I’ve been quiet here since August. I know you’ve noticed.
I need to talk and I hope you’ll listen.
We’re at the end of another holiday season “they” said I wouldn’t get, another birthday just passed they said I’d never see. These moments would have knocked me down when I was a cancer boy. When I toddled through the early days — a wobbly-legged cancer foal — one of these big, important days would come around and I’d fairly spend the day all weepy, with a mind that just wouldn’t stand up on its own. I drew such incredible strength then, as I do today, from Jill’s touch, from the ever-present and ever-strong cloud of witnesses who have walked with us every step of the way. As I look at my reflection today, I am strong in ways and in places where I didn’t even know I had a place.
Strength is good. Especially now.
When cancer comes for you, you have to grab everything you can carry, throw on some clothes and snatch your go bag off the table as you fly out the door. You’ve gotta be light on your feet. Being a cancer patient is a full-time job. It requires study. Although I understand that some patients don’t want to have an opinion about their condition or care, it is my deep conviction that only a fool would relegate 100% of the responsibility for their condition and care to any single other person, even a well-trained doctor. To have a shot at surviving, a patient must be proficient in math, be a good negotiator, be organized and be able to speak insurance. You also need a patient, loving mate and a faith family.
What you need more than anything else is a keen sense of your own body, a strong curiosity about science and medicine and a snarling — almost rabid — ferocity to live.
I recently lost a friend who possessed every one of the qualities of a stellar cancer patient, but who still lost her fight. To know that you can be in the game, in as good shape as possible, rested, nourished, aware and yet still have something unforeseen take you down, that, ladies and gentlemen is a solid testimony for living every day like you are dying.
We leave in a few days on another medical vacation because I’m one of the lucky ones. One of the very lucky few kidney cancer patients who has cobbled together a way to “live” with it. In a recent visit with Dr. Andy Pippas, we talked about all the decisions we’ve made together. About how hard some of them were, and about how fortunate we’ve been to have made mostly the right calls over this almost nine years of living with cancer.
I have an astonishing network. Astonishing because of the wonder, through social media and new technology, of having so many robust relationships with people who I have never met face to face. The physician Jill and I are going out to M. D. Anderson Cancer Center to meet was chosen for our case by an angel doctor who took an interest in us. Professor Dr. Michael Staehler has never met me, yet he’s reviewed my entire medical history with RCC and has discussed my case with with Dr. Lawrence Rhines at M. D. Anderson Cancer Center. Dr. Staehler runs one of the world’s premiere kidney cancer clinics in Munich, Germany and he took an interest in my case because one of our kidney cancer mentors asked him to help us.
We are hopeful that Cabometyx has shrunk the tumor in my spine enough to allow a skilled neurosurgical team to remove the tumor and repair the damage caused by kidney cancer. It is my most prayerful hope that we’ll get this kind of feedback from Dr. Rhines, after he has a chance to meet me, and review whatever tests he feels he needs to make an educated diagnosis of the situation.
If you’ve been a follower of this blog, you know that in times of trouble I write to help get myself through it. So, with trouble ahead they’ll likely be a few thousand words to go along with it. I ask that you also continue to pray for all of your friends, and not just those of us with a dangerous illness. Part of the reason I write is to give folks a glimpse of what it is like to have to negotiate the dark waters of a cancer diagnosis. I hope that you’ve also been able to see the beauty that lies in the clear fact that if you’re open to love and a connection with your fellow life travelers, almost indescribable joy usually follows the pain. I’ve found that when I focus too much on the pain, the joy passes me by.
I have an MRI scan scheduled for 6:15 p.m. CST on Wednesday and we meet with Dr. Rhines on 1/11 at 11 a.m. Depending on what we hear, we’ll at least have a solid idea about how effectively I’m responding to Cabo and whether we’re still on a good track to mitigate this issues in my spine.
One of the attributes of a good cancer patient is a chameleon-like ability to remake yourself each time your physical being forces you to become something different. I am unable to do anything physical right now, so I have spent the past eight months learning how to trade stock options.
I have found a local teacher, someone who has taught me how to read stock charts, about the Fibonacci sequence and how it relates to stock price fluctuations, about how to establish my own trading rules and follow them and how to utilize the stocks that Jill and I already have in our Roth and traditional IRAs to, with relatively low risk buy and sell puts and calls to make additional income as we near retirement.
I’m not going to say much more about stock options right now but trust me, there is much, much more coming from me on this topic. There is a limit on how much of your assets you can place into your Individual Retirement Account each year. But there is no limit on how much you can earn on the money you’ve put there. I have found a better way to grow that money in our lives. And, because only a tiny percentage of the people I’ve engaged in conversation about this subject during the past eight months knew anything about it, I’m going to make it my mission over the near future to make sure everyone within the sound of my voice and who is interested, gets a good, solid education on what surely must be one of the financial world’s most closely-guarded skill sets.
If you think you’re going to be interested in hearing more about how to trade stock options to generate additional income go ahead and pick up a copy of the book, “Understanding Options,” by Michael Sincere and read it. I was asked to read the book before I attended a two-day weekend training class here in Columbus to learn the basics of options trading. Prepare to be challenged, and intellectually stimulated!