Thursday, April 30, 2009

He takes and he takes.

One thing about being really sick: you don't really know you're really sick. People don't tell you. You just think, "Damn, I don't feel good today." It doesn't occur to you that you could be closer to death than you think. 

Many times, people do the opposite and tell you that you look good. Doctors here don't tell you that you're in bad shape because they don't believe it. They think there's always an answer even when there isn't. My doctor kept saying that he's seen much worse, which he probably has but that still doesn't mean I wasn't really sick. Besides, he probably told those people he's seen worse, too. 

I was really sick. I couldn't turn my head to the left or right very far because the cancer sort of wedged my head in like a football player with pads. I could walk to the Walgreens one half mile down the road, but couldn't make it back. My heart was constantly feeling like it was going into cardiac arrest. The cancer had effected probably more than ten nodes and was spreading down my body and no longer across. 

Now, I'm feeling much better. But the only chance to stay permanently well is to get really sick again. Assuming I get the final go-ahead tomorrow (a seeming formality at this point) and tomorrow's tests come back without lung spots (they shouldn't), the chemo is going to break my body down to nothing and then build me back up again. They have to purposely kill my bone marrow, empty it all out and then fill me up with my frozen ones. It's a long and involving process that only clinically ends in three months. 

I'll be sort of like the six million dollar man. One wierd thing about that show is the guy barely goes through rehab. I mean, he's got a couple legs and an arm and he's fine in weeks. And did they just suddenly build some blood vessels for him? What about nerves and skin and everything else? Didn't anyone in the seventies ask these questions? Couldn't anyone call Bull by the time the Bionic Woman came along?

I'll get into exactly what will happen in a blog at a later date. I know you've all been incredibly supportive so far but I have to tell you that the coming months are when I'm going to really need your help. For neighbors and family members, I need to especially reach out to you. Sherri and I haven't figured out the caretaker job yet. I think she'll be down here for most of it. But being gone for two months straight is a lot to ask of her. So I think we'll do a couple weeks of celebrity caretakers. What we really need is people to help with the kids. Thanks for the help so far. I'm looking a gift horse in the mouth by asking for more now. 

One last thing. As you can imagine, there is a huge online community of cancer survivors, including Hodge survivors. What you probably didn't know is how helpful and close everyone is. Doctors and especially nurses get you what you need when they're on call but they can't be there at the wee hours of the evening when the wolves howl. These people are. One particular girl named Jessica was always cheerful, inspirational, informative, thorough and genuinely caring. She went out of her way to make sure your irrational worries are at least turned into rational concerns. She knew it all because she went through it all and she was always the one person who summed up a situation with clarity and ease. Chemo. Stem cells. Clinical trials. You name it. This girl had it done to her and she was still standing to pass on her knowledge. This morning at 10:40, Jessica died. She fought really hard for years. She had two young kids and a husband. She was only twenty six. There was a message board announcing her death. The title read, "Jessica is an angel." 

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

What did you have for lunch? I swallowed a camera.

A scope went up my nose, down my windpipe and into my lungs a little after one pm today. Mmm. It tasted yummy, although I was out cold for most of it. They were looking for spots. They didn't find any. So they're going to take one last CT scan on Friday to be triple sure. 

That's good news. In the meantime, I meet with the SCT doctor tomorrow. If he's peachy with the chemo results, we could finally be on to some real puking and getting nasty sick. None of this panzy chemo stuff.

I had a dream last week where I was back at my house in Elmhurst. Just beyond our back alley, I saw a cruise ship docked. Not questioning the fact that there isn't any body of water in Elmhurst, not even a pond, I hurriedly looked for the dog's leash. Once I found it, I put it around Nala and was on my way out to the ship when my wife casually came walking around the corner. She looked at her watch (in real life my wife doesn't wear a watch and would want me to point that out to everyone) and I saw that it was only 10:30 am. She said that I still had time. 

In honor of my dream, I had a slew of fun picture opportunities. Julie McCoy? Gopher? Captain Stubing? Jamie Farr? I settled on Isaac, whose double finger point at the bar is still in use today. 

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Francine RIP???

I received my test results on Friday. It's Sunday and I still can't figure out if they're good or bad. 

The new chemo did help in reducing my tumors by about 50% give or take a few percentage points depending on the tumor. I basically have two main areas left of any significance, both in my left side. There is very, very little cancerous activity in those areas. But the clumps of cancer still remain, at half the size. 

The results said that Francine might be dead. Yeah, so, they didn't actually mention Francine by name, but they used all kinds of medical speak. So much that I can't figure out if she really is dead. They basically said that the area on my right side is "punctate calcified granuloma". Wow. I think one or two of those words aren't even real. But I think it means it's harmless right now. 

I was a little disappointed. I thought the chemo was making much better progress. This puts me on the border of whether I can proceed or not. We're leaving it up to the Stem Cell Doc. 

Complicating matters even more are three spots on my lungs. They look like they could be a fungus infection. Now, this could throw everything off. Way off. I have to meet with a lung doc and then he's gotta scope me. After that he has to figure out what he scoped. This all takes time. Beating cancer is very time sensitive. Many of you know that lung problems are what got me here in the first place as I couldn't get radiation until they figured that one out. 

This has me worried and up at midnight writing this even though I took a sleeping pill. I'm very close but now something like this comes up. The irony of it all is my lungs have always been in great shape. I ran cross country in high school and they've always been good to me. Not now. 

Tuesday, April 21, 2009


When we started our agency, Bob would always say, "If Bernie DiMeo can do it, so can we." Or something like that. Probably using better language. But you get the point. If someone else who isn't necessarily talented can make a living at owning an agency, we thought we had a good chance. That carried us through some early days that were a pretty iffy. TDH was literally a place that started with nothing. We didn't own desks. My work area was a piece of plywood that laid across two of Bob's old filing cabinets. And because David wasn't sure we'd have enough to pay for the heat or air conditioning that month, well, he didn't turn it on. 

I use that same attitude when getting through the tougher part of my chemo routines. I was mentally gearing up for it again tomorrow as I'm starting tests and then going back under for at least one more pair of toxin treatments, probably more. I don't use Bernie DiMeo as inspiration for this. No, I use a guy named Max. From what I can tell, Max has never complained and never turned down a procedure because it was too painful or taxing. While I've gone through one and one half years of this, Max has fought cancer for most of his life. That's a lot of procedures and I can only imagine how many puke buckets. One other thing. Max is seven years old. He's the son of Jim and Jamie Herlehy. For much of his life, he hasn't had the pleasure of waking up in the morning without feeling miserable. 

A couple of months earlier, Max seemed to be doing pretty good. It looked like his cancer was controlled. I found out a couple of minutes ago that Max, my inspiration for bravery, has come down with cancer for the third time. He has leukemia and needs to get a bone marrow transplant. Once again, he's seven. He should be worrying about spelling his name correctly.

Tomorrow, I'm going to wake up to face a nasty needle for a PET scan. That needle is going to stay in my left arm as I go from test to test until about seven that night. I already have a needle in my right arm. So I'll be double barreled. I'm going to get annoyed and frustrated more than a few times. And of course, I'm going to wonder if any of this is even working. I'll do that about a hundred times. At some point, I'm gonna need Max. I just hope he has someone he uses as inspiration. I can't imagine who. Who is braver than Max?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Can't sleep so I might as well write this.

Still wallowing. I now understand why you don't want to get a cold while taking chemo. It's awfully hard to get better. You can't take any medicine. You can't sleep. So you just lay and be miserable. Eventually the body has to come to the rescue but it's taking a lot longer than if I weren't on chemo. 

Meanwhile the lumps in my chest haven't gone down a ton. Francine is a little smaller. Carlo moved a little. The Frankenstein bolt in my neck is buried under skin and whatever else lives in my neck. You can't see it but if you felt around over there, you'd find it pretty quickly. If you did feel around my neck and the rest of my body I wouldn't be turned on. Not just because I'm married but the plumbing doesn't work too well when you're on chemo.

The good news is that my chest and collarbone feel pretty beat up. Not the lumps. Everything around the lumps. I don't think there are many nerves on the lumps. Generally, I take this as good news. 

Tomorrow I get my labs drawn. The lady who usually does it is from Ethiopia. During most days, I rarely talk to Americans. My nurse is from the Philipines. My doctor is from Syria. My stem cell doctor is from Italy. The lady who draws my blood is from Ethiopia. The lady who changes my dressing is from Mexico. The guy who helps give me chemo is from El Salvador. The guy who drives the shuttle is from Euritheria or something like that (It's a small country in northeastern Africa but it sounds an awful lot like a lady's naughty parts. I didn't say that to him, though. But it does. If I were them I'd change their name to something that sounds nicer. Like Mannyland.).  The lady at the front desk is from Puerto Rico. The maids are from some Latin American country. The guy who drives me to the airport is from The Netherlands. The guy who drives me to the airport when the first guy can't is from Turkey. 

And they all love going to the rodeo. Really. The rodeo is here every year for a month and it's the thing to do. Many will dress up at work and go right from there so you get to see them in the cowboy costumes. And believe it or not, the ones who really do it up good with the bright-colored, badly fitted shirt and dangerously bulging Wrangler jeans are the foreigners. I ain't crappin ya. Many hispanic but really a good mix. Surprising. But the one thing I learned during my time studying abroad in college is foreigners have a hard time identifying what's cheesy. What makes America the most dominant country in the world and will continue to do so long after the economy is overtaken by the Chinese? Americans know what's cheesy. In fact, we dictate what's cool and everyone else follows.  

Enclosed is a picture of Matt Damon. I guess he's cool. He's with some hot chick and looks all sincere. So that should work for coolness. 

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Winner, Winner Chicken Dinner

We have a tie. Both Kevin Kucharski and Kiki Hayes correctly guessed the bald fat guy in question to be Leif Garrett. I should have disqualified Kiki since she's a producer and they tend to immediately know these types of things. 

In other news, I will not be getting tests done this week. Looks like that will be next week. Instead, I will wallowing around the Rotary House with a cold. I do nothing but wallow. 

The Rotary House has asked me to leave, eventually. Most of their guests don't stay as long for one period of time. But since I can't seem to get this cancer out of my body I am not like most of their guests. Plus I'm under eighty years old, am not from Bum-F Texas and more faster than Flash on the Carol Burnett Show. This polite eviction won't happen for a while, though. I think they're giving me one more month. Hopefully I will be able to take pics of the Elvis Impersonator before then. 

Sunday, April 12, 2009

The Next Wave of Violence

We're here, somewhere inside Michael's vast and rapidly expanding mid-section, whoops, watch out for that Zagut bar, where Michael's Really Black Ops Chemo Squad is attempting to recapture Michael's sternum. The fighting is fierce as the People's Democratic Republic of Cancer's elite Republican Blacker and More Sinister Ops will not give an inch. Hand to hand combat has been rumored but that rumor was quickly squashed as someone pointed out that cells don't have hands. Also, fires have started everywhere. Or is that the chicken tortilla soup? 

Asked for a comment, Michael only said, "Go away. I got gut-wrench from that Zagnut bar." Further word is still pending.

From unnamed sources, we have learned that this is the end of a two month assault in what has become a fierce struggle for Cancer Independence. Leading our forces is the recently installed Bea Arthur. From a press release about General Arthur, Michael said, "I was looking for the toughest man in the world. And I found him in Bea. Nobody messed with Maude, not even that emasculated husband of hers." We were not able to get a quote from General Arthur. We were too scared.

The fighting is expected to last for two weeks at which time doctors will assess the carnage. 
Enclosed is picture of General Bea Arthur, in her full regalia and in action as she is about to tear apart Dr. Harmon, the stuffy next-door neighbor. 

Is it still too early?

No winner yet in the "Guess who the fat balding guy is" sweepstakes. People, let's pick it up here. try the brains cells that have been lost from drinking. Maybe they've regenerated. 

My skin is death's door.

Funny thing about cells that kill inside your body. You feel cells killing inside your body. Yes, it's Day 2 and that means the mostest fun from chemo. I thought I was going to catch a break, having not felt very pukey this morning. But it was clearly too early to make that kinda call. My  collar bone feels like when I broke it trying to tackle Steve Butler without pads in eighth grade. Muscles are moving around rubbing up against I don't know what. My head is pounding in two places. I get tasered up and down my body from the chemo at random and every couple of minutes. My fingers tips are tingling. I'm fat, bald and zit-faced and I'm not one of those guys who look good fat, bald and zit-faced. Calgon, take me away!!!! I want my mommy!!! It's in the hole!!!! Sorry, about that last one. Too much Masters watching.

Enclosed is fat balding guy who can look good to the ladies, just not right now. Care to guess who it is? The winner gets my headache. Reed, you can't play. Sorry. For those of you who aren't Reed, just know that he's really good at trivia and will get this in a nano.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Number 18

Finished another chemo treatment. I counted while I was receiving it. That makes 18 in the last 15 months. You'd think cancer would get the message by now.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Meet Madison and Pedro

So something strange happened a couple of months ago. As many of you already know, my wife got pregnant again. Now, it wasn't supposed to happen. The docs told us both that I would be shooting blanks from here on out. That suited both of us fine. But then it happened. 

Now, I did find it a little strange. Could I beat the odds and still be quite manly? Or could someone else be in the picture? For months Pedro, our pool boy, was hanging around the compound in Bartlett a little too often. I'd come home and Pedro would be making the bed in the bedroom and I'd be weirded out. He said he was just trying to help us out around the house so I thought that was okay. Sherri reassured me that Pedro was just hired help and the marks on her neck that looked like hickies were from shaving. So I believed her. Sure she wasn't in the mood as often but we still enjoyed getting into our underwear and watching some of the Greek and Turkish movies that are shown later on Cinemax. 

Any way, we know it's a girl and Sherri is healthy. There is a bit of a scheduling problem that we're still trying to work through. I need to get healthy really fast or else Sherri won't be able to be my "Caretaker". Then I'll be asking anyone if they'd like to spend a week or so in Houston in the summertime. There's nothing like Houston in the summer. Also and more importantly, I may not be present for Madison's birth if things keep going slowly. Of course, Sherri is less worried about that. She said Pedro can fill in. Should I be worried? 

Enclosed is a picture of Madison and Pedro. Any resemblance? 

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

Arlen Inspiration

Arlen Specter is a moderate Republican US Senator. Yes, there is still such a thing. He's from Philly, so that should tell you that he's also a pretty cranky guy. Philly fans once booed and threw snowballs at Santa Claus. They hate everyone. Specter's known as a bit of character for his Philly irascibility (spellcheck says that's a word) but well-respected for his keen intellect. You may know him as one of the three Republican Senators who voted for the stimulus package. I know him as this dude who keeps getting Hodgkin's. A couple of years ago, he was diagnosed with Stage IV, just about the worse you can get. He went through chemo and thought he got rid of it. But sometime last year, it came back. He's not getting a stem cell transplant, probably because he's too up there in years. Instead, he just keeps getting more and more treatments of chemo. Even though he's resigned to having cancer, it doesn't look like it's slowing him down at all. He's planning on running for Congress again, much to the chagrin of Sean Hannity. 

As for me, I started the first half of the second of three planned treatments of GND. I know. It's confusing. I'm supposed to get three pairs of treatments, one week apart. I'm in the middle of two. I get buzzed again on Good Friday to complete two. Jesus gets nailed to a cross on Good Friday. I get chemo. Not sure which is preferred.

Next week, tests start again to see if the cancer's gone. I can save everyone the time and doctor's bills by saying that it's not. It most likely is looking like my three planned treatments of GND will be at least four if not more. My lumps have gone down but my doctor wants complete remission. I say an amen to this insistence since complete remission is the best measure of success in stem cell transplants. All the other things I got going against me is cancelled out if I can get to complete remission. But that means another month here in Houston in the very least. Should have gotten Astro season tix. 

I looked for a picture of Arlen when he was bald and met GW in the oval office. Very awkward. The Prez didn't want to shake his hand. But I couldn't find it. So I got a picture of Sean Hannity.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

One thing right now

My white counts have fallen and they can't get up!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009


I'd like to thank all of you for attending and being a part of the Herlehy Helper. Frankly, I didn't know some of you had the disposable income and when I finally do get healthy, I know who to come to for a couple of bucks. My wife was also moved and that was without a lot of liquor. Usually, she starts crying a lot when she has too many beers and then starts singing and telling everyone how "Great" they are. It's pretty ugly. 

Some likened the festivities to a wedding. I prefer funeral but that's a little gallows humor. Anyway, I can't believe the amount of goodness that came together in one room. I am a little disappointed the bar still had booze left. What's up with that? A very heartfelt thanks goes to all those who put on such a gala. The Dunbars, the Isaacs, Mike Big Daddy Lyons and his lovely wife, David Yang and his wife (who enjoys wearing Motorhead shirts), the Rubinos, the Volkmans, Andy Clarke, all the guys at Joes and everyone else. I'd like to name everyone but then you'd get pretty bored. Please feel free to add any names I missed on the blogging, audience participation thingie part. Glenn Johnson drove all the way from North Carolina to make it. That's one helluva roadtrip. He didn't even get to meet up with Fawn Leibowitz, either. 

Here's what Sherri and I plan on doing with the money. These funds will only be tapped last. If for some ungodly reason, I actually do find my way into the Stem Cell Transplant Program sometime in this century and then come out pretty okay, we don't think we'll touch that money too much. So with whatever is left, we're going to throw a thank you party. Yes, we thought of a way to repay you and alcohol came to mind. 

Lastly, I was looking for a picture of Fawn Leibowitz for you but she's dead. Didn't you hear?