Friday, December 30, 2011

Excuse the typos.

As a father of one son, I worry, as do many fathers of one son, about my line. It sounds so unbelieveably arrogant and it is. But I think there is some evolutional physiological make-up to it. The line is my line of succession. Having one son means that this branch of the Herlehys only goes through him. This is stupid and did I mention arrogant? But I think of my grand-parents and how hard they lived and struggled and just believe it would be a big shame to ever continue the history of the world without at least someone waving their flag. My grand-father pounded in railroad ties most of his life and met his wife right on the job because she was the cook. The day after my father graduated from eighth grade, my grand-father put him alone on a caboose and told him he had to ride on that train all summer and spray fertilizer. To repeat for dramatic effect, he was alone on a train, working every single day during the summer after eighth grade. Today, of course, my grand-father would arrested but they needed the money. From there, my dad was used to working non-stop from morning to night. I figured out that he worked two jobs for around forty years.

Everybody has similar tales about their parents and grand-parents and as far as I'm concerned, they're all heroic. It's what makes us the biggest, bad-ass country in the world. And even if we all have those stories, none of those people should ever be forgotten. Just because there were thousands of them, it doesn't means they can't all be our heroes.

Having one son means I only got one shot at getting the succession line right. Considering all the crap that is out there, it is conceiveable that my one son could go on to be a meth addict, never marry, have no kids (at least none that call him Dad) and the world will never see this branch of Herlehys ever again. Or, he could turn out worse and become an announcer for Fox News. Hey, I gotta get in any dig I can. And it did happen to Mike Wallace.

Anyway, I never considered the fact that my dad remarried and had a son named Luke. I just had lunch with Luke and he seems to be such a good person. He's very honest, respectful, diligent and smart. In fact, one small thing I noticed is actually quite a gifted trait. He has a unique ability to tell you things that you might not want to hear and still make it sound okay. Anyone who is in any kind of business understands how this is a rare and valued talent. The only other guy that I know who can tell you that you've screwed up in a nice, understanding, hey-everyone-is-an-idiot-sometime way is my partner Greg. These next months, Luke is studying to be a lawyer and when he passes the Bar, he'll make a great one because it seems like half of a lawyer's job is telling clients things they don't want to hear. It's sort of strange that honesty is often rare.

Luke said he read my latest post and nicely mentioned that I have yet to kill my typo problem. He did it very well. Luke was understanding with other things, too. I wasn't a very good half-brother. I was too involved with my own life in college to realize that I had a little brother who could have used an extra older ear in his life. But he turned out great. And to brag here for a second, he got a swimming scholarship at Ohio University, came within two seconds of setting an all-time school record and did through hard work, which meant he got up at five in the morning to swim in a cold pool. Yes, while you and I were getting home, he was getting up.

Today I realized that Conner can, in fact, go on to be a loser meth addict without any kids who would call him Dad. It's just perfectly fine! Luke is also there and it doesn't seem like he enjoys meth all that well. It looks probable that some kid, some day, will be annoyed by his Dad because he constantly tells stories of his parents and grand-parents.

So sorry for the typos. I now use an iPad and it sucks for punching out any message longer than a noun. Still, that is no excuse. I'll get better at this. I swear. In the meantime, maybe we all can re-evaluate this whole male-carrying-on-the-family line thing. It's probably a little pre-historic. And fuck it. In three generations, if we're not fried from having no ozone or debilitated from having no oil, nobody is going to remember any of us anyway.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

My kidney is someone's lab experiment.

Cancer is great. Yes, it is. At least tonight it is.

When I was ten, I had only one goal life. I wanted to be the next Walter Payton. Only without the pain killer habit. I went to football practice, ran and hit as hard as I could and then came home to practice again. I'd come inside when it was dark and before I'd go to bed, I'd practice inside. During school I would draw up plays. Teachers would tell my mom that if I would just ignore football for ten minutes, I would possibly be a good student.

Then one day I went to the allergy doctor. The right side of my back was hurting that day as it did about once every month. When it hurt, man it pretty much shut me down. The allergy doctor did what few allergy doctors do, he saved my life. He told my mom that I should get an X-ray. I complained and whined. But then I got another X-ray and then a CT scan. All of them showed that I had a blockage going from my kidney to my bladder. A month later, I went into surgery at Loyola Hospital in Maywood. When I came to, my mother said that the doctor had to take out my kidney because it was a shrivelled-up ball of nothing. And she said that because of it, I could never play football or any contact sport again. While I was crying, my mother told me that I should use this as a sign. Instead of making it a tragedy, she said that I should turn it around and make this event meaningful. It took a couple years but eventually I realized that I liked being creative. I never would have found writing and creativity without getting my kidney out.

Tonight, I walked into Maddie's room. She was startled, dazed and confused and now awake and without her binky. Where was it? She was crazy upset. She couldn't find her binky. We looked around for about a minute. And then I found it on the ground under her bed. I gave it to her and she put it into her mouth, grabed her blinket and went right to bed. It was only us two. It was a rare, innocent moment. And I loved it as much as any moment in my life. A healthier me would have been worrying about work, if I would have ever bothered to get out of bed in the first place. But this was not the case tonight. The cancer is here. It is still bad. But tonight it is great. It has yet to make me stop. But it has been successful in making me slow down.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Just a silly little thing.

A friend of mine, Amy Markley, and I are huge documentary fans. One day we figured out that people who love documentaries would rather watch something really boring than watch a really exciting fiction movie. Literally, that same night I got hooked into a doc about Tom Petty. Sherri came downstairs and said, "What in the world are you watching? You don't even like Tom Petty." As usual, she was right. Wives are always right even when they're wrong.

Recently I saw a doc that was very interesting, much more interesting than Tom Petty. By the way, I challenge anyone to name a relatively well-played Tom Petty song that isn't about transportation. Free Falling. Running Down the Road. Break Down. See? I am digressing here.

Back to the doc. It was good. You can still watch it on HBO. I'm not sure about Netflix, mainly because it seems like the only movies on Netflix are eighties karate or coming-of-age movies. Or both.

Bac to the doc. I don't know what it's called. But it was about this law in Oregon that allows for assisted suicides. First the movie followed the political part of the issue, basically the passing of the bill through a special election. Really. More people in Oregon believe you should be able to kill yourself.

That was sort of boring, like an interview with Tom Petty. The other part of the story, however, followed this woman who had liver cancer. She was smart, funny, caring, creative. Sort of like my wife, except the caring part. Um, just kidding. I kid.

It seems like liver cancer is an unbelieveable bear. Despite her best effort, she was struggling and in a heck of a lot of pain. Finally, she decided she needed an assisted suicide. The pain was unbearable. And believe it or not, planning for death seemed easier and cleaner for her. Her belly really protruded from her body. She was taking a bunch of morphine. Yes, morphine. Not even an oxy. She was doing a lot of hard stuff. She was ready.

But then something weird happened. She started feeling better. She had already scheduled her suicide and it was only a few days away. So, she rescheduled. Now, I'm the father of a daughter who takes dance classes. And you can't ever, ever, ever take a day off. They are the dance Nazis. And I'd like to point out that if a lady in Oregon can reshedule her suicide, why can't my daughter rescheduke a dance class every now and then?

Back to the doc. So the lady was feeling better. And one day she said, "Ya know, I realize this is gong to sound naive, but I wonder if I'll ever have to schedule that suicide ever again. Maybe it won't come back." The production crew followed the lady for a month or two and, well, as you can guess, the cancer came back. A couple more months passed and she was worse than before. Eventually she was bed-ridden and went through with that suicide.

It was both fascinating and sad to see the lady and her husband go through with this suicide. I'd love to watch it again, but I know it would be too difficult to get through. Even through the story had many memorable moments, that statement when she was seemingly getting better about how she didn't see the cancer coming back really got to me. I'm obsessed with not seeming like that. I just don't want to look foolish when the prognosis isn't so good.

But still, I guess I have to look foolish today. I just got back from the doc and from receiving my sgn treatment. I've already passed the average patient's experience with this drug. I believe that the majority of patients come off the drug by around the fifth month. Some come off the drug because the cancer comes back. Others, a good many others, come off the drug because the side effects become too debilitating.

Way back in August, I had scans done and they showed that I was almost in a complete remission. Just a few spots here and there. That was an amazing feat, by the way. I mean, I had it all over my body and in really large boulder sizes.

My doctor, who once couldn't make one of my appointments because he was testifying to Congress about it, is just amazed. Each time I come in, my blood counts get better. I'm almost to a normal level. He said he doesn't want to scan me again for a couple months unless my bloodwork turns bad. I guess I don't need it.

Here's where I look naive. The doctor and the statistics both say that the prignosis for the next year or two or three is good. The deal is, I gotta make it one full year. If I can do that, the stats are, as Conner would say, really Boss! If I get a complete remission, I could stay that way for the next two years. It's not overwhelmingly the case but a good portion of patients have no problems for that amount of time and even later. The drug is too new to know how much later that is. Some people are still going.

Now the chances are about the same that the cancer will come back. Could be fifty-fifty. I'm not sure. But even if it does, often the cancer is more manageable. Of course, tomorrow I could relapse and the cancer would not be so nice. In fact, it usually acts like it's really pissed. Like your son took the car to a crack house in the city, got into an accident and had his hooker call you to tell you. That pissed.

I've heard and seen great news like this before. I told the doctor that the pattern has always been the cancer goes away and then within a month it comes raging back. But today and the next many days after, I am going to choose to be naive.

Like Tom Petty's career, this story doesn't end just yet. It's going to be tough to get to one year. The side effects are doing a number on me. I suffer from a lot of fatigue and a heck of a lot of something I mentioned before, nuerapathy. My hands and feet give me a hurtun real bad. Even though I spent the last two months getting off of all kinds of drugs, I can't function without pain killers and neurapathy pills. When I'm on them, the pain doesn't go away. It just gets a little tamed. I also often have a hard functioning. Walking can be hard.

I'm getting tired. I'm going to go. I hope this makes sense. Before sgn, I just wanted to make it to Christmas. Now, my goal is much more ambitious and at the same time, more naive. I'd love to see Conner graduate high school. I don't think my body will take the shock of the cost of college. So I'll just keep to graduation. That is my silly goal.

Friday, October 28, 2011

It must have been that guy's wallet

Don't give any money to breast cancer causes. I know, I'm pissing off everyone who's had relatives with that monster. But hear me out.

You get out of the elevator on the seventh floor of the NYU Cancer Center building and it resembles one of those Mexican buses. Ya know, it's jam packed, people are elbow to elbow, hanging out of the windows and even sitting on the roof. And somone usually has a chicken. When the nurse finally calls your name, three hours after you checked in and after some very sick person coughs all over you, the nurse repeats your name three or four times while you crawl over the bodies.

In the meantime, two floors up, people exit the elevator and are soon greeted by the calm, soothing voice of the receptionist who asks you to have a seat and oh, there are drinks for you free of charge. After a trip to the kitchenette, people prance across the carpetted floor as classical music plays and then land in a soft, comfortable chair. A couple minutes later, a nurse comes out to see you and apologizes for the long wait.

You get what I mean? Breast Cancer is the cool kid. Hodgkin's is the fat kid who never washes his hair. So please, if you're gonna run in some half marathon for a cause, run for the fat kid.

The last post, boy was it depressing. Well, I have some better news. In fact, I think it's great news. The big lump in my boob is not cancerous. It's just a big lump in my boob. The medical peeps say it's probably a reaction to the heavy meds they've been shooting into me. But that conclusion took awhile to figure out.

First I had a mammogram. Ladies, I think you will agree that it's not the most comfortable process. The last time I was asked to get into so many positions, I was single.

A couple minutes later, a radiologist came out and asked me to come into her office. My friend Todd is an excellent poker player. He rarely loses money and that's when he's in Vegas. One night while at the best casino on the strip (O'Shea's), he taught me the ins and outs of playing the game. Since then, I've even learned to catch a tell every now and then. A tell is when someone does something that tells you what kind of hand he or she has. It could be all kinds of things. A tell from a doctor is when they pull up a chair next to you. Then you're in for serious shit. But this time, the doctor didn't pull up that chair. She sat in her own and told me that she believes the lump isn't cancerous but only a biopsy will tell.

About a half hour later another doctor was performing a needle biopsy on me. Because my lump was right under my nipple. She took her very long needle and stuck it directly into said nipple. Then she poked back and forth. She did this for about a minute and quite nicely apologized the whole time. Then she did it again. After looking at my cells and not finding any cancer, she did a third time to be sure. Again, she found nothing. As I mentioned in my previous post, very pathetically, I was in need of a break. I got it. Yeah baby. It was probably the wallet.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Well, that was fun.

I have a lump in my left boob. It's either a lymphoma relapse or breast cancer. Odds are on the relapse. If that is the case, then the best treatment out there for hodgkin's is no match for my monster. Basically, since this didn't work, it's doubtful anything will. The tumors are back and this time they're not leaving. The best I can do now is slow it down. I'm very tired. I never thought it was unfair that I got this. People get diseases every day. My buddy Scott, Cari and Susan at work all have Crohn's. But I do think it is very unfair that I have never been able to enjoy a relapse. I'm going on year four. That's 1,460 days. It's hard. Every morning I get up and the biggest goal is to find the time to forget, to feel better or hide what I feel. Most of the time I can get an hour or two at night. Within a couple of months that will be gone. I just wanted a couple more months. If you're tired of reading about my whining once again, I'm sorry. I wish I could write about something else. I think I'm going to have a beer. It will hurt. But I don't give a fuck.

Oh, one other thing. After we landed in New York, the guy in front of me deplaned but he left his wallet on his seat. I picked it up and gave it right to the flight attendant. I didn't even check to see how much he had. Wouldn't that good deed get me a month or two without this disease?

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

A note to my kids

Ironically, I can't figure out how to embed Steve Job's 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.

But Conner, McKenna and Madison, I'd like you to read/watch this. Everyone can too if they want.

Am I going to have to eat herbs?

Steve Jobs died today. Cancer doesn't care who you are. I, as well as everybody in design, owe him a big favor because he showed the world that design matters. If used correctly, design can be more than just an aesthetic pleasure. It can change everything and anything.

I've gotten lucky the last two times Icame ro New York. About a month ago, I happened on a good deal for a hotel in the downtown area of Manhatten. The cab driver pulls up to the hotel and across the steeet was some kind of busy construction project. I go up to the lobby and holy cow, thar's Ground Zero. The hotel overlooked Groumd Zero. My room overlooked Ground Zero. I could barely sleep.

A month later, today, I weasled my way into another downtown hotel deal. This was on Wall Street. I'm in the middle of the Occupy Wall Street protests. I went down to take a look at it. I gotta say, there is an aweful lot of earth tones down there. A lot of wool, too. It smelled of a college dorm and looked like a college lecture just got out. There are a couple hundred youngsters and lots of police people. The people are yelling stuff. The police aren't. I decided to chime in and I yelled too. I screamed, "My underwear is riding up my ass!" And, "Let's hear it for 100% Cotton!" Only some people cheered me on but I think they were French tourists.

I don't care what anybody says. These protests aren't about the inequalities in our economic system. No, this protest is wholly and solely the result of the Grateful Dead. You see, if the Grateful Dead were still touring, all these young people who look like the haven't showered in a few weeks would be spending their time enjoying the confusing riffs of the Dead. They'd be doing the white guy dance, chewing on some mushrooms and then talking about the waning influence of the middle class in our economic and political lives. I usually picture a teepee, too. I never understood the attraction but my friend Sarah somehow enjoyed the Bands sounds. There's no Grateful Dead now. Where are you Gerry Garcia?

I see Dr O'Connor tommorrow. My run with this treatment is about up. My gut hurts. I'm itching more. I have lump on my boob. I don't have a plan B. I wanted to go to Houston but now I'm not so sure if I even can get into the trial. I'm getting tired. Unlike most cancer heads, I've never really had a remission period. It's hard to wake up, notice that you feel like crap and realize that oh yeah, I have cancer. I'm doing that everyday. A rough count puts me and cancer reintroducing ourselves to each other for about a thousand mornings now.

Every time someone with cancer dies, I do something I'm not very proud of. I count the years they struggled with it and compare myslf with that hoping to go as long. Steve Jobs went almost eight years with his monster but he went to Switzerland and ate nothing bit herbs for a while. I'm only butting up to year four. It would be incredible if I went as long as Steve Jobs. I hope I don't have to eat herbs, though.

One other thing, being down here allowed me to see the grave of my hero, Alexamder Hamilton. He was the father of our economy. He made sure our dollar was worth something. He forsaw the intricacies of interstate commerce. He led a bayonett charge in the last major battle of the war. He wrote most if not all of President George Washington's speeches and with him, helped forge a brand new society. Thomas Jefferson and Hamilton fought over what type of country this should be. Jefferson wanted a country of gentlemen farmers with a weak and non-existent federal government. Jefferson won, for awhile. After the Civil War, the country slowly but surely tilted all the way toward Hamilton. He is most likely the only Founding Father who foresaw what we are today. He was an orphan who ran a trading company at nine years old. At thirteen, he was turned down by Princeton because he told the dean he wanted to finish college in three years. Only being thirteen years old, the Dean thought he was crazy. Almost as admirable in my mind is how he was human. He was very vain. His son died in college after he was challenged to a duel, a fight over his father. You would think he would stay away from duels but he didn't and died as well, at the hands of Aaron Birr (even after he shot his bullet into a tree). Yes, he was vain and he did cheat on his wife one time. But I compare that with his rival, Jefferson, who owned slaves and betrayed Washington. I'll take Big Al. It was cool seeing his gravesite. Sad, too. I was so inspired to be so close to his actual body. But then I heard about Steve Jobs. I hate, hate, hate death.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

My dad is probably like a lot of dads in othat he has always given me great advice on life. But unlike many dads, that advice always came at strange times.

In the summer, I would work for my dad's comstruction company as a laborer. Do any of you know what that is? The laborer is the guy on a construction team who hasn't quite learned how to drive a tractor or move a dump truck. So he has to do all the dirty work. And on a construction site, the dirty work is filthy dirty. If a hole needs digging, the laborer digs it. If something needs smashing, a laborer smashes it. If a sewer needs cleaning out, hold your nose and grab your shovel. A good laborer needs to be strong, tireless, steeled nerves and bicepts, oblivious to the mud, crap, feces and screams from the foreman. Ad willing to do absolutely anything and do it quickly or else you"re fired. I was nothing like that. I was more like Woody Allen grade a hole. Or maybe even a little Felix Ungar. Yeah, probably more Felix Ungar. It was all just too dirty, too heavy, too hot, too disorganized. I was too whimpy, whiney, clutzy and soft. Getting sludge out of a sewer hole holds no fascination for me, especially when the forman of the job is a drunk guy with a Scottish accent, calling you all kinds of unbelieveably naughty yet wildly creative names. The c word to Scotty is just the beginning of a sentence. And I am to him, a retard.

It wasn't that I hated construction. Construction hated me.

About two or three times every summer, my dad would trick me. He'd pull up in his truck and yell, "I got another job for you. Get in and grab your shovel." Then we'd drive in complete silence. I was afraid to say anything because I knew I was Felix Ungar out there and knew that he knew.

Most of the time, my dad would start the conversation deftly talking in abstracts. Right away, he'd get all deeper in the discussion. And then he would talk about life and school and what he expcts from me. Stuff like looking people in the eye when you talk to them, the importance of a good firm handshake, how to treat ladies, moms, dads, girlfriends, business partners, etc.

My dad, like many dads I suppose, is a truly wise man. As a kid, he would walk all the way to Wrigley Field from his home in Elmwood Park to see the Cubs play. He got in by striking a deal with the groundskeeper. He could watch the game but then he had to clean up the garbage in the stands afterwards. So he did that. And then he walked back home to Elmwood Park, about twenty to thirty miles each way. My dad was destined for law school and started taking some classes. But then a family tragedy struck, my uncle Jimmy died on a construction site. My grandfather was too devastated to go back to that same construction site to work. So my dad did. And my dad kept doing it. He gave up his dreams to help his dad. He knows a few things.

My dad would go on and on. And by the end of his impasion lecture, we would be facing a mall entrance. He'd take me shopping. For the rest of the day, he'd tell me to get anything. He'd push shirts on me, sweaters (it was the eighties so you can easily visualize the style), socks, underwear, anything. I always thought it was funny watching the sales people react to seeing a kid who has dirt in his teeth, hair and any nether region and smelled like River Forest's finest poop. Eventually I'd sheepishly get only one or two things. I felt bad for spending his money. Even so, it was a great feeling.

Back in the car, during his speeches, he often came back to the same theme: make sure you always have options. It's important in anything you do. Always have options. Always. Always. Because when you don't, you're stuck. And then your life, your career, even your relatiomships are no longer favorable to you. You lose the ability to control that pesky sucker called fate. When you're stuck and have no options, you are at the mercy of others, the elements of the situation, outside influences, all out of your control. When you end up stuck, sometimes you end up unhappy.

All too often, I write about the pain of cancer. I do that because I want to make sure you understand. I know that before I had it, pain would be the biggest mystery to me in my mind. What does it feel like? What feels bad and how does it feel? But now, the pain still sucks but it's just pain. A needle stick is just pain. My feet are just in pain. Pain isn't the worst thing about cancer. The worst thing is that I'm running out of options.

Frist, there's the obvious. My treatment options aren't so vast after this one runs out. They're going to get less effective and have more side effects. I can see an end. Bummer. But tonight, I am not troubled by that.

I want to be a husband to my wife. I want me to do everything husbands do that wives love. But I can't. I wish I could take my wife out to a romantic dinner and then come home and watch porn and do the nasty, wild thing. What? Couples don't watch porn before they get it on? But how then do you all get arosed? Plus, if there is no porn, then it only lasts about eight minutes, all depending on how easily it is to get the rubber suit off.

But the porn be that as it may, I am fresh out of ways to make me seem cool. Like Brad Pitt cool. The Fonz cool. I'm fat now because of the steroids and I can't get myself into shape. I'll last about ten mintes into the twenty minute ab work out. And I know this bothers my wife. She works out so hard and works so hard to take care of herself and then she looks at me sucking the third popsicle of the hour while I jiggle to get comfie on the couch. I can't have nice hair because I barely have hair. I am not who she married. And she quite frankly has to be sick of this. Every day she sees me laying in bed in the middle of the day, taking long hot baths to soothe the nodes. And it must be numbing. Brad Pitt is too cool for cancer. And to her, the marriage deal was in sickness and in health but enough is enough. Nobody wants to get laid by the slovenly, old, fat, tired laborer.

I want to go back to work to show her I am creative and smart and hard-working again. I can't. I am tired and I am out of options on making sure my wife has reasons to be in love with me. She's never said anything about this. I know she would be embarassed by this whole thing. And probably upset. But this blog needs to be honest or it's not going to be my blog. I need to once again sweep her off her feet, while my sting and tingle.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

I have become richie cunningham and love every himdrum minute

There is a curse to the drug that I am currently taking--sgn. And that is, one day it will end. Now, naturally, you've read enough of these insipid, whiny posts to think that I am referring the medical end, that the Monster comes back and he'll be driving some Monster truck. But that is incorrect.

My friend Jerome once went on a rant about the 1985 Bears that was quite enjoyable, as Jerome's rants always are. Basically he wanted them to go away. They are always around. They will not get beyond that point in time when they won the Super Bowl. And, unfortunately, everyone is reminded of that every time you see a car commercial. By my math, that Super Bowl is almost three decades ago. Good god. Hasn't anything happened to any of them since? And then Jerome would talk about Chuck Noll. He was the coach of the Steel Curtain Pittsburg Steelers when they dominated the seventies goimg on to win a multiple of Super Bowls, not only one as is the Bears' case. For all everyone knows, the guy is still alive. But maybe not. He's not one of those tired ex-jocks on ESPN saying the same crap. He doesn't do car commerxials. He's nowhere to be found but he must be somewhere. I clearly get Jerome's point. It's classier to not live so much back there.

I always thought it class that made Chuck Noll not care to be faous or relevant. But now I completely understand. He's happy. Or at least that's what I see and that's about all that matters in this case.

The killer thing for sgn isn't the medical ending but the humdrum life ending.

Even at its most boring, I love every single day. I hug every single day. I feel bad when the day goes away. I have had a lot of dreams and ambitions in my life. But I never thought the dream of having peace would be the best one of all. I have "serenity now!!!"

Because of the diligent work of our company CFO, Michael Volkman, I am on long term disability. I get paid just a little less than my actual salary at tdh. So I don't worry about money as much. In high school we always heard about that statistic of like how often a boy thinks about sex and the actual statistic is like every five seconds. Well, yeah, that was correct for me. But then in my thirties, sex turned into thinking about money with the same frequency but without all the animal, midget, wig-wearing, rubber suit bondage nonsense that accompanied my sexual imagination.

So that leaves worrying about very little. And somewhere on all of our worry list, there will be a point where you can more than handle it. The bills. Te wife. The kids. All those things that made you look old are gone. And that's when I became Chuck Noll. Or, for the non sports types, Richie Cunnomgham. Oh sure, my ambition may still bethere but now they're only about having fun.

I wake uo whenever I damn well please on the weekdays. On the weekends, I have to look like I want to be up early so as not to appear as the lazy douchebag I have become. But anyways, it's about ten o'clock. For breakfast, I eat whatever I damn well please. Naturally, that means I hit the sugar and faux sugar products with glee. I slumber for a while waiting for the drugs to kick in. Then I do whatever I damn well please. Today, I stared at my crappy stocks and tried to remember when they actually made me money.

Eventually, my new dreamboat comes home. That would be Maddie. Now, granted, she has more ah, lets just say endearing traits of her momma. She lives in an orderly world. But I forgive that because she loves to laugh. No, really. We love to joke about anythimg. She loves to dance as well. The house doesn't need lights when Maddie is home. She is electricity. But not break-dancing Electric Bugaloo. That would be bad and one of her mother's not so endearinf traits.

Eventually, Maddie goes down for a nap and I go back to doing what I damn well please.

Then starts the procession of Herlehy's, coming home from school. Now, I really can do whatever I want.

The wierd thing about it all, though, is what I want to do is nothing. I find my wife and kids to be enough in my world. Oh, and my dog. This is all good for me. At one time in my life, I would want so much more. And there are so many things I wanted to so. But not now. The other day I thought about going to Ireland and thought that I could stop travelling to be awed and inspired.

I have pain, yes. And it is really bad pain. And it very rarely leaves me. But I have been an asshole so many times to so many people from college to texas grad school to new york to everywhere. I'll bet every single person who reads this has a Michael Herlehy Is An Asshole story. So the pain well, it's a little payback that sometime, somewhere I pissed off the Gods and people and the natural order of things. I fucked up. Whatever it was. I'd give you examples but it's late and I should try to sleep. Then again, maybe I won't. Who knows.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Really boring military metaphors await you. Just not today.

I'm going to start writing again. I needed to get away. And just as important, I needed to figure out how the hell to type on this damn ipad. It's very different. You'll unfortunately see a lot more typos.

I have been taking my last bullet, the sgn drug, for a couple months now. I am almost in complete remission. Still I don't feel like celebrating. My feet and hands sting for most of the day. It's like I slammed my hand open face on concrete. And then did the same for each limb. The sting is pretty sharp and constant. It's less in the morning, though and in the evening after I take this drug.

I have written some stuff to the kids. It's on my other computer. I started it when I was first diagnosed. But the writing became too emotionally difficult. I've burned bridges because things are too emotionally difficult. I'm going to write more later. Thanks for hanging in there.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

I need you to shove it back

It was my anniversary today. She is such an unbelievable person. If you want loyalty, don't get a dog, marry a farmer's daughter from Northern Michigan. Make sure she's not a drunk, though.

I'm in a lot of pain right now. It's not jack bower pain. It's an ache. It's pretty much all over. My hands feel like really bad arthritis. My head would feel better if if exploded. My midsection still pings with every breath. I have less energy than that Carol Burnett Show character, Speed. Tim Conway reference. My throat hurts.

The throat is the biggest psychological burden. When you were young, you used to get the flu and your throat would getmswollen. Well, mine are swollen beyond that point and it is all the time. My nodes hurt. I'm getting to the bottom of the tank. I used to wake up and tell myself I gotta rally and that would get me going. Now, there is nothing to rally. I was hoping this drug would bring me back and give me some strength to fight the next year. It is instead sucking everything out of me. And I just want to take my little girl to the park. Cancer is robbing me. It's robbing her. It's robbing her kids and her family of some or many purely happy moments. She'll have the crutch of not having her dad. She'll think that in quiet moments. Robbery. It will take a piece of her forever. She's going to be too young to even remember us going to the park.

It would be nice if, one day, hopefully twenty or thirty years later, one of you would be sitting around and thinking about something stupid we did together. And you decide to find one of my kids and maybe even after a long search, you call them and tell them. Twenty years later. Cancer gets robbed then. That bastard disease gets a little shoved back from one of my friends or family. That makes me feel better right now.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Did you see that?

Can't type long because I'm having trouble seeing up close. At first I thought it was a symptom of getting old but now I know that it has progressed quickly and that means sgn is the cause. It's very hard to see close up so sorry if there are a lot of typos. Will inform you if it gets better. Have to tell my wife. That's going to be a difficult conversation.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Something stupid about god

The quality and quantity of my blogs have gone way, way down. It's become a boring, self-centered hack-fest. Ys, it's become a lot more like me. Good thing your replies are much more interesting. It reminds me of this one time when working at Tom, Dick and Harry.

I was the creative director for Moosehead beer. One day this intern named Drew asked me if he could do an ad. I sort of laughed and talked on and on about how advertising is harder than it looks and it takes creatives years to be any good. He smiled and asked again so I gave him an assignment. I did a little work on the side on the same assignment because I didn't think he'd come up with anything. But a couple of days later he comes into my office with these great headlines. Much, much better than anything I did for that assignment or, it seemed, for the whole account.

I sort of didn't now what to say to him. So I don't think I said anything but good job. He knew he had me and walked out of the office very confidently. Since then and here the rest of his stay he gave me that look like, "You think you're so cool, but you're really an idiot. Of course, that could just be the same look he gave everyone because I see that same look on everyone of this generation. They seem to hate us more than we hated our elders

Any who, ever since that episode, I've come to accept my writing limitations. When people ask what I do, I say I'm in training for the Olympics. I never m mention what event. An intern could do better work in half the time and without really even caring when it comes to writing. I'm better off trying to luge.

Still, like most In one generation older than me, I need to blame someone else. So it is the iPad. If you've seen people at cool with one, don't worry. They're not that cool. There's no key pad so typing is difficult. There are also no arrow keys, no mouse and no screen arrow so it's even more difficulct checking over work. So I don't do it as much anymore. Sorry. Whtat's worse than having cancer? Having to read about it from guy who haw a stye more apt for power tool instruction manuals. Speaking of writing about cancer...

The constant pain I had in my chest way, way back when I wrote more interesting and grammatically correct blogs is back. Breathe in and I get a dose of sharp pain. Breathe out and I get a dose of sharp pain. It shoots up and down my arm and lef side. The average day now is back to being a struggle of ot thinking it sucks.

What sucks worse is the worrying begins. Pain is either really good or really bad. There isn't any in between in this life. It all depends on which cells are dying. I won't know which until the end of this week. Until then I will worry and breathe and breathe out.

A couple of long time hodgers have passed away in the last couple of months. Last week a doctor in Los Angeles told a mom that she should take her six year old kid home because he is going to die in one week and the doctor can't do aything else for him. Now I see two problems with this situation. First, the doctor. I was told by three doctors that I woud die in a couple of months and I think I am still alive. I could be dead but I think I'm not because I have this stupid fucking computer.

My econd issue concerns the mom. Sometimes medical people say one thing and the patients hear something else. So I can't blame the doctor completely. What went down might not have went down exactly as told. But I also have some pent up, unfair animosity toward the mom for accepting this answer from the doctor. I just don't understand it. Why accept the worst possible solution? If I was one of those criminals on death row, man, you wouldn't see me calmly walking down the aisle. I'd be kicking, screaming, struggling everything and anything to try to get away and if you want to shoot me, go ahead.

So my point is, it"s mentally tough some days thinking about that poor six year old boy and the whole situation of the adults around him. The kicker, and this is where I lose the few of you I have left, is many many people talk about how god will take care of it. No He (or She) won't. God won't do shit. God doesn't help athletes win games. God doesn't make people rich. God doesn't help six year old sick boys. Six year olds shouldn't be sick in this first place. A God who lets that happen is an asshole. If I was God (and by my writing, clearly I am not), I wouldn't let that happen. My friend Todd or my other friend Jerome both hate people and they wouldn't even let that happen. So with every sharp pain breath as I check the web for the latest news on the hodgers, I think god is an asshole. I'm sticking to that until I talk to him or her personally. But I doubt I will be doing that.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

My last bullet

I spent the airplane ride writing down a list of the resons why I need to start sgn-35. I knew it was my fallback treatment, the Alamo of my cancer. But there's only so much, ya know.

I had a lot of reasons and I was going to just rattle them off to Dr. O'Connor in the hopes of getting him to understand that I had grown almost without notice, sick. My tumors were large and can be noticed even torough my clothes. I was getting cramps in all parts of my body. The constant bee stinging of my body had gotten worse and now even a good painkiller like any of the fine oxy products couldn't mask it. I was losing sleep. I had lost my appetite. I was sleeping a lot. I had so much constant pain I didn't know I had pain.

In O'Connor's office the next day, after the usual three hour wait (I've actually waited longer. It's good to bring digital fun to any cancer doctor's office.), he walked in and without even waitng for me to say anything, he said, "it's that time."

I said, "I'm beat." And that was that.

In about one montth, doctors will be able to order sgn-35 and patients can get it as easy as a getting Tylenol.. The FDA just announced that it will have an answer to it's approval in mid august. But I didn't know that then. I had to wait until the company that produced the drug opened a clinical trial. You'd thiink that during this waiting period, I'd feel desperate. But actually my spirits brightened a bit. I knew I was at least going to have a good summer.

Even with the slightest of drugs going through my body, I get a little buzz-buzz. This time I felt nothing although I hear the real side effects start after the second infusion. And boy are they side effects. Even though the drug saves the lives of many, many patients, a percentage of them wish they never had it. The debilitation can be that bad.

Probably like many of you, at first I found that attitude was strange. Here is a drug that saves your life but you wish you had not taken it. Upon reading further and talking to them, it just gets to be too much. I undertand that. But still, I hope to never have that attitude.

A friend from college once made me aware of how impractical Bible stories were. She used the example of the Virgin Mary. So there is this girl who says she's never had sex but now she's pregnant and she says that God is the Daddy. Umm, sure. And then there's the healing of the blind and curing of the sick. What if Jesus simply had some really good drugs with him? He never really said he had special powers. We said that. He"s always been humble about the thing. He just said his Daddy is God.

Well, if he did, he had some of this sgn stuff. It's damn good. I feel better and better every day. I'm ready for my second treatment and i already want to take the step of getting off all drugs. That's quite a statement if you've ever seen my pill-popping routines. McKenna and I once tried to figure it out and I stopped at around thirty pills on a bad day and twenty on a good day. Now, just maybe, I can actually get down to zero, although I'd have a tearful good-bye with my painkillers.

From January until April, I had grown used to a different life. It was dark. It hurt. Badness was too close. Now I am amazed at my new one. I mean, I can actually get up and not feel like crap? Get out. You say that people can make it up a flght of stairs without getting out of breath? No shit. I've harped on it before but it deserves a second, third and fourth mention-- you people got it easy. You got it great. Waking up is now so so cool. I love the day. I love the morning. I love every breath. Taking a big sigh is worth another sigh. I love just being.

Let's see how far we can ride this motha.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Where I'm at right now.

This was written by someone else who fought the Hodge. It sums up what I feel. To everyone, I'm sorry I haven't emailed, called, faxed. If you read this you' might get it.

This was posted years ago by a warrior named Andy (Nickel1). The line about dealing with your disappointment in other people came to mind when reading recent posts. This piece addresses that issue well...

"How to beat cancer"

Be prepared for a marathon. It will be a long fight so pace yourself. Be prepared to go it alone if necessary, but get ready to go the distance.

Don't expect others to do as you do and do not hold others up to your standards. Not everyone can go the distance with you. People will come and go as best they can. Accept what help they can give you when they can.

Conduct yourself in your everyday life in a manner that will give you no reason or excuses for your behaviour when you look back on this time. Make the present so that you have no regrets. Don't drink or do drugs that are not needed. Be a leader so that others may follow.

Have heros. Be inspired by your heros, and be inspiration to others around you. You may be their hero.

Fight. Fight 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. Fight when you wake up, fight until you go to bed, dream about fighting in your sleep. Want to win so bad that you can taste it in your food and in your drinks.

Willpower. Have plenty of it. Tell yourself you will get better every day and believe it so that you make yourself better through sheer willpower. Aspire to be great and expect nothing less than total victory. Refuse to lose or even entertain defeat. You will stu
mble but a champion always rises to keep going. Be that champion.

Stay focused. Do not fight battles that do not need fighting and take you away from this fight.

Hate it. Hate cancer like nothing you have ever hated before. Save all your hate for it and it alone. Love everyone and everything else. Life is good so don't let it go by.

Have no mercy, no pity, no compassion, until every last cell of it is dead. Rejoice in every victory no matter how small.

When in doubt, fight it out. You won't win if you stop fighting. It's OK to be afraid but don't stop fighting and do whatever it takes to win. Have faith and it's OK to cry.

Most of all, always walk proud. Even if you are in a wheelchair, a bed, or can't walk at all. Maintain that air of strength on the inside, because you know its better to die like a lion than live like a lamb.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

I raise my head up. There. That's done.

The first half of my day--

10:00 am Wake up. Feel this annoying itch. Sometimes I have a headache. My nose is running. I have a bad cough, which doesn't make much sense since I never sick and have both a runny nose and a cough at the same time. Usually one has followed the other. The itch is really the one, though. First, an electric shock shoots at random spot on my body. Right away the spot itches. I itch the spot. Another spot gets electric shock. It goes on non-stop. Decided to go back to bed for a while. Until the itch goes away.

10:30 am The itch doesn't go away. Why do I have these sharp pains? Why itch? What's up with my nose? Oh yeah, I have cancer. The tumors in my neck make it sore. I'm sore in all kids of other places too. Getting up at this late a time in the morning is embarrassing. So I figure I need to make a mad dash for the kitchen to get some breakfast.

10:40 am Lean up, ready for the mad dash.

10:45 am Still ready for that mad dash.

11:15 am Get out of bed.

11:18 am Get down stairs. Hope to God that Sherri doesn't send a text asking to pick up Maddie from the babysitter early. I see no texts.

11:22 am Throw in two waffles. Go out to the garage for a Coke Zero. Put the same waffles down again. They're much better crunchier. While waiting, send a text to Sher lying to her, telling her that I've been up for a while, feel great and have been waiting for Maddie for like an hour. What's up?

11:30 Sherri writes back that I should rest and Maddie's going to nap at the baby-sitter's house. Basically, she didn't believe anything I wrote. Smart woman. I love them smart.

11:45 Finish waffles. Prepare my daily cocktail: 2 pills to help with the itch even though it doesn't work, two pills to help with the shooting pain and these will kick in at about four o'clock but will suffice beforehand, two oxycodone that used to do wonders for all the pain now only helps marginally, one pill to keep me from getting an infection even though I probably got one, DayQuil. I down the pills first.

11:47 Back at the breakfast table. I lower my head. Too tired. Too tired for everything. Can't do this another day.

12:15 Head still down.

12:20 Pills kick in. Clean up.

12:35 Check the internet.

1:15 check my To Do list. Pick one thing. Put a new phone in the kitchen. Plan on doing that.

1:30 Going to lay down instead. Tired..

1:31 I itch.

2:00 Get ready for the babysitter and Maddie.

2:05 Babysitter arrives with a cranky Maddie.

2:10 Feed Maddie a cookie and grapes. She loves cookies. See the dog itching.

2:35 McKenna comes home. She talks to Maddie. We talk about her day. It was boring. The dog is still itching.

2:50 Sherri arrives. She immediately takes over and thanks me for watching Maddie and how I should lay down because I did a lot. This time I tell her the truth and say I didn't do anything because I had a hard time getting going. She says to lay down. She knows what I did and thankfully, somehow and someway it was enough for her.

3:00 Play with Maddie. She likes to dance. A lot. To the same song.

3:30 Tired. Go up to bed for a nap. Itching still a lot today. Try to hide itching from the dog.

3:45 Fall asleep.

4:15 The sharp pains are back. This itch, man, where did this come from? And my body is sore like I went boxing in the sun. What is wrong with me? Oh, I have cancer.

4:16 The plan is to race downstairs to get my pills. So I sit up in bed. Then I itch.

4:30 Still sitting up. Can't lift my head. I itch.

4:35 Make it to the pills. I'm out of breath.

4:45 Play with Maddie. Tell my wife how I have this huge To Do list and how I'm going to redo everything that needs to be done around the house. Think of the phone. Don't even bring it up. It's not getting done today.

5:15 Think of all the people out there ready to go home. Think about how after five was my second favorite time at the agency since I get to do work without interruptions. I'd come up for air a couple of hours later. Only one or two people are left. I'd walk around not because I wanted to see someone. I didn't want to see anyone because I just loved the sound of an empty ad agency. It's still has energy but it's so quiet.

5:16 Is dinner ready?

5:30 Dinner is ready. After dinner I lay down. Oh, and I itch. Wonder how long.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Party like a rock star at the Olive Garden

I'm getting beat to hell. The cancer is coming at me now in so many different ways that my body just can't keep up. I sleep a lot. I lay around a lot. I don't like going outside for anything. I'm out of breath most of the time.

Starting the year, I had two magic bullets--two treatments that are surefire winners. Bendamusstine is the better of the two. I took it. I can't take it any more. The other treatment is SGN. I don't think I'll last past the first treatment because its major side effect is bad nueropathy. I already have bad neuropathy. For folks in that condition, the drug puts them through ungodly pain and in some cases, paralysis.

So the cancer grows now. Very little will be able to stop it. And it is making me subhuman. The other day I spent a couple of hours itching. Now, I don't mean itching and watching TV or itching and eating. Just itching. For two hours. After that I didn't stop itching but I went on to doing other things as well.

Sherri and I got an email from my mom about our birthdays (sherri's is the 25th, the day after mine. Is that cool or what? I've never forgotten her birthday.). In the note, there was a reference to "days full of happiness" and she ends it all with, "May you have the best times of your lives." Wow. Days full of happiness. I don't understand how someone could write such a callous and clueless thing. And she's my mother. If I can get ten minutes of happiness, it's a good day. If I can get ten minutes without itching and find full happiness at the same time, well, then a celebration is in order. We're going to the Olive Garden!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

44 going on 80

Happy Birthday to me. I'm 44 today but that's just a number. Clearly that's a number.

Thank you for all of your birthday wishes. I know it's been awhile since my last post. I also know I've shut a lot of people out as far as emails and stuff. In particularly Kiki and Brandy. It all got to be too much and right now it's too much.

We're all just worn out. SInce we last talked, I was taking one of only two dependable treatments out there that has shown good results in banging down the many cancerous tumors that have grown throughout my body. At the halfway point, the tumors in my chest have gone down dramatically or disappeared. But that was the last I would see of Bendamustine.

My platelets are at a very, very low level and if Dr. O'Connor were to give me bendamustine or most chemos they would kill me, So he gave me some rituxan once every week for four weeks. Rituxan is a different type of drug in that it isn't considered a traditional chemo. It is a very popular drug with non-hodgers but isn't really used with us Hodgers because we generally don't have the type of tumor this drug would kill. However, Dr. O really looked at my case and noticed that I'm actually more of a tweener. I have both the hodgkin's tumor cells and non-hodgkin's tumor cells.

But even Dr. O'Connor admitted that it's not nearly as effective as bendamustine and quite frankly, I can see, feel and touch my tumors and they're growing. They've taken over my right side. Everything is worse. My itching is bad. My chest pains are back. New tumors are popping up and really I can do very little except scratch my head. Yes, that's an itch. I go from respiratory infection to the next without a break. Last week, my wife said, "I was worried for a while there. And you me. I don't worry about a lot of things." This morning I noticed that I can't live without almost thirty pills. My life now depends on a lot of pills. And even with them, I'm in pain and in danger of dying.

I tell you, I'm just really tired of fighting. Everything is difficult. I'm heading downhill. I feel so embarassed. The cancer is even affecting my dog Nala. I itch constantly now. Every five seconds or so my body would light up with a spark and then an itch. Nobody can do anything about it. Now, my dog Nala itches all the time. She's never had any allergies. And she doesn't have fleas. But she itches.

More than anything, cancer is relentless. It keeps coming after you, your body and your senses. I beg for it to stop many times during the day. I just wish I could feel normal for an hour. I'm tired now. I'm going to sleep. I itch through my sleep. I wheeze. I cough. I twitch because of the growing tumors. And that's when I'm resting. I will post again with a clearer head. But please send me good vibers, pray, do whatever. I would appreciate that. Please don't call my wife about this. She has enough on her mind and day. She knows all of this and more. We're trying. Sorry for the typos. I'm going to bed.

Monday, February 7, 2011

I'm running out of heroes.

Kirsten died today. She was one of the refractory Hodgers that I looked to and said, "If she can do it, then I can." She was just working out only a couple of months ago and seemed to be her energetic self. She lived in Vancover and couldn't stand the fact that the Olympics were in her town, wreaking havoc on her daily life. She kept telling people to go home. She was very funny.

Kirsten found the Hodge at about the same time I found mine. But she had been through a couple more clinical trials than me in that time. That's basically what killed her. All those treatments, all that poison in your body, it just ruins things in the process of trying to make you better. Her platelets were slammed down by so many treatments that they eventually gave up on her. She went into the hospital and the staff gave her transfusions. By then it was too late. With her platelets so low, the cancer had a chance to really get ahold of her body and it did.

My plan to jump from treatment to treatment is a failure and I know it more and more every day. I now understand what Custer felt like when he took that last dip into the high grasslands of eastern Montana. It's sort of like, "Oh no. What have I done?" Luckily I have more time than Custer. Now, I have heard from some of you that my entries have become more somber. I'm sorry for that. If you don't want to feel that way and I'm making you feel that way, please stop reading this.

My daughter, McKenna, makes bracelets and hair pins out of duck tape. Yes, I spelled it right. Her tape is duck tape and you can find it at Target. It's a cheap rip off of duct tape, the big daddy of any tool chest. The bracelets go for fifty cents and the pins go for one dollar and fifty cents. She is donating all proceeds to cancer research. She'll probably make about six or seven bucks.

McKenna knows. She talks around it every day. It's on her mind and I can tell that she wants to remember us and the moments. I thought she would be the one who can be immune to this. She used to have her own cool, fun world until I came around and ruined it all. I'm really going to miss her when I'm gone. She's the one who is most fascinated with life and because she is, it makes her the most fascinating person in mine.

Her bonehead teacher decided to give the class an assignment to read this story about a kid who's mom died. The kid has this struggle because he is losing memories of his mom as he goes through his life and he is very upset about this. I can't believe that fat slob of a teacher gave my daughter this book to read but he did. He's a fucking moron. Her book report, written in perfect English and exquisite penmanship, talked of her being in a similar situation and I could tell for the first time that my death is on her mind. A rush went through me as I read this book report. What the fuck have I done to my kids?

I'd like to say that McKenna and all my kids can take the place of my hodge heroes. I think they deserve it. I've always admired them. What parent hasn't admired what their kids can do? But it's not quite hero worship. While looking up to them, I'm so damn busy worrying about them at the same time that it just can't qualify. I love my kids. I wish that was enough. One day it won't be enough because I had a stupid plan but it was my only plan and it failed. In the meantime, does anyone want to buy a bracelet?

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Yes, I have enough Flare.

Office Space is one of my favorite movies. When it first came out, I didn't want to see it because it had one of those underground followings where people just worshipped it and talked about it with such love. So I held out for a long time. then one night I was tricked into seeing it. And it has turned me into one of those too cool underground worshippers.

One thing I need you all to know. To me the best scene in the movie is one that's rarely talked about even among us worshippers. It's where the three geeks beat the crap out of the computer equipment with baseball bats while this great wrap song played. All shot in slow motion. Just art. It should be up there with other great comedy scenes like "Can I have ten thousand marbles please?" and "You've met jugdish..."

Any way, the Jennifer Aniston character worked as a waitress and was constantly being reminded by her boss (who looks suspiciously like the brother in Naploean Dynamite and if he is, he's going to win an Oscar someday if not for lifetime achievement. I mean, I'd take him over Ernest Borgnine, who is getting it this year and is a man who ate right by Sherri and I in England one night. It was Sherri's one brush with stardom) that she wasn't wearing any "flare". Basically, there weren't enough buttons on her shirt.

Buttons. What a stupid idea. People who aren't cool pass them to other people who aren't cool in the hopes that someone recognizes them so then they can be cool. Europeans who go to the Olympics love them and sucker Americans into doing it. When Americans come home they wear them for a few days and when they realize that they're not really getting the attention and wow factor they were looking for and got back in the European side of the Olympic Village, they put them in a box somewhere. Europeans still love them after the Olympics but when you really get down to it, most Europeans are geeks. Americans, on the other hand, just think "Oh god, this thing is going to put a hole in my shirt. And it's not that funny." But Europeans wish to be Americans even though they can't. Before we let them, they have to ditch the buttons. They have to stop liking dumb, mindless, souless house music. The men's bathing suit thing has to stop. It's gotten better, but just own it. Own the saggy shorts.

I don't include England or Ireland into this equation, though. Even if President Clinton doesn't think America and England don't have a "special relationship", I believe the rest of the country does. In fact, if there is a bunch of people who we think are cooler than us, it would be the English and Irish.

Any way, back to flare. I have it. This type of flare is bad but not really bad. I've studied Hodge daily and try to learn about my disease so much because that fools me into believing that I'm beating it. But I've never, ever run across flare until my doctor told me. Now this is the second time that I mentioned something in passing to my nurse and within five minutes, the nurse was studious enough to pass it on and the doctor was immediately available and nailed my malady without even examining me. People weekly ask me about New York and wonder if I'm ever going to come back to Chicago to get treatment. And I have to tell you that I just won't. I can't when there are people like that out there. It's more money. I know. I'm taking that from my family. But I'm giving them back me in exchange.

One day last week I woke up feeling terrible. More terrible. My whole right side of me was sore. Upon further evaluation, my nodes were sore. and they were bigger. I was also nauseous, fatigued, had flu-like symptoms. I thought to myself that it was a relapse. Well, a junior relapse since I actually hadn't been in any kind of remission. But I knew that until this point, the medicine was working. My nodes were going down. And then, as in the past, one day the cancer says, "Screw you. I'm gonna fuck you up." and then we move on to try something else that only sort of works for a while.

Luckily, I guess this is a little different. It's a reaction to the treatment that I'm getting. It can be alleviated through steroids. Ah the lovely prednisone. Many in the healthy world have heard about the joys of oxycontin. And there are many of them. Why, oxycodone, oxycontin's much less powerful little sister, has been a good, dear friend to me. But you don't really know about pred.I don't know how pred works but when I'm on it, I feel more normal than I've felt in a long time. I have energy. I'm aware and not in a medicine cloud. I'm not overly joyous or happy as with the oxy sisters. I'm normal. The only problem is it keeps people from sleeping much. And I'm okay with that. I actually have a ritual when I make it to five in the morning of dropping by McDiddies to get a breakfast burrito or two. The guy there knows me and is very real and nice. It's actually a pleasant experience watching the sun come up in the McDiddy parking lot and then a few minutes later, seeing Rte. 59 fill up with woozy motorists hurrying to their jobs.

My worry tonight is my nodes haven't gone back down much. Two nodes in my neck which were small before the flare have actually hooked up with the big blob in my neck. that's never a good sign. they say the tumors should return to the previous level but to me, once the nodes hook up, things are different.

The bigger worry is this is a medicine that is supposed to work and it isn't now with the flare. I should have killed off more bad boys by now. Soon, this treatment will stop working. The kill fast but not long is the way this medicine does it. And when it does, there's only one medicine that is a sure thing to me now. One bullet left.

So that's all I have for you. It's almost two now so I think I'm going to try to sleep for a few hours. The other day someone said, "We shouldn't jump to conclusions about that." And then I said, "We could if we had a Jump to Conclusions mat and game." Nobody got it. They moved on. Someday, film students will watch Office Space and the teacher will talk about it and because the teacher has never worked in an office environment and the students obviously haven't, they won't truly get how the Two Bobs were spot on. But then almost all of the film students will fail at making a movie (because almost all of them do) and they'll take an office job. Then it will come back to them. They'll join the rest of us annoying few underground warriors who laugh when the boss says, "Yeah, hey listen. I'm going to need you to come into work on Saturday..." And right after that it will come to them. The reason Office Space is so brilliant is that it points out to us that no matter how cool we are in the world, we are actually just a bunch of C students trying to pretend we're A students. The Two Bobs are out there using all kinds of fancy language in meetings that don't really have to happen. But then they go home, they kiss their wife and they're normal. I wish the Two Bobs can do something about my Flare.

Friday, January 28, 2011

I'm out of lungs

The chest pains from my left lung has returned. That means I got tumors throwing parties on both sides of the street. I'm in ny getting a third round of this new treatment. You will recall that the last round was a double dose. Since the treatment doesn't still seem to be working and it works on almost everybody, they have doubled my double dose. A little risky? Absolutely. I got little choice. To keep the side effects away, they gave me steroids. So as Cari Dinneen would tell you, I'm up all night. Maybe even tommorow. That's okay because I got New York cable. Ever see their public access stations? Whoooo mammma. New Yorkers seem to enjoy the company of Asians and transexuals because that's about what they talk about and show for commercials. Some S &M too. Truly fascinating. Mostly bad nakie too. I might call and ask if anyone wants to come over and watch tv. That's not hooker code. I really would rather watch tv. Beverly hill desperate housewives is getting nasty and who better to watch that with than a hooker?

Thanks again for all your support. If you want, maybe I can repay by getting a date with Liu, the rather busty Asian girl who must have a lot of itching problems like myself because she touches her body a lot.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Sherri Sighed

My college roommate and very good friend, Todd, used to scream at me in the middle of the night. I mean really rant and rave. He was sleeping. Well, we both were. It was all jibberish but still, it was scary and crazy and ugly because Todd was so mad. At first I thought it was a joke. Then I thought his denials about it in the morning were a joke. Finally, almost by the end of the year I realized, no, this dude really does get all mideval in the night. The last I checked with his very normal and patient wife, he still does it. Now that he is a lawyer and we are all older and uglier, I'll bet everything is even scarier. The thing is, when you meet Todd, you walk away thinking he is the most charming, nicest guys you'll ever meet. Just don't sleep with him.

Conner used to sleep walk. That was a little creepy because he looked perfectly awake and then he'd talk about going on a horse back ride or something like that. I think I used to sleep walk when I was a kid. My Grandmother one night found me relieving my bladder into a closet.

My wife doesn't really do much in her sleep which makes her very boring in that respect. She doesn't even remember her dreams. I mean who doesn't remember their dreams? Heck, that knocks out the plots of hundreds of movies right there. 

I say she doesn't do much because every once in a while, she'll slumber. She doesn't talk in her sleep. She sort of moans, groans, coughs, farts and does a weird gargling thing. Sometime all within ten minutes of each other, accentuated, of course, by the grand fart. 

A couple of nights ago, she did something that she occasionally used to do. She just shortened her routine to a sigh. I heard it. I remembered how she used to do that much more often. And I heard it again in my head and I noticed how her sighs are always filled with all the goodness in life. There were smiles, relief, relaxation, pleasure, innocence and more smiles. Such a great sound.

And at that time I knew what I had to do.

For a couple of months my doctor has been pushing me to consider an allo transplant in the future. This is the type of stem cell transplant you get by using someone else's donor stem cells. You'd think it would be a lot more successful than doing a transplant with your own cells because these come from a healthy body. But actually it's quite the opposite for Hodgers. I think the deal is you have to trick the foreign stem cells into thinking that they're still right at home with their usual liver, kidney, heart and lungs when in fact they are hanging out with someone else's and they can't get out. All kinds of kinds of anything can go wrong. 

The chance for a full cure has been around 8-12%. My docs are telling me that this rate has risen much higher since those stats. The chance of dying from the procedure is around 30%. That's about the same.

So if my math is correct (and if anyone has seen the way these kids are doing math these days, you know that it can be way off), 42% of the people either die or are cured right away. That leaves 58%. What happens to them? I believe the answer is they simply die later on, probably within a year or two. 

Sometimes they die a very painful death. There is something called GVHD. It is a disease you get when your new stem cells don't like your liver or lungs or pancreas. they get pissed off, cause a lot of pain and eventually you die. 

Sometimes people die a very frustrating death. Assuming they don't have GVHD, they're still not in the greatest of health. And their cancer is tough, really really tough. A doctor last week told me the tumors in my lungs were already as hard as concrete. Because of this, drug companies exclude people who have had an allo in their trials. They argue, quite correctly, that a person who has failed so many treatments is not a typical hodge patient and will therefore, skew the trial results in a negative way. They get bad numbers. 

So the post-allo hodge patient is left with trying to beat back the disease using traditional chemo, which, at this point, isn't a whole lot. To put it bluntly, it's certain death. It just depends on how long you can hold out. 

My original plan to hop on and off trials as long as possible has hit a snag in the form of me. Well, my body, at least. My mind is all for trying whatever drug to get me healthy. But my body is giving up. Right now, I am typing this at 3:39 in the morning because I can't sleep on the account of my nueropathy. Nueropathy is pains that start in the feet and hands and present themselves at first as tingling, as if your extremities are falling asleep. then it progesses to pain. then it progesses to pain that randomly shoots all over your body, all the time. The cure? Stop getting treatment or nueropathy will kill you. Without drugs, I just have pain in my extremities. Without pills, I have shooting pain all over my body all the time. the drugs evenutally lose their effectiveness. And I spend more nights trying to sleep but just getting shooting pain.

And then there is New York. Nobody ever fund out what caused me to be very sick and in a hospital this month. But I'm still not better and may never really get better. My lungs are badly scarred. My liver functions is low. My kidney is actually doing okay. My other organs aren't. 

I think my body is telling me it's had it. My doctor, in his easy way, has basically told me that he can keep giving me drugs but that doesn't mean I'll still be able to take them. It feels like to him, I need to get an allo. He would agree with what my body is saying.

I was pretty dead set against it until I heard that sigh the other night. That was a sigh of another time. After the events of this last month, I know I'll never get that time back just by jumping from trial treatment to trial treatment. I know now that I'm only going to get worse. 

And so instead of asking how long I can take or how long my body can take, I should also ask how long can she take? I know many of you out there will say stuff like don't worry about her or she'll take whatever she can because she loves you and stuff like that. But I see what it is doing to her. And I'm fucking tired of only hearing that sigh on a random night. I want to hear it every day and every night. Instead of conversations about the pains in my feet or the coughing, I want to talk about nothing and love talking about nothing.  She is great at talking about nothing. The best. But nobody can do that when someone has cancer. There is no nothing any more. That stuff is trivial. There are, however, sighs in the middle of the night. They sound so beautiful. I should love them but right now I hate them, instead. I think I may be ready to die to love them again. 

Thursday, January 6, 2011

The better part of Mike Martz

My friend and business partner, Bob, likes sports analogies. So for Bob, here goes. 

My doctor is the Mike Martz of cancer medicine. He even slightly resembles him with a quirky demeanor and slightly hefty girth.  They both have a mad scientist quality to them. And while the cautious ones call them foolish, others call them bold. Maybe they're a little bit of both. I've always admired bold even when it's stupid. I have a bold wife. So maybe I'm in love with bold. Dr. O'Connor told me a few times that when it's time, he has a few tricks up his sleeve that will pull me out of it. This was one of them. 

I was originally scheduled for two days of chemo each lasting one hour. But the tumors in my lungs had other ideas. Tumors had been quietly residing in my lungs for a little while but since they didn't make too much trouble, were generally seen as okay. But the night after getting the first of two days of chemo, they reacted negatively. My whole body was shaking with strange chills. Outside of my body was freezing but the inside was burning up. I had really bad motha of God pains in my arms and legs. Sharp, random and merciless ones. Most importantly, I couldn't breathe. It wasn't like I was wheezing. My lungs just could open up enough to give me any air. I was more sort of suffocating. And who-boy, what a wonderful feeling that is. The next day, I saw Dr. O'Connor and without even examining me, he called an ambulance. 

Tests showed that I barely had any blood pressure. I thought you died from high blood pressure but I was actually dying from low blood pressure. My other counts were fucked up. My kidney, my beloved one kidney who I had gotten through many a pick-up football game without even a scratch, was the next to go. I guess I was really cooked. But Dr. O'Connor's onc team was given instructions on how to proceed through the weekend saving the kidney first and then getting the blood pressure back. By Tuesday I was okay but still had two huge rocks in my lungs. And I really, genuinely wondered how the hell was I going to get rid of these tumors. 

I was sort of in a Catch-22 situation. My body was clearly breaking down from taking so many treatments. More people die from getting treated for lymphoma than from the actual cancer. On the other hand I needed the treatments to stay alive. Making matters worse was the fact that with every treatment, the tumors themselves grew harder. The pulmonologist who scoped the inside of my lung told me that the tumors were like cement and was worried (okay, he said "concerned" but that's medical speak for worried). 

So I was facing the dawn of Wednesday morning (That sounds so poetic. But it's not. This time of year, dawn is 7:30 in new york. It smells from all the garbarge that hasn't been picked up and cabbies are yelling at each other. Instead of this, Dawn sounds much better.) So yes, it's dawn in New York and I'm in a bad place. In steps Mike Martz.

For those of you who don't know, Mike Martz is the offensive coordinator of Da Bears. Around the NFL, Martz has the rep of being a genius but risky, quirky, funny looking, a little detached from the day to day things and pretty cocky. In the last couple of years, he's had trouble finding work because he was just a little too bold and brash. His quarterbacks always got injured. But his offenses have always worked. He's won one Super Bowl running his system with the right people. 

I actually wasn't much of a believer in him until the Cowboys game. Jay Cutler was getting beaten up and down the field. The Bears offensive line had been physically torn to shreds and ridiculed. I think dem Cowpokes set a team record for sacks in a half. Their players were getting to our quaterback before our boy could even turn around. Past Bears coaches would see this and think, "We're beaten. So let's throw really short passes and do lots of runs. That way we'll slow them up, save our QB and maybe we'll get lucky." But Martz did the opposite. Come time for the second half he threw even more. He threw more than that, he threw a ton. Alas could we even say he threw a plethora of passes, a myriad of tosses? Yes. We can. And he did it with style. Instead of sending out two receivers and leaving the rest to block, Martz sends out five. The Cowboys were stunned. They probbably thought it was madness. They were completely taken off guard and the Bears won easily. How bout dem Cowboys?

So back to Bob's sports analogy, my doc is the Mike Martz of the cancer. And with me, instead of runing the ball, he threw it all over the field. 

I was sick but I came back. By Wednesday, I was ready for some chemo. Treatment protocol says that I should get one hour of chemo on days one and two. I had already gotten my first day of chemo and that didn't go so well. Still, I needed another day/hour. Almost any doctor that I know of, would have stopped the treatment right away. Give me a break for a week and see what'ss out there. They would have run the ball like all the Bears coaches in the past.

Coach Martz, though, said fuck it and gave me two hours worth of chemo instead of one, set the drip to a higher speed so I'm getting it dripped into me twice as fast and oh yeah, he gave me even more chemo. He wanted to shake things up a bit. Run some Shock and Awe in Mike's body (that's one for my God-fearing Republican brethren). Or you could say that he did a little Shake and Bake (that's for my Will Ferrel fan/brethren).

It worked. Today, while I have some major annoyances, I feel and look human. Some of the tumors have shrunk after only one night and you almost never see that. The pains in my feet and arms are better. My breathing is still very bad but my head is in a better place and I'd prefer to wait a few days to let the chemo do its stuff before worrying about my lungs yet. 

I still stand by what I wrote the other night on this blog even though I had to take it down. My body was in a really bad place. My mind followed to the bad place. In the previous days, I cornered as many medical people as I could and asked them how close was I to well, you know and every single person said I was as close as I could get without seeing a tunnel. That night, I wrote it all down because I needed my own catharsis. It was true but the problem was, the truth was constantly changing at that point.  I didn't yet get to see Martz yet.

The next morning, I had to take all the blogs down for my wife's sake. Cancer, for the first time ever, broke her down. I guess a lot of you folks read this and were concerned and she wondered if she should come to New York. Some of those calls were from family members that have yet to help at all and should be embarassed at that but that's your demon, your own cancer. But mostly good people called and mobilized. I told everyone I was dying on a blog. Everyone came to help. The thing is, Sherri was very scared and confused with all of this. 

Sherri and I have some very strict agreements regarding my care. The first and biggest is that she can never, ever lie to me. If look like shit, she tells me I look dog's ass. This comes from the really strange phenomenon that the patient is always the last to know anything about his or herself. Everyone lies to the patient or in the very least candy-coats the news. Many people think they see their lives flash before them right before they die. I'll bet a good many of them instead are saying, "Damn. Why didn't anyone tell me I was this bad?" There was a study done just recently asking doctors only one question: When a patient is going to die, do you tell them? Only half the doctors answered yes. The rest lie. Sorta downer there. Half the doctors you have will lie to you about your own life and you'll never know.

Not realizing this, however, I originally planned it this way: Until the time comes, Sherri stays with the kids. Until the last minute, she stays. She's better off keeping life normal here and I could rally and come back to health. While we have great friends and neighbors, we couldn't expect them to keep watching our youngins' every time I'm in the hospital. I just don't think that would be fair to all of you, to keep burdening you.

But I was wrong. I never accounted for the fact that so many people cared. Do you realized that I'm not a very nice person? Plus, I'm really stupid. While I thought I would know how bad I was going to get, I really didn't. And of course, nobody was telling me. Dr. O'Connor didn't get the chance to tell me. So Sherri should have been with me. She really wanted to. But she was just following my wishes. And last night, I came home to a woman who had really been through the shit for a couple of days. My own Mike Martz had been blitzed and I was running the wrong play for her. 

Thanks everyone for helping. I'm a lot slower today and will be for a while. But I'm still here. When I saw Doctor O'Connor the last day, I told him thanks for keeping me alive for a couple weeks. He looked at me as if to say, "Huh? You ain't seen shit yet, sonny boy." But I think he held back and instead he replied, "Keep you alive? Michael, I'm going to cure you. You just don't know it yet."