Sunday, December 4, 2011


Sorry for not getting to this sooner, but that's the way my life goes.  No bad, but good.  I'll share for those who may still be interested.

Due to the continuing pain in my back, despite the improvements from physical therapy, something had to be done.  At the end of the day when I would lay down in bed I would still have throbbing in my entire lower body.  My left leg was not only numb, but tingly.  Right leg only numb.  Left hand numb and tingly too.  Can't do Aleve or ibuprophen due to kidney issues, so you just live with it, right?  Wrongo.  Thanks to the wonders of UCSF medicine, brought to you by the people who kept me alive, and a referral by my orthopedist, Dr. Shane Burch, I finally got an appointment with the UCSF Pain Management office.  So, on November 5th, I, along with Darrell and a good friend Wes Castro (a most interesting fellow, if you ever get the chance to visit with him), headed north to SF.  We had some difficulty getting there, but thankfully, after not a little fret on my part, which annoyed Darrell and Wes I think, we got there with time to spare.  So as I got settled in the waiting area, Darrell and Wes headed out into the streets of SF until my return from the inner sanctums of the Center.  Here we are in front of the very low key office in the shadow of the big UCSF Mt. Zion hospital.
I will now introduce the supporting characters by order of appearance.  First was Dr. Ramana Naidu, a Clinical Fellow of anesthesiology and pain management.  He asked a lot of questions but never actually said that he was going to be the one inserting the needles into my back.  Next to him is Jackie Weiss, a 4th year medical student (she made sure I knew that she was a 4th year student), who was there to observe.
The next participant was the nurse, who only wanted to be identified as 'Nurse Kelly'. What her real name is I don't know.  At first she didn't want to be photographed but after I assured her that there were no law enforcement people tracking my blog she agreed to be photographed.  I didn't pixelate her face either.
Now behind us you can see a couple screens where MRIs of my spine are being shown.  It was from these pictures that Dr. Naidu planned his work.  To the right of Nurse 'Nancy' was a portable Cat-scan machine that they use during the procedure.  He was supervised by Dr. Melanie Henry, MD, MPH (whatever that means) and Assistant Clinical Professor and Attending Physician.  You can just call her Doctor.
So as I understand it (I was there but face down on the table to the right of Dr. Henry so I didn't get to see much), they rolled the portable Cat-scan machine over me while the rest of the cowards stayed back away from the deadly rays it produces while Dr. Naidu began to stick needles into my back to inject some steroid that I think starts with "D".  The steroid then reduces the pain and pinpoints the problem area for future possible oblation of the actual nerves.  The injections last 2-6 months.  The oblation can last 8-10 years.  The only hitch was when Dr. Naidu would stick the needle in me and then I'd hear, "I'm hitting bone. I can't seem to get between them."  The object is to get the needle between the two rubbing facets in order to inject the steroid at the offending spot.  Dr. Henry would respond, "Just back it out and try it at a different angle."  So in again he would stick the needle, unfortunately, with the same result not infrequently.  I stopped counting how many times he had to stab me.  That's not the important.  He got it done.  The pain from the injections themselves was not so great for a few days, but a couple days later my spinal pain was much better.  So far it has worked, somewhat.  It doesn't relieve all pain, but a lot of it.  So thank you to these wonderful people at UCSF for making my life better.  Can't wait to do the bottom one & the right side.

Of course the most important reason for me recovering from the procedure was so that I could play golf with my UCSF oncologist, Dr, Jeffrey Wolf.  That's right, my Dr. invited me to play golf with him at a pretty famous golf course there in SF.  He arranged his schedule (and mine) so that we could golf at Harding Park.  Most of you won't care, but, it's been a regular PGA Tour stop, the course where the President's Cup was played in 2010 and 2011, and hosted the final Senior PGA Championship tournament of the season just a few days before we played.  Another patient was supposed to play with us, but had to back out at the last minute.  It was meant to be as we were paired with a young couple who had a 10 month old baby girl.  Some people deal with stress in different ways.  I loved her way.  Just that morning she was diagnosed with thyroid cancer and decided to try and relieve her stress by playing golf with her husband.  As I introduced myself to her husband, Dr. Wolf shared that I was coming back from cancer and walked back to the cart to get something.  Her husband shared her diagnosis from earlier that day. with me. I told him that Dr. Wolf (who just introduced himself as Jeff) was an oncologist and that we were paired together so that she could get some advise and comfort from Jeff.  Dr. Wolf then returned and I informed him of the young woman's diagnosis.  He smiled and walked over to her, pulled down the neck of his turtle neck shirt, and showed her his car from when he had his thyroid removed due to cancer when he was 28.  It was way cool, and they talked quite a bit and thanked him as they left feeling so much better about the whole thing.

Now to answer the question that is on everyone's mind, "But how did you do?"  I did OK.  Started out too sore and stiff from 2 days in SF and triple bogeyed the first 2 holes.  Got looser and by the last 2 holes we were tied.  The clouds had come in and it was drizzling.  Dr. Wolf chipped in a shot out of a greenside pot bunker, with a downhill break that hit the flag dead center and the ball jumped in.  It was a great shot!  For the last hole it was so dark that we couldn't see. Fortunately there were a couple of guys from Ireland playing behind us that asked if they could play with us so that they could finish the course.  I said "Of course", as Dr. Wolf hesitated, but I reminded him that we needed their young eyes to be able to see our balls in the dark.  They helped a lot.  We all finished as it started to rain.  I shot an 89, which isn't too bad for my first time on the course and starting out with 2 triple bogeys. We both determined that we were going to break 90 as we were tied at 46 after 9 holes, and we did it.  Would it have been bad form for me to win?  I guess I'll never have to worry about that anyway.  Then we had dinner at a great little Italian restaurant.  Home by 10:15.

My last thank you go to Joan and Dan Murphy.  Remember my friend Dennis Lozano from my very first stay at UCSF?  Well, his wife Marie, is a sister to Joan Murphy.  They live about 3-4 miles from UCSF and about 1-2 miles from Harding Park.  They invited me to stay at their place on Weds. night, so that I didn't have to get a hotel and would have a place near the hospital for my early morning appointment with Dr. Wolf.  It was a wonderful stay.  It was so great to be able to learn more about them and their beautiful family.  Marvelous food.  Great and very interesting company.  A great bed with all the comforts of their home.  It was wonderful.  Thank you Joan and Dan for your hospitality and care.  I apologized to them and to the rest of you for my failure to take any pictures.  Next time, Joan and Dan?

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Gullible's Travels

I know it's been a long time since I last posted, but there just hasn't been too much that I could share going on.  But after a couple of months I'll try and make your visit to the blog worth while.  As for the medical news... Do ya'll realize that it's been just over 2 years since I went to UCSF's ICU for the first time?  It's been a long time, yet in some ways it seems like yesterday.  Oddly enough I don't remember much of that first visit. I just remember that while lying in the ICU unit I over heard all of the doctors and nurses planning the hospital's production of Guys and Dolls.  I was so out of it that I couldn't respond.  After a couple of days, I was able to let my nurse know that I could help them out by doing the "Nicely Nicely' part and that I already knew the words to the song "Sit down your rockin' the boat".  He acted like he didn't know what I was talking about.  I figured they just gave the part to someone else while I was recovering and he didn't want to hurt my feelings.  I missed my chance for fame and glory.  Some say I haven't fully recovered from my medicated psychosis.  Others say I've always had it.

Who are these people and where is this beautiful place?  The first part of Sept. I was able to visit some clients (just in case the IRS is monitoring my blog) and friends in the Seattle area of Washington State.  I'd never been there before and it was fantastic. It really reminded me on southern Germany from my mission, with fields cut out of forest and rivers and lakes everywhere.  Lush and green.  And for me, it didn't rain a single second.  Actually, it didn't rain for a month.  I did get to stay with my great buddy and lifelong friend, Dan Stuart and his family.  Here's a picture of them, except for Ethan, who for some strange reason was already asleep, and Carly, who at 2, was just uncooperative.  Dan, Cynthia, Aveson and Brady.  I had a great time with them.  They live just north of Seattle in the Marysville area.  Their yard is one-half yard, one-half forest/jungle.  Wild berries grow everywhere and people there will go out for a day with their families and pick enough to can for the rest of the year.  Here's Dan in his backyard.  Finally got a picture of Carly, when she didn't know I was coming.

The trip turned into a visit of high school and long time ago friends.  I didn't get any pictures, but I was able to visit with Butch and Chelli Pogue, who Dale & I knew in Long Beach, and then they moved to Tacoma.  They gave us some wonderful support during the last years, and I needed to visit with them to say thank you face to face.  But only I got to see their faces and you don't because I was so excited to see them that I forgot to take a picture.  Where was Hillary when I needed her?

Dan & Cynthia have lived in the area just 1 year, so they didn't know the places to explore & see.  But thankfully, I had another lovely high school connection, none other than Colleen Sweeney, my high school sweetheart, who's lived in Seattle for many years and knows all of the places to see in the area.  Her ex London Smith was also present and we became BFFs over Astin Martins (he owned one) and many other things. So with Dan & his family we loaded up the vehicles and went exploring thanks to Colleen and her impromptu Pacific Northwest Pixie Tours.  I can't show everything, but you'll get a flavor for the city and surrounds, including the city views, views of the truly spectacular Puget Sound, waterfalls just minutes from the city, and importantly for me, great places to eat with fabulous views.  Thanks Colleen and London for so much fun!

 Then I headed east towards Spokane, where I was to visit another client. But on the way I was able to visit another great friend from high school days, Frank Portera and his family.  Did I ever tell you the story of how Frank sank his new motorcycle?   Lots of good stories with Frank.  He reminded me of the time...well, we'll save that for another day.  Frank lives in Selah, which is just outside Yakima, the apple capital of the country.  It's high desert, but I was amazed at the amount of water that still was flowing through it all.  We went to Red Lobster because it was the first night of "all you can eat shrimp" promotion.  Frank can eat a lot of shrimp.  His adorable wife Cindy less so.  His step-daughter Erin also.  We included our waiter in the picture.  I think his name was Travis.  It was his first night working there and he did great.  We hit it off and had to include him in our group picture.  Former Marine. Great guy.  Erin's not interested, however. Erin didn't want to come listen to 2 old guys talk about the good ol' days.  Mom convinced her and she admitted that she hadn't laughed so had for so long in years.  That Frank was really a wild & crazy guy.   She just never knew it. If you can imagine this, I was the voice of reason in our group!  So you can imagine what Frank was like.  To take liberty with a line from Guys and Dolls, spoken by Big Julie, "Thirty-three accusations. Not one conviction."

While in Spokane, where I visited another client, I also was able have a visit with these two wonderful ladies.  The younger of the two, and daughter, is Kendra Player.  She was my oldest brother Mark's girlfriend in high school.  The fiestier of the two, is June Smith.  She was the wife of the only scoutmaster that lasted more than 6 months with our group.  His name was Lamar Smith.  He and my dad were good friends, and they died from cancer within 2 weeks of each other about 6 years ago.  Lamar was the scoutmaster when Jeff was bonked on the head with the 22 lb. rock on Navajo trail at Bryce Canyon, and when one of the Rangers at Death Valley asked him to make sure that I never came back.  What?  Another time another story.  We had a wonderful time and thank you for finding me a restaurant (Old European in No. Spokane) where I was able to get real German potato pancakes with applesauce.  Takin' me back 37 yrs. ish.

To wrap up my WA trip just a couple more pictures and stories.  Of course with Dan and I we fanagled in some golfing.  The courses are cut out of the forests.  There's nothing 'man-made' but the course itself.  If you are prone to hitting out of bounds, bring lots of balls with you.  I lost 4, and that's very low.  I don't hit it that far either.  But once it's in the woods, you'll never find it, or get torn to shreds by the thorns on the wild berry bushes that grow right up to the tree line. That's a pond with water lilies on the right of the trees. Beautiful.

                                          Got back in time for a beautiful Paso Robles sunset.

Below is a picture of Dale, I and Susan Ibbetson, another former high school friend who came and visited us this weekend.  She's wonderful and really enjoyed the quiet of our humble commode.  She lives in Newport Beach and been an Orange County girl for many years.  After her divorce she went back to school at 35 and played basketball for Santa Ana College, even becoming the Co-Captain her 2nd year!  She's over 6', which really bugged me in high school.  Now that I'm a shrimp, she's really rubbing it in.  Very nicely.

So here's the scoop on my physical situation, for those who are still awake...
My body's not liking the buildup of the chemo in my system, so it's affecting my red & white blood cells, kidney & liver functions, neuropothy, symptoms, etc.  They're trying to figure out what to do about it.  Can't stop the chemo 'cus the cancer will come back.  Cutting back on it some won't help the symptoms.  My monthly infusion of Zometa has been changed to every other month, but other than that, it's "We'll just keep watching it until it becomes serious."  GOOD NEWS:  Physically I have been doing well.  I even graduated from physical therapy and will be working out at the gym now to keep me from blimping out again.  Thanks to all of the staff at San Luis Sports Therapy in Paso Robles, especially Dr. Jennifer Seay (pronounced 'see') and of course my own Candice Joy Richards.

Thanks for all of your continuing love and support.  As you can see by the pictures of me I am more upright than I've been in over 2 years.  Still fairly weak when it comes to stamina, but my frame is stronger.  Actually, my Dr. wants me to lose 10 lbs.  Ouch.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Every Visit An Adventure

This wonderful young lady is Cheryl.  She is the clinic coordinator.  She is the one who keeps the clinic running smoothly from 8 to 6.  She loves me and gives me special treatment.  I learned the secret of being treated like a king.  I bring them goodies every time I come.  This time was fresh baked tollhouse chocolate chip cookies.  Brownies.  Pumpkin pies.  Assorted Christmas cookies.  Almond cookies from China Town.  It's like Martha Stewart always says, Never go to an oncology/ hematology clinic empty handed.  I never wait long for vitals or for labs.  I rarely wait for the Doc.  I always get the room with the recliner.  I'm not the only one who thinks food is good.  All of the nurses and front desk staff do everything possible to make my stay a lovely experience.
These are the 7 vials of blood that they take through my port ev4ry time I come to do all of my blood work.  The report covers 48 different tests.  The good news, I'm still cancer free nearly 16 months after my stem cell transplant.  The bad news, I will be taking the daily chemo pills for another 10 months, "at least", instead of 4 months, and my neuropothy is getting worse due to the buildup of the chemo in my system.  I have very poor feeling in my fingers, hands and feet.  My chemo brain, which was compromised long before this as everyone knows, has gotten worse.  I still drool really well though.  My metabolism has caught up with me too. After months of not retaining much food, I now have to loose about 10 pounds!  Oh my. Whoda thunk it. Then, after, I was supposed to visit with one of my early UCSF experience doctors who is now working on a cure for my cancer, but he had to go to the other UCSF hospital at Mission Bay for a research meeting.  So I had a few 2 1/2 hours to kill.  From my hospital room I would look at Golden Gate Park. Tour #1. The west end. Quickly
The fantastic Conservatory of Flowers.  The grounds around it are almost as impressive as the inside displays.

This very impressive monument on the left was honoring Francis Scott Key, who wrote the Star Spangled Banner. In the background is the de Young Museum of Art. They were having a Picasso showing.  I didn't have that much time. but I made it up to the 9th level and observation deck. For some pictures.
View from the de Young Museum at the California Academy of Sciences.  To the left the Francis Scott Key memorial.  At the top middle of the picture is my alma matter, UCSF Medical Center, Long and Moffett Hospitals. My rooms were on the 11th and 14th floors, with a view of the park and the Golden Gate Bridge.  I REALLY  like this view better.
This is the view from the de Young to the north-east.  You see the town and buildings of San Francisco, with the hills in the distant background being on the far side of  the bay.  If you've never been around San Francisco, take a very small and narrow car with good brakes.  I have found no level spot in the whole town.
I will now regale you with photos of the Japenese Garden, which I found very interesting, and in fact, relaxing.
This is the "Peace Lantern".  I didn't realize that the US and Japan didn't sign a peace treaty until 1951.  This 9,000 lb. solid brass peace lantern was presented to the people of the United States by the Consul General for Japan in San Francisco on January 9, 1953.  It was from the 'children of Japan. In hope of peace.'
Everywhere you look were wonderful rock landscapes, bonsai gardens, streams & waterfalls.  Picturesque. I won't bore you with any more pictures, but I spent quite a bit of time walking around here. Feng Shuy
.Stow Lake is a favorite of the locals.  They have paddle boats and row boats available to rent.  People bring their own kayaks and canoes.  It's pretty big.  The gazebo-ee thing on the left is a Chinese building.  The waterfall is a big draw for the tourists, as you can hike to the top of it. If you love green water, this is for you.
As I needed to be heading back I saw the Shakespeare Garden on the map and thought to myself, 'To go, or not to go. That is the question."  But because I have chemo brain, I forgot the question and just walked to it.
A quiet little park within the park.  Several students just lying on the ground studying.  Other people just sitting and thinking.  No computers, ipods, cell phones etc. were observed, or heard, here. This park is a cool place.

Then back for a quick visit with Dr. Burch's office to present a report from my physical therapist, and a chat about my lack of progress with the injections in my back in preparation for the anticipated oblation, and an authorization to play tennis IF I didn't do something stupid (moi?) and hurt myself.  I assured him that I hadn't with the bicycle riding and the golf so he said go ahead and try it.  Report in the near future. 

Then the highlight of the trip.  A friend from Paso, John Adams, "knows a guy who knows a guy that can get us tickets to the Giants games.  The next day was my physical therapist's birthday, but she had to work all day, so I was able to get us some tickets to the Giants - Dodger game that night.  She's a big Dodgers fan.  I am a big fan of goofing off.  So it was a fit.  She and my daughter Candice, who is her aide and is now a certified trainer (health fitness specialist), got off work in Paso at 2pm and headed north.
Dr. Jennifer Seay (pronounced 'see') is in the Dodger cap.  Neither of the two guys are my daughter Candice. As usual, I have my mouth open, just this time I hadn't put my foot in it. Yet.  Wait a minute.  Who's the big goofy looking guy with the Provo T-shirt on?  Yep, it's my youngest brother, Brian, who just happened to be in SF for work conference and was flying home the next morning.  We all converged and had a great time.

Aren't them guys about the brightest lookin' guys you've ever seen?  The Dodger fans weren't very bright either.  Their 'Go Dodgers' sign was upside down. Dodgers lost 5 to 3.  Got home at 1:35 am.  So there you have it.  The update that both of you have been waiting for.  Thank you for your love and prayers. I still pray at least once a day for all of you too. 

Sunday, July 3, 2011

UTAH IN THE SPRINGTIME! (End of May - early June)

Dale, Hillary & I were able to make a trip to Utah to see some family and friends, and what a wonderful trip it was!  I shall now regale you with a pictorial recollection of events and relations:
The primary reason for going was to visit with mom again.  She's been having a very difficult time with her back & sciatica, but we were able to make the short trip to visit dad's grave and clean up the plot and headstone.  Mom's a stickler about weeds and grass on dad's plot.  Her back's no good, but her eyesight is like a hawks!  She could see weed sprouts UNDER the grass.  It was wonderful to visit dad's grave and reminisce.  Anyone that knew him heard the stories of his amazing childhood and life.  It's been over 5 yrs. since he passed away. He will always be in our hearts and conversations.  By the way, that's Dale hiding behind Grandma.  That's the closest we got to getting a picture of her during the trip.  She doesn't mind.
We love his headstone.  He grew up in a small coal mining town in central Utah.  We used to visit it when we were young.  My Grandma & Grandpa R lived there many years after it was closed down, and we LOVED  to visit there.  Grandpa's stories were so much fun to hear.  I think it was my oldest brother Mark's idea to get one of the stones that everything in Spring Canyon was made from and have it engraved.  What a great and personal tribute to the man who loved rocks.  Do you know that he wanted to name me Rock?  Me, Rock Richards!  They just would have called me swirly Richards.  Thanks mom for not letting that happen.
I know all of you are sick of looking at me, but I wanted you to get a good look at my little cancer buddy Spencer and my stunningly gorgeous niece Becky.  I won't go into much detail, but we all went through cancer at about the same time.  Spencer, just before his 8th birthday, found out that he had a rhadomyosarcoma tumor in his face.  This giant of a hero went through 54 weeks of chemo and radiation at the Salt Lake Primary Children's Hospital, and was determined to be cancer free just before our visit.  Becky was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins lymphoma about 1 1/2 yrs. ago.  She went through many months of treatment/chemo at the Huntsman Cancer Center in Salt Lake, and, other than a different hair color, looks just like her old self.  I however, am still working on the hump on my back.  3 generations of cancer survivors.  If you're interested in learning more about their experiences, Spencer's blog is "The Journey of A Superhero", and Becky's is "Don't Panic Roger! I Have A Plan".  When Grandma R's mother asked Grandpa R's mother at the wedding "Are there any morons or idiots in the family?"  Great Grandma R's response was, "No, but we're damn mean!"  Needless to say, that was the last words spoken between those two.  But besides being mean, apparently we're also pretty tough. We're smiling.
This was taken at Spencer's home.  That's his little sister, Isabelle, or just Belle. We're learning about the universe.  A day or so earlier I took them to Der Wienerschnitzel because I was having a hankering for a corn dog.  It was a very interesting ride.  Spencer looks up at me and asked: "Did you throw-up a lot from the chemo like I did?"  Here's an 8 year old taking about cancer and treatments like an adult. It was heartbreaking, but also you have to wonder what great things he's going to do in his lifetime.  The conversation turned to what foods we missed while sick, and we both  agreed that bacon was really high on that list.

When I told him that we could get bacon wrapped hot dogs, his eyes got as big as my stomach.  He then took it up a notch, "What about a chili dog?", he asked.  My response was, "What about a bacon wrapped chili cheese dog?"  So here's what happened: Spencer, Belle (little tiny Belle) and I all ate a bacon wrapped chili cheese dog, a corn dog, and a soda, EACH!  Belle was done before Spencer.  The owner of the establishment had overheard some of our conversation and invited the kids up to the counter after their meal.  He gave them a huge ice cream cone, which of course they finished as well.  I got one too.  We then went home a decided to take a walk to try and wear off some of our lunch.  We had a wonderful time.  There are some pictures on Spencer's blog, but I don't know how to get them onto mine.  Spence, Belle & I held hands and strolled along.  We were joined by Dale, Hillary, Spencer  & Belle's mom Holly,  their little bro. Gavin, my niece Laura that lives with her husband Caleb and her daughter Evelyn at Grandma R's house. It was a beautiful day with blue sky & white puffy clouds.
Speaking of Evelyn, she is so cute, but apparently she hasn't had much experience with nuclear zerberts (sp?), so uncle Kevin volunteered to administer the training.  As you can see by the picture, she was screaming in agony.  I just kept reminding her that it was for her own good and would make the zerberts of life so much more bearable after living through the experience.  We then spent the next hour or so playing "Over".  Where she lays on my lap with her head over my knees, then on 3, she gets flipped 'over' onto her feet on the floor.  Great fun.  It wore me out.  She not so much.

 Of course what would Hillary's picture collection be without one of her famous 'pouty model face' pictures.  This time with Belle.  I think Belle's got a great future.  When we were on our walk and her mom Holly would ask Belle to stop for a second so she could get a picture, Belle would pose like you would not believe.  It was so funny to watch.  Spencer, on the other hand, had to be physically threatened before he would stop for a picture.  All of the kids LOVE Hillary.  She is so much fun and spends a lot of time with each one while we're there.  She's also amazingly good with adults.  For those that may not know, Hillary's still in Orange County and having way too much fun.  She keeps saying she's gonna get a job, but just hasn't gotten around to it yet. She does have a lot of new friends and better yet, doesn't ask for any money.  You'd have to ask Holly about Belle, but I bet she asks for money all the time.

The dashingly handsome young man is my nephew, Mason.  My brother Jeff & Mandy's youngest.  He works at the world famous Purple Turtle in Pleasant Grove.  We saw him a couple of times during the week.  One night I asked mom if there was anything she wanted for dinner.  She thought for a minute and responded, "Onion rings and a coconut cream pie tornado from the Purple Turtle"I asked if she wanted any food to go with that, but she assured me that she did not, so off I went. Mason was doing fries and rings that night, so of course they were perfecto.  Well, there it is.  I'm sorry I don't have any pictures of the whole clan that got together just after we got there.  I'm not sure of the count, but I think it was about 29 of us.  Thanks to my family who make it so fun when we come.  See ya in a few months.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

Engaged in a Good Cause

This was my first year being involved with the American Cancer Society Relay for Life here in Paso.  My son Darrell and a couple of young ladies from our Ward, Tara and Rebecca Pechon, made up my 'team'.  The financial support came from a client who wanted her estate to go to 3 different charities, Am. Cancer Society, Am. Diabetes Assn, and the Alzheimer Assn,  for awareness and research.  One for each of her husbands and her son that predeceased her.  I'm wearing my purple survivors shirt.  Fortunately there were many of us.  Several were multiple survivors too.  One couple that I walked with were particularly inspiring.  He had just been deemed cancer free and in remission about a month ago, and she was diagnosed with breast cancer 2 weeks ago. Wow.
There were more people there than I expected.  Opening ceremony was at 9am Sat.  Closing was at 9 am Sun.  Though I couldn't stay, many stayed all day and all nightMany groups had booths with various items to sell to raise money, and others just had lemonade or cookies or other treats for those that participated.  On Sat. morning, before the opening ceremony, they had a breakfast for the survivors.  All of the food donated.  For dinner Sat. night, a chicken bbq with beans, bread and various drinks for any and all participants.  Anyone who walked, or even raised a dollar, was welcome to eat and visit.  I believe they fed about 2k meals, according to the bbq crew, though around 4k participated throughout the 24 hrs.  It was a beautiful day and setting.
 There were about 250 for the 1st lap, which as you can see, is all purple survivor shirts.  I'm in the back, with the purple shirt.  There were several children in the group, which reminded me of my 9 yr. old great nephew Spencer, who just got the all clear from his rhabdomyosarcoma.  There were a few young adult that reminded me of my niece Becky, who recently got the all clear on her non-Hodgkins lymphoma.  It was a wonderful experience to see so many in the community involved in this cause.  It also gave me a opportunity to personally thank many people in the community that donated to my cause and sent many cards, notes, and well wishes my way.  I was too tired to stay for the luminaria lighting at 8.  They are lit to light the way around the track for those that walk at night.  They are dedicated to those that have not been as fortunate as those in the purple shirts.  I dedicated my walk, and luminaria, to my father, nephew Steven, friends Ron Hogeland, Frank Connolly, and Roger Poulton, and my doctors who continue to care, and to all of you, whose prayers and faith have brought me another birthday and opportunity to serve God's children.

Sunday, May 15, 2011


 I had to apologize to the staff and doctors last
 Thursday and Friday, who performed the kyphoplasty on 3 of my 7 collapsed vertebra, have monitored my progress with my physical therapy, performed many x-rays, etc.  I had talked about them, but not put their pictures on the blog.  Here they are in all their glory.  I will let you guess which one of them was pleased with the proposition, and which 2 weren't.  This lovely and kind lady is Marilyn.  She runs the office, schedules surgeries, schedules his many professional presentations he is asked to make around the country, schedules x-rays, C-spans and MRIs, is the greeter and works just for Dr. Shane Burch, my orthopedic surgeon.  She also coordinates my appointments with Dr. Wolf's office, so that I can do everything that each of them want, without ruining the schedule of the other.  Wonderful wonder woman.  She is just a joy to deal with.  When was the last time your doctor's office asked, "When would it be convenient for you, and what other doctors are you seeing so that I can make sure it all works."  She used to work with Dr. Wolf's office.  Less stress here.
 This cute young doctor, yes she is a full fledged Dr, is Samantha Piper.  She is Dr. Burch's minion and wants to be a nationally recognized leader in cutting edge (a little play on words there in case you missed it) spinal surgery like he is.  She spent a few minutes with me getting all of the latest info. on my condition, reviewing the survey of information that they have me put into the computer each visit, and doing some physical tests.  She is a little less peeved than Marilyn about having her picture taken, and a little better of a sport about it.  She has eyes and uses them during surgery
 This dashingly handsome man is none other than THE Dr. Shane Burch, MD, and a lot of other letters after that.  Today he was in particularly good form.  He had a recent haircut, had shaved (1st time I had seen him without his 2-3 day growth), and had on a pink shirt with a small pattern and a pink and purple checked tie.  He looked like a GC model and has a great bedside manner to boot.  He is an avid outdoorsman and he hopes to get me backpacking again. We talked backpacking.  He was surprised at all the places I'd been.  He lives in Marin, about 35 miles from the hospital over the Golden Gate bridge.  Marilyn told me that when the weather is willing (not raining), he rides his bicycle to and from work.  Even when he has 7am surgeries.  He smiles a lot, yet has no bugs in his teeth that I could see.  
His report to me was: 1) He was very pleased with the progress that physical therapy has made.  I didn't have to get a bone density scan because you could see in the comparison X-rays of when I had my surgery on November 20, 2009 and now, that my vertebra are much stronger and denser.  He also showed me and was very pleased that my spine is much straighter than it was when I started the physical therapy.  He also gave me a referral to receive injections in the area of my T-9 through L-2 vertebra, to verify his belief that it is the facets on the back of my vertebra that are rubbing and causing my spinal pain.  If the injections bring some relief, then we know.  Then, he will authorize me getting radio frequency oblation treatments on the nerves in those areas.  Basically, they obliterate the nerves and kill them, which in turn kills the pain.  I will still have the back problems from the collapsed vertebra, but, I won't have the pain associated with it.  THEN, I should be able to return to some short term (3-4 day) backpack trips and other physical activities.  Not, however, full contact b-ball or mud football at Thanksgiving.  I'll take what he can give me.  Like Danny Glover used to say, "I'm getting too old for this stuff", anyway.         
I want you all to know that this is the first successful one-armed picture I have taken with the camera.  I made this picture large for 2 reasons.  First, I wanted you to get the true size comparison of the Vietnamese beauty in the middle.  She wears 3" platform shoes so she can get to 5'!  This is Thuy (pronounced T-wee, said quickly).  She is, or was, Dr. Wolf's nurse practitioner.  Friday was her last day.  She is leaving us to follow her boyfriend who is in BostonThey've been separated for a year.  I've been telling her that until he makes a bona fide marriage proposal, don't do it.  Of course that was for purely selfish reasons.  She is wonderful.  We will miss her.  Thank you Thuy for all of your kindness and care.  We wish you the best in Boston.
The other reason was to show you what an iron man Dr. Wolf is.  Does he look to you like he just got back at midnight from a 5 day world-wide symposium in Paris on multiple myeloma, of which he was one of the keynote speakers.  No jet lag for him.  He hasn't hired a replacement for Thuy yet because he's hoping she'll get to Boston and either break up with her boyfriend or hate the Boston summers and return.  I'll keep you posted.  I have an inquiring mind.  I want to know.
To get you caught up in my saga,as I have been remiss in being a faithful blogger:  I have had 3 lab reports over the last 2 months which had indicated a possible return of my cancer.  My local oncologist and Dr. Wolf weren't too worried, and I just didn't feel like it was back either.  But after the 3rd report came back with the same result, they ordered a bone marrow biopsy just to be sure.  So last Monday Dr. Malone did it.  It really doesn't hurt too much.  The worst part is after he has pushed the needle through the hip bone and begins to such the bone marrow into the needle.  That was uncomfortable.  He did notice that getting through the bone was much harder than than when he did it for the 100 day bone marrow biopsy after the stem cell transplant, which he did in the beginning of June of '10.  That was a good sign.  Then he gets a core sample.  That one is about 1/8th of an inch across and goes through the bone, through the marrow, and through the other side of the bone about 1/2 inch or so, so that the marrow is intact between the 2 layers of bone.  That one didn't hurt as much initially, but has been more painful as I sat, drove to SF for my appointment, walked, etc.  The good news is...I am still cancer free.  Now they just want to figure out why the misleading readingsProbably the liver or kidneys.  We'll work on that next.  Also, he shared that some countries around the world that do not have as involved a pre-distribution screening (FDA) process have been using the Revlamid maintenance chemo treatments for nearly 3 years, instead of only 2 years in the US.  They reported that a significant number of patients (no percentage shared) that stayed on the Revlamid for 2 years or more have ended up getting other forms of cancer, particularly liver and kidney cancer.  Therefore, he will stop my daily Revlamid treatments after 18 months.  May 28th will be 1 year of it.  He may stop me sooner, if he gets more info. that concerns him.  However, he said that he still feels that if not for the Revlamid, my cancer would have returned by now.  And that would be bad.
So the only other thing to report is that I did get pneumonia for the 3rd time since the first of the year.  On antibiotics.  They're working.  Still coughing up stuff, but feeling much better.
Here's something that just blew me away.  At the end of this month, it will be 21 months from the time I was first diagnosed with the IgM multiple myeloma, and 14 months since my stem cell transplant.  This past weekend, 1 year ago, was the first time that I was able to go outside for something other than a doctor's appointment.  Darrell and Candice took me to the annual 'Wings and Wheels' show at our local Warbirds Museum.  They have a fantastic display of military equipment, vehicles and planes dating back to WWI and going to the present.  They also had about 400 classic cars, boats and other types of vehicles on display.  The honored guest was none other than Parnelli Jones.  I lasted about 30 minutesI wore my depends (TMI?) and collapsed on the couch at home with a big smile on my face.  At times it all seems like it was an eternity ago.  Other times, like yesterday.  What I will never forget, or ever stop thinking about, is how much all of you helped me through it with your prayers and love.  Our High Council speaker today spoke of how praying with a unity of purpose can bring great blessings and miracles.  I wanted to stand up and say, "Bro. Bitter, you're preaching to the choir.  I'm here because of their prayers on my behalf".  Thank you all.  I thank my Heavenly Father for you every day, and ask Him to bless you as you blessed me.  I love you all for what you've given me.  My life back.

Sunday, April 3, 2011


I've seen some pretty magnificent buildings in my life.  Cathedrals, churches and castles in Europe are everywhere.  These 3 pictures are of the fabulous city hall for San Francisco.  I have more, but I won't bore you.  All rebuilt after the earthquake and fire of 1906, it's marble floors, stairs and walls are exquisite.  These photos are of just the main hall and dome.  The dome, by the way, is the 3rd largest dome in the world.  If you go to SF, you have to see it!         


This very cute young lady is the reason why I was going to the City Hall building anyway.  This is Nancy Gudino.  She is a friend from the Santa Barbara County Recorder's office.  She moved to SF to go to law school.  I know.  I know.  I tried to talk to her, but she could be a great one.  She tried to get hired at several law offices for 'practical experience'.  She moved not having a job.  At our last meeting I suggested, 'You could always try the recorder's office.'  After 2 weeks of rejections she decided to try just that.  She walked in, let them know she had 4 years experience, started the next day, and by the time I saw her a month later, she was in charge of getting the office in order for their upcoming audit.   She had me meet her at city hall so she could show it off, then took me to great mediteranean restaurant just a block away.  Her fiancee is an investigator for a federal agency.  If I told you which one, he'd have to kill me, so I won't.  
So while I'm driving up to SF, my eye started bugging me.  'Oh great, allergies' I thought.  I pulled over and took out my contact.  By the time I met with the nurse prior to my meeting with Dr. Wolf, she looked at me and shuddered.  "How long has your eye been like that?"  'Like what?'  She said, "Look in the mirror."  I shuddered.  My eye was all red and bloodshot and full of gunkie goop.  Long story long, bacterial eye infection, which spread to my other eye by the next day.  Now go back and look at the previous picture of me and Nancy.  It doesn't look bad there.  That was just 2 hours before I saw the doctor.  He gave me a prescription for antibiotic eye drops.  Cleared both of them up in 5 days.  Funny thing, the next morning after my appointment, I tried to open my eyes, but they wouldn't.  All of the goop had gone crusty on me and glued my eyelids shut.  I had to wander into the bathroom and run warm water on them to ungunkify them so I could open them.  Fortunately, that was only for 2 days until the antibiotic started to work.

I believe that I had previously mentioned that during my previous visit Dr. Wolf had stated that he'd consider taking me off the daily chemo after a year (June) if my 'markers' remained good.  I started off my questions with, 'So how are my markers?'  "There's some possible problems.  Your IgG level is high.  Your kidney function is diminished and your liver numbers are 4 times high normal range.  I could just be an anomaly due to your 2 bouts with pneumonia and other infections since I last saw you, but we'll watch it closely over the next month."  Well that wasn't what I wanted to hear.    Then he sent me to get another round of immunizations.  8 shots.  Oh boy.  Another long story long, I got more blood tests 2 weeks later and met with my local Dr.  Still alarmingly high.  Not worse, but not better.  Cause for concern, but not panic yet.  I felt OK.  "Let's do it again in 2 more weeks, BUT, if you feel any new or different pains call me, then Dr. Wolf, then head to the ER."  No ER visits.  Blood test in 2 weeks.  Meet with Dr. Malone.  He looks at the test numbers.  Reviews them again.  "These are the best numbers you've ever had.  Everything's normal.  Better than normal. What did you do?"  I told him I had a visit with Dr. Sandy Tulanian, my chiropractor/nutritionist.  "Apparently it worked."  Thanks Dr. Sandy.  I don't think it was the fact that my friend Greg Fisher got us tickets to the Sweet 16 games at the Anaheim arena, but maybe that was it.  The chinese I had there wasn't too bad.  Just in case it was, or at least contributed, thanks Greg for a fantasticaly wonderful experience.
You can see in this picture that my eye is still red, swollen and gunkie, but that's not the point of it.  Look again... THE POODLE'S DEAD!  I walked in to get a hair cut with still curly hair.  I said, 'Cut it short', which she did.  And my hair didn't curl back up when she was done!  It was a little tentative, as it couldn't really figure out if it was supposed to be curly or straight, but it was mostly straight.  Today, it's all straight in the front and a little wavy in the back.  Darrell noticed that the pre-chemo color was coming back.  I was the "pewter poodle".  Now it's coming in dishwater blond again.  Weird, but would you expect anything else?

So now that my pneumonia(s), bacterial eye infections, inner ear infections, sinus infections and inflamed eustacian tubes are no longer an issue, I can get back to physical therapy (after a 3 month lay off), walking and some other forms of exercise which shall remain nameless because Dale hates golf, and even an increase of hours working (which Dale likes).

The miracles continue to happen, thanks to your continued prayers and good thoughts on my behalf, as well as the love of my Heavenly Father, His son Jesus Christ, and blessings.  every day I thank my Heavenly Father for you and ask Him to bless you, as He has blessed me.  Just not with all of the cancer stuff and chemo etc.  Just bless you with what you need.