Thursday, May 31, 2007

Tri Time

So, a bit of back and forth but still haven't heard from my doc today. I am going to bite my tongue and give him the benefit of the doubt but am prepared to unleash the fury if I don't get answers I am looking for tomorrow. Another example of our not-so-great medical system. I'm feeling optimistic bu still want to understand exactly what "no uptake to the thyroid bed" means. Note I still have a neck CT and MRI scheduled for next Friday.

Between work and the health stuff it's been a crazy week. I got home tonight from LA, looked at my calender and realized -- I have a triathlon on Saturday! Holyfreaking cow. While it is *only* a sprint distance race, I can't articulate how out of shape I am at the moment. I'm certain I will finish, even if it involves walking, but damn - I'm not really feeling ready physically, though I am kind of stoked to be out there racing (I use the term loosely) again.

My goal for this race is simple: don't finish last. But even if I do, screw it: finishing a tri of any distance inside 30 days of being massively hypo is somewhat a feat in and of itself. Or at least that's the excuse I am using for what's sure to be a somewhat dismal performance. Anyway, in the grand scheme of things - whatever. I've learned the race is not about finishing time, but simply the manner in which you finish.

Stay tuned for a weekend race report and ladies -- be prepared for the possibility of pictures of yours truly in lycra.

(Ps. My boy Dave M is still in town and sends a big shout out to y'all. We're taking the day off tomorow and planning a boy's day. Details to follow on this too)

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Good news ... I think

I just got back a short while from a four mile run here in Southern California (traveling for business). I got back to my room at 6:50, checked my cell and noticed I missed a call from my doctor ... at 6:49. One freaking minute!

My doctor is off on Wednesdays, but his assistant left a voicemail stating that the scan appears to be clean: "no indication of metastatic disease in the groin, hip, or lungs."

Then she said something that has me slightly perplexed: "There also appears to be no indication of uptake to the thyroid bed."

Hmmm. That seems a bit at odds with my last scan, which showed a hot spot pretty much as clear as day. So ... I'm not sure exactly what "no uptake to the thyroid bed" means, but I am sure I'll get an explanation in the am from my doctor. Cancermom, you out there? Any thoughts on your end? I think you've recently been through something similiar.

For right now, I'm going to take this as good news. In fact, while I'm trying hard not to get too far ahead of myself, I'm having a quasi-celebratory scotch here in the hotel lobby.

That's it for tonight; hopefully more clarification tomorrow.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Scan Day

Well, no news to report yet. Will let you all know when the results are in; I expect it to be some time before the end of the week.

I must say that today was pretty trippy. I got to the hospital, which was in Novato, about a half hour drive from our house, very early. I checked in and then they walked me to radiology --- which was located in their parking lot. Literally. It was a mobile PET scan as you'll note from the photo. Weirdest damn thing that I have ever experienced. That said, it was kind of different and borderline cool. My father-in-law told me these mobile devices are pretty common; they move back-and-forth between local area community hospitals. Plus the technician really seemed to know her stuff -- and by now, I know a thing or two about technicians. She explained that the test is designed to capture any "high metabolic anamolies" (read: cancer) and interestingly, she told me that the test would pick up ANY type of cancer, even non-thyroid. So, if I get a "clean" scan -- and keep your fingers that I do -- it really will be clean as they literally scanned my entire body, head to toe.

The scan/my morning started in a lovely fashion with the administration of an IV dose of radioactive saline. After the IV was inserted, I had to sit in a reclined position for about 45 minutes until the radiation was "fully absorbed" -- whatever in the hell that means. I wasn't allowed to read, or play with my Blackberry. Just had to sit as still as can be, which as many of you probably know is the hardest thing in the world for a hyperactive lunatic like me. The tech was listening to me/watching me fidget for about two minutes before blurting out "You're kind of high strung, aren't you." I then proceeded to lecture her on the difference between "high strung" and "high enery." In all likelihood, I'm probably a combination of both. Either way, I'm sure she wasn't too sorry to say goodbye to me after two hours.

Anyway, after I was "fully absorbed" they proceeded to put me in the "canister", which is where I had to sit for 45 more minutes, with my arms extended above my head, while the PET scan did its thing. Doesn't sound too difficult, but it's actually a pain in the ass.

I must say that "scan days" are a bit disconcerting. You have to sit their in these massive medical devices, where the top of the unit is about one millimeter from your nose and not to sound like a baby, but I can't help but feel a tad bit sorry for myself. Not "Oh woe is me I have cancer" sorry, but more like "what in the hell am I freaking doing in a place like this? I'm 41 and fit -- how in the world is it that I'm sitting in this damn device? I should be out for a run or something." Anyway, enough bellyaching.

And that was about it. After the scan they opened the door, and I walked about two feet to my car.

California, baby. Straight up weird.

Monday, May 28, 2007

California. A Prophet on the Burning Shore

Memorial Day in my new hometown is arguably the best day of the year. Especially if you are under the age of ten.

The day starts early with a pancake breakfast at the local firehouse. A good portion of the town comes out to support and there's a timeless quality to his event which probably has a lot to do with the natural charm of the town. You could imagine yourself doing the exact same thing 50 years ago.

Right after the breakfast is a parade, and as one of our friends put it "there's nothing better than a good old fashioned hometown parade." I never understood that before (probably because I can't recollect ever going to a local parade, short of Macy's on Thanksgiving) but boy is it true. Tons of floats, "unique" community organizations that you could only find in Northern California, candy for the kids; it's just a blast. Our great friends Dave and Joni are in town visiting from Chicago, which made the day even more enjoyable.

Right after the parade we headed over to the local community center, which had a whole slew of fun, kid-focused activities.
They also had a small soundstage, and rotated a number of local bands thoughtout the day.

So, picture this: we're sitting on blankets with all our friends, enjoying the 70 degree weather, eating good food (including some KILLER bbq), and just having a kick ass day, when the MC announces that we today will feature a special performance from local resident and musical legend, Bobby Weir, the former lead singer for the Grateful Dead. I'm an ex-Deadhead and big fan of Bobby (who I've spotted out and about in town several times) but this was just the best; he played four or five songs for the crown of about 500 or so and it was just rocking. A lot of the locals out here are ex-Deadhead types, and it was very amusing to watch them all enjoy a surprise mini Dead show, replete with kids in tow. Diamond Bill: I was trying my hardest to telepathically transport you to NorCal: I can't think of anyone who would have enjoyed it more.

Anyway; just a fantastic, great day that simply could not have been more fun. And the fact that I got to sit literally five feet from Bobby made it kind of epic.

Attached are a few pictures for your viewing pleasure.

On a less fun note, tomorrow am is hip and whole body PET and CT scans. Please be sure to send good vibes westward.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

The Big D

Well, might as well get this topic out in the open. Mom, if you're reading, you might want to sit this one out. You too Gerry for that matter.

Someone recently asked me -- actually, they didn't really ask, given the sensitive nature of the topic (note: I've talked to other survivors and it's been noted that this is the one subject people are *really* hesistant to bring up/discuss), but rather kind of tap danced around the topic of whether I was concerned about dying.

So, the short answer, is yes, of course. I mean, who the hell ISN'T afraid of dying? Yet while I probably give this subject more thought than most of you the truth is it's not something I really dwell upon, for two reasons: one, I am still putting a lot of faith in my odds (emphasis on a LOT), and two, what's the use in worrying about something that you can't really control? So, it's not something I obsess over nor is it a subject that keeps me up at night.

I will say this though: I used to believe that I'd go out like my grandfather: 99 in Vegas with my best friend. This is a true story by the way. I have tremendous longevity (on my fathers side of the family, at least) and I genuinely thought I'd live to a ripe old age. Given the events of the past 12+ months, however, I am starting to feel like this whole situation has/will take years off my life. That is something I am definitely trying to reconcile in my head.

Anyway, the other part of it is I really don't have the time to die: I am simply far too busy. I have work, the kids, April, a few races to do, etc. etc. Dying just doesn't work into my schedule.

Joking aside, another thing that I have given fairly serious thought to is a list of things I want to do/accomplish in life. Here's a sampling, and note that I am being purely selfish here: I've taken out some of the more obvious (see the kids get married, be a grandfather, celebrate my 60th anniversary) and mundane (work and otherwise related, although I hasten to add that I certainly do have work-related goals as well).

That said, here goes my "top ten" list of things to do before I kick the bucket, in no particular order:

1. FInish a 100 mile run, preferably standing and in one piece
2. Finish Ironman Hawaii in less than 12 hours (by the way, I have a doozy of a post on this subject which I will save for next week)
3. Shoot a perfect barrel surfing and hold it for at least five seconds
4. Hike Machu Piccu with April
5. Complete my goal of setting foot in every country in Central America (next up: Nicarague or Panama; anyone interested in joining me?)
6. Finally freaking qualify for the Boston Marathon
7. Swim alcatraz to shore, while simultaneously avoiding getting eaten by (great) whitey
8. Knock off a 14,000 footer. On the same subject, climb Kilimanjaro
9. Learn how to do at least one of the following: grow a kick ass vegetable garden, learn how to fix *anything* around my house
10. Pick up at least one really interesting new hobby (wine is currently the leading candidate)
11. Make sure I see my main boys at *least* once a year

(Yeah, I know, that was eleven, not 10, but what the hell).

Believe it or not, I recently knocked off (or, at least, have began to knock off) one other item on this list: start and maintain a *quasi* interesting blog, (which, by the way, I hope is what I've started. I certainly defer to all of you as to whether this is actually of any interest)!

Anyway, that's my list, which I still consider a work in development.

So, that's my take on death, and that's my list.

What's on yours?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

More About My Hip Than You'd Ever Care to Know

Well, after much back and forth, which is a story in and of itself, I finally got my hip tests all scheduled. BTW, this wouldn't have been possible if not a big assist from the Mistress of Schedulers, Ms. April Solomon. If I had to describe her in one word, it would have to be "tenacious".

Anyway, the tests are scheduled for this coming Tuesday, early in the am.

For all of you unfamiliar with this part of my story, here's the background on my hip. When I had my first scan in September, days before the big dose of radiation, it showed a "hot spot" on my hip, which was utterly mystifying. My endo thought it was an anomoly, so he had we wait for three days and then come back in for yet another CT scan, and there it was again, as clear as day.

Thyroid cancer mets(metastatic disease)are fairly rare, and when then they do occur, it's generally in the lungs (his isn't quite as bad as it sounds, because it's not classified as lung cancer and it's highly treatable). But moving somewhere such as the hip is very, very rare. Anyway, after my hip lit up the second time the doctor had me go in for a PET scan to make sure that the cancer hadn't invaded the bone.

I will admit this made me nervous (very nervous, actually); if it was in the bone, to put it mildly, I would have been f*&#ed. In all likelihood it would have been treatable but would have been a colossal pain in the ass, as it would have necessitated complicated surgery.

However, the PET scan came back clean, which was good news (finally). This meant we were only looking at a lymph node that somehow made its way downstream. Certainly not a great outcome, but in the grand scheme of things it was much better than bone.

Then more good news: when my April 30th scan came back, the hip was entirely clean.

However, when Dr. Clark, my superstar surgeon read my report, he was befuddled. He said that in his experience (and he's been focused almost exclusively on thyroid cancer for 30 years), if in fact there was something in my hip, in his estimation it would HAVE to be in the bone.


So, he's ordered more PET and CT scans as insurance. Normally, I wouldn't be too worried by this all, but I do have a confession to make: for the past few months, my hip has been hurting. Not a terrible pain, mind you; more like a a 5 on a scale of
1-10. You might think it's psychosomatic (spelling?) but trust me, it's not the case. Plus, the damn thing (my hip, that is) clicks every time I take a step.

All this being the case, I think/hope that it probably has far more to do with all the running I've done over the past decade plus, than cancer; it's logical that at age 41, all these ultras and triathlons have finally taken a toll.

All that being said, it's a tad disconcerting to feel hip pain when you know you've had a spot of cancer in said region. Know what I'm saying?

So, send out some good vibes for a clean scan(s) this Tuesday. These will be followed by extensive testing on my neck, as we go in search of evil, bad lymph nodes.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Corniest Song Ever

Good lord was that third song cheesy -- even by American Idol standards. Two major questions:

1. who in the hell dressed ole Blake? That had to have been the worst outfit in the history of menswear.
2. What up with Blake's ink? Boy has got some serious tats. Anyone know how many in total he has? How come we haven't heard more about that?

Thought Jordin was really good. Got to give the 17 year old credit; she stepped up to the plate, big time. She killed that third song (that is the song that won her the competition) while I wanted to kill myself watching Blake. I think she wins, easy.

I'm headed to LA in the am and might see if I could scalp my way in to the FInals. Egads -- what's happened to me? I used to be relatively cool. I must say I'm glad it is over tomororw. I need to move on to more manly pursuits ... like freaking croquet or something.

That's it for now. I'm trying to wrangle a guest blogger for this week. I think you'll find her story mesmerizing; makes mine look like a walk through the park. Stay tuned.....

Monday, May 21, 2007

Jack Bauer Jumps the Shark and Other Cultural Musings

Thus concludes the worst season, by far, of 24. Clearly, this was the season where the well finally ran dry. It finally became formulaic, predictable and worst, uninteresting. If you think about it, it was kind of inevitable. I understand Jack signed up for two more seasons; if they are going to hold on to their core audience, they are going to have to break the show down completely. Consider me brand loyal and I'm willing to forgive them this trespass, but next season they have exactly three episodes to convince me; otherwise, I'm letting go. It would probably be in my best interest to let go of a show or two anyway.


What did you all think of the Soprano's last night? At first, I was disappointed in the lack of "action" but upon contemplation, It was a pretty darn good episode. The scenes with AJ were a little overwrought, but powerful nonetheless. I think AJ is getting a tad too much of this season's storyline. The scene with Tony and Phil's guy; well, that was just vintage Tony. There's no better TV than Tony unleashing his fury.

And so, it likely will all come down to Tony vs. Phil, mano e mano. I think in the next episode we'll see a failed assasination attempt on Tony and ensuing warefare between the NJ and NYC families. In the end, however, I think Tony prevails; I simply don't think HBO can afford to kill him off.

In regards to Entourage, well, what can I really say, other than the show is just the best. I think in the end Medellin will be a monster hit in the spirit of Scarface and next season VInce will be bigger in Hollywood than Leo. Doesn't really matter what happens though; so long as those four boys remain together, the show will always be (Ari) Gold.

Big night tomorrow on AI. I still maintain that the fix is in and Jordin will walk away the winner. I like this kid Blake, not so much musically - I think he's a marginal singer at best - but because he's really willing to hang it out there and take risks. Gotta respect the fact that he's daring. I think he'll recognize his back is against the wall and will come out with some interesting song selections, while Jordin will play it safe and stick to her R&B thing. Let's hear your predictions.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Sunday Pictorial

Hit the trail today for the first time in six weeks. Without a doubt, since moving to the Bay Area I have become a trail guy; I simply can't articulate how at peace I am on the trails. The amazing thing about Marin is that you can run seven days a week for a lifetime and still not touch all the trails.

Anyway, in celebration of my first trail run since March (six miles, I;m pleased to say. Though I don't quite have my climbing legs, I'm definitely making progress) I snapped some photos for your viewing pleasure.

Note this is probably my favorite run; climb from my house up and over to the legendary Miwok trail, up to Coyote Ridge, which in my humble opinion offers the most amazing view in the North Bay; a 360 wrap around with clear shots into the Pacific Ocean, Mount Tam, Muir Beach, Bolinas, the City of SF, and across the Bay into Oakland. It's a panoramic view liked you've never seen.

The first photo was taken on the climb up to to the Miwok trail. You can see the Bay, Tiburon and in yonder distance, Oakland. This photo appears to be too small, but in yonder, yonder distance, you can make out the top of Mount Shasta. You know it's a beautiful day when you can catch Shasta from Marin.

Picture two: welcome to the Wiwok. Payro, if you are reading this, next year we are definitely running the Wiwok 100k (62 miles for all you keeping score at home!), one of the all-time classic ultras. The third picture gives you a good sense of the Miwok; it's a deceptively long climb, featuring multiple switchbacks. Nice and steady is definitely the best pace for a trail run.

The fourth picture captures the splendor of Mount Tam from the top of Coyote Ridge. It's one of the few vantage points where you can catch nearly the whole Mountain. Tam is just incredible; it's not a high altitude mountain by any means, but she has very broad shoulders and is quite expansive on the back side. Virtually anywhere you are in Marin, you are sure to be able to to capture a unique view of the Mountain, which, by the way, is the birthplace of mountain biking.

The next pictures is a great view into Muir Beach, which is one of the Solomon's favorite places to spend a lazy weekend afternoon. The kids love scrambling up the rock faces and climbing up the Coastal trail.

Next picture is of yours truly, looking kind of gnarly on the top of Wolf Ridge. It was hot today, probably around 75 (and to top it off I have a nasty cold), though there was a great breeze on the trail. The next picture captures Bolinas Point. I don't even know exactly how to describe Bolinas. It's a sleepy surfer/fishing town that has a real 60's, artist community vibe to it. It is also very difficult to find as the locals are so parochial they are known to take down directional signs to town. It's a tad off the beating path but well worth the trip.

Another picture from the top of Coyote Ridge. If you look carefully in the middle of the picture you can barely make out the top of the Golden Gate Bridge. And last, but not least, a view into Ocean Beach in SF, considered one of Northern California's best surfing points.

Anyway, there you have it, a brief pictorial of Marin County, CA. Hope y'all get a chance to come out and experience it for yourself - it really is a spectacular place.

(Note: I'm not sure what happened, but when the photos downloaded, the order got screwed up. Anway, I'm sure you can figure out which photo is which! I'll figure out Blogger yet!)

Friday, May 18, 2007

Best Website Of All Time

Since I'm laying it all out there, I may as well make a confession that's sure to land me in the hall of fame of dorkdom; one of my guilty pleasures in life is playing online scrabble.

When we lived in Chicago I played nearly every night on, until they took the scrabble area down for licensing reasons. That was a dark day indeed. Anyway, I couldn't find a good online site, until a few weeks ago when I came upon

I don't even know what to say other than it's the best site of all time. You can play for time, set parameters, and most important, play for ranking; it's essentially the mother of dorky scrabble sites. And I'll have you know, I've got my groove back: my rating is currently 1520, which pretty much puts me up there, though I hasten to add that I got destroyed the other night by a 1700 level player. So, if anyone is ever up for a game ping me, or catch me on the scrabulous site. My handle is HowardSol.

Anyone still with me on this post? I didn't think so.

Out for tonight; it's been a long week.

Have a good weekend peeps.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

L'affair de Landis and Other Thoughts

Man oh man, did the Floyd Landis WADA hearing get full on WEIRD today. Just when you thought things could not get worse for Floyd (or US cycling for that matter), along comes this story. I can't even do justice to what transpired today; it's just too bizarre. I'm having a dificult time linking, but check it out at Even if you are not a cycling fan, it's a worthwhile read. Trust me on this one.

All I can say is man, has Floyd (and most especially his manager, who has to go down as the biggest moron in the history of sports) dug himself in a deep hole. I hate to say this because I like Floyd, I respect him as a rider, and I will always maintain that Stage 16 last year was one of the most epic stages in the history of the tour, regardless of whether he doped or not.

All that being said, it pains me to say this but in my humble opinion, having followed this story carefully for the past year and looking at the evidence as it has been presented, I think he's guilty and I think it's time this charade comes to an end. Go gently into the good night, Floyd and we'll see you in two years. I, for one, will be rooting for you when you come out the other side.

Enough on this for now; I could go on ad nauseum on this subject, but I think I'd put y'all to sleep in fairly quick order.

On the subject of cycling, I came home the other day and Z-Dog announced to me that he had to do a book report (his first!) for homework. He then told me he had selected a Lance Armstrong bio for kids that I purchased for him years ago. Naturally, I was pretty stoked. I asked him why, of all books, he selected the Lance bio. I thought maybe he'd talk about his 7 tour wins, the fact that he's the best cyclist ever - you know, things I've been telling him since he was one. His response -- and April is my witness-- "Because dad, Lance does lots of really nice things for people with cancer."

Naturally, I was pretty blown away. But what came next was really incredible. He looked me right in the eye and said " You know dad, I know mom had cancer and you do too. But it's ok. You are going to be alright."

So, the little man knows. And then we talked about it for a short while. And he couldn't be more correct. I am indeed going to be alright.

Season finale of The Office ruled but that's par for the course. Without question, it's the best show on TV. More on this, and the impending season finale of 24, soon.


This email just in from my father. In the event any of you were wondering whether he's lost his edge in his old age, the subject line says it all.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Thank You, Howard Stern

Let me begin this post by stating this clearly: I am an unabashed and unapologetic Howard Stern fan.

It's kind of astonishing, but I just did the math and realized that I've been listening to Howard for more than 25 years. I recall like it was yesterday leaving high school early (get over it dad, I somehow ended up getting into Michigan regardless) with my friend Jeff and driving around Paramus for hours listening to a young Howard, who at the time was on WNEW, airing in the afternoon. I also recall meeting my boy Scooter, one of my my closest friends, the first day we arrived at Michigan. Our first conversation: Howard.

Upon moving to Manhattan, and after that, Chicago, I started listening to Howard less and less, for no other reason than I was generally travelling to work via the subway, and my commutes weren't really long enough to dedicate the time to listen. Plus, I was underground a majority of my commute time. So, I dropped off for a while, though I'd tune in to the show on occasion, would catch his performances on Letterman, saw Private Parts in the theater, etc. etc.

And then I moved to California and for the first time in my career had a car commute to the City. And I quickly fell back in with the Stern Show. It was like reuniting with an old-time best friend from grade school; it seemed as if there was virtually no passage in time. Sure there were new characters like Artie, Richard and Sal, and some old ones like Jackie had departed, but the essence of the show remained the same. Only problem was that by the time I started listening, Howard was already on his countdown to satellite radio.

Once Howard left terrestrial radio, I was deeply hooked and I bought Sirius immediately (for both myself and April. She's hooked too). And shortly after he went on Sirius, I received my cancer diagnosis.

Let me pause for a moment to address you anti-Stern fans, because I'm sure you are out there and if you are, I'm certain you have an opinion. You're probably reading this incredulously.

For the record: I recognize that the show can be juvenile. I'm fully aware that at times it borders on inane. Much of the cursing and sex stuff is way over the top. I never listen when the kids are in the car. And there are certain elements to the show that I dislike. There's even been a few rare moments when I've switched to another channel.

All that being said, and at the risk of sounding overdramatic and cliche, as much as I like the Howard Stern Show, I feel like it's really been a gift in my life the past year and for one very simple reason: he's made me laugh when I've *really* needed a pick me up.

I lwas listening to Howard when my doctor called with my diagnosis; I continued to listen after I hung up the phone. I listened to Howard driving with Dave and Steve-O to the hospital for my surgery (Dennis Rodman was the guest) and I listened to him on the way home (I was still in a drug induced fog, but I want to say it was Jenna Jameson. Might be wishful thinking on my part though). I listened and watched (via Howard TV) when I was cooped up in isolation for four straight days and believe me, it greatly helped pass the time. I listened to him on my way to my scans and I listened to him both to and from my bad news birthday.

And regardless of the tenuous, nerve racking circumstances described above, one thing in my life has been consistent this past year: the Howard Stern Show has never failed to make me laugh.

Trust me, you quickly come to understand the value of a good belly laugh when you are on the way home from learning that your cancer is persistent. It takes on an entirely different meaning. And for that, I am greatly indebted to Howard Stern.

So -- thank you Howard, Robin, Fred, Artie, Richard, Sal, Benji, Ba Ba Booey, Jon Hein and the rest of the team. Thank you Eric the Midget, High Pitch Eric, Chevonne the Transseual, Elegant Elliot Offen, Gary the Retard, Wendy the Retard, and of course .. the inimitable, the one, the only -- Beetlejuice.

Thank you for providing me a small measure of solace and entertainment during some pretty dark periods of my life. Your peculiar brand of medicine was far better than anything my doctors ordered.


Just finished watching AI. I nailed that one. Too bad for Melinda; she rocked it last night. But, as I predicted, I think her lack of charsima vis a vis the other two did her in in the end. I'm personally pulling for Blake but stand by my Jordin prediction.

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Big Question

Ok, here's the big question of the day: who do y'all like in American Idol?

Before we get into this, please: spare me the anti-AI diatribes. I know there's that camp out there (and now I am specifically talking to you, Payro. Probably you too Wiley. And certainly Zolla as well) that view AI as an impending sign that the apocolypse is upon us, but I believe that deep down, in your heart of hearts, you all are secret fans who anxiously look forward to Tuesday nights.

And if you're not fans, well, I strongly recommend that you embrace the Dark Side my friends, because it's the most eminently watchable show of all-time (Damn. Did I really just type those words? What's become of me? Radiation on the brain perhaps?).

Anyway, on to the show.

I think Melinda should win, based on her talent alone. There's no question that she's in an entirely different league vocally; there's no one even close. But, it's called American Idol for a reason and I think in the end her personality, or lack thereof, is going to do her in. I predict she gets the boot tomorrow.

Blake had a good stretch for a few weeks there, but I think his beatboxing is getting a bit tired (though he absolutely KILLED on Bon Jovi night). It will be very interesting to see what tact he takes tonight. He's pretty creative and good at digging himself out of holes. April loves him (I think literally); she sees him as Justin Timberlake-lite, and since my wife seems to really identify with the 15 year old teenybopper mentality, I respect her opinion when it comes to AI.

Which brings us to Jordin. I'm thinking that short of a complete meltdown tonight, she's gonna take it. While she can't compare to Melinda vocally, or Blake's personality, I think she has a whole different set of intangibles working in her favor and I think youth is on her side.

She'll win the Sanjaya audience (short of the approximately 6,000,000 or so Howard Stern fans who voted for him. By the way, I'm planning a post this week exclusively dedicated to Howard Stern) which comprises a big audience.

So, there you have it. One man's opinion. So - inquiring minds need to know - what's your take?

(Did I really just write a whole diatribe on American Idol? Damn. I think I just lost a bit of respect for myself)

Monday, May 14, 2007

Our Wonderfully Efficient Healthcare System

I'll state from the beginning that the title to this posting is sarcastic. And that's putting it mildly.

One of the more eye opening aspects of my ordeal has without question been my experiences with our highly dysfunctional healthcare system. It's something that I hope you all are able to avoid in life, though I suspect over time it is going to prove an impossibility. In my viewpoint, the problems are so deeply systemic that it won't matter what ultimately ails you; you're inevitably gonna experience deep frustration with this system of ours.

Prior to my diagnosis, I considered myself somewhat versed on this subject and I've heard my father-in-law, a radiologist, rail about it for years, but given my lack of involvement and the infrequency in which I saw doctors, I didn't really have a strong point of view.

I sure do now. And I have to say, that if I had to summarize my personal experiences in one word, it would be "Kafka-esque."

Let me be clear, that this isn't an indictment against my doctors, or doctors in general for that matter. For the most part, I'm generally pleased with the level of care I've been receiving. Actually, this isn't true. One doctor in particular is starting to rankle me with his unresponsiveness, but I'm going to bite my tongue for the time being and keep this from getting personal. More on this particular situation later, but only if I am unable to square away some of my fundamental issues.

The problem as I see it is "the system" or the bureacracy or whatever you want to call it. It's beyond broken; it's in an utter state of disrepair. I don't even know where to begin. Here's just sampling of some of the issues that I've experienced:

-- Insurance companies. Whether it is the constant erroneous bills, receiving invoices for services that are supposedly covered, never being able to get a "live" person on the phone, etc. etc. etc., the fun with insurance companies is endless. What really galls me, however, is that there are certain services -- critical services in my opinion -- that insurance companies have eliminated over the past few years due to the associated expense and inconvenience.

The best example: it used to be that years ago, when thyroid cancer patients were given i-131 radiation, they were hospitalized and put in quarantine for 72 hours. This ensured the safety of the patient and their respective families, as 100 plus milicures (around the average dose of RAI) is highly toxic.

Well, it must not have been terribly profitable because most states, including Calfornia, have completely eliminated this element of the treatment. So now, we have to figure out for ourselves what to do/where to go during RAI. Back in September, after much deliberation, I had to send April and the kids to a hotel for a week plus to ensure they weren't exposed to radiation. Nice, huh? If any of the thyca ladies are still with me here, I think they'd back me up that this is a major issue.

-- doctors communicating with fellow doctors. You think this would be an easy one, right? Wrong. It's one of the bigger breakdowns I've experienced. Doctors not speaking with one another, not sending records, not reading records, losing records, not getting back to one another in a timely fashion. For a quasi-control freak like myself, it's maddening, because the fix is so obvious. I'm in the middle of a situation right now related to this and it is beyond frustrating. If I don't get a remedy soon, I'll blog on this; trust me, you won't believe this story.

-- doctor's being too successful for their own good. Sounds a bit incongruous, right? Well, let's call this one Howard's Law. It says there is a direct correlation between how busy a doctor's office is, and the poor level of service you'll likely receive as a result. An active, busy practice might be good for the doctor financially and reputation wise, but it doesn't necessarily translate to a good patient experience. Being too busy leads to all sorts of break downs in communications, response time to important inquiries, the quality of information received, etc. etc. In my personal experience, this has been a very big issue.

-- As a corollary to the above, it's also been my experience that doctors simply don't spend enough time with individual patients, as they are more concerned with keeping up with their schedule and patient flow. While this might not be as big a deal for, say, an internist, who perhaps isn't dealing with life threatening illnesses on a daily basis, it's a lousy approach for doctor's who are dealing with serious issues such as cancer care.

Again, with the exception of perhaps my last point, this isn't really so much an indictment against the doctors, as it is the system. It's ironic, too, given that doctors arguably comprise the brightest and most talented minds our society has to offer, and yet preside over a system/infrastructure that is staggeringly broken.

Am I completely off the reservation on this one? Anyone out there have a differing opinion and/or personal experiences? If so, by all means, let's hear it. Inquiring minds want to know.

Before I conclude, I want to send a shout out to two of my heroes, both of whom are among the nicest and toughest ladies I've ever had the pleasure of getting to know - Nancy Richman and Faith Margolin. Mother-in-law's, grandma's and survivor's in arms. Hope all is well in your world, ladies.

(ps. Best Soprano's of the season last night by far)

Sunday, May 13, 2007

April Comes Out; Steinbrenner sighted in Marin, Calls up Solomon to Triple A; "Blind Willie" Zolla makes his debut

Fantastic weekend all around. Among the highlights The Colts broke out for 26 runs (!) on Saturday afternoon to run their winning streak to five games.

For the record: the only ones to keep score of games/wins are the kids.

Z Dog continued his hot streak at the plate, going 5-5, with two RBI's and two runs scored. He's currently working a 6 game hitting streak and by my math, is batting in excess of .400.

And for the record: the only one keeping tab of Z's at bats is moi.

Actually, the fact of the matter is old Z Dog is -- how do I eloquently put this -- let's just say he's probably not one of the Colt's biggest stars. But, for a kid who's never before played baeball and is by far the smallest kid on the team (if not the league) he's worked really hard this season, has practiced nearly every day, is having a ton of fun and I could not not be prouder of him. And I have to say, as a dad, there's nothing, and I mean nothing, greater than attending your son's little league games. I'd sincerely rather be at a Colt's game than game 7 of the Yankees in the World Series. Ok, that's not exactly true, but you get my point. While on the subject, by the way, I am *very* concerned about the Yankees. I'll save that subject for another day.

The subject of dad's, little league and baseball is probably a good segue to welcome Wilson Zolla to the world. Your debut has made your dad the happiest man in the world, Wilson. Only thing is, between your crazy father and grandfather, let's just say there's a tad bit of pressure on you to go to Michigan. However, I suspect you'll get at least a week's pass before you start feeling the pressure. Can't wait to meet you, little man. And congrats Bill and Gabi.

Last night April and I had a fantastic dinner in SF. We both are dismayed that we don't spend enough time in the City, and were glad that we experimented a bit and forced ourselves to go out in the City. This morning, the Solomon's, along with four other couples, met at Mount Tam and hiked 2 miles out to the West Point Inn for a pancake breakfast. We did this twice last year, and it's always a super fun time. This afternoon, April allowed me to break away for a quick swim (made it through 40 minutes of continuous swim!) and this evening, we had three of our great friends -- The Hughes, Christenens, and Simpsons --along with eight kids (!) in total, over for mother's day BBQ.

But the highlight of my weekend is seen in the attached. All of you who know April, know that she would NEVER wear a shirt like this unless she meant it. It might have taken 18 months, but she's finally come clean. Definitely the highlight of my day.

That's it for tonight. Long, but excellent day.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

"Five To One Baby, One in Five"

What does The Doors, Clerks, Zoolander, Old School, The Godfather (editors note: thanks Scooter, for the ok to type that word out in its entirety) and Animal House all have in common?

For me, they are movies that I can watch and enjoy endlessly. No exaggeration: I think I may have seen Old School at LEAST 50 times. And each viewing is as funny as the first (I confess to being a very simple man whose tastes are most certainly not highbrow).

Anyway, last night April and her friends went to dinner and the movies and I made the mistake of turning the tv right at the start of The Doors.

Approximately 2 hours and 24 minutes later, I was asking myself the same question I had more than ten years ago, which is/was: how in the world did Val Kilmer not win best actor for that performance? Check that: how in the hell was he not even nominated? I mean, that wasn't a great performance, it was stirring. He didn't just capture Morrison, he WAS Morrison. And to top things off, he did all the singing himself. I mean, Jamie Fox was excellent in Ray and probably deserved Best Actor, but if you look at the two performances in context of one another, there's no way you can say that Kilmer doesn't match up, if not exceed.

The only thing I can think of it there was a conspiracy on the part of the Academy against Oliver Stone. How ironic is that?

A confession: I recently watched Rocky Balboa via pay per view (told you - I am a voracious consumer of media. But I look at it all as a necessary part of my job. Well, that's how I rationalize it, anyway). I am going to catch almighty hell for this one, but I thought it was great. Of COURSE it was totally unrealistic - I can hear Payro berating me now -- but, whatever. Aren't movies all about suspending reality anyway? So, without getting into a whole extended diatribe, I suggest renting it; I think you'll be pleasantly surprised.

With that, to keep things lively, here's our weekend survery:

1. what are your three most "eternally watchable" movies?

2. What are your three "Rocky Balboa's" -- movies that you feel are very underrated?

Inquiring minds want to know.

(Ps. Shout out to Jenny Fisher's mom. If you are reading this, please email me. I want to talk about having you write a guest blog)

Friday, May 11, 2007

One year ago today......

Today marks the one year anniversary of my thyroid gland being unceremoniously removed from the only home it ever knew. Hope you're doing ok, wherever you might be, ole thyroid gland.

Leads me to wonder - where do you think it might currently reside? One would presume -- the garbage? Kind of sad, if so.

WIth the exception of the first 24 hours after surgery, which as Dave, Steve-O and April could tell you *really* sucked -- surgery wasn't as bad as I anticipated. I went in on early Thursday morning, came home Friday, and was back in the office on Tuesday. And the "best" part was there really was little to no pain. The worst part was getting the anesthesia out of my system, along with the general recovery time that comes from three plus hours of surgery. That too knocked me out of training, especially swimming wise (kind of hard to rotate your neck after neck surgery). I don't think I was able to swim for about 45 days post surgery. Don't ask me how I was ever able to finish the swim at Vineman, which was less than 90 days outside of surgery.

I don't relish the prospect of more surgery, but that's not what really bugs me. What's irritating as hell is the fact that today, for all intents and purposes, marks my one year anniversary (April 19th, though, is my "diagnosis day) of this ordeal and there's not a clear cut end in site. Best case scenario, I get marked clear in about 12-14 months.

Oh well, to use a horrendous cliche, no use crying over spilt milk. It is what it is.

Anyway, on a more positive note, it was actually a pretty darn good week, especially work-wise. And while I'm still getting my strength back, and am tiring easy I feel better each day and am just thrilled to be working out again, even if I'm huffing and puffing at a mere 170 watts on the bike (which is pretty lame).

There's also lots to look forward to this weekend: my new favorite baseball team of all time, The Colts (Z Dogs team) play in the afternoon. Pictures to follow. Sunday we're hiking up Mount Tam to a kick ass pancake breakfast at the Mountain Home Inn. It's one of our favorite things to do in Marin. In five minutes I'm going to have a Wisconsin brat with my main man Jim Hughes. And in the morning -- I hit the trails.

Life is good.


Thursday, May 10, 2007

Let's Hug It Out

Wowza. Pretty good web traffic today. Not bad for a four day old site (though I hasten to add that at a certain level, I could care less).

Thanks for visiting thyca/Yahoo ladies. I sincerely hope you come again soon and let your voices be heard.

Last night's post was fairly heavy, and I've had a 13 hour day, so today so we'll keep things on the lite side.

First and foremost, I will have you know I am at this moment enjoying a glass of perhaps the finest scotch known to man: 16 year lagavulin. Nectar of the g-d's (any of you note how I continually hyphenate that word? I can't help it -- it's a holdover from my Hebrew school days. Non-Jewish readers: let me know if you'd like an explanation).

About three years ago, Lagavulin casks started to run dry and there was a massive increase in price stateside. I simply couldn't rationalize the price, especially when there were other fine scotches out there such as Oban 14, MacCallan 12, Talisker and others.

So, I was at my local liquor/wine joint the other day and was thinking about how I hadn't had a glass of scotch since going hypo (it literally acts like poison to the system when you're highly hypo, and one half cup would make me completely nauseous) when I spotted it in the corner: Lag, on sale, $65.00.

(That massive thud you folks in Northern New Jersey just heard was my old man hitting the ground. I don't think he's spent $65 on alcohol in the aggregate over the course of his life.)

Anyway, it was worth every damn cent and I am enjoying it immensely. A nice upside to cancer. It empowers you to spend lots of money on completely frivolous things and not really give a shit.

On a separate note, my Soprano's post the other day seemed to be quite popular. So -- let's discuss another favorite pop culture topic: Entourage, aka The Most Enjoyable Half Hour of My Week.

I think this has been the lamest season thus far, but even a bad (perhaps a more apt description would be "marginal")Entourage is better than 99 percent of the TV out there.

So, two questions for you all:

1. Ari Gold aside, who's your favorite character and why?

2. What's been your favorite scene of the current season?

Let's hear it, people.

For me, it's ano brainer: Johnny Drama, and the scene with Lloyd, Ari and that prospective client dude at the gay bar.

"You're my hero, Ari Gold."


Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Thank you, Yahoo ladies

Jeez people .. here I am, laying it all out there, spilling my guts -- and the post that gets all the comments is the Soprano's?

Well .. alrightee then.

I guess I am down with that. If it's pop culture y'all want, it's pop culture you shall get. I can certainly do that. Lord knows, no one watches more television than the Solomon's. But -- let's hold on to that for another day because I've been woefully negligent in thanking a very special group of individuals who have helped me immeasurably this past year.

It's funny, working in technology PR, I've written/talked/read about "online communities" for years, but I'm fairly certain that up until recently, I really didn't understand what an online community was all about. I sure do now.

Full credit goes to my friend Todd A's wife, who also was/is struggling with thyroid cancer. More on her later - I plan to invite her to guest blog some time soon, if she is so inclined. Anyway, she and I were exchanging emails upon my original diagnosis, and she strongly encouraged me to subscribe to a thyroid cancer newsgroup on Yahoo. Because I had so many questions and was having a difficult time finding adequate answers, I went with her recommendation.

The thing with thyroid cancer, as I think I've mentioned previously, is that the treatment path is fairly straightforward. This is mostly good, as it takes guesswork out of the equation. That said, there are a million questions/variables that arise along the way. Here's a mere sampling:

- what do I eat/not eat during the Diet from Hell (technically known as LID -- Low Iodine Diet). It's important to note that there is NO margin for error while on the diet
-- what can I expect while hypo?
-- what's the latest science regarding thyrogen?
-- what steps do I need to protect my family from radiation?

Again, this is just a sampling of the many questions I had: I could gone on endlessly with others. And for a while I was, posting on the newsgroup on a a near daily basis.

In a nutshell and at the risk of sounding overdramatic: I cannot express what an incredibly supportive and informative environment this group provides. Regardless of the question, or the hour in which I posted the question, I knew I was guaranteed to get a near instantaneous answer.

And though they were always adding the caveat that they aren't doctors/can't speak on an authoritative medical basis, the fact of the matter is they VERY much know what they are talking about and are about as informed as any group of thyroid experts that I have encountered along the way.

But the single greatest thing about this group is the warmth and solace they provide to complete strangers, most of whom are going through one, if not THE most difficult period of their respective lives.

As many of you know, I've long been a Lance fan -- well before my own diagnosis. I recall reading his autobiography years ago, "It's Not About the Bike" where he talks about "the obligation of the cured." At the time in which I originally read this, it sounded cool, but had no real personal meaning. It made sense but wasn't something that really resonated

Well, it sure does now. These ladies -- and most (though not all) are women between 30-50 (oh yeah, something I've neglected to mention -- I have a primarily female cancer. Figures. More on this later too) embody Lance's words.

And the most incredible aspect to all this: many of these ladies have been cured upwards of a decade. And yet they are posting each and every day, lending a helping hand to those in need.

The buzz is building here in the Bay Area about Barry Bond's chase for the home run title. They deify that guy in this town, something I'll never be able to fully understand. Forget about whether he has or hasn't done steroids: I could personally care less. What I do care about is what a jerk he is to his fans. That being said, does anyone care to have a chat with me about who our real heroes are? Barry Bonds, who hits baseballs into McCovey Cove, or Ms. X from Albany, who posts words of encouragement to strangers across the globe?

Me, I'll take my online friends any day of the week.

I'm planning to invite the ladies to be part of this blog. If any of you happen to be reading these words, please accept my deepest and most sincere thanks for your words of wisdom and ongoing support. You all are my hero.

And for all of you reading, how about a hand clap for the ladies?

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Random Musings #2

Today I stopped and smelled the roses.

And I'm not talking in a metaphorical, hippie dippie Northern California kind of way. I literally took time out of my day to visit three nurseries in the East Bay. It was completely business related. My mission was to learn more about the business of roses. It was a very interesting, informative day and despite the 90 degree weather, I enjoyed it immensely. And to things off, they really do smell quite nice.

Y'all thought for a second I was getting all deep and heavy, didn't you? Not tonight. I don't have the head for it.

Big question on my mind these days: what's the deal with Soprano's? More specifically: when in the world is Tony finally going to whack someone? Or get whacked himself? And when is this season going to finally pick up some steam? I'm all about character development, but holy cow have these last two seasons plodded along. Four episodes left, HBO. Left's get things moving, people.

Survey (hey Jeff S -- how can I add a *real* survey to this site? Where is old OpinionWare when I finally need it?) time. Which of the following scenarios do you think are most likely?

o Tony wacks Christopher
o Christopher wacks Tony
o Christopher wacks Paulie
o Paulie wacks Christopher
o Tony wacks 'em all


As many of you know, I am an avid cycling fan. And I must say, events of the past few days - L'affaire de Basso - have left me dumfounded. For all you non-fans, here's the quick summation:

Ivan Basso is one of the brightest stars in cycling. He took second to Lance in 2005 and won last year's Giro (one of the "Big Three" races, along with the Tour de France and the Vuelta). Last year he got caught up in Operation Puerto, which was basically a doping sting operation. He was barred from participating in last year's Tour. He vehemently denied the allegations but was ultimately dropped by his team, CSC. He was never formally charged and signed by Team Discovery, Lance's former team. It should be noted that he and Lance are close personal friends. It should also be noted that I was really, really stoked about this move as I love Basso as a rider and thought he was the odds on favorite to win this year's Tour.

Anyway, two weeks ago, out of nowhere and weeks before he's supposed to defend his Giro title, Basso quits Discovery. Yesterday he announces that he's essentially guilty and that he's going to come clean and cooperate with Spanish authorities. And I thought it was one of the greatest days in sports. Finally, a top tier athlete manning up and proactively taking responsibility for his actions. Bring it, Ivan.

And then today he comes out and states that he never actually doped, but rather intended to dope. WTF? Intended to dope? Huh? Come on man, if you are going to come clean, come freaking clean. And let's give you the benefit of the doubt and say it's true --why? You're the best rider on the planet -- really, I dont think anyone would have close to touching you, you KNOW you're constantly be tested and yet for some reason you "intended" to dope anyway.

I try to have faith in my fellow man. I really do. I believe man is findamentally good. But at the same time, good lord, sometimes man is also so freaking stupid.

Regardless, best of luck to you, Ivan. May your two year ban pass quickly. Good for you for manning up to some degree, I guess. I still maintain you'll one day be wearing Yellow in Paris.

Well, today the cat is ot of the bag; I've *officially* begun to debut this blog to you, my adoring public (of about 12, I might add, according to my little counter thingie). Anyway, I hope you like what you see so far. I encourage you to leave comments,
e-mail with feedback, etc. Thanks again for visiting.

(Ps. Ran 3.5 miles tonight, which is exactly .5 miles longr than my first run. Felt pretty good, too. The synthroid is definitely kicking back in and I'm feeling better each day. The old adage really is true: progress is measured in baby steps)

Monday, May 7, 2007

Happy Freaking Birthday!

So, if you ever find yourself in the unenviable position of sitting in a doctors office, waiting for the results of your latest cancer scan (and please note, I do not wish this scenario on my worst enemy) and he walks in and says "I have good news and bad news" I hate to break it to you -- it's bad news.

"Good news" is: you're clean. Cancer free. As in "Get out of here and I'll see you in six months." THAT is good news. Anything else sucks.

Hate to come across as negative and those of you who know me, know my spirits have been pretty good through this entire ordeal, but I have to call it like I see it.

Anyway, this is how things went down last Monday, April 30th -- my 41st birthday, btw -- at my appointment with my endo. I've been so dispirited that I haven't been able to blog on this until today.

There's no use bellyaching anymore, but I'd be be less than truthful if I didn't tell you I was pretty crushed by this news. I really thought this nightmare was going to be over last Monday.

To make matters worse, I had a fake out earlier in the morning. I was waiting with April for my film from radiology, when the technician came in and said that pathology wanted a few more shots. I wasn't terribly surprised, as they were having some problems with the MRI machine. So, I walked back in and was told they wanted to reshoot my pelvic region. At which point my heart dropped down to my toes.

Those of you who are familiar with my story, know that during my last scan in September, they found a "hot spot" on my hip. It was such an anomoly that my doc had me come back two days after my RAI to have it retested. Of course, it was still there. A subsequent PET scan, however, showed no invasion into the bone, which was obviously good news. So, it was treated as a renegade node which somehow made its way down to my hip. My only consolation: it landed in my hip, versus chest.

Anyway, the technician must have seen the look on my face, because she quickly added "No, no. It's good. The hip is clean. He just wants to make double certain."

That's when I thought maybe -- just maybe -- it was going to be my day.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. A bit more background: my original scan from last September showed three "hot spots" of uptake: two in my neck (not enormously unexpected, given that I had six bad nodes removed during surgery) and one in my hip, as described. For some reason, I assumed the radiation was going to have eradicated everything in my neck. Key learning Number 4,365: with cancer, don't make assumptions.

So, the "good" news, if you will: we're down from three hot spots to one -- one straggler in my neck, sitting there on my scan as clear as day.

The bad news -- questions persist as to why the node did not respond to the treatment? 150 milicures of RAI really should have done the trick.

My endo said he was surprised and dismayed but noted that this happens in 30% of cases that he treats. If there is one trend that's become abundantly clear to me, it's that I am consistenty falling on the wrong side of the odds, every step of the way. This is a subject that probably merits its own discussion.

Anyway, he suggested thatI plan on another dose of RAI this coming December. Keep in mind this is really two more cycles: going hypo/diet from hell for a big dose, followed six months later by going hypo/diet from hell for a full body scan. So, this whole sordid affair is getting stretched out by another 12-18 months.
F*(&*ing lovely. He also suggested I see Dr. Orlo Clark at UCSF, thyroid surgeon extraordinaire.

I'm not certain how to describe Dr. Clark, other than "rock star" and by that, I almost use the term almost literally. His waiting room is a zoo, it takes months to book an appointment, and the guy has a bigger entourage than Vincent Chase.

The scenario that Dr. Clark laid out is fairly straighforward:

1. The remaining hot spot is microscopic tissue (vs a node) which will hopefully be taken care of with another whopping dose of radiation.

2. Its not tissue, but rather a decent sized stray node. This will be confirmed (or not) in the coming weeks via a series of CAT scans and MRI' s. If he can pinpoint it, he'll go in and pluck it, though the surgery is unfortunately a tad more complicated than that. It *appears* right now to be located in my central neck, so he has to navigate through my vocal cords. And given that this is now my second neck surgery, he has to navigate around scar tissue. Oh, and one other thing too -- he wants more PET and CT scans of my hip as well, because he finds that utterly mystifying and maintains that if there ever WAS cancer there, it would likely be in bone. Good times, eh?

Man, I tell you -- to quote Terrence Howard --it's hard out here for a pimp.

Regardless of the scenario, and oh, by the way, Dr. Clark's opinion is that "I'm 90 percent certain we are looking at scenario number two" I'm looking at more RAI, a thought I do not relish. Aside from all the hypo/diet nonsense, we're talking another level of high toxicity radiation. Not to mention the stress of explaining this to the kids, getting them out of the house during radiation, etc.

What a freaking hassle. "Good cancer" my ass.

Tests are scheduled for the next several weeks. Next appointment with Dr. Clark is on June 13th. At that stage of the game, all scans will be completed, and he'll be presenting a detailed gameplan.

So ... that's where I am today and that's the story of how I spent my 41st birthday.

Sunday, May 6, 2007

It's a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

When the weather is perfect, like it is today, I don't think there's a more beautiful place on the planet than Marin County, California. The pictures, all taken from the house, say it all .....

Saturday, May 5, 2007

First run

Well, finally mustered up the energy for my first run in more than three weeks. Three miles. And it wiped me out. Damn.

Hard to believe that only six weeks ago I ran 31 miles at Way Too Cool (which took more than six hours). And today I could barely muster three miles. With a freaking walking break thrown in for good measure.

Double damn.

One of the most difficult aspects of this entire experience is the crimp it has thrown into my training. A reasonable person would likely say that this is the least of my problems, and to an extent I understand as much, but for a hardcore Type A athlete (I use "athlete" for lack of a more apt description), it is utterly maddening. I've essentially been reduced back to square one three separate times this past year (surgery, radiation, recent scan) and frankly, it's discouraging. This, coupled with the fact that my latest news has essentially cost me another triathlon/running season, has definitely thrown me into a bit of a funk.

All that said, I'm looking forward to tomorrow. It's a new day and I'm looking forward to hitting the pool.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Random Musings and Shout Outs

I soft sounded this blog with three good friends, Jeff, Dave and Michael (thanks again, Michael, for the design assist) and all three strongly encouraged me to keep this moving forward. Dave and Jeff both made the very fair point, however, that the title CancerMan might be a bit off-putting to fellow survivors. Independently, they both suggested I rethink a title that's a bit more inspirational (in the spirit of LiveStrong). Because I tremendously value their opinion, I will indeed give it more thought. But for right now, I'm going to stick with it; I've slept on it or a few days, and for me, personally, it still resonates.

Once again, for those of you who haven't yet read my first post, the title is designed to be a play off of "Ironman". Knowing the World Triathlon Corp, it's just a matter of time before they send me a cease and desist. More on them in another post, btw; I've got a major bone to pick with them in regards to their lottery process for Hawaii Ironman.

Before I get too far along with this thing, there's a very large group of people that I want to thank publicly. As I stated in a recent group email, there HAS been an upside to this entire experience, in that it has reaffirmed my faith in humanity. Friends new and old have come out fo the woodwork, and it's been amazing to be on the receiving end of so much caring.

As many of you know, we're relatively new to the Bay Area, having moved just about eighteen months ago. Going through an experience such as this, with zero family inside three thousand miles, makes things exceedingly more difficult. And yet friends like the Hughes' have become our extended family. To all our other friends on the Mountain -- a big thank you. The same goes to all you Park School parents. The Simpson's. The Gelbach's. Lida and family. And anyone and everyone I might be forgetting.

The Michigan Boys (Dave, Steve-O, Silbo, Rob, Wiley, Diamond, Todd, Scooter) - my closest friends in the world. They've never let me down and they never will. In particular, Steve-O and Dave. You guys coming out for the surgery was something I will never forget. You actually made the scariest day of my life kind of fun. I think Dave (and/or Joni) has called me/us every single freaking day for the past twelve months. Same goes for my man Jeff Schultz too. He's my Coach, but more than that, he's my friend too -- Phil Cutti. Phil made sure my ass was up and moving and he's consistently laid out great conditioning plans that have helped speed my recovery. He also got me through Vineman -- and as promised, in one piece. Payro, as well for his friendship and for keeping me running.

To our kick-ass friends in Chicago: Marcey L, the Foremans, the Fishers, The Hughes and everyone else I'm forgetting. You have all been there for me but far more importantly, you've been there for April.

To my second family in the Second City, the Greenbaums, with a monster, super special shout out to my main man Neil-O, who is going through a situation far more difficult than mine. He is a Warrior.

My Ruder-Finn/West team, Ruder-Finn/Chicago, the entire Finn family and my unbelieveable boss, Richard Funess. There's good reason why I've worked at RF for so long -- the people are the best.

Mom and Dad, Scott and Neil, my sisters-in-law, nieces and nephews and my boy Gaga for doing what family is supposed to do and then some.

Words cannot describe how I feel about my in-laws. SImply put, and without question, we could not have gotten through this without them. My mother-in-law, Anne, probably the best and most kind-hearted person on the planet and grandmother extraordinaire. She is an angel without wings. Four roundtrips from Albany to SF to help us through this - unreal. You know there is a g-d when you go through a situation like this and your father-in-law just so happens to be a radiologist. Thanks Pablio for your medical advice (you really are a doctor!) and your friendship. Only one request: next radiation dose, leave the Geiger Counter at home. Seriously. He really bought a geiger counter. Talk about unnerving. I heard that damn thing going off from down the block.

Z-Dog and Summer Meadow: bless your little hearts for not knowing what's going on. I am so sorry for the hugs I could not give you because of daddy's "chemicals."

And lastly, my wife and My Rock, April. Fear not -- you're soon about to get your very own column. The only way I could possibly repay you is buying you your very own Four Seasons. Sadly, that ain't happening. But you've got a free lifetime pass to the one(s) of your choosing.

Everyone else I'm forgetting -- and I'm sure there are plenty of you of you -- to quote my main philosopher, Biggie Smalls, Big Ups and Much Love.

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Go Long, Young Man

Third post in two days. I can say with authority that there's no way I'm keeping this pace much longer. I realize I'm being a tad manic, but my meds are starting to *finally* kick in (!) and though I'm still getting tired later in the day, I'm getting closer to being my old self. And on top of that, now that I've taken the cork out of the bottle, I'm starting to realize, I have a few things to say.

Plus, this is fairly typical of my personality. Once I get into something, I'm kind of known for going all in, to use a poker phrase.

"All in" is probably a half decent segue to one of my favorite subjects: endurance sports. Those of you who know me, know I have a prediliction for long distance events. To wit: my second triathlon ever was a half ironman, my third was Ironman. After running a half dozen or so marathons, I got a bit bored of that scene and chasing PR's, and gravitated, along with my good Payro, to ultramarathons. To date, I've completed four 50k ultras (31 miles) and one fifty miler. And I have no intention of stopping. On November 2nd, medical issues nonwithstanding, Payro, my buddy Wiley (should he ever finally man up -- that motivation eough, Wiley?) and I plan to tow the line at the Helen Klein 50 miler in Sacramento. Next year, the plan is to go for 100.

I hope that the above doesn't come across as arrogant, because it's very important to note that I suck. I have zero g-d given talent and at my best, I am a middle of the pack finisher. I've come to terms with that a long time ago. But I do love to go long.

People ask me constantly why I do these events and after all these years, I'm not sure if I have a good answer. In regards to the ultramarathons, and at the risk of sounding hippy-dippyish (which, for the record, I am decidedly not), there's something soul-cleansing about them. Spend extended time out on the trail, and I think you'll understand. But more than anything, ultra endurance events have taught me a lot about character. I wrote an article on this subject for my company magazine, and as soon as I figure out Blogger, I'lll do my best to link to it.

I'm not sure the best way to describe my personal correlation between character and going long. I guess I'll start by saying that if I'm proud of anything in my ultra running career, it's the fact that I've run literally hundreds of races -- maybe as many as a thousand - and I've never quit. Not once. Believe me, I've thought about it. Multiple times. Hell, practically every race I've given it thought. I've been hospitalized due to massive heat exhaustion, (I believe I still hold the Illinois record for most bags of IV in a day) and I blacked out once after crossing the finish line -- but I've never quit.

During certain races, I've left like I was looking into the abyss but I've always somehow managed to fight my way through. More often than not, the "answer" has been actually pretty easy: you take it once step at a time; one foot in front of the other. That, and a half gallon of de-fizzed cola. But I digress.

I guess one foot in front of the other, while a really bad cliche, is about as apt a metaphor as I can describe right now for dealing with cancer. You formulate a gameplan, you execute against it and you adjust. And when it goes awry - one foot in front of the other until you find your way out. Unfortunately for me, my gameplan has fallen a bit apart. So, we'll figure out a new one. And in the interim, I'll be placing one foot in front of the other.

Damn. I am getting far too heavy. I keep this up I'll have a readership of one. Be on the lookout for some lighter posts.

The "Good" Cancer

Papillary Thyroid carcinoma. That's what I got, friends. Known to many as the "good" cancer.

And if I ever hear anyone say that out loud to me, be very careful, because I might very well punch you in the mouth.

While I am one of the first to recognize that I could have it worse -- much, much worse (trust me -- while sitting in the waiting room at UCSF cancer center, I was absolutely counting my blessings) -- all cancers are insipid, including thyroid.

Here's what throws people off about most thyroid cancer: it's highly curable (anaplastic excluded. Sadly, anaplastic -- which is what Justice Renquist sufffered from - is a guaranteed death sentence. But it's also the least common form of thyroid cancer).

Thyroid cancer has one of, if not THE lowest mortality rate, of any cancer. Depending on the study, upwards of 98% of patients suffering from follicular, or papillary, are ultimately cured. So ... I've got that going for me. And trust me, I'm holding on to that statistic in a pretty big way.

At the same time, the treatment protocols are proven, and fairly straight-forward. There's plenty to contemplate, plenty to learn, but for most of us, upon diagnosis, the move forward plan is pretty darn cut and dried. Without getting too granular, it goes something like this:

- complete thyroidectomy (removal of the thyroid gland), followed by recovery followed by a period in which you are slowly weaned off your synthetic thyroid replacement medications, which for most of us is synthroid. This phase of the treatment is commonly referred to as "going hypo"-- remember this phrase 'cause you're going to see it a lot more in future posts.

Going hypo -- which last about 20 days -- is miserable. The thyroid, in essence, provides your forward thrust. It's what drives your metabolism. Without it, you become listless, fuzzy headed, and completely without energy. And those are the good parts! In a nutshell, it sucks beyond belief. And it's compounded by the fact that it MUST be accompanied by The Diet From Hell.

The Diet From Hell is enormously critical to the treatment. The protocol works much like a reverse notion of what carbo loading does for marathon training. The idea is that you want to completely and totally deprive and deplete your body of iodine. After a period of 20 days or so of doing such (by which time yo're pretty much holding on for dear life. Ok - that's an exaggeration. But trust me -- you are completely spent by the end of this period), patients are administered a small "scan" does of i-131 radioactive iodine isotope, which is immediately absorbed by remaining "bad" thyroid tissues that are hungry for iodine. 72 hours after you are administered the scan dose, you are CT scanned, and based on "uptake" (absorption) doctors are able to ascertain the extent of your disease.

As an example, my original scan revealed that there was "uptake" in what appeared to be two areas in my neck (not terribly uncommon, especially as I had six bad nodes removed during surgery) and my hip (unbelieveably uncommon; we'll hold on to this for another day).

Based on this analysis, doctors quickly - within hours, administer a big whooping therapeutic dose: usually somewhere between 100-200 milicures (sp?). I was right in the middle at 150. Once you are administered your dose, you need to run for the hills for a few days and go into complete isolation, because you are lit up like a Christmas tree (we'll hold off on this too for another day). You cool down, resume your life, and six months later go back in for yet another scan (which necessitates going hypo/diet yet again).

And in 75% percent of cases, that's it. The protocol is considered HIGHLY effective. Most people get a clean scan and they are done. Sure, that's a bit cavalier: thyroid cancer has a high rate of return, and you must undergo frequent blood work, but for most people, the story ends there. A shitty year for most, full of unpleasantries, but 12 months and out.

This past Monday, April 30th, was my scan. And for me, the above scenario wasn't meant to be. If it was, you probably would not be reading these words. Which brings me to where I am now. At a crossroad. Damn.

More later.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Why CancerMan?

For the past year and a half, I have contemplated blogging in some capacity. I've always loved to write, and I thought the consistency of maintaining a blog would help blow the dust off my quasi-eroding skills. My only problem: I simply could not find a voice.

More than anything, I did not want to be yet another pedantic PR guy writing about social media. That space is more than covered. I could -- and probably will -- write an extended posting on my feelings regarding that topic. My love for endurance sports? More interesting to me on a personal level, yes, but hard to write about without sounding overly egotistical. But -- getting closer.

And then along came the events of the past year.

On April 19, 2006, a day which will forever define me, I was diagnosed with papillary thyroid cancer. More on this -- much more -- coming soon. Subject wise, well, now we're closer to a subject. Problem was, a confluence of events - mostly due to work -- precluded me from dedicating the time necessary to really commit to a blog.

And then came along the events of this week. A big kick in the ass which has left me feeling for the first time as if my back is against the wall. And so, the time has come to put pen to paper (so to speak).

So, why CancerMan?

Aside from the fact that I find it a fairly arresting title, it succincly captures what defines me. I'm not certain if I've spent the past year with my head in the sand, or if I've been a tad cavalier about my particular form of cancer, but I'm starting to learn, that my life is defined, in order, as a husband, father - and by the fact that I am a Survivor. And I am starting to understand that it's my responsibility to start getting a bit more militant about my role as the latter. But my story doesn't start and end (!) with cancer.

I am also an Ironman.

The famous announcer Mike Reilly declared me such in one of the greatest moments of my life (short of my wedding day and the birth of my children): August 15, 1999 - the day I completed Ironman Lake Placid.

These past few days, I've come to realize that in order for me to deal with what's in store for the 12-18 months -- my next phase of treatments - I'm going to have to rely heavily on lessons I've learned through Ironman and sundry other endurance events.

And so is born CancerMan.

Which isn't to say I won't touch on other topics. Work will invariably be part of the discussion, though I emphasize again and emphatically that this is not a PR blog, nor is it in any way affiliated or associated with the views of Ruder-Finn. The views contained herein are mine, and mine alone.

In July, you can expect more discussion than you'd ever care about my favorite sporting event -- the Tour de France. I hope to review new music. In September, I'll wax poetic about the upcoming Michigan football season. I hope to devote October to my beloved New York Yankees.

But at the end of the day -- CancerMan is designed to chronicle the travails of someone who is going through the trials and tribulations of cancer. I hope it presents a record in which my childen can one day take pride in their dad. I'm not certain where it's going to go, but I suspect it will be an interesting ride. Thanks for joining.