Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Where Has The Summer Gone (2)

OOPs, I hit the post tab and inadvertantlly posted. So this is a continuation. Please read the blog after this one, which is really the blog before this one.

Back in February the Neuro-Radiologist spotted a problem with my vertebral artery. To make a summer-time long story short, this 'problem' is under control and any risk of stroke has been minimalized. I did get to experience an angiogram at UCSF in June. At that Joyce shared with me that she has had enough of playing nursemaid to me and that she really hoped that would be the last surgical procedure that she would have to support me through. I hoped that would be the last as well.

In June I started my annual checkup process with my GP - Dr. Ghewalla. He has been my doctor for nearly 20 years, so he has seen me through a few life experiences. Anyway, part of the process was a "stress test". This is a way for them to see how your heart reacts under excercise. All was proceeding well, they said my heart had great capacity. I know, that is a surprise for my long-time friends. I said it must be a side effect of the chemo - radiation. :) Well, as my heart was recovering from the test I experienced PVCs. Its an extra beat the heart takes between its normal beats. I saw a look in their eyes I had seen before, a look I didn't care for. So, we scheduled me for a echocardiogram stress test. Its where you go through the stress test and when your heart reaches a certain heart rate, you jump (literally) on an exam table and the technician does an ultra sound of your heart. Kinda cool. Well, it seems my heart is OK. Structurally sound, good blood flow and no leakage. Another part of my body the doctors have signed off on.

I had the last part of my annual physical today - the colonoscopy. What fun that was. I know many of you have had this joyous procedure. I now can compare all of these things and share my experiences with those I am helping to support through SPOHNC (more later). I was told the prep work was more difficult than the procedure. And you know what, they are correct. My procedure came back "normal". Normal is a great word in my life these days. As I was waking up from the procdure, Joyce was there for me. We laughed about the promise after the angiogram. The good news is neither of us need another one for 10 years. We decided we would do them together in 2019. Cheers!!!

Last week (September 2nd) I called my good friend Todd Brookhart. You may recall, Todd and I are brothers in cancer. We also share the 2nd of the month as our end of treatment anniversary. His is April 2nd, mine is September 2nd. Through the summer Todd experienced many of the struggles I had experienced after treatment. It was Todd's 5 month anniversary. He had turned a corner and been able to quit taking the last of his medications. It was so great to talk to Todd and hear him feeling so positive about life. He has been a wonderful gift in my life, and I believe me in his.

I mentioned above a thing called SPOHNC (Support for People with Oral Head and Neck Cancer - pronounced suponic). It is an organization that, as its name implies, provides support for my brothers and sisters (through cancer) out there. I am not involved nearly as much as I would like, but have shared my experiences through emails. One of the things I have struggled with over the last 6 + months is why have I lived and others I know have died? I just can't believe in a completely random world. It saddens me and it really makes me think. I believe there is a reason all things happen - it just may be difficult to see. I hope one of the ways I can crete meaning in my life is helping others with oral cancer.

In summary I am completely healthy and life is as normal as life can be. I hope to see each of you in the coming months.

Where Has The Summer Gone?!?

Can it be that my last posting occurred in May? Probably not too surprising to those of you that know me.

Last I posted I had just experienced my first anniversay from my original cancer diagnosis in May 2008. Since then I have experienced a few more first anniversaries. Dr. Yom laughs with me at all my celebrations. I tell her it is a way that I remind myself just how truly blessed I am. I experienced such a wide range of emotions this summer. Emotionally I relived that very dark period of time of July and August 2008 when I was treated for my disease. I have worked hard to remember all of the wonderful aspects of that period, while trying to replace all of the physical and emotional pain. It is such a unique experience. I would never want to give up all of the wonderful things of that summer, I just wouldn't want to have a recurrance of the cancer that led to all of it. I think a lot about this.

I have nothing but great news to communicate on the health front. I just had my one year checkup and Dr. Yom continues to be amazed at my wellness. I believe that she has had a great deal to do with it, but I also believe each of you, through all of your thoughts and prayers and postive energy were a big part of it as well. I also believe the special support I received from Michael Wagner and Katherine Czesak was integral to achieving my wellness. My evidece is anecdotal, but in the end what elase matters? If you have anyone that might benefit from their help, let me know and I will get you connected.

On tangential health matters I have a couple of things to report. When I went in for a scan back in February, the neuro-radiologist spotted a problem

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Update - May 28, 2009

Another MRI Scan; more good news. I had my 9 month follow up scan yesterday at UCSF. Joyce and I followed it up with a visit with Dr. Yom. In a nutshell, everything looks great. Dr. Yom said I have better oral health (less residual side effects) than she expected do to the size of my tumor and the extensive nature of my treatments. We now are on cancer furlough until my one year anniversary from treatment - late August / early September.

Speaking of anniversaries, we "celebrated" the one year anniversary for my diagnosis with cancer. Niels came to Walnut Creek (I don't use the word home, because Eugene is now HIS home) for the weekend. He wanted to be here for the long weekend to see some of his old friends and to take his truck back with him to Eugene. Last Saturday (May 23rd) was a very interesting time for me. I clearly had/have mixed emotions about the whole thing. There certainly were many pains we experienced with my diagnosis and treatment, but I am learning every day that it was truly a gift. I am so much better physically and emotionally than I was pre-cancer. Not that I didn't already know many of these things already, but it was as if I needed a mid-life wake up call. Well, I got it and I hope to not go back to sleep. Anyway, it was nice to celebrate by having a very normal weekend.

I hope to be better about my blogging moving forward.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Pay It Forward - A Friend in Need

Over the course of the last few months I have gained a new friend - Todd Brookhart. I was "re-introduced" to Todd by another friend, Mike Volan. Mike knows us both and new of my journey with cancer. Todd was diagnosed late last year with the same cancer I HAD. I have spent many phone conversations answering Todd's questions and discussing my experienes with Todd. I have told Todd that it means more to me than it could possibly mean to him to share my experiences. In a very small way I am "Paying it Forward". It feels wonderful to feel like I am helping in some small way. I know my experience with Todd is one of the many reasons I am cancer free, I just know it!

Todd is beginning treatment today and is very likely being radiated for the first time as I write this email. One of the things that meant the world to me was all of the visits to and comments on my blog during my treatment and recovery. We all live busy lives, which is truly a blessing. If you have a chance please visit Todd's blogg and post a comment at www.tbnbb.blogspot.com. I can't tell you how much it will mean to him.

Be well,


Tuesday, February 17, 2009


Joyce and visited Dr. Yom this morning. Many of you have inquired of my health over the past month since my last posting (Thank you). I believe my consistent message has been - I hope the medical data (scan, exam, etc.) would be consistent with how I have been feeling, WHICH IS GREAT! Well the scan came back "perfect" in Dr. Yom's words and after she examined me, she said she was very happy. Dr. Yom does not mince words, so when she is happy I am very happy. My throat is looking very "normal". I have never been so happy to be normal. I asked her about remission. She said it was not a term that she or doctors in her field use very much. In the same way they really don't use the word cure. Instead of remission they speak in terms of "no evidence of disease". Instead of cure after five years they speak of "statistical unlikelihood of recurrence".

There are several dates I will forever remember that are connected to this wonderful path; May 23, 2008 (cancer diagnosis), August 29, 2008 (end of radiation therapy), September 2, 2008 (final chemo infusion) and February 17, 2009 (no evidence of disease). I also look forward to February 17, 2014 (statistical unlikelihood of recurrence).

As we were leaving our meeting with Dr. Yom and finishing up our hugathon, Dr. Yom said "now go live your life". It really struck me, and I intend to do just that. My family and I cannot thank her and UCSF for all they have done for us. They will forever hold a special place in my heart.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Continued Progress

It has been a month or so since my last post, so I thought I would take a couple of minutes away from work to make a new blog post. Yes, my work level continues to increase. I am up to working on average 6 hours a day. I still enjoy a nap most days when I get home in the afternoon, but that too is decreasing.

I HAVE FINALLY WEANED MYSELF OFF MY MEDS! This is huge for me as I definitely draw an emotional link between meds and being "sick". So, if you see me and I am a little irritable, please bear with me as I have been on some form of pain medication for about six months.

I have another contrast MRI in a month and follow that up with seeing Drs. Yom and Courey. In kind of a sick demented kind of way I am looking forward to seeing Dr. Yom. I am we as a family truly care for her.

Each day is a blessing. I am learning to enjoy those days that I feel great and get through those challenging days. And you know what, I am having many more of the former!

Be well,


Thursday, December 18, 2008

This is fantastic news. A great holiday season for all who care so deeply for Glen and his family and company!  

Jim Kelley