Thanks for visiting my blog page and . . . today is Day #113 of my adventure . . .
Greetings of the Season!
Merry Christmas, if that is how you celebrate this season.
And greetings to you if you celebrate this holiday time of the year in some other meaningful way.
And, I also want to wish you a Happy, Healthy and Abundant 2020. I hope the new year fulfills all your expectations.
Now, I'm going to let you all in on something I've kept pretty much undercover for the past four months. Only a very few folks know about what I'm going to reveal.
As you have probably noticed, I have been pretty quiet during this period. I have not been traveling as I normally would be. I have not been posting on Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, PM or email. I did actively post on my blog, but that was about it.
I have not made this information public because, frankly, there are so many other individuals I know who have been experiencing their own challenges, especially medical challenges. However, in less than two weeks I'll be undergoing something that I feel extremely confident I'll pull through without any question in my mind. Unfortunately, it is very serious and, as we all know, there are no guarantees in life.
On January 3, 2020, I'll be undergoing extensive surgery for the removal of about half of my esophagus and about the same amount of my stomach. The reason for this surgery is to remove an extensive stomach and esophageal mass (cancer). This cancer has been growing inside me for about five years during which I experienced no pain and no symptoms. I still have experienced no pain and my symptoms of the cancer are still not noticeable. However, during the week of August 16th, I was struck down, unconscious, rushed to an Emergency Room by ambulance. During that week, my vital signs including blood pressure, volume of blood, hemoglobin and heart rate (due to internal bleeding) showed, according to clinical charts, that I should have been dead.
It was during that same week that I was coordinating an annual conference known as the Veteran Speakers Retreat that I've coordinated for 15 of the past 18 years. The event occurred as scheduled with virtually few glitches (or none that the participants noticed) thanks to my team of leaders. While I spent the first half of the conference in a hospital bed 25 minutes away in the observation section of another ER, I was in contact by phone and text with my leaders. Then when I was finally stable enough to be released, I returned to the hotel to continue my responsibilities for the last half of the event.
Within a few days after the event I had assembled a “dream team” of oncology doctors at the new Winchester (VA) Medical Center, had met with them and a treatment protocol was developed and implemented within another week. So, to date, I've experienced two months of aggressive chemotherapy and radiation treatments. I lost a considerable amount of weight, but have regained some of it since the treatments were completed at the end of October. I've been recovering since that time to prepare for the upcoming surgery.
I was fortunate and because I was in pretty good health and physical condition when this all began, I did not experience most of the typical side effects of the treatments I underwent. My major side effects have been massive fatigue, extremely low energy and a loss of physical strength and stamina. I dealt with an inability to ingest food and fluid for a few weeks. Those have passed. There are a few other issues, but again, not important enough to consider serious side effects. And, I'll eventually recover from the fatigue, energy and strength issues.
|Photo taken two years ago the|
the end of November before I
had cataract surgery in both eyes
|Photo taken today without glasses|
no longer needed) and after two
months of chemo, radiation and
The major surgery is not an option with the cancer that I have. It is, in many ways, similar to pancreatic cancer in that it is seldom detected early enough to be effectively treated for a long-term cure. Most patients are diagnosed with Stage 4 gastric and/or esophageal metastatic cancer with other organs already impacted. Mine, by Divine Intervention, to my belief, is Stage 3 and all the CT and Pet scans indicate there has been no spread anywhere else in my body. However, if I don't have this surgery, my five-year survival prognosis is 0%. Because of my physical and health condition (other than cancer) and the fact that my cancer is classified as Stage 3, my five-year survival prognosis is much better than the average person with these kinds of cancers. That being said, most people with Stage 3, and even some Stage 4, breast, prostate, lung and other cancers have several times better 5-year survival prognosis than my current prognosis.
The good thing is that as my surgical oncologist and I were discussing the upcoming surgery about two weeks ago, he also said that these are statistics based on thousands of cases over a significant time span. Medical science and procedures have progressed and advanced exponentially over the past couple of decades. So, each case, each individual, will have different outcomes. That being said, I've always told people I'm working on a 45-year life plan. I'm still on my 45-year plan. I'm simply looking at this “adventure” as a detour.
My recovery period after the surgery will be fairly long (months) with regular returns to the cancer center for follow-ups and to watch for any recurrence. This means my nomadic trekking and camping lifestyle is on hold for the foreseeable future. I have some “back burner” projects I'm pulling up to keep me busy and active through this recovery period. I'll be actively putting the final touches on the newly created Veteran Speakers Network, the parent of the Veteran Speakers Retreat and beginning the planning for the 2020 event in August. And, of course, I'm anxious to regain my autonomy and independence. I'm staying in the small town of Keyser, WV by the graciousness and generosity of my long-time friend, Carolyn. She has been AWESOME! I'm about 70 miles from the Winchester Cancer Center. It's a quiet and relaxing atmosphere here in this pretty valley in WV.
I will likely not be too anxious for communication during the first couple weeks after surgery. And, as many people know, my “official address” is in South Dakota. However, any snail mail that goes there will not reach me for at least a couple weeks and sometimes three weeks. But, I'll gladly receive emails at my email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org addresses. I can be texted or called at 540-247-8300. You can PM me on Facebook. I will also be willing to take video calls using Facebook and Google Duo, but probably not until February when I should begin feeling (and looking) human again. The street address to snail mail me at in WV is 264 Maple Ave., Keyser, WV 26726.
I value your friendship. I, of course, will appreciate your positive thoughts and vibes and prayers. I fully expect to pull through this surgery with flying colors. I already had major surgery for an aggressive case of prostate cancer and I'm now a 17-year survivor of that cancer. So, I plan to be around to continue on my 45-year plan. My son and friend, Carolyn, will be with me through the surgery and for the recovery period immediately after the surgery. I will have one of them put something up on my Facebook page to indicate my condition after the surgery.
And, just in the infinitesimal chance, I may not be around after this surgery, I wish for you to Live Free and Be Happy. EH