35 Years

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My father was born on this day, March 21st, in Cambridge, MA. Today would have been his 99th birthday. That seems like such a large number but it is what it is.

We lost him 35 years ago to Mesothelioma and I still miss him every day. While I miss him and wish so badly he could have seen my kids grow up and met my better half, I also thank him every day for all he gave me.

I was only 23 when he passed and unknown to me at the time, he had already left his mark on me. His moral values, love of the outdoors and his passion for teaching (coaching) among many other great qualities he possessed, run deep through every part of my soul. I am a better version of him. That may sound a bit vain but I think every good father wants his children to be better versions of him. I know that is the case with me, 100%.

I was not an easy child to raise and I have always been regretful of what a handful I was as a teen. That being said, it was a necessary part of the process in my personal evolution. I made mistakes, lots of mistakes, and eventually I started to learn from them. I have come to realize, especially over the past year, that the journey is what is important. It is not about reaching a specific point in our lives but rather all about how we got there. All those experiences, people and places are what form you over time. Never a completed project, rather always a work in progress that hopefully gets clearer as time passes.

So thanks Dad for giving me so much more than you every thought you did. Even though it has been 35 years, I am still learning from you and I am forever grateful.

4 Miles

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I hit a bit of  a milestone last weekend as Kathy and I took a long walk to enjoy the very unwinter like weather on Sunday. We headed down to Starbucks which is 2 miles from home. The weather was a bit chilly but chilly compared to a spring day not a February day. We kept a decent pace (for me it was decent but slow for Kathy) of about 18 minutes per mile. The last time I attempted a long walk I was in the mid 20’s per mile so this was progress!

Several factors weighed in that made the walk a success. First, I did not have to stop several times on the way to Starbucks to stretch as I did on the last long attempted walk. Also there was little to no discomfort in my thigh and I actually felt as close to “normal” as I have since surgery.

I did get a reality check when I tried to jog across the street and my left leg just would not cooperate. A fast walk was the best I could muster. Declines are still a challenge as the lack of muscle in my quad makes it difficult to be stable walking downhill.

All in all, it was a good step (excuse the pun) forward. 4 miles overall and we kept a decent pace of 18 minutes per mile. Still holding out hope for a day of skiing but my lack of ability to handle the slopes may be a moot point as mother nature decided to take a vacation from winter this year. There is not one part of my yard that has any snow left on it and the ski areas are struggling with the unseasonably warm weather. Last year the snow it was measured in feet and this year, nothing.

Clean Scans

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The MRI and CT scans both came back clean. Great news but not unexpected. Dr Ferrone was great as usual. I asked about the continued discomfort in my thigh and lack of mobility. Short answer is he took a lot of muscle with the tumor. While it will fill in some, the reality is I may never get back to 100%. 

As long as I don’t have pain, I can push myself to get stronger. That will be the plan moving forward. Spend more time in the weight room, walk more miles and be as active as possible. Still have the goal of at least one day of skiing this winter.  

Follow up Today

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I made the all too familiar trek to Brigham & Women’s early this morning for my 2nd CT & MRI follow up. 

I stopped by the radiation unit to say hi to Jackie and Amy. Jackie was in and it was great to see her. Kate, my onocoligist’s nurse was also there so it was a mini reunion! They are such caring people and so good at what they do. 

Amy was not in but I ran into her on my way to the CT scan. I brought a Binkeez blanket for her baby who was born in August. She was thrilled with and it was great to catch up. We both shed a couple of tears as I explained where the blanket came from and that my team will be delivering 29 Binkeez to children at local hospitals over the next few months. Check out Binkeezforcomfort.org 

CT is in the books and they hit vein first try. The contrast fluid and injection make me feel a little light headed but it’s probably more the lack of food. Heading to Pats for a late breakfast since I had to fast for the CT. 

MRI is at 11 and then I see Dr Ferrone at 1pm. Hoping for more good news on the scans!! 

Progress? 

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I would have hoped that after 6 months (yes I know my surgeon said 12-18 months for a full recovery) things would have progressed a bit further. The stiffness and moderate swelling are a daily occurrence and running is still way out of reach. My hope of hitting the slopes for a few turns this winter is also not looking good. 

I still don’t have full control of the muscles in my left leg when I am walking downhill or down stairs as I was reminded again this morning. Heading down the stairs to the garage, I mis-stepped and fell down the last 3 steps and ended up on my backside. No major injuries (other than my pride) and I got up, dusted myself off and headed to work. 

No worse for wear but it was a stark reminder of how far I still have to go in my recovery. While being cancer free is sooo much better than the alternative it is still frustrating to a certain degree. 

Thankful!

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As I am looking back on 2015 it brings back a wide range of emotions. I could easily view it as one of the worst years of my life. Diagnosed with cancer, became unemployed and had a ton of stress heaped on me. But was it really such a negative year?

I think that I have grown so much over the last 12 months and the adversity I faced actually fostered that growth. There was a refocusing of priorities that has changed who I am and how I see the world.  It became very clear that family was the most important thing in my life followed closely by good health. Without both, there is no quality of life.

Every step of the way, I had Kathy by my side. Supporting me unconditionally and being my rock. I know for sure it would have been a lot harder, if not impossible, to get thru this year without her. My kids, my own and inherited thru Kathy, have also been a source of inspiration and support. I am blessed to have 5 wonderful young adults (the word “children” just doesn’t apply anymore)  in my life that I am so proud of every day.

I am thankful for everything I have in my life and I look forward to what 2016 will bring. There is a saying that states, what doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger. I know now there is a lot of truth in that statement.

 

Getting Back on Track

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Yesterday was an unusually mild December day in New England so Kathy and I took advantage and headed out for a walk. Prior to my surgery we used to walk to Starbucks or the local Market Basket and back on a regular basis. The Starbucks round trip is about 4 miles and I have not felt up to that much walking all at one time until yesterday.

Other than some really tight hamstrings, the walk went very well. I had to stop a couple of times to stretch as my leg muscles tightened up but that was too be expected. We hung out at Starbucks and had a coffee/tea for a little while and I took advantage of the time by really stretching both hamstrings. That made all the difference as the walk back was much easier than the walk there. I still have some momentary balance issues as my body adjusts to a lack of muscle mass in my left leg and my knee “barks” at me once in awhile if I misstep.

All in all, it was pretty encouraging that I was able to make the 4 miles without too much trouble. I need to keep up the walking and continue to build back what the cancer took. The next goal will be carving some turns on a mountain somewhere in New England by January or February!