Daily Log Archive
School's out for Winter!
I apologise for not having posted here since December 4th as I have
continued to be extremely busy finishing up work for the year and then
getting stuck into the many tasks that have been sitting patiently on
my non work to-do list. So this entry is a quick update on life in the
Lawrence household as another year draws to a close.
Because I spent almost half the year on chemotherapy, and also as I
am still dealing with side effects from both my surgery and the chemo,
we didn't take much family vacation time this year. Consequently,
given that, as with most companies, my vacation is on a "use it or lose
it" basis, I started December with about 19 days of vacation left to
take. As a result, I have been off work for over a week now and will
not be back officially until January 5th next year. I say "officially"
as I am still checking my e-mail and attending the occasional meeting
by phone as I just cannot stand to be out of touch for a whole month at
a time when things at work are so busy.
As you may have guessed from the title of this entry, today is the
last day of school for the year. The kids should be home soon. I have
been enjoying the quiet at home the last week or so as I worked on my
various chores and projects - oh well, it was good while it lasted!
As far as the household projects go, among the more notable are my
daughter's bedroom, which I have remodeled and emptied out
substantially (something she has been begging me to help her do
for ages) and I am part way through converting one of the other rooms
in the house into a workout area (something I very much need). The meds
I am on to combat the neuropathy left behind by chemotherapy have added
about 30 pounds to my post-surgery weight. I don't seem to have a lot
of control over this but I am trying hard to lose a few of those pounds
somehow. I usually find it very easy to lose weight but not this time.
I am going to have to work out extra hard. The pedometer that Lorna got
me shows I am averaging over 3 miles walked a day and many days lately
I have walked five miles or more but it doesn't seem to be enough.
Hence I need to get into some sort of regular workout regimen as I fear
I'll be on these meds for a while yet. I tried coming off them for one
day a week or so ago and the pain was unbearable by mid-afternoon.
Generally on the medical front I am doing quite well - neuropathy
aside. I have no more tests scheduled until February.
This week I am trying to get more into Christmas activities. I
cannot believe that Christmas Day is only a week away. I feel very
unprepared this year - although we do have the gifts for the kids both
purchassed and wrapped. Our tree is up, the lights are on, but we still
need to decorate it. Part of the reason for the tree delay is that the
new tree we bought last year (a large 10ft self lit one) seems to have
shorted out and after wasting an hour trying to fix it Lorna and I
decided to cut our losses and go buy a replacement. We have not even
tried to send Christmas cards this year. Apologies to all of my friends
and family that we usually send one too. We've just been too busy with
medical appointments and other unexpected health issues with other
family members to manage to send Christmas cards. We'll be trying to
contact everyone either by phone or e-mail over the holiday period. I
bought a Christmas train set to go under the tree (I saw it on sale and
could not resist it - I'm still a kid at heart) and I shall be putting
that together later today.
In amongst all of the house projects I have been trying to have a
little fun as well. I have spent quite a few hours playing video games (both alone and with the rest
of the family). Our most played game right now are Wii Fit and
Guitar Hero III - Legends of Rock (I have finally almost mastered the
most basic level!). I have also been trying to get caught up on my reading. I have a lot of books sitting in the queue waiting to be read. I'm
currently reading Hawke
by Tedd Bell (I really like his books so far) and next on deck in the
1000 plus page Cryptonomicon
by Neal Stephenson (I have not read any of his books yet but I am told
that is a good one).
As I type this I am in shorts and it is 71F outside (apologies to my
friends in the North Eastern US that are buried in snow). A few days
ago the temperature was in the 20's and it actually snowed a few
flakes. The day before that it was 80F. This weekend it is supposed to
get cold again before warming up again next week. The weather here can
only be described as crazy!
Last weekend my trusty Mac Book Pro, which has worked flawlessly for
the past year, froze and I had to forcefully power it off. After that I
could not get it to reboot. I was however able to restore the machine
using the wonderful Time Machine backup program that comes as part of
Mac OS X. Thankfully I had been keeping regular backups so I was able
to restore the machine to the state it had been in right before it
froze. However, the disk was now making very odd noises and experience
told me it was dying and would soon fail for good. I made an
appointment to go and see the folks at the "Genius Bar" in the local
Apple store on Monday morning and even though my machine was two weeks
out of warranty (go figure) they offered to replace the disk for free
(I didn't even have to do any begging or groveling) . They didn't have
one in stock but said they would order me one. Wednesday evening they
called and said the disk was in. On Thursday evening I dropped the
machine off at around 7pm and went with the family to have dinner.
Right after dinner, around 8:30pm, they called me and said the
machine was ready to pickup. Today I restored the computer using the
same Time Machine backups I had used before and I now have my system
back just as it was but running on a brand new disk. The combination of
the great service from the Apple store and the ease with which I was
able to restore my machine truly impressed me (and that's not easy with
this type of stuff). I will definitely be buying more Macs as the other
machines in the house grow older and need replacing. I have really
developed a liking for my Mac Book Pro since buying it to be my
companion during the seemingly endless hours of chemotherapy treatment,
but this just experience further convinced me that they are worth the
premium price charged for them.
That's it for now then. I'd like to take this opportunity to wish all of my friends and family around the World a very safe and happy Christmas. To all of my friends that celebrate other holidays, all the very best to you too. I hope you all find peace and happiness in each of your endeavours.
[Top of page]
Can it really be December again
Things have been very busy both at home and at work with it being
the holiday season now. I took last week off to spend time with the
family and to enjoy the Thanksgiving holiday here in the United States.
This week (as always happens) I am trying to get caught up on the
backlog of work and e-mail that builds up whenever one takes a few days
off! That said, given I spent almost half the year undergoing
chemotherapy, I have not used much of my vacation entitlement for this
year. Consequently, Friday (as in tomorrow) will be my last day at work
for 2008. I will not return to work (officially) until January 5th next
year. I say "officially" as I will still be checking my e-mail while
away to avoid having to deal with a mountain of unread mail when I get
back to work in January. It's hard to believe it's that time of year
Last week we took the kids to see the movie Bolt in 3D. I enjoyed
the movie and thought the 3D technology used was a lot better than I
had expected it would be. In general (aside from what I regard as
specialist environments such as Disney and Universal Studios) I have
not enjoyed broad release 3D movies. Bolt definitely is an exception to
that and I would recommend it as a good family movie. Meanwhile,
the weather here in the Austin area has been gorgeous. Blue skies and
very warm temperatures. Yesterday our daytime high was 79 degrees
Fahrenheit. That said, last night, as often happens this time of year,
a cold front blew through and this morning we woke up to a chilly 35
degrees. It was cold enough that my son ran from the car into the
school at full speed - not his usual MO at all !
I have not posted here for a few days but I have been making regular
posts both on Twitter (my ID
is @gfxman if you are a Twitter user) and on Facebook.
Somehow I find it takes me a lot more effort to sit down and write a
(hopefully) meaningful blog post than it does to quickly update my
status on Twitter and Facebook. Many of my friends and colleagues have
made the same observation. I still enjoy both reading and writing blog
posts (and I particularly like having a nice journal of things I can
look back on - such as my treatment log here) but I must confess that I
am able to keep up with most of my friends and some of my family these
days via Facebook. I have been using Facebook for quite a while now but
I am fairly new to Twitter and still not exactly sure if it's for me
but I am persevering with it for a bit longer. I find it much easier to
find people I know and want to keep in touch with on Facebook than on
Twitter. To be fair though, a lot of people I like following from a
computing/IT perspective do seem to be on Twitter so maybe that is just
a different community. In fact the overlap of people I follow who are
both on Facebook and Twitter seems to be quite small.
At any rate, it's hard to believe that December has crept up on me
again and that another year is almost over. I will write a "look back
at the year" post closer to the end of the year but for now let's just
say I have a lot to be thankful for in 2008. My family, my friends, my
doctors, the fact that I have no more medical tests until February, the
list seems almost endless. It truly has been a year unlike any other.
Preliminary biopsy results
Last Wednesday I went into the Round Rock Medical Center for a bone
I have had a lot of new experiences during the past twelve months and
this was another first! For those who are interested, the procedure is
done while the patient (me) is face down on the table with his backside
stuck into the CT machine. They sedate you thankfully before sticking
big needles into your pelvic bone (at the Iliac crest). It was sort of
interesting to see the doctor dressed up in a special protective suit
that to me made him look like something out of Power Rangers! It was
also interesting to ponder how come he gets a suit and I don't :-)
As I mentioned in my prior posting, this was to see if the
chemotherapy treatments had damaged the bone marrow badly enough that
it needs treating. I called the doctor's office about an hour ago to
see if they had the results back. They did. I am hugely relieved to say
that his preliminary reading of the results is that everything looks
normal. As far as I know this means I don't need additional treatment
and I just have to be patient and let my body heal itself. Thanks
everyone for all your messages of support and encouragement in the Guest Book and elsewhere once again during
[Top of page]
results good but more tests needed...
We met with the oncologist on Friday to get the results of the blood
tests and CT scan that I had earlier in the week. The good news is that
there continues to be no further signs of any cancer. This is a huge
relief. I was extremely nervous going into this test cycle. My spleen
continues to be enlarged so next week I am going in to the hospital for
a bone marrow biopsy. The theory is that the chemotherapy damaged my
bone marrow causing the spleen to pick up the slack. We need to find
out how badly the bone marrow was damaged. Depending on the biopsy
results, I may need treatment to help the marrow recover. All things
considered I am doing well and for the most part still on the mend. My
blood levels are the best they have been in over a year.
I am grateful to everyone who has been calling me and writing to me
to ask about the test results. Sorry it has taken me a few days to
update the status here. I had a good friend in town staying with us for
the weekend. Yesterday we went to the UT game (against Baylor) in the
morning and my kids both had soccer games in the afternoon followed by
an end of season pizza party. Just another quiet Saturday. I am trying
to get caught up on my web and e-mail backlog today!
So that's the medical update for now. I'll post again after the
biopsy. The results will take over a week to come back, so it will be
Thanksgiving here in the US before we know the outcome most likely.
Meanwhile, the weather here in Texas has been gorgeous. Cool overnight (40's F) and then warming up to almost 80 during the day with not a cloud in the sky so still wearing shorts in mid-November and yesterday Arsenal beat Manchester United, what more could I ask for? :-)
A "testing" week ahead
No, I'm not referring to the US elections tomorrow unfortunately.
Instead, for me it's time for the next round of post chemo medical
checks. Tomorrow after a scheduled 7am work meeting and a trip to the
local school to vote, I have to go to the Oncologist's office for blood
tests and then on Wednesday I have a CT scan scheduled. We are due to
meet with the doctor to get the results on Friday. So while by tomorrow
night one way or another millions of people here in the US will be
celebrating, I have to wait a few more days to get the result that I
most care about - I know, call me selfish!
Meanwhile I do plan to stay up late tomorrow night and watch the
results come in on what may well be an historic day in American
history. I will however be glad when the whole election process is
over. I am so sick of the endless TV coverage, the annoying commercials
that say nothing about what their candidate would do and instead just
focus on why the other guy is even worse as well as the phone calls and
visits to the front door. I just hope and pray that the balloting
process passes without any major mishaps this time around and that by
sometime on Wednesday, we have a clear winner.
Living in Texas, my vote, sadly has little meaning (no matter which
way I vote this state will stay Republican), but at least I can go to
Starbucks after the doctor, tell them I voted, and get a free cup of
coffee!! Hopefully I can also tell them I voted for the guy who
One year on from surgery that saved
One year ago, I was in the Seton hospital here in Austin having just
had most of my colon removed and was waiting for the tests results that
would determine how seriously ill I really was. We knew from the prior
biopsy that I had cancer but what we did not know, and needed to find
out, was how advanced it really was. We also knew that the tumor
that had just been removed was about the "size of the surgeons fist"
(his words not mine). It was a nervous few days waiting for the test
results on the lymph nodes to come back. The surgeon (unbeknownst me)
had told my wife he feared I was at stage three based on his visual
examination of the nodes. My wife had to worry through this time a lot
more than I did as I was heavily sedated and not fully aware of what
was going on. Thankfully, all 37 lymph nodes that were tested
came back negative and I officially became a stage two cancer patient.
So began many months of recovery from surgery and chemotherapy to
(hopefully) kill any cancer cells that had escaped prior to, or during,
I am very grateful that due to the skill of the doctors that
diagnosed me and performed the surgery on me as well as the oncologist
who subsequently blasted my body with chemotherapy that I am still here
to type this text today.
I think I'll keep this post brief and reflect on how blessed and how
lucky I am to have such great doctors, who are still looking after me,
and such great friends who have
helped me keep my spirits up through the last twelve months. Also, if
you have been thinking about, but putting off, getting a colonoscopy
done - do it now - it could save your life!
Colorado Software Summit
I'm spending the week at the Colorado Software Summit. It's my
favourite programming conference bar none and one I try to attend
whenever I can. As always it has been great to meet so many interesting
people from around the World and to have so many really useful
discussions about emerging technology. I have attended several
really good presentations and tonight I'm running a BOF around the
subject of building rich web applications which should be a lot of fun.
Tomorrow night I am running a BOF on social networking applications
which I also hope will provoke some interesting discussion.
The conference is held in Keystone, Colorado. It's about a 90 mile drive up into the mountains from the Denver airport. After a couple of uneventful flights on Sunday morning, the front right tyre on my rental car blew out at about 70mph while driving through the mountains. I very nearly lost control of the car and only just avoided going off the side of the road. After all I have been through in the past year the last thing I expected was to be suddenly faced with another life threatening experience !
By the way, if you use twitter, I'm posting regular updates during the week. You can find me as @gfxman and please feel free to follow me.
The second day of the conference is now well underway and I'm off to join Denise Hatzidakis as she talks about REST so I'll end this post now.
PS - Sorry I have not posted for a while, life has been very busy. I'll try and post more updates soon.
One year post cancer diagnosis
A year ago (actually on October 2nd 2007) I heard the words that no
one wants to hear from a doctor "I'm really sorry but I think it's
cancer". And so began the journey I have been on for the past twelve
months. As I have documented here, I had major surgery followed by
about six months of chemo and to say the least it has been a very
stressful time for me and my family. Last Friday I went for yet more
blood tests and I am relieved to report that for the first time all of
my tests (white cell count, platelet count and haemoglobin) are back in
the normal range. I have more tests scheduled for November (including
another CT scan) but as far as we can tell, for now, I am finally on
the mend. I still have horrible neuropathy in my hands and feet (caused
by the chemo meds) but that is a small price to pay for still being
here a year on from my initial diagnosis.
Meanwhile a lot of things that I need to blog about have been going
on. I'll try and get that done soon. In summary, the kids are doing
well at school and enjoying playing soccer. We adopted a dog, a four
year old Golden Retriever called Rocket. He's a great dog and it feels
really good to have been able to give him a nice home. I have been able
to finally make a couple of business trips. I went out to San Jose, CA
a few weeks ago to attend the SHARE conference and a couple of weeks
ago I flew up to Boston to attend some IBM Academy meetings. That was
also the first time I flew on Jet Blue. I really liked them and will
definitely use them again. Being able to watch the Ryder Cup golf live
while on a plane was very cool. American Airlines, with whom I have in
excess of two million miles on my frequent flier account, need to do
some serious upgrading if they want to win me back as a customer on
domestic routes out of Austin.
Finally, in a couple of weeks I am off to the Colorado Software Summit. I
am really excited about that. I love the conference. I think it's the
best programming conference around. I missed the conference last year
as it was right before I went into the hospital for surgery. I made a
more detailed posting about the conference on my work
blog a few days ago and Simon Phipps just did a nice writeup on
his blog as did Dave Landers on his blog. Please let
me know if you are reading this and planning to be at the conference.
So that's the update for today. As always a big THANK YOU to
everyone that has supported me and my family through this whole ordeal
and for all of your messages in the Guest Book.
I feel very blessed to still be here one year on.
[Top of page]
Dion Gillard (5th May 1967 - 25th September 2008)
My dear friend Dion Gillard died this week after a courageous fight
with melanoma. Dion was loved and respected by friends and family
around the World. He had a great sense of humour, was a brilliant
computer programmer, was a businessman, a husband and a father.
Basically, he was just a great person to be around and he had a
positive impact on everyone he met, myself very much included.
Dion and I first met at the Colorado Software Summit conference years ago (I forget exactly which year) and have kept in touch ever since. In fact we were due to meet at the conference this year, towards the end of next month. The event won't be the same without him, he has so many great friends there besides me. I have always admired Dion's technical breadth and know how and willingness to share, but it was his terrific sense of humour I think that endeared me to him even more. We also spent countless hours debating why Australia were better than England at cricket! We had even discussed meeting up in the UK next year to watch the Ashes series together to (we had hoped) celebrate both of our battles with cancer.
I send my deepest condolences to his wife, children, family and friends around the World. You have a lot of people reaching out to you at this time and sharing your sense of great loss. The World is a less good place without Dion, but we are also blessed to have had, and celebrate, the time we did have with him.
Rest in peace "dIon" you will be truly missed but never forgotten.
Tests, tests and more tests
Last Friday I was back at the oncologist's office for yet more
tests. This seems to be a recurring theme for me at the moment. As much
as I wish I could put it all behind me I have to accept that these
tests are for my own good and the doctor is just being thorough.
The good news is that the lab work continues to show no signs of
cancer. My haemoglobin levels are also back to normal so the
fatigue/anemia is gone and my energy levels are definitely up!
The bad news is that my white cell count and my platelet count remain abnormally low. The oncologist says he is puzzled by this and he has me in his "requires more investigation" pile. His best theory is that the chemo damaged the bone marrow so badly that my body is just taking longer than average to recover from it. The recent CT scan shows that my spleen is enlarged. Again this could be because it is trying to help offset the weakness of the bone marrow. Lorna asked him if this could be evidence of Leukemia. He said he does not think so as the blood work does not show that. However, if my white count has not recovered enough in four weeks from now he wants to do a bone marrow biopsy on me (I hear they are painful so hope I can avoid that). I have another CT scan planned for the first week of November. If my spleen gets too far out of whack they are also saying that removing it is an option - oh joy!
On top of this my neuropathy (numbness/pain in hands and feet) has become (at least by my measurements) severe. I'm periodically in a lot of pain and cannot feel anything under my feet and my fingers hurt when I type.
So while I am happy that the tests seem to indicate we are heading in the right direction I remain nervous about the overall state of affairs. I guess that is why they make the little blue pills! I am trying very hard to just get on with my life and forget about all of this between doctors visits but I have to admit it is hard.
Meanwhile, this weekend Hurricane Ike is coming to visit so that
should certainly keep me preoccupied!!
Both kids have soccer games this weekend but Ike may have a say in
that. The UT Football game we were hoping to go to has already been
That's it for now. I'll post again soon with an Ike update and other
news, including my first bad experience with the Mac Book Pro - my
battery died after less than eight months of use! That's it for now,
I'm off to bed...
Is Summer really over?
Having grown up in England, where August is the height of Summer, it
still feels odd to hear people in Texas talking about Summer being over
by the time we are less than midway through that month. Moreover, the
temperature in Central Texas as we enter September is still in the high
nineties Fahrenheit almost every day - feels like Summer to me! That
said, the kids have now been back at school for almost two weeks and in
fairness people here tend to view Summer as over once school
starts. I was hoping we might get a little rain as a result of
Hurricane Gustav but it has gone inland well to the North East of us.
We have not had a lot of rain recently and the garden is looking a bit
parched in places despite my best attempts to keep it watered.
Looking back, I am really pleased that with all of the medical
things going on we have still managed to do a lot of fun stuff this
Summer as a family. It feels a bit strange not to have the kids around
today as I work from home in a very quiet house. I do feel more
productive though - imagine that !
This is a short work week due to Monday being the Labor Day holiday
here in the US. We had a fairly lazy "long weekend" and I spent a lot
of time either swimming in the pool or trying to catch up on my reading.
It was really nice to not have a full agenda of things to do for a
change. On Saturday evening Lorna and I went to the opening game of the
University of Texas (UT) football season. The stadium has been enlarged
yet again during the off season and now has a capacity of around
100,000. Indeed the official attendance for the game on Saturday was
98,053. I hear they are talking of adding even more seating in the
future! This is a stadium that apparently pays for itself and yet hosts
an average of just six (yes six) games a year!! As someone who played
both Cricket and Soccer at University in England where it was a good
day if five people turned up to watch us play it still blows my mind to
observe the sheer immensity of collegiate sports, especially football
(not to be confused with the kind of football/soccer I play), here in
the US. It must be an amazing experience for those lucky enough to
compete in such an environment. Apart from perhaps Wembley stadium in
London, I cannot think of any other venue in England that compares in
sheer size to the UT stadium - and this is (non professional) college
sports!! We had a very enjoyable time at the game and we're both
looking forward to the next home fixture in a couple of weeks.
Another indication that Summer is actually winding down is that our
local baseball team (the Round
have now played their last home game for the season. While the major
league parent team (the Houston Astros) still has a fair number of
games left to play, the triple-A season is now over and the NFL is
about to get underway. Meanwhile on the other side of the Atlantic the
English Premier League has started (seems like that season gets longer
every year) and the cricket season is winding down. We also have the
Ryder cup to look forward to of course.
So I guess perhaps, at least in this part of the World, Summer is
"officially" over - now if someone could please tell that to the
[Top of page]
I'm "Port less" and "Polyp less"
Sorry for the title. My sense of humour can be a bit weird at times
but it has also helped me get through the last eleven months. Yesterday
I had surgery done to remove my chemotherapy port.
It feels weird to finally have the port removed as it has been an ever
present part of me since it was surgically inserted back in November of
last year. The surgeon who performed the procedure is the same one who
did the five hour colonectomy on me last October and he will also be
responsible for monitoring what's left of my colon (which is not much
but it's enough!!) for the foreseeable future. As such, he was kind
enough to also do my first follow up colon check since the major
surgery while he had me sedated yesterday. I am happy to report that
for now at least I am polyp free. I don't recall if I mentioned this in
earlier posts but in my case polyps are a lot more dangerous than they
are for an average (more lucky) person. On average my doctors tell me a
polyp will go cancerous if left untreated in about ten years. In my
case that time is about one year. So they'll be keeping a close eye on
me for the rest of my life. As I have mentioned before and I'll say it
again, if you have been sitting there thinking "I really should get a
colonoscopy done" then please go get it done. It really is not a big
deal and it could save your life. It's one of the reasons I'm still
here to type this today - makes you think doesn't it? My next colon
check will be required in six months, so that is one thing I can check
off my todo list for a while at least. Now we just have to get the
blood under control, the neuropathy contained and the swelling reduced
and life will be good. I'm starting to sound like a bad country song so
I'll stop rambling on about the medical stuff for today.
Back to school day
Meanwhile, today here in Texas is "back to school day". Apart from
the agonising sounds coming out of my iOmega external hard drive (I
think the fan is going - this will be he third one to die on me in
about three years) the house is silent. The kids left early for school
today and won't be home until after 3pm so I have a very quiet work
environment indeed - I almost miss having them around but don't let
them know I said that ok! It probably seems odd to my friends and
family over in the UK that school is back so soon but we broke up in
May whereas I think you all still break up for the Summer in July. So
we've actually had the kids home for about 3 months. It's time for them
to go back! Jack is starting First Grade this year, and hard
though it is to believe, this is Robyn's last year before moving up to
Middle School as she starts out on Fifth Grade.
A few of you have again written to me saying you have had problems
posting to the Guest Book.
As far as I know, this only ever happens if you are using Internet
Explorer 6. I do have a message on the Guest Book launch page that
warns about this known problem. I have confirmed with one of the people
that recently had problems that they indeed were using IE6. If you are
seeing Guest Book problems with other browsers, please do let me know.
[Top of page]
tests and more tests
I'll keep this post brief as I have to be up early tomorrow to get
ready for surgery and it's already quite late. I went in to the
oncologist's office again on Friday for more blood tests. My white
count and platelet count remain quite low but not low enough that they
need to treat it directly. They did however give me a prescription for
some pills to fight the swelling (and weight gain) that is being caused
by the meds they have me on to fight the neuropathy caused by the chemo
meds - you with me?
I have to go back again in two weeks to be tested again to see if
things are improving. My haemoglobin count is thankfully continuing to
improve and is now almost back to the typical range for male of my age.
Tomorrow morning at 9am I am having surgery to remove my chemo port.
It will be weird after all of these months not to feel it there. I am
also having a follow up colon check which I am nervous about but it's
something I'll have to get used to as this will be a regular part of my
life over the next few years.
I'll post another update once I am recovered enough from surgery.
I'm trying to get caught up after a week away- consequently, two
postings in one day - I think this may be a first for me!
Anyway, here's a quick medical update as there is still quite a bit
going on. It has now been over three months since I ended chemotherapy.
As I have documented here in detail,
during chemo I suffered through a whole collection of different side
effects at various times. Many of those went away fairly quickly after
chemo ended. A few have stuck with me however. By far the worst is the neuropathy
(numbness and pain in my hands and feet). Interestingly, the neuropathy
only began during the last week or so of chemo but has since then
become incrementally worse. It is caused by the Oxaliplatin
(one of the three drugs that make up the FOLFOX chemo regimen). I am on
medication that is supposed to suppress some of the pain that the
neuropathy causes but for the most part I just have to be patient and
wait for it to take care of itself. My oncologist has told me that it
can take over a year for the effects to fully wear off. For the benefit
of the many other folks that have found my web site and have been kind
enough to contact me, all of whom are fighting their own battles with
colon cancer, and all of whom seem to be having the same basic
experience as me, the doctor has tried a couple of drugs to help
relieve the neuropathy pain. At first we tried Cymbalta which did help
a little but had nasty interactions with other medications I am taking
(primarily the Paxil) so I had to stop taking it. I am now trying
Lyrica which again seems to help some but seems to itself be causing
some nasty side effects that I am not enjoying. The biggest issues to
date are weight gain (just what I needed!), trouble concentrating and
swelling of my feet, legs and hands (the swelling is also in part, I
believe, caused by the Oxaliplatin). So, while I am really excited by
my test results from a week ago, I still find myself with a lot of
issues to handle on a daily basis. Don't get me wrong however, you
won't find me complaining too much for if the chemo and surgery have
done their job I'll live with the rest for as long as it takes to
Talking of tests, just when I thought I was almost done it turns out to not quite be the case. My oncologist's office called last week while I was in San Jose. They want me back for more blood tests this Friday as after further thought they have decided that my white cell count and platelet count really are a bit too low and they want to check me again and if necessary take steps to help those numbers improve. I'll keep you all posted as to how that goes.
Also, next Monday I have an appointment to see the surgeon who did
my colectomy back in October for a check up. I'm not going to go into
details but I think you get the picture (or at least I hope he will!).
He is also going to take out my chemo port (a fairly minor surgical
procedure) at the same time. So I'll be back at the hospital again next
week for I think the fifth time in the last 10 months. I'm a little
nervous about the checkup as if he finds any polyps we are going to
have to take immediate steps to try and prevent them from becoming
cancerous. Hopefully everything will be OK.
So that's the medical update, I'll make another posting when there
is anything worth sharing.
I'd like to end this posting by sending my very best wishes and
prayers out to all of the people who have contacted me during the past
several months to thank me for sharing my experiences and for telling
me that in doing so I had also helped them as they faced their own
struggle with cancer. It is not always easy to share something so
personal in such a public fashion but my goal in doing so was in large
part to reach out to others in a similar situation to myself. I am both
happy and more than a little humbled to have heard from so many of you.
Good luck all of you, and please keep in touch. I have made many new
friends in the last six months which has been one of the good side
effects of this whole experience.
[Top of page]
A week in San Jose, California
Last week I flew out to San Jose to speak at the SHARE
conference. I am the IBM rep to one of the Projects at SHARE which
means I help find speakers, set the agenda for the project, do a little
speaking myself and also chair sessions given by other speakers. This
was the first time I have been on a plane since March of 2007 and I was
a bit nervous how my body would react to the stresses of air travel but
thankfully, everything seemed to go fine. Interestingly, nothing
much seems to have changed in terms of the overall travel experience
while I have been away and I was pleasantly surprised with how smoothly
and efficiently the check in process went at both Austin and San Jose.
Of course it helps to be a multi-million miler on American Airlines
which enabled me to jump the queue for the security checkpoints in San
Jose, which can get really busy at times. My flights left on time, the
weather was great and as a result the flights were smooth both ways. My
checked baggage even arrived quickly after arrival. I guess it was just
a good week to be travelling!
An odd side effect of the medication I am still on is that I don't
remember too much of either flight but I took some nice photos of the
Grand Canyon and some interesting video of the approach into San Jose
so I guess I had a good time !! This was also the first time I have
done any public speaking in quite a while. This is something I really
enjoy and it was great to be "back in the saddle" as it were. It was
also really nice to see so many good friends and colleagues, many of
whom I had not seen since before my surgery last October. San Jose as a
city has also improved immensely as a place to visit since I first went
there in 1987. I decided not to get a rental car and basically just
walked everywhere. The conference was at the Convention Center and the
hotel is very close to there. Plenty of places to eat are just a short
walk away and there is also the must see "Tech Museum". Among the many
restaurants is Gordon
a place I always try to visit at least once when in San Jose. Garlic
fries and a glass of locally brewed Heffeweizen out on the back patio -
sweet!!! If you want to get merry in a hurry then drink the
Blonde Bock (7% alcohol with an o.g. of 16.5) but just don't do what I
did the first time I went there and ask for a Guinness!
The conference hotels (Marriott,Hilton and Fairmont) were all sold
out when I made my reservations so I ended up staying, for the first
time, at the Sainte Claire hotel. The rooms were
clean and felt modern, the WiFi was free and they have a great Italian
restaurant (Il Fornaio)
on the ground floor. What more could you want?......well a bar or at
least somewhere to hang out in the evening would be nice but in general
a perfectly OK hotel to stay at.
For those who want to read a little more about SHARE and what we do
there, I have posted a few times recently over at my work blog
on the topic.The
next SHARE conference is actually going to be in my home town of
Austin, Texas next March so I won't have far to travel for that event!
On the medical front I am still suffering through some really
annoying and painful side effects from the chemotherapy and also the
medications I am on that are supposed to help suppress the first set of
side effects have their own set of side effects! I'll make another
posting soon on the overall medical situation as there is still quite a
lot going on.
[Top of page]
So, as I mentioned in my last post, this week I underwent a series
of tests to effectively see how well my treatment (surgery followed by
FOLFOX chemotherapy) has gone. I had several tests done including a lot
of blood work and a set of CT scans as well as the usual vital signs
checks etc. During chemo I had my blood tested every other week so I
should be used to it by now but for obvious reasons I found myself much
more nervous than usual this time around. I think in part it's knowing
that as well as looking at the using things such as white cell count,
platelet count and haemoglobin number they are also looking for cancer
markers or CA's (cancer antigens) which would indicate that treatment
had failed. So at 10am this morning Lorna and I went to meet with the
oncologist. We sat for a few minutes in one of the patient rooms
waiting for him to arrive and you can imagine my sense of total relief
when, upon entering the room, the first words he said even before he
said hello were "no cancer". My CT scan showed nothing unusual
except for a slightly enlarged spleen which could well be due to the
chemo drugs and my blood tests were all negative. The doctor is going
to do another CT scan in three months time to make sure that the spleen
issue is not getting any worse, mainly as a precaution at this point.
So from his perspective, as of this moment in time I am cancer free. In
about two weeks I am meeting with the surgeon who did the colonectomy
back in October for my first follow up exam and to get my chemo port
removed. Hopefully those tests will be negative also. So I'll see the
oncologist again in November and begin a series of fairly regular
checkups, at least for the next year or so but I am not going to worry
about that tonight.
I cannot begin to express my feelings and emotions right now. No one
knows what is in store from one day to the next but tonight at least I
am going to go out and do something fun, actually I'm hoping we can go
to the movies and see Dark Knight which I still have not seen.
As always thank you everyone so much for your continued support,
e-mails, phone calls, visits and messages in
the guest book during this ordeal. It means the World to me.
[Top of page]
A week of medical tests ahead
It's hard to believe but it has been three months since my
chemotherapy ended. A standard part of the treatment process is for me
to now have a set of follow up tests. Tomorrow (Tuesday) I have blood
tests scheduled. On Wednesday I have a CT scan and then on Thursday I
meet with the oncologist to get the results and to discuss where we
are. Although, apart from the neuropathy in my hands and feet which is
driving me crazy, I feel pretty good, I am still nervous about these
tests and I will be glad when this week is behind me. It's hard to
ignore the fact that they are looking for any continued presence of
cancer in my system. I'll post more updates as the week progresses.
Meanwhile, I want to extend my best wishes and prayers to my good friend Dion
down in Sydney, Australia who is in the middle of his own battle with
cancer and starting out on chemotherapy tomorrow. I hope he will get
the same level of support from his friends and family around the World
that I have been lucky enough to receive. If you are so inclined,
please include Dion in your thoughts and prayers.
As for my kids, this continues to be a very busy Summer. Robyn has
Karate camp this week and both Robyn and Jack spent last week in
"British soccer camp". A bunch of great lads from the UK come over
every year and run the camp at a nearby park. It's a lot of fun and the
kids had a great time. Robyn is also continuing to appear in the local community theatre
production of "The Witches".
So that's it for now. I'll post more later in the week.
[Top of page]
Resurrecting my work blog
Just a quick pointer to/reminder about my work blog. I try not to
discuss much work related stuff here except for maybe some travel and
conference related items. I keep a separate blog over at
that I discuss my work related activities in. However, during the
height of my chemo treatment I found it hard to maintain both this site
and the work blog. Consequently the work blog has been quiet for some
time. Now that chemo is behind me I have started trying to post
frequently to the work blog again. Several of you have commented to me
that you had forgotten I even had a work blog! Therefore I am posting
this entry as a reminder that the work blog exists and that it is
active again. Please feel free to pop over there are see what I am up
to work wise and leave a comment or two if you feel so inclined.
[Top of page]
Bike riding for cancer relief -
your help needed
In recent years I lost my Mum to cancer as well as a very good
friend here in Austin. As you all know I have also now been in a
personal fight with cancer and I just found out that another good
friend is starting his own fight. On top of that, I have been contacted
by numerous fellow cancer patients who found me through this web site
and I have also got to know many of my fellow patients at the local
cancer center where I am being treated. I am therefore, as you would
expect, a strong supporter of genuine efforts to help fund cancer
research. A colleague of mine, Don Harbison, is about to embark
on such a fund raising effort and asked if I would mention it here. Of
course I agreed. Rather than try and explain it in my own words I asked
him to provide me a short description of the event which he has done
below. If cancer research is important to you, please consider
supporting Don's efforts. Here is his description of the event.....
By way of introduction, for those who don't know me, I work with Kelvin in IBM's Open Standards organization. Like you, I was first shocked to hear news of his cancer diagnosis late last year, and then extremely pleased to learn how successful his treatment program is going now.
Cancer has also directly affected some of my family and friends. For the past three years I have worked to raise funds to support cancer research at Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston. I do this by signing up to ride the Pan-Massachusetts Challenge, a 2 day, 192 mile ride here in Massachusetts. By signing up I commit to raise a minimum of $4,000 but I aim higher. This year I'm targeting $8,500. Please check out their web page ...you'll see it's an amazing event that attracts participation from all across the country and the world. This year we are aiming to bring in $34M, so you can see what a huge impact this has on supporting the excellent research programs at Dana-Farber that benefit us all.
Many PMC people ride in honor of a friend or family member directly affected by cancer. This year I am pleased that Kelvin accepted my request to dedicate my ride in his honor. Like you, I've been incredibly impressed with his courageous approach to beating his cancer. I can't think of a better way of expressing this than to continue to work hard at the fund raising, and then go out and break a sweat by riding with 5,500 others from Sturbridge to Provincetown here in Massachusetts.
This year the ride is on August 2nd and 3rd. Please join me in this effort by sponsoring my ride.
To do this, just visit this site
Click on 'Sponsor one rider with one donation', then open up 'Select a person by eGift ID'. You'll see my name and the field to enter the amount you wish to contribute. It's very quick and simple. The PMC staff run a lean operation. As they say: "Not one cent of each dollar raised through riders' sweat and determination is used for administrative and organizational expenses." Using the web is a major component of this success.
If you work for IBM or a company that has a matching gift program, this is an excellent way to double your gift. Last year, almost $2,000 was directly matched by IBM. Here's the link for IBM's Matching Grant form
Just fill in your employee serial number and the amount of your donation. Then snail mail it to me at:
3 Thoreau Dr.
Chelmsford, MA 01824
I will take care of mailing it in to the PMC/Dana-Farber team.
I'm looking forward to the ride, and re-connecting with the amazing community that comes together once a year. When it's over, I'll post an update on how it went.
Thank you for your support!
we lost a very dear and very loyal friend when one of our two Golden
Retrievers, Toby, passed away. He was 12 years old. Lorna and I got
Toby and his twin sister Brandy (who is still with us but very confused
as to where Toby has gone) in 1996 just after we were married. Over
that long a period of time it is hard not to build up a very close bond
with such a great dog. As any book on the subject will point out,
Golden Retrievers make great companion animals and Toby was the epitome
of that. He just adored people and was always beside one of us as
often as he could be. Many times he would quietly creep into our
bedroom at night and go to sleep at the end of the bed. More than once
I almost fell over him during the night! As I mentioned in my prior
posting, we knew that his remaining time with us would be limited but
we were expecting it to be measured in months and not days. Sadly, the
cancer had apparently metastasized further and faster than we realized
and he was a lot worse off than we had hoped. His passing has affected
all of us, especially Lorna and I as Toby in a way was like our first
baby. We raised him from an eight week old puppy at a time when we were
not exactly sure what we were doing and in a way he trained us as we
tried to train him! The kids seem to be handling it better than
we are which is actually a good thing. They were sad for a while but
have rebounded quickly and are already wanting a new puppy to get the
dog count back up to three. They even have a name picked out already!
We still have Brandy and our three year old spaniel, Scamp and I think
Lorna and I need a little time to get over Toby's departure before we
give in to the puppy idea but I'm sure it will only be a matter of
time. I am fortunate that I have had a lot of great friends and
companions around me in my life and Toby was definitely one of them. No
matter how bad a day I had at the office or whatever my mood, Toby was
always there with a smile (see photo) and a tennis ball. We are very
grateful to have had him with us for as long as we did and we all miss
him very much.
The Great Wolf Lodge
I took last week off from work and we drove up to Dallas (actually
to Grapevine which is effectively a Dallas suburb). We stayed at the
recently opened Great
Situated, adjacent to the DFW airport, the Lodge is actually a combined
hotel and water park, with both indoor and outdoor water parks. They
claim that the indoor water park is in fact the largest of its kind in
the World. The hotel also has all kinds of other things for kids and
grown ups alike to do, such as the Magi Quest which has you running all
over the hotel looking for clues to gain runes and solve magical
puzzles. I think the kids enjoyed the quest as much as they enjoyed the
water parks. In fact we all had a great time and are thinking of going
back again at Christmas time. If you follow the link above you can read
a whole lot more about what the Great Wolf Lodge has to offer. I would
thoroughly recommend it as a great place to let off steam for a few
The weather here in Central Texas continues to be very hot. Every
day for the past several weeks we have been close to (or above) 100
degrees Fahrenheit. This week I am back at work while Lorna and the
kids are having fun at vacation bible school at one of the local
churches. I have also been trying to keep up with the Euro 2008 matches
and with Wimbledon (both of which are being shown live on TV here).
This coming weekend Robyn has a 3 v 3 soccer tournament which should be
a lot of fun although it is likely to be very hot during most of the
On the medical front, the numbness in my feet and hands continues to
be quite painful, in fact, typing has become very uncomfortable for me
so I will keep this posting brief. I am visiting the oncologist's
office on Wednesday to get my chemo port flushed and I am hoping they
can do something more for the numbness. The meds they gave me have so
far not improved things at all.
Anyway, that's the news for now, I'll try to post again soon.
[Top of page]
I have not posted here for a couple of weeks as things have been a
bit hectic, so here are a few updates.
Last week I had business meetings in Orlando. My wife and I decided
we would drive there with the kids so that they could have some fun
while I was working. Even with the price of fuel at its current
level, driving is still cheaper than flying the four of us and to
be honest I am still a bit nervous of taking a plane ride given some of
the lingering chemo side effects (my legs seem to swell up really
easily at present). In any case, I really enjoy driving and the drive
to Orlando from our house, a trip of about 1150 miles each way, is
quite a pleasant one and almost all on freeways. We have done the trip
many times before so we know where a lot of good places to stop for
breaks are and we usually break the trip into two days, spending the
night in Gulfport which is almost exactly half way between Austin and
Orlando. As a side note, I really feel for the people of Gulfport. Even
two years after hurricane Katrina, there is still a tremendous amount
of evidence left of the devastating effects of the storm.
Anyway, it was nice for me to get away for a few days, even if it
was primarily a week of business meetings for me. I had not been out of
the state of Texas since before my surgery last October so a week away
was really quite a treat. I did not manage to make it to the them parks
with the family but we did get to spend a fun evening together at Disney
Quest (a five storuy building full of all types of video games both
old and new and some really cool virtual reality rides). On the night
before we started driving home we all had dinner at the Arabian Knights
(you eat while watching the horses and actors perform). By all accounts
a fun time was had by all and I feel refreshed just from being out of
the house for a while.
This week I had a series of business meetings at the office and it
was really nice to meet so many colleagues, many of whom I had not seen
for many months due to my ongoing medical issues.
Talking of medical issues, it has now been five weeks since chemo
ended. Some of the side effects have definitely improved, others
however are lingering on. In particular, the numbness in my fingers
that had just started by the end of chemo has now also spread to my
feet and has generally become quite a but worse. It has reached the
point in fact, where driving the car feels strange as I can only barely
feel the pedals. I called the doctor and he has put me on some meds
that are hopefully going to help with this (yet more pills to remember
to take!). Apparently this numbness can take many months to fully go
away and is caused by the Oxaliplatin (one of the chemo drugs) which
messes quite badly with the nervous system.
The kids are already well into the various camps and other activities that we planned for them this Summer and seem to be having a lot of fun. The weather has been extremely hot here in Texas. We have already had multiple 100 degree days in the Austin area. Heaven only knows what August will be like at this rate. Thankfully we have so far escaped most of the severe storms that have all passed to our North. Anyway, that's all the updates for today. I'm taking next week off so I can spend some quality time with the family and forget about work for a few days. After that I hope to get back into a routine of more regular updates here as the Summer progresses.
[Top of page]
I haven't posted for a few days in part because there has not been a
lot of news to share on the medical front (which is fine by me). It has
now been 22 days since my last chemo session ended (on May 7th). The
"fog" seems to have left me now finally for which I am very grateful.
It has been replaced however by a feeling of total exhaustion - I think
I have finally let myself relax a bit and it's past time to catch up on
a lot of missed sleep. Most of the other chemo side effects are still
with me which is no great surprise as my doctor told me to expect it to
take between four to six weeks for them to subside. The thing that is
bugging me the most right now is a constant feeling of numbness in all
of my fingers and toes - it actually makes typing and even walking bit
uncomfortable. This is a known side effect of the Oxaliplatin
medication, so I hope it goes away soon. I visited the Oncologist's
office yesterday to get my chemo port flushed. I have decided not to
have it removed until August so that I can have all of my interim blood
tests done via the port (rather than having to endure a lot of needles
being stuck into my arm). The port has to be flushed every four weeks
to prevent any risk of blood clots. The next major medical milestones
are scheduled for August when I'll need another CT scan, a lot of other
tests and an exam by my surgeon. When all of that is done I'll need
minor surgery to remove the port.
So let's see, what else is going on? Well, we had a very nice and
relaxing Memorial Day weekend. The weather was (and continues to be)
very hot and we spent a lot of time out by the pool. The kids had lots
of friends over and had fun in the water. I spent a lot of time in
"slug mode" sitting by the pool and reading.
Today is Robyn's actual birthday (although we held her party several
days ago). I cannot believe that she is ten years old already - how
time flies. She doesn't know it yet but we're planning a surprise
dinner with one of her best friends at her favourite restaurant
tonight. School ends on Friday so this will be the last week I have a
quiet work from home environment! Thankfully the kids have a lot of
Summer camps and other activities planned already to help keep them
busy during the long Summer break. I'm a little concerned about just
how hot this Summer will be as temperatures in Central Texas have
already been in the high nineties Fahrenheit for the last couple of
weeks. Well above average for the time of year. We've also seen some
nasty storms come through already. Our roof (which was replaced in 2005
after a hail storm) has again been badly damaged by hail and Lorna's
car also needs work done on it to get the hail dents removed. In the
USA in general this looks like being one of the worst years in a long
time (maybe ever) for damage, and sadly deaths, caused by Tornadoes. I
don't know if this is due to climate change or not but suffice to say
the weather here this year has been pretty unusual in many ways.
That's about all the news for now. I'll try and post again in a few
[Top of page]
Cleaning up after a stormy night
Last night, multiple storm lines containing several super cell
clouds (the type that frequently generate tornadoes) went through this
area. This led to a very rough night and some very frightened kids.
Multiple funnel clouds were reported in the area, the closest one
passed less than three miles from here. As a result, we experienced
strong winds, heavy rain and a lot of hail. A few of the pieces of hail
were about the size of a billiard balls. The hail was so bad it even
killed a duck which sadly we found dead on our back porch during one of
the breaks in the storms. This morning we began the cleanup. There were
leaves and twigs everywhere and several pieces of our shingle roof had
broken free and were laying on the ground. We had our roof replaced in
2005 after another major hail storm. Today I called the roofing company
again and they are coming out to assess whether or not we need to again
replace the roof. All day around our neighbourhood you could here chain
saws and other power tools being used as people cleaned up the mess.
Several trees nearby have lost limbs or have become uprooted.
Thankfully our trees are mostly large and well established and all seem
to have survived the onslaught. I got a few good photos of the piles of
hail on the back porch, I'll try and post one or two later.
Luckily, we managed to host my son's soccer team pool party during
the afternoon and early evening yesterday before the storms arrived.
There is no way we could have hosted it today. When we awoke the pool
was full to overflowing (the emergency drain seems to have become
blocked by all the tree debris). The pool was also full, and I do mean
full, of leaves and twigs. We have been cleaning it out off and on all
day and we are still not done. Later today I need to figure out
what is blocking the drain and fix it and do more raking up of all the
leaves and twigs that are spread all over the front and back yards. It
really is quite a mess. I wish I had more energy but at least this will
keep my mind of my other worries for a while!
The past week or so we have had several big storms (although this
was by far the worst) and it seems we have had a lot more tornadic
activity (even this far South of "Tornado Alley") than usual.
When I moved to Central Texas, while the realtors were busy telling me
how great a place
it was to live in I think they somehow forgot to mention how much "fun"
Spring can be!
[Top of page]
End of round twelve, end of
It's hard to believe but I have made it through my scheduled twelve
rounds of chemotherapy. The treatments officially ended on Wednesday
but I have been too wiped out to post until now. The fatigue still has
me firmly in its grasp but I am hopeful that it will wear off in a few
more days from now (although lately it has been taking almost a full
ten days to clear out). The staff at the oncologist, who have been
great all through this process, showered my with confetti and gave me a
certificate of achievement to send me on my way. I was very close to
tears, they have all been so terrific in the way they have treated me.
I will not be meeting the oncologist again now for three months at
which time he will test my blood and do a CT scan to make sure nothing
bad is trying to creep back into my system - that will naturally
be a nervous visit. I also have a call into my surgeon to see when he
wants to take out my chemo infusion port (minor surgery) and do my
physical exam. So while chemo is behind me for now, I still have some
more near term worries to get past but we have for sure reached a major
milestone now with chemo ending. When the "fog" wears off I am sure I
will feel happy about where I am. I am not up to writing a long posting
right now but I do want to close by again thanking all of you that have
stuck with me throughout this whole ordeal. I could not be where I am
now without the fantastic support of my family and friends around the
World. As always a big THANK YOU to you all.
[Top of page]
Seconds out, Round Twelve - ding
So here we are. It's Monday morning and I am sitting in my chair at
the oncologist's office beginning my twelfth and final chemo treatment!
My first treatment was back on December 26th of last year and since
then the time seems to have (for the most part) flown by. I must admit
that I am now more than ready to be done. By all accounts my body has
handled the treatment very well but the fatigue in particular has
reached the point where it never fully goes away so I'll be glad in
about four to six weeks from now when the side effects are supposed to
fully subside and my system will hopefully become "normal" again.
After this week we go into a monitoring mode at approximately three
monthly intervals where I will be tested for any signs of the cancer
coming back, both by my oncologist and my surgeon who will be
monitoring things too. So those visits will be nervous times for me I
am sure but I am not going to worry about them right now as this is a
major milestone and I plan to celebrate a little once we get through
In about two weeks I'll need to schedule surgery to have the chemo
infusion port removed from my chest , yet more hours of blood tests and
filling out CYA forms at the hospital, for what is hopefully a 20
minute procedure. At the same time as the port is removed, while I am
sedated the surgeon plans to do an initial internal exam to see if
there are any signs of the polyps that can turn cancerous coming back.
If there are that will have to be dealt with as my genetics are such
that the average time it takes for a polyp to go cancerous is one year
or maybe less. I believe the average for a person that does not have my
genetic makeup, is 10 years (quite a difference).
When I started writing about each of the chemo visits, I made the
analogy to a 12-round boxing match. I wondered at the start if my
opponent (the chemo meds) would be too much for me. For sure he landed
a few good blows but my blood levels and other numbers continue to
improve and we have not had to delay any of the rounds so I think when
all is said and done I am hoping for a "points decision" in my favour !!
I'll post again soon but for now I need to sign off as I just got a
shot of Ativan (Lorazepam) and I am getting drousy!
[Top of page]
Rocking with Rush
A couple of nights ago (Wednesdsy), along with our good friend,
Brian, my daughetr (Robyn) and I went to the Frank Irwin Center here in
Austin to see Canadian rock legends Rush in concert. This was the
first time they had come to Austin in 14 years! My wife is not a big
Rush fan so I had taken Robyn to San Antonio to see them last Summer
and she had enjoyed it so much that when the Austin date was announced
we did not hesitate to go looking for tickets. I think we enjoyed this
show even better than the prior one. The set list had been changed and
I think it was a better blend of their newer and "classic" music. The
nice thing about the 2008 tour is that the band are only playing venues
that they have not played in at least ten years. I am really thankful
that the side effects from my ongoing chemo treatments held off long
enough for me to enjoy the show. The band played for close to three
hours with a short intermission midway through. I'm also glad the show
was Wednedsay and not Thursday or Friday as the chemo has definitelky
hit me quite hard the last couple of days. Anyway, as promised in my
prior post, here's what I think was the set list from the show:
|Limelight||Far Cry||One Little Victory|
|Digital Man||Workin' Them Angels||A Passage to Bangkok|
|Ghost of a Chance||Armor And Sword||YYZ|
|Freewill||The Way The Wind Blows|
|The Main Monkey Business||Subdivisions|
|The Larger Bowl||Natural Science|
|Red Barchetta||Witch Hunt|
|The Trees||Malignant Narcissism|
|Between The Wheels||Drum Solo|
|The Spirit of Radio|
|2112: Overture / The Temples of Syrinx|
[Top of page]
End of round eleven
So I'm home from the oncologist and chemo round eleven is now
officially over (side effects over the next few days notwithstanding).
That means I have only one more round left to go commencing on May 5th.
So as far as the chemo phase of my treatment goes we are almost there.
As I mentioned yesterday my focus for the evening now is fighting
off the fatigue long enough to enjoy the Rush concert that starts at
7:30pm at the Frank Erwin Center here in Austin. I'll try and write up
a bit of a post conference report tomorrow. I am interested to see how
much they have changed the set list since we saw them last year
(apparently there are going to be some changes).
Chemo round eleven and anticipation
building before the Rush concert
As I type this I am in the nice comfy chair at the oncologist's
office getting my second day of infusions as we are about mid-way
through round eleven (the penultimate round - yay!!). So far the
fatigue has not hit but I expect, based on the last couple of weeks, to
start sometime Wednesday evening or Thursday morning. The later
the better - read on to find out why.....
Rush come back to Austin for the
first time in 14 years
Hopefully I will be in pretty good shape still on Wednesday evening
as Canadian rock legends Rush are performing in Austin for the first
time in years. In fact I was not even living here (and I have been here
since December 1995) the last time they were here. One of the local
papers did an interview with lead singer Geddy Lee about coming back to
Austin, you can read
it here. Last year they came to San Antonio and I took my nine year
old daughter Robyn. It was her first concert and I was not sure how
much she would enjoy Rush but she loved everything about the show and
has since learned the words to most of the songs on the tour album
(Snakes and Arrows). I have been a Rush fan since my university days
when my good friend Mike introduced me to them. Since then I have seen
them in concert multiple times both in the USA and the UK and I
honestly think they are playing better now than they ever have - and
they were always good. The Austin date was added as part of some
extended venues that were not part of the original tour. I am hoping
that they jiggle the set list a bit but even if they don't I am really
looking forward to the Show. In San Antonio they played for about three
hours with a short 15 minute break in the middle. Certainly great value
The professional baseball season is now well under way here in the
US. We renewed our season tickets this year to the Round Rock Express (the AAA
affiliate of the Major League Houston Astros).
Their stadium is less than 10 minutes by car from our house and it's a
great night out for the whole family. We went to the game last night as
I am keen to do as many things as I
can before the fatigue hits for this round. Last night the Budweiser
Clydesdale horse team were their outside the stadium and we all enjoyed
meeting the horses
and their trainers. They told use they are on the road touring 300
days every year! The game itself was also very exciting last night,
aided by the fact that the home team came out on top. So we had a fun
night of baseball and ball park food plus a visit to the in-stadium
kids play area.
That's my updates for now, I need to get back to working on my
e-mail in box and some other work tasks. The oncologist has a better
wireless network than I have at the house so it's actually a great
place to get work done!
A productive Saturday in Central
The weather here today has been just gorgeous after some nasty
storms passed through on Thursday night and left us with a beautiful
but cooler day on Friday. Today we have been in the mid 80's Fahrenheit
under clear blue skies. Jack and I have the house to ourselves as Robyn
and Lorna are off having fun at a Girl Scouts camp for the weekend. The
campsite is at Inks Lake which is about about two hours West of here.
They have a ton of things for the girls to do (most of it outdoors) so
the great weather is a real plus.
Meanwhile, It's been good for both Jack and me to have some quality
"guy time" together. Last night we spent some serious time working
together against hordes of evil aliens trying to save planet Earth from
imminent doom - or put another way we played co-op mode in Halo 3 for
about four hours before (a very extended) bedtime! Today Jack has been
helping me with some house chores and he has also been trying to teach
me how to play Super Smash Bothers Brawl on the Wii. Somehow I don't
think I'll ever give him any decent competition at this game but he
seems happy enough beating me into the dirt so what the heck!
I woke up this morning finally feeling less foggy from the last
chemo round. This is the longest amount of time it has taken so far for
my fatigue to subside between rounds. Of course round eleven starts on
Monday so I had better enjoy it while it lasts. The doctor had warned
me that the amount of fatigue tends to be cumulative and that certainly
seems to be true in my case. Given I felt a bit more with it, after
watching some of the English soccer on TV this morning and doing a bit
of housework indoors, I decided it was time to take on the huge mess
that used to be my nice tidy garage! The garage had somehow
become our dumping ground for a lot of stuff over the past few months
and the mess had really started to bug me (even over the effects of the
"chill out" pills they have me on so you know the mess was
bad!!). Thankfully I managed to get it mostly cleaned up but I
could not believe how quickly I ran out of steam. I had to take lots of
breaks. Hopefully when chemo finally ends my energy levels will
return to something like they were back last Autumn (pre-diagnosis and
pre-surgery). As people who know me will tell you I am not good
at sitting still. I need to be busy and it's starting to frustrate me
how weak I still am. I guess I have to keep reminding myself I have
been through a lot and my body has taken a pounding the last five
months or so. I also need to remind myself to just be grateful for what
I have as things could easily have been a lot worse than hopefully they
are. On the plus side, the fact that I am getting frustrated is
probably a sign that at least in some small way I'm getting more back
to my old self!
As an aside, I am typing this entry using the Apple Mac Book Pro
laptop which I now use for almost everything I do computer wise. I
continue to be really impressed by this machine. I originally bought it
as an early Christmas present to myself so that I would have something
fun to play with and learn to use during the long hours in the "chemo
chair". As you may recall from some of my prior postings, I have never
before owned an Apple machine of any type but this laptop has quickly
progressed to being my principal machine. I just love how reliable it
is and I really like the "feel" of the machine and it's applications
and I am unquestionably more productive on this machine than I am on
any of my others.
So anyway, that's my update for today. As I mentioned above, chemo round eleven starts on Monday (just two to go now) so I'll try and post some more updates in the early part of next week. Now I need to go power up the XBOX 360 as Jack wants to see if we can kill a few more aliens before bedtime tonight!!
Round ten finished on Wednesday and as with the last couple of weeks
the fatigue has hit me almost instantly. The last day or so it has been
a real struggle to get much done. On a happier note, with ten down I
only have two more chemo sessions to go before we go into more of a
maintenance mode and my body has a chance to recover from all of the
chemicals it has been subject to the last few months. I'm certainly
looking forward to the second week of May now (when chemo will
hopefully be behind me). Given how tired I feel right now I will keep
this post very brief. As always I appreciate all of the messages I
continue to get from people keeping tabs on me - it really means a lot
and my thanks to you all as always.
Chemo round ten and other updates
I am sitting at the oncologist as I type this, about two hours into
round ten. I met with the doctor this morning and we chatted for a bit.
He is pleased with my progress to date and we discussed some of the
next steps that he has planned for me post chemo. The net is that I'll
need to get another cat scan once chemo ends to re-establish a
"baseline picture" of how I look and then I'll start seeing him on a
frequent but more periodic basis to keep tabs on how I am doing. This
is more or less what I expected. He is hopeful the treatment plan will
have done the job but I'll still need to be monitored closely for the
next five years at a minimum in case (Heaven forbid) of a recurrence. I
know I am going to be nervous every time he tests me but he is being
very positive so that is as much as I can ask for at this stage.
Thankfully my eyesight seems to be improving
even though I am still in
treatment and I am finding it much easier to keep up with my reading
than had been the case during the earlier weeks of treatment. I have
managed to read several books in the past few weeks. I just finished
by Khaled Hosseini. I have not yet seen the film that was recently
released but having read the book I definitely want to see it now. The
Kite Runner was a refreshing change from my staple diet of
action/suspense and science fiction books. I won't spoil the plot here
but I will say it gives a great perspective of life in Afghanistan over
multiple decades from the time before the Russian invasion all the way
to the present day. I found myself really attached to the main
characters and I found myself suffering along with them as I read the
book. If you have not read this book yet, you might want to add it to
your reading queue. In many ways a sad story about people trying to
make the best of their situation but also uplifting at
other times, definitely well written and well worth reading.
I also recently finished The
Broker by John Grisham. This was different from his normal style in
that it was more about spies and espionage than it was about court
rooms and lawyers. That said, I really enjoyed it, although I have read
reviews from Grisham purists who viewed it as one of his worst books.
The book is mostly set in Bologna and other parts of Italy and by the
time he is done describing the place you are left wanting to hop on the
next plane a go visit. So while definitely not a typical Grisham book,
I enjoyed it - I guess I am not a purist!
I hadn't had much time to play video games
lately nor the right state of mind probably given how "foggy" my head
has been. That said this weekend between lots of outdoor activities I
made time to sit down and finally finish the single player missions of
Halo 3 (XBOX 360). This is a thoroughly enjoyable and well engineered
game. I am really grateful to my friends who gave it to me as a get
well present back in the post surgery days. It has been one of many
useful distractions that have helped keep my mind off things. I have
now started playing BioShock which was a birthday present from the
family back in February. So far this looks like another very
interesting and high quality game but more violent than Halo 3 I would
suggest based only on about two hours playing time. With Summer weather
already here I need to keep my gaming to a minmum and set the right
precedent by doing a lot of things out doors and thus, hopefully,
encouraging the kids to do the same. That said I do have my PSP sitting
here with Metal Gear Solid loaded and ready to go should I need a fix
during the five hour long chemo session today!
Summer is almost here
This weekend, the weather was gorgeous, blue skies and temperatures
rose to the high 80's Fahrenheit by Sunday afternoon. Both Robyn and
Jack had soccer games on Saturday and I played on Sunday. We all are a
bit sun burned today. It's supposed to be in the eighties each day of
the coming week. The kids decided that the weather was so nice that
they were going to jump into the pool which they duly did and I must
say despite the water being barely above 70 degrees, they had a great
time. So I guess this means the pool is now officially open for
business for the 2008 season. I would usually have jumped in there with
them, anything above 68 degrees I will swim in happily but the meds I
am on right now make me so sensitive to cold I am going to need to run
the pool heater for a couple of days before I'll be able to join them
in the water.
In my prior post I mentioned I was hoping for an Arsenal win against
Liverpool in the first leg of their Champions Leage match. Sadly the
match ended in a 1-1 draw which gives Liverpool a definite advantage as
the teams head into the second leg of the tie. With the away goals
rule, Arsenal have to score at least once at Anfield as a 0-0 draw
would hand the match to Liverpool. Having also watched the teams tie
1-1 in the league right after the first leg, I am not confident Arsenal
can pull this one off but I guess we'll see. For sure they need to
rediscover their goal scoring ways from the earlier part of the season.
On a related topic, I really enjoyed watching the FA Cup semi-finals
from Wembley this past weekend. It's great to see the FA Cup magic is
still alive with many of the big clubs having been knocked out by lower
division opposition. I look forward to the final, which has the
unlikely lineup of Cardiff vs Portsmouth. I'm really happy for my
friend Graham who is a huge Pompey fan. I hope he can get a ticket for
the big match.
Mac Book Pro - update
It's been about three months or so now since I got my Mac Book Pro laptop. I continue to be really impressed by this machine. The fact that every night I can put it to sleep and in the morning open the lid and have it wake up and start downloading my mail without me having to anything is really great. I have re-booted the machine twice since the start of the year and one of those time was just part of installing a major OS update. This really is a robust platform. By contrast, if I put my Windows XP laptop to sleep (hibernate) more than about 3 times in a row I have to reboot the system to get it working properly again. I'm not a Windows hater it's just that with the Mac I have found a machine where I feel very comfortable, a machine that I trust to work the way I expect it to and most importantly of all, a machine where I am definitely more productive. As I learn more and more of the Mac's features I'll keep on posting updates. I will also note that the one negative thing I have observed lately is that if the processor is working hard, the metal casing gets very hot and if you have it sitting on your legs while wearing shorts it can get pretty uncomfortable - of course this is just what you need on a cold night flight across the Atlantic - so that could be viewed as a plus!
So that's it for this round of miscellaneous updates. I'll try and post again soon as I progress through round 10.
Six months post diagnosis
Hard though it is for me to believe, it was six months ago yesterday
that I underwent the colonoscopy that discovered the cancer in my colon
and changed my outlook on life substantially. At that time I wrote about it here .
A lot has happened since then but I guess the overall summary is "so
far so good". I have three chemo rounds left to go now which
really is not that bad but the side effects, especially the constant
sense of fatigue, do seem to have become cumulative. My last chemo
treatment is scheduled for the week beginning May 5th so I can at least
see the light at the end of that particular tunnel now. Round ten
begins next Monday (April 7th) and at that time I have a meeting
scheduled with my oncologist where I want to have a "what happens
next?" type discussion. As far as I know I go into a sort of frequent
checkup maintenance mode at that point (both with him and my surgeon)
but I have several questions I want to ask him. I will also need
another (minor) surgery at some point to remove the "power port" that
is used to infuse the drugs into my system. The one question I really
want an answer to is the one question he cannot answer. That of course
is "am I cured?". All he is able to give me, and this is not his fault,
it's just the nature of the beast, is statistics and a prognosis based
on experience in treating similar cases. In spite of this, and I try
not to dwell on it, it is frustrating having undergone all that I have
in the past six months that there is no definitive test that can tell
you how well the combined surgery/chemo treatment plan has worked. As I
have joked with him in the past, the bottom line is that if I am still
here for my checkups in five years then he has cured me! That said, my
spirits are pretty good and I am not wasting too much time worrying
about things that I really cannot do much about. Of course the little
pink pills help there too! On a positive note, an experience such as
this really helps remind you of the things that are truly important in
life. I feel that I am closer to my wife and kids than ever before (and
we have always been a close family) and I have been reminded how many
wonderful friends I have all over the World that have been there for me
these past six months. My oncologist commented to me that years from
now I will actually look back on this as a positive experience on many
levels. I think he is right. Not only have I been reminded of how much
my family and friends mean to me I have also bonded with so many brave
fellow patients that I meet week in, week out at the oncology clinic. I
am humbled by many of the stories I have had told to me by other
patients describing what they are going through - it really does stop
any small amount of self pity from rising to the surface when you are
constantly reminded that things could be a lot worse. It has also been
hard lately to see a few people who are probably still in high school
being brought in for treatment. Sadly cancer is a very indiscriminate
On a lighter note, Spring is in full bloom here, and although we
have had several cloudy and rainy days lately, Summer is clearly just
around the corner. Even on the cloudy days our temperatures are getting
into the high 70's or low 80's Fahrenheit and the water in the pool out
back is now up to 70 degrees and the kids are begging me to turn the
heater on so they can start swimming. Last year I started swimming when
the water was 68 degrees but one of the side effects of the meds I am
on is that I am very sensitive to cold so I suspect they won't have to
twist my arm too hard on this one. I could certainly use the exercise!!
Talking of the kids, they are already counting down the days left until
the end of school (which for us happens at the end of May - much
earlier than for my friends and family back in Europe). We have started
discussing what we want to do this Summer which has been great fun. We
are already planning a few fun things to do with the kids in June once
I am done with chemo which really is a pleasant change in dinner time
conversation from some of the other daily issues we have been dealing
with the past six months.
Oh and completely off topic, hopefully Arsenal will beat Liverpool later today in the Champions League which will definitely raise my spirits! The match is being shown live on TV here so I'll probably record it and watch it after work tonight (apologies to any Liverpool fans I just offended but I have been a mad keen Arsenal supporter since I was about five years old).
So with that, I'll close this somewhat more philosophical than usual
I'll post again soon, probably after I talk to the oncologist
again on Monday if not before.
End of round nine
Yesterday marked the end of my ninth chemotherapy cycle. So that's
nine down and three to go. My last one will be the week of May 5th so
not so far off now. The side effects (mostly the fatigue and some
annoying bouts of nausea) have hit me quicker than usual this time so
I'll keep this update brief. Hopefully this means I'll be more with it
by the weekend when both of my kids have soccer games that I very much
want to be at. I am both excited and anxious to see the chemo
treatments getting close to done. On the one hand I will be glad to be
rid of the side effects but on the other, seeing my oncologist on a
weekly basis and having him re-assure me that things are going well
has, to some extent, become my safety blanket and I think it will take
some getting used to being off the treatments once we reach that point.
Of course, having said that I'll be going in for regular monitoring so
I guess I'll get enough interaction to keep my spirits up. I really
love the oncology team I am working with they really are a great bunch
of people and they are so up beat that it definitely rubs off on me and
as far as I can tell the other patients as well.
I'll post more updates soon, once the "chemo fog" clears again.
I continue to be very grateful for all of the e-mails and messages
in the guest book
and the messages I have been getting on Facebook. You guys out there
have done more than you probably realize to help keep my spirits up. As
always, a very big Thank You!
Chemo round nine
Today I started round nine of the chemo treatments and I also got some good news on the blood work front. While my platelets are still on a bit of a roller coaster ride, my haemoglobin level is up to 13.1. This is the highest it has been since I was diagnosed back in October 2007 and the level was down to a frighteningly low value of eight. For an adult male "normal" is considered to be between fourteen and seventeen so I am tantalizingly close to the normal range now. Because of this, my medical team are suspending the weekly iron shots and are going to let me fend for myself for a while to see if my blood levels continue to hold their own without help. I'll still be getting the chemo meds as normal but I won't have to go in on the "off weeks" for iron, unless of course the numbers start going in the wrong direction again. I was hoping to post this from the oncologists today but for some reason their network was not able to connect to the internet at all today so I am posting from home instead with day one of round nine now behind me (except of course for my little IV pump full of 5FU that goes everywhere I go for the next two days! It seems a bit hard to believe but after this week I only have three chemo treatments left. My last scheduled chemo visit is the week of May 5th. If all goes well I should have chemo behind me before the kids break for the Summer in mid to late May.
On Saturday Robyn took the first part of her Tae Kwon Do black belt
test (called a mid-term) and we believe she passed. She will take the
final part of her test either in May or August depending on the
scheduling. We are very proud of her as this is a non trivial
This weekend the weather here was wonderful and it looks set to stay
that way all through this week. We have clear blue skies and
temperatures are forecast to be in the 60's today and up to the
eighties by the end of the week. Spring is a wonderful time of year
here (except for the days when the super cell storms come through!). We
had no soccer matches this week as we were all off for the Easter break
but both kids have practices and games this coming week so I am going
to be quite busy in the evenings and on Saturday with that.
I had promised to post some of the San Antonio photos here. I
haven't yet had the time to work on doing that but here at least is a
photo of the Alamo. Please ignore the man pushing a trash can. I took
this photo in a hurry while my son was having a melt down and did not
have a lot of time to think about perfect composition !!
The Alamo, San Antonio, March 2008.
I am feeling very tired today so I'll keep this post brief and aim
to post again soon as the week progresses. I hope everyone has a great
[Top of page]
Spring Break in San Antonio plus
the end of round eight
Chemo round eight officially ended last Wednesday (March 12th)
around 1pm. After that we rounded up the kids, loaded the car and set
off for San
Antonio for the remaining few days of the week. We knew we were
taking a bit of a gamble not knowing what kind of shape I would be in
from the chemo the days before but thankfully the main side effects
held off until we were back home a few days later and did nothing to
spoil our trip. From our house, it's less than 100 miles to San Antonio
and we probably do not make the effort to visit often enough as there
is a lot to do there. Most people think of the Alamo
when they think of San Antonio but that is just one of the many fun
things available to go and visit. For this trip, our main reason for
going was that we had tickets for travelling performance of "Saltimbanco"
Du Soleil at the AT&T Center on Thursday night. We
decided it would be more fun however, to get a hotel and turn the trip
into a mini-vacation. We got to our hotel (the Doubletree Suites)
around 6pm and after enjoying the free snack buffet the hotel provides
each night we went for a very pleasant stroll along the River Walk to
get some fresh air and to explore some of the local shops along the
way. This hotel, by the way was perfect for a family with kids. Each
room has a separate living area with kitchen and a very respectable
breakfast as well as the sizeable happy hour buffet are included in the
room rate. There is also a very small pool on the roof but our kids
still managed to have fun splashing about in it a couple of times
during our brief stay. On Thursday moring we got up early, had
breakfast and walked along the river to the IMAX theater where we all
enjoyed "Dinosaurs of Patagonia" in 3D. After that we had lunch at the
River Center Mall and took a guided tour boat ride around the river.
It's very "touristy" but still fun. If you have never been to San
Antonio, the River Walk is great. Whether you circumnavigate it on
foot, by tour boat or by river taxi, there is no end of historical
sights and restaurants to enjoy along the way. After the tour we walked
back above ground rather than along the river (which is actually set
down below street level) so that I could take a few photos of the
Alamo. Although I have been back several times since, The last time I
had been to the Alamo with a camera was in 1989 when I was still
carrying my trusty old Canon 35mm SLR. I wanted to get a few digital
shots this time. I only had time to snap a few though, as by this time,
given the very warm Spring weather, my six year old son Jack was both
literally and figuratively melting! We finally got back to the hotel
and rested for a few hours (the kids took the chance to visit the pool
again) before heading off to find the AT&T Center in time for
"Cirque". We had been to Cirque Du Soleil once before, in Orlando and
thoroughly enjoyed it. That time we had seen the La
Nouba show which has the advantage of being on a permanent stage
and feels considerably larger in scale than this show. However, Saltimbanco
was still very good and well worth seeing.
On Friday morning we got up and packed, had breakfast and set off
for the San Antonio Zoo. However, on arriving at the Zoo we realized
this had been a bad idea. All of the parking lots were full and even
though the San Antonio Spring Break is the week after ours, we could
see that the Zoo was packed full of school parties getting off to an
early start on their Spring Break plans. In the end we did not even try
to park, we just got back on the freeway and started to head home. Our
daughter, Robyn, was not at all pleased by this turn of events as she
had really been wanting to see some animals. Clearly we needed a plan
B. Luckily my wife knew of a wildlife park near New
Braunfels called the Natural
Bridge Wildlife Ranch. The park is just a few miles west of
I35 and more importantly right on our way home. We had seen the signs
by the side of the road before but never been there so we decided to
give it a go. It turned out to be a great idea. The park was not that
busy and the main attraction is a "drive in your own car" safari tour.
The highlight for all of us was when a group of Zebra came up to the
car and stuck their heads in and let us feed them some of the animal
food we had been given as we entered the park. Despite the warning
signs about not hand feeding the animals both by the roadside and in
the guidebook, the animals are clearly used to cars and people and
expect to get fed! We saw several animals walk up to a car, wait to get
fed and then on realizing the car had no food walk on in disgust to the
next car. OK so it wasn't quite the full African experience but it was
a lot of fun. That said, we decided not to try hand feeding the
osteriches as they all just looked too cranky to take the chance!
While in New Braunfels, we also took the opportunity to enjoy a really
nice lunch at the famous New Braunfels Smokehouse - the food is great
and if you are ever passing through I recommend it for a lunch or
dinner stop. They focus on barbecue but they also serve salads and
other lighter fare.
We arrived home around 5pm on Friday afternoon, by which time the
crazy Texas Spring weather was up to 97 degrees Fahrenheit!
Weather wise we have been on a real roller coaster ride (as is normal
for the time of year) with high temperatures ranging from the mid
sixties all the way up to almost 100 degrees. Today as I type this it's
in the eighties outside but very cloudy and we are under a severe
weather watch with the chance of both hail and tornadoes before the end
of Tuesday - such is life in Texas during the Spring time. A few years
back we lost our roof to a Spring time hail storm so you learn rapidly
down here to take these weather notices seriously.
On Saturday the "chemo fog" finally caught up with me, and today
(Monday) I am still struggling to shake it off. Consequently, I
stayed at home to rest on Saturday while Lorna and Robyn got up really
early to go to a 3 v 3 soccer tournament. They came home tired and
sunburned but as best as I can tell they had a good time despite by all
accounts having had to play some very tough teams in the competition.
Sunday was another rest day for me although I forced myself to go and
play soccer during the afternoon just to get myself out of the house.
Suffice to say my reactions were not that sharp and I mostly stood in
the goal without too much to do but it was nice to get out for a bit.
Today I was back at the oncologist for my iron shot and other (non
chemo) meds but at least I have a few days now before round nine gets
underway next week. Sadly two of the meds make you sleepy - just what I
That's all the news for now. I took a lot of photos during our brief
trip to San Antonio. I'll try and post a few over the next few days,
but I need to do a little cropping and Photo Shop-ing first!
[Top of page]
Chemo round eight and the start of
Today is the first day of Spring Break here in the Austin area so
naturally the weather is lousy. We awoke to thunderstorms and driving
rain, and given we started Daylight Savings Time (DST) this past
weekend (earlier than in the past under the new rules that recently
went into effect), it was still almost dark outside at 8am this
morning! Getting the kids out of bed was a real challenge, but we had
to wake them up as they start a three day Karate Camp today. At least
that will give them a chance to have some fun indoors out of the rain
and away from the TV and video games - works for me!
On the topic of DST, for the benefit of my friends and family in the
UK, given that your clocks do not go forward until the end of March, I
am now one hour closer to your time for a couple of weeks. So, for
example, 12pm (midday) here is currently 5pm in the UK where it is
normally 6pm for most of the year.
As well as getting the kids up early, I also had to leave the house
at the same time as round eight of my chemo treatments starts today -
again what a great way to Start Spring break! I am currently sitting in
one of the comfy reclining chairs at the oncologist's office as I type
this (which is no mean feat I might add given all the meds they pumped
into me a few minutes ago that have made me very dopey). They tested my
blood an hour ago and I just got the results. Thankfully my platelet
count has gone up again and there is no need to adjust my treatment
plan at the present time. I am very happy about this. I'm into a
routine now and as a creature of habit I am hoping I can stay on my
routine until May when my chemo treatments end.
I'm looking forward to Wednesday when this round ends. I am taking
the rest of the week off so that I can spend some quality play time
with the family.
I'll post again soon as I get through this round. Only four more to
go after this one!!!
[Top of page]
It's hard to believe that it's already March. We have had a very
mild winter here in Central Texas. We did not have a single "ice day"
this year so far. The temperatures the last few days have been all over
the map which is fairly typical for early Spring here. On Wednesday
when I went to pick my daughter up from school I wore shorts as it was
right around 80 degrees Fahrenheit. I really like living here!
Yesterday it actually rained a lot and today has been cooler but all in
all the weather remains, for the most part very mild. Yesterday I was
speaking to a colleague who lives in Toronto and he was moaning about
"yet another snow day" so I guess for large parts of the US and Canada
it's not quite Spring yet! Today a cold front blew through and it was
somewhat cooler even here but it is supposed to be back into the 70's
again over the weekend which is good as both of the kids have soccer
games on Saturday and I have a game on Sunday. Next week is Spring
Break here. For my friends and family in the UK it's basically the same
concept as half term. The kids are off all week and I am going to take
part of the week off once I get done with round eight of chemo which is
on Monday, Tuesday and a small part of Wednesday.
I have been trying to keep up with my reading as
it really does help me relax and thankfully my eyesight seems to have
improved a bit in the last couple of weeks from where the FOLFOX
cocktail had taken it to during the first several weeks of chemo. This
week I finished another of the Harry Turtledove books in the
Colonization series. I enjoyed it so much that I immediately started
reading the next one which is in fact the last in this set of three
(although it's really book seven in a series of eight related books). I
am grateful to my friend Roger who introduced me to this author and I
have really enjoyed every book in the series. The books are science
fiction in nature but take place in an alternate view of history where
an alien race invades the earth right in the middle of the Second World
War and the various human nations have to put their differences aside
to confront the high tech invaders. If that concept for a story line
appeals and you have not read any of the Harry Turtledove books then I
highly recommend these.
Some of you may have noticed that the Guest
Book has changed. My web hosting company recently upgraded their
server software and replaced the guest book tool with a different one.
I have had a few people tell me that they have had trouble posting to
the new guest book but as far as I know it is working correctly.
I am a bit nervous however, as since I switched over no one (except my
wife and I who were testing it) has posted. If you feel the urge I
would appreciate a few of you posting to let me know it is actually
working correctly. All of the old messages are still available in an
archive that I have created and provided a link to on the main Guest Book page.
While speaking about hearing from people, I would like to mention
that I have been contacted by several people who found my web site
while doing web searches for information on colon cancer treatment. I
am both humbled and pleased that these people have contacted me and
also hopefully found some of the information I have been posting
useful. As I have mentioned before here, one of my goals when I decided
to be very open about my diagnosis and ongoing treatment was to provide
some relevant information and perhaps also a little hope and
encouragement to others that find themselves in a similar place to me.
I am glad that people have found this site and I am grateful that it
has proven useful for them to be able to compare notes with me. To all
of you who have contacted me, we're in this together, try to stay
positive, the treatment for colon cancer these days has come a long way
even in the last ten years or so. My thoughts and prayers are with all
of you. Keep up the fight!
On the sports watching front this has been a mixed week for the
teams I follow. I was really happy to see Arsenal beat AC Milan in the
Champions League on Tuesday but I am not quite so happy with the way
the England cricket team is performing in New Zealand this week. Still
you can't have everything as they say.
For my Mac owning friends who ping me regularly to ask about the
(still fairly new for me) Mac Book Pro - it's official - I'm in love.
This week I did not even open up my Windows laptop once. I was able to
do all of the things required by my job as well as a bunch of personal
projects during the evenings solely on the Mac. I have only found one
program so far (Quicken) for which the Mac native version will not work
for me. This is because for reasons I do not understand, the makers of
Quicken decided that the file formats used by the Windows version of
Quicken and the Mac version would not be 100% compatible. As I like to
share my files between my machines (for backup purposes as well as pure
convenience) I decided to try installing the VMware Fusion product this
week that lets me run Windows applications on the Mac. So far, after
two days of using it, I have to say that this seems like the perfect
solution. I do 90% of the things I need to do using native Mac
applications and then run Quicken using Fusion when I need to. As
one of my good friends commented after I had been saying how much I was
enjoying using the Mac - "I told you so". For the technically minded, I
installed Windows XP Service Pack 2 in the VM and so far it seems to
work just fine. So now I have the best of both Worlds as far as I am
concerned with Mac applications and Windows ones running side by side
on the same desktop without me ever needing to re-boot the Mac to
switch to Windows or go to another machine to run the Windows
applications that I need to run. I guess you can sign me up for the Mac
fan club at this point. I really do like this machine a lot.
So anyway, that's about it for now. I'm looking forward to another
busy weekend with lots of time hopefully being spent outdoors. Chemo
round eight starts on Monday but at least next week is Spring Break as
I mentioned and I have a few days off with the family to look forward
to at the end of the week.
[Top of page]
End of round seven
I just got back from the oncologist having been unplugged from my
portable pump which marks the end of round seven. Only five more rounds
to go - yay! Apart from the setback on my platelet count (that I
described in my prior posting) I'm feeling pretty good overall. Later
today I get to go and coach my son's soccer team and tomorrow I get to
go and help couch my daughter's team. Both teams have their first games
this coming weekend. Hopefully the fatigue will hold off enough to
enable me to actively take part in and enjoy all of these activities as
the weather here continues to be fabulous. Mostly blue skies and
temperatures during the day that have ranged from the high 80's F a few
days ago to the mid sixties today. Right now it's about 66 degrees and
just about perfect weather for being outside and running around with
the boys (which I shall be doing around 5pm today).
Several of you have written to me asking how I am liking my Mac Book
Pro now that I have had it for a couple of months or so. In short I
love it. It is by far the most reliable computer that I have ever
owned. I still use my trusty IBM Thinkpad during the work day to get
some work specific things done but even most of those I could do on the
Mac now that I have the appropriate software installed. In the evenings
when I tend to try and find time to work on more personal things like
surf the web, my non work e-mail or working on the web page I
have been using the Mac almost exclusively for those tasks. I just
installed the Leopard (Mac OS X 10.5.2) upgrade and it seems to be
working well. I particularly like the new Time Machine enhancements.
As a side note, my web hosting company just upgraded all of their
server side software. As far as I can tell the migration has gone
without a hitch but please do let me know if you see any unexpected
behaviour from the web site over the next few weeks.
That's about it for right now then. More updates to follow soon and
as always thanks for the continued messages of support. Although as far
as I can tell things are going pretty well this remains a very nervous
time for me and all of the e-mails, calls and messages in the Guest Book really do help me a lot keep my
[Top of page]
Chemo round seven
It's 10:41am here in sunny Round Rock Texas as I type this. I am
currently in my chair at the oncologists office commencing round 7
of the planned 12 chemo treatments. I just finished all of the
regular blood tests that they do at the start of each cycle and they
have now started pumping the prep meds into me before they serve the
"main course". A couple of the meds make me very drowsy so I hope that
this posting stays somewhat coherent!
Today for the first time since we started working with the
oncologist my blood test results are heading in the wrong direction.
This is another side effect of the FOLFOX cocktail that they have me
on.. My bone marrow
is not keeping up with production needs and consequently my platelet count is
significantly down. My haemoglobin level is slightly down. While these
side effects are often to be expected and are a common occurrence with
chemotherapy patients, it is still a bit depressing to have any kind of
setback. If my platelet levels get much lower they may have to suspend
treatments until they rise again. Among other things, platelets help
the blood congeal (clot) and stop bleeding from occurring. If my count
drops much lower I will be told to suspend all of my physical
activities that involve any chance of me getting cut - this would mean
no more soccer for a while and would be really depressing. I have
really started to look forward to my weekly Sunday soccer match now
that I am back into the routine and that my body seems to have enough
stamina to get through a game OK. I played again yesterday in fact and
felt more alert than I had the week before - which is good given I am
In other news ......the Girl Scouts cookie drive which has been
running for the last five weeks finally came to a close yesterday. I
think Robyn has sold something in the region of 500 boxes of cookies so
I think she has more than done her part for the cause! It will be nice
to see more of both Robyn and Lorna again now that they won't be
rushing off all the time to man a cookie booth.
That's about if for now, and given the meds really are making me
sleepy I'll close this posting.
As a footnote, you may have noticed that a few days ago I archived
all of the remaining 2007 entries from this page. They are all still
available in the archive.
Happy Monday everybody!
No Jack that is not how you make a
This weekend I heard my wife call from the other room to see if I
could figure out what was wrong with the mouse on the new computer (it
turns out she already knew what was wrong but wanted me to see first
hand!). My six year old son had been sitting by the computer and had
found a pair of scissors lying nearby and for reasons known only to him
had decided he wanted to turn the corded mouse into a wireless mouse.
When I got there I found, to admittedly a mix of horror and, yes,
amusement, that he had cut the mouse completely off it's cord using the
aforementioned scissors! For those who may be wondering this does not
turn a corded mouse into a wireless mouse - so don't bother trying it!
Note to self, do not leave Jack and scissors alone EVER ! I went off to
the local Wal-Mart and bought the cheapest replacement mouse I could
find and he has promised never to do it again (of course he actually
swears it was an accident and not on purpose this last time!).
On Friday evening the kids were invited to an indoor skating party
so I broke the roller blades out of retirement and decided to have a go
too. When I lived in Florida I was a mad keen in-line skater but since
moving to Texas (which is not flat like Florida) I have not skated so
much. That said it all came back to me pretty quickly and while I
didn't push myself very hard it was fun to skate with the kids and also
to find another way to start getting a bit more exercise. Meanwhile,
the weather here this weekend was a real mixed bag. A front came
through on Saturday and it rained and stormed all day. Meanwhile, on
Sunday it was a gorgeous blue-sky day with temperatures right around 70
degrees Fahrenheit. This is not unusual for this part of Texas as we
get close to Spring. Luckily, both Robyn and I got to play our soccer
games as hers was indoors on Saturday and mine was outdoors on Sunday.
I played in goal this weekend (my usual position). My family came to
watch which was great and the kids had fun playing outside and burring
off some steam. I could tell I was a little timid in goal, my wife told
me she could see a difference too (those who know me might find that
hard to believe as after all you do have to be a little crazy to play
in goal as they say). Hopefully as I get a few more matches under my
belt both my confidence and my energy level will return. Despite my
feeling a little sub-par my team won handily as we have an extremely
good set of on-field players in front of me this season - thanks guys
for carrying me!
On Saturday morning I went over to some other English friends for a
wonderful, full English, cooked breakfast to watch the Man Utd. vs
Arsenal FA cup match live on the BBC. I am ashamed of the way my
Arsenal approached the match and the 4-0 thrashing they endured was no
more than they deserved for the "we don't care" way they seemed to
approach the game. It seems that with all of the money tied up these
days in the Champions League and the Premiership that a lot of clubs
are not taking the FA Cup seriously. This really breaks my heart, as
when I was a boy growing up, the FA Cup was the competition everyone
wanted to win and I used to love getting up early every year to watch
all of the festivities leading up to the FA Cup final, played each year
at Wembley Stadium in May. As far as I can tell the FA Cup has lost its
magic and a whole generation has grown up since I left the UK not able
to enjoy the passion and excitement that we all felt watching the
matches - if this is progress you can keep it!
On Sunday evening we went to one of my Sister's-in-law for dinner and they surprised me by throwing a little "half way through chemo" party - which included my own personal and extremely delicious carot cake. This was really nice of them and it did help lift my spirits which have been down a little lately purely because the fatigue seems to be getting more prolonged each week. To be fair, the oncologist had warned me that this was likely.
This week is going to be busy both at work and in the evenings after work. Both my son and daughter have their first practices of the new outdoor soccer season and as coach of Jack's team and co-coach of Robyn's I am going to be busy. The good news is that this weekend sees the end of the Girl Scout cookie selling season so I will be seeing a lot more of my wife and daughter!
Today is President's Day here in the U.S.A and while I am not off
work a lot of people are. My e-mail in-box has been noticeably quiter
than average today and I am ok with that.
So that's about all the news for now, wherever you are reading this
I hope you have a safe and pleasant week.
End of round six
I just got back from the oncologist again which marks the end of
round six. So I am halfway there! May 5th still seems like a long way
off but at least it's downhill to the finish line from here on. The
fatigue has already started to hit me but other than that this round
seems to be progressing much like all those that have gone before. I
don't have much other news today so I'll keep this posting brief.
Thanks as always for all the messages of support in the Guest Book and elsewhere that I keep
receiving and very much appreciate.
The weather in Texas this weekend was truly beautiful. While much of the country is still fully in the grips of some severe Winter weather, we were able to enjoy clear blue skies, cool breezes and temperatures in the mid 70's Fahrenheit. On Sunday I played soccer again. This time for my outdoor 7-a-side team. It was a great day to be outdoors and I came through the game fine (albeit still lacking in stamina). I feel a lot better for having had some exercise and also having spent some time "with the guys" again. The kids soccer teams (both of which I help coach) will also both be starting up again for the Spring season in another week from now. So I am going to be busy weather permitting. It gets really hot here in the Summer but I don't mind that and I love how moderate the Winter weather generally is which allows us to start doing a lot of outdoor activities quite early in the year. We have not even had the usual ice storm or two this Winter, which, admitedly is unusual. The forecast shows that we will have a lot of days of 70 degrees or higher over the next ten days. So it would seem that Winter may be winding down already for those of us that live in this part of the World.
Today, I am back at the oncologist to begin chemotherapy round six
of my twelve planned rounds. So by the end of this week we will be half
way there - yippee !!
I'll keep this posting short as the meds they just gave me are
making me sleepy!
Happy Monday everyone
[Top of page]
FOLFOX (Chemotherapy) side effects
One of the reasons I decided to be very open about my colon
cancer diagnosis and treatment plan here on this site (starting with
the October 10th posting) was of course
to keep my many friends and relatives around the World updated as to my
progress and in return I have been extremely grateful with all of the
support and encouragement I have received. However, I had a secondary
goal ,which was to share with others who may be faced with a similar
diagnosis some of my own personal experiences and perhaps in some small
way to help them also by allowing them to compare their notes with
mine. I was looking at the statistics that my web hosting company keeps
for me this weekend and noticed that a lot of the traffic coming to
this site is as a result of people doing cancer treatment related
Google searches. In particular I seem to have a lot of people looking
for others sharing insight into the side effects of the FOLFOX
chemotherapy. With the caveat up front that all chemotherapy treatments
are tailored to the individual patient and that the medicines used vary
depending upon the type of cancer being treated I decided I would make
a dedicated posting here discussing the side effects that I am
experiencing now that I have been on the FOLFOX regimen for 5 cycles
(of a planned, 12 cycle, one week on, one week off, program). I
described the specific medicines that I am receiving in the January 2nd entry so I will not repeat that
Every time I visit the oncologist, which for me is at least once a
week, they run down a list of possible side effects and ask me if I am
getting any of them. I decided I would try and replicate that list here
and share my current view of which ones I am seeing and which I am not
(there's not a lot to be squeamish about here but if medical stuff is
not your cup of tea, skip to the last paragraph
of this entry now).
UPDATE: I updated this entry
on January 5th 2008 as I realized I had left fatigue,
probably my biggest symptom, out of the original list below:
||About two or three days after
each chemo cycle I get hit with fairly severe fatigue that usually
lasts about two or three days. So, as I typically do my chemo on
Monday/Tuesday/Wednesday I usually find myself getting very tired by
mid afternoon of each of the following few days. Usually by the Sunday
I am back to normal again. The only way I know to deal with it is take
a sleeping tablet or a Xanax as needed and go to bed and sleep it off.
I rarely make it past 7pm before "crashing" on these days.
|Hair loss||With this chemo there is not
supposed to be much hair loss if any. I am maybe seeing minimal
thinning of my head hair but basically I am not
experiencing any hair loss so far and in fact I need a haircut right
||I have had minimal nausea. The
worst was the first week. I have not even come close to vomiting.I have
two different prescriptions for nausea but I don't find myself needing
to use them too often and then only the weaker of the two.
||This one I am experiencing.
Sometimes it can get pretty rough but there are medicines like Limotil
that can be prescribed (as was done for me) that really help. I also
find eating lots of yogurt really helps too.
||Apparently the meds can cause a
hardening of the cornea which can effect eyesight. Even with my new
glasses, in less than very bright light, I am noticing some problems
reading books for more than a few pages at a time.
||I have not experienced any
bruising but I do notice that on a few days right after chemo
treatments that some parts of my body, often large muscles, are a bit
more tender than normal if I bump into things.
||Heartburn has been fairly
common. Generally I find a few "Tums" or equivalent antacid tablets
take care of it.
||This one was the biggest
surprise. One of the three medicines, the Oxaliplatin,
effects the nervous system and has had a lot of odd side effects. The
good news is that this drug is credited with a lot of the recent
successes in treating colon cancer and also it's worse effects wear off
a few days after each chemo cycle. Fundamentally it makes me incredibly
sensitive to cold. Both food and drink and also to things that I
touch I learned early on to only drink warm (or at least room
temperature) drinks for the first few days of each cycle. Drinking cold
liquid leaves me feeling as if my throat were swollen - trust me on
this one, it's a very odd feeling. I also find it hard to hold on to
anything cold (say a pot of ice cream from the freezer) and I never put
my hands into cold water.The oxaliplatin also causes my jaw muscles to
hurt (quite severely) from time to time a lot like I imagine TMJ pain
||They always ask me about this
one but so far I have only had one and I am not convinced the chemo
caused it (I think I may have burned my mouth on hot food). Either way
their are good meds to nip this one in the bud if you experience them.
and/or breaking out
||From time to time I have
experienced something like being a teenager again in terms of my skin
but generally it has not been that bad and it seems to always clear
itself up pretty fast.
||I have had no abnormal bleeding
||From time to time I have
experienced some shaking in my hands but as I type this I am actually
back to normal again - it seems to come and go.
||I have not experienced any
unusual pain that could be attributed to the chemo.
So there you have it. That's my summary of what five cycles of FOLFOX has done to me. I hope those of you that got here by way of a Google search found this useful. If things change over the next seven rounds I will post an updated version of this table.
As always thanks to everyone for their support and especially for
all of the birthday wishes I received over the past few days. I had a
very nice birthday on Friday. The Wife and kids took me out with some
good friends to the local Tokyo Steak house and a good time was had by
all. On Saturday I was pretty tired but my energy came back in time to
enjoy the Superbowl on Sunday.
Finally, if you are reading this as a fellow patient I wish you all
the best towards a cure.
[Top of page]
End of round five
Five down, seven to go. Thankfully so far this round the side
effects have been a lot less. Maybe I am adjusting finally or maybe I
am just lucky this go around. Either way I am not complaining. Tomorrow
is my birthday as I mentioned in my prior post. Maybe I'll get to
celebrate on the actual day after all! I'm looking forward to the
weekend, especially the Superbowl of course and my usual fix of soccer
from the UK. I managed to catch the Arsenal vs Newcastle match on TV
here earlier this week, now if only Man Utd. would lose a couple of
matches life would be almost perfect on the soccer front! It's
Girl Scout Cookie season here in Texas for the next few weeks which
means Robyn and Lorna have been off sitting outside various stores and
other venues trying to sell cookies to the passers buy to raise funds
for their troop. The weather here has been a real mixed bag lately with
temperatures all over the map (70's F one day 30's the next) so I
really feel for them sitting out there trying to sell the cookies. At
least I think when people see a bunch of cute girl scouts out in the
freezing cold they make a few sympathy purchases. Meanwhile I think
Jack and I have the better end of the deal. We sit at home and play
video games or watch TV while the ladies are off freezing!
I don't have a lot of other news to share today other than I am
trying to work a full day today which is keeping me busy so I'll keep
this update brief.
Chemo round five
I would be lying if I said I was not dreading the coming week to
some degree. I have really enjoyed how "normal" and productive I have
been the last several days (the effects of round four having worn off).
I have likewise started to hate the way I feel during the chemo weeks.
However, as my daughter reminded me this evening, it's for a good
reason. Talking of my daughter, today I really enjoyed coaching her
indoor soccer team. All six girls played their socks off and we
came out on top 8 - 5 in a very exciting match.
Tomorrow (Monday) chemo round five begins. If the last round is
anything to go by, it will probably Saturday or Sunday before the
effects ware off. The really sad part is that this coming Friday is my
birthday and I don't think I'll be up to much celebrating. I promised
the kids we'd go out for a fun dinner but just a few days late. They
seem OK with that. At least I should be able to enjoy the Superbowl on
Anyway, life goes on and I'll just have to tough it out again this
go around as I have done in the prior four. The good news is that we
are getting close to halfway through the planned twelve rounds.
As I have said many times before, I really appreciate that so many of
you are keeping in touch by IM, e-mail, phone or the Guest Book to offer support. It really does
help and I really appreciate it.
I'll post again soon.
[Top of page]
A productive "off week"
This week is an "off" week for me, meaning no chemo treatments, my
head is clear, my energy level is high and as a result I always try and
get a lot done. I have caught up well on the work front this week, in
fact I have my business in-box down to just seven e-mails still
requiring my attention. I have also been trying to work through my
to-do list at home (which has been growing longer and longer lately as
I only have so many days a month when I actually feel like trying to
shorten it). One of the focus items this week has been dead light
bulbs. I cannot believe how many light bulbs seem to need replacing (I
think it's a conspiracy but I haven't figured out how they are doing it
yet, but when one goes, boy the others seem to love to go too!). I have
also been spending some time doing some much needed software upgrades
to the (way too many) computers we have scattered about the house.
Sadly, the new Vista PC we bought the kids for Christmas continues to
cause me grief. It has crashed more times than I can remember since we
first set it up on Christmas Day and even basic tasks like copying
files over my network have caused it to hang up so hard that I need to
hit the power switch to recover. This week I decided to install my
version of Quicken 2005 on it (big mistake). After two hours and many
Google searches I finally found the magic spells needed to get it
working but boy oh boy what an ugly experience that was. I think it's
finally time to just take that machine back to XP for a while - at
least that way the kids can play their games, which is, after all, why
I bought the thing in the first place. Worse yet, my new toy (the Mac
Book Pro) had its first fatal crash this week. Nasty one too. For the
technologically curious it took a Kernel exception, crashed hard and
after rebooting phoned home to tell Apple all about its problems. I'm
not sure what caused the crash either. I had left the machine unplugged
from the power and in sleep mode on the coffee table (but I know the
battery was almost full). Before opening the lid I plugged it in to the
power and the minute I did that it woke up all by itself, spun up it's
disk, displayed the password prompt and before I could do anything
crashed. Odd indeed. I'm actually wondering if I had a power spike.
From now on I will plug the power cord into the wall with the other end
of the cable disconnected from the Mac and then connect the power cable
to the Mac just to be safe. Up to this point, I was starting to think I
finally had a machine that never crashed. Oh well, I have used it a lot
and have not rebooted it much so maybe I was asking for it but I guess
we'll see if this was a fluke or an indication of some other problem
over time. Overall I am still more than happy with the Mac.
My other big news this week is that, for the first time since
September last year, on Tuesday night, I played soccer. Now I don't
want people to get excited thinking I am pushing myself too hard and I
certainly took it very easy first time out. I asked my doctor if it
would be OK to try and in fact he supported the idea saying some
increased activity would be good for me and he re-assured me that my
chemo port was unbreakable (now that sounds like a challenge if ever I
heard one!). So this week I decided to have a go at playing for one of
the three teams I belong to. This particular one is a co-ed team that
plays in a very friendly (read not overly competitive but fun) 6-a-side
indoor league. The matches are 40 minutes long divided into two 20
minute halves. It's a fast moving format but players can sub in and out
at any time. Over the course of the whole match I doubt if I played for
more than a total of 15 minutes but it was great to "have a go". My
stamina was very low but at least this time it's as much due to lack of
fitness than it is oxygen in the blood. My oncologist did warn me that
I will still be lacking for energy for quite some time and he was right
but I really enjoyed seeing my teammates again and doing something a
little more energetic than walking. To be honest, if you had told me
back in October that I would be able to play ever again, yet alone in
mid-January, I am not sure I would have believed you. So, while I did
not contribute very much to the team and I am certainly not going to
push myself too hard, I at least feel like a very important part of my
life (playing sport) is coming back to me and for that I am extremely
grateful. Now if only my energy level would come back enough to give me
the confidence to go and tidy up the disaster area that is our garage.
Oh well, baby steps!!
End of round four
It seems each round has taken a little more out of me than the prior
one. Today (Sunday) my head finally feels clear and the fatigue that
seems to start almost immediately the chemo cycle starts has finally
left me again - what a relief. I should now get a few days where I feel
as close to normal as normal gets at present. On Friday I went into the
office for the first time since before my surgery back in October.
Several of my colleagues were in town for a meeting and I was really
keen to see everyone. I have to say that making it through the day was
a struggle for me but it was great to see everyone. Yesterday
(Saturday) I managed to struggle through watching my daughter's indoor
soccer game but I was very grateful that some of the other parents were
on hand to coach the team as I was just not up to it this week. By 7pm
I was worn out and collapsed into bed. This morning, thankfully I woke
up feeling a lot better. Hopefully, then, this coming week will be a
better one and I will be able to get a lot done both at work and at
home before the next round starts on January 28th.
Today I am having a lazy, domestic day. I got some housework done and
paid the bills this morning while watching the English Premier League
(Man City vs West Ham) on TV. This afternoon I am "vegging" on the
couch watching the NFL playoffs and trying to get some reading done.
The latter is still a big challenge for me as the chemo has very much
affected my eyesight as I have mentioned before. My oncologist assures
me this is a temporary state resulting from a hardening of the cornea
caused my the chemo meds. Lorna and Robyn are off selling Girl Scout
Cookies (yes it's that time of year again!). Jack is off being Jack
(which right now means he is locked in combat with Mario, Luigi and
other of his best Game Cube friends). So other than that, it's
pretty quiet around here, which is fine by me. I hope you are all
having an enjoyable weekend.
[Top of page]
Chemo round four
Due to the fact that my last round only ended on January 4th
(because of the New Year's day holiday) I have had a few less
days to recover than normal between rounds. Suffice to say, I felt
pretty good this weekend and was really not looking forward to going in
this morning knowing that the side effects would all start coming back
by this evening (which they indeed have as I type this). My visit today
began at 11:15am and after the usual vital signs and weight checks we
spent about 30 minutes talking with the Oncologist to take stock of
where we are now that we are almost a third of the way into the
treatment program. He is basically very happy with my progress. My
haemoglobin count continues to rise and is now teasingly close to the
normal range. Lorna came with me today and she asked more questions
than I did (I tend to not like questions as they usually result in
answers - and answers can be either good or bad!). Today the answers
were all very good. We discussed a lot of statistics and probabilities
and the like but the bottom line is that right now I am doing about as
well as can be expected and no one can predict the future but the
treatment is giving me the best possible chance of having one! I also
learned a lot about microscopic cancer cells and the difference in
resolution between a CT scan and a PET scan. If you are interested in
more details of that I'll leave it as a Google exercise. My treatment
ended around 3L:15pm but they were kind enough to let me hang out there
for another couple of hours so I could finish my e-mail and wait for
Lorna (who left mid afternoon) to return and pick me up. I don't like
driving on chemo day one in particular as some of the meds they pump
into me make me quite dopey (yes, more so than usual!). So
anyway, here I am again, 9:23pm, just me and my portable chemo pump
blogging away together as we get into round four.
The oncologist was packed today. In fact, when I arrived, I got the
last remaining empty chair, which as luck would have it was at the far
end of the room in a quiet corner. This was handy as for the first time
I had planned to do some work phone calls from there today (with a
headset and a quiet voice of course - I cannot stand overhearing people
yelling to their colleagues on cell phones in planes and such places so
when I absolutely have to take a call in public I always try and be as
unobtrusive as possible). So basically I worked a full day today, in
fact I have reached the point where I can pretty much ignore everything
going on around me and to me and just work (or sometimes play) during
the visits and I find that helps the time pass a lot faster.
So tomorrow I go back for day two of this round. I need to get there
before the pump runs out which should be around 1:15pm (it needs to run
for 22 hours before they can start their next drug set). The day two
visits hopefully end up being about three hours. Hopefully tomorrow
will keep to that pattern.
As a side note I have heard from three people who went to have
colonoscopies done having read my blog here and in each case the doctor
found treatable pre-cncerous polyps. So if nothing else, by being
fairly open about what happened to me I have in some small way helped
influence the lives of a few others in a positive way. For that I am
very grateful. Once again we see the power of the Web when used
Depending on the side effects, I'll try and post again tomorrow, but
if it's like last round, I may be off the air for a day or too. Right
now I am going to go and watch the second episode of the new Terminator
series on TV ("The Sarah
which the DVR hopefully recorded earlier. Episode one was yesterday and
I really enjoyed it. A much better sequel than the recent attempt at
resurrecting the Bionic Woman in my humble opinion.
So that's the update for now. As always thanks for all the support in the Guest Book and elsewhere. Despite the fact that things (touch wood) seem to be going well for now I still really appreciate all of the support at what remains a very nervous time for us.
[Top of page]
This has been a busy week work wise but with the kids back at school
(and the house quiet) I have managed to get a lot done. These days I
work predominantly from home (and a lot of that time it seems I spend
on the phone) but next week I am actually planning to go in to the
"real" office for a couple of days towards the end of the week. This
will be the first time back in the office since before my surgery so it
will be great to see a lot of my friends and colleagues "in the flesh"
again. Before that I have to get through chemo round four which starts
on Monday at 11:15am. As of course is always the case (or so it seems)
I am finally feeling "normal" again just in time to get my next
"cocktail" dose on Monday!
While talking of work, I have also started posting to the work blog
again finally after many months of almost total silence. I tend to
post items on the work blog that are more technical in nature and
discuss things I am doing on the work front. Consequently those entries
are not of as much interest to everyone that comes here to this site.
If you do check out the work blog you will notice I have been
experimenting with Facebook
quite a bit. Thank you everyone that sent me friendship invites
recently during my post-surgery recovery period. I think I have now
accepted them all and have started sending out additional requests of
I'm continuing to really enjoy the Mac Book Pro. I'm planning on taking it with me to the chemo office for the first time on Monday as I now have enough applications, music and other goodies loaded on to it that it should prove to be an able companion for the planned five hours I will be "in the chair". I also ordered (and just received) an Apple Bluetooth keyboard so that I can plug the Mac into the 42inch wide screen HDTV that we have the Wii plugged into and use it from the couch. This should be very cool (as long as the kids ever let me have the TV that is).
If you follow my Books and Magazines
section you will know that I finally finished reading Harry
this week. This was a another good book in the multi-book series that I
am working my way through. It has taken me several months to finish it.
My reading speed has slowed down a lot in recent months with everything
I have going on but it has been made significantly worse by the fact
that the chemo seems to have negatively affected my eyesight to the
point where my eyes get very tired after reading just a few pages.
Thankfully, I just called the eye doctor and after almost a month of
waiting (the frames I picked were back ordered it turns out) my new
glasses are ready. I am really hoping they help as I am struggling even
working here at the computer all day yet alone reading books in the
By the way, for those of you that like to keep up with the kids, I
just posted three photos taken on Christmas Day to the Family Photo
Journal over in the Family & Friends section.
That's about it for now then. I'm glad the work week is almost over.
I plan to try and enjoy the weekend and eat and drink all the things
that I know I won't feel like eating and drinking next week in vast
quantities over the next two days! This weekend the weather is supposed
to be superb here so I am planning to try and divide my time between
playing with the kids outside and watching the English Premier League
and the NFL playoffs inside. I'll need to get up fairly early tomorrow
(for a Saturday that is) as the Arsenal vs Birmingham match starts on
TV here at 9am I think. I hope everyone has a pleasant and restful
[Top of page]
Back to school and back to normal
The kids went back to school today. I think we were all ready. I know I was. Yesterday (Monday) was a bonus day off due to teacher training. We had the hardest time getting them to go to sleep last night and as a result we had two little "growly bear cubs" to wake up this morning. After we got them bundled off and on their way Lorna and I went to visit the oncologist so they could give me a nice big dose of iron and an few other things and I must confess that I am feeling much more my old self again this afternoon. The "fog of war" one gets into from all the chemo meds has finally worn off again for another round. After school Lorna took Jack to the park to let off some steam but he was still being growly. At one point he apparently got so mad that he told her "fine I'm just going to drop my pants then" , and he did. Hmm, I don't think that would work as well in the business environment - but you never know! Could be an ice breaker in an already ugly meeting! Yesterday Lorna and Robyn went up to Dallas for the day so that Robyn could visit the huge (two storey) American Girlshop they have there. As a typical male this is all alien to me but apparently this type of quest is quite the thing to do these days. Suffice to say we have a new addition to the family as of last night. Complete with matching outfits of course and accessories. Oh well that takes care of the Santa money for another year! Robyn is already working on me to fly her to LA so she can visit the (even bigger) Beverley Hills store! Oh and in case you were wondering about the Central Texas weather, it's like Spring here this week. A few showers, lots of sunshine and temperatures in the 70's Fahrenheit - gorgeous.Apart from the time I needed to take to go get "infused" this morning I managed to work a full day today and in general (for a day or two at least), things are back to normal.
End of round three - well almost
I finished the treatments for this round last Friday but even today
(Monday) the side effects are still hanging around a bit more severely
than it seems they did for either of the prior two rounds. Consequently
I haven't felt like posting here for a few days and I had a very low
key weekend. Hopefully by tomorrow I'll be more back to normal again.
Unfortunately due to the schedule being a little out of routine, due to
the New Year break, I have to start round four in just a few days time
(on the 14th). I'll hopefully be back in a day or two with a longer
update. I hope that all of you are off to a more pleasant start to the
Chemo round three
Having enjoyed a nice eleven day break since my last chemo round
finished, I had to get up bright and early today to get to the
oncologist's office by 8:30am to begin round three. I was there a total
of almost five hours this time and the office was very busy as usual.
The first day of each round is always the longest as they run blood
tests on me and have to wait for the results before they can commence
giving me the actual chemo meds. The good news there is that my
haemoglobin level is significantly up from where it was pre-surgery and
is continuing to rise. As a result I am much less anemic now than I was
two months ago which really helps my energy level among other
things. The oncologist has been giving me massive amounts of
intravenous iron which is definitely helping bring the number up. As
well as the iron, they also give me a fairly broad range of additional
medicines on day one, which naturally makes the visit take longer.
These are mainly to help prevent major side effects from or reactions
to the chemo meds and the iron. Hopefully tomorrow I will only
have to be there for about three hours. One of the meds they gave me
today is an intravenous anti nausea drug, that I had not had before,
and has the instant effect that about three glasses of red wine would
have. As a result, it's actually quite easy to relax during the day one
visits!! All the medicines go into a "main line" vein via my power port
which means they go straight to the heart (do not pass go, do not
collect $200) and shortly thereafter reach all other parts of the body
including the brain!. There is a good photo here
of how these ports work although the device type shown is not the same
as the one I have everything else is the same in terms of placement etc.
Thankfully the wireless network was performing well (as usual) today
and I was able to get a lot of e-mail and other work done while they
worked on me (despite being mildly drunk!) and to be honest the time
went by quite quickly. If my wife or my boss are reading this,
don't worry I didn't sign any important papers or other documents while
"under the influence" !! Unfortunately, as I have mentioned before, the
treatment does not stop when I leave the office. In fact the infusion
process runs almost non stop for 48 hours. I am sitting here at home on
the couch (yes watching more English football) as I type this with my
"take home" battery powered pump buzzing away next to me giving me
regular doses of the Fluorouracil
(commonly known as 5FU) medicine. It even comes with its own (not very
stylish) shoulder bag. I think there is money to be made for someone
here who designs a trendy bag that turns this thing into a bit more of
a fashion accessory!
The other of the two specifc chemo drugs that I get on a "day one"
visit is called Oxaliplatin
(OX) It is the one that I find has the weirdest side effects.
It messes up the nervous system to the extent that I become very
sensitive to the touch for anything cold. So much so, in fact,
that if I put my hand in cold water (as I did without thinking, to fish
some leaves out of our pool during round two) it feels like I have had
a significant electric shock followed by prolonged tingling in
the fingers. I also find it close to impossible to swallow any cold
drinks for several days after getting a dose of "OX".
It's a good thing that English beer can be drunk and enjoyed at close
to room temperature :-)
I received several e-mails today, from many parts of the
World, wishing me all the best for round three. I really
appreciate the fact that so many of you are keeping up with my schedule
and are continuing to send me messages of support and encouragement.
Lorna and I also really look forward to checking the Guest Book every evening for new messages
and we often also go back and re-read the prior entries.
Tomorrow I don't have quite such an early start. The portable chemo
pump needs to run for 22 hours before they start "day 2" in the office.
I think that means I need to be there at around 11am or so.
So that's the update for today. I'll post again soon. On the bright
side, after this round I will be 25% of the way through the treatments.
A lot to be thankful for
About this time of the year I like to reflect upon all of the things
that I have to be thankful for. I suppose I could be forgiven for
looking at 2007 as a year to rapidly forget. On the contrary, despite
all of the medical issues that I have had to face up to, I truly do
have a lot to be thankful for and also have many fond memories to look
back on from the year. Among the highlights were being with my family
to watch the space shuttle Atlantis launch from the Cape back in June
and taking my nine year old daughter to her first rock concert. I took
her to see Rush (one of my long time favourite bands) and she loved it.
We also got to enjoy our new swimming pool for the first time and I
traveled a lot less than usual and as a result got to spend a lot more
time with the wife and kids. Lorna and I did some fun things too,
including a weekend break to Houston to watch the Astros play which was
a lot of fun. So all in all we had a lot of fun in 2007. When October
arrived and I was diagnosed with cancer, I will admit that I did for a
while fall into a brief pit of self pity. However, due to the amazing
support of my wife, other family members and all of my friends around
the World I was able to (for the most part) rebound and keep my spirits
up. I am truly thankful that my family doctor was on the ball and
caught the cancer at what we hope was a fairly early stage. I am also
extremely thankful that we found such a skilled surgeon to operate on
me and that the surgery went by without major incident. I am also
grateful to all of the nurses and other staff at the Seton Medical
Center in Austin for the care and professionalism they showed me during
my time as their "guest". I am also more thankful than simple words can
truly express, for all of the e-mails, other messages of support,
gifts, cards and deliveries of food that arrived (and continue to
arrive). In times of crisis you really do need your friends and you
have all been amazing. Thank you all so much. So as we head into
2008 I have regained much of my optimism and am looking forward to
whatever the year brings. I still have some unknowns in my future, but
hey, which of us doesn't? I also know that I am not alone in
having had to face up to some severe personal challenges in 2007.
Several of my very good friends have lost loved ones or had to face up
to their own medical challenges. All of you remain in my thoughts and
prayers. I pray that you each find strength and happiness in 2008.
Wherever you are reading this, I hope that 2008 is full of good
things for you.
Happy New Year!
Enjoying a few days off
As well as having some time off work to spend with the family over
the last week or so, which has been great, I have also enjoyed having a
block of days with no chemo treatments. I have had a lot of side
effects from the previous two treatments so I really need this time to
recover from those. My next round starts next week on January 2nd
so I am trying to make the most of the time between Christmas and the
New Year. On "Boxing Day" (December 26th) I spent a lot of time in
front of the TV watching the English Premier League before
I had to go see the oncologist for my "off week" checkup/iron infusion
visit. . As many of you know I am a huge Arsenal fan and
the match between Portsmouth and Arsenal was one of the many I enjoyed
watching (despite the Arsenal performance being extremely flat). Of the
matches I watched, the game of the day had to be the 4-4 draw between
Aston Villa and Chelsea. We are fortunate here in the US these days
that the Premier League gets a lot of TV coverage so I am able to keep
up really well with the matches. In fact, as I type this I am watching
Chelsea play Newcastle live on the TV and after this match is over the
Arsenal/Everton match is on so I guess I'll be glued to the TV for a
few more hours yet.
A couple of nights ago our kids had a sleep over with some of their cousins and Lorna and I were able to go to a movie. We have not really managed to have a "date night" since my surgery so this was a real treat. There are currently several movies on that we would like to see but in the end we chose National Treasure: Book of Secrets and we both really enjoyed it
I have also been trying to get back into my reading
again. I still haven't finished any of the books that I started before
my surgery back in October. This has nothing to do with the quality of
the books, however. It's more a case of I have had trouble relaxing
enough to read and lately the chemo seems to have negatively affected
my eyesight such that my eyes get tired after just a few pages.
Thankfully I just had my annual eye exam and my new glasses should be
ready next week.
Given I still get tired pretty easily, I have had to spend a fair
bit of time stuck on the couch resting. Consequently I have finally
managed to spend quite a bit of time playing with the new Mac Book Pro
laptop. I remain really impressed with this machine. The operating
system and all of the preloaded applications seem really well done. I'm
planning to start maintaining this web site using the Mac fairly soon.
The only complaint I have is that the iWeb program that came with the
machine (as far as I can tell) can only be used to create new web sites
and not to edit/manage existing ones - so this for me is not very
useful. While talking about computers, we bought the kids a new PC for
Christmas, primarily to stop them destroying the machine in the office
here at the house (which is the only one we had previously that could
run their favourite games). The machine we got them came preloaded with
Windows Vista. Sadly, of the three games I have tried to install so
far, not one of them has worked. They all worked fine on the other
machine, which is running Windows XP. So I'll either be putting
XP on the new machine this weekend, or I'll end up giving them my home
office machine and putting the new machine in there.
As my friends outside the US may not realise, this is a big time
here in the US for collegiate football. There are seemingly endless
"bowl" games on TV between Chritmas Eve and New Years Day. This year,
our local team, the University of Texas Longhorns were in the Holiday
Bowl, played in San Diego a couple of nights ago. They were not
expected to win but in fact did win and convincingly so (52 - 34) over
Arizona State. Lorna and I enjoyed watching the game on TV. After an
average season by their standards, it was nice to see Texas end the
season in style.
Later today (if he ever wakes up!) I promised Jack we would put his
new Hotwheels track together. I'm not sure which of us is looking
forward to it more. After that I have to help Robyn download some more
music into the new iPod that she got for Christmas. In fact Lorna and
Robyn both got new iPods so I think I am going to be busy loading up
iTunes with large chunks of our CD collection over the next few days.
That's about it for now. I hope you are all enjoying the holiday
season as much as we are.
The kids were up before the Sun at about 7:30am this morning and I
guess once again they managed to keep off the naughty list as Santa
appears to have been very good to them. The living room floor is
covered in new games, toys and debris! I must admit I really enjoyed
watching them have fun and go nuts ripping into packages this morning.
We just had breakfast and are now taking a few minutes to catch our
breath while the kids play with their loot before worrying about the
next round of activities!
To all my friends and family around the World who celebrate
Christmas I wish you a very special "Merry Christmas" and to all my
friends who celebrate other holidays I wish you likewise nothing but
good things at this festive time of the year. All of you have done so
much to support me these past few months for which I am extremely
grateful. In spite of the tough things we have endured recently I am
constantly reminded of the all the good things in the World that I need
to be so very thankful for.
From me and my family to you and yours, I wish you peace and joy.
End of round two
I finished my second (of the 12 planned) chemo rounds this week. So
far the side effects are much the same as last time but I have been a
bit more proactive with the medicines that help fight the side effects
and also got a few good suggestions from my oncologist which have
helped. So far, overall, I think I am coping a little better this time
than the first. The oncologist hopes this trend will continue. We are
trying to have as normal a Christmas as possible and the focus now is
on all of those last minute (non medical) items that go with the season
While I have a checkup visit next week I have no more chemo sessions
until January so this will help me enjoy the break a whole lot more. As
I said we have a lot to do here, so I will be brief today but wanted to
post something as many of you have been asking after me (as always
thanks for all the support and messages in the Guest
I hope wherever you are reading this you have a very safe and
enjoyable holiday season.
The new Mac, Halo 3 and me
I finally started feeling "normal" again on Sunday (December 9th),
and have been trying to get caught up on a number of things
since. Consequently, it has been a few days since my last
posting. The good news is that since Sunday I have actually been
feeling pretty good. I visited the oncologist's office on Monday for my
"off week" checkup visit and they told me all of the symptoms I am
experiencing are pretty normal for the drugs they are giving me and
that it is likely that this pattern of good days and bad days will
repeat itself as we progress through the treatment program. From my
point of view, at least knowing there will be several good days will
make it easier (I hope) from now on to adjust to the bad days. The
other good news is that my haemoglobin
level (which if you read some of my postings from October) was
dangerously low for a while, has improved significantly. This will
certainly help with my energy level and I am really happy to see it
Given it took me several days to recover from the first chemo round,
I have not had as much time or energy to play with the new Mac as I
would have liked. However, today, I met a good friend who is a Mac guru
for lunch and he was kind enough to give me a crash course in some of
the cool features and also help me setup some of the key software that
I want to run on the machine. I hope to spend more time over the next
few days exploring. My ultimate goal is to be able to use the machine
for both work and fun. Even in the short amount of time I have had to
play so far, I have been very impressed with both the machine itself
and the new Leopard operating system software that came
I mentioned in my previous posting that I would comment on the amazing journey the Mac took to get to me. I guess this just shows what a global economy we live in. I ordered the machine from the Apple web site which I assume is in California but have no real idea where it is. I naively assumed the machine would come from California too. However, when I got the FedEx tracking number and went to track the delivery I found the machine was being assembled and shipped from Shanghai in China. It was a lot of fun to follow the journey from then on. I managed to figure out which FedEx flights the machine was on by cunning use of flight trackers and the FedEx web page. I was able to follow the machine as it made its way to me across the Pacific. In the end, before being delivered at my front door, the machine visited the airports in Shanghai, Anchorage, Indianapolis, Memphis and Austin - quite a journey! What I found even more amazing was that the machine arrived within 25 minutes (early) of the originally scheduled delivery date and time that had been given to me when I placed the order a few days before - pretty impressive I think.
This week I have worked a full day each day so far and that has been
really nice in terms of giving me a strong feeling of normality. I also
managed to finally make time this week for my annual eye exam (which
was months overdue) and I was glad to see that my eyesight is more or
less the same as it was last year. I have been told that the chemo may
negatively affect my eyesight so I wanted to get my new glasses ordered
before the chemo has a chance to distort everything too badly (no pun
intended). While my energy is definitely continuing to come back, in
the evenings I still find I need to spend quite a lot of time taking it
easy by relaxing in front of the TV or doing other low energy things
like playing games. This week (admittedly with help from my kids) we
managed to complete level 8 of the solo player missions in Halo 3
(there are ten in total). We are now fragging our way through level
nine! Halo 3 is a very enjoyable game but also a very pleasing game in
terms of the overall graphics and production quality. Once I am done
with the single player missions I am tempted to try playing on-line but
I am also more than a bit worried that that could turn out to be a
really big consumer/waster of time - but right now maybe that's OK!!
End of round one
The chemo program I am on feels to me a lot like the way
professional boxing must feel. The two participants pummel each other
over the course of 12 rounds. Only in this case, the 12 rounds are
spread out over six months and the other guy does all the pummeling and
my job is to basically "hang in there" and wait for the bell. Today I
ended round one. I'd say we're maybe about even on points but I am
certainly dealing with a formidable opponent! I have experienced
a lot of side effects. None of them are major when taken independently
but when taken as a whole they have left me feeling pretty wiped out.
Thankfully I have until December 17th before round two gets
underway. At least, unlike professional boxing, the opponent is
pummeling me with the intention of leaving me better off at the end and
not out cold on the mat. I don't have the energy to describe the exact
regimen and how it works but I believe it is known commonly as FOLFOX.
I found a site based in the UK that seems to describe it quite well.
Here is a link
to that site. If you read the summary at that link you will see I
am getting treatment both in the oncologist's office and also at home
(via a pump that stays with me during the rounds). They remove the pump
between rounds. It will be nice to be able to sleep tonight without the
pump. I had hoped to post an update yesterday but at least for now I
have been struggling to keep up as much as I have been recently.
Hopefully I will adapt to this and do better over time.
On a happier note, I bought myself a new toy, an Apple Mac Book Pro
laptop that I hope to use to keep me occupied during some of the
upcoming chemo visits. I have never owned a Mac before so I am excited
to start exploring all of the cool features. I'll make a dedicated
posting in the next day or so to talk about the Mac and my first
impressions. I'll also describe the amazing journey the machine took to
get to me.
I continue to be grateful for all of the kind messages I continue to
receive via the Guest Book, e-mail and so
many other ways. I really appreciate and continue to need all of your
A few days of normality
As I mentioned in my prior posting, last Thursday was the
Thanksgiving day holiday here in the United States. For many of us,
that meant a four day weekend. Despite the weather here in the Austin
area being really nasty (cold and wet) it was nice to have a few days
in a row where no one was pushing me, prodding me or sticking needles
into me! We went to my brother-in-law's house for a fairly large family
gathering on Thursday which was a great distraction for me and it was
also great that I was able to enjoy the wonderful meal that had been
prepared without too many worries. That said, I'm still learning which
foods my new digestive system does best with and which ones mess me up.
This will be an ongoing process for some time yet I think! On Friday we
had a gathering at our house to watch the Univerity of Texas vs Texas
A&M college football game (that's American football for my friends
outside the USA). I am also getting a bit more confident about going
out in public now so on Saturday we took the kids to see the Bee Movie
which we all enjoyed. On Sunday we went to visit my wife's mother. So
all in all I had four days of family time with lots of distractions. I
also found some time to play Halo 3 which I am rapidly becoming
This week I have to get back into the medical routine. Today I went
and got my flu shot so that is taken care of before chemo starts next
week. On Wednesday (tomorrow) I have to go to the hospital for my
prep visit for the small surgery I am having on Thursday to place the
port into my chest that will be used to deliver the chemo meds. It's
supposed to only be a half hour procedure and is being done as day
surgery. Chemo is due to start next week. I am also due to see my
surgeon again next week for another checkup. If he likes my progress I
should get the all clear at that point to resume a few more physical
activities (once I get my strength up some more anyway). I'm actually
going to be seeing a lot of my surgeon over the coming months as at
least for the time being he wants to monitor me at three monthly
intervals. At least the monitoring can be done in his office without
the need for all of the nasty preparations that go with a full
colonoscopy. I guess eventually I'll get into the routine of all these
appointments but right now, and I guess this means I am feeling quite a
bit better, I am about ready for a break from the seemingly endless
visits to one medical office or another! As always I'll just have to
deal with it. The mess my kids make around the house (which can be
substantial) has also started bugging me again for the first time since
before the surgery so I guess that is another sign that I am feeling a
bit better !!
Many of my neighbours have already put up their exterior Christmas
decorations and my kids are on my case to do the same. I told them that
if I feel up to it that maybe we'll make a start on that later in the
week (energy and weather permitting).
Apart from a little time off for medical appointments I am planning
to try and work pretty much a full week this week unless but I am being
careful and will take breaks as needed.
I continue to be grateful for all the messages in the Guest Book
as well as the e-mails and calls I am getting from people checking on
me. All in all, I think I am coping fairly well. I still have a long
way to go, and I am definitely a bit nervous about chemo and how I will
react to it, but for the most part I have a lot more good days than bad
ones at the moment. I'm trying to keep my attitide positive which I
manage to do for the most part but I still have my moments!
Anyway, I'll post again soon, probably after the surgery on Thursday.
Change of plans
The surgeon who is treating me called last night and we met briefly
in his office again today. As I mentioned in my posting on October 11th
, he had met with the doctor who performed the colonoscopy on me and
was calling me after having had that conversation. Unfortunately he now
feels we need to adjust from current "Plan A" to a somewhat more
radical "Plan B". Before I discuss the new plan I should perhaps
explain how we got there. The doctors believe the root cause of my
current problems is a genetic condition called Attenuated
familial adenomatous polyposis (AFAP
for short). I am not going to try, nor am I qualified to, go into a
lengthy explanation of what AFAP is. Heck, two weeks ago I had never
heard of it. In short, however, it means someone my age is likely to
have a large number (more than 20 but less than 100) of polyps in their
colon and has a much higher than normal predisposition to these
becoming cancerous in a relatively short amount of time. Today I went
and had yet more blood taken so that a genetic analysis can be
performed to prove for certain that I have AFAP (the results will be
several days coming back) but I apparently have all of the classic
indications of it and my medical team seem pretty much convinced on
this one. My bigger worry, as a parent of course, is that there
apparently is a 50% chance of this being passed on to my children.
That, however, is a bridge we do not have to cross today.
So now for the change of plans. Plan A had been to remove a large part of the colon, Plan B (I am told the recommended procedure for AFAP cases like mine) is to remove the entire colon. The logic is along the lines of if you leave part of the colon behind, because of the AFAP, in a year or so we'll be right back here again and in the meantime I'll be almost living in the doctors office getting checked for a recurrence (I'm exaggerating obviously but not that much). However, to an "average man in the street" like me, this whole new plan, at least at first, sounds horrific and I have to tell you that last evening after the surgeon called, I found myself feeling like I had taken a huge step backwards. Today, however, after meeting with the surgeon in his office and asking all kinds of questions about quality of life and future preventative care needs I think I am (slowly) coming to terms with it. If all goes according to (the new) plan, I still believe I can live a fairly normal life. I am not going to go into the gory details of what it means in terms of living without a colon but I am sure you can find a lot more information about it on the internet should you so desire!!
Surgery is still scheduled for October 26th. Suffice to
say, I am a little shaken by this change of plans but as I had more or
less adjusted to things under Plan A I am sure I will rapidly adjust to
Health scare and a lesson for us all
Warning if you are squeamish about medical topics you may want to
skip this posting.
Over the latter part of the Summer I had been having trouble
sleeping, mainly because my legs were becoming so restless at night. If
you have never struggled with restless legs it's hard to describe but
it is sufficiently annoying enough that it can easily keep you awake
half the night (and for me it was doing so). I had become so restless
my wife had to find another room to sleep in for fear of being karate
kicked to death before morning!! Another symptom that I was having that
I did not realize then but do realize now to be related, was a lack of
stamina when playing sports (drastically more so say than a few months
ago). So, given all this, a few weeks back I went to see my family
doctor to ask if I could have some tablets to help me sleep and to ask
if I needed some of this new Restless Leg Syndrome (RLS) medicine that
is being advertised heavily on the TV here in the US at the moment. He
did give me something to help me sleep but also took a blood sample to
check my iron levels as low iron can contribute to restlessness . For
those of us that remember our human biology from school, you will
recall that, iron helps maintain the haemoglobin level
in the blood, or put another way, haemoglobin
is the iron-containing protein attached to red blood cells that
transports oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. When my
blood tests came back
the levels were way below normal. So low in fact I was borderline for a
blood transfusion right then and there. This immediately explained the
restlessness and the lack of stamina - basically I did not have enough
oxygen in my body . So I was diagnosed as anemic but now we needed
further tests to find out why. My doctor's opinion (which proved
correct) was that I was losing blood somewhere - basically he suspected
some form of internal bleeding (maybe a stomach ulcer or a colon polyp
that was bleeding). I was referred to a Gastro Intestinal clinic. On
October 1st they performed both a colonoscopy and an
endoscopy on me
(basically they checked my colon
and my stomach for signs of trouble). My stomach was basically
clear but the news in my colon was not so good. The GI doctor found
several polyps, one of which looked "extremely suspicious" (English
translation "we think it's cancer but need a biopsy to be sure").
For the colonoscopy I was heavily sedated and it was many hours
before I really came around enough to comprehend that even at my
relatively young age (42) and with my very active lifestyle and high
fibre diet it was still likely that I had colon cancer. When this
all sank in I was a mess. I don't recall a day in my life when a single
piece of news has hit me quite so personally and quite so hard. I did
not find myself thinking so much of my own future but much more so of
my young kids (5 and 9) and my wife. Thankfully the doctor sent
over a prescription for something to help me relax that night and the
next morning we began the process of more tests and preparing to fight
back. On October 2nd I went and had a CT scan and had my
typed in case I did end up needing a blood transfusion (given I still
was very anemic). On October 3rd (Wednesday) we started to
results back. The bad news was that the biopsy has confirmed that I do
have cancer in my cecum
(bottom of the ascending colon if you again remember your human
better news was that the CT scan and additional blood work had found no
evidence of spreading and that we believe (I am a pessimist and always
have trouble with good news) that the cancer is localized to the colon.
Yesterday (October 9th) I met with a colo-rectal surgeon
to discuss my options. Based on the collected test results, he has
developed a surgery plan for me which will require quite a large part
of my colon to be removed but if all goes well will enable me to eat
and perform other digestive system related activities pretty much
normally after that. The surgery is planned for October 26th.
I'll post details about the hospital and other relevant information
closer to that date. After the surgery they will again test the various
parts of tissue and lymph nodes that get removed during surgery and we
will know much more about what this cancer has been up to. At that
I will meet with an oncologist to see if I need chemotherapy or not and
I will likely also get a PET scan. I am encouraged by the fact that the
medical team is comfortable waiting a few days to schedule this surgery
on a non-panic basis but I'd still rather have this over with. If an
earlier date opens up on the surgeon's schedule I will most likely take
it for no other reason than to reduce the wait time.
That then...minus a few of the nastier details, is pretty much the
full update. The lesson for us
in this (especially us stubborn men) is go see your doctor even for
little things that are bugging you. If I had ignored this we would not
have caught it as soon as we hope we have. I am also very grateful to
my family doctor who did not just give me meds to help me sleep but was
thorough and did that blood test that helped me get a proper diagnosis.
I know that doctors get a lot of pressure to prescribe certain
medications from the reps selling them. Any drug reps out there reading
this please take note - treating the symptom does not always equal
finding the cure.
I know several of you have already found out about this from the
blogoshpere and other contacts and I truly appreciate all of the
prayers, thoughts, e-mails ands other messages my family and I have
received at this time. To be honest I am still in shock but slowly
getting my energy back to prepare me for my road to recovery. I'm
hoping it's not too long a road but there remain so many unknowns only
time will really tell. Please do keep sending me those e-mails they
really help - sometimes even surrounded by family and friends one can
feel very alone at a time like this and knowing that you are all out
there cheering me on is giving me amazing strength. It's also somewhat
surreal, to have been following the courageous fight of Robert Jordan
(see my prior posting) against a truly evil disease to now find myself
in the middle of my own fight.
Finally, as several people have asked about it, I have turned on the
Guest Book at this web site. Please do
feel free to leave us a message if you are soon inclined.
My wife Lorna has been a rock by my side through this. It all came out of the blue and we have shared a fair amount of tears together but we are feeling stronger now and ready to start out on the road towards getting me cured. My kids are doing OK but not great. Jack (he's 5) is actually fine. We told him daddy will get better and due to his nature he just accepted that and keeps on trucking. He is however mad at me that the doctor won't let him have my colon in a jar for show and tell at school (go figure!). My daughter, Robyn (she is 9) has taken this hard. She is blessed with about 500% of the empathy found in an average person. This can be both a blessing and a curse. She has figured everything out very quickly and she is hurting. We are taking steps to make sure she gets what she needs to get through this too.
I will keep responding to e-mails as quickly as I can but I will
also post a message here whenever there is any news to share.
I have always felt one of my greatest gifts in life is having so many wonderful friends and family around the World. Thanks for sticking with me through this.I need you all.
with great sadness today, that James Oliver Rigney, Jr. (known to
most of us by his pen name of Robert Jordan),
author of the extremely popular Wheel of Time
series of books has died. He had been fighting illness for some time
and I had been following his blog and always hoping for good news.
Sadly today the news is that he has lost his battle.
His books have kept me company on many a long plane ride and I have met many others while traveling who were also carrying copies of his books.
My sincere condolences to his family and friends.
I'm still way behind
Despite my best intentions, I am still way behind in my postings
here. I am managing to keep several of the other sections up to date
and I really am hoping to get back to a regimen of regular postings
here soon. We have crammed a lot of interesting activities into
the Summer break but I have to confess that now that the kids are both
back at school things do feel a little calmer around here and hopefully
that will let me get back to my long planned web site overhaul.
However, with both kids now playing soccer (both insisted they would
only play if I helped coach), a lot of my free time after work and at
the weekends is taken up with that. We have practices three nights a
week and games every Saturday and even a few on Sunday! For those
interested in my work activities, I have been making some (fairly
regular) postings to my work blog.
One of the things I have managed to do over the Summer is make more
time for reading
which has been particularly nice.
While on the subject of travel, last week I had to go to Chicago for the day to attend some meetings. It was amazing to see the difference that a few hundred miles makes to weather conditions (Chicago is just under 1000 miles from here). I left Austin at 6:00am on a beautiful clear sunny day (the high that day was in the high 70's F). When we landed in Chicago it was a scene from mid-Winter. Frozen lakes, snow, planes being de-iced and a high temperature of 29 degrees Fahrenheit. This was a good reminder of why I live as far south as I do! I got back to Austin around 11pm the same day – tired but happy to be back in warmer climes!
The other reason that I have been posting a bit less here than usual is that I have started working on a prototype for a completely re-designed look for this site. My goal is to switch over to that later in the year (yes it's time for the pink to go!).
We have had drought conditions for a long time now as well as some fairly warm temperatures. In fact it's been sufficiently warm that the temperature of the water in the pool has been hovering around 70 degrees (Fahrenheit) for the last few weeks without needing to use the heater. I think I was the first one in the pool in mid February aided by the fact that I have a very high tolerance for cold water. I think this is due to growing up in England where the English Channel was often this cold even in the midst of Summer! Both kids have also now been swimming several times now, but Lorna has yet to “take the plunge” !
This weekend in the US, we switched over to Daylight Savings Time. This is considerably earlier than usual due to a change in the law that came into effect this year. I spent most of Sunday morning making sure that all of the computers and other electronic devices in the house had realized the time has changed. For the next few weeks we find ourselves only 5 hours behind the UK which will make working with my colleagues there just a little bit easier. Of course getting the kids out of bed while it is still dark outside is not so easy (that's the downside of starting DST so early!).
In the sporting world, this week sees the start of the Cricket World Cup. I'm keeping my expectations extremely low for England's chances but of course I wish the team all the best as they head into this two month long event. Hopefully the successes they enjoyed towards the end of the recent tour of Australia will give them some momentum going into this competition. As with the football World Cup, one of the interesting dynamics is that as well as the big name cricketing nations you also get some other countries playing in the event that are not known for their cricketing prowess. It will be interesting to see if we get any surprises. What odds for a Scotland vs Holland final I wonder ? :-)
This week the kids are off school for Spring Break so, naturally, drought notwithstanding, it's pouring with rain and supposed to be wet until at least Wednesday.
Anyway, that's the update for now. I will try and get into a more regular pattern of posting over the next few months.
Wherever you are reading this I hope that your year is off to a good start. I took a large part of December off to recharge the batteries after a very busy 2006. Consequently I have not posted here at all since early December. The new year for me is already off to a busy start but at least I feel somewhat rested and ready to go. Over the holiday period in the Austin area we had a mix of warm,cold and wet weather. The new year has started in much the same way. It was 75 degrees Fahrenheit here last Friday but since then it has become quite cold. Today we awoke to temperatures in the low 20's Fahrenheit with a mix of ice, freezing rain, sleet and snow. A few minutes ago we had about 30 minutes of snow but not enough for the kids to have a good snowball fight. Around here the kids don't see snow very ofter so as soon as it starts they all run outdoors . I think the last time we had any snow that settled was in 2004 and even then it only stayed on the ground for a few hours. The weather forecast I just listened to says we could see a few inches of snow before the week is over. All of the area schools are closed and most businesses are shut and I just looked at the airport website and am really glad I am not trying to fly anywhere today. This is definitely a day for not going anywhere if you can avoid it. Those who live in colder climes would be taking a day like this in their stride but this far South the place basically grinds to a halt when we get a rare day of real Winter. So while many people are enjoying an "ice day" off work - yours truly is at his desk working away as usual. I work from home a lot but one of the few downsides is that when we have a really bad weather day I can't say "sorry I can't look at that today as the office is closed". That said we have started having some power and gas outages and that could certainly slow me down a bit.
I'd like to express my best wishes to all my many friends and
colleagues around the World for a safe and prosperous 2007. I hope I'll
get to meet many of you during my travels in the coming months.
Here we go again...that crazy Texas weather!
Yesterday evening before we went to bed it was in the low 70's Fahrenheit and during the day the temperature had been up as high as 80 degrees. Overnight a very strong cold front came in and we awoke to find ice on the windows and temperatures down in the 20's. I have written here many times about the crazy Texas weather but you never quite get used to it. Yesterday we sent the kids to school in shorts and t-shirts and today we sent them off in heavy coats and sweaters! Along with cold front last night we had an interesting selection of severe weather alerts (hail, wind, thunder storms, tornadoes) that kept the program on my PC that monitors the weather chirping out warnings all night.
I have been maintaining my effort to keep up with my reading. This month I read Tom Clancy's The Bear and the Dragon (all 1100 plus pages of it) which I enjoyed a lot. I also read The Partner by John Grisham which I also thoroughly enjoyed. I am now reading Deception Point by Dan Brown and Hyperion by Dan Simmons. When it comes to books, one of my bad habits is that I tend to buy them in batches and then go back and read them. The net result of this is that some books have sat on my bokshelves for a very long time before I get around to reading them. Hyperion is a prime example, as I bought it while still living in tyhe UK back in 1990 and I am only now getting around to reading it in November 2006!
Last week the kids were sick and this week I have been very much under the weather as well but other than that things at home are going well. The pool project is coming along quite nicely (I'll try and upload some photos soon) and what looked like a large muddy hole in the ground a few weeks ago is now starting to look a lot more like a swimming pool as each day passes. If the weather cooperates, I am hoping it might be finished and ready for water in about two or three weeks.
I would be remiss in posting this update if I did not comment on the Ashes series that has just got underway in Australia. If any of my Australian friends and colleagues are reading this, what can I say, it looks like revenge may well be yours unless things change drastically after England's less than stellar performance in the first test!! That said, back in 2005, I recall feeling like this after Australia easily won the first test at Lords so maybe history can and will repeat itself - we'll have to wait and see. Either way, I hope it's another great series and as much fun to watch as the 2005 one was. Keeping up with the matches is hard from here in the U.S. The coverage starts at around 6pm in the evening here (which is not too bad considering that equates to midnight for those following the matches in the U.K.) but almost all of the regular internet feeds are blacked out due to licensing restrictions. The second test starts this evening (Friday morning for those in Australia) and I'll be doing my best to follow along and hopefully will not be made to suffer as much as I was a few days ago listening to Australia make record scores at the Gabba.
Miscellaneous notes from a busy week
Most weeks are busy these days between work and family commitments and this week was no exception. Several days I stayed up late (and into the next day) to dial into some business meetings in Asia (but that was better than having to travel there given how crazy things have been at home).
In spite of how busy life has been, I have made a promise to myself that I will somehow find more time to read than I have been managing of late. This week I managed to read a couple of fairly short books. The first was Digital Fortress by Dan Brown and the second was the Great Train Robbery by Michael Crichton. I enjoyed both and found it easy to get through them but neither were in my opinion that great. If you look at my Books and Magazines page you will see that I gave each book a score of 7 out of 10. Digital Fortress is the third of the four Dan Brown books currently in print that I have read. The other two being Angels and Demons and The DaVinci Code. Of the three I enjoyed Angels and Demons the most. His other book Deception Point is in my queue of books sitting next to my desk waiting to be read. The Great Train Robbery is one of Crichton's first books (written I think in 1974). To be honest I didn't know it even existed until I saw it in a discount rack at the local supermarket a couple of weeks ago. Given my background (being born and raised myself in the UK) I picked up a copy as it looked like a storyline that I would enjoy. To be honest, it reads as much as a history book as it does a novel but it was none the less quite readable. I enjoyed his portrayal of events in Victorian England around the middle of the 19th Century and found it easy to relate to the period having studied it in detail while at school. The book was enjoyable enough but not as compelling a read as some of his other works. I guess, for me, it was a bit like watching the movie "Titanic", you already know the punchline before you get there, which for me, has never worked as well as a style of storytelling as one where suspense is maintained until the final chapter.
Other than being busy and finding time for a bit more reading, there has not been too much of note to report this week (which is just fine). We had quite a bit of rain during the week and so there has not been any progress made on the pool. The weather has been the usual mixed bag for this time of the year. A cool front (the tail end of a storm that left 18 inches of snow in Colorado earlier in the week) finally came in last night and we haven't yet quite managed to reach 70 Fahrenheit here today. It's also been quite windy here all day. The forecast is good for the weekend so hopefully I can spend a lot of time outdoors with the family and the dogs.
Finally, the dreaded annual test of willpower (also known as "how the heck am I going to stop myself eating too much Halloween candy?") is just a few days away. Luckily I have a soccer game on Sunday to try and run off a few calories first!
Kakuro puzzles, the new pool and other miscellany
Towards the end of last year I got quite hooked on Sudoku puzzles for a while. They can be quite addictive. I ended up writing a small computer program in Java that solved them and that helped cure me of that particular addiction! Recently while checking out at my local grocery store I spotted (and bought) a new book of Kakuro (also known as Cross Sum) puzzles. Although I believe that these puzzles are quite popular I had not come across them before. In my spare time I have been trying to teach myself the Python programming language and so last weekend I decided to write a Python program to help solve Kakuro puzzles! I decided not to let the program fully solve the puzzles but to be more of a solver's aid (listing possible combinations of numbers that achieve the desired sum etc.). So for now the Kakuro puzzle book is remaining a fairly regular companion!
Life at home has been very busy (I think we've visited just about every flavour of kids doctor and dentist in the last two weeks!) and so I haven't been able to update the pages here too much lately. You may have noticed that I have been trying to keep up with my reading and I just finished World War: In the balance by Harry Turtledove which was a good read. I'm grateful to my friend Roger for introducing me to this author, whose work I had not read before.
Meanwhile, we finally broke down, after living here for 10 years, and decided to put in a pool. Today I am working from home with all the windows shut (despite the nice cool weather) as the guys are outside spraying the gunite. There is so much vibration that my car alarm goes off about once every 10 minutes! Yesterday it was almost 90 degrees Fahrenheit here but today (after a cold front came through last night) we are in the 50's....I don't think we'll be using the new pool for a while!
Google Gadgets for web pages
I was interested to see the announcement by Google yesterday that they
are making their Google Gadgets available so that people can embed them
(via a simple script tag) in their own web pages.
This is particularly interesting for people like myself, whose web sites
are hosted by their ISP with limited space and features enabled (as in my
case).If you missed the announcement you can find
The list of available gadgets is here.
You should see a clock gadget below.
Has Autumn finally arrived in Central Texas?
We awoke this morning to temparatures in the 50's Fahrenheit. It's wonderful to be able to open all the windows again and let in some truly fresh air. This Summer we have endured in excess of 30 days where the temparature was over 100F. It's supposed to warm up into the high 70's or even mid 80's by mid afternoon but at least the evenings and mornings should be cooler for the next few days. We had a very strong storm front go through this area on Saturday (it was severe enough to cause the Univerity of Texas to suspend play in it's football game for over an hour). Now that the storm has passed through we are getting our first real relief from what has been a very hot Summer.
A long week on the road and now two weeks off
Last week I travelled to Baltimore to speak at the SHARE conference. I left home before dawn on Sunday (August 13th) to get to the airport in plenty of time given the new security procedures in effect. Apart from it taking longer than usual to check-in (due to a lot more passengers than normal checking bags) I did not encounter any other unexpected delays. Given the recent events in the UK, I was happy to see that the planes were full and that the airports were busy - people are just getting on with life, which is good to see. I arrived in Baltimore on Sunday afternoon and left on Thursday afternoon for New York to attend some business meetings at our corporate headquarters before finally flying home from New York (via Chicago) on Friday evening. I did not have as much spare time in Baltimore as I would have liked but I did at least get to walk around the harbour and take some photographs. It was hot and at times quite humid during the week. I didn't sleep well at all in Baltimore. I think my hotel must have been either close to a fire station or a police station as all night I kept getting woken up by one siren after another. From Baltimore I travelled to New York for some meetings on Friday (I actually got off in Stamford CT as it was more convenient for my friend who met me at the station). I travelled by train for the first time in a while in the US as it was both cheaper and more convenient than flying for that particular leg of my trip. I have to say it was a very pleasant experience. I took the new Acela Express service that Amtrak runs between Washington DC and Boston. I would definitely take this train again. It was very comfortable, with plenty of space to work and even had AC power that I could plug my laptop into. I got the impression that a lot of people were taking the train for the first time to avoid the travel delays being reported by many of the airports in the North Eastern United States. The train was full. I stayed with my friends and his family in Connecticut on Thursday night and I slept really well (no sirens - or any other loud noises for that matter). It was great to not have to check-in to yet another hotel and spend the night with some good friends that I don't see as often as I would like. I'm very grateful to them for putting me up for the night.
I got home about 1:30am Saturday morning after getting delayed in both New York and Chicago by a mixture of bad weather and an Instrument Landing System (ILS) failure on one of the runways at Chicago O'Hare airport. The weather in New York was bright and sunny but we could not leave on time due to the problems at O'Hare.
I haven't taken much vacation time yet this year so I am taking the next two weeks off (I'm not going back to work in fact until after the Labor day holiday here in the US). We're in the middle of a really bad drought in Central Texas. I wish some of the heavy rain I had to deal with in Chicago last Friday would find its way here. We have been over 100 degrees Farenheit every day for the past week or so. I played soccer on Sunday afternoon (August 20th). It was 97F when the game started and 103F by the end of the game (yes I know, mad dogs and Englishmen etc). My daughter went back to School last week. I still have trouble getting used to how early the schools go back in Texas compared to what I was used to growing up in England where August is considered the height of Summer.
Started working on updates to Family & Friends section
For those of you that follow the Family & Friends section, after a long delay of about seven months, I have started getting some more recent photos of the kids posted.
Started working on various updates
Enjoying a period of almost two weeks since I last had to travel, I have finally started making updates to many sections of the site. I still have a lot more photos from my recent trip to Europe that I want to get on-line as soon as possible, but if you care to look around hopefully you will notice a lot of updates. For folks that monitor the Family & Friends area I promise I will get some new kid photos uploaded soon!
Finally home after a very busy June
June was a very busy month for me. I travelled to Europe for 15 days of business meetings that took me to Prague, Vienna and various parts of the UK. I did manage to see a lot of friends and family members in between meetings and that was great. I will try over the next week or two to update the various parts of this site with some photos and other information about my recent travels. Upon my return from Europe I had to go out to California for a couple of days so I'll not start working on the updates until my head gets a bit more back into the correct timezone!
As a temporary measure, I have placed a few photos from Prague into my Yahoo! photo album. Note that the resolution of the pictures is greatly reduced from the original by the upload process but at least (hopefully) you can get an idea of what a beautiful city Prague is.
A really stormy Spring in Texas
I have been incredibly busy at work (including quite a bit of travel) and things at home have also been busy and as a result I have not been able to post as often as I would like here in recent weeks. I have, however, managed to find a little bit of time to update other sections of the site. As has been reported in the news, May has so far been incredibly stormy in Texas. We have had numerous Thunderstorm Warnings and Tornado Watches issued by the Weather Service and sadly some areas of the state have suffered major damage as a result. We have also seen a lot of hail and very heavy rain. Mixed in with this it has been very hot. Just south of Austin, it hit 106F yesterday. Today it was cooler when we woke up as a light cold front moved through the area over night. Certainly a pleasant break from the recent very muggy conditions. The next few days are supposed to be more pleasant both in terms of temparature and calmer weather.
A day at the Johnson Space Center - Houston
As I mentioned in my prior posting, a couple of weekends ago I finally was able to make the time to visit the Johnson Space Center in Houston. We took one of the tours that included a visit to one of the two former Mission Control rooms that were used during the Apollo program. It is fascinating to think that the total computing power in the room was about the same as that found in a modern day cell phone (at least that is what the tour guide told us). Note also the plastic tubes on the left side of the console. There was no e-mail in those days so if you wanted to send a message to someone else anywhere in the building you sent a note on paper in a tube to them through a system of pipes like those used today in many banks and other businesses! We have come a long way since then but I bet the didn't have the spam problem then that we have now! As I mentioned in my prior posting, if you are at all interested in the space program's of both the US and Russia, this tour is a must. There is another tour that takes you into the current mission control room but we did not have the time to do that tour as well. We also got to go inside many of the other buildings, including the one that contains the training areas for the Space Shuttle and for Space Station Freedom. You will find some more of the pictures that I took in my Yahoo! photo album.
Spring has sprung - in Texas
Things have been so busy that I have not posted to the homepage here in almost a month (although I have been keeping many of the other sections of the site up to date during that time). I spent last week in Seattle where it is still very much Winter, in fact it was snowing the night before I flew home. Here in Texas this week the kids are on Spring Break and Spring has definitely arrived. We have have had almost no Winter this year and last Friday the high temparature was 90 degrees Farenheit where we live. This week it's a little cooler but still very mild. Many of the trees in our garden (mostly the Red Buds) have already bloomed. Over the weekend we drove to Houston to tour the Johnson Space Center and to visit the really excellent visitors center called Space Center Houston (a fabulous day out by the way) and along the way we saw many Texas Blue Bonnets along the side of State Road 71. I'll try and get a few of the photos I took at the Space Center posted here over the next few weeks.
Crazy Texas weather - again!
As you will know if you have explored this site at all, I have lived in the Austin (Texas) area for a little over 10 years now. Despite that, the frequent and often dramatic shifts in weather here never cease to amaze me. Yesterday afternoon it was 81 degrees Farenheit and I was wearing shorts and playing with the kids outside. Overnight a cold front blew in and today (at 11:00) it is 39 degrees Farenheit and it has just started to rain and apparently ice storms are a possibility for the weekend. If you've ever had the pleasure of driving through or even flying through this area on an "ice day" you'll know just how much fun that can be! My friends and colleagues in the North East of the USA probably wonder why I am complaining given they are burried under snow at the moment but even so, a more than 40 degrees temparature swing in under 12 hours is amazing! The Freescale Marathon is being run here in Austin on Sunday and sadly this weather looks like making that a tough run for those involved. I am supposed to be playing soccer on Sunday afternoon and that should be fun too. Forecast highs for Sunday are in the low 30's. Despite growing up in the UK I haved most recently lived in predominantly warm areas and it's always a shock to the system when this kind of weather literally blows in. Looks like being a weekend for movies, video games and reading!
A busy start to a busy year
As I suspected, 2006 has indeed got off to a busy start. I have already had to travel on business three times (all within the Continental USA) and we are not yet out of January. So far I have found myself in Raleigh, Las Vegas,and San Jose. I had not been to Las Vegas for a few years but it did not seem to have changed very much. I think the airport however, may make it onto my unofficial list of the "top 10 airports I least like to fly through"! Arriving is not too bad but departing is a different story. I arrived at the airport at around 5am (maybe even a little before that) for a 7am flight. I guess to an extent I was a bit naiive and expected the airport to be somewhat quiet at this early hour (I guess I have become spoiled getting used to calm early departures out of Austin). Far from being quiet, the place reminded me of LAX at four in the afternoon (LAX would also make my list). The teminal was mobbed. Long lines were everywhere, at check in, security, even for the train to the gates. In fact, even the automatic ticket kisok machines had long lines in front of them. Mental note to self, Las Vegas never sleeps and this includes the airport! The one saving grace was that there is a separate frequent flyer line for the security checkpoint. It appeared that 90% of the people leaving Vegas at that morning either were not frequent flyers or did not realize that there was such a line available. I estimate that this saved me more than 30 minutes if not more. The other saving grace was that after finally navigating all of the lines, squeezing into the train and walking through the "last chance to win" gauntlet of slot machines that I found myself right in front of a Starbucks! Oh well, enough of my complaining, 2006 is indeed off to a very busy start.
Another busy year ahead
So the holidays are over and 2006 is here. One of my resolutions for the new year is to spend a bit more time on this web site. We'll see how well I actually manage to do that as the year progresses. As I look at my calendar for 2006 it is already filled with both personal and business commitments. Looks like being another hectic year. First day back after the break I found myself on a plane at 6:50am to attend some business meetings in North Carolina. This week I seem to have managed to catch a really nasty cold or the flu. So between work, kids and feeling under the weather, I'm already in need of another holiday and I have only been back at work for a week and a half! I hope that your year is perhaps off to a calmer start.
A time to reflect
At this time of year it is important for me to stop and reflect on all of the many things that I am thankful for. I am blessed in that I have many of them. Most of all I have a wonderful wife, two fantastic kids and a great extended family. I also am extremely fortunate to have such a large collection of friends and work colleagues all over the World. To all of you, here's wishing for a safe and merry Christmas/Holiday season and a very happy and successful 2006.
I can't believe it's already December
Where has the year gone? Time just seems to be flying by. We put up the Christmas lights outside the house last weekend. Indeed our entire street is now looking very festive. The last few weeks both work and family life have been extremely hectic so I have not been posting here as often as normal. We had a restful Thanksgiving break and the weather here in central Texas has been great recently. Clear skies, highs in the 60's Farenheit and overnight lows in the 40's and 50's (once or twice even into the 30's) over the past couple of weeks. It's supposed to be warmer again over the weekend. I have a soccer tourament to play in on Sunday and the forecast looks great for that. A friend in the UK sent me the official set of 3 DVDs containing all the highlights of the Ashes series from this Summer. I am hoping to make some time to watch those soon. Another good friend who just visited the UK brought me back the "Botham's Ashes" DVD which has all the highlights of the 1981 Headingly test on it. I did force myself to find time to watch that and I enjoyed every minute of it. It was great to relieve those few days again. I remember being home from school part of that day (but not why) and watching Botham's epic knock on TV live. Taling of how time flies, I cannot believe that that was 24 years ago now.
RSS Feed now tested and live
I finally added RSS support to this web page. For those of you that like using RSS readers or live bookmarks (in Firefox) the RSS feed is now available. For the time being the RSS feed is just for the main page.
I'm ready for a rest
I haven't posted for a couple of weeks. Work has been busy, the kids have been sick, I had to have surgery (nothing major but surgery is never fun) and my wife has been looking after us all. Suffice to say, we're all hoping to get a few days rest at the end of next week during the Thanksgiving holiday (long) weekend here. In the meantime some cooler weather finally arrived here in Texas. As recently as a week ago, we were still in the 80's Farenheit but then a cold front arrived and finally we have some sweater weather for the first time since last Winter. The daytime highs have been in the 50's and 60's and at night it's been getting down into the 30's. The cooler weather is supposed to stay with us until at least the middle of next week.
Colorado Software Summit 2005
I spent last week in Keystone (Colorado) at the Colorado Software Summit. I have put few photos into the Travel journal and also into the Yahoo! photo album. For those interested, I put some technical details into the dW Blog and I also added a few details to the Conferences section.
The mountains rise in the distance above Keystone Village
Maps:Several people who are not familiar with the Texas geography have asked me how close Austin is to where the storm is supposed to make landfall. You can get a Google map showing the area if you click here.
Of course, all this talk of sports events, does not in any way imply that we are not trying to do all we can to help those left greatly in need by Katrina. Earlier today, my wife and the girl scout troop she helps run, went up and down our street collecting food donations for the folks being sheltered here in Austin. I'm happy to report that our big SUV is jam packed with supplies (we had to fold all the seats flat) and we'll be taking this to the drop off point soon. As far as I can tell the people here in Austin and all over Texas have really stepped up and its great to see.
|I spent all of last week in Boston on business. It was a very busy week and as a consequence I haven't posted much here of late. It was nice to experience the cooler temperatures (80's by day and 50's overnight). I did not have a lot of free time in Boston but I did get a few nice sunset photos of the city and the harbor. The photo on the right, shows the USS Constitution in its Boston Harbor dock right before sunset last Thursday. The ship, also know as "Old Ironsides" is still an active vessel of the US Navy, in fact it was due to go out into the harbor for a two hour voyage the following day. You can read more about the ship here. I got back to Texas last Friday afternoon and it was 102F. Summer may be officially over and the kids are back at school, the local baseball team just played its last regular season triple-A game, but the weather right now is as hot as it has been all year. As I have been all Summer, I was up early again on Saturday and Sunday to listen to the 4th Cricket test between England and Australia from Trent Bridge. Has there ever been a more exciting series than this? England seem to be on top right now, but as I have said in prior posts, whoever wins this series, the ultimate winner is the game of cricket itself. A friend of mine over in the UK taped the third test highlights and sent them to me. That has to be one of the most exciting drawn tests ever. Today I have been working with one eye on the TV as Hurricane Katrina came onshore. It remains to be seen exactly how bad the damage and loss of life will be. Thoughts and prayers go out to all of those involved.||
USS Constitution, August 25th 2005
|I just added a few of my favourite landscape photographs to the site. You'll find links to them in the Photo Album.|
Meanwhile, I cannot believe August is already here. For us in Texas that means only a few more weeks until the kids go back to school. I still have not fully adjusted to the schedules here. It still seems odd to me that just as we hit our hottest month of the year and just as most of Europe is getting into the swing of Summer, we here in Texas are all getting ready for school to start up again!
As expected the weather here in Central Texas has remained stormy this week. Hurricane Emily came ashore a long way south of us earlier today around the Texas/Mexico border. There are forecasts for continued storms throughout the night and maybe even a few funnel clouds here and there (again mostly south of here). Even with all the cloud cover and storms around we have not had as much rain as we would have liked to top up the local lakes. The good news is that the cloud cover has kept the temparature in the high 80's (or at worst low 90's) Farenheit rather than in the high 90's or even low 100's where it had been recently. The downside is that the air is a lot more humid than normal (currently around 50%).
I also uploaded a few more pictures of my trip last December to Brisbane, Australia, into the Travel Journal today.
I started adding some words and pictures from my trip to Brisbane in December 2004 into the Travel Journal last night. Feel free to take a look.
I have also created a new Daily log archive and have started moving some of the older entries from this page to the archive.
Middle of the night update: We were awoken around 1am by the sound of thunder and hail. I went outside to check on the cars (which were thankfully OK) and found hail about the size of an American quarter (coin) falling in significant quantity. This hail was quite a bit larger than that which fell on March 31st.
|Contact me.||Last updated March 31st 2009|