Thursday, August 27, 2009


This is Madison Claire Herlehy. We call her Mad Dog. She's 7 pounds 6 ounces and was born at 3:59 pm today, August 27th. 

Monday, August 24, 2009

If this is normal life, count me in.

You probably already know about the TV series Band of Brothers. It's about this army company in World War II that experienced many hardships, horrors and triumphs. The hero of the series (and the book the series was based on) was a man called Dick Winters. I desperately wanted to name my next son after him but Sherri didn't want any part of Dick or Winter as a name. The man is a genuine American hero, too. He led Easy Company with character and calm. And he said that all he wanted to do after the war was to find a tiny plot of land and live a real quiet life. 

That's how I feel. I'm home. I thought my war would take three months. I did eight. I'm hoping that's the end of the bombing. It was at times terrible, heartbreaking and difficult. But now I'm home and I'm just looking to spend some time in my tiny plot of land.

My body is starting to feel better. The pain in my chest is different now. It's in a different place and is of a different variety. I think this pain is from the treatment and will go away with time.  

The rest of my body is coming back, although I don't know if I'll ever be able to do many of the activities that I used to before the cancer. I will certainly have a hard time working out. Too many lumps get in the way. As I mentioned in a previous blog entry, a bunch of muscles aren't sitting in the right place.

My hair is slowly but surely appearing. Right now it's peach fuzz. Just to be clear, I'm talking about the hair on my head. The hair on my butt is coming in too but that's not so peach fuzzy. 

I still have other restrictions. I can't be in the sun too long. I'm pretty tired most of the day. Enjoying the buffets at Sizzler is out for now. Believe it or not, there are germs at Sizzler. I know, shocking. I don't have the body to avoid these germs. And I don't think alcohol would be good for me right now. 

I see the doctor after some tests a week from Wednesday. We'll see how I'm really doing then. Trust the scans. I'll be sure to write about the results and whatever else happens.

Once again I'd like to thank all of you who have helped and supported us through this. It's been a shitty ride but you made it less shitty. 

The purpose of the blog was to give you all an update on how I'm doing. Since I'm doing better and getting back to a normal life, I'll probably only blog once a week or so. Please feel free to email me or Facebook me any time if you're wondering about anything in the meantime. Believe it or not, the best therapy for me lately has been to forget that I have cancer most of the day. That way I enjoy the day. I don't let cancer run my life. Writing these sometimes brings me back to a cancer state of mind when I'd rather continue to forget. Also, I just don't have much news to share unless you want to hear about my experience trying to get rid of wasp nests in the backyard. We all have or are searching for our tiny plots of land. I found out the hard way that this is a simple yet great way to live.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Did I forget something?

I don't think a day goes by without thinking about at least one or two of you for the many kind things you have done for my wife, family and me. We've gotten great food, fun thoughts, lots of encouragement, hats, cards, plane ticket vouchers (those were especially handy), more food, plenty of emails, an offer to go to England to visit my English family, a ton of baby-sitting hours, advice on nausea, opinions about warewolves at night, many prayers, friendship bracelets, Ronnie James Dio websites and one cool t-shirt that references poop. I don't know if I ever took the time here to thank everyone. Sorry if I haven't. It's a bad oversight. 

Tonight's a bad night. You'd think I'd be so happy and relieved and I am at times. But sometimes I worry that it will come back. This is something I have to live with and control for the rest of my life. Like my balance and coordination, I haven't mastered it quite yet in this post SCT era. Woody Allen and other hypocondriacs wouldn't be good cancer survivors. 

Tonight my neck hurts. It's nothing. I know. The pain results from an old cancer injury. When it was growing like a weed, the cancer pushed my neck muscles on my left side further to the middle of my neck. While the cancer is gone, the tissue remains. 

The tissue all over me has remained. I'm sure many of you have assumed I'd just return to my old self. I thought I would as well. But I'm not so sure I will ever physically be back. The lumps and scar tissue remain. My chest is like driving in Northern Wisconsin--lots of hills nothing much to see. And my lungs aren't the same. I don't know if I'll be able to run much again. 

I asked the doctors and they say what you really don't want to hear and that's, "Well, we'll see." If I can't exercise much I will become what I despise most right now and that's a dumb fat Texan. Yes, I consider my time here to be sufficient to call myself a Texan. This is not something I'm proud of. 

So occasionally my neck hurts or something else hurts. But my mind works mighty fine. And that's a problem because I wonder. Like tonight. I know. It's nothing. Why can't I be a morning person? Morning people worry less. 

How badly do I need out?

I'm collecting states' quarters. You know, the quarters that come with different states on the backsides? Today it was a roller coaster day in collecting states quarters. In the morning I was upset at having to lose Alaska to get a USA Today. But later on I gained a Pennsylvania and West Virginia. That makes my total of around 30. If anyone has an Alaska, I'll trade you a Vermont. 

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Chalk on another day

It's only a day. But I've been here for 240 days, give or take a week. Today while I was on the phone trying to figure out how to handle my insurance mess with a man named Duff, I was asked by the radiology tech whether I wanted to go next or to cede to the guy next to me. Since I was in the middle of trying to figure out my insurance mess with a guy named Duff, I let the guy go first. He went and then the Proton Radiation machine broke. I waited. And I waited. At five o'clock, after six hours of waiting, I was told that I have to wait until tomorrow--meaning that I have to put back finishing one more day. I was trying to get out of one mess when I ended up in another.

Now, I know. It's only one more day. But please understand. I can't stand being here an extra second. I dread it. I hate it. And if anything else goes wrong with the Proton Radiation machine, I gotta stay until Monday. That will be hell. It's not just like a person in prison being told they have to stay one more day. The person in prison isn't surrounded by old, fat, dumb Texans. Also, I think they have cable in prison, even if the channel selection is controlled by a murderer named Jose. This is worse than prison. Sure there's rape but here there's Bingo night. 

I think I've been pretty positive about this since I've gotten here. You tell me to stay strong. I stay strong. But I can't stay strong any more. Tonight's big event was the hat cart. Did you ever see a bunch of old people at Walmart fighting over the latest sale? That's the hat cart. 

I can't drink this away. It's not a good idea to get drunk. Plus, where could I drink? The bar is already closed.  I'd love to take some heavy narcotics and sleep this away but I'm pretty much immune to any effect drugs can have. And as we've covered here time and again, I can't escape by watching TV much. What am I supposed to do? 

My only solution is Facebook. Yep. I need to bug people on Facebook. That can make me escape. I know. Some of you out there think it's crap. This new technology is keeping us from enjoying life. But make one exception. 

If you have other suggestions, please be my guest and suggest away. And before you offer it, porn doesn't work. The chemo ruined my plumbing for a while. 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Nothing special

Well, there's good news and bad news. The good news is the bill is down to $114,000. That's the amount they would "discount" us instead of the insurance company. The bad news is it looks likely that we have to pay it. I had to meet with a financial person today and next step is to meet with the CFO next week. He wants to set up a payment plan. I can try to prostitute myself but I don't think many people would be interested in an out of shape bald guy. 

As for my health, I feel really good after I take my nap. The problem is, my nap usually lasts until about 4 pm. That means I'm up late at night and into the morning hours. Feeling good is rare so I get really excited and want to do something. But there's nothing to do besides Bingo at the Rotary House. And now it's late and there's nothing to do in the world but sleep. I can't sleep. I feel good. Do you know what it's like to feel good after you've felt like crap for two years? It's amazing. Heavenly. You feel alive. No itches. No pains. No growing old too quickly. You people who feel normal are awfully lucky that you get to feel normal. I can only feel normal for half the day. But I'll take it. 

Today I heard the Beatles while getting nuked. I only have one week left. After that I will be a mere visitor to this city and no longer a resident. I will miss Taco Cabana and Chick Fil-A. That's about it. 

Monday, August 10, 2009

Only $5 million to go.

I had the weirdest dream today. I dreamt I owed the insurance company $525,000. Wait, that's true. I do owe the insurance company $525,000. They sent me a letter saying so. They want their money in $25,000 installments. 

By now I'm sure you're pretty familiar with the health care debate. I'm not here to change your mind but I am here to dispel one myth. And that's the fear that some bureaucrat will end up making life or death decisions for you with this new evil "socialized" medicine. Oooohh. Just the name scares me worse than the boogeyman or a naked Rosie O'Donnell. 

The fact is, some bureaucrat already is making that decision and this is a good example of how. My doctor is the head of Radiology here at MDA Anderson. I hear he practically built the department. The guy has more than thirty years of experience in radiology. He glows radiology. But I guess his opinion isn't enough. 

The insurance company decided that there wasn't enough literature about the benefits of Proton Radiation Therapy. So they ain't paying. Well, they are right. There isn't a lot of literature. But that's a good thing. Ya see all you healthy bodies out there, your care is actually about ten years behind. That's right. For any good therapy or medicine to get to you, it has to have lots of trials and experiments to pass FDA approval, have lots of trials and experiments after that and then finally be an accepted practice by governing medical bodies. That takes a while. So what you get is old medicine. It's safer. Nobody gets sued. Unless you come to a place like MDA. Then you get the latest and greatest. The only problem is, it's not run through the medical gauntlet. And sometimes insurance companies think they're smarter than the smartest medical people in the world here and over-rule them. The bureaucrats decide. 

Of course we are going to fight it. The key now is to stay alive. It would be one heck of a parting gift for my wife to have to sell a lifetime of savings to pay for a dead husband's former treatment. And college? Well, Conner's working on his curve ball. McKenna will have to join a rock band and hope for the best.

Besides a big IOU, this new therapy officially makes me the new Million Dollar Man. My stem cell was up around $350,000 and then there's the treatment I've been receiving before and after. Adds up to about a million or so. They won't make me bigger stronger and faster but they will make me portlier, more sarcastic and lumpy. A million dollars ain't what it used to be in the seventies. 

What's even funnier (and let's face it, owing a half million is very funny) is what MD Anderson was telling me when I had to sign the form to get the treatment. They said that the price is what it is--to the insurance company. But if I had to pay, they would find a way to bring it down. Ya know, negotiate. So our premiums are high because hospitals stick it to insurance companies who stick it to us. You see, funny. 

Other than that, today I finished my fourteenth treatment. As the poet Bono once said, "My body now is begging, is begging to get back, to my heart. To the rhythm of my soul. To the rhythm of my unconsciousness. To the rhythm that yearns to be released from control."

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Sick of being Sick

Feeling like crap again today. Puked up lunch from Subway. It wasn't eating so fresh the second time around. The novelty of this cancer thing is wearing off. I'm really tired of having to hold in my puke all the time. 

Does anyone out there have Restless Leg Syndrome? If you do, then you will understand that my body feels like your legs while on RLS. For those of you who don't have it and can't find an opening in a conversation to casually ask someone who might, my body feels really anxious. It's like everything is new and not comfortably old anymore. When I was younger, my dad bought this John Deere Snowmobile, or as our next President Sarah Palin would say, "Snow Machine". The first time we took it out, we couldn't really let loose. The guy at the dealership told us to take it easy for a bit as the parts are still new. That's my body right now. I can't get comfortable because my parts are still new. 

Thankfully, I'm past the halfway point in my radiation treatment. Only ten left and I can finally go home. Today I enjoyed the sounds of Credence Clearwater Revival. Yesterday was a mixture of all kinds of oldies. And last week, why, we had some Kenny Rogers. The Gambler had a string of hits, as you'll recall, including the duet, "Don't Fall In Love With A Dreamer".  Just at the crescendo of that song, Kenny sings the line, "If I knew what you were thinking girl, I'd turn around, if you just asked me one more time." The black girls who were my techs for the day took umbrage with that line. Here's how the conversation went, word for word:

Girl 1:  He say what?
Girl 2:  He say if she axed him one more time, he woulda stayed.
Girl 1:  Why she got to axe him? He knows she loves him. I wouldn't be axing no guy to stay if he don't want to.
Girl 2:  You said it girl. A girl gotta have respect. 
Girl 1: Uh-huh. Axe him. I won't axe nobody.

One last thing that really bummed me out. Last night I found out that a guy who had a really similar case of Hodgkin's has recurred yet again. He got a "tandem" stem cell transplant earlier this year. Big shame. Hope this isn't an omen for me. I am itchy again.