Merry Christmas from LUG: An unexpected gift from the doc

Dear readers,
I just wanted to give you a personal update on how things are going here at LiveUpdateGuy.com.

The hair will come back sooner than expected.

As most of you know, I was diagnosed with cancer last July (right around the end of the Tour de France, for those who use the grand tours as milestones on the calendar). My doctors took a very professional – and aggressive – approach to the problem and I was in surgery for the first of three operations within days of the diagnosis. Then came what was supposed to be a 20-week regimen of chemo therapy, using a toxic combination of three drugs.

If you ever had any doubts, let me assure you that chemo does, indeed, suck. The side-effects are too numerous – and too gross – to list, but two of them were such that even my oncologist got nervous in recent weeks. Last Friday, instead of spending half-a-day attached to a chemo pump, I spent five hours in the emergency room undergoing a full spectrum of tests on my heart, because the docs had found a dysrhythmia. My oncologist was concerned because potentially fatal dysrhythmias are a rare side-effect of the drug Taxol. She said it was quite rare – fewer than one percent of those treated showed signs of the problem. But what the hell, I’m already a rarity of sorts, given that less one percent of breast cancer cases occur in men. I was already a member of one “elite” club, I didn’t need to join another. I mean, I’m all about being unique, but this is #@%&ing ridiculous.

Well, after all that testing the diagnosis was actually good. The dysrhythmia disappeared once I got on the treadmill and cranked up my heart rate. Nonetheless, my oncologist was still worried enough about that, along with the neuropathies I am experiencing on my fingers and toes, to call off the last month of treatments.

Yup, all of that worrisome news has actually turned into one hell of a Christmas gift: Chemo is over, effective immediately.

At this point, the prognosis is good. Body scans show no more tumors and I can turn my attention to getting back on track with things for 2012. I can focus on building my law practice, getting back on the bike and even growing my hair back as the new year begins.

I just want to extend my deepest thanks to all of you who have expressed so much support and encouragement over the past few months. Weird as this might sound, when I look back at the entire experience I can actually say that it’s been remarkably positive. Nope. I sure as hell wouldn’t want to go through this again, but it has brought some needed perspective to life. Of course, the biggest lesson to come out of this is the most obvious: friends and family count. We are not alone.

Our kids - Philip and Annika - have been amazing through this whole thing.

My cancer is done for now. Medically, it was mostly just a pain-in-the-arse for me. I seem to have survived it. Not all do.

On what turned out to be my last day in chemo, I spent some time joking and laughing with a woman, perhaps a little older than me, but not by much. After about half-an-hour of idle chatter and back-and-forth banter, she mentioned that her only realistic goal was to make it to this coming Sunday, so she could celebrate Christmas with her family before she dies. Suffering from lung, liver and bone cancer, she’d been told three months ago that she had about two months left. She’d already beat the odds and was just hoping to do a little better than that.

Word is that she’s going to make it and will have Christmas this year. I can imagine this one will be a bittersweet occasion in that family. I sure will be thinking of her on Sunday.

My new friend knows that this Christmas will probably be her last. I suspect that knowledge won’t keep her from enjoying the days she has left.

I am not one of those who believes a “positive attitude” is a cure for cancer. I’ve lost too many dear – and positive – friends to imply that they died just because they weren’t positive enough. There is no shame in death, just as there is no particular nobility in surviving the ordeal. What my new friend taught me, though, is that no matter what the future holds, a positive outlook may help you keep things in perspective.

It was her attitude – the idle chatter and jokes – that taught me the most valuable lesson. Forget the complaints. Ignore the problems. Don’t focus on what you don’t have. Maybe instead, take a minute to look around and appreciate what you do have. Give your kids a hug. Kiss your spouse. Pet the dog. Take it all in and appreciate what you have. Life is way too short for all of us. For some, it’s shorter than that. That doesn’t mean that you can’t embrace each and every moment you have. I’m among the lucky ones who got to learn that while I’ve still got some time.

I have no reason - or right - to complain.

I look around and see just how much I have going for me. My beautiful wife, Diana, and I celebrated our 25th anniversary between my first and second surgeries. She has been supportive throughout and I am forever grateful to her for that and more. My 17-year-old son, Philip, and my 11-year-old daughter, Annika, have come through this whole thing exhibiting empathy and compassion beyond their years and, most importantly, with their senses of humor intact. And I can’t even begin to list the folks who came out of the woodwork since I spoke openly about this thing. I have been overwhelmed by what people have said and done over the last few months.

So, I best sign off with a hearty Merry Christmas to all of you and the assurance that I have ample reason to look forward to 2012. I’ll see many of you here next year for Live Coverage of our favorite sport.

Thanks again for all your support and encouragement. It means more to me than you can ever imagine.
― LUG
(Charles@Pelkey.com)