.

"Respect" pumped through the speakers, and she began to sing along—all five-foot-nothing of her, belting Aretha.

I looked at the control room window, and I see several heads nodding to the beat. She sang. They nodded.

Sang. Nodded.

At that moment, had dancers burst through the doors and started a movie-musical routine, I would have been completely unsurprised. I would have embraced the experience and played the role of "The Patient", as they cavorted about the room, swinging with the machine that goes "Ping!".

Alas, it did not happen. (I know I will forever regret that it didn't. If ever there was a time for my life to become a musical, that was it.)

There Can Be Only One...Decisions, Decisions

Reality shifted. Dr. Shaloub came back into the room with a skinny Dr. Kumar (why does every doctor in radiology come straight from central casting?). They had spoken with Elvis (my urologist), and they had an option.
Constant Reader, please note that I'm now 15 hours without water and 18 hours without food. I have a half-dose of Vicodin moderating the pain. I had four hours of sleep the night before.

Elvis was not happy with the intestine option. As the needle would pass through the intestine, it would then enter the tumor/abscess/growth/alien, carrying with it anything it had picked up along the way. In other words, any samples would be contaminated by the intestine.

They had a second option: a "venus" option. Venus, like the goddess? If Uma Thurman walks in, I officially give up on reality.

"What's that?", I dutifully asked.

Imagine an inflated, plastic grocery bag. Now imagine laying a garden hose across the top of it. The venous option means you insert the needle through my skin and surface muscles, then through the garden hose (a major vein near the psoas muscle) and into the grocery bag (the tumor/abscess/growth/alien). Take the samples. Get out, go away.


This has its risks as well. First, they would be going though a vein. That, itself, is scary. Then, they would be returning through the vein with the needle, after it would be contaminated with the crap from the tumor/abscess/growth/alien.

So, option one makes Elvis nervous. Option two scares me. Do I have any other options?

I neglected to mention earlier that Elvis's resident, Dr. Neversleep, was part of the control room parade. I asked what the options were. Is surgery an option?

They had not talked with Elvis about it, they said. There was no immediate urgency, I could take my time and make the decision. I could go back to my room and sleep on it, they reassured.

But time wasn't what I needed. I needed data.

To make a decision, I needed to know my options and the risk/reward balance for each option.

I was remarkably lucid. I was calm. I was composed, and I had created a good relationship with them, as they created a good environment for me.

So I made a request: Please call Elvis, and please ask him what all of my options are. They did, and he wanted to speak with me.

So, we played telephone.

The radiologist held the wall cord aloft, half-way from the wall to the phone the resident held and dialed. My soon-to-be-married-and-moving-to-SanFran nurse held the spiral phone cord, half-ay between the phone and me as I spoke into the receiver...some twenty feet from the wall port.

So much for the Starship Enterprise.

Clarity and Decision

We talked. In five to ten minutes he outlined my choices, and we discussed risks and expectations.

You already know options one and two (intestine and vein). There are two more...

I asked about a surgical option. That, as it turned out, was the option he liked least. Not only was it abdominal surgery—always a risk for infection—but the tumor/abscess/growth/alien is in a particularly difficult place. The combination of difficulty and infection risk (from the tumor/abscess/growth/alien itself) made surgery an unattractive option.

The last option was to take a regimen of strong antibiotics, via IV for a day or two and then orally for two weeks. Attacking any infections, we would see if there would be any effect on my tumor/abscess/growth/alien. This was the least risky choice. If it got smaller, hooray! We could then deal with a smaller abscess and monitor the area over time (years). But we still would not know if it was cancer. And we would be waiting for several weeks for any answers.

Four options, one choice.


We talked more, as I calculated. I weighed what I knew and did not know, and I focused on facts. As much as I could. Tired, hungry, thirsty and medicated, I was not at my best, but I bit down, focused hard, and made my decision.


In the end it was a decision between antibiotics and venous. While antibiotics represented the least immediate risk, it did not give me the information I needed to sleep at night. Venous had risks, but I thought all were reasonably mitigated by having the procedure done where I was (Sloan-Kettering). If there was any problem with the vein, they would whisk me of to surgery without second thought. And they had already started administrating some antibiotics in preparation for the procedure. Were any infection to spread, I felt it would be addressed by the planned antibiotic regime.

As to cancer exposure. This was the difficult one for me. But I realized something that swayed me. If there are cancer cells, I am headed for chemotherapy. I will not pass Go. I will not collect $200. I'll be ushered into a protocol without hesitation. So the relatively small risk of blood exposure was inconsequential. Cancer = chemo. Simple

So, venous it was.

In minutes, I was sedated. The next thing I knew, I was emerging. Open eyes. See soon-to-be-married-and-moving-to-SanFran nurse. Ask how it went. No problems, I think I heard.

No complications.

Blink. Recovery room. Everything OK? Yes? Rest. Sleep. Wake. OK? OK. Return to room, hungry.

I asked my lovely nurse if I was permitted to eat. She affirmed. I asked my lovely nurse if I was permitted to drink. She affirmed. I drank, and drank, and drank some more. I ordered dinner—basically the entire left side of the menu, and I drank some more. I waited for dinner, and I drank. Then I peed, so I drank some more. Then I peed AND drank, and I felt like the circle was complete.

Ravenous, I ate. Consommé, salad, rice, fish, vegetable roll, brownie. I ate it all. I lovingly cleaned my plates, and I drank some more.

And, finally sated, I slept.


Friday, August 30, 2013


I've jumped out of an airplane. Three times.

The guy who led me to this was an Army Ranger who told me that I needed to do three jumps. After the
third, "you would know."

"The first jump," he said, "is rote." You'll have done ground school, practiced, practiced, and drilled, and your mind will be focused totally on the task, and not the experience." He paused. "The second jump would be little different. You'll be thinking more," he said, "and you'll begin to have some questions."

"The third jump," and here he paused with a crooked smile, "the third jump is when your brain starts to focus on the experience, and not the task." After the third jump I would know if skydiving was for me.

True to form, after ground school my first jump was rote. I stepped out, held on, and leaped when told to do so. My static line—one end lovingly affixed to an anchor point in the airplane, the other end tenderly tied to my rip cord—did its duty. My chute opened, and I piloted myself to the ground, thrilled by the grace of flight.

Also true to form, during my second jump I sensed my surroundings a little more, but I remained focused on the task. I stepped out, let go, and flew. I was loving the static line.

The third jump was the stuff of nightmares.

I sounded simple, really. They would double the length of the static line. With that extra second or two of drop time, I was to open up into the freefall position and mimic the action of pulling the rip cord. I still would be attached to the static line, so I did not actually need to pull the chute. Simple. Easy.

The door opened; time stopped.

Like the old Outer Limits episode, it did not so much stop as slow, freakishly. I was hyper-aware. The wind rippled across the fabric of my suit. It whipped past my ears with freight train power and hurricane ferocity. I smelled the woody, diesel smell of mid-northern Florida—a scent forever burned in my memory. Sound. Vision. Sensations gripping me, I stepped out—HOLY JEEZUS THE STEP IS SMALL! I held on, white-knuckling the bar.

"WHY AM I DOING THIS?" my mind screamed.

"Jump!", he shouted.

"NO!", my mind screamed.

"No!", I screamed.

"JUMP!", he screamed.

"AAAAAHHhhhhhhh!", I screamed as I was "compelled" to jump.

I was supposed to execute a smooth transition into freefall position.

Yeah, not so much.

I windmilled, flailed, and kicked like a hanged man. I may have wet myself. White sheets of terror enveloped me, even as the line jerked taut, the chute opened, the canopy inflated, and I glided.

My Army Ranger friend was right. My third jump did it. I knew it.

I never need to do that again.

Parachutes and Life's Big Moments

It's all about trust.

When you jump out of a plane, you trust. You trust your parachute. You trust that it is in perfect condition, that all the lines are strong, and the fabric is sound. You trust the person who packed it. You trust that they have the knowledge and experience to fold the cloth and layer the lines so it will open true.

You're placing trust in others, or yourself, or some tangible thing. Regardless, it's trust.

Jumping is proof. The moment is already past; you've trusted. You've crossed a threshold.

Thresholds are life's big moments. When you stand on the cusp of a decision, that's a threshold. When you approach a fork in the road, indecisive, and the road gets shorter and you don't know what to do and it's urgent but you can't choose and you start to sweat and your eyes go big and the moment, the instant gets closer, that's a threshold.

It's when you're on that step, or in that doorway about to pass into something new, when decision and indecision joust, fear and courage clash, faith and doubt collide. Thresholds are when we are most alive.

Right now, I am most alive.

Making the Leap

I don't know what's coming. More to the point, I can't predict it.

I'm scared.

I know I have a tumor. I know I need a biopsy. I know it may or may not be cancer.

If it is cancer returned, I'm terrified. There. I wrote it:
I. Am. Terrified.
I need to cross my threshold. I need to get beyond this moment, so I can face the coming moments...and their thresholds

And that's why I write. That's why I'm posting on Facebook. That's why I call and text. I need to cross my thresholds.

I'm in a good place. I made a great decision. I'm at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center. I have access to marvelously advanced medical systems and incredibly talented medical personnel.

Here, they know how to pack a parachute. More to the point, they know what kind of parachute to pack—with which kind of fabric, and which kind of line—to ease my body back to ground, safely.

I'm also blessed.

I have family and friends who love and support me, they weave the fabrics and twist the ropes that will help ease me back to ground.

And I am a character with much character who intuits how to be strong and how to gather strength.

I have the means, and the motive, and the opportunity to confront fear, focus, and deal.

I know how to cross; I know how to leap—with panache.

But I know so little! I know I have a tumor. I know I need a biopsy. I know it may or may not be cancer...

Neil Gaiman captures encapsulates threshold's moment wonderfully in the story "Fear of Falling", within the Sandman epic.

In the story, a man dreams. in his dream he is rock climbing—higher and higher—and he is afraid. He meets a stranger near the top of the mountain. The stranger converses with the climber—in the way of dreams—and states: "It is sometimes a mistake to climb, it is always a mistake never even to make the attempt."

The episode continues, musing on fear, and the stranger observes: "Sometimes you wake up. Sometimes the fall kills you. And sometimes, when you fall, you fly."

I fear. I fear the unknown before me. I fear the fall.

But I've leapt.

And I hope to fly.

And to be thrilled by the grace of flight.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Odyssey 2 - The Beginning

So It Begins...

Divorce changes things. Even language.

What do you call your former in-laws?

Let me re-phrase that.

What do you call the loving grandparents of your children? What do you call those people who entered your life, opened their arms, support you, and love you?

I call them my outlaws.

It's a nice pun. It works on several levels. It makes me chuckle—not laugh...that's too harsh. Chuckle.

So, I'm visiting with my outlaws, and I brought a bike (shocker!). I went riding with a local—an incredibly fit 50-something whose palpable enthusiasm for riding delights.

Riding with him is always a pleasure.

We ride.

Now is a good time to remind you, Constant Reader, that I take forever to warm up. The first 45 minutes of any ride is a pain cave. It sucks. Everything feels...wrong. From the bones on up.

We rode. An hour passed. I was deep in my pain cave. Still, nothing felt right.

Let me re-phrase that...NOTHING felt right. It was less Indiana Jones (when Marian kissed his elbow) and more Toxic Avenger.

I felt BAD.

With all the politeness and humility as I could muster, I begged off the remaining portion of the ride. Sure, I had a mechanical as well, but the bottom line was: I felt like crap; it was getting worse.

My enthusiastic friend was gracious and continued his sprightly journey through the perfect Long Island summer morning.

If you ride, you've had it happen. You've gotten on the bike and it never gets good, or average, or even tolerable. Something ain't right, and you know there's nothing you can do about it.

It happens. We get over it.

Beach, Beach, Yummy Peach

The next few days were filled with sun, sand, and silliness. We dug pits, built walls, jumped waves, got tumbled, and we were well-salted.

We picked our final peaches from the orchard, gobbled down an empty-the-fridge dinner (the best kind!). I packed. We slept. All was well.

We drove home—a long-ish drive. A rain-blasted, patience-testing, leg-cramping drive.

You've done them. You know.

We awoke on Friday. Bright sun, pleasant air, storm on the horizon. Crystal blue skies; I had no idea what was coming.

Ok, NOW it begins...

Something was wrong. I had phantom pain. Gentlemen, imagine that someone unpleasant has taken hold of your left testicle. now imagine the pain as they slowly crush it. (Ladies, you're on your own here...)

Got that?

Now, imagine having that sensation...when you don't have a left testical.

Phantom pain? There? Really?

The day's agenda was to be...
  1. Pack the girls
  2. Lunch
  3. Middle school orientation
  4. Elementary school open house
  5. Bring girls to their mom

Pack. Walk. Shepherd girls. Greet people. Be friendly. Walk more. Meet teachers. Meet other parents. Be Super.

And manage pain.

Pain is a Pain

There's pain, and there's pain. I stub my toe. It hurts. It goes away.

I smash thumb with hammer. It hurts a lot, and it lingers. But it's not constant.

Internal pain is different. It's insidious and nasty. It saps your energy and drains your spirit. You feel...diminished. Small. Weak.

You smash thumb with hammer. It hurts a lot...and it lingers.

But it doesn't reduce you. Internal pain does.

But phantom internal pain? Who invented this nightmare? It hurts like hell, BUT IT DOESN'T EXIST!

Are you imagining it? No, the sweat is real. The limp is real.

It's real.

How the hell do you deal with it?

And the teachers...

And the kids...

And the social graces...

And your Ex...

It's simple really. Strap yourself in, tighten down, and push through. It may not be pretty, and you may not be the person you would choose to be, but you do what you need to do to be the best person you can be in that place at that moment.

And you hold it, gripping too tightly, and hold on, and hold on and you do what you need to do to be the best person you can be.

And when you let go.

Rebound...Not the Good Kind

Bring kids to their mother. Exchange pleasantries and updates, go home.

Stop for some food, get a movie, relax in front of television.

Feel the pain grow. Get a chill. Wrap yourself in a blanket and shiver—even as the shivering spikes pain.

And drink water—a lot of water, because water is always good for this sort of thing cleans you out flushes the system makes you sweat all sorts of good things because really this is in your head and you're super stiff from the drive and you ate something the sushi from the quick smile Harris Teeter nice man the stress of dropping off the kids and Gods miss them horribly and it's only been a few hours and fuck it's cold but I'm sweating so I should drink more water what am I watching anyway I gotta pee something with that guy I like cool story oh gotta pee shit I'm sore when did everything start to hurt why does it hurt effing stairs and ahhhhhhhhhhh that feels good ow! no! it doesn't! what the hell fuck where's the thermometer if i close my eyes it'll go away starry lights beep beep beep ding 102.5. Fever. Real fever. I'm going to bed.

And I sleep for 13 hours. Sort of.

In bed visiting Dream, traversing the land of Nod. Except when I suffered to pee—brown, of course. Darker than normal. By several Pantone numbers. And stinky, oh and it hurts, too. Not the pee...the abdomin. Something's wrong.

Back into Dream, again, until I suffered to pee—brown of course...ah, Nod...



I awoke, phantom pain is real pain, yet oddly relieved. I'm not making it all up. See? There...palpate just...there...Thump. Ow! Yep, it's real.

There's a saying that pain is good because it lets you know your're still alive.

Pain is good, because it lets me know I'm not crazy. And after meandering through  Dream and Nod, I need reassurance.

Putter around, Unpack. Tired, nap for two hours.

Wake. Hung over. Bad hangover. Lights are loud, sounds are bright, tongue tastes like a small dog's arse.

Make decision: "I shall leave this house." Library, errands, pool...groaning.

Home, two hour nap. Wake. Thermometer. Temperature, 101.5.

I forgot that I had a fever.

Better, I had completely forgotten that I had taken my temperature the night before.

Spaced it.

That's how weird was Saturday.

I'm going to bed.

And I sleep for 13 hours. Sort of.

Dream weaves paths, and I follow. Hernia. Appendix (which side? both sides, it's a dream...). Kidney. Alien embryo. Cancer. Tapeworm. Tubeworm. Worm. Wormhole. Diverticulitis. Parasite. Sushi. Sea Urchin. Spines. Legos. Coins. Treasure. That-guy-with-the-Stomach-flap. Pirates (why always pirates?). Cancer. Cancer. Chemo. Cancer. Surgery. Cancer. Orchiectomy. Hernia. He fixed a hernia. I didn't know until long after. Hernia. He fixed a hernia. There. Right there! Scar tissue. Seams. Weakness. Six minute Abs. Intervals. Hernia.

Thank you, Oneiros.


Mayo Clinic website...clickityclickclickclick..."Inguinal hernia". There, that's it. That must be it. Symptoms...

  • A bulge in the area on either side of your pubic bone
    (I'm swollen down there, does that count?)
  • A burning, gurgling or aching sensation at the bulge
    (Gurgle...check! Ache...check!)
  • Pain or discomfort in your groin, especially when bending over, coughing or lifting
    (yeah, not gonna try. It hurts.)
  • A heavy or dragging sensation in your groin
  • Weakness or pressure in your groin
  • Occasionally, pain and swelling around the testicles when the protruding intestine descends into the scrotum

Fever...what about fever? Ah, there it is...

  • Nausea, vomiting or both
    (Nope, nope...)
  • Fever
  • Rapid heart rate
    (Stress will do that)
  • Sudden pain that quickly intensifies
  • A hernia bulge that turns red, purple or dark

Right. Well done, Dr. Whitney. Now...tired.

Nap for two hours.

Waken. Hung over. Not as bad as yesterday, but the house swims around me. Holding onto things is a good thing.

Make decision: "I shall leave this house." Pool...groaning.

Home, two hour nap. Wake. Thermometer.

Fuck you, thermometer. "Beep."





When did I...?


Constant Reader, suffice it to say that I am regular as clockwork. But, in this moment the gears were buggered.

Dr. Whitney examines. There...palpate just...there...Thump. Ow! Yep, still there. How about here...Thump. Er... There? Thump. Um...

What hurt hurts.

What now hurts is....most everything else.

This is serious. Mayo Clinic. "Inguinal Hernias - Complications"
Pressure on surrounding tissues. Most inguinal hernias enlarge over time if they're not repaired surgically. Large hernias can put pressure on surrounding tissues. In men, large hernias may extend into the scrotum, causing pain and swelling.

Incarcerated hernia. If the omentum or a loop of intestine becomes trapped in the weak point in the abdominal wall, it can obstruct the bowel, leading to severe pain, nausea, vomiting, and the inability to have a bowel movement or pass gas.

Ah...perfect! Hernia. Need to poop. Sure sign of hernia.

Fek, I'm tired. Chilled. Blankie.



Sorry about that before...I was mean...


Beep beep beep ding 101.5. Fever.


I'm going to bed.

And I sleep for 13 hours. Hernia. Yep. Hernia...Hernia...

Dream weaves paths, and I follow. Hernia. He fixed a hernia. I didn't know until long after. Hernia. He fixed a hernia. There. Right there! Scar tissue. Seams. Weakness.Yoga. Strech. Lengthen. Release. Breathe.



Poop. Blessed poop!

Uncomfortable, painful, epic, POOP!

Post-orgasmic breathing.




Thermometer. "Beep". 100.1.


Early appointment with my doctor. My GP. Nice lady. Amazing bedside manner. Coolheaded. Smart. Competent.

Competence looks like THIS.

I talk. She listens. She nods. She talks. This is what I hear:

It's not what you think it is. You need to get tested. Now. ER. Now.

She said it nicer than that. She's a nice lady.

This is what I think:

Saturday, August 10, 2013

Why We Ride Pelotonia

When this post appear on the glorious Internet, I will be on the road.

Somewhere in Ohio, I will be with more than 6,000 others.

We're riding to end cancer.

Together, we're taking a stand.

It's all about the money. Every rider is a dollar sign. Every volunteer is an enabler. we're all working to raise the precious funds to defeat the diseases that have defeated so many.

I ride for several reasons:
I don't know why the other 6,000 riders ride. I suspect for some of the same reasons. And I know that they ride for reasons too deeply personal to share.

Yet, whatever our motivations, we ride...together.

And it's a beautiful thing.

I hope you will help me to raise money for life-saving cancer research.

We need your support to end cancer. Please consider donating.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Hope: Why I Ride Pelotonia

Please help me raise $2,200
to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page

    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!
I ride with hope. Hope that we can end cancer.

I'm blessed.

Seven years.

I just celebrated my 7th year cancer free.

I want the same for others.

And I ride with hope.

I hope for treatments, therapies, cures.

I hope for patents, families, friends.

For researchers, doctors, caregivers.

I hope.

I'm not a "glass is half full" guy. But when cancer rates are going down, I'm encouraged.

And when I hear about breakthroughs, it's rewarding...and hopeful.

So, I hope

I hope for Jessica.

I hope for John Looker.

I hope for all the people behind the faces who inspire.

I ride in that hope that my children will live in a cancer-free world.

Hope is simple, it needs little explanation.

I ride because I hope.

The glass is half-full.

I hope you will help me to raise money for life-saving cancer research.

We need your support to end cancer. Please consider donating.

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Respect: Why I Ride Pelotonia

Please help me raise $2,200
to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page

    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!
I ride to respect those who fight.

I'm out. I'm free. The specter is behind me, consigned to history.

I'm lucky! I'm blessed.

Others aren't. I ride to respect them—their battles and their struggles. I ride because I can, and because they inspire me to be more than a survivor. They inspire me to thrive.

Jessica Vs. Cancer

I'm out for a spring ride. It's a cold day; I'm dodging rain. I see a woman ahead of me—definitely not your typical cyclist. She's laboring on the flat, and she's approaching a hill.

I pull up and we chat. And everything changed.

Some people radiate warmth. She's that people. Joyfully, she rode. Smiling, she spoke. When I left her, I no longer felt the wind. The rain? What rain?

Weeks later I saw her again. Riding. Laboring. Smiling. And everyone around her was smiling, too.

Soon I knew her story. Jessica P. lost her liver to an incredibly rare form of cancer: primary hepatic neuroendocrine carcinoma. She received a liver transplant. While it saved her life, it did not stop her fight. She lives daily with the chronic nature of the disease.

And she smiles.

And she radiates warmth.

Part of her healing is hugging. Big hugs. Enthusiastic hugs. Not back-breaking hugs, but hugs that connect.

You know the type. Not many people give them. To give one is to share one's self—to extend, to express a kind of love and need and vulnerability that is as poignant as it is gentle. It's wordless, language-free. It's a gift.

And it's a hard gift to receive. It makes you vulnerable. To receive that gift in the spirit with which it was given means you accept the moment...that precious moment when two people connect, sharing time, space, and spirit.

It's beautiful.

Jessica hugs. She hugs a lot. And she inspires me.

Recently, I saw photos of her in a hospital gown. She was getting tests. She battles on, yet she smiles.

I ride to respect those who fight.

I ride for Jessica and her fight.

I ride because you don't have to save a life to change a life.

Facing Chemo

Robert Houser Photography
I'm facebooking (Yep, it's a verb...). An image appears and stops me dead.

The eyes. Haunting and strong. Vulnerable and loving. Placid.

She's looking at me with wisdom—with secret knowledge. She's peering through me. She has taken my measure, and she has found me...

Facing Chemo is a photographic project that exposes the emotion of those undergoing chemotherapy. While the drugs target cells, the treatments effect people—the persons within and without.

Unadorned, exposed, vulnerable, the subjects share their beauty, strength, fear, resolve.

As it happens, I know the photographer. We went to school together many years ago. He's a good person. I had no idea he became an artist. I'm awestruck.

Robert Houser Photography

Months later, I'm facebooking. An image appears and stops me dead.

These eyes are knowing—direct. Maskless, guileless.

Accepting, content.

Her name is Kim.

She's beautiful.

She lost her battle.

I ride to respect those who fight.

I ride to respect those who fight, knowing they may lose.


I hope you will help me to raise money for life-saving cancer research.

We need your support to end cancer. Please consider donating.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Anger: Why I Ride Pelotonia

Please help me raise $2,200
to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page

    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!
I ride because I'm angry.

Howlingly angry.

Cancer pisses me off.

It's allowed. I don't feel guilty. Neither should you. In fact, I encourage it.

Go ahead, be angry.

You have cancer. Your mother has cancer...your father...

Your partner has cancer...your lover...

Your child...

Being angry beats the hell out of feeling hopeless.

Your chemo hurts in ways you never imagined. You're sick of being sick. You're beyond tired, as your body and soul are pushed to the limit...and beyond...and still beyond.

You fear the mirror. You know that what you will see will not be you. That ravaged creature is not you, but you make eye contact and you And your sunken stomach sinks again and you feel tears and your chest tightens and you gasp and you know it's you but it's not you and you're lost because who is you and where did you go and Gods what has...and why has...and inside you boil and quake and it wells up from places you never knew and never felt before and it's there and it's scary and it's from you and about you and...

You're angry.

Howlingly angry.

It's allowed.

You don't have cancer, yet you visit the hospital, and the treatment center, and the hospice. You're there every step of the way, supporting, loving, helping.

You watch. You listen. Your palms sweat, your bowels churn as you wait for results. You don't have the cancer, but you're savaged by it.

Your mother, your father has cancer. Your partner, your lover has cancer. Your child...

It ravages them; it destroys you.

What can I do? How can I help? Drive, hold hands, cook, dress, hug, cajole, weep, watch, listen, pray, hope, encourage...a million little things that matter. Yet, you sleeplessly wonder what more you can do.

You're angry.

And you're guilty about it.

But you don't need to be. It's allowed.

I ride because I'm angry.

Cancer hurt me. It stole parts of me. My scars run deep. The skin scars, like the one that runs from sternum to pubic bone, are obvious. I can't show you the soul scars...

Cancer surrounds me—my friends and family. Yet, it always feels like there is so little I can do.

And it makes me angry.

But cancer has taught me a few things...about anger.

Impotent anger is destructive. You bleed pain. You melt with fury. And you remain silent. You're fighting an enemy you cannot know. It's right in front of you, but it is invisible, alien. And you try to understand it, but you can't, and that fact makes you even more angry. And you silently seethe. The feelings surge and recede, wave after wave of pain you wrestle to control, lest it control you. You fear the anger, because it's too big, too strong, and you have no way to express it without hurting someone, everyone, yourself. You know that anger destroys.

So you have a drink, take a pill, eat a doughnut, or close yourself in and wait for the tide to ebb and hope it all goes away.

And for a time it does; and you're able to do what you need to do.

And then it comes back...fiercer. And the cycle begins again. And you go deeper, and the gyre sucks you down.

But you're not impotent. You have choices.

Each time you help, you reach out, you touch, and you comfort you are doing something. Each time you hope, you heal. Every time you do what you need to do to be healthy, you overcome.

You're never powerless, no matter how overwhelming it seems. Anger and Fear are so close; and they can be used for good.

Anger is an energy. use it. Channel it to fight the unknowable enemy. Embrace it and transform it and use it.

And heal it. 

Be angry.

It's allowed.

I ride because I'm angry. And I choose to do something with that anger. I choose to use it to help heal; and to fight to end cancer.

I hope you will help me to raise money for life-saving cancer research.

We need your support to end cancer. Please consider donating.

Monday, August 5, 2013

Fear: Why I Ride Pelotonia

Please help me raise $2,200
to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page

    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!
I ride because I'm scared.

Really scared.

I'm fearful, anxious. Not panicky or terrified. I'm scared.

Cancer is scary.

Most of us feel it. Few of us admit it—even to ourselves. Fewer still will share it.

Admitting it makes us aware—and vulnerable.

Sharing it make it real—and dangerous.

Cancer: it's that-which-shall-not-be-named. It's Voldemort.

Yet, it's always there.

And it's scary.

My mother has a type of non-Hodgkin lymphoma. After some unpleasant treatments, they told her that it was not a question of whether it would re-emerge, but when.

She lives with that knowledge every day.

And it scares me. I know trepidation.

And while I know that others bear the same burden, it fails to comfort me.

My mother is going to die, and cancer is (likely) going to take her from me.

It's why I ride.

My Little Angels are 11 and 7 this year. They blossom. And they have a solid family history of cancer.

That's scary.

The odds are that they will get some form of cancer. I live with that knowledge every day.

I usually don't think about it. Unless I do. And when I do, I'm scared.

I know about the children who fight cancer. The images are burned into my mind's eye. The tubes and wires and baldness and pallor and scrawniness and the smallness—god, they're small! They're young! It shouldn't happen to them!

Yet it does.

And I know about young adults who fight cancer—how their lives are completely re-defined by the experience. How the best years of their lives are smothered. It shouldn't happen to them!

Yet it does.

And we feel powerless.

It's why I ride.

Something happened to me a few years ago. I intuited something long before I understood it. I'm not powerless. I'm not a bystander. I'm not passive.

When I ride against cancer I'm empowered, involved, and active.

I ride because I'm scared; because I choose to do something with that fear.

I hope you will help me to raise money for life-saving cancer research.

We need your support to end cancer. Please consider donating.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Honor: Why I Ride Pelotonia

Please help me raise $2,200
to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page

    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!
I ride to honor those who have supported me on my cancer odyssey.

Support comes in many forms, from many places.

Money is good. Money is nice. As I have written before, money is necessary. That's not cynicism. Money is real, and I appeal to you to donate.

But support comes in many forms, from many places.

Friends you just met open their homes, fill you with welcome, and embrace you with love.

They support you.

Starched-white uniformed nurses who make you walk, dress your wounds, and give no quarter while helping you heal.

Loved ones who fear for you, nurse you, comfort you, challenge you.

Employers who reduce the pressure and reserve your place.

They support you.

Neighbors who feed your family and mow your lawn.

Friends who make the journey to be there. Just to be there.

Children who inspire you... by just being.

Long-lost friends who give. Then give more.

Doctors who advise with wisdom and share their talent.

They support you.

Patients who fight.
Families who suffer.
Those who endure.


They support you.

I ride to honor those who have supported me on my cancer odyssey.

For what they did.
For what they did not do.

I honor them.

We need your support to end cancer. Please consider donating.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Appreciation: Why I Ride Pelotonia

Please help me raise $2,200
to help END CANCER!

Donate to Pelotonia
at my rider page

    raised goes directly to life-saving cancer research!
    Every dollar you contribute will be matched by The Limited Brands! I will be wearing their colors proudly!
I ride because I'm here.

I appreciate that.

I ride because others aren't here.

That makes me appreciate being here even more.

I'm a survivor.

I take survivorship seriously.

I've written about it before, writing about "Stage T". I defined it thusly:
Stage T cancer is when you are living with purpose—mindfully, consciously. It is when you are making real the promise of your renewed life.
I've had a brutal year. BCB is no longer in my life. I'm on another odyssey as I write this. It's...challenging. My heart has been broken; but my spirit is intact.

I have my Little Angels.

And I appreciate every day I have with them.

And every hour.

And each minute.

Honestly, no one lives that way. I'm not that mindful. But I am conscious.

I watch them grow. I see the light in their eyes. I hear them laugh, and cry, and argue, and sing. I catch the scent of their hair. I touch their cheeks. I kiss them goodnight.

And I appreciate that I can.

I look in the mirror. I see the scars. I glimpse the grey. The crow's feet deepen around my eyes. I see it.

And I appreciate that I can.

I sometimes don't want to ride my bike. I'm tired. Power is weak. Recovery is harder. My knees ache. My shoulder throbs. Yet, I do ride.

And I appreciate that I can.

It's August; it's Pelotonia. It's time to raise money.

And I appreciate that I can.

I ride because I'm here.

I appreciate that.

And I hope you will help me to raise money for life-saving cancer research.