Thursday, November 5, 2015

So Where Have I Been Hiding? -- November 5, 2015

Over the last six years I have really enjoyed writing this blog and it seems like a few of you have actually enjoyed reading my thoughts. I find it a bit humorous that I have found some small success with my writing because I was never thought of as a great English student. I was always a math guy and English was something I had to take if I wanted to graduate to the next thing. About the only teacher that I ever had that thought I was a good English student was Sister Mary Immaculata who was my eighth grade teacher. For some reason she thought I was special, even having me sing in front of the class a few times.

The rest of my education included more English that I had to suffer through including reading The Odyssey and several Shakespeare creations where I couldn’t even understand the language. After graduating from college, I never wrote anything of significance until a soon-to-be friend of mine asked me to write an article or two for his new website,  I had been a fan of the University of Dayton sports teams for a number of years and had penned a few thoughts on a listserv that was utilized for UD fans to share their thoughts with other fans.

Chris “Notre Dame Fan” Rieman had started and was writing every article himself along with doing everything else associated with being a webmaster.  He asked a few of us if we would like to put some words down and see if anyone cared. It generally doesn’t take me too long to throw out 1,000 words (which Julia, an internet expert, thinks is too long) so I thought why not? One thing led to another and I was soon writing more than one article a week including extensive interviews with players, coaches, administrators and even a Basketball Hall of Fame coach, Don Donoher.

I had more fun with those interviews than I could ever imagine. The Donoher interview was one that looked like it wouldn’t even come off but eventually he relented and said he could spend a little time with me. That “little time” turned into four hours in his living room where he took me through his life’s triumphs and tragedies including the death of his son. When I finished writing the article it totaled over 10,000 words and I was off and running.

When I got sick in 2009, I didn’t know what to do. I had cancer and the internet told me that I would likely be dead in 27 months.  I did my best to stay positive but it wasn’t easy coming from parents that had both died of cancer. I knew that I would eventually contract some type of cancer but I certainly didn’t feel it would happen like this and this soon. I was lucky enough to have a few friends at the time that seemed interested in my well being and Julia thought I could keep them informed by writing a blog.

Shortly after I was diagnosed, I started putting together my thoughts. Since I didn’t start it on day one, I had to go back and write the first two weeks at one time. I was very clinical and matter of fact. Julia read the first draft and basically said this was not me. This is not who I am and not how I write.  She made me go back and make it more like who I am. The goal was to be real and funny where I could be but still make it informative. Hopefully I have hit the mark in the hundred or so entries I have written.

I slowed down quite a bit last year only writing three blogs. The driving force behind that was I was doing so well, I didn’t have much to report and seemed to have lost the edge on what to write if I wasn’t writing about being sick. I wrote an article in November about Brittany Maynard and her choice to choose the time and means of her death.

Then I got sick again.

This time, I didn’t know what was wrong. I had been fighting something that the doctors could not solve. I had daily headaches, a low grade fever, low energy level and the feeling of having the flu. It started in early December and I thought I would kick it quickly, but it just kept hanging on and on. I went to my family physician and he prescribed a Z-Pack. I took that and nothing happened. Two weeks later, I made a return trip and he prescribed a steroid and different antibiotic. Ten days later, no change.

During this time I was popping both Tylenol and Excedrin like they were M&M’s. Understand that because of my damaged kidneys I shouldn’t be taking either of them. I would wake up with a headache, fight that all day and begin to see a fever late in the afternoon. Both of these forbidden medicines were getting me through but I knew I was rolling the dice with my kidneys.

The thing that was starting to dig at me was the headaches. Since I gave up iced tea and artificial sweeteners six years ago (two more things that were not good for my kidneys) I rarely had a headache and now I had multiple every day. After a while you start thinking the worst. Was there something growing in my brain? People that have transplants have a significantly greater chance of secondary cancers, including brain cancer.

I continued to stay positive but after weeks of no improvement, your brain starts to wander and occasionally the negative thoughts start to force their way in. Despite the lack of progress, I decided to try my doctor one more time. This time they started mentioning things like meningitis and Valley Fever. (Valley Fever, or Coccidioidomycosis, is caused by fungi only found in the soil in specific areas and can be stirred into the air by anything that disrupts the soil, such as farming, construction and wind. The fungi can then be breathed into the lungs and cause the disease to spread.) I thought they were grabbing at straws but what the heck, I can do another blood test and x-ray. The results of the x-ray was available later that day and it was negative for Valley Fever and I moved off that possibility. I had several of the symptoms but missed several too. I went to a company function during the weekend of my birthday and I had several suppliers tell me how bad I was looking. You know things are bad when people tell you how bad you look despite the fact it is your birthday.

A week later, I get a call from the doctor’s office and I did, indeed, have Valley Fever. I not only had it, I had a very significant case of it. I was put on a regimen of Fluconazole which fights the disease but has side effects that mimic Valley Fever. I was told I would be on the “cure” for six to twelve months. After several weeks, my blood work improved but I still felt miserable. I really had no choice but to continue with the routine. After five months on Fluconazole, it started damaging my kidneys. We experimented with going on and off the medicine and it became clear that it was the culprit. Luckily I was far enough along that I could stop the medicine. It was now July before I started feeling better.

Over the last couple of weeks I have had a return visit to all of my doctors, Infectious Disease, Multiple Myeloma and kidneys.  Thankfully everything is looking good.  The Valley Fever is not improving but it isn’t getting worse either.  As a result I will be able to stay off of any medication and hope that my body does a better job of eradicating the fungi than the side effects of the anti-fungals.  The MM is almost undetectable. One of the two readings was a little out of normal range but the ratio is excellent. My kidneys are back to their normal mediocrity but that is OK by me.

As a result of what was happening earlier this year, I had not been in a writing mood. Lucky (or unlucky) for you, I am back and have a few blogs in mind talking about my summer, just like elementary school. Hopefully my writing will be as good as Sister Immaculata envisioned.


  1. Well I am happy that you will continue writing. Honoustly you can make a career out of this. Reading te battle against the big c was interesting bit I tremendously enjoyed reading your stories about the family . A wonderful way to stay updated on the boys this side of the world. You have made Sister Immaculata proud.

  2. Good to hear from you. I have been wondering how it's been going. Normally, I'm with Julia on length, but I am interested in what you have been going through and I am sure your other friends are also. You write well, don't worry about length. (Write more often!)

  3. Thanks for the shout out Mad Dog. Dont know how I hired you for so cheap. The ND Fan reference hurt. Glad you are back on the mends from your battle with Mother Nature. The body is the best healer, but the body works slow. But, it will eventually flush your garbage out. Speaking of kidneys, my spring/summer was miserable too -- kidney stones. I first started showing typical symptoms in April. I figured Id suffer and pass it in 2-3 weeks. I ended up gutting it out through SEPTEMBER until I lost my mind from the constant pain and sleep deprivation and saw the Urologist and got a CT scan. Unfortunately I owe the first $1500 on my insurance and I spent that in one day on the CT scan but I couldnt take it anymore. And of course I passed the stone about 4 weeks later after more agony. But I had no idea if it would be 4 more days or 4 more months until the scan said it was about 80% of the way traveled. Thank God its over. Worst spring/summer ever. I got nothing done. Hope you are taking good care of Julia and staying away from the double bacon cheeseburgers.