My Cancer Story, or How I Lost My Sports Fan Mojo

As I type this, my beloved Kansas Jayhawks basketball team is playing an NCAA Tournament game against Wichita State. As you can guess, it’s kind of a big deal around here.

And I’m not watching. For the sake of my mental health, I’ll probably shut down my Twitter feed for the next couple of hours. This is obviously strange behavior for someone who has lived and died with the Jayhawks for over 30 years, but let me tell you about it….

In early March of 2010, I had surgery to remove a lump under my jaw. The doctor hoped it was just a cyst, but it turned out to be a lymph node and sent it off for pathology. At the follow up visit, he said I needed to see an oncologist.

On March 18th, several things happened:

1. The #1 ranked Jayhawks beat the snot out of a 16 seed in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.
2. I went to the Oncologist, learned that my cancer was a Diffuse Large B-Cell Lymphoma, there was a pretty good chance it had spread, and I needed to have a PET scan on Monday.
3. I told my kids (then 14 and 11) I had cancer.

Worst day of my life, so far.

I spent the next few days trying to process what was happening to me. I don’t think I ever really figured out “why”. When Saturday, March 20th came, it was time for my Jayhawks to play again, against one of those “no big deal” mid-major teams, Northern Iowa. That would take my mind off things, wouldn’t it? Cole Aldridge would dunk on their heads, Sherron Collins would work his magic, and the Morris Twins would show off their rapidly improving form. No problem!

If you’re a KU fan, you know how it turned out. (Badly.) I spent most of that game in my home office, watching with the sound turned off. I spent most of the evening sitting in that same chair, with my head on my desk and the lights out, letting the pain flow through me, wondering what else the world had in store for me. I’ve never been the same fan since.

Something in me broke that day. I don’t blame the team, they just had a bad game at the worst possible time. I just needed an emotional lift from somewhere that day, and the most likely source didn’t deliver.

The next Monday, I had that PET scan, and learned that the cancer hadn’t spread very far. The next day, they surgically installed a port for the chemotherapy infusions and did a bone marrow biopsy, which was also encouraging. The next week I started the six rounds of chemo, which wasn’t too bad other than that one day every three weeks I couldn’t get out of my recliner thanks to the prednisone crash, and I was officially declared in remission on July 10th. A few months from now, I will hopefully have my last follow-up visit with the Oncologist, and will be considered “cured”.

But I really won’t be. I don’t have any physical limitations, and the only really significant side effect is an occasional inability to pull a word out of my head when needed. People I’ve known for years, items I’ve used forever, topics I can discuss in detail, but once in a while I just can’t pull that name or term out of my head. Chemo Brain, they call it. But I can deal with that, and consider myself fortunate that it’s all I have to deal with.

One thing I’ve lost is the ability to be a good fan. If things are going badly for one of my teams, I turn off the TV. If I’m in the building, and things are going extremely badly, I will leave. (Yes, I walked out of Allen Fieldhouse after KU blew that huge lead against Oklahoma this season.) Why? I think have a fear of experiencing the despair of March 20th, 2010 again, and I’ll do whatever it takes to avoid it.

I’m not really “bought in” to my teams anymore. And I hate that. For good or bad, I’ve invested a lot of mental energy in them over my life, and now I’m afraid to anticipate any big game because it might turn out badly. The KC Royals were in the playoffs for the first time since I was in college, and all I could do is view each game with dread and treat the series-clinching outs with relief. It’s why I’m listening to a podcast that some friends of mine make (hey to Dave, Barry, and Tod) instead of watching my favorite team play basketball.

So. This was probably all just a bunch of whiny drivel from a guy who should just thank God, his lucky stars, and modern medicine for his continuing presence on this planet, and get over it. Maybe I will someday, or maybe I should just walk away from sports. But after 40+ years of devoted fandom, I don’t know how.

March Madness

Well, big surprise, I haven’t posted anything in two months. I have been busy, but I’ve also fought with the questions of “what do I want to say”, and “how do I want to say it”? It would be easy for me to rip off a multi-page screed on the failings of modern society, but the internet is already well-stocked in that type of writing, so I’m kind of stuck in an evaluation loop.

Anyway, today is Basketball Day, the start of the NCAA Tournament. It’s a flawed spectacle, but a spectacle none the less.  I am a fan (and graduate) of the University of Kansas, so my memory is full of great highs and horrible lows experienced during this month of March, all the way back to 1984.

Here’s the wisdom of my accumulated experience: Your team will probably break your heart. Try not to let that feeling last too long. It’s just a bunch of kids in baggy shorts.

Enjoy the games!

PS: The diet is going well, I’m down 25 pounds.

A New Year, A New Me….maybe

I am 49 years old, and I’m feeling every single minute of it. So I’m joining the usual “time to get in shape!” brigade that forms with the dawn of every new year.

So far, I’ve hooked up the FitBit I got for Christmas and haven’t eaten any fast food today. (Hey, it’s a start, at least.) Once I get my eating habits straightened out and get through next week’s follow-up appointment with my oncologist (Cancer surviving. There’s a likely blog topic if ever there was one.), I’m going to increase my physical activity.

My goal is to get down to 200 pounds by September (from 252 today) and to get in decent walking-around shape. I’m chaperoning a high school band trip to Chicago in April, and leading a trip to a Boy Scout conference in Michigan in August, so I just can’t afford the knee and lower back pain that tends to accompany every day spent hoofing it around the mall or IKEA or what have you.

Wish me luck. I’m going to need it.

And so this is Christmas…

…and what have I done? Not create any kind of consistent writing schedule, that’s what. But I would like to share one of my favorite holiday things….MST3K’s stirring rendition of “A Patrick Swayze Christmas”.

 

And calling back to my 70s childhood…..no Christmas is complete without something from the GI Joe Adventure Team!

 

Merry Christmas!

So you say you want some content?

Well, that’s too bad. I have too many irons in the fire to get into a regular writing routine. Which is funny, because I started this blog to break my old routines and get into some kind of new writing-based routine.

But do not despair, for the current irons will come out of the fire soon enough, to be replaced with writing-based irons. Then I’ll start blogging about my kids on a regular basis. And possibly food.

So just what is an Escape Car, anyway???

Funny you should ask….the Escape Car was one of the many accessories offered for the greatest toy line of all time, the GI Joe Adventure Team. Basically, it’s a funky little four-wheel scooter GI Joe could fold up and carry on his back.

Here’s some dramatic package art:

escapecarcrop

And here’s some less dramatic package art showing how it went together:

escapecarsmallcrop

Hey, I thought it was the coolest thing in the world in 1972, but I was seven years old, and had yet to discover girls and music.  Today, I have a pretty extensive collection of 70s GI Joes and accessories, and I will eventually share some pictures, but most of it is boxed up. The unboxing is my plan for the post-Christmas part of this winter.

If you want to see more of this stuff RIGHT NOW, I highly recommend my friend Barry Kay’s site, ATGIJOE.com. If it exists, Barry has it, or once had it and sold it in order to buy other, even cooler stuff.

At long last….

….I have a blog.

And I’m using the escapecar.com domain I bought many, many years ago. Please be patient while I screw around with themes and colors and such, because I just don’t know much about this WordPress stuff.

Now for some content…..hoo boy.