Monday, August 31, 2009

2010 Colondar has debuted! I'm Mr. May!

I know you have been waiting all your life for it! Okay...well, probably not. But, the colon cancer awareness calendar that I'm in is now available for purchase. How do I get my hands on one, you ask? Well, there are two ways. One is to order online:

The other way (and my personal favorite) is to order one from me if you are local. That way, I can personalize it for you. Just email me and we'll figure out how to get it to you.

Online, they are $16.50. I'm asking $20 for the ones I'm selling. That's totally up to you, but it makes transactions easier and I'm donating the extra $3.50 to the Colon Club. (You can also donate more, if you like.)

You can read the stories of the models and (soon) view videos of each of us talking about our experiences:

On a personal note...Why am I selling these? Well, besides me being IN the calendar, my experience has been incredible. Colon cancer is normally an old person disease. I had joined cancer groups in DC and I was the only one with colon cancer. Then I went to the photo shoot and met 14 other people just like me. We were best friends from the instant we met. And I cannot put into words how valuable these new friends are now that I was re-diagnosed three weeks after meeting them all. Just being able to talk to people who have been there is so incredible. I want people in the future to be able to have the same experience I've had. And in order to do that, I have to help make sure the Colondar keeps going.

So, if you have the means, I'd really appreciate you helping out a tremendous organization.

It's so not fair...

In a previous blog, I had posted that despite cancer being the worst thing ever, I was thankful for the friends I had made. Not long after I had my cancer surgeries, a mutual friend introduced me to "Cherie." She wasn't in good spirits and I was asked if I could help cheer her up by showing her how well I was doing. It worked. We started hanging games, DVDS, shopping (she was the first person to actually find clothes for me that fit.) She was also my physical therapist as I was having herniated disc issues this past spring.

Well, her cancer came back and it was more aggressive. I had not seen Cherie since my neck surgery. Today I got a text from her cell phone. It was her sister writing to tell me that Cherie passed over the weekend. I've never had a good friend die before...this isn't easy to take.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

"We choose to go to the moon...

...and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard."

Okay, that was his brother's quote, but I like that one. I wanted to say something about Ted Kennedy's passing.

It was a very weird feeling to wake up early today, get to the hospital, sit down in my chemo chair and turn on my personal tv to see CNN with non-stop coverage of Ted Kennedy dying from cancer. I can't even continue this blog because I don't know what I think about it. It was just a strange feeling to be getting chemo as I heard about it.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Meet me at the animal shelter?

It's time for another CAT scan. Well, not yet...Tuesday morning. I was around a cat the other night and he kept rubbing against me. He didn't say anything, so I guess he didn't see any signs of cancer. That's a good assumption, right? And he was a lot cheaper than Georgetown. He works for belly rubs. Hmmm...maybe the nurses do, too. I've never asked them.

This will be my first scan since the cancer has returned. We get to find out if the vomiting, diarrhea, hair loss, fatigue and rash are all worth it. I've had three rounds of the "hard stuff" and four rounds of the "easy drug." (Yeah, right.) Remember I told you that the rash was a sign that the chemo was working...well, we shall see. My scalp is itchy and hurts like heck. I know my head gets sore just from the hair loss. I think its because my pours are now hairless and exposed. Add to that, the rash...and it's painful. It even hurts to put my head on a pillow. But, if the cancer is shrinking, I'll deal.

The hope this time is for no change in the "nodules." This past two months was to fill up my body with chemo so the next rounds can blast things to Timbuktu. (Hopefully, not to any people in Timbuktu...just some dead land away from civilization.) As I've said in the past...shrinkage is a bonus!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Tournament -- Final Day...

I don't even know where to begin. I guess I'll start at the beginning. "Well, let's see. First the earth cooled. And then the dinosaurs came, but they got too big and fat, so they all died and they turned into oil. And then the Arabs came and they bought Mercedes Benzes." Wait, no...that's from the movie, "Airplane!"

Saturday was the last day of this softball tournament and it was also the first time my mom was ever going to see me play softball. So, I really had two separate goals for the day: one was to win the entire tournament (as the goal has been all year) and the other was to at least have her witness one win. I just wanted her to see me happy because I knew that would make her happy, too.

We arrived at the fields around 10am for our first game at 11:15am versus whoever won the game currently being played. After everyone had gathered, I asked the team if anyone would do the honors of shaving my head (because it's falling out like crazy!) Ryan and Erin volunteered and I ended up with a mohawk for the day. Not what I planned, but hey...why not??

The # 4 seed in the tournament, Florida, ended up winning the right to play Pitt. Earlier in the season, they beat us to win the division title. Ugh. Our coach's pep talk included "we have one game to win. That's all. We'll worry about the rest later." And I kinda thought that too...for my mom. The game started off back and forth for a few innings as they grabbed a 5-3 lead after 3 innings. The score remained the same until they tacked on an insurance run in the 6th. So, we had one more at-bat in the last inning and trailing by three. It wasn't looking good as we only scored three in the previous six innings combined. First batter -- base hit, next batter -- base hit, next batter -- base hit, next batter -- base hit, next batter -- base hit, next batter -- base hit (that was me), next batter -- base hit, next batter -- base hit. I kid you not. Eight straight hits to start the inning and we took an 8-6 lead. It looked like that Bugs Bunny cartoon where the Bronx Bombers got hit after hit as they rounded the bases in a conga-line. We were going crazy...I literally was hoarse for the rest of the day because of that inning. Florida had the final at-bats. But, I knew I was not going to let them get anything easily. How'd they do? Well, as the Soup Nazi would say: "No runs for you! NEXT!" What a comeback. My mom got to see us win and we were moving on in the tournament. SURVIVE and advance. Our coach smiled and told us, "we have one more game."

We then waited to find out our next opponent. It turned out to be the #1 seed, Villanova. We had just lost to them a few weeks prior, 9-1. Our team had a mental block against them and I was hoping we could fight through it. We batted first...we were out, 1, 2, 3. Then in the second inning, we had base-running errors and errors in the field and we found ourselves down 4-1 after the dust cleared in the 2nd inning. The following two innings were scoreless. We were just marching through the innings in what could be our final game. Luckily, the 5th inning arrived. We got some life in us and got some people on base and scored 4 to take the lead. As I arrived at 2nd base, the shortstop said to me, "You guys just never quit." I responded, "I can't." He just he knew my situation. I don't think Villanova quit, either, but they couldn't manage to score again and we pulled off another comeback win, 7-4. SURVIVE and advance. Our coach smiled and told us, "we have one more game."

We had about 10 minutes to grab something to eat or use the port-a-potty or whatever before facing #3 Auburn. What the heck is up with us? We fell behind 3-1 after one inning. For some reason, other teams loved to jump out in front of us and we seemed helpless to stop it. I'm glad games last seven innings. I was comforted that we had just come back from deficits in the previous two games. And it worked that way again...we scored runs in the 3rd, 4th, and 5th innings as Auburn never scored after those three in the first inning. Our defense has to be the best in the league. I didn't mention it in my writings about the other two games, but we commit very few errors and make unbelievable plays. There were diving catches in the outfield, double-plays, diving stops by the infielders, complete splits by the firstbase girl! (Just like Geena Davis in "A League of Their Own.") Amazing had to be there. I can't do it justice. I makes my job as the pitcher so nice! I just have to make the batters hit the ball. Anyhoo... The Auburn game was over as we won 7-3. SURVIVE and advance. Our coach smiled and told us, "we have one more game."

Next up? #8 Virginia who had sent us packing to the losers' bracket the previous weekend. How would we handle that fact? We exploded for five runs in the first inning. I was psyched! I finally had a lead to work with at the begging. Well, that didn't last long as I had my worst couple of innings of the tournament. It seemed like anything I threw they hit well. It must have gotten in my head a little, too. Virginia had a pitcher who is about the same age as Mr. Burns on "The Simpsons." I can joke about it because his jersey read "Fossil" on the back. Well, he batted and I knew he wasn't going to swing the bat. Sure enough, he didn't. But I threw three straight balls to walk him. That was so foreign to me. I walk a batter about once ever 10-15 games, I think. I still don't know what came over me there! Okay...back to the game. After two innings, we lead 8-6 because my team was hitting a groove with the bats. I got my head straight, our defense did it's thing, the bats continued and after six innings it was 13-6 in our favor. Now, give me a 7-run lead and one inning to pitch...and I'll take that every day of the week. I just threw pitches so they would hit them...they scored twice, but that wasn't nearly enough. Another win. We were still playing (four hours after the first pitch of the first game). SURVIVE and advance. Our coach smiled and told us, "we have one more game."

Well, look who we had next. #10 Maryland. The team that beat us twice last year in the tournament for our only two losses. They are traditionally one of the best teams because of all the local alumni. But, now we knew we could beat them because we came close twice last year. Our coached asked before the game "is anyone intimidated?" We all knew we were not. Our great hitting continued with three runs in the first inning. They scored twice that inning, though. We both added a run in the 2nd, none in the 3rd, and none in the 4th. After four, it was 4-3 with Pitt in the lead. This was too close for comfort. What is a cure for that? How about our biggest inning of the tournament? Okay, by this point in the day, chemo boy (me) was a little out of it. So, I cannot remember what exactly happened that inning. I know it included one of the following (the others were in other innings or other games)...either Ryan hit a bases-loaded double or Carrie did...or Brittany hit one to the fence...or John did. They all were hitting great, so I can't recall exactly. Blame the drugs. We ended up plating seven runs that inning. We added another two in the last inning to take a 10-run lead on the team everyone loves to root against. Remember what I said about the previous game and having a 7-run lead in the last inning? Well, a 10-run lead is a done-deal. I came to the mound and our coach said, "No smiling. We can't smile yet." But that's what I do! Ask anyone. If I'm pitching well, there is a smile on my face as I'm ready to release each pitch. I wasn't going to stop (but I knew what he meant.) They had the top of their batting order up. So, I knew they could score and I'd then get to the lesser hitters. Sure enough, they scored three with their big hitters. But then it was my time. No one else crossed the plate. A 13-6 win for Pitt. I have to mention the one play that is my absolute favorite of the weekend. There was a runner on first and the batter hit the ball right back to me. I immediately turned to 1st base where our firstbase girl, Erin was on the base (right where I know she always is). As I threw to first, it was fun to watch the runner saying to himself "oh crap" as he uselessly tried to get back to the base. The runners are never in time. Erin and I have turned that same play countless times and it never gets old to me! Where are we? Oh yeah...SURVIVE and advance. Our coach smiled and told us, "we have one more game."

You know where we are now? "You're in the jungle, baby." No, wait...that is Guns and Roses. We are in the championship game of the Capital Alumni Tournament. That's right...out of 70 teams. We are in the final game! Last year's tournament run (last year's blog) was amazing and we finished 3rd that year. We had just outdone "amazing." But you know what? We were about to play our 6th game in about six hours and 45 minutes. Let me run down where our lineup stood as the game was about to start:

Ryan -- twisted his ankle in an earlier game
Sam -- playing with a bad back
John -- awaiting an ambulance because of severe cramping and dehydration (he is fine today)
Mark -- playing with a sprained knee
Jake -- trying desperately to keep bandages on his knee to stop the bleeding and allow him to still play
Wayne -- cramping muscles
chemo boy (me) -- the only "healthy" male starter on the team.
One of the substitutes we put in to replace some of these guys had a fractured wrist! That should give you a clue as to how we were doing.

How was the James Madison team we were about to face? They had played two games earlier that day and had an hour(s) in between each game. They were ready to run. Not great odds. In the first inning, we each scored a run. Then nada for each team in the 2nd inning. We were hanging tough. (I'm not a New Kids fan.) Unfortunately, we were pretty much too tired to put together any type of offense. We didn't score for five straight innings. If only we could have held them silent, too. But they were just too good and too rested. JMU took an 8-1 lead before we (in our never-quit style) added a couple of runs in the last inning. Final score...8-3. Our streak had ended. But it was a hell of a run. We actually won more games than any team (including the champion) because of our route to the championship game. I mentioned our defense earlier. We played for 41 innings and in 25 of those the other team did not score.

A few years ago, the U of Pittsburgh beat Notre Dame in football on NBC tv. After the game, the quarterback said on live tv, "I'm so proud of this f***ing team." Well, our coach quoted that in the post-game speech. I was thinking the same thing he was. We have the best group of friends (who happen to be teammates). It's so great. You want to know what kind of teammates I have? The entire event had a food drive for charity. All 70 teams combined to donate 10,000 units of food. Pitt, alone, donated 1800 of those units. In doing so, we won a gift-certificate to a local bar/restaurant where we will hold our end-of-season party. It will be such a fun time...getting together and talking about how incredible our season was yet again.

As I was packing up my gear, two random girls from the Virginia team approached me and introduced themselves. "We heard your story...can we hug you?" OMG. I was a little shocked, but it was very sweet. For anyone who has been on know hugs help a lot.

I cannot thank my team enough. You have no idea how much it helps to be laying in a chemo bed and having the past season to reflect on and the next season to look forward to. It's just helps so much. It's such motivation to get strong again. Although, next season...healthy or not, I'm told I have to keep my mohawk for good luck.

As I'm typing this, I have tears in my eyes. And I'm sure my mom does right now, too, as she is telling her friends about how great the weekend was for both her and me.

If you would like to see more photos from the day, a local free magazine covered it: "On Tap Magazine"

Friday, August 14, 2009

People read? Who knew?

Apparently, people read cancer blogs from young people. Check it out! (Although, don't become fans of those blogs and forget about me. You have to dance with the guy who brung ya!)

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tournament continued....

Sunday was going to be a hot one...97 degrees. At 9am, I headed to G-town for my shot to boost my white blood counts. This shot (Neulasta) gives me flu-like symptoms for a couple of days. I asked the nurse how soon this would take effect because I had a softball game in 2 hours. She said the softball should actually delay the reaction because I'd be running around diluting the effects. (That's some sweet answer!)

I got to the fields about an hour before our first game. I chugged a bottle of water about every half hour. I knew I had to stay hydrated to feel anything close to good. I'm not going to hold back...if you are reading this blog, you are interested in knowing what I go through and deal with. The diarrhea after my treatments is beyond severe. It's pure liquid. So, I had that obstacle to deal with. I knew I couldn't have an episode on the mound, so I made sure to go before and in-between the games. Now, try being in a port-o-potty when it's baking in the 100 degree sun. I don't know the physics, but I think that made it 450 degrees (451 would have ignited the toilet paper). So, I spent 15 minutes at a time in there sweating and needing more water. I almost had to keep the door open for the line to watch.

Back to the games... The first game was against Tufts and in the first inning, they got a couple of good hits and would have had a rally, but we had a great defensive play to gun down a guy trying to get a triple. They scored one on the play, but that was all they were meant to score the entire game. We weren't doing much better at the plate, though. I think it was the 5th inning and we were losing 1-0. I was at bat with a runner on 2nd base. Lately, I have lost strength (due to neck surgery and now chemo), so I was not hitting too well. A song from "3 Doors Down" was going through my mind as I stepped into the batter's box:

Please, for the one time
Let me be myself
So I can shine
in my own light
Let me be myself.

Sure enough, I did what I do and hit the ball blooping down the right field line for a single. We tied the game. A pinch-runner came in for me (which was a relief, I was so tired). As I got back to the bench, a player from another team (who I really admire) said to me, "you are by far my favorite player to watch out here." (That's out of about 1400 players in the tournament.) That meant a lot. The runner for me came around to score on a hit and after the inning, we led 3-1. That's how the game ended. I'm not sure if anyone pitched a shutout in this tournament, but I felt great pitching a 1-run game against a good team. We had "SURVIVEd and advanced" to the next round. (See photo at bottom)

The next game was against Virginia. They are always a good team because they have so many alums in the area. Our team started out continuing our hitting and scoring 3 runs in the 1st. I was excited. ...well, until I saw UVA start hitting the ball. They had tied the score at 3 before I could get anyone out. After two innings, we were down 8-3. Ugh. And after three innings they had 10 runs. I had a hunch what the problem was. I had talked to the pitchers who had played UVA prior to us. They told me how I "should" pitch to them. I scrapped that and went back to my way of pitching. UVA didn't score again the rest of the game. Dammit. I should have just gone with "Shawn ball" and not listened to anyone. I won't make that mistake again. Pitt didn't give up and we closed the gap to 10-8 before getting our last out. I was standing on 3rd when it happened. So, close.

I walked off the field completely drained. I don't think I could have played another inning (but I would have somehow). I rested a little and then rode home. About 6:30pm, the flu took effect. I was puking it all up. But, I made it through the games and that was all that mattered to me.

This Saturday continues the double elimination tournament with us in the loser's bracket. We need to win 5 games in a row to win the whole thing. Difficult? Yes. Impossible? I had an 11% chance of living. What do you think is my answer?

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Softball Tournament -- 2009 style

As you may remember from last year, I love playing in the DC alumni tournament. Last season, five weeks after liver surgery, I helped my team finish in 3rd place out of 70 teams. Well, today was the first day of that tournament this year.

Wouldn't you know it, today and tomorrow are pretty much my worst days on my chemo two-week cycle. Normally, this weekend, I'm asleep the entire weekend. Last night, I practiced 200 pitches, came home, took a nerve pill for the jitters and slept 11 hours. I woke up this morning and went to the fields (after puking once to make me feel better).

My Pitt team was seeded #16 out of 70 teams. In the first game, we played the #48 seed, so my coach benched me. No sense wearing me out when they might need me later. My team went on to win 17-2 over U of Dayton. Next up was U of Arizona (the #17 seed). I got the starting pitching nod. I was a little worried that some weird chemo side effect would hit me in the middle of the game. I chugged as much water/Gatorade the whole day as possible. I heard that dilutes the side-effects of everything. It must have worked. I felt like I had unbelievable control the whole game. Even the couple of times I let the other guys gets hits, my teammates made some unbelievable fielding plays (Mark over the shoulder and Erin stretching to be about 8-feet tall come to mind). We won 16-3 and that put us in the Sweet Sixteen of the winners bracket starting up again tomorrow.

The last two innings of the game, I was holding in the pee like crazy (see chugging water/Gatorade comment earlier). I ran to the port-o-potty. When I cam out, our team had finished taking our team photo. :-( I missed it. But the team mom was having none of that. When she heard, she gathered everyone again and put me front and center for the photo. (I don't have it yet, or I would post it here.)

I came home a little bit after my game ended. The rest of the teams stayed at the fields enjoying the other softball games, drinking and eating, and playing games like bocci ball and corn-hole toss. But, for me, it's a night of trying to eat anything (due to mouth sores) and trying not to vomit.

Tomorrow at 9am, I will start my day with a shot at the hospital to boost my white blood counts. This shot gives me flu-like symptoms for a couple of days. My only hope is that the "flu" stays away from me until after I can pitch in my games on Sunday. All I want to do is help my team win, but it seems that it's never as easy as just that. I just hate it so much. So, I hope you'll be rooting for me tomorrow because being sick AND losing would be the worst. Being sick and that, I can tolerate.

(Sorry for any errors in spelling and grammar. I'm not feeling like re-reading this tonight.)

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Am I Samson?

Okay, probably not. I mean, no one poked out my eyes after I cut my hair today. But I did have a servant, also known as a barber, shave my locks. (Although, I'm sure she wasn't Delilha's servant. Does anyone know if Delilha's servant was Korean?) Anyhoo...I HAD to have my hair cut today because it was falling out like crazy (see the photo below of my sink this morning.)

Afterwards, I pitched in my work league. In the first two innings I gave up 11 runs. What the WTF? I was worried my pitching ability was left on the cutting room floor (nice choice of words by the part-time actor). But, I settled down and shutout the other team for the next several innings. We came back and took a 13-11 lead to the bottom of the last. They scored three. Ugh. :-( But, at least I know I can still pitch...just need some hairless practice to get my balance back.

Check out the new "high and tight."

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Wake up!

Yesterday, I attended a type of event that I had never been to in the past...a wake. As you may know, I am part of a running group for cancer survivors called "Cancer to 5K." Helen was a member of the team the season before I joined. By the time I joined, her Leukemia had come back, so I never got to meet her. I came close one time as I drove to Johns Hopkins to visit her. But, when I got to the hospital, I was told she was released the day before. That was the way it was for her for her until eventually she spent her last several months there.

Last month, after all the clinical trials were exhausted, she decided to go on Hospice. That was a Thursday. She passed Friday. Helen was 21.

I didn't know what to expect at a wake. It was held at an Irish Pub in Arlington where she used to hostess. The pub closed the entire place to the public just for Helen's party and there were a lot of people there. One I met flew in from London. I sat at a table with other "Cancer to 5K" team members. While we chatted, Helen's mom sat down and greeted us. She asked, "who are you?" :-) After we told her, she said that Helen loved running with the team. She would work as a hostess until 2am Friday nights and be at the runs at 8am Saturday mornings.

In the back of the pub, there were lots of photos of Helen growing up. One, in particular, stood out to me, so I asked about it. It was her giving "the bird" to the camera. I thought it odd to put that in the display. Her mom proceeded to tell us a story...

Helen would ALWAYS do that to the camera. Their refrigerator was covered in photos like that. The Friday she passed, the Hospice nurse said, "the only thing keeping her alive is the ventilator. If we turn that off, it will take about an hour for the oxygen to leave her body." (That sentence hit me hard and I was amazed at how easily her mother was telling this story.) So, they turned off the ventilator. It was over two hours later and she was still breathing. The nurse said it was due to her youth. "No," her mom replied. "It's because she never did anything she was told to do." Helen's brother started laughing, but it wasn't at the joke. He told his mom to look at Helen's hand. Helen was giving the finger. She died a couple minutes later at 1:51pm. Her mom pointed out this time because 151 was Helen's favorite shot of alcohol.

So, at the family and friends gathering at the house, they purchased a couple bottles of 151. But then realized, they didn't have any shot glasses. No worries...what they did have was PLENTY of pill cups from all the meds she had to take. So, they all did a shot to Helen out of a pill cup. :-)

Up yours, Helen!