Thursday, May 29, 2008

The Right Stuff

What do you want first, the good news or the bad news?

Okay, fine, the bad: No progress today on the insurance front, although we seem to be getting closer. Kevin, the assistant at my GP's office, continues to try to connect the insurance dots so we can officially use Stanford for the entire run of my care, but naturally it's not easy. The insurance company needs a reason (me having a rare cancer is just not reason enough) why we can't handle everything at Alta Bates, and until we can identify the right person in the network, convince him/her that my form of cancer is rare and needs to be treated by qualified specialists, and provide all the necessary documentation, this fight is going to drag.

Sure, I'm frustrated, and so are all my family and friends, but it's part of the process, and we'll get there -- I'm confident of that. On the home front, Dad has relieved Mom for a couple days so she can go back to Santa Cruz, take care of some stuff at her home, rest up and hopefully relax. (I know this will be difficult for her, but I also know she's reading this, so Mom -- relax. Please.)

But here's the good news: I had a date today. And though initially it was like pulling (teeth), in the end, everything went swimmingly.

Here's the scene:

I woke up in a giddy mood, ready for the occasion. After a shower and a thorough brushing of teeth and shaving of face, I donned my best gear: my nicest jeans, some dressy shoes, and my finest tee-shirt, the blue one that helps bring out my eye color. We're talking 100% class here. After spritzing myself with just a drop of Drakkar Noir to add that hip, seductive scent, I got in the car and drove to meet my date.

I made it to the cafe (which others might refer to as a 'bank', but I prefer 'cafe') well ahead of time and before my date began, I got some advice from a certified dating expert who had me sign some papers that basically indemnified herself and her associates should the date end up going awry. "We can't be held responsible if you screw things up," I was told, but I wasn't too worried about that -- I wasn't there to screw things up, was I?

I signed on the bottom line, got some final advice, and then I was ushered into a special room for the date.

Once inside, I found that my date was in there waiting for me. I shut the door for some privacy, and endured a bit of an awkward silence before making the first move.

"You look familiar," I said.

"So do you," was the response.

"Weird coincidence," I mused.


Okay, not a great start, but not a totally bad one, either. My date sniffed and waited for me to say something else.

"Um... so... how are things going with you?" I asked.

"Well, I have cancer," came the blunt reply. Wow -- talk about a conversation-killer. More dead air, an uncomfortable shifting of feet, eyes looking everywhere around the room except for at each other.

Time for a new tactic: current events. "So hey, how about that whole thing in Burma? Was that crazy or what?" I threw out.

"Terrible tragedy," was the response. "I suppose you're going to bring up the earthquake in China now too, aren't you?"

Strike two. Man, this was not going well at all. One of us coughed, I'm not sure who. You could hear the clock ticking on the wall, and that wasn't a good thing; my date had made it clear that we only had a half-hour to spend together, and time was bleeding away.

Maybe entertainment was the path here: "Your thoughts on Simon Cowell?" I offered.

"A worthless, pompous ass."

Bingo! Now we were getting somewhere; now we had some common ground. This was clearly the road to take, so I continued: "Natalie Portman or Keira Knightly?"

"Portman, no contest."

"Hey, me too!" I exclaimed. Maybe we had more in common that I thought. I continued along this vein, asking questions, gauging answers, and realized that contrary to my initial impression, we were two peas in a pod. Every response I kept getting was perfectly in line with my own.

I sniffed the air; it could have been me that I was smelling, but I had to ask, so...

"Is that Drakkar you're wearing?"

"Hells yeah it is!" was the response, and my heart leapt.

This was almost too much of a coincidence. People talk about love at first sight, but this was something different entirely. Brimming with confidence, I went with the trump card: the one question that has sent so many previous dates scurrying to the waitress to get the check immediately, before they give me some flimsy excuse about needing to spend time with their dying marmot and then bolt the restaurant before I can even ask them to sleep with me. Nervous as hell, I took a deep breath, looked my date in the eye, and just put it bluntly.

"What do you think of Star Wars?"

"Star Wars is hella cool!"

That was it; that was the clincher. You could probably hear my sigh of relief in the lab office cafe kitchen. This was meant to be; we were definitely made for each other.

We got into an in-depth discussion about how the original Star Wars trilogy stacked up against the Indiana Jones trilogy, and how those stacked up against the Back To The Future trilogy, and whether Lord Of The Rings trumped all. We were just discussing the relative merits of Frodo versus Marty McFly when I checked the clock: we only had 90 seconds left in our date. I had to act fast.

"Would you care to shag, baby?" I asked in my best Austin Powers impression, and swept away in the romantic nature of the question, my date immediately agreed. We got down to business, and I'll spare you the details, but it was nothing short of amazing. In fact, I felt like I had done it a million times before.

Before I knew it, my time was up, and I said goodbye to my date -- for now. My heart told me that I'll probably see this person again sometime soon, so I headed for the cafe exit, handed the waitress a nice tip on my way out, and left with a smile.

So that's how my date went. Like I said, it was the good news of the day. Sorry if it feels a bit anti-climactic after all the build-up, but then, I never was any good at writing romance.

With much (self-)love,

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Insurance, Insurance ... Pay Me!

A Mr. Richard Feder from Fort Lee, New Jersey writes in and asks, "Dear Roseanne Roseannadanna -- it's now Wednesday morning. How was yesterday? And what is happening today?"

The quick answers to those questions are: not as busy as I thought, and still not sure yet.

Yesterday we had our final appointment with the previously-assigned Alta Bates oncologist, which became a very short meeting once we informed him we were going with Stanford for our treatment for this case.

More importantly, we were not able to schedule the needed CAT scans yesterday because insurance, despite supposedly being on the fast-track on this, still hasn't approved the Stanford angle. I've been assured by my HR department at Sega that once the insurance company approves everything, I'll get the same benefits for the Stanford treatment that I would have received had I stayed in-network.

Unfortunately, there was a bit of miscommunication yesterday that left the approvals still up in the air, and we hope to get that cleared up today -- but now I'm being told that the approving medical group doesn't consider my situation "urgent" and won't provide approval until Friday at the earliest.

I guess if by "urgent" they mean "probably won't die today," they have a point. Unless a random bit of falling asteroid hits me, or I fling myself off a 300-foot cliff, yeah, I probably won't die today. Of course, if by "urgent" you mean "there's a big-ass cancerous tumor growing in my stomach and with each passing day it becomes more difficult to attack it and remove it," well, I'd say they're a little off. But that's just semantics, isn't it?

This is to be expected; the insurance company never wants to go out-of-network to begin with, and when you bring Stanford into the equation, you're talking serious costs. Of course they're going to fight it, but we're having the Stanford doc call the insurance group's medical officer today in order to clarify that "urgent," in this case, means "get off your bean-counting ass and approve the treatment ASAP so we can save this guy's life right now." The accountants might not think it's urgent, but I'll tell you this: Kuato ain't getting any smaller, that's for sure.

So that's where we are on that. Several calls will be made on my behalf today to try and speed this up, and we'll just have to see where it goes. Once we get approval, Stanford should be able to handle everything else without much hassle, but getting the approval is proving to be a real pain in the ass -- but it's not like we didn't expect this.

I also have an appointment for tomorrow morning to, um... putting it vaguely here... ensure that I can still have a child in case any sort of cancer treatment leaves me sterile. So if Jessica Alba or Evangeline Lilly is out there somewhere reading this, just know that I'm already thinking about you fondly.

(Which is not to be confused with 'fondling.' Or maybe it is. You decide.)

Keep the positive thoughts and prayers flowing and we'll get some movement on this soon enough. I love all the emails and phone messages, and all the comments coming into the blog are great -- I read every one, and am amazed at people that I don't even know (like Francesca) that are writing from across the globe to lend their support. I still have no doubt we're all going to crush this thing -- me, you and everyone else that has kept such an amazing positive outlook on all this. There are going to be roadblocks like this insurance thing, but we'll get there.

Good things come to those who wait (but not too long)...

With much love,

Monday, May 26, 2008

The Weekend and Beyond

It's the end of the long weekend and I've spent really the entire day switching off between reading, watching TV, surfing the net (for non-cancer-related stuff) and playing video games. Some might think that it's a waste of a day, but first off, the weather wasn't that great here, and secondly, I was frankly exhausted after yesterday.

Overall, the three-day weekend was just what I needed. Saturday morning I hung out with my friend Kim, and Saturday evening, in more of a last-minute thing, Matt, Danner and Carlos took me to the A's-Red Sox game. It was great to hang out with those guys; the only problem was that it was maybe the shortest game of the season, a 3-0 A's win that lasted all of two hours and 20 minutes. This would have been a great time to sit through one of those four-hour 10-8 American League specials that I seem to have attended so many times, but the evening went quickly -- too quickly for my tastes.

Still, I was really happy to see those guys and it's always fun getting part of the gang together. Matt asked if I was going to blog about it and Danner (rightfully?) accused him of just "wanting some ink" ("ink" being the newspaper term for publicity); Matt's had some ink on this blog already, but now he has some more, and I'm sure all those guys will get even more before this is all said and done.

In all seriousness, no one has asked for any ink since I started this blog and if there are personal interactions I have with you that you don't want made public here, let me know. I don't plan on publicly recounting every single detail about each of my social engagements or medical treatments -- some things are indeed sacred, and others are just obviously personal -- but feel free to give me a "hey, please don't share that with anyone else" if there are things you definitely want kept private.

I will then decide, on a case-by-case basis, on whether or not to actually keep it private, and what sort of nominal fee I will charge you if I do indeed determine that I will honor your request.

On Sunday, I had lunch with Barry, and then Chris, his girlfriend Virginia and her mom Lacy stopped by for a visit. After that, my mom and I went to Carlos's house for dinner, and then he and I caught Indy 4. Yep, long day, and not having slept well the previous night (see my last blog post for more on The Dream), I was completely exhausted by day's end. That's why today's veg session has been so welcome -- because of yesterday's mental and physical fatigue, and because tomorrow the ball will really get rolling quickly.

Tomorrow we're really going to step up the pace of this thing. I have a scheduled consultation with Dr. Cecchi in the afternoon but since Stanford appears to be driving this bus now, I am going to call in the morning and see if we still need to meet. I expect Stanford to call at some point tomorrow and schedule all the necessary tests -- probably for Wednesday, but the tests could even be run tomorrow -- to determine our next course of action (immediate surgery or radiation therapy). I need to mail some forms, and also speak to the Sega HR people to see if they can help with the upcoming battle with the insurance company. We also need to do some grocery shopping and Mom needs to hit Costco for some things. Big, big day, and the rest of the week isn't likely to be any lighter.

So yeah, the pieces have begun to move around the board and the preparations for battle are picking up speed. That's why I refuse to begrudge myself a day of lounging around doing nothing but relaxing -- and I'm sure there will be more of these sorts of 'do-nothing' days in the future during treatment, although there might be various side effects or levels of pain that would make 'relaxing' a rather inappropriate word for what I'll be doing.

Mom and I are going to duck out and grab a bite to eat before settling in for the night. How was Indy 4, you ask? Well, just know that I am a huge aficionado of the series. Raiders of the Lost Ark is probably my all-time favorite film, and I liked the other two as well, although I thought Temple of Doom was the worst, in large part because it was the least realistic. Of course, Indy World isn't particularly 'real' to begin with, but I tend to like my action films to have a sense of plausibility about them. When stunts occur that are beyond the realm of the ridiculous, that's when I tend to tune out.

That having been said, some of the action in Indy 4 was the least plausible of all the movies. Harrison looked fine, the script was okay (although a bit muddled in parts) and I had no qualms with the subject matter -- but there are just several things that happen in the movie that broke my suspension of disbelief and made me scoff "oh, c'mon." I never once felt that way during Raiders -- as crazy as it was in spots, it never made me feel like it was completely implausible.

But then, I knew it wouldn't capture the magic of Raiders, because likely nothing will in my mind ever again -- the magic will be different, anyway, when it happens with some other film. Treated purely as a piece of fun escapism, and as part of the overall series, Indy 4 was fine, but it definitely trails well behind Raiders and Last Crusade in the overall series, if you're asking me to rank them.

Which you didn't, but it's my blog, so I did it anyway. Next week, we'll rank the Police Academy films from best to worst, and talk about the perplexing career decline of Charo. Stay tuned.

With much love,

Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Dream

I hope everyone is having a great weekend -- or if you're checking this on Monday (or later), I hope you had a fantastic weekend. I'm having fun and I'll write more about that later, but I wanted to pass along a dream I had last night (actually, around 5 AM this morning, because I looked at the clock after I woke up from it).

Sleeping has become more of a dicey proposition as the tumor inside me shifts occasionally and it becomes more difficult to find a comfortable position in which to lie down. I would imagine that anyone who has ever been pregnant is pretty well familiar with what I'm talking about. A couple nights ago, I slept on the recliner downstairs, but last night, I spent most of the night in my own bed. Sleep was intermittent but I managed to grab stretches of 30 minutes here, 60 minutes there.

Meanwhile, I had a whole bunch of weird dreams all night, but I only vividly remember one of them, and as I've gone over it in my head this morning, I realized the symbolism is pretty unreal. I want to share it with you so the armchair psychologists out there can go wild, and you can maybe get a different perspective into my mindset. After I thought more about the dream, I realized that it's probably not incredibly difficult to interpret, but you can take from it what you will.

Here's how I remember my dream (and yes, this is a real dream, it's not an exercise in creative writing):

It was night, and I was swimming in a lake or a stream of some kind. I was with some of my oldest and dearest friends, including one friend that I've been in contact with much more in recent months than in the last few years. The water itself was quite murky, wasn't particularly pleasant, and there was a sense that we shouldn't be there -- that maybe we were doing something wrong.

Then some flashlights appeared in the distance, and the aforementioned old friend yelled "Get out of here now! Just go, go, run, run!" We all scattered and started running in different directions as the lights approached. I stumbled a bit, climbed over some rocks, and ultimately was captured by some authority figure while the rest of my friends got away.

I was taken to a temporary trailer-type of building, like one you'd see on a construction site. Inside, a big group of punk-type kids -- mostly teenagers, from what I can remember, but I do know that there was not any one individual that was overly imposing -- told me that I had been trespassing in their waters and I was in trouble. I asked what the specific charge was, and what exactly it was that I did wrong, but they did not tell me. They only taunted me, and I felt pretty helpless because there were so many of them there.

"I'm going to call my lawyer and sue you guys for holding me against my will," I threatened them, but they only laughed as if it was an idle threat, and told me that they'd heard it all before. The impression I got was that I was in their territory and because of this, they felt like they could keep me in captivity as long as they wanted without giving me any specific reason as to why.

My feeling of helplessness grew, and I started getting angrier and angrier about being held against my will. Meanwhile, although my captors never touched me or harmed me physically, they continued to somewhat taunt me and made sure to reinforce the fact that I was at their mercy.

And then I felt some sort of presence outside the trailer -- maybe a SWAT team, or a trained rescue squad -- and a couple of grenades blew open the trailer doors. There was chaos, everyone scattered, and I took the opportunity to run.

I ran away from the trailer, down some sort of path, and a few of the punks chased me. But now, I was away from their turf, there were far fewer of them, and when they caught up to me, it became apparent how much bigger I was than they were.

And at that point, I unleashed serious violence. I'm not a violent person by nature -- I've never been in a fistfight in my life -- and like I said, these punks had never physically touched me, much less harmed me. But my reaction to them was about one level short of insanity. I literally beat the crap out of all of them.

I vividly remember having one punk pinned on the ground, already clearly beaten, and still pounding his head over and over into the concrete. As for a couple other punks that were down and out of the fight, I still didn't leave good enough alone -- I kicked them around, spewing profanity, leaving them just short of death. It was like something out of a mob movie.

I don't think I killed any of them, but I remember leaving them so thoroughly physically beaten that there was no question of them ever messing with me again. And I remember feeling a bit scared and overwhelmed by my reaction to the whole thing -- so violent and so completely out of line with their transgressions against me. The punishment I meted out to them far exceeded what they did to me, but all I could think was "This is what happens when you screw with me." There was almost something cathartic to me absolutely physically abusing these people, but it was a bit unnerving at the same time.

And then I woke up.

At the time, I thought, "Well, that was a weird dream." When I finally dragged out of bed at 9 AM this morning after grabbing more snatches of sleep here and there, this was the only dream out of all of them that I remembered clearly. It wasn't until later in the morning, when I went back over it in my head, that the symbolism of everything in there crystallized in my mind, and I realized that it wasn't a weird dream at all.

Like I said, I don't think it's too hard to interpret, but maybe you have your own thoughts, and feel free to comment as you see fit. And now you know a little bit more about how my mind is operating in this entire situation.

There's a battle coming, and somewhere, those punk kids have no idea what happens when you screw with me.

With much love,

Friday, May 23, 2008

A Big Leap Forward

It's the start of a long weekend, and I really wish I was out partying on this Friday night, but it's been an important and emotional day and I'll probably be out and about this weekend, so if I have to bite the bullet and make it a couch potato evening, so be it. I'm going to need the energy for the weeks ahead anyway.

This morning we met with the folks at Stanford, and it would be an understatement to say that it was a life-altering meeting.

As I mentioned previously, Lou managed to get me an appointment with Dr. Charlotte Jacobs, one of the foremost experts on sarcoma, which is a fairly rare form of cancer. Dr. Jacobs' schedule had been booked for the next three weeks, but after speaking with Lou, she graciously offered to see me this morning, just two days after Lou placed the call. So this morning I arrived at Stanford with my mom, my dad, and my step-mom Mimi to see what the Stanford folks had to say about the situation.

We first met with a medical student who performed the standard round of medical checks (the blood pressure, the temperature, slapping my ass to check for redness -- the usual stuff) and took a complete briefing from me on the history of my case. After thoroughly going over my current health situation and my medical history, he left to discuss the information with Dr. Jacobs, giving my parents, my 'bonus mom' and I some time to discuss my predicament amongst ourselves.

This is the first time we'd all been in the same room -- Mimi included -- since we got the big news last week, and there wasn't a lot of productive conversation that occurred on that day, in no small part because I was whacked out on 4 MG of Xanax after being informed that I had a very large cancerous tumor in my stomach.

It was an interesting convergence of parental power. Mimi has been down this road before, having lost a son (my step-brother Michael) to illness over 10 years ago, so this situation brings back a lot of emotion and feeling for her, but it also adds great power to her input. My dad, ever positive and philosophical, is focused on the step-by-step nature of this process, and how things need to run their natural course, making sure to provide needed perspective to my mindset when I get frustrated at my lack of control of this situation. As for my mom, well, she is the ultimate mother hen, now living with me, taking care of my every need, and being the indispensible protective shield that really only a mother can be. There's no way I'd be getting through all of this without her living here to just simply be my mom.

Each parent has their own role to play, and today, while waiting for Dr. Jacobs, we talked a lot about my positive outlook towards my battle, the incredible power of positive thinking, and the fact that a lot of people are far worse off than I am. I have a lot to be thankful for -- I've got an incredible support system, and a ton of cancer patients don't have that. I can't even begin to imagine what they're going through.

Then Dr. Jacobs entered, and the amazing support system got that much better.

She came in with Dr. Jeff Norton, a surgeon who checked out my stomach, asked me some questions, and then declared pretty plainly that we were going to need to surgically remove this bad boy in fairly short order. Before we can move forward, he said, we'll need the aforementioned high-def scan of my stomach so we can see quite clearly where the main problem areas are. This is pretty much the same thing Dr. Upadhyah told us yesterday, so it wasn't new news per se.

The real illumination came when Dr. Norton left and Dr. Jacobs got down to business. She patiently and clearly explained to us everything we needed to know about sarcoma -- it's a pretty uncommon form of cancer (it only strikes about 8,000 people a year), there are many variations of it, surgery is the typical form of treatment, many variations are responsive to either chemo or radiation or both, and that while there can be a genetic component, sometimes it just happens.

"Your diet did not cause this cancer, and your diet will have no effect on its spread or its treatment," she said at one point, and you could hear the sighs of relief from thousands of Taco Bell franchise operators across the country.

What quickly became evident was that this is Dr. Jacobs' area of expertise, no question about it. She had pretty definitive answers for all of our questions and reiterated the likely treatment protocols that our other doctors had mentioned: either surgery and then chemo/radiation (although according to Dr. Jacobs, radiation therapy is the preferred method for most sarcomas before and/or after surgery), or radiation first and then surgery. She wants to do the surgery first, and so do I, but we've got to make completely sure that it's the right thing to do, and we won't know that until next week.

She also told us a little about Dr. Norton, including the very small detail that he performs five to 10 large-tumor operations, including operations on sarcomas, per week.

To top things off, we discussed the very sensitive area of insurance and how to best get the insurance company to pay for this treatment. Dr. Jacobs graciously cut the cost of today's consultation (paid for out of our pockets, because it happened too quickly to be authorized by my insurance company -- if they'd even authorize it in the first place) to the bare minimum, meaning I got a refund of some of my pre-payment on my way out the door. Finally, she promised to work with my GP to get as many of the tests and scans, as well as the surgery itself, authorized by the insurance company if at all possible.

The bottom line here is that we couldn't have hoped for a warmer, more humane, more informative, more hopeful visit with a physician than we got today. Dr. Jacobs is just simply amazing; I can't put it any other way.

Let me be clear: this has nothing to do with Dr. Cecchi or Dr. Upadhyah, who are professional, competent doctors and excellent physicians in their own right. The visits we had with them made me feel like I am going to beat this disease, and their help and information was a major part of this process.

But as I left the examination room with my family after meeting with Dr. Jacobs today, I had tears in my eyes. I am carrying a very complex and rare disease in my body, and today I had an expert on the subject consult with me and join my fighting team. Next to her, I have a surgeon that is amazingly experienced in removing the type of cancer I have, and is an expert at removing these sarcomas. So it's not that my previous doctors aren't experts; they are, but just not in the area of sarcomas, which is of paramount importance in this situation. Having world-class physicians now on my side, getting ready to jump into battle with me, well, I can't describe what that means to me.

Dr. Jacobs, Dr. Norton and the Stanford Cancer Center are now part of my team. My mind-set was positive before, but the jolt of confidence this gives me is immeasurable.

Oh, and to top it off, Dr. Jacobs called me while we were having lunch after the consultation to tell me that my GP, Dr. Stewart, had agreed to authorize any and all treatment through the Stanford team. Now, the insurance company is still going to fight this tooth-and-nail because it's out-of-network, but with my GP on board, at least this will be an easier fight for us.

And, of course, the real fight, the only one that matters, is the one for my life. As we collectively exhaled outside the examination room following the consultation, my dad mentioned something to the extent that all the positive energy, prayer, thoughts and good vibes you've all been sending me for the last 10 days have converged to produce this moment. It's like a focused light shining down from above, showing us the way, he said, and with that I agree. Good things do happen when you focus on it, and that's what happened here.

Dr. Stewart called me as we were driving home to let me know that he was going to do whatever he could to help us in the insurance battle, but that we are going to have to probably raise a bit of hell ourselves to make sure they cover as much of these procedures as possible. That's fine; we can do that. That's really the easy part when compared to the battle ahead of me. As Dr. Jacobs said, there may be some twists and turns in this fight, and I have to be prepared to change course if and when it becomes necessary -- but that's been my mindset from the beginning. I'm not expecting a cakewalk, and never have been; this is some serious stuff I'm facing. I'm probably going to go through quite a bit of pain and misery before coming out on the other side. But I WILL come out on the other side, and that's all that matters.

Dr. Stewart left me with this: "Get out there and enjoy the weekend, enjoy the sun, and have a good time, because it's probably the last weekend you'll get to enjoy for a while." True enough. If the tests are completed expediently, I could either be in surgery or radiation (or even chemo) as early as next Thursday or Friday, although Dr. Jacobs thinks that if we do the surgery without any radiation prep, it will most likely be the week after next. Regardless, the next steps have been taken, the battle itself draws ever closer, and the down-and-dirty fighting will begin before I know it.

So yeah, I will definitely get out there this weekend and enjoy life, knowing that things are going to change pretty darn quickly once the holiday is over. Maybe tonight I'll give the new EURO 2008 soccer video game that Jaap so kindly sent me a good go, but mostly I'll be outside, soaking up the sun, spending time with friends, and enjoying everything life has to offer. I may even have a beer or two.

And, of course, I have to go see the new Indy flick. I saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in the theater six times; I know the movie by heart. I saw both Temple of Doom and Last Crusade on opening day. I would have snuck in a viewing of the new movie on opening day this time but, well, Thursday was a big day, and some things are more important than my favorite fictional archaeologist. But still, I'll make time to see Harrison don the familiar fedora; I've been waiting for this one for a long time.

Man, can I drone on or what? Time for me to go try out this new video game. Two quick, specific call-outs: to Lou, your intervention literally changed the course of my treatment, and you will never know the bounds of my thanks. And to Amy, my cancer sensei, the LIVESTRONG binder arrived today -- thanks for arranging that, and you continue to be an incredible inspiration to me. I will sweep the leg on this thing, oh yes I will.

To everyone else out there reading, know that I love you all -- and with that, have an amazing holiday weekend, keep the positive thoughts and love and prayers coming, and whatever you do, please make sure to take a moment to draw in a deep breath and just enjoy life. I'm not gonna get all preachy about taking advantage of every waking moment or anything like that, but if you can, take a sec to appreciate who you are and what you've been given. I know I have, and even given my current circumstances, I've know I've been pretty darned blessed in a ton of ways.

Happy Memorial Day weekend and I'll catch up with you soon.

With much love,

Thursday, May 22, 2008

You Want Fries With That?

This is a family blog, but cancer is an ugly subject, so if you're gonna follow along with me down this road, you have to be prepared for some pretty unsightly stuff. But that doesn't mean we can't have a little fun with things when the situation calls for it. So, that said ...

Remember yesterday when I said that Dr. Cecchi had ordered another ultrasound, although I had no idea why? Well, silly me -- turns out that it wasn't an ultrasound of the same area that has already been scanned, but rather a look at a more, uh, private spot below my belly.

Turns out that he wanted to make sure my "boys" were clean.

We got to the hospital this morning, I received my marching orders from a very nice receptionist, and checked over the course of action: I was there to get my testicles examined. We walked down to the ultrasound area and a very comely young lady took the printed orders from me, and before I knew it, I was ushered into a private room and told to disrobe from the waist down -- by this very same good-looking technician.

"I'll be back in a minute and we'll take a look," she told me before closing the curtain that separated the room from the hallway. Huh? What? We?

Well doesn't this just take the cake -- a cute woman wants to check out my li'l fellers, and it's for a medical reason. Naturally.

The pants and the skivvies came off and I laid down on my back with a blanket covering my lower half, and the technician came in and fired up the ultrasound machine. Soon she was checking out my li'l guy on the right side with the ultrasound machine, with me flat on my back, thinking that this was the ultimate of ironies. Jonas Salk doing an ultra on my nads? Not a problem. Nurse Ratched? There might have been a bit more pain involved, but okay, fine.

But this? This was just patently unfair.

She got through ultrasounding (is that a word?) the right testicle. "Looks fine," she said. "Nothing too exciting here." Oh, really? Speak for yourself.

She moved on to the left side, did some more of whatever it was that she was doing, and then put the blanket back over me. "Everything looks all right," she declared. "I'll show the pics to the doc, and you can clean yourself up, and we'll let you know if we need any more pictures." With that, she stepped past the curtain in the hall, not giving me the chance to ask if there were any other options on the menu that I could consider sampling before the consultation was over.

Okay, I know this whole thing might sound very demeaning to my very professional and competent technician, and that's not my intent. It's not her fault that she happens to be a good-looking lady that was required to check out my privates, just like it's not my fault that I happen to be a guy that has a weird preference for women checking out my privates because they want to, rather than scoping them out for evidence of cancer. That's just the way it works sometimes, and them's the breaks.

As Andy from Extras might want to know: Are you having a laugh? Is he having a laugh? Uh, yeah, I am, so although I know it might sound sexist, it's a joke.

The news on the, uh, "clearness" of my li'l fellers is both bad and good; bad, because it means that I don't have testicular cancer, which according to Dr. Cecchi would mean that we could "hit it out of the park" with the treatment -- it's just more common and more easily treatable than sarcoma, plain and simple. But the good is that my boys are clear, and I'm not gonna complain about that. The fewer the places that cancer shows up in my body, the better.

The second visit of the day with with a surgeon, Dr. Upadhyah. We had a good visit with him, and he outlined the potential treatment protocols we're looking at to beat this thing. I'll spare the specifics and just say we still need more information to make any firm decisions, including a much more accurate CT scan from a machine that can produce a 3D image of my stomach, so we can see much more precisely which organs are affected and which ones aren't.

Really though, what it basically comes down to is one of two likely options: either we'll have surgery to remove most of the tumor, and blast the remainder with chemotherapy, or we'll begin with chemo to shrink some of the tumor, and then have surgery to take out the rest. Both are key components of the treatment and it's now an issue of which will come first.

Of course, the Stanford expert, Dr. Jacobs, will have her own say tomorrow morning. She's an expert on sarcomas and may have an entirely different opinion, or may have a very strong preference to a particular course of treatment -- we'll see about that tomorrow. It's just another valuable piece of the puzzle as we head down the road towards treating this evil thing and getting rid of it -- it goes without saying that having an actual expert on the specific disease weigh in on the solution should be an immeasurable asset to us.

A couple things before I sign off. First, Tommy and Loretta's boy T.L. came through his procedure okay and should be out of intensive care tomorrow. That's good news. And I feel really good about what happened today in both medical appointments, despite the fact that some of you might think that first visit this morning might have left me feeling a little blue.

Finally, thanks for the various comments, suggestions on how to handle medical insurance, and the humor and support and love I get coming through various forms of communication. Family, friends, and people I've never even met are reaching out to me and that means everything -- you have no idea what a difference it makes on my mindset and my outlook. Please keep the positive vibes and love and prayers and info coming, and please know that my gratitude for that knows no bounds.

I hope everyone is gearing up for a long, fun, restful holiday weekend -- after the consultation tomorrow morning, I have no agenda for the next three days other than to enjoy life. That's the way it should be.

With much love,

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

On Tap

"On what day did God create Spinal Tap, and couldn't he have rested on that day?"

Okay, sorry, I don't mean Spinal Tap. (Although I wish I did; I'd much rather be at Stonehenge at the moment.)

Today was a relaxing day, which is sort of a double-edged sword. It's easy to relax, watch TV, respond to emails and such, and make some phone calls while entirely foregoing that distinctly civilized convention that we usually refer to as a "shower." On the other hand, it's another day gone by with a very large and very dangerous mass in my belly.

There were some positives to be taken away from the day, however. First off, Matt's dad Lou has made some phone calls on my behalf and has arranged for me to consult with Dr. Charlotte Jacobs, a sarcoma expert at Stanford, on Friday. It's fantastic having Lou in my side in this fight because he is a radiologist, is well-connected, and knows how to get things done. In this case, he found a Stanford cancer expert that has a full schedule for the next three weeks, and she still offered to see me in two days for a consultation. Amazing.

Secondly, he asked for and received the biopsy pathology report from Dr. Cecchi and discussed some of the options with Dr. Jacobs, the Stanford physician. Lou told me some of what the report describes and while I really didn't want to know too much detail on exactly what was written (as I've mentioned, I'm more interested in keeping a positive focus on beating this thing, and not getting caught up into what it is or how tough it's going to be), he mentioned that at the most basic level, the report suggests that it's likely a liposarcoma of some kind.

Forget about what that means medically; I'll reiterate that I don't want to hear about how easy or hard it will be to beat it, or anything about survival rates, or the like. I know this is going to be a tough battle and don't need to be reminded of it. Instead, what it means for me is that some anecdotal stories that were passed along to me in the last week have taken on a little more meaning. Matt has a PT patient that had a liposarcoma the size of a football removed from his stomach, and he's doing fine. Andrew has spoken with a physician who said that people beat liposarcomas all the time. These anecdotes contribute to my mindset and help keep me going.

As I've written, my situation is different. My liver has been invaded, and other organs are at risk. Of course this is going to be a long, hard battle, and I'm ready for it. But just knowing that other people have beaten this, and that some have done so relatively easily, gives me a shot of confidence, regardless of how serious my own personal battle is shaping up to be.

So, what's on tap for tomorrow? A few things. Dr. Cecchi has ordered another ultrasound. He's out of the office for the next couple days so I'm not sure why, but I'll go in for that tomorrow morning. Tomorrow afternoon, I have a consultation with a surgeon where we'll likely talk about either a surgical biopsy or, more preferably, a surgical procedure that will simply remove a large bulk of the tumor and use that as the basis for a more definitive biopsy, and decide upon a further treatment protocol from there.

Apparently Lou and Dr. Jacobs discussed a similar concept today and I'm sure I'll talk with her about it on Friday. Like I wrote last time, I really like this concept: if it's medically realistic, then let's just cut out as much of the cancer as we can now, and move forward from there. We're going to need to go deeper to get a more definitive diagnosis anyway, so why not just take out a boatload of the crap while we're in there?

Seems logical enough. I'm sure there are quite a few medical reasons why we shouldn't do it like this, but I don't feel like we have a few weeks to sit around, enjoy a bottle of Corona, rub our toes through the sand and mull over all the options in a leisurely fashion. I want to kick-start this thing ASAP and although a lot of this is out of my hands and I've been told by several people that this is just how it goes when it comes to dealing with anything in the medical community, I just want to make it happen as soon as we can. This sounds like a solution that, if truly viable, can get things going rather quickly.

So, it's a big day tomorrow, with two appointments and also gathering the necessary information for the Friday meeting at Stanford. This brings me to my final part of the update -- the insurance aspect.

I have Blue Cross HMO, and although I'm not well-versed in how the referral and billing and payment process works, so far everything that I've had done has been in-network and therefore will be paid for. The Stanford consult could be an entirely different story -- and if Stanford looks like they are the best option for the full course of treatment, well, that raises a whole other set of questions of what insurance will cover and what it won't.

So, I throw out the call to anyone and everyone -- if there's anyone out there who has a pretty good idea of what I can expect in terms of getting insurance to cover any of the Stanford aspect, or if there are any health insurance experts out there that have advice on how to handle this, please drop me a line. I won't spend a lot of time on this blog lamenting our screwed-up health care system or the fact that people facing life-threatening illnesses have to even spend time worrying about how to pay for treatment (and I'm one of the lucky ones that has coverage in the first place); I'll just ask and see if anyone has any expertise, advice or suggestions on how to navigate an extremely complicated system should we ultimately choose to have Stanford handle the bulk of treatment.

That's about it from me for today. As always, thank you from the bottom of my heart for all the love, support and positive prayer and energy. We're gonna beat this thing. Sometimes the steps seem like they're coming slowly or not at all, but they're there; it's all a process and it all has to play out in its own time. Thanks to some outside help, my process has been sped up a bit today, and I'm very thankful for that. With luck, before long I can get to the business of the real hard work, which I'm anxious to begin.

Oh, one last thing -- please save some positive thoughts and prayers for Tommy and Loretta's boy T.L., who goes in for a very serious medical procedure tomorrow. While I'm in no hurry to speed ahead to my twilight years, I am in fact looking forward to watching T.L. throw his slow-moving left-handed junk at major league hitters in a 20-year career that makes him enough money to bring his parents (and some of his parents' select friends) on a few Caribbean cruises.

With much love,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

The "Results"

(Quotes in the title used intentionally.)

Drumroll please... and, the biopsy shows...

...wait for it...

Nothing. The biopsy results are inconclusive. After the last five days of waiting, now I have more waiting ahead of me.

To say that I'm frustrated is an understatement. I went down to the clinic at 9 this morning with Mom and Andrew, and truth be told, I was feeling pretty good. Mom and I had a long talk last night about how I really wasn't too concerned with the details -- just tell me what I have but really, let me know how I'm going to kick ass all over it to the tune of Tyson-Spinks back in '88. Don't give me any of the negative "You can't do this" crap, just tell me what I have to do, and I'll do it.

So here we are, a day later, with very few details more than we had last week. But there is some new info, so I will lay it out for you.

First off, there's no sugar-coating this baby in my stomach. It's huge. It's not an "oh my lord, it's the size of a golf ball" type of thing -- no, it's magnitudes bigger. It's in my stomach and waist and knocking around my intestines and most importantly, as Dr. Cecchi (the oncologist) drove home again and again, it's invaded my liver. And that's the big deal here.

We knew it had moved into the liver, but Dr. Cecchi's analysis is that its presence in there is a major complicating factor. We still don't know what kind of cancer it is yet -- the very likely culprits are still some sort of malignant sarcoma, but we're not sure -- but its invasion into the liver means that if it's a sarcoma, it's not going away, ever. It's in my liver for good, and that means that whatever the outcome here, I won't ever truly be 'cured' of cancer (until medical technology catches up enough to find a cure for this).

This is not a good thing, but it's not the end of the world. More on this in a moment.

The other complicating factor, according to the good Doc, is that if it's a sarcoma, it could have spread by blood to other parts of my body. To this end, he's ordering an MRI and PET scan to check out my brain and some other organs. I haven't had any brain issues that I know of (other than to blurt out some of the real jackass things that pop into my mind from time to time, and embarrass myself completely) and I feel great, but who knows what the scans will show. We'll just have to wait and see on that one.

So now you're probably thinking, "So, uh, where's the good news in all this?" Well, there is good news in its own way. First off, as blunt as he was (and that's his job), Dr. Cecchi made it clear that there are solutions here. First off, he wants to surgically cut out as much of the mass as he can. I'm really digging this concept -- would love to just get this crap out of my body immediately and then get down to the nitty-gritty of treating the remaining tumors with radio and chemo. Let's carve most of this away and pound on the rest until I'm in remission -- that's a scenario I like.

Not only that, but he didn't beat around the bush when Andrew asked him one-on-one what the timetables were for me on this one. Andrew did a similar thing with my GP last week -- asked him straight up if I was going to start having to count my remaining time in months or weeks -- and got the same answer from Doc Cecchi as he did last week: no, it's not about that. It's about exploring all our options, getting rid of this invader, and surviving. There are no other acceptable alternatives and neither doctor has proferred anything resembling a prognosis with the word 'terminal' attached to it.

The last bit of good news? Well, it's a stretch, but who knows -- the biopsy isn't confirmed, and maybe, just maybe, it's a much more treatable form of cancer that will leave me cured when all is said and done.

And, the capper -- we'll still be discussing this with the folks at Stanford, and they may (or may not) have some other solutions to offer. We'll see.

As for the Big Picture, well, it goes without saying this will be tough -- the hardest thing I ever have or ever will face. And if I have to spend the rest of my life with the proverbial Sword of Damocles over my head, living in remission and going in to check up every 3-6 months to see if I'm still healthy -- so be it. As I said above, living with cancer in remission is better than the alternative, so it's not the end of the world. And believe me that I'll be fighting to get to that point, through hell and high water.

I've received so many phone calls, emails and texts today asking about the results. If I haven't gotten back to you, don't worry and don't ever take it personally. Just know that I got your message, it means the world to me, and every bit of support boosts me up in this fight. I will end up speaking to you sooner rather than later, when things cool down a bit.

By the way -- a new drug hit my personal arsenal today, some Vicodin, to help with the stomach pain. The stomach has felt pretty good up until last night, but the tumor must have shifted because I couldn't sleep on my back too well. Between that and the Xanax, to quote a sorta-famous song from the Sixties, I've been Feelin' Groovy today.

I have a consultation with the surgeon on Thursday so I will let you know more then. Keep those emails and messages coming -- they are my life blood.

With much love,

Monday, May 19, 2008


Hey all,

Here's what's coming up tomorrow.

I have a 9:00 AM appointment with an oncologist in Oakland to discuss the biopsy results. If you've ready my previous entries, you know that I'm fully ready for a pretty severe diagnosis and a long battle ahead of me. God willing, it will be easier than that, but I have a pretty big growth inside my stomach and I'm just being realistic. We're in for a battle.

Mom and Andrew are going to come with me and ask most of the questions. To me, it will be a lot of technical terms and noise. But frankly, I'm not as concerned with exactly what I have (of course, I am concerned, don't get me wrong, but hear me out) as with what we're going to do about it.

I don't want negativity. I don't want survival rates. I don't want to hear what I can't do. I only want to hear what I can and will do to beat what's inside of me and get rid of it forever.

So as you travel in spirit with me tomorrow morning, please keep in mind this is still an early part of the journey. Depending on what I have, and assuming it's as serious as initially thought, we're going to get Stanford and/or UCSF involved, and they may have a completely different perspective on how to approach it. No offense or disrespect intended to my GP or tomorrow's oncologist whatsoever -- they are fine physicians in their own right, and their course of action could be the most appropriate. But, for instance, if I have a rare form of sarcoma, then I need to talk to an actual sarcoma expert at Stanford to get the best possible treatment protocol. So, like I said, tomorrow we start gathering information, but by no means is tomorrow the last word on what is going to happen.

I know a lot of you are anxious to hear the results and prognosis. I will try to get something up on the blog tomorrow with the details, but there are a few caveats here, and please keep them in mind when word is passed around (either on the blog or by phone) with what the current information is:

* Like I said, the outlook tomorrow is the first opinion, and could change. A second opinion from the big dogs at Stanford or UCSF is almost a guarantee. Their opinion might be exactly the same, but at least we'll have some consensus.
* Depending on how the day goes, I may not even be able to get to the blog tomorrow, and in that case, we'll have to phone tree everything out there. Andrew will be with me, he'll be able to call Matt and Bernard, they'll be able to get the info out to others, etc.
* MOST IMPORTANTLY: Please do not scurry to the internet, Google the exact terminology of what I have, and make a decision then and there about how difficult or easy you think this treatment is going to be. Each and every one of you has been so amazing to this point with your love, prayers and support, and now the last thing I need is someone calling or writing and saying "Oh, I'm so sorry" because they've read on Wikipedia that my form of cancer has a very low survival rate or something. Not that I expect this to happen, but I'm making sure to note it here so that it doesn't.

I am me, with my own brain, body, emotions, resolve, health, outlook, opinions, and everything else. I am not anyone else. The survival rates include everyone, old and young, healthy and infirm, positive attitudes and negative bring-me-downs -- it's a composite. I'm not a composite, I'm me, this is my cancer, and I'm determined to kick absolute ass on whatever I have. There may be some curve balls along the way, but if so, I'll pull a Pedro Serrano and figure out how to hit the bender just when I need it most.

If you're reading this blog it means you care about me, and by definition it means that I care about you too. We're moving along in this process -- first the H-bomb drop that I have a massive tumor in my stomach, then the biopsy, now the results. There's still a long way to go and you and I are still going to talk many times before this is over and behind me. So, just know that I'm feeling all the love and support, I always have been, and I take everyone's positive energy and prayers into that room with me tomorrow as we learn more about the battle ahead.

And when I do put the word out as to what this cancerous culprit is, remember that it's still only the beginning, and in my mind, I really don't care too much what it is, I only care about getting rid of it. Tuesday, May 20 is a big step in the journey, but it's only one step.

I'm riding a bit of the Xanax wave right now so I'm gonna pull a "Seacrest out" and hit the couch for a while. As always, I am overwhelmed by your outpouring of support and I truly believe that when I beat this thing, each of you will have had a significant part to play -- so keep sending me the positive energy, thoughts and prayers, and with that power behind us, anything is possible. Talk to you soon.

With much love,

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Little Victories, Little Demons

I played almost the full Mirror Image show yesterday standing up. It was originally my intention to sit for the show so as to protect my stomach pain, but my stomach felt fine, so with the exception of one slow ballad where I took a break because my back was hurting, I stood and 'rocked out' the whole time (at least as much as I could).

Little victories.

It was a beautiful day, really hot, but thankfully we had a tent covering the stage. For not having rehearsed in a month, and with my mind perhaps a bit elsewhere, and with with our singer Lisa just five days off major shoulder surgery and wearing a massive sling, we did okay. We even had one solid jam at the end of a song where our drummer Billy and I really seemed to be locked in and almost telepathically varying the rhythm behind Brad's violin solos. It was very gratifying to hit a groove like that.

Sadly, I fear that will be my last Mirror Image show for quite a while -- I mean, based on Lisa's and my condition, we should rename the band 'The 4077th' or something, but we're stuck with Mirror Image, like it or not. But while Lisa will heal relatively quickly, I'm in for a bigger battle. But I will be on stage with those guys again, I know it.

This resolve is, I'm sorry to say, not unwavering. I have received countless messages of support from all of you lauding my incredible outlook, and I continue to have faith and confidence in what's ahead for me, because let's face it: as Ghostbuster Peter Venkman told the scared administrator in the haunted library, "We don't even know what you have yet." This is true. Tuesday's the big day and until then, it's mostly worthless speculation.

But that doesn't mean there aren't demons. And yesterday was my first day. I couldn't tell you why. Maybe it was because I was alone for a while after the gig. Maybe it was because my band members noted that my face is thinner (I have lost a bit of weight, yes). Maybe it was because I stupidly looked on the internet at some stuff regarding the type of cancer that the doc is guessing (key word there, guessing) it might be.

I dunno what it was, frankly. But the reality was that the demons crept in. The negative thoughts swirled. The confidence wavered. The last few days prior to that I have felt like a gunslinger, glint in his eye, ready to take on all comers, ready to get hooked up to whatever machines or IVs necessary, and to spend days in agony, going through untold pain, to get this unwelcome bastard invader out of my body.

I'm still ready for that, but yesterday I allowed the negative to creep in. And I realize that it's silly, and worthless -- but I also realize that I'm human, and it will happen. Nobody can stay as positively resolute as I have been. There's a limit to exactly how brave a face you can put on, how much you can stride around like you're in full control. The fact is, I'm not in full control here -- there's a lot out of my hands and the most I can do is respond with every possible bit of my energy and positive outlook once I'm given my roadmap. But even the best prizefighters get knocked down, and that's what happened yesterday for a while.

Chris showed up later in the evening, we went to dinner and had a great talk, and I mellowed out a bit. Got a decent night's sleep with the help of some Xanax and this morning I'm expecting Marj, Jeff, Barry, Hugh and maybe a few others to come over for brunch, and this afternoon I hope to kick it with Andrew and Blair and their families in the afternoon sun at Blair's great house on a hill in Oakland. The weather has been phenomenal and it will be a great way to close out the weekend.

The support and emails continue to flow and I feel the energy from all of it -- literally, all of it, believe me. It means more to me than anyone will ever know. Please keep it coming. We're all on this road together -- I'm the main player in this particular show, but each and every one of you has a part to play and it's an extremely meaningful part. There are no bit roles here, there are no walk-ons, there are no two-second Hitchcock cameos. You might take on those 'extras' roles in other people's stage plays, but not mine -- I need you here with me, in mind and in spirit, as I step into a whole new world of discovery and come out the other side. Each piece of support you give to me, whether it's by a call or email, or even a positive thought or prayer, is a little victory and it helps drive away those nagging little demons.

I'm off to get ready for the day. As always, I love you all and will continue to keep you posted as we approach the time for complete diagnosis and treatment. Have a great Sunday.


Friday, May 16, 2008

The First Step

Where to begin? Where does one begin with something like this?

Well, there’s a beginning, and we’ll get to that at a later time – it’s pretty uninteresting, really, so you’re not missing much – but let’s just jump right in and talk about where we are now, today.

So – here’s the deal. I have a pretty large mass of something in my stomach. It starts near my waist, comes up my side, and curves over into the middle of my upper stomach just below my chest cavity. Right now both my waist and my upper stomach are a little distended; I’ve never been a thin guy (well, back in high school I was in good shape, but that went out the window once I discovered beer and dorm food), but the size of my stomach and gut are currently not in line with my weight. Not that if they cut all this crap out of my body I’d be left with a tight-ass six-pack or anything, but I certainly wouldn’t look as if I was carrying Kuato from Total Recall around in my belly.

On Tuesday I had an ultrasound and CT scan, got the news about what was going on, and they scheduled a biopsy for Thursday. Like I said, I’ll touch on that stuff later. It’s a day that I don’t want to think about at the moment – the most terrifying thing I’ve ever faced, to say the least – but it’s part of the story and as your faithful narrator, we’ll touch all the bases before this is over.

Anyway – the biopsy. Got to the hospital at 8 AM, checked in, took off all my clothes and put on a hospital gown, signed some forms, and got a nice IV needle stuck into my wrist. The prep time was lengthy as we waited for a room to be ready, but my mom, dad and stepbrother Chris were with me and the time passed quickly.

Then I went into the room and was set on a CT scanning table. The team was extremely professional and the guy in charge of my medication – I think his name is Tim, but I don’t quite remember now because one of the drugs they gave me causes you to forget this sort of thing – was really cool. Unfortunately he didn’t comply with my request for him to slip some liquid Ecstasy in the IV drip, but he did close to the next-best thing, dropping me into near unconsciousness and keeping me mentally afloat just enough to comply with the doctor’s request for me to hold my breath for a couple CT scans and then do the same for each of the needle insertions.

I don’t really remember them giving me the local anesthesia for the biopsy needle, but whatever they did, it worked to perfection. They stuck me with the needle over 12 times – I didn’t feel the need to count specifically – and finally got an appropriate amount of tissue. I was asked to breathe in and hold my breath for each insertion but I never once felt a thing. Overall, I don’t remember much about the procedure, but the doc did tell me what they were doing:

“We’re getting as much of this material as possible so we can get the best possible diagnosis. I’d tear the whole thing out of you if I could, but there’s blood and organs and such, so it’s a bit more complicated than that,” he said.

“But we will get the whole thing, doc?” I asked hopefully.

“Oh yeah, we’ll get the whole thing,” he said confidently.

Now, I’m well aware that this means nothing in and of itself; it’s not like the doctor is going to hem and haw and tell me that I’m in bad shape while I’m half-asleep on the biopsy table. But even if it’s just idle talk, it’s little victories like this, positive moments and attitudes, that add up and contribute to my positive spirit.

Soon the procedure was over. They rolled me back into the prep room and kept me for three hours just to make sure everything was okay, which it was. Lots of idle chat with the nurses and my folks and Chris. I even dozed for a while. Also made sure to make the requisite amount of sarcastic remarks just for my own self-amusement. This is what I consider to be my “jackass” mode, although my mom prefers to term it as being “charming” to the hospital staff -- but whatever it was, all that mattered to me was keeping myself and those around me in high spirits.

At 3, they let me go. The new nurse on shift took out my wrist IV and gave me the list of instructions – relax for a day or two, no physical exertion, no driving for 24 hours, no heavy lifting, etc.

“So can I play the full 90 minutes in my soccer game tonight or do I have to come out at halftime?” I asked, deadpan. He got it. Like I said, so long as I’m amusing myself, then I’m happy.

So – that was the first step in what is shaping up to be a long journey. Now it’s waiting until Tuesday for the results. I have steeled myself for the worst: the initial assessment by the radiologist and my GP is that my stomach mass is consistent with a type of sarcoma, very likely malignant, and that it can be attacked with chemo and radiation. I have already accepted this as reality and I am not on edge waiting for a better diagnosis. Things could be better, sure (or worse, but let’s not go there at this time), but I am already mentally geared towards fighting this thing, beating the crap out of it, and getting on my with my normal life on the other side of what will be an amazingly difficult and yet tremendously edifying journey.

I’ll try to continue to document this experience as we move forward. If you’re reading, you know I’m a writer, you know I’m verbose, and you know I like being the center of attention. So, this is a perfect way to combine all three and give you a glimpse into what is going to be my world for the next many months (and really, as a cancer survivor, for the rest of my life, not that I’ll need to blog about all that once this part is over!)

Is there a chance that the results come back and show a benign mass, and this is much ado about nothing? Sure, there’s a chance, a pretty slim one, but if that’s the case, I’ll make sure to let everyone know ASAP, and we’ll hopefully get it taken care of pretty easily.

If not, then we probably have a bit of a ride ahead of us – and when I say “we,” I mean all of us. The outpouring of love and support I have received in the last three days has been humbling, amazing, and phenomenal, and I will never, ever have the words to explain the strength and power that each and every one of you have given me with your prayers, thoughts and positive spirit. I have the best family and friend support group anyone could ever ask for, and you need to know that every phone call, email, Facebook message, letter, or message helps in an immeasurable way. I am so blessed to have you thinking about me, praying for me, and sending your positive energy my way, and for that, I thank each and every one of you and I love you all.

If you call or write and I don’t respond quickly, please don’t be offended. I have a lot on my plate and a lot of people to speak to, and please believe that I am hearing every phone message and reading every email, and will eventually get in touch with you.

Okay, long post here so I’ll wrap it up (somewhere, my boss Nick in the UK is thinking "c’mon mate, you need to use sentences instead of paragraphs here!" and he’s right). Here’s what you need to know about me at the moment:

* I have a pain in my stomach from the mass that’s in there. Aside from that, I could play an hour of basketball, or run a couple miles, or go on a hike, or whatever. I feel healthy and that’s a good thing.
* As of Wednesday, my blood work was good – no issues with the liver, kidney, pancreas, or anything. My body is functioning properly. That’s a good thing.
* Finally and most importantly, I am a fighter and a stubborn SOB, and I am going to meet this head-on, and I am going to beat it. That’s it. That’s all. I'll need all my strength and yours, but together we will kick this thing.

Thanks for reading. I’ll continue to update on random occasion, and feel free to keep posting to the Facebook page if there are things you want to know about. I’m also playing with my band Mirror Image tomorrow in Santa Clara – I want to keep my life going as normally as possible, both now, and during treatment too.

My love to all of you and talk to you soon.