Day 39: Swimming in Denial

A lot of people this year have commented that I’m strong or that I’m dealing with everything so well.  While I agree that I’m pretty awesome and it’s true that I haven’t become an embittered alcoholic wandering around telling kids that Santa isn’t real, sometimes I don’t know if my apparent strength is anything more than a healthy dose of denial.  I have moments when the gravity of my situation hits me, and I say to myself, “Holy shit.  You had a giant tumor  in your head, Tom.  And now they’re shooting heavy doses of radiation through your brain.”  Those moments freak me out.  For the most part they’ve been pretty infrequent.  This past week, however, the fatigue is definitely catching up with me and it’s been hard for me to stay upbeat, despite being almost done.  So you know, if you’ve been thinking about writing me a quick e-mail or sending me some love, now would be a pretty good time ;).  Almost there!

Twenty-eight treatments down, SEVEN to go.


Day 37: The Boss’s in Town

One piece of advice for all you out there: if someone offers you free tickets to see Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street band, GO!  That’s what I did yesterday and it was the best decision I made all Tuesday.  I saw The Boss last night at Fenway and man, can that 62 year old geezer put on a show.  The band came on at 7 and rocked America’s oldest ballpark for three and a half hours straight.  I had to take a break from standing no less than five times and, nevermind an intermission, the man barely stopped to take a breath.  Here are some of the best moments from the show:

  • During the song Waitin’ on a Sunny Day, Bruce went into the crowd and abducted a child.  He carried the abductee onto the stage and, mystically, transferred to him the gift of song.  The kid sang the chorus right on pitch in his pre-pubescent voice and the crowd roared.  Bruce then carried the kid offstage to an unseeable location, but I can only imagine it was an underground dungeon where he will be shackled as Bruce slowly siphons his youth.
  • At one point, about two and a half hours in, Bruce collapsed like he had nothing left.  Then, guitarist and avid kerchief enthusiast Steven Van Zandt brought Bruce back to life with the second most homoerotic sponge bath I’ve ever seen on stage.  We’re not gonna talk about the first.
  • At minute two hundred and two of the marathon performance, Brucey referred to his stage-mates as the “heart-breaking, Viagra-taking, curfew-hating E Street Band.”  It’s funny ’cause they’re old.
  • I’ve never understood the whole “sharing the mic” thing, but I guess it looks cool to see two guys almost kiss.
  • The late Clarence Clemons’ role as saxophonist was filled by his nephew, Jake Clemons.  I don’t have any jokes about that.  I just think it’s nice.

All-in-all, the show was pretty damn impressive.  Great musicianship, great energy, and it was all FREE.  Not gonna lie though, I can’t wait to not be getting free tickets from the Hope Lodge anymore.

Speaking of which, twenty-seven treatments down, EIGHT to go!


Day 36: Side Effects Include…

Anyone who’s had any kind of medical treatment or surgery knows from firsthand experience that doctors are by law obligated to explain to you every horrible, terri-fucking-fying way that what they’re about to do to you could possibly maim, mutilate, incapacitate or flat out kill you.  And as you’re sitting there, letting awful scenarios of what life would be like if you were blind or unable to speak or unable control your bowels, they make you sign a piece of paper that says, “Oh, and by the way, if we fuck up, it’s your fault for letting us do it.”

Luckily, doctors like to attach probabilities to scary things they tell you.  Despite having a tumor in my head, pushing on my brain, nerves and carotid artery, everything I’ve been through so far has been low risk.  My surgery had a less than 10% chance of minor complications (facial numbness, double vision, loss of smell; you know, the usual), and a less than 1% chance of killing me (about the same risk you take getting in your car).  For anyone that’s seen me since my surgery and has been shocked to see my face unmutilated, you know that it went very well.

Proton therapy is a different beast than surgery, though, and some of the side effects may not become apparent for years to come.   Read More…

Day 32: Quick Update

Tonight I’m tired and I need to pack for another trip home.  It’s been a good week so far, so I thought I’d share some of the better moments:

  • On Monday, I took the Georgian out for drinks for his birthday and boy, can he drink.  I don’t think we ever understood more than 65% of what the other was trying to stay, but many laughs (and beers) were had.

Those are 18″ tall.

  • On Tuesday morning, I received a text from a family friend from home saying she was in town and she wanted to take me out for Italian food in the North End.  So we did that.  It was lovely.
  • On Wednesday, I had a good day volunteering and feeling “normal,” but I already wrote about that.
  • Today, well today’s gonna get a few bullet points.
  • The same family friend from Tuesday invited me to join in their annual Steak and Lobster feast at her uncle’s lake house in New Hampshire.

I had never eaten fresh lobster before.

  • I got a ride up from her Uncle Joe, an elder, wise-cracking lawyer who showed me the best places to get meat, lobster and corn near the norther Mass border.  I’d share, but I was sworn to secrecy.
  • At age 25, after years of failed attempts, I finally caught my first fish (pictures to come).  The 12 year old girl who was teaching me may have caught two before I even got a nibble, but still, I DID IT!
  • And finally, tomorrow, I get to see Julie.  Not a bad way to end the week.

Okay, bed time for me.

Twenty-three treatments down, TWELVE to go!

Day 31: Guarded

A couple weeks ago, I was waiting for “The T” (Bostonians’ dumb name for their subway), and a couple from the Hope Lodge recognized me.  In the middle of the rush hour crowd, the husband looks at me and says, “Hey, you’re from the Hope Lodge aren’t ya?”  Immediately, I felt insecure.  I started looking around the platform, filled mostly with my peers on their way home from work.  “Are you being treated?”  Could people around me hear?  Did they know I had cancer?  I mumbled, “Yes,” trying to keep my answers brief and nondescript.  “Oh wow.  My wife’s here for proton therapy, with Dr. Liebsch (that’s my doctor).  She’s got this thing called a chondrosarcoma.”  “Oh, that’s what I have!” I exclaimed, but my brief excitement in learning that I now had a tumor triplet was quickly replaced by my anxiety.  Luckily, we started talking about how to get back to the Lodge and I told them I’d lead the way.

On the train, the wife ended up sitting next to me.  She ended up telling me her whole story: her initial symptoms, her diagnosis, her surgery and its complications.  Everything.  In public.  During rush hour.  Part of me wanted to empathize and learn more, but not on the crowded train.

Read More…

Day 30: Be Productive

At the start of this year, during a timeframe I’ll call “the scary days,” a good friend of gave me a simple piece of advice: “Be productive.”  As far as 2 AM conversations on Gmail chat go, it was pretty damn epic.  In a lot of ways, I’ve taken that advice to heart this year.

Who says you can’t meet nice people online?

Read More…

Day 29: Home stretch

As I said enough last week, I’m officially past the halfway point.  I spent the weekend at home, and I can’t think of a better way to mark the midway mark of this weird, weird journey.  I was sitting here thinking, “Hm, what should I write about tonight?  What inspiring revelation came about on this little hiatus?”

How much of a hangover whiskey gives me?


The answer is there really wasn’t one.  For once in my life, I turned my brain the hell off.  I played ping pong.  I went out to NYC with friends.  I spent some quality time with my sisters (Angie-heimer, practice your handstands!).  I spent time with my parents and spoiled my dogs with table treats so they’d be excited for my return home in three weeks (sorry mom and dad!).    Read More…