On Melanoma, Weed, Jimmy Carter, and Zombie Beavers

Some interesting news this week regarding melanoma and weed…okay, actually, this is a little bit of false advertising…I know-I know because like I live in Colorado, and I think Jerry Garcia should have run for president (dunno maybe he still could, might be better, cryogenics or Randal Koene save us), and like, um, I live in Colorado (oh wait I said that already, ahuh, ahuh), that you thought I was talking about the art supplies, the sticky icky, the wacky tobacky, the weed man, Jeff Spicoli’s perpetual homework assignment from Mr. Hand man.

The news was actually regarding melanoma and seaweed; or more specifically a sugar called L-fucose which is found in seaweed (especially) brown kelp, mushrooms and some seeds. L-fucose was demonstrated to slow down cell metastasis (division) and spread in melanoma cells (Melanoma and L-fucose). I’ll likely be adding more kelp to the rotation in the pantry; or, maybe next time in the area, I’ll go for a swim at Downtown Aquarium in Denver and do some grazing at the bottom of the tank. That won’t scare any kids off or anything.

Of-course these results with seaweed and melanoma were demonstrated in mice; who knows if that will translate into positive results for humans. To verify that we will likely have to wait ten years and for a major pharmaceutical company to spend a billion dollars on research and development and for the FDA to approve…unless of-course you are Jimmy Carter and/or a possible member of the american aristocracy and little things like FDA approvals do not necessarily apply to you.

In the last six months he announced that he had melanoma and it had spread to various parts of his body, including his brain.  In turn, it was noted that he would be receiving gamma knife and Keytruda.

It’s the Keytruda part that got lodged under my craw, a little.


Keytruda is not yet FDA approved for first line treatment for patients diagnosed with advanced, Stage IV melanoma. They are working on that and it should happen soon, but not yet. Keytruda is only approved as a second line treatment. In other words its supposed to be given to people only after they have received other interventions such as yervoy or chemotherapy first. If and when they don’t respond, then they are allowed to get it. That’s not just a nice-to-have, its the law. Wonder what any of those families who have ever petitioned the pharmaceutical companies and/or the FDA to get a medicine before approved (and were denied) for themselves or their loved ones would say?

Okay, this is may be unfair. Dunno. Dunno the whole story. These are things conspiracies are made. That’s always-always-always possible.

For the record, I have nothing against former President Carter. Think he’s in a good place, as elder statesman, to make truthful statements in the media and he certainly has availed himself of this…referring here to his recent quip about US politics becoming an oligarchy controlled by private interest groups and unlimited political bribery (Carter and Oligarchy). Probably some truth to that.

And its cool how much he appears to be doing with his charity and humanitarian work in the world, and has been for a long time. Probably has done more in a few hours more than I will ever do in a lifetime. Don’t know what he’s had to put up with or go through to accomplish this, never walked in his shoes.

And its cool he received the same treatment I did and is doing great (.Washington Post: Jimmy Carter tells Sunday school class that he has no signs of cancer).

All good man.


How did he get Keytruda before FDA approval? Did he receive yervoy or chemo first? Or was there a special dispensation? If the answer is yes does this maybe seem a little inconsistent or, perhaps, oligarchical. Ish?

It occurred to me after getting a little hot under the collar that the reality to cut it out.

In case hadn’t noticed lately, I’m not the alpha and omega of the universe. I don’t know all the rhymes and reasons for why things roll they way they do. I mean really Jerry, why did you have to die in 1995, four years after I got sober and was still too crazy to once again enjoy your music? And why is there only one word for the word ‘thesaurus’ or ‘abbreviation’ such a long word? Why does sour cream have an expiration date? Why doesn’t Tarzan have a beard? Why don’t fish get cramps after eating? These are mysteries I will never be able to solve. I could try but they might, in turn, only create useless and futile conspiracy theories.

So the best option seems to be gratitude today. Gonna remember this while I’m chowing on my seaweed, sipping on some turmeric tea, or popping some bifidobacterium (The Atlantic: 11/2015 – Immunotherapy cancer drugs depend on gut microbes), FDA approvals, inconsistencies and frailties of people and life, or whatever, be damned.

Finally, I will take solace in knowing that none of this really matters anyway.  In case you didn’t know the world ended last year. In some kind of bizarre, mass Jacob’s Ladder scenario, we haven’t realized it yet.

Here’s proof that Nostradamus was right, that the world did end last year, as  heralded by the release Zombeavers trailer in 2014.

Now perhaps we can only be saved now by a Fast Times sequel: WeWantAFastimesAtRidgemontHighSequel

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Opposite work

Today, I’m relatively okay with the prospect of dying from cancer. Yet I choose to believe that I’m going to live. Those two ideas make strange bedfellows. They don’t really make sense as a combo meal, kind of like broccoli and Cheetos. Yet somehow or another they work gastronomically and I’m okay with some or all of it not entirely making sense, just for today (thank you Stuart Smally).

There wasn’t always this truce in place. It wasn’t always this way – believe-you-me friends and fellow freaks. The biggest brawls I’ve had since being diagnosed with cancer have been with myself. This particular fight, between the dying and living camps, escalated to epic proportions some time ago. We’re talking a bloody cage match- Ricky Rude vs. The Ultimate Warrior at WWF Summer Slam 1990 or Hulk Hogan and Andre the Giant smashing folding chairs over heads- dimensions.

On the one hand I really wanted to believe that no matter what happened everything would be okay. I didn’t want to walk around pissed off, berating doctors, kicking puppies, punching babies, or pushing old ladies down stairwells, bitter and depressed to the bitter end. If anything I wanted to be an example to my boys and friends of how to comport oneself, even if I felt like the least qualified human to do so and even if things didn’t end up going my way.

Who knows, I told myself…Maybe dying would be the very thing that pushed Connor and Derek to become world famous musicians of the legendary band “Flux Capacitor,” in between stints as future NHL hall of famers, after graduating from MIT with doctorates in rocket brain science surgery and advanced metaphysical ministry? And Sarah, not to be left out, would fall madly in love and re-marry the next billionaire philanthropist, who’s fortune 100 company would simultaneously cure toe fungus and cancer (oh the irony!) with a wine derived entirely from polluted melted polar ice cap H2O which, in turn, would prove safe for hopeless alcoholics to guzzle responsibly (damn you cruel irony, damn you to Hades) while simultaneously removing those stubborn coffee and pets stains on carpets. 

Okay, so things maybe wouldn’t come to pass in such monumental ways – hey but maybe they would, ya never know – but you get the point. My passing would yield, despite the hardship sure to be in attendance, a net positive result.

Diametrically opposed to acceptance of dying was the insistent thought/desire/hope/belief in living.  As I tossed east, west, north and south in bed at 2 a.m. or screamed on the trail at 7 a.m. (much to the amusement and/or trepidation of my fellow runners/walkers who were likely thinking “Just smile and wave (and run away) boys, smile and wave (and run away)”), it had to be this way.  I had to be healed no matter what. Belief in healing has been well documented with a load of stats and studies that suggest positive attitudes are a key ingredient in any surviving cancer concoction; and beyond that, as far as I was concerned, it was also an intrinsic article of faith that I better try to cultivate.

So these two concepts waged war, using me as fertile punching grounds, leading to sleepless nights, unpleasant drives to work, surly, bad moods, near puppy kicking and people pushing incidents etc.  The best I could do was to try not to think about either one, dying or living, good or bad, right or wrong, pro or against, for either option. I had to wave “bye” to both for a time.

Here one of my favorite Seinfield episodes comes to mind. Its where George realizes that because absolutely none of his little plans and designs have ever worked, he should do the exact opposite of whatever his mind tells him to do.

@ 25 years ago this kind of approach to life began to make some serious sense. I was busted up pretty good at the time. Nothing was working right.

A friend used to like to say, whenever the subject of me and “brokenness” came up, “You know Lee the only thing that needs to change in your life is, EVERYTHING.” He’d follow that up with a good laugh, “”Har-har-har,” which I didn’t really find all that hilarious … 0-;

But I eventually realized that he and Costanza were actually onto the good stuff and I better start practicing the rule of opposites.

Doing it wasn’t easy or fun. In fact I found opposite work colossally hard; especially because it involved taking control of my thinking; or at least, continually redirecting it. As that same loving a-hole with the quote and the laugh above used to say, “Lee, you’re not responsible for the thoughts that come in your head, but you are responsible for what you do with them.” I wanted to quit everyday, a couple hundred-hundred times an day, hour, minute, second and do some serious binge thinking.

As it turns out, perceived suckiosity might actually have been a good sign. You know something along the lines of that old adage, “If it’s not hard it’s not worth doing.” Or as Dave Goggins in The 40% Rule: A Navy SEAL’s Secret to Mental Toughness says, “If it doesn’t suck we don’t do it.” Word.

The point is that sometimes a thing or things don’t really have to make sense, right now. Maybe they will later. That’s not a requirement for success or meaning or whatever.

Back to near present time frames, by letting go of the living or dying battle for awhile, I eventually came to accept them both, together, of being two sides of the same meal of whatever experience I was having.

Walter Murch, one of the mad geniuses behind The Godfather and Apocalypse Now, is not only a legendary film editor but a serious science nerd and meta physicist. I like what he had to say in recent article from Nautilus,

“…it’s very presumptuous of us to think that we are the end of it. Yes, we can perceive everything that we can perceive, and we can perceive downward pretty efficiently thanks to science…but constitutionally, I would say, it’s impossible for us to scientifically perceive upward. We have intuitions about that, which is the whole idea of religion…There is a kind of science in the Bible of, don’t eat pork, don’t eat shellfish, these things, behavioral stuff; but what are these based on? We now know what they’re based on and we can see the larger picture because we’re further down the road, so my hunch is that, I mean it’s a hunch, but a belief is that there are many levels beyond us and I don’t know what those levels are but I know that they are there…”  

So the point is it is possible to not really understand something prior to believing or accepting it. That does not make it any less real, missing or not there.

Today I’m okay with dying but I’m also believing I’m gonna live.

Okay. Done. Peace. Truce. May the schwartz be with you.

Back to dinner.


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Support to Skin of Steel on Giving Tuesday

There are a lot of good reasons to support Skin of Steel.

My two favorites are:

  1. The tissue banks they are establishing will lead to major advances in melanoma treatment. Similar tissue banks have led to major advances in breast, colon and lung cancer. This same approach will work with regard to melanoma research and advancement of life saving treatment options for the thousands of patients like me.
  2. Susan Steel probably saved my life with the information and sage advice provided three years ago. This is indicative of the organization. The information SoS provides is accurate, to the point, and, as mentioned, potentially life saving.

Please visit SoS for more information.

Thanks for checking them out!


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D.Vadar, new vocab words and other alien life forms

Had copious time in the car driving to/fro Wisconsin this past week.  Here are some personal favorites from phone surfing:

Darth Vadar caught in modern ennui

Pawel Kadysz is in the process of capturing 365 days of Vadar doing regular stuff. More from Kadyz here (he’s shooting one pic per day). Hopefully Darth can appreciate the everyday activities before the “Force Awakens” and his ensnarement in epic tractor beam hoopla arriving this Christmas.



taking notes

Wonder if we will get to see Darth doing something “mundane” but with more sinister twist – eg jettisoning empty coke can from the his X-34 Landspeeder on I-70, while texting his dark apprentice a reminder to DVR the Oakland Raiders game. Gonna send a request to Kadysz.

darth reading and driving






Texting and Driving

Sarah and I were astounded a few times at some of the driving practices on the road.  I’m not claiming to be a perfect driver by any means but it was almost comical to see the swerving and speed changes of those otherwise occupied with other activities than driving, while driving.  Had heard, via hearsay, about dangers but had to look it up just for “fun.” Didn’t cite source below as the sources are prolific.

  • The National Safety Council reports that cell phone use while driving leads to 1.6 million crashes each year.
  • Nearly 330,000 injuries occur each year from accidents caused by texting while driving.
  • 1 out of every 4 car accidents in the United States is caused by texting and driving.
  • Texting while driving is 6x more likely to cause an accident than driving drunk.
  • Answering a text takes away your attention for about five seconds. Traveling at 55 mph, that’s enough time to travel the length of a football field.
  • Texting while driving causes a 400% increase in time spent with eyes off the road.

Seems like more reason to support Google and others efforts to realize self-driving automobiles.  Imagine if they get that right and speed limits could increase as a result of better cyber drivers…200 mph speed limit for automated vehicle drivers only…and 5 hours to Wisconsin or Chicago from Colorado?  Game changing. Check out this fantastic article on the veritable “arms” race between Apple, Google, Tesla and other big car manufacturers to be the first to market self driving automobiles.

In the meantime, there are some different offerings for curbing cell phone use and more specifically texting while driving such as cellcontrol and last year Apple was talking about a new patent to do something similar (not sure where this is currently, maybe getting ready come come to market so news is quiet?).

The texting stats reminds me, kinda, of motorcycle stats…and just glad I did not look this up before we spent hours on the ATVs over the last week.

Then again its all too easy to fall into an “everything causes cancer and/or leads to dismemberment and injury” mentality. Here’s the current list of current and known carcinogens in the name of collective mass hysteria,or not…although I defy you to figure out what half of the list consists of without looking them up with a dictionary or encyclopedia or cell phone (while driving of-course).

New Words

I wish there was a good word for the aforementioned figures on texting, “Gobsmacking” comes to mind but, um, that’s not really a word. Then again, neither are these words, officially yet anyways, but still righteous.

24+ Brilliant New Words We Should Add To A Dictionary

My personal favorites have got to be “cellfish” and “nerdjacking”…the latter could probably summarize 98% of content on 98braintumors.com

Other Aliens

Finally, realize this was “so last week on Facebook” but wanted to re-post this masterpiece from my friend Paul G. Altogether a pretty good likeness I’d say…though the chin could be a few feet longer and now I’m going to have to eat his brains for revealing my identity.




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$10 for the whole thing

Man!  Around twelve years ago I started hitting the heavy bag and lifting weights.  Even though I grew up playing a variety of sports (until I got, err sidetracked with less healthy activities in high school) I had previously resisted pumping iron as being a little too meat-headish. It was therefore a pleasant surprise how much I thoroughly enjoyed getting pumped up (okay sorta, genetics has an unfortunate hand in this) while listening to intellectually stimulating works like ‘Break Stuff’ (yeah Limp Biskit).  With weights I discovered a totally fun, healthy obsession- the perfect activity for the off-running days which provided the same mind slowing, endorphin buzz along with ample justification for supersizing my McD’s french fries.  The only draw back was that I had no clue what the hay I was doing – you know like proper form – and managed to tweak the hay out of my lower back.

It got so bad I considered putting the kibosh on activities like weights, running, combing hair, brushing teeth, and wearing deodorant.  Okay I may have been using the lower back issues as a mere excuse to loose myself of those last three oppressive facets of modern living; but actually, what really bothered me was trouble doing key activities such as standing for more than 10 minutes at a trade conference for work or tossing Connor and Derek’s cute diapered butts in the air (and yes, Social Services, catching him on the way down).

Thus started a gerbil treadmill-style journey involving doctors, chiropractors, yoga, acupuncture, hanging upside down by toenails, dunking myself in heart stopping ice baths, other, repeat, on and on for @ a year. Finally I found this book called ‘Pain Free’ by Pete Egoscue and I can say without a shadow of a doubt that’s the most brilliant 10 spot I have ever spent, EVER.  A ton of things resonated with that read, besides the fact that it worked to relieve the pain while resolving the problem within the next few days and weeks.

Egoscue took a novel approach as far as I was concerned.  He talked about how inactivity versus activity was actually the cause of a lot of lower back problems. Resting could be contraindicated for most conditions; that indeed sedentary/resting in life could yield a sore back, neck, arms etc in the first place. He also put the onus on the person suffering with the pain to do something about it.  In other words, he offered some specific things (in particular his incredibly simple “e-cises”) I could do to fix the problem…with the main ingredient being that I had to do the exercises. Righteousness! As soon as I got past the idea that someone else didn’t need to fix me (this wasn’t/isn’t always easy I think for the way we have been socialized to believe medical practices work…or maybe that’s just me, dunno), life and my back got exponentially better. His rally cry was not surprisingly, “Move or Die.” This meant, maybe, I didn’t have to stop doing some of the things I’d grown to enjoy so much.

All parts of the body he argued were interrelated as a ‘gestalt’ or system. Sitting at a desk 8 hours a day with poor posture could cause the inner thigh muscles to weak and atrophy which, in turn, could cause an over reliance on other muscles which in turn could lead to injury during a physically demanding scenario; hurting a knee could generate a situation where someone starts compensating with poor form when walking, which in turn could lead to a lower back injury (just like misaligned tires causing a variety of problems with car). Curiously enough as my back got better and my form improved, my knee started hurting. I remembered that I had hurt my knee weeks before the original back pain started (and imagined I had started running like Egor or the hunchback of ND, at least subtly, which in turn led to the back pain).

As I’ve said, those 10 bones proved totally brobdingnagian, gigantic even, the best ever spent! Kind of makes you think about the relative nature of money and “value.”  $10 bucks for bowling, a movie, or big salad vs. a life changing, pain relieving solution to a problem that plagued me for the last six months? Crazy relativism at work.  Anyways, I’ve become somewhat of Egoscue missionary- giving away, letting borrow, or sending the link for the book to anyone I hear has back pain.  People who follow his advice seem to get results. For severe cases, some of my friends have even gone to one clinics (in person or online) and also seem to benefit.

So why am I rambling about this? “What’s the point already Leland?”

Besides my need to proselytize Egoscue followers and the obvious parallels to my battle with cancer (research, potential for self-initiatives, experimentation and the belief in alternative ways to solve problems) I’ve been reading things in the news lately that give me pause to think again about health as that same kind of “Egoscuian” gestalt (or idea that natural systems should be viewed as a whole). Specifically as relates to ongoing treatment for melanoma.

PooFirst off, let’s introduce some good old fashioned poopy talk into this discussion…because you know what’s a 98braintumors.com blog if I can’t drop some poo-poo-caca into the diction every once in a while.

Researchers studying the effects of Pembrolizumab (chemical name), Keytruda(commercial name) or anti-PD-1 therapy (the name I was first introduced to during a compassionate use program in LA and am still receiving every three weeks) on mice found that mixing non-responding mice with mice that were responding caused the non-responders to get better.  What was the difference? Well, eating each other’s poop of-course!

The mice were sharing intestinal bacteria by virtue of munching each other’s doodoos. Researchers surmised that such bacteria (Bifidobacterium -the good kind of gut microbes) boost the body’s natural ability to produce cancer fighting t-cells; while also offering provocative explanations as to why certain therapies only work for small minorities of patients (the ones who might harbor good gut bugs). Increasing success therefore might include a study of a person’s inner environment and prescribing probiotics.

I used to swear my old dog Blake’s mission in life was to sample every conceivable form of “waste product” on the planet before he died. God rest his soul, he was highly successful at this. I’d call for him while running and he’d come dashing out of the bushes with a load of horse, deer, coyote, dog, human, whatever tumbling out his mouth. It used to seriously tick me off, especially then when he’d tried to give me a big lick back at the car. Here’s the old guy with Conn.  You know he was looking off camera at a big pile of that brown stuff!


Who knows though, maybe the old boy was on to something with these fecal transplants. The big goof lived to 13.5…like really old for a 100+ pound love monster.

Getting back on point, kinda, the influence of the microflora suggests there’s more to drug effectiveness than simply, um, drug effectiveness. It would be great if there was a silver bullet for everything that ails but such articles indicate that there are perhaps a complex series of mitigating factors at work.

Next let’s talk about vitiligo.  That’s what happens when you feel dizzy right? Um no. No wait, its a Hitchcock thriller my Dad made me watch but actually turned out to be cool? Nope.  We are talking vitiligo, as in that thing that M.J. (Michael Jackson) was famous for…among other things.  In hindsight it makes some sense why he chose to wear masks, if he worried about appearance.  I’ve got a mild case on my abdomen as well as chin, characterized by portions of skin losing color as a result of dead pigment cells. What’s interesting about this is that they have linked vitiligo to that drug I referred to above, Pembrolizumab.

Unlike traditional chemotherapy which indiscriminately kills cells (including the good ones). Its an immunotherapy or a drug administered to stimulate the body’s immune system to destroy cancer cells. Keytruda targets the PD-1 (programmed cell death protein 1) pathway or a protein that works essential as a shield to hide cancer cells from detection by t-cells.  T-cells are lymphocytes or white blood cells and are the soldiers pledged to the immune system.  When activated they have a variety of weapons (I think I read something 70 different weapons at their disposal – sweet!) to destroy viruses or mutant cell freaks like cancer. Sometimes however the process causes the t-cells to go after the wrong party. Researches, as relates to vitiligo, is caused by the T-cells targeting melanocytes or the cells responsible for skin color, causing vitiligo.

What’s cool here is that incidence of vitiligo in those receiving Keytruda is also linked to higher survivor rates.  As reported,

“A higher occurrence of vitiligo was associated with an objective (complete or partial) response to treatment (12 of 17 patients vs. 14 of 50 patients; P = .002). The median time to onset of vitiligo was 126 days from start of treatment.”

I had read this before regarding another immunotherapy (yervoy) and it made me feel better about a little skin discoloration; okay maybe even grateful…where before I might have been thinking “great, now this!” My attitude changed for the better. Finding out recently that Keytruda also included the same potential side effects reaffirmed such feelings.

But, in terms of thinking of things as “a whole” what I find even more interesting as I thought and looked at this further was some other research I had done related to vitiligo.  Name, it was reported that vitiligo is often a “comorbid” disorder meaning that it often occurs in conjunction with other disorders (20% of patients) such as thyroid disease, inflammatory bowel disease, pernicious anemia. I’ve had bouts with all three of these things in the last three years. Oh, and by the way, all of those things are listed as potential side effects for Keytruda.

So is the drug causing the issues or the disease?

With thyroid disorders there is pretty good data to suggest that increased levels of TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone) might provide fuel for melanoma growth (search for “Expression of thyrotropin-releasing hormone by human melanoma and nevi” and “Human melanoma cells express functional receptors for thyroid-stimulating hormone”). This data suggests if you have melanoma, you should think about a dosing supplemental thyroid hormone to suppress TSH production. Does melanoma place higher demands for TSH as part of the disease process?Furthermore I’ve read that thyroid issues can cause gut issues as well as low red blood cell counts /anemia.

But still haven’t answered the question.

Who are the chickens and who are the eggs in this story? Which ones come first?

Let’s review, cuz that might help:

  1. Pete Egoscue’s “Pain Free” kicks some serious back.
  2. My ol’ yellow dog liked to eat poop.
  3. So do white mice in cancer research studies (thank you for your service Rodents!).
  4. What’s happening in the intestinal tracks of those receiving immune therapy might make all the difference.
  5. M.J. probably wore masks cuz of vitiligo.
  6. Vitiligo might be a sign immunotherapy is working.
  7. Supplemental thyroid replacement hormone might be a great idea for melanoma patients.
  8. Vitiligo, thyroid disease, gastro intestinal and blood issues might all be caused by cancer treatment, by melanoma, or by each other…

Um, okay, that didn’t really help.

Truth is I don’t have the answers here. I know they are there, somewhere, skulking through the medical darkness, all at work somehow, just not sure how they fit together yet. My suspicion is its probably going to be obvious someday and pretty simple.  Kind of like the fish that swam around the entire ocean looking for water.

Tomorrow I have appointments- with the GI doc and then another infusion at the hospital. Gonna bring up all these parts and pieces and see what the experts think.  Gonna also choose to believe that we will eventually get to another “Egoscue-style solution” and a few simple c(cancer)-cises for $10, to fix the whole of everything.



PS. Its my high 20-something-ish installment of Keytruda tomorrow. Will also be applying some guided imagery to supplement the process. Thinking ill-tempered sharks with fricking laser beams attached to their heads are a great idea.

sharksdr. evil

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If you had told me when I was sobering up twenty four years ago, that I could feel good, great, or even euphoric just “being me” I would have laughed in your face. After croaking out a hallow Seth Rogen style laugh, would probably have accused you of suffering from Terminal Cornball Disorder (T.C.D.) and pattered my crazy self away as fast as my crazy paws could pitter. I mean people, as far as I was concerned, didn’t feel good, great or even “euphoric” without extra curricular help. Inconceivable!

Yet the word “euphoric” keeps popping into my head this week. Wikipedia says that euphoria is derived from Greek roots meaning “well” and “to bear.” I read this as “to bear wellness.” I had been thinking about euphoria more as an absence of pain. Yet when I considered the definition and my own ideas further, I realized they were the roughly same thing.  I mean pain and sickness are the antithesis or opposite of wellness right?  So being well and in a good state of health should be considered – and this made me sit up in my chair – a state euphoria.

Over the last few days I’ve found a few things that have helped tremendously with the ulcers and gastritis (inflamed insides).  We’re talking going 3-8 hours without the internal forest fire ablaze in my guts, entire nights spent actually sleeping (what a concept!), and riding to work with the radio off and feeling okay in my own skin. After spending the majority of the last 60 or 90 days living inside the flames, I can tell you that is indeed an apt word for the experience.

This leads me down a philosophical path. Sorry about this.  As with anything here, please take it or leave it as you will. But I’m wondering, “Is this meant to be our natural state?” In other words are we born to a state of euphoria?  Is it only over time, through bitter experience or heartbreak or sin or ego or whatever-you-want-to-call-it, that we forget how good it feels to just be well and breathing?  Having spent weeks in pain I can tell you today that I believe that’s the case.  I believe our natural state, if we are well (clearing away accumulated mental, emotional, spiritual, physical junk), is to feel okay or better than okay…you know like euphoric.

Alright so the fact that I realize these things probably means that I need to buy one of those bumper stickers that suggest “miracles happen.” I’ll slap it proudly next to the newly stamped, custom license plate reading, “T.C.D.”



PS.  We got our biopsies back from the doctors office today. Great news! Neither the pigmented ulcerous tissue nor the inflamed areas of my stomach are cancerous. This looks like a straight up GI problem. We still need to figure what’s causing the problem, but are relieved and grateful for this news.

P.S.S. If you have gastrointestinal issues and want to trade war stories or solutions let me know.  I’ve tried just about everything under the sun and am happy to exchange ideas.  Lately what works for me is slippery elm bark and marshmallow root (a revelation, you can google both) and smaller meals of mainly vegetables…I know sounds simply euphoric doesn’t it!


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It just doesn’t matter

Had an endoscopy on Thursday due to acute-bordering-on-chronic abdominal pain.  When I woke from general anesthesia I met with the doctor and he let me know that I was the proud Poppa of inflammation in my stomach and a bouncing baby ulcer.  Should have known better and been expecting this surprise- namely because I wasn’t expecting this surprise.

This is one of the near constant lessons of the entire experience, something along the lines of “just when you thought it was safe to go back in the water…”  There are so many twists and turns.  Whenever I’m convinced that I know what the next turn is going to be, there’s a twist in the turn.  Prior to the procedure I was pretty certain that the issue was going to be gallstones.  Those still may be in play, more tests are needed.  But for now we need to address the ulcer.

Needless to say, my reaction to the news was crappy. Like epic crappy.

“Normally,” the doctor said, “ulcerations in the stomach are pink.  You’re particular ulcer, Mr. Fay, is pigmented and due to your medical history this could be melanoma.”  That was all I needed to hear.  Felt like I was pinned to the bed. Next came my typical reaction to this sort of news. I don’t cry or talk or whatever.  I get mad.  And I was hurricane Katrina mad.

Now, we don’t know if it is a melanoma ulceration.  Won’t have biopsy for another couple of days.  What’s more, previous non cancerous ulcers in my gut have been pigmented.  So there is hope and reason to believe that this one will be the same.  Even if it is not something we want, we aren’t talking hundreds of tumors.  There may be more steps we can take.  But I wasn’t having any of that puerile hope stuff.

I know part of it is I am exhausted. Tired of butt kicking.  Didn’t eat for 4 days last week.  Can’t enjoy food – even my crappy sugar free, non-bacon and juicy burger eating, vegetarian diet, such as it is. Tired of trying to maintain some semblance of normalcy.  It’s a lot of pressure to be working, being a dad, hitting all these appointments, trying to be positive along with kind, patient, helpful yeah yeah yeah…  I guess these kinds reactions are to be expected.

But, got to say I’m sick of that too.  Maybe more sick of the sucky attitude than anything else.

The reason I’m bringing it up is because I woke up Friday morning and realized I had to at least try (emphasis on try) to snap out of it. That meant getting up a half hour early in the morning and spending some quiet time and attempting (emphasis on attempting) to get myself right.  It meant trying to attempt (equal emphasis on both trying and attempting) to be helpful to somebody even when I don’t feel like it.  None of that makes sense to me.

But I can tell you, three days later, it works.  I don’t know how or why but it does. Its better. I feel a little better. Have some acceptance going and realized that it doesn’t matter what happens if I insist on an ulcerous outlook.  The attitude is what will make or break whatever comes next and today I choose to believe that whatever comes next is good, thy will be done.

Dunno where these dorky references to “old” movies arise but Bill Murray has taken up a chant in my head.


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Yellow Thing of Cattle- Free to Good Home

The next time you are at a Chinese slaughterhouse, playing Texas Chainsaw massacre with cow cadavers, prepare to be strip searched. That’s right, remove your bloody jumpsuit, yellow rubber gloves, galoshes, spattered goggles and hard hat.  Open your mouth wide as they probe your alimentary canal (throat/digestive tract) , then bend over and do your best Fletch impersonation (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CfZiAiYNcI8) or pray the backscatter x-ray device is working instead.

Alright I don’t know if they go to quite these lengths, but I have read that the abattoirs in China, similar to diamond mines of Africa, carefully scrutinize outgoing workers. What the heck are they looking for? Cut of Kobe (beef not Bryant)?  No- that’s Japan. Flintstones sized slab of ribs? Not that either.

Their prize is far smaller contraband.  Round. Kind of rhymes with “falls” but, easy now, doesn’t start with “b.” We’re talking Niu-Huang, aka “yellow thing of cattle,” aka gallstones.  Some cultures, particularly in Asia, prize this bi-product of the meat industry as an “antipyretic”or substance that reduces fever (aspirin, ibuprofen etc) as well as antidote in folk remedies. I might be tempted to pop a few as a cure for melanoma – I mean why not right – if it wasn’t suspected that I already have a few of my own.

Gallstones are deposits in the gallbladder, a small organ that stores bile, which is a digestive fluid made in the liver. They consist of cholesterol, salt, or bilirubin (discarded red blood cells).  Tomorrow, despite threatening to go the ER by the end of the week, I have another endoscopy appointment or probe of my stomach and small intestine.  The doctors want to do this before ordering a more detailed study of the gallbladder.  Either way they are leaning towards gallstones as a likely culprit for the pain and discomfort of the last few years.

All I know is I feel like I gulped down a few choice cactus trees, whole. But I am glad that things are at least changing at this point and feel like we may be on the right track.  Prayers answered.

Just know that if it does turn out to be gallstones, you can have my “yellow things” if you want for free, at no charge.  Who knows they might even make a nice pair of earrings or a beaded necklace, with the center piece being a small sac-shaped organ /gallbladder, which they usually take out as well.  Sounds lovely don’t you think?

Stay tuned and thanks, btw, for your continued support and well wishes.



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Well, I’m truly at my whit’s end with these abdominal issues.  I’m not a big fan of whining and complaining publicly, but wanted to let my friends and family know what was going on, in case I’m silent here for awhile. If I am silent for awhile it will be because I have either checked into the loony bin or gone on a sit-in at the hospital entrance with a sign on my chest.  Will consider the old school clyon costume if it will help.sign
Basically, the abdominal pain continues to beat the ever living crap out of me.  It doesn’t really seem to matter what I eat or when, but if I do then I might as well have boa constricted a hot iron. There is no current explanation for this despite a litany of endoscopes, a colonoscopy, ct/pet scans, blood tests, ultrasounds, x-ray procedures, tummy tucks, extreme makeovers, calf implants and Botox overdoses (are you really supposed to inject into your butt I am so confused!)…pain still parked here even with synthetically shins, shrunken waist line and expanding gluts.

Solution of late is fasting.  I did a water fast for 36 hours starting last Thursday and have subsequently been juicing since…would seriously consider murderizing somebody for a few pain-free Frito’s Scoops out of the pantry. But that’s not happening. The cost of eating has become too steep to pay.  The fasting has helped some, there have been fewer really rough episodes, yet they remain.  

From what little I know, fasting is often recommended for people with pancreatitis as a way to rest the pancreas and gallbladder.  Fasting in this sense is more like “slowing” because it gives the organs a chance to rest.  Thing is, as with the other tests run, my blood work is not immediately “presenting” as pancreatitis.  Lipase and amylase are on the low end of normal.  Pancreatitis typically causes those to be above the end high end of normal.  Gallstones, which I may also have, might be exacerbated by fasting because the bile in liver and gallbladder might get thicker as a result. So the long and short of it is, I don’t have a damn clue what I’m doing.  Have a saying in a program I’ve been attending for a long time that we should never get too “Hungry, Angry, Lonely or Tired (HALT).”  I’m batting 750.

And I’m frustrated, okay ANGRY, with medical care.  Waiting 2 hours in the doctor’s office for 5-10 minutes of somebody to refer me to another specialist is finger licken redonkeylous. I could also contact other alternative medical professions and, while they will likely give an hour or two of consultation, insurance is not paying that bill.  Sometimes it seems like you have to wind up screaming in agony in the ER before the proper attention is paid. Grrr. Argh. Growl.

The plan at the moment is to continue juicing and then, potentially, do a liver and gallbladder flush.  There’s a lot of mixed debates on the internet as to whether or not this is true quackery or truly useful.  Seems like I’m always crashing against this sort of parliamentary debate. Whatever, if nothing gets better by doing the above Sarah and I discussed checking me into the hospital at the end of the week.  

I know its time to ask myself what I can be doing differently. I’m not talking physically.  Though that’s definitely been the obsession.  Its hard not to think about anything but physical.  But what am I doing with my mental, emotional and spiritual state? From my experience seems like nothing changes physically unless I’m willing to look at those things.  Weird, paradoxical and, frankly beyond annoying as hell, but at least considering…  Grr. Argh. Growl.  

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