Trauma and Tire Marks

“Get the fuck away from my car! I’ll blow your fucking heads off!”

I heard the words as a typical empty threat from a belligerent, drunk, jabrony and nearly paid no heed. I was gathering my bag to leave him and his precious car alone, leave him ranting at us, leave him with his wrath.

In my effort to not my eye contact with him, my gaze went down and noticed the slim, shiny, slab of steel in his hand. Is he really holding a gun? He IS holding a gun.

He was within two paces of me. I backed away from him slowly, then sideways towards a tree, or bush, or whatever the fuck that was next to me. Trying to put anything between me and the empty space that separated me and the guy with the gun.

My two companions, were also backing away from him, in other directions. K was weaving her way between other cars in the parking lot. I coudn’t see where B was. Please don’t argue with him! I braced for gun fire.

Once I had made it behind some cover, I high-tailed it towards the restaurant. Should I turn and run? Then I can’t see what he’s doing. Nevermind I can’t see shit anyways. Oh good, K is going in the door. Where was B? I couldn’t hear the shouting anymore.

I explained to my wife and the rest of our dining party what had just happened, and that we needed to stay inside. Wait, what if the gunman followed us? If he comes into the restaurant, what do we do? Can we lock the front door? Should we just run?

Calls were being made. Police were on the way. The restaurant managers were going out into the parking lot. Where was B? K is crying. Should I be crying?

“The guy is gone.”

Minutes passed. I peer out through the front window and see the manager talking on his cell phone, looking towards the scene of the action. He is calm. I venture out and see the parking spot is empty.

The guy and his car are gone, just trauma and tire marks left in their wake.

Touring Edition

I’m special. At least, I get reminders of this constantly. It’s like when someone asks you why you’re walking funny, when in your own mind you were just walking. How was I walking? Was I dragging my feet? Did I swing my arms wildly?

Life in cancer recovery is constant frustration. All I want is to be normal. I mostly feel normal. But then every once in awhile the universe taps me on the shoulder and reminds me that I’m not quite there yet.

I’ve just returned from the most grueling work trip I’ve ever done. Basically, me, my boss, and my co-worker, just did a two-week cross-country traveling wine festival. With 10 European winemakers in tow. It only sounds fun because of the alcohol content. A grueling, tight travel schedule, zero lunches, long days and longer nights, dragged-out dinner affairs, etc. It was a small glimpse of the rock tour life, and it sucks.

There is a rhythm and routine to my recovery. Exercise, diet, supplements, regular sleep, etc. Being on a rocking wine tour was the antithesis to any and all of that. There’s not enough gas in my tank to keep up that pace.

And on top of that, I stopped drinking 17 months ago. I might as well be producing a tour promoting responsible opioid usage, that’s basically how I feel about the actual content. More power to them, but it’s not for me anymore.

It’s time to find another path to walk on. Where I can swing my arms however I want.

two thoughts

I can finally rest. It’s taken over a year without alcohol, and many months now without opioids, to get to the point where I can actually fall asleep and get a decent night’s rest, unassisted.

Alcohol was my sleep crutch for many years, and then opioids came along and helped me through the worst battle of my life. I’m thankful that the cancer is gone, and that I did not have to fight an opioid addiction, but I do miss that medically-induced sleep. Not anymore. At the risk of jinxing myself, I can finally sleep.

Continue reading “two thoughts”


Tomorrow marks a full year since my world got mangled. Diagnosis day? Biopsy-versary? Whatever you want to call it, it’s a dubious distinction.

My latest follow-up scan shows no sign of cancer, although the swelling in my throat has not backed down and my voice continues to sound like a raspy, drowning, toad.

It’s in my nature to look back on the past 364 days and account for what has transpired. The last few months have been quite introspective for me, even more than usual, and while I don’t know where to start, it’s been pointed out to me that it would be a good idea to write it down.

I am lost. Utterly rudderless. I sailed out of the storm and into calmer waters, without a map. Cancer, for all its failings, at least gave me a direction. I have a second chance, but doing more of the same seems like such a wasted opportunity.

Work is important. Work generates income, which allows for life’s necessities and luxuries. Now more than ever, work seems like just a means to an end, to me. For years, my work and my career were my identity, or at least a major part of it. If it’s not who I am any longer, what do I want to do to provide for my family’s needs and desires? The options are endless, and some are more reasonable than others, but it seems like the easiest, default route is to just go back to my B.C. career. At least I’m good at it, right? Right?

So here I am, at this strange moment to commemorate, and while I’m grateful that I get to have a life again, whereas so many others in a similar situation may not, I’m at a loss for where to go from here. The answer is out there, I’m sure of it.

Grossly Unremarkable

The title of the post was how my PET scan looked to the pathologist. No evidence of disease. We did it!

Anyways, in the nearly three months since the good news, my life has seemed like a non-stop victory tour and recovery mission. Mountains, rivers, and beaches — we’ve been on a mission to carpe diem, and it’s been a successful one so far.

My physical recovery has gone mostly well. Well enough that I have pangs of guilt when I hear about other survivor’s stories. My physical strength has returned, and with the 10ish pounds that I’ve lost, my physique is in a really good place. I look good for my age. I look great for a cancer survivor — I don’t have any physical signs of the trauma at all. Is that normal? I don’t know but I know I’ve worked my ass off to get here.

My voice has not recovered, and is the most frustrating side effect that remains. Nobody knows if it’s permanent or not, but I’m trying to get used to it. I’m fairly sure my kids are glad that I can’t raise my voice at them, or anyone else for that matter, any longer. It’s a win-win.

My first post-cancer surveillance scan is approaching. For years to come, the doctors will be checking my CT, PET, and other tests regularly. I’m a high-risk candidate now.

For me it means that there’s no time like the present.

PET Scan

Tomorrow is the 6-months to the date since I was cast, involuntarily, into this fight. Coincidentally, it’s also when I undergo my 12-week post-treatment PET scan, from eyes to thighs as they say, to determine the results of my fight so far.

In this give-me-convenience-or-give-me-death world of instant gratification, having to wait 12 weeks for anything seems absurd. The fact is, everyday brings a new wrinkle to the post-treatment fabric — I never know how my body is going to be doing every single day.

Today, after a normal, hearty breakfast, my system crashed hard. Fatigue set in after breakfast and never really let up. Water tasted normal today. My muscles still inexplicably ache, and headaches still make surprise appearances. And it was a great day, overall. I won’t bore you with details of the highlights of my life, but it was a great day.

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t nervous about my scan tomorrow. But like every other day in this journey, I have to surrender to the moment and see what my care team and I have accomplished.

If another round of battle is necessary, I think I’m up to the task. The first fight seemed impossible in the thick of things, but with the benefit of elapsed time and mental distance, it is doable. It has to be.

Whatever tomorrow brings, I know that I’ve fought like hell. I’ve left no stone unturned and investigated all possible avenues.

CT Scan

It’s been exactly six weeks since the last time I’d laid on a motorized tray, waiting to be inserted into a machine, and here I was again. As the days and weeks have passed, it’s gotten easier for me to relax and forget the pain and agony of the past weeks. But today, at my first follow-up I’m confronted with those memories by the place I’m in and the process I’m undergoing.

Recovery has been progressing nicely. My taste buds are working again, mostly, and the pleasure of eating has never felt better. Every meal is a discovery adventure, to see what works and doesn’t.

Oddly enough a new fatigue has settled in over the last couple days. Add it to my very scratchy left throat on my list of lingering symptoms. For some reason, I have started to hit a wall right around 5-6pm — my energy just runs out.

Post-exercise soreness has taken on a new meaning as well. While my muscles have atrophied and my body mass has decreased, I had started to begin some light exercise like walking, cycling, and light rock climbing. I even did some time on the rowing machine. It was too much. My muscle aches, post-treatment, are debilitating. And of course it doesn’t really manifest until I stop moving and lay down for the night.

Great timing.

As I’m in the last days of 24/7 opioid delivery, I’ve discovered a new pain.

I guess I’m going to have to be patient with my recovery, and ease back into reality a little slower than I’d prefer.

One Month Down

It’s strange what my mind remembers. Viscerally, I know that there were moments and long spells of intense pain, searing headaches, and tons of various comforts. A month ago I was on a vegan, liquid diet, thanks to my throat getting cooked like a microwave.

And yet, a month past my last treatment, those memories seem long ago, as if from a past life. They don’t dominate my mental story of this journey. It reminds of how many mothers report the experience of childbirth as an overall positive experience, and the memories of the intense pain fade quickly afterwards. Perhaps my optimistic, positive worldview of this entire experience helps my memory focus on the recovery, and not the pain of the past.

Week 4 post-treatment has added on to week three’s progress. My energy continues to improve (chemo-induced anemia must be improving!) and I’ve added some light exercise back into my routine. My new Apple Watch steadily reported my walking pace progress, as it went from snail’s pace back towards my before-treatment speed.

My liquid diet is behind me, thanks to powerful pain management and my body’s fast healing response. I do still drink Orgain vegan protein shakes, but thankfully it’s a supplement and not the main course. Certain tastes are starting to return, slowly, and it’s anyone’s guess as to what I’ll be able to actually enjoy with every meal. Every meal is an adventure!

On to the next few weeks of recovery. Who knows what adventures they will bring?


I can’t say I wasn’t warned.

It’s been 8 days since my last round of radiation and chemotherapy. Every person on my care team warned that the weeks afterwards would not be easy, and could possibly be even worse. Even as I heeded their warnings, it was all too easy to start thinking it was almost over. It wasn’t.

Continue reading “Recovery”